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Welsh Castles After the Conquest

Cadw 1990

fter the final conquest by Edward I, the apparent need for castles quickly diminished. New works, it is true, continued into the 14th century, but very often there was a marked change in character. The transition from military stronghold to comfortable residence was in many cases already underway, a change reflected in the fortified manor house at Weobley, for instance.

For much of the 14th century peace was maintained until the charismatic Owain Glyndwr rose in revolt and was proclaimed Prince of Wales. At the height of this uprising, around 1400, it was only the strength of the stone network of castles which stood between Glyndwr and the total overthrow of English power in Wales.

The continued importance of stone castles is emphasized by their usefulness to Glyndwr himself. His two greatest prizes were Aberystwyth and Harlech (below) which fell into his hands in 1404. In possession of these strongholds, he was a sovereign prince and the effective ruler of large parts of Western Wales. Harlech was eventually retaken at the end of 1408, or in early 1409, by Harry of Monmouth - the future King Henry V. As for the revolt, it was not effectively crushed, but rather, just petered out, Glyndwr simply disappearing from the records in 1415.

In the half century after the Glyndwr rebellion, Wales was in a state of uneasy calm. With the outbreak of civil war in 1455 - the War of the Roses - the castle had still not lost its place. Indeed, it was this situation in south ease Wales which gave rise to one of the most glorious and chivalrous castles of the 15th century - Raglan. Nothing short of exotic in the context of Wales, Raglan was built very much in the contemporary French manner, as was the new octagon tower at Cardiff Castle. Raglan was later transformed into a veritable palace, and reflects the meteoric rise to power of Sir William Herbert, under his patron Edward IV. Sir Roger Vaughan was another who grasped his chances at this time with both hands, his building work at Tretower reflecting new wealth and influence, born from a troubled and war-torn country.

 

Next: The Castle in Tudor Wales

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Copyright 2009 by Jeffrey L. Thomas