History has always fascinated me, but some eras could have ended better. The thirteenth century is full of these unfortunate events. It ended badly for Scotland, but even worse for Wales, which lost its prince and its independence to King Edward I of England.
Edward had his eyes on Wales for thirty years, ever since Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s forces had swept through his lands (held custodially by Edward’s parents and guardians) in 1256. Llywelyn’s army marched all the way to Deheubarth that summer and fall, and set the stage of Llywelyn’s twenty year supremacy in Wales. However, it wasn’t until 1267 that Edward’s father, Henry III, acknowledged Llywelyn as the Prince of Wales, a title he inherited from his grandfather–and another ten years after that before things fell apart for the Welsh prince.
Edward participated in the Ninth Crusade and despite the fact that his father died in 1272, he didn’t return to England until 1274, at which point he immediately turned a covetous eye on Wales. Why Wales instead of Scotland? It seems likely that Wales looked the easier target. Scotland had always been a separate kingdom, whereas Wales had fallen under the jurisdiction of England as a principality since the turn of the 13th century. Thus, invading Scotland meant attacking the rule of a reigning monarch; attacking Wales meant reining in a rebellious prince–a different matter entirely. In addition, in the winter of 1274, Dafydd ap Gruffydd, Llywelyn’s brother, conspired to assassinate Llywelyn and only a sudden snowstorm averted the attack. Dafydd, a long time friend of Edward from childhood, fled to England, and to Edward. Perhaps Edward believed if he unseated Llywelyn, he’d have a malleable prince in Dafydd.
For Scotland’s part, when King Alexander III of Scotland married Margaret of England in 1251 (Henry III’s daughter), Henry tried to insist that Alexander give homage to him. Alexander refused. By 1261, Alexander was well on his way to having as grand a plans for Scotland as Llywelyn had for Wales. He maintained a firm grip on power until his death in 1286.
By then, Llywelyn had been murdered (in 1282) and Wales had fallen finally, and permanently, to Edward. Subsequently, in 1283, Edward hanged, drew, and quartered Dafydd, the first man of standing to die such a heinous death. Edward inflicted the same death on William Wallace in 1305.
With King Alexander’s death, Edward saw Scotland as ripe for picking. With no obvious heir (all of Alexander’s children had died by 1284), only a granddaughter, Margaret, remained. When she died in 1290, upwards of fourteen different magnates claimed the throne, and they turned to Edward to arbitrate the dispute. He, of course, wanted whoever was crowned to swear allegiance to him. They all refused and eventually John Balloil was appointed king. Still, Edward maintained that he was the rightful overlord–and when he demanded the Scots join him in a war against France, the Scots instead allied with France. Unfortunately, this gave Edward the excuse he needed to invade Scotland, which he did in 1296. This led to William Wallace’s rebellion in 1297.
Unlike Wales, Scotland fought off England’s attempts to subjugate it for another few hundred years, ending finally with the defeat at Culloden and the razing of the Highlands.
One of the great things about writing historical fantasy is getting to change history–usually for the better!
My After Cilmeri series, Footsteps in Time and its sequel, Prince of Time, follows the adventures of two American teenagers who stop the English soldiers who intend to murder Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, and save Wales from over 700 years of English oppression.
About Sarah Woodbury:
With two historian parents, Sarah couldn’t help but develop an interest in the past. She went on to get more than enough education herself (in anthropology) and began writing fiction when the stories in her head overflowed and demanded she let them out. Her interest in Wales stems from her own ancestry and the year she lived in England when she fell in love with the country, language, and people. She even convinced her husband to give all four of their children Welsh names.
She makes her home in Oregon.
To find out more, visit Sarah’s site.