Owain Glyndwr (variously called Glendower, Glyn Dwr, and Owain ap Gruffydd) was a noble Welshman and a descendent of Llewelyn the Last. For most of his life he lived – and fought – as an Englishman, but around 1400 AD his growing sense of Welsh patriotic pride – and a squabble over land with his English neighbour – led him to raise an insuurection against the English in Wales.
In September, 1400 Glyndwr was proclaimed Prince of Wales. That same day he attacked Ruthin Castle, followed by raids on a succession of English strongholds in Wales. Initially the Welsh flocked to his banner, and Glyndwr successfully pushed back the startled English, aided by a few disaffected English lords. He briefly established a Welsh Parliament at Machynlleth. He also terrified some of his followers with his ferocity and disregard for the niceties of chivalry.
In 1403 Henry IV led a force of English troops into Glamorgan in a fresh attempt to overcome Glyndwr. The English met the Welsh and their French allies near Cowbridge, in a low field now called Stalling Down.
In a ferocious battle that lasted for fully 18 hours, the English and Welsh cut each other to bloody shreds. Though actual details of the battle are scarce, legend tells that the blood ran fetlock high on the horse’s legs, so fierce was the fighting. In the end, the Welsh were triumphant and Henry was forced to retreat.
Despite Glyndwr’s triumph, the English superiority in numbers wore down Welsh resistance in the end. Glyndwr and his men were pushed back to Harlech Castle, and when that stronghold fell, the Welsh cause was effectively lost. Glyndwr’s wife and children were captured and spent the rest of their lives imprisoned in London.
As for Glyndwr himself, a great mystery lurks around his fate. He lived the life of a fugitive for several years, and it is known that in 1415 he refused a pardon, but then he disappears from history.
Rumours abounded that he did not die, but sleeps, waiting to return when his country is at greatest need.