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REVIEWS AND COMMENTS ON 'GLYN DWR'S WAR'

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Western Mail Books Review July 20th, 2002

NATURAL-BORN LEADER

Dean Powell finds the legacy of Owain Glyndwr lives on in a new history charting the seven years of the patriot's glorious war of independence.

Six centuries have failed to diminish the incredibly powerful emotions encountered by so many Welsh people when confronted with the name of Owain Glyndwr. There is something almost hopelessly romantic about the national hero in his attempt to achieve full and lasting independence for the homeland.

We remain fascinated by his fiercely sustained rebellion, achieved with no standing army, and few resources against possibly the greatest military force in the world at that time.

For more than any other he was the greatest leader in the history of Wales, who succeeded in eliciting spontaneous and passionate loyalty by uniting and leading the Welsh to break the English shackles.

In a fascinating new publication, Cardiff-born Gideon Brough courageously attempts to piece together Owain's outstanding military triumphs. A massive undertaking indeed for a 30-year-old, first-time author, but one which Brough, who himself boasts an impressive military background, has tackled with immense confidence and success.

"Glyn Dwr's War - the Campaigns of the Last Prince of Wales" (Wales Books, 13.99) tells the enthralling story of a rebellion ignited by greed and injustice, and the emergence of the bards' "mab darogan", the son of prophecy, who would reclaim Welsh independence lost in 1282 with the murder of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd.

It is the latest in a series of books published by Terry Breverton, whose ongoing mission is to enhance the image of Wales by ensuring that its inhabitants are aware of its immensely rich historical background - his passion for Wales and Welshness cannot be doubted.

The account examines the turbulent events and pressures that provoked Owain into violence against the kings of England, and its aftermath when laws were changed. No more could an Englishman be convicted in Wales on the evidence of a Welshman, bards were not allowed to have gatherings and the Welsh were barred from holding office under the Crown.

The book chronicles the development of the war between the Welsh and Anglo-Norman crown, demonstrating the sensational military successes and political accomplishments of his dynamic leadership.

For seven glorious years Owain rampages through Wales in a bloody battle of independence, using ordinary workers with equal passion for their homeland in a series of hugely successful surprise attacks. Until then, most uprisings were usually brief and no war had lasted as long, let alone one so enduring and fierce. Though offered a pardon by Henry, he refused to accept it.

Owain ap Gruffudd Fychan (and we won't argue whether he was later Glyndwr or Glyn Dwr) was born in 1359, long after the successful invasion of Wales by Edward I. As the years passed, the Marcher Lords laid claim to lands that belonged by right to the Welsh, increasing the hatred for the English oppressors.

When in 1400 the de Gray family quarrelled with Owain he launched his campaign with an attack on de Gray's castle at Ruthin. Stimulated by his heroic deeds, his following multiplied and similar attacks were to follow at Flint, Rhuddlan and Conwy. At Bangor he set fire to the Cathedral because the Bishop supported Henry IV, then besieged the castle at Caernarfon.

At the height of the rebellion his forces captured the castles at Harlech and Aberystwyth. His vision for Wales included establishing local parliaments at Machynlleth, Dolgellau and Harlech, along with universities in the north and south.

As a statesman he sought to build alliances with France, Spain and Scotland, but by 1405 the fortunes were turning. Four years later, and Harlech was reclaimed. His wife was captured and held in the Tower of London, but the elusive Owain was never found. Five full English invasions had failed to defeat him and yet, in 1417 when his rebellion was eventually crushed, Owain refused to surrender, but instead vanished for ever.

Not for him the brutal public death of Braveheart, nor a grave to desecrate - only an immortal legacy of hope and freedom.


CAMBRIA MAGAZINE REVIEW - SUMMER 2002

I don't think we can ever have enough books about the Great Liberation War and our greatest hero. When every schoolchild knows the story  backwards, the dates of the battles, and the main events and personalities, then, perhaps, I would suggest that it was time to move on to Llywelyn Fawr or Gruffudd ap Cynan or the story of Rebecca, but the Great War is a very good starting-point for gaining a necessary appreciation of our history.

This book will be a welcome adjunct to the study of the great Owain, set out as it is in chronological detail with boxes, footnotes and maps complementary to the text. Mr Brough sets out to do what many historians fail to do, and that is to place the struggle of 1400-1416 within the context of the broader panoply of Welsh history, rather than seeing it as a sort of sideshow of the English imperial pageant or,  worse still, as some have attempted to do, a mere element of the feuding squabbles between Anglo-Norman barons.

The Great Liberation War is THE defining moment of our nation's history. Had it not been for Owain Glyndwr and the men and women who stood at his side against over-whelming odds, there would be no Welsh nation today. You will find all the details here.

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Glyndŵr Publishing (Wales Books)