The Struggles for Independence
In the 13th century the princes of Gwynedd sought independence from the kings of England, while the Welsh lords resisted the dominance of the princes of Gwynedd. Success in this struggle depended more than anything else on the strength or weakness of the English throne. The kings of England had a definite plan for Wales: to cut its princes down to size.
The century started badly when in 1201 Llywelyn the Great, prince of Gwynedd, had to agree that King John was his overlord. Despite this setback, Llywelyn was able to gradually strengthen his position while John was preoccupied fighting his barons and signing the Magna Carta. Despite the unholy alliances between the Marcher barons and the Welsh lords, by his death in 1240, Llywelyn had made Gwynedd the dominant power in Wales.
Llywelyn ap Gruffudd's career as prince of Gwynedd (1246-82) is the story of his attempted escape from being treated as just another baron by the English king. Initially he was successful, expanding his rule and proclaiming himself prince of Wales in 1258. He then exploited the civil war in England to get his new status recognised. In 1267 Henry III agreed that "the king, together with the consent of the Lord Edward, grants to Llywelyn and his successors, the title Prince of Wales, and also the homage and fealty of all the Welsh barons of Wales."
|The Principality of Wales|
|Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd's principality|
|Territories conquered by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd|
|Territories of Llywelyn's vassals|
|Lordships of the Marcher barons|
|Lordships of the King of England|
Llywelyn's victory was shortlived. Welsh lords and Marcher barons disliked Llywelyn's new status, but the man most determined to overturn the 1267 treaty was Edward I, the new King of England. Unlike his father, he had no distractions at home and he had the resources to mount an invasion.
Llywelyn, antagonised by Edward I's determined enforcement of his rights in Wales, refused to swear allegiance. The king grabbed at this excuse. In 1276 he declared Llywelyn a rebel and mounted a brilliantly organised invasion of Llywelyn's Wales. Within a year the Welsh prince had surrendered.