Thursday, 6 December 2007

Dewch i Gyd - Come All to Cilmeri

Cefn y Bedd [Cilmeri - Cilmery] is a name which has great meaning for Welsh patriots. It is the place where Edward I’s conquest of Wales succeeded and Welsh spirit was broken. Yet in spite of that, and all the other crises that our nation has faced since 1282, in the 700th year of the death of Edward I [7th July 1307], our country again has the ability to restore the independence which was lost on that dark, winter’s day.

This year’s meetings: 10.30 Saturday 8th December and 10.00 Sunday 9th December.

For many who do more than just love Wales, Cilmeri is its most hallowed and saddest spot, for it is here, in a quiet meadow just outside the town of Builth Wells (Llanfair ym Muallt) that Welsh-born native prince Llewelyn the Last (Llewelyn ap Gruffudd) was slain. To understand the significance of Cilmeri, we must turn back in history to the Edwardian Conquest of Wales during the latter part of the l3th Century. The ambition of King Edward was to unite the whole of the island of Britain under his kingship, and this meant he had ultimately to conquer Wales and Scotland. Prince Llewelyn had somehow manage to form a unified Wales under his leadership, but faced formidable problems in holding together all the quarrelsome parts of his kingdom. This mean that Edward's task was much easier than perhaps expected, considering the early defeats that the Welsh armies inflicted upon the invading English, not used to fighting in mountainous terrain. There was much resistance to Llewelyn's authority among many of the minor Welsh princes (forever quarreling among themselves) as well as from the semi-independent lords of the Marches. It was therefore not too difficult for Edward's much larger armies to eventually wear away the forces of Llywelyn through attrition and to impose harsh restrictions upon the Welsh leader. At the Treaty of Aberconwy in l277, Llewelyn was forced to accept humiliating terms and to give up most of his recently acquired lands keeping only Gwynedd west of the Conwy River. Edward followed up his successes by building English strongholds around the perimeter of what remained of Llewelyn's possessions and strong, easily defended castles were erected at Flint, Rhuddlan, Aberystwyth, and Builth, garrisoned by large detachments of English immigrants and soldiers. Though Edward was now firmly in control of his Welsh territories, yet Prince Llewelyn was not yet finished. During a period of peace between the two leaders, his wedding to Elinor at Worcester was honored by the attendance of the English king. It was a period in which the Welsh leader bided his time and pondered his options. When the people of Wales, under his brother Dafydd, eventually rose in a massive revolt at the loss of control over their customs and their law and the restrictive and oppressive English rule, Llewelyn was the unanimous choice to lead their cause: "The gentlefolk of Wales, despoiled of their liberty and their rights, came to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and revealed to him with tears their grievous bondage to the English; and they made known to him that they preferred to be slain in war for their liberty than to suffer themselves to be unrighteously trampled upon by foreigners." (Brut y Tywysogion, l256). At first, Llywelyn's revolt was successful, the castles of Builth, Aberystwyth and Ruthin falling into his hands, and a large English force was utterly destroyed in the Menai Straights in Gwynedd. Edward was forcedto devote the whole of his kingdom's resources to deal with the "malicious, accursed" Welsh, yet it was a mere chance encounter in a meadow at Cilmeri that ended the Welsh dream. At Cilmeri, in the quiet green meadow on the road from Builth Wells to Llandovery, you will see a tall granite monolith. At first glance, It looks like one of the ancient standing stones erected thousands of years ago by our neolithic ancestors, yet a closer inspection reveals it to be a monument erected in l956 to the memory of Prince Llywelyn "our last ruler." (Ein Lliw Olaf). Llywelyn, separated from his army, found himself in a minor skirmish in which he was killed by an English knight unaware of the Welsh prince's identity. Upon discovery, Llewelyn's head was sent to London for display as that of a traitor. Edward's troubles with the rebellious Welsh, for all practical purposes were at an end. Henceforth, Wales was to live under an alien political system, playing a subordinate role as an integral part of the kingdom of England. A poignant ballad by modern Welsh songwriter and nationalist Dafydd Iwan expresses the grief of the Welsh nation at the loss of their beloved Llewelyn: "Collir Llywelyn, colli'r cyfan" (losing Llewelyn is losing everything). Cilmeri is indeed holy ground.

4 comments:

ryan said...

Do you realise that the Norman conquest was the end of Welsh independence (if you can call it that)!

Anonymous said...

What are you on about Ryan?

alanindyfed said...

Unionists are brainwashed to despise
the idea of Welsh independence, and
there are always some who defect.
He is one of the defectors. Not his fault but the fault of British education.

RDM said...

No brainer to call it the end of Welsh Independence. Also do not forget Conwy castle was ruined by Welsh freedom fighting forces in 1294 and in the South the cause for freedom went on until 1316. Later on we regained a near Independent State under Owain Glyndwr to be lost by 1406 but nevertheless that was the last time we stood as a Nation. Also do not forget Glyndwrs own son Mauredd carried on the struggle until 1422 and in Agincourt many Welshmen died fighting with the French (as with the English)in 1415. Many others have raised the flag for Welsh nationhood since then and its quite remarkable how we maintened our Welshness sitting next door to what used to be the Worlds biggest power.