Owain Lawgoch (English: Owain of the Red Hand, French: Yvain de
Galles), full name Owain ap Thomas ap Rhodri (c. 1330 – July
1378), was a Welsh soldier who served in Spain, France, Alsace, and
Switzerland. He led a
Free Company fighting for the French against the
English in the Hundred Years' War. As the last politically active
Llywelyn the Great
Llywelyn the Great in the male line, he was a claimant
to the title of
Prince of Gwynedd
Prince of Gwynedd and of Wales.
The arms of the royal house of Gwynedd
2 Family tree
3 Military career
4 Owain in legend
5 Further reading
7 External links
Following the death of
Llywelyn the Last
Llywelyn the Last in 1282 and the execution of
his brother and successor
Dafydd ap Gruffudd
Dafydd ap Gruffudd in 1283,
fealty to and accepted English rule. Llywelyn's daughter Gwenllian
ferch Llywelyn was committed to a nunnery at Sempringham, while the
sons of Dafydd were kept in
Bristol Castle until their deaths. Another
of Llywelyn's brothers, Rhodri ap Gruffydd, renounced his rights in
Gwynedd and spent much of his life in England as a royal pensioner.
His son Thomas inherited lands in England in Surrey, Cheshire and
Rhodri was content to end his life as a country gentleman in England,
and though his son Thomas ap Rhodri used the four lions of
his seal he made no attempt to win his inheritance. Owain, his only
son, was born in Surrey, where his grandfather had acquired the manor
of Tatsfield. Tatsfield, a small village only 17 miles from the centre
of London, still has Welsh place names e.g. Maesmawr Road (trans:
Great Field Road). Thomas died in 1363 and Owain returned from abroad
to claim his patrimony in 1365.
Owain Lawgoch was in French service by
1369 and his lands in
Wales and England were confiscated.
Llywelyn the Great
Gruffydd ap Llywelyn
Dafydd ap Llywelyn
Owain Goch ap Gruffydd
Llywelyn ap Gruffudd
Dafydd ap Gruffydd
Rhodri ap Gruffudd
Gwenllian of Wales
Llywelyn ap Dafydd
Owain ap Dafydd
Tomas ap Rhodri
The year in which Owain entered the service of the king of
Froissart claims that he fought on the French side at the
Battle of Poitiers, but there is no other evidence to support
this. He was however deprived of his English lands in
1369, suggesting he was in the service of the French as leader of a
Free Company when the period of truce between
France and England
Treaty of Brétigny
Treaty of Brétigny ended and hostilities resumed in
1369. His French name was Yvain de Galles (Owen of Wales).
Owain's company consisted largely of Welshmen, many of whom remained
in French service for many years. The second in command of this
company was Ieuan Wyn, known to the French as le Poursuivant d'Amour,
a descendant of Ednyfed Fychan, Seneschal of
Gwynedd under Owain's
ancestors. Owain also received financial support
France from Ieuan Wyn's father, Rhys ap Robert.[citation
needed] While in French service Owain had good relations with Bertrand
du Guesclin and others and gained the support of
Charles V of France.
Welsh soldiery and longbowmen who had fought for Edward I in his
campaigns in North
Wales remained armed and sold their services to
Norman kings in their battles in Scotland at Crecy and Poitiers.
Ironically, the Norman attempt to conquer
Wales set in train events
which reignited Welsh identity and raised up new Welsh military
leaders such as Owain claiming descent from the ancient Princes of
A depiction of Owain's death at Mortagne from a medieval manuscript.
Owain is pictured as killed by an arrow, rather than by an assassin'
In May 1372 in Paris, Owain announced that he intended to claim the
throne of Wales. He set sail from
Harfleur with money borrowed from
Charles V. Owain first attacked the island of Guernsey, and was
still there when a message arrived from Charles ordering him to
abandon the expedition in order to go to Castile to seek ships to
attack La Rochelle. Owain defeated an English and Gascon force at
Soubise later that year, capturing Sir Thomas Percy and Jean de
Grailly, the Captal de Buch. Another invasion of
Wales was planned in
1373 but had to be abandoned when
John of Gaunt
John of Gaunt launched an
offensive. In 1374 he fought at Mirebau and at
Saintonge. In 1375 Owain was employed by Enguerrand de Coucy to help
win Enguerrand's share of the Habsburg lands due to him as nephew of
the former Duke of Austria. However, during the
Gugler War they were
defeated by the forces of
Bern and had to abandon the
In 1377 there were reports that Owain was planning another expedition,
this time with help from Castile. The alarmed English government sent
a spy, the Scot Jon Lamb, to assassinate Owain, who had been given the
task of besieging
Mortagne-sur-Gironde in Poitou. Lamb gained
Owain's confidence and became his chamberlain, which
gave him the opportunity to stab Owain to death in July 1378,
something Walker described as 'a sad end to a flamboyant career'.
The Issue Roll of the Exchequer dated 4 December 1378 records "To John
Lamb, an esquire from Scotland, because he lately killed Owynn de
Gales, a rebel and enemy of the King in
France ... £20".[citation
With the assassination of
Owain Lawgoch the direct line of the House
of Cunedda became extinct. As a result, the claim to the title
'Prince of Wales' fell to the other royal dynasties, of Deheubarth and
Powys. The leading heir in this respect was Owain ap Gruffudd of
Glyndyfrdwy, who was descended from both dynasties.
Owain in legend
A number of legends grew around Owain, of which one version from
Cardiganshire runs as follows. Dafydd Meurig of
Betws Bledrws was
helping to drive cattle from Cardiganshire to London. On the way he
cut himself a hazel stick, and was still carrying it when he
encountered a stranger on
London Bridge. The stranger asked Dafydd
where he had cut the stick, and ended up accompanying him back to
Wales to the place where the stick had been cut. The stranger told
Dafydd to dig under the bush, and this revealed steps leading down to
a large cave illuminated by lamps, where a man seven feet tall with a
red right hand was sleeping. The stranger told Dafydd that this was
Owain Lawgoch "who sleeps until the appointed time; when he wakes he
will be king of the Britons".
The quarry reservoir at
Gwynedd was once known as Llyn
Owain Lawgoch and there is a story linking him with the nearby
mansion, Plas Aberllefenni, recorded in "Trem Yn Ol" by J. Arthur
In Guernsey, Owain is remembered as Yvon de Galles. He and his
Aragonese mercenaries have been absorbed into the island's folklore as
an invasion of diminutive but handsome fairies from across the sea.
The story goes that the shipwrecked king of the fairies was found
unconscious on a
Guernsey shore by a girl named Lizabeau. When he
awoke, he fell in love with her and carried her across the sea to be
his queen. However, the other fairies soon decided that they wanted
Guernsey brides, and invaded the island. The men of the island fought
bravely but were slaughtered wholesale, except for two men who hid in
an oven. The fairies then took
Guernsey wives, which is said to be the
reason for the typical Guernseyman's dark hair and short stature.
A. D. Carr (1991). Owen of Wales: The End of the House of Gwynedd.
Wales Press. ISBN 0-7083-1064-8.
R. R. Davies (1991). The age of conquest:
Wales 1063–1415. Oxford
University Press. ISBN 0-19-820198-2.
^ a b c d e f g h i Carr, Antony (1995). Medieval Wales. Basingstoke:
Macmillan. pp. 103–6.
^ a b c d e f g Walker, David (1990). Medieval Wales. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press. pp. 165–167.
^ a b Davies, R R (1997). The Revolt of Owain Glyndwr. Oxford: Oxford
University Press. pp. 86–87.
^ a b c Davies, R R (2000). The Age of Conquest:
(2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 436.
^ Folklore of
Guernsey by Marie de Garis (1986) ASIN: B0000EE6P8
Unveiling of a monument to commemorate Owain at Montagne-sur-Gironde
Tomas ap Rhodri
Head of the House of Aberffraw
Madoc ap Llewelyn
Prince of Gwynedd
Prince of Gwynedd and Wales