Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cilmeri & Llewelyn the Last's death

Mr. Alan Jones, whose comprehensive blog "Independence Cymru" I have included in last month's post "Googling Welsh Nationalism," serves as an informative source for pan-Celtic political and cultural concerns from his West Walian perspective. I've linked to it on the right side of my blog. He's a Plaid Cymru activist and a prolific commentator on Welsh independence and federalist possibilities, which among the Irish republicans have gained fewer cross-channel comparisons than they deserve.

He kindly updated my limited knowledge of Llewelyn the Last's death that I discussed in the past few days: By the way, Prince Llywelyn did not die in the battle at Cilmeri - he was lured into a trap and murdered. In December I attended the Remembrance there.

This made me curious, so I looked up more. I know that as Wolfe Tone's grave at Bodenstown is to Irish Republicans, so is Cilmeri to Welsh patriots. Imagine, moreover, that five centuries had already passed before the Year of the French, 1798, appeared with ironically a false hope for the French eager to aid the Celtic rebels to overthrow the British, the forces who landed ignominiously at Fishguard/ Abergaun as well as those who managed early victories at Killala and Castlebar.

Sharon Penman and Edith Pargeter have both produced series of historical novels based on the events around Llewelyn the Last and his family. Here's the facts best as we can figure them out over seven centuries later. Dafydd III did not die, I learned, until the following June of 1283. His brother, Llewelyn, on 11 December previous had been separated from his troops. Two accounts of his death clash. The Cilmeri website appears to favor the latter, and the former may be based on a story from the Scots battle of Stirling. Both support Mr. Jones' explanation that technically the prince did not die in battle. Either Llewelyn was killed single-handedly by a lancer while attempting to rejoin his army after hearing the sound as the battle started, or he was betrayed by a false promise of homage from knights; along with eighteen retainers the prince was harried into the woods. There Llewelyn was ambushed at dusk. He asked for a priest, revealed his identity, and was killed. Decapitated, his head met the public desecration that I discussed on this blog last week. His body may have rested with more dignity among the Cistercians at Abbey Cwm Hir.

Cilmeri lies in Breconshire in the southern third of Powys, near the center of Wales. You can find out about the commemorations (last held on 8 and 9 December, 2007) and read the medieval chronicles about the life and death of Llewelyn at

The image is of the cairn at Cefn-y-bedd memorializing he who the Cilmeri website explains as bearing the name of "Llywelyn ap Gruffudd ap Llywelyn ab Iorwerth. This Llywelyn is known as Llywelyn ein Llyw Olaf - Our Last Defender, or Llywelyn III rd."

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