22nd June 1402. Welsh Triumph.
As Merlin once predicted the Welsh would once again rule England, but whilst not to be, at least they gave the English a ‘bloody-nose’ after the Battle of Pilleth in 1402, which the English prefer to forget.
It happened on the Welsh Borders near Knighton, Herefordshire, and an English humiliation on such a grand scale, that within days, news of the casualties said to number 8000, had reached Rome. It was a bloody business and was also the last and the most complete Welsh victory over the English.
It was to be pay back time for the victory of Edward I over Llewellyn ap Gryffid in the 13thc which made Wales an English dependency, and the previous onslaughts by Hugh ‘Lupus’ D’Avranches, Earl of Chester, who in 1070, was given the town and county charge of the Palatine of Chester against the Welsh.
He was thus called the ‘fat’ or the ‘wolf’, by the Welsh whom no doubt were relieved when he died on 27th July 1101.
One won’t find the battlefield in the Ordnance Survey, ‘Complete Guide to the Battlefields of Britain’, though there is no uncertainty over the site. The disaster was so absolute that it was days before the vanquished could even approach to bury their dead. The result is that for 600 years it has been kept from their descendants.
For two years Owain Glyndwr had been a rebel against Henry IV and had made the mistake of proclaiming himself Prince of Wales, a title appropriated by the English Crown after the conquest of Wales in 1283.
It was in June that a large English levy under Sir Edmund Mortimer pushed westwards in search of Owain Glyndwr, who would have known many of the opposition sweating in armour, as the long column came up the valley of the Lugg, and they would have recognised him.
Until then it had been a sporadic business of guerrilla ambushes and attacks on English colonial towns in Wales, but things were changing as the mercenaries from the French wars were coming home bringing their expertise with them.
The Welsh scholars from Oxford brought their enthusiasm and the gentry joined along with labourers with little to lose, in this gathering in the hills which the English hoped to snuff out. There are no eyewitness accounts, and little remains except reminders of the slaughter where four redwood trees were planted, near where a plough turned up a mass grave at the end of the 19thc.
Only two things are known for certain: the church was set on fire by Glyndwr and the Welsh archers on the English side changed allegiance, having probably recognised the flag of Glyndwr. Whatever, the English were possibly ambushed by a smaller force and caught between the marsh and hill.
This was all a far cry from the 10th century when Hywel Dda allied with the English and gave his son an English name Edwin, and when Welsh kings bowed to Edgar at Bath.
However it might be apposite to remember that historically the Welsh probably had more to fear from the Irish than the English, as the Roman fort at Cardiff was built against Irish pirates whose raids intermittently terrorised the west coast of Britain until the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1170.
Later much of Wales was laid waste and the principality was subsumed under England, by Henry VIII in 1536.
A painting, by Brian Palmer, in the heroic style, captures the Battle of Pilleth showing the burning church and flying arrows and general mayhem.