Wales Vs England: 1000+years of Resistance:

Home » Blog » History » Wales Vs England: 1000+years of Resistance:

This page may contain affiliate links. This means I may earn a commission if you use one of these links to make a purchase.  This does not cost you any extra.

England and Wales have seemingly always had a passionate rivalry in sports. But this nationalistic competition has a much deeper foundation: over a thousand years of invasion, conflict, oppression, rebellion and subjection.

In this post you’ll learn:

  • The history of the conflict between these two independent yet unified nations;
  • Details of the major battles, groups and alliances of the Anglo-Welsh Wars;
  • The heroes and rebels of the millennium spanning conflicts;
  • The 1536 unification of Wales;
  • Why is Wales not included on the Union Flag?
  • Banning the Welsh Language and more…

Before the Welsh were Welsh and the English were yet to be English:

The story of the conflict between England and Wales starts long before either nation were known as such.

The Anglo-Saxons later formed what was called the Kingdom of England, whereas the geographic area of modern Wales was occupied by native Britons, the Brythonic population of Britain who the Anglo-Saxons called the Welsh (Welcs).

Wales Vs England

Heroes and Villains of the Anglo-Welsh Wars through the ages:

NOTE: This is a very short digest history of the conflict and a brief overview of the key players, I intend to do a more in-depth post about some of the main leaders in future posts.

Saxon/English leaders and persons of interest:

  • Hengist and Horsa (5th Century): Germanic brothers said to have led the tribes of Angles, Saxons and Jutes in their invasion of Britain in the 5th century.
  • Ælle (5th Century): (also Aelle or Ella) is recorded as the first king of the South Saxons, reigning in what is now called Sussex, from 477 to 514.
  • Cerdic (519-534): Leader of the Anglo-Saxons, founder and first king of Saxon England forming the kingdom of Wessex. Subsequent kings of Wessex were each claimed to descend from Cerdic.
  • Cynric – Cerdics Son active in the 6th Century throughout the Kingdom of Wessex.
  • Ida the Flame-bearer (died c. 559) – (AKA Ida of Bernicia), is the first known King of the Anglian kingdom of Bernicia, which he ruled from around 547 until his death in 559. His descendants founded the Kingdom of Northumbria.
  • Æthelfrith (died c. 616) King of Bernicia from c. 593. he became the first Bernician king to also rule the ancient kingdom of Deira, his dynasty later formed the kingdom of Northumbria.
  • Cynegils was the Saxon king of Wessex from c. 611 to c. 642. He was baptised to Christianity in 630.
  • Edwin of Northumbria Ēadwine; c. 586– 12 October 632/633), also known as Æduinus, was the King of Deira and Bernicia– from about 616 until his death. He converted to Christianity and was baptised in 627; after he fell at the Battle of Hatfield Chase he became a saint.
  • Oswald of Northumbria; (c 604 – 5 August 641/642) was King of Northumbria from 634 until his death, and is venerated as a saint of whom there was a particular cult in the Middle Ages. Oswald was the son of Aethelfrith of Bernicia. Oswald united the kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira once again under a single ruler, and promoted the spread of Christianity. After eight years of rule, in which he was the most powerful ruler in Britain, Oswald was killed in the Battle of Maserfield while fighting the forces of Penda of Mercia.
  • Cenwalh, also Cenwealh or Coenwalh, was son of Cynegils and King of Wessex from c. 642 to c. 645 and from c. 648 until his death, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, in c. 672.
  • Centwine of Wessex (died after 685) was King of Wessex from c. 676 to 685 or 686, although he was perhaps not the only king of the West Saxons at the time and was considered a lesser king although supposedly another son of Cynegils.
  • Ine of Wessex, also rendered Ini or Ina (c. AD 670 – after 726) was King of Wessex from 689 to 726. At Ine’s accession, his kingdom dominated much of Southern England. He abdicated in 726 to go to Rome, ‘leaving his kingdom to younger men’. Responsible for the first minted coins of Saxon Britain.
  • Cynewulf of Wessex King from757 until his death in 786. Cynewulf was also often at war with the Welsh. In 779, Cynewulf was defeated by the new King of Mercia, Offa, at the Battle of Bensington.
  • Offa of Mercia, (died 29 July 796 AD) was King of Mercia, a kingdom of Anglo-Saxon England, from 757 until his death. He was responsible for building Offas Dyke which runs the length of Wales. Offa was considered the most powerful king of Britain prior to Alfred the Great.
  • Ecgberht (770/775– 839), also spelled Egbert, Ecgbert, Ecgbriht, Ecgbeorht and Ecbert, was King of Wessex from 802 until his death in 839. His father was King Ealhmund of Kent. In the 780s Ecgberht was forced into exile to Charlemagne’s court in the Frankish Empire by the kings Offa of Mercia and Beorhtric of Wessex, but on Beorhtric’s death in 802 Ecgberht returned and took the throne. During his reign through battle and politics he managed to unify Mercia, Wessex and Northumbria, though this unification did not last.
  • Burgred of Mercia (also Burhred or Burghred) was an Anglo-Saxon King of Mercia from 852 to 874. He successfully invaded and occupied Wales during his reign.
  • Æthelstan or Athelstan (c. 894– 27 October 939) was King of the Anglo-Saxons from 924 to 927 and King of the newly founded England from 927 to his death in 939. Modern historians regard him as the first King of England and one of the “greatest Anglo-Saxon kings”. Æthelstan centralised government; increased control over the production of charters and summoned leading figures from distant areas to his councils. These meetings were also attended by rulers from outside his territory, especially Welsh kings, who thus acknowledged his overlordship.
  • Eadric the Wild (or Eadric Silvaticus), was an Anglo-Saxon magnate of Shropshire and Herefordshire who led English resistance to the Norman conquest, active in 1068–70.
  • Hubert Walter (c. 1160– 13 July 1205) was an influential royal adviser in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries in the positions of Chief Justicar of England, Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor. As chancellor, Walter began the keeping of the Charter Roll, a record of all charters issued by the chancery. Walter was not noted for his holiness in life or learning, but historians have judged him one of the most outstanding government ministers in English History.
  • Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent c.1170 – before 5 May 1243) was an English nobleman who served as Chief Justiciar of England and Ireland during the reigns of King John and of his infant son and successor King Henry III and, as a consequence, was one of the most influential and powerful men in English politics.
  • Edward I – (17/18 June 1239– 7 July 1307), also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. Before his accession to the throne, he was commonly referred to as The Lord Edward The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved from an early age in the political intrigues of his father’s reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons.
  • Edward II (25 April 1284 – 21 September 1327), also called Edward of Caernarfon, was king of England from 1307 until he was deposed in January 1327. Beginning in 1300, Edward accompanied his father on campaigns to pacify Scotland. Following his father’s death, Edward succeeded to the throne in 1307. He married Isabella, the daughter of the powerful King Philip IV of France, in 1308 to try to maintain peace.
  • Sir Edmund Mortimer IV (10 December 1376 – January 1409) was an English nobleman and landowner who played a part in the rebellions of the Welsh leader Owain Glyndŵr and of the Percy family against King Henry IV, at the beginning of the 15th century. He perished at the siege of Harlech as part of these conflicts.
Baner Y Ddraig Aur – the golden dragon banner of Owain Glydwr

Briton/Welsh Leaders and persons of interest:

  • Vortigern (5th Century): allowed Saxons to settle in Kent, on the Isle of Thanet (Where I’m from) offering them provisions in exchange for their service as mercenaries. Hengest manipulates him into ceding over more land and allowing more settlers to come from Germania. Vortimer finally rises up against the Saxons. He pushes them back to Thanet, and meets them in four battles.
  • King Arthur of the Britons: King Arthur (Welsh: Brenin Arthur, Cornish: Arthur Gernow, Breton: Roue Arzhur) thought to be one of the kings the Arthurian legends are based upon, according to medieval histories and romances, he led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the late 5th and early 6th centuries.
  • King Urien of Rheged: Urien, often referred to as Urien Rheged or Uriens, was a late 6th-century king of Rheged, an early British kingdom of the Hen Ogledd. His power and his victories, including the battles of Gwen Ystrad and Alt Clut Ford, are celebrated in the praise poems to him by Taliesin
  • Taliesin: Taliesin was a renowned early medieval bard who sang at the courts of at least three kings. A Bard was a professional story teller, verse-maker, music composer, oral historian and genealogist, employed by a king to commemorate their ancestors and their own adventures.
  • Tewdrig ap Teithfallt, Saint Tewdrig; Tewdrig was a Christian king of Gwent and was martyred and sainted for his defense of the Christian welsh against the pagan Saxons. The Latin form of his name is given as ‘Theodoric’ and his feast day is 1 April.
  • Meurig ap Tewdrig (Maurice )c.596 – c.665. was the son of St Twedrig, King of Gwent and Glwysing. It is said Meurig also went by the name Uther Pendragon and was the father of the ‘real’ King Arthur of Arthurian legend.
  • Ceretic of Elmet (or Ceredig ap Gwallog) was the last king of Elmet, a britonnic kingdom that existed in west-yorkshire, northern England who was exiled to Wales when his lands were taken by the Saxons.
  • Cadwallon ap Cadfan – (died 634) was the King of Gwynedd from 625. His conquest of Northumbria, which he held for a year or two after Edwin of Northumbria’s defeat, made him one of the last recorded culturally traditional Celtic Britons to hold substantial territory in eastern Britain until the rise of the Late medieval house of Tudor. He was thereafter remembered as a national hero by the Britons and as a tyrant by the Anglo-Saxons of Northumbria.
  • Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon (also spelled Cadwalader or Cadwallader in English) was King of Gwynedd from around 655 to 682 AD. Two devastating plagues happened during his reign, one in 664 and the other in 682; he himself was a victim of the second. Little else is known of his reign.
  • Rhodri Molwynog (“Rhodri the Bald and Grey”; died c. 754), also known as Rhodri ap Idwal (“Rhodri son of Idwal”) was an 8th-century King of Gwynedd.
  • Cyngen ap Cadell (Cyngen son of Cadell) or also (Concenn), was considered the last King of Powys, reigning from 808 until his death in 854 during a pilgrimage to Rome.
  • Rhodri Mawr inherited the kingdom of Gwynedd from his father but is renowned for being the first person to unite three of the largest Welsh kingdoms, and defend them against Viking and Saxon raids until his death in 878.
  • Hywel Dda, sometimes anglicised as Howel the Good, or Hywel ap Cadell (c. 880 – 948) was a king of Deheubarth (former region and seat of power for South Wales) who eventually came to rule most of Wales. Hywel is highly esteemed among other medieval Welsh rulers. His name is particularly linked with the codification of traditional Welsh Law, which were thenceforth known as the Laws of Hywel Dda. The latter part of his name (Dda, lit. “Good”) refers to the fact that his laws were just and good.
  • Idwal Foel (Idwal the Bald; died c. 942) was a 10th-century King of Gwynedd. A member of the House of Aberffraw, he inherited the throne from his father, Anarawd ap Rhodri. Idwal allied Wales with England to fight the Scots and Vikings and in doing so submitted to English rule.
  • Gruffydd ap Llywelyn (c. 1010– 5 August 1063) was King of Wales from 1055 to 1063. He had previously been King of Gwynedd and Powys in 1039. He was the great-great-grandson of Hywel Dda.
  • Owain ap Gruffudd (c. 1100–23 or 28 November 1170) was King of Gwynedd, from 1137 until his death in 1170. ‘Owain the Great’ was the first to be styled “Prince of Wales”. He is considered to be the most successful of all the North Welsh princes prior to his grandson, Llwelyn the Great. He became known as Owain Gwynedd, “Owain of Gwynedd”) to distinguish him from the contemporary King of Powys.
  • Rhys ap Gruffydd, commonly known as The Lord Rhys,(c. 1132 – 28 April 1197) was the ruler of the Welsh kingdom of Deheubarth from 1155 to 1197. He usually used the title “Proprietary Prince of Deheubarth” or “Prince of South Wales”. Rhys was one of the most successful and powerful Welsh leaders of the Middle Ages, and after the death of the king of Gwynedd, Owain Gwynedd (above) in 1170, he was the dominant power in Wales.
  • Llywelyn the Great aka Llywelyn Fawr or Llywelyn mab Iorwerth (c. 1173– 11 April 1240) was a King of Gwynedd and eventually ruler of all Wales. By a combination of war and diplomacy he dominated Wales for 45 years.
  • Dafydd ap Llywelyn (c. March 1212 – 25 February 1246) was Prince of Gwynedd from 1240 to 1246. He was the first ruler to officially claim the title Prince of Wales.
  • Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, grandson of Llywelyn the great, (c. 1223 – 11 December 1282), sometimes known as Llywelyn the Last as he was the last sovereign prince of Wales before it’s conquest by Edward I of England. Llywelyn ap Gruffudd was Prince of Wales from 1258 until his death at Cilmeri in 1282.
  • Rhys ap Maredudd of Dryslwyn, (c. 1250 – 2 June 1292) was a senior member of the Welsh royal house of Deheubarth. He was the great grandson of The Lord Rhys (died 1197), prince of south Wales, and the last ruler of a united Deheubarth. He is best known for his leadership of a revolt in south Wales in 1287–88.
  • Madog ap Llywelyn (died after 1312) was the leader of the Welsh revolt of 1294–95 against English rule. The revolt was surpassed in longevity only by the revolt of Owain Glyndwr in the 15th century. Madog belonged to a junior branch of the House of Aberffraw and was a distant relation of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the last recognised native Prince of Wales.
  • Llywelyn Bren (c. 1267-c. 1317), or Llywelyn ap Gruffudd ap Rhys or Llywelyn of the Woods. He was a nobleman who led a 1316 revolt in Wales in the reign of King Edward II. It marked the last serious challenge to English rule in Wales until the attempts of Owain Lawgoch to invade with French support in the 1370s. Hugh Despenser the Younger’s unlawful execution of Llywelyn Bren helped to lead to the eventual overthrow of both Edward II and Hugh.
  • Owain Lawgoch (Owain of the Red Hand, Owain ap Thomas ap Rhodri (c. 1330– July 1378), was a Welsh soldier who served in Italy France and Switzerland. He led a small force fighting for the French against the English in the Hundred Years War. As a politically active descendant of Llywelyn the Great in the male line, he was a claimant to the title of Prince of Gwynedd, but was assassinated when he tried to push his claim as Prince of Wales.
Statue of Owain Glyndwr, Corwen
  • Owain ap Gruffydd (c. 1359–c. 1415), commonly known as Owain Glyndŵr – Probably the most famous of the Welsh rebel leaders who led a fierce and long-running War of Independence with the aim of ending English rule in Wales. He formed the first Welsh parliament, and he was the last native-born leader to unite Wales.
  • Sir Rhys ap Thomas (1449–1525) was a Welsh soldier and landholder who rose to prominence during the Wars of the Roses, and was instrumental in the victory of Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth. He remained a faithful supporter of Henry and was rewarded with lands and offices in South Wales. Some sources claim that he personally delivered the death blow to King Richard III at Bosworth with his pole-axe.

Significant conflicts through each century:

For thousands of years the natives of Wales have been forced to defend their lands from various groups of invaders; Romans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Picts, Normans and the biggest foe; England.

The Anglo-Saxons (who became the kingdom of England) arrived in Britain in AD 446, This is known as ‘Adventus Saxonum’; ‘the coming of the Saxons’.

By 495 the conflict had reached Wales. The following is a list of significant battles and events that chronicle the next thousand years of conflict:


5th Century:

  • c.452 The Germanic people settled on the eastern “Saxon Shore” of Britain rise in a revolt led by Hengest and his sons against their Romano British masters.
  • c.455 Battle of Aylesford– Anglo-Saxons (particularly a group called Jutes) led by Hengest defeat the Britons (Welsh) led by Votimer at the Battle of Aylesford, Kent.
  • c.456 Battle of Crayford– Anglo-Saxons (Jutes) led again by Hengest defeat the Britons (Welsh) led by Vortimer in battle. The Britons are driven from (Kent) which is then ruled by Hengist and his descendants.
  • c.466 Battle of Wippedesfleot (Ebbsfleet in Kent)– Britons (Welsh) defeat the Anglo-Saxons (Jutes) in battle in Kent and confine them to the Isle of Thanet.
  • c.477 Battle of Cymensora (Selsey in Sussex)– Anglo-Saxons led by Hengest’s son Ælle, defeat the Cantii.
  • c.486 Battle on the River Glein– Arthur of the Britons inflicts a crushing defeat the Anglo-Saxons.
  • c.490 Second, third and fourth battles of Arthur in Linnuis thought to be modern Lindsey where he led the Britons to victory over the Anglo-Saxons at each battle.
  • c.491 Siege of Anderida– Anglo-Saxons (Saxons) led by Ælle capture the Castle of Anderida from the Britons and slaughter all men, women and children.
  • c.492 Battle of Bassas– Arthur routs the Anglo-Saxons at a location lost to history.
  • c.493 Battle of Guinnion– Arthur defeats the Anglo-Saxons in battle. The site was possibly at Winchester which was then known as Caer Guintguic.
  • c.495 Battle of Urbe Legionis– Arthur defeats the Anglo-Saxons in the battle at the “City of the Legions” which is thought to be Caerleon where the Roman forts and amphitheatre still stand today.
  • c.495 Cerdic reputedly defeats the Britons (Welsh) in battle close to modern day Bournemouth and establishes kingdom of the West of Saxons (Wessex).
  • c.496 Battle of Mons Badonicus– The Anglo-Saxons are defeated by the Britons (possibly led by King Arthur) at a site either in Bath, Somerset or at Mynydd Baiden in Glamorgan. Cedric is routed, hunted down and killed. This defeat ends the Saxon attacks for 40 years.
Three Briton kings killed in one battle; 577 Battle of Deorham

6th Century:

  • c.509 Battle of Natanleod– Wessex (English) led by Cerdic defeats the Britons at Netley, Hampshire.
  • 519 Another battle in which Cerdic is victorious. He then establishes the Kingdom of Wessex.
  • 527 Battle of Cerdicesleag– the West Saxons led by Cerdic and his son Cynric defeat the Britons.
  • 530 The Britons of the Isle of Wight are overrun by the Anglo-Saxons (Jutes).
  • 547 the Northern Angles led by Ida the Flamebearer captures the fortress of Din Guyaroi (present day Bamburgh) from the Britons of the Kingdom of Bryneich (present day Northumberland).
  • c.550 Londinium (London) and Camulodunum (Colchester) fall to the East Saxons.
  • 575 a northern alliance of the Britons led by King Urien of Rheged, defeat the Angles of Bernicia.
  • 577 Battle of Deorham; West Saxons capture the British fort at Hinton Hill near Dyrham a village in modern Gloucestershire. The British attempted to retake this strategic location but were defeated with three of their kings killed in the fighting. The West Saxons went on to capture Gloucester, Cirencester and Bath separating the Britons of modern Somerset, Devon and Cornwall from the Britons of modern Wales.
  • 580 Battle of Ebrauc (Modern York) Angles of Bernicia capture the city of Ebrauc.
  • 584 Battle of Tintern the armies of the Kingdom of Gwent, led by Tewdrig and his son Meurig defeated the English and forced them to retreat from the West. Tewdrig was mortally wounded and died three days after the battle.
  • 598 Battle of Catraeth (Modern Catterick)– the northern Angles led by Aethelfrith  defeat the forces of the Britons of Gododdin and Bryneich (Bernicia)
Briton in the 620’s – History of Wales Is a great resource to learn how Wales changed over the years in more detail county by county.

7th Century:

The Anglo-Saxons convert to Christianity by the middle of the century. The last serious attempts by the Britons to reclaim Britain fail.

  • 614 Battle of Beandun– The West Saxons led by Cynegils defeat the West Britons in Dorset. It is reported that over two thousand British warriors died.
  • 616 Battle of Chester– the Northern Angles of Northumbria led by Aethelfrith defeat an alliance of Powys and Gwynedd and capture the city of Chester.
  • 619 The Northumbrian Angles led by Edwin of Northumbria invade and conquer Elmet, a British territory close to modern Leeds. The Kingdom of Elmet is occupied and its last ruler, Ceretic, is driven into exile in Powys where soon after he dies.
  • 629 The Northumbrians invade Gwynedd and drive Cadwallon ap Cadfan into exile.
  • 630 The Battle of Pont y Saeson, Tewdrig King of Gwent, together with Meurig, slaughtered the invading Saxons.
  • 630 “The Battle of Cefn Digoll, also known as the Battle of the Long Mynd was a battle fought in 630 at Long Mountain near Welshpool, won by the Welsh.
  • 633 The Battle of Hatfield Chase near Doncaster. The battle was fought between the Northumbrian army of King Edwin and an alliance between King Cadwallon of Gwynedd and Penda of Mercia. The battle ended in the death of Edwin and drove the Northumbrian invaders out of Gwynedd. Cadwallon occupies Northumbria, capturing York and killing many members of the Northumbrian dynasty that invaded Gwynedd.
  • 634 Battle of Heavenfield near Hadrian’s Wall where Cadwallon is defeated and killed by the Northumbrians led by Oswald of Northumbria.
  • 642 Battle of Maes Cogw y, Near Oswestry, where the British alongside their Mercian allies were defeated by the Northumbrians.
  • 650 Battle of Bradford on Avon, a West Saxon victory against the West British.
  • 655 Battle of the Winwaed in which King Oswiu of Bernicia defeated and killed King Penda of Mercia. King Cadafael ap Cynfeddw of Gwynedd was allied with Penda but stayed out of the battle.
  • 658 The small British kingdom of Pengwern in modern Shropshire was overrun and annexed by Mercia.
  • 658 Battle of Peonnum in Somerset where an allied force of the West British and Cadwaladr of Gwynedd are defeated. The West Saxons move to occupy western Somerset.
  • 665 The alleged Second Battle of Badon, this time somewhere in the Cotswolds which was allegedly a West Saxon victory against the kingdom of Gwent.
  • 670 The West Saxons led by Cenwealh capture central Somerset and establish the religious centre at Glastonbury.
  • 682 the West Saxons led by Centwine move westwards and defeat the West British somewhere near the River Parrett, allegedly driving them “to the sea”.
Find out more about Offas Dyke from The Offas Dyke Association and Centre

8th Century

The British territories in the south west (now Cornwall and much of Devon) defend themselves and push the English (Saxons) back. The borders of modern Wales are broadly defined as Mercian expansion grinds to a halt.

  • 710 after defeating the West British of Devon, led by Geraint of Dumnonia, and capturing the stronghold at Norton Fitzwarren, Ine of Wessex builds a fortress at Taunton to defend “his” lands. In the course of the battle King Geraint is slain.
  • c.720 Battle of Hehil, in Dumnonia, where the Cornish British with support from Rhodri Llwynon are victorious against Wessex bringing freedom from attack to the Cornish for almost a century.
  • c.720 The Battle of Pencoed in Morgan, the Battle of Garth Maelog both reported as victories for the Welsh.
  • 722 Ine of Wessex advances as far as the River Tamar but is defeated and withdraws. The West Saxon fortress at Taunton is destroyed.
  • 728 Battle of Carno Mountain in Gwent where the British drove the Anglo-Saxons back to the River Usk where many were drowned.
  • 733 Battle of Devawdan, another British victory.
  • 735 First Battle of Hereford where the Britons are victorious after a long and bloody fight.
  • 753 the West Saxons led by Cuthred fight the British of Cornwall. The result is not known but the Cornish preserve their independence, so a Cornish British victory seems likely.
  • 756 the Northumbrians led by Eadbert in alliance with the Picts invade the northern British Kingdom of Strathclyde and defeat their king Dumnagual who is forced to submit thus becoming, for a while, a vassal of Northumbria. A second battle at Hereford is recorded as another British victory.
  • 760 Battle of Hereford is recorded as a British victory against the Mercians led by Offa of Mercia. The British were probably led by Elisedd ap Gwylog of Powys and his son Brochfael ap Elisedd.
  • 765 where the British invade Mercia and cause much devastation.
  • 769 Mercians campaign in Wales.
  • 780 the construction of Offa’s Dyke begins. It appears this frontier ditch delineated an agreed frontier between Powys and Mercia.
  • 784 Exeter was captured by Cynewulf of Wessex following a siege. The British invade Mercia again causing havoc.
  • 798 the Mercians led by Coenwulf of Mercia invade Wales but later retreat, even after killing Caradog ap Meirion.
Rhodri Mawr hero of Gwynedd uniting three regions of Wales against the encroaching Mercians and Vikings.

9th Century

During the first half of the century a reinvigorated Mercia almost conquers the rest of Wales. At the end of the century Viking raids on England divert some attention from the British.

  • 815 where Egbert of Wessex invades Cornwall and subdues the kingdom.
  • 816 Mercians invade Powys.
  • 822 where Coelwulf of Mercia invades north Wales and captures Deganwy from Gwynedd and occupies the whole of Powys.
  • 825 Battle of Camelford between Wessex and the Cornish British resulting in a West Saxon victory.
  • 828 Powys is liberated from Mercian occupation by Cyngen ap Cadell.
  • 830 where Egbert of Wessex invades Powys and moves Cyngen ap Cadell to treaty. Egbert then withdraws his forces.
  • 838 Battle of Hingston Down in Cornwall where a combined force of Cornish and Danes were defeated by the superior numbers of Wessex.
  • 853 where Burgred of Mercia overruns Powys. Cyngan ap Cadell abdicates and retires to Rome and his kingdom is annexed by Rhodri Mawr of Gwynedd.
  • 865 where Burgred of Mercia leads his forces against Rhodri Mawr and captures Anglesey, briefly, from Gwynedd. Burgred is later driven out and his undefended realm is invaded by the Vikings.
  • 890 at least some of the “men of Strathclyde” are forced to relocate to Gwynedd after their kingdom, much weakened by the Vikings, is overrun by Angles and Scots.
Hywel Ddu, Hywel the good, joins forces with Wales against the invading Vikings

10th Century:

A period of relative peace as Hywel Dda comes to dominate most of Wales and forms an alliance with Wessex against the Vikings who have destroyed the power of Mercia.

  • 925 the Cornish were evicted from Exeter by King Athelstan of England who subdues Cornwall and defines the border of Cornwall with England at the River Tamar.
  • 937 The Battle of Brunanburh AKA “the Great War” reputedly the bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil and where 5 kings died. The Anglo-Saxon King Ethelstan, allegedly beat the armies of Olaf III Guthfrithson, the Norse–Gael King of Dublin; Constantine II, King of Alba; and Owen I, King of British Strathclyde. Though relatively little known today, it was called “the greatest single battle in Anglo-Saxon history before the Battle of Hastings.
  • 940 when Idwal Foel of Gwynedd invaded England and was driven back and later deprived of his lands.
  • 945 following an English invasion of the Kingdom of the Cumbrians, ruled by Dyfnwal ab Owain, the English king is recorded to have granted or given it or a portion of it to the Scottish king.
  • 962 King Edgar the Peaceful invades Gwynedd.
  • 985 Hywel ap Leuaf of Gwynedd is killed fighting Aelfhere of Mercia.
Llywelyn Fawr depicted in stained glass at St Mary’s Church in Trefriw
Source: By Llywelyn2000

11th Century:

A united kingdom of England is formed. The Welsh are united for a while under Gruffudd ap Llywelyn but he is killed in renewed infighting before the Norman Conquest of England. The new Norman masters of England launch the Norman invasion of Wales and ravage some parts of the Welsh kingdoms.

  • 1039 Battle of Rhyd y Groes where Gruffudd ap Llywelyn, the recently crowned King of Gwynedd – ambushes a Mercian army led by Leofric of Mercia in Brycheiniog  (Brecon), destroying them.
  • 1052 Gruffudd ap Llywelyn invades Herefordshire and sacks Leominster.
  • 1055 Gruffudd ap Llywelyn allies with the exiled Aelfgar, Earl of Mercia, and ravages Herefordshire.
  • 1062 Harold Godwinson, The Earl of Wessex starts a series of campaigns on behalf of the English crown against Gruffudd ap Llywelyn in retaliation for years of border raids. Gruffudd is killed.
  • 1067 Bleddyn and Rhiwallon ap Cynfyn, co rulers of Gwynedd, invade Herefordshire in support of Eadric the Wild, an English rebel resisting the Norman conquest of England.
  • 1067 Having utterly conquered to whole of England in under two months, The Normans rulers of England invade the Kingdom of Gwent and drive king Caradog ap Gruffudd into exile.
  • 1073 The Normans invade Gwynedd and occupy Arfon.
  • 1085 The Normans launch a wholesale invasion of Gwynedd and Powys.
  • 1091 The Normans seize some of the lowlands of the kingdom of Morgannwg (formerly Glywysing) driving Iestyn ap Gwrgan into exile.
  • 1093 The Normans and their English subjects advance into Brycheiniog (Brecon) and kill Rhys ap Tewdwr, the king of Deheubarth.
  • 1094 Aber Llech is the culmination of a national uprising across Wales that drives the Normans back into England with the exception of a few castles. Deheubarth makes territorial gains at the expense of other southern realms.
  • 1095 The Normans return but fail to draw the Welsh into battle.
  • 1098 The Normans occupy Gwynedd and Anglesey. They withdraw within the year.
Wales fought against the invading Normans during the 12th Century, The Norman Invasion (colour litho) by Baker, B. Granville (fl.1915) out of copyright.

12th Century:

Civil wars amongst the Norman overlords of England allow the Welsh kingdoms space to consolidate their positions. The end of the century sees a resurgent Gwynedd expand at the expense of her neighbours.

  • 1116 The Welsh of Deheubarth revolt against the Norman invaders.
  • 1134 Welsh raids into Shropshire destroying Caus Castle.
  • 1136 Welsh Rise up against the Norman occupying force driving them from all Wales except the Lordship of Carmarthen. Battles of Llwchwr (January) and Crug Mawr (October).
  • 1137 An army from Gwynedd captures Carmarthen from the Norman invaders.
  • 1144 The Marcher lord, Hugh de Mortimer re-takes Maelienydd.
  • 1145 Gilbert de Clare rebuilds Carmarthen Castle.
  • 1149 Madog ap Maredudd (Prince of Powys) advances into Shropshire and annexes Oswestry to his kingdom of Powys, it remains in his possession until 1157.
  • 1157 Henry II leads a massive invasion to drive Owain ap Gruffudd, the true king of Gwynedd, away from the border of Cheshire. Following a failed landing on Anglesey, Henry II and Owain come to terms with Owain agreeing to withdraw to the west bank of the River Clwyd.
  • 1159 Rhys ap Gruffudd of Deheubarth attacks Anglo-Norman castles and settlements in south Wales, capturing Llandovery in 1162.
  • 1163 Henry II launches a military campaign in south Wales invading Deheubarth. He captures Rhys ap Gruffudd at Pencader, Carmarthenshire, and takes him to England. Rhys is restored to his lands in 1164 after he agrees to make homage to Henry.
  • 1165 Rhys ap Gruffudd leads attacks on Anglo-Norman strongholds in south and west Wales. Gwynedd, Powys, Deheubarth and the smaller realms form an alliance against England. Henry II declares war and leads an invasion force from Shrewsbury through Powys and into Gwynedd. Henry is forced to withdraw, allegedly after adverse weather conditions.
  • 1166 Rhys ap Gruffudd captures Cardigan Castle from the Norman crown.
  • 1167 Owain ap Gruffudd captures Rhuddlan Castle and Basingwerk (Flintshire) advancing as far east as the River Dee.
  • 1185 Welsh raiders sack Norman held Cardiff.
  • 1196 Full-scale war breaks out again. Hubert Walter invades Powys from Shrewsbury and places Welshpool under siege.
  • 1198 Battle of Painscastle where a Welsh army is defeated by the Normans.
Simon DeMontfort as he is defeated at the battle of Evesham on 4th August 1265 – Source: BBC

13th Century:

Gwynedd continues self-rule up to the middle of the century when a “Principality of Wales” is proclaimed by Llywelyn Fawr (Llewelyn the Great). After a period of tumult following the death of Llywelyn’s successor as prince, Dafydd ap Llywelyn, Dafydd’s nephew Llywelyn ap Gruffudd emerges as a major force in Welsh politics, assuming the title of prince of Wales in 1258 and establishing his authority in Powys and Deheubarth. Llywelyn’s death in 1282, and the subsequent capture and execution of his brother and successor, Dafydd ap Gruffudd, in 1283 signify the end of Welsh independence. The end of the century sees the annexation of Wales and the Edwardian Settlement.

  • 1211King John of England launches an invasion of Gwynedd. A second invasion later that year, leaves the Welsh town of Bangor in ruins; John succeeds in securing the surrender of the prince of Gwynedd, Llywelyn Fawr, who agrees to cede to the English Crown as part of the peace terms.
  • 1215 Llywelyn Fawr in alliance with other princes attacks English holdings across Wales capturing Cardigan Castle, Carmarthen Castle, Kidwelly Castle and more. At a Welsh assembly (1216) Llywelyn is, to all intents and purposes, acknowledged as prince of Wales by the noblemen of Powys and Deheubarth. In 1218 the fighting finishes following a peace deal with England.
  • 1223 Marcher lord Hubert de Burgh starts a series of campaigns during which he retakes Carmarthen, Cardigan and Montgomery.
  • 1240 With Llywelyn Fawr dead the English attack. Marcher lords retake the territorial gains made by Llywelyn.
  • 1241 Henry III invades Wales; Dafydd ap Llywelyn is forced to surrender (Aug). The subsequent peace agreement, the Treaty of Gwerneigron, sees the English occupy the contested border of Wales known as the Perfeddwlad.
  • 1244 Dafydd declares war; several Welsh raids are mounted on the Wales-England border.
  • 1245 Dafydd’s war intensifies. Gwynedd and her allies in Deheubarth and Powys  make few gains in mid-Wales; however, Mold is recaptured by the Welsh (28 Mar). In August the English attack Gwynedd from Chester; defeated by Dafydd in battle, the invasion force advances as far as Deganwy, where Henry is halted after heavy fighting. In the autumn a truce is agreed, and the English army withdraws to England. Dafydd’s death in 1246 precipitates a new attack on Gwynedd from the south by Marcher lord Nicholas de Molis which compels Deheubarth and then Gwynedd to surrender. Under the terms of the Treaty of Woodstock, Gwynedd withdraws from the contested lands in Perfeddwlad.
  • 1256 Gwynedd, led by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, grandson of Llywelyn Fawr, invades and annexes the Perfeddwlad. Gwynedd annexes Brycheiniog, Maelienydd, Gwrtheyrnion and Builth (late 1250s). In order to prevent further invasions by the English crown, Llywelyn agrees to the Treaty of Montgomery (1267) and is acknowledged the Prince of Wales. Deheubarth makes territorial gains in the south.
  • 1265 – Battle of Evesham- one of the two main battles of 13th century England’s Second Barons’ War. It marked the defeat of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, and the rebellious barons by the future King Edward I
  • 1277 Edward I declares Llywelyn ap Gruffudd a rebel and invades Wales; the First War of Welsh Independence begins. English armies from Carmarthen defeat the princes of Deheubarth, armies from Chester overwhelm Powys and armies from Shrewsbury retake Maelienydd, Builth, Brycheiniog and Gwrtheyrnion. In the Treaty of Aberconwy Edward forces Llywelyn to cede control of all of Wales but Gwynedd west of the River Conwy. Powys Fadog and Deheubarth are broken up.
  • 1282 Dafydd ap Gruffudd, Llywelyn’s younger brother, who previously conspired with King Edward I, coordinates a rebellion against England. Llywelyn is eventually drawn into the conflict.
  • 1282 The English invade Wales under Edward I. 16 June –Battle of Llandeilo; the Welsh rout an English army in the south. 6 November –Battle of Mowl-y-Don; the Welsh decisively defeat an English invasion across the Menai Straits. Battle of Orew in Bridge (11 Dec); English forces kill and then behead Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in a chance ambush at Cilmeri. Dafydd ap Gruffudd succeeds him.
  • 1283 King Edward’s forces capture the remaining castles in Gwynedd. The royal court of Wales withdraws to shelter in the mountains. English forces capture Dafydd ap Gruffudd in June and King Edward hangs, draws, and quarters him in Shrewsbury in October, his conquest of Wales complete.
  • 1287 Rhys ap Maredudd of Dryslwyn, a prince of Deheubarth incensed at his treatment by Edward I, whom he previously supported, leads attacks on English holdings in the south taking back the Deheubarth royal centre at Dinefwr. By 1288 he has lost all his holdings but remains a guerilla leader until his capture and execution in 1292.
  • 1294 a Welsh uprising led by Madog ap Llywelyn, sweeps north and central Wales briefly capturing Castell y Bere, Carnarvon Castle, Cardigan Castle, Dinas Bran, Denbigh Castle and more. Madog proclaims himself prince of Wales.
  • 1295 Battle of Maes Moydog (5 Mar); Madog is defeated and the Welsh army destroyed. Madog is soon captured and imprisoned.
Edward II Being Crowned, from the Chronicle of England, Folio 10, by Peterlangtoft, 14th century, via the British Library; with Edward II and His Favourite, by Marcus Stone, 1872, via

14th Century:

A period of relative stability under English rule, punctuated by two significant revolts.

  • 1314 Revolt breaks out in Glamorgan.
  • 1316 uprising in Gwent and Morgannwg led by Llywelyn Bren a descendant of the kings of Morgannwg. Rebels put Caerphilly Castle under siege for six weeks and burn the town. Bren’s forces are defeated, he is captured and executed.
  • 1326 King Edward II is captured by rebels at Pantybrad after fleeing to South Wales.
  • 1345 an uprising in Gwynedd known as the Saint Valentines Day Massacre when Henry de Shaldeforde, the king of England’s attorney and his men were ambushed and slaughtered by Welsh rebels. Anti-English rioting had begun earlier in 1344 centred at Rhuddlan.
  • 1369 Owain Lawgoch launches an unsuccessful invasion attempt on Wales.
  • 1372 Owain Lawgoch announces his intention of claiming the throne of Wales he and his forces arrive in Guernsey.
  • 1377 Owain Lawgoch plans another invasion with the aid of Castile resulting in the English sending an assassin after Owain, Owain is assassinated in 1378.
Artist impression of the Owain Glyndwr uprising in 1400.

15th Century:

Civil conflict in England and the deposition of Richard II are the background for the national uprising led by Owain Glyndŵr who is successful in liberating all of Wales from the English. He is eventually defeated and English control of Wales is reimposed.

  • 1400 The Glyndŵr Rising erupts in Powys led by Owain Glyn Dwr, a nobleman of the house of Powys. Owain proclaims himself prince of Wales (16 Sep) and raids towns in north-east Wales (late Sep); after a few months of inactivity; the revolt spreads across Gwynedd.
  • 1401 Conwy Castle is captured by Owain’s men. The Battle of Tuthill ends inconclusively during a siege of Caernarfon Castle.
  • 1402 Battle of Bryn Glas; Owain defeats the English led by Marcher lord Edmund Mortimer who is captured and later allies with him. The English are driven from Wales.
  • 1405 The English launch multiple attacks on Wales retaking many captured castles. In August, Owain leads a combined Franco-Welsh army into England.
  • 1409 Harlech Castle, Owain’s last stronghold, falls to the English. Edmund Mortimer is killed. Owain leads guerilla raids across Wales and is never captured; he is believed to have died around 1415.
  • 1485 Battle of Bosworth, Henry Tudor of the Welsh Tudor family which had fought alongside Owain during the second war for independence, with the aid of Welsh, French and English Lancastrian troops and nobles such as Rhys Ap Thomas dethrones Richard III and Henry becomes King of England. Henry is a Welsh king who merges his Welsh and English kingdoms, using the title Prince of Wales for his heir, in order to try and bestow the loyalty of his Welsh countrymen on his heirs.
The Act of Union in the 16th Century bound Wales to England forevermore. Source: BBC

The union of Wales and England:

The act of union between Wales and England received the royal assent of Henry VIII on 14th April 1536.

The Act divided Wales into 13 counties, with much of the border territory being annexed to England despite being Welsh speaking.

The consequences of the act were;

  • All administration in Wales was to be carried out in the English language and no one using the Welsh language ‘shall have or enjoy any manner of office’.
  • The modern borders of Wales were established.
  • Wales elected members to the English Parliament; the first members took their seats in the Tudor Parliament in 1542.
  • Disputed points of the union were clarified in the new 1543 Act of Union.
  • The Court of Great Sessions was introduced, a system particular to Wales. They met twice a year in each county, administering English law in the English language. Of its 217 judges in its 288 years of existence only 30 were Welshmen.
  • Every county appointed a Sheriff and 9 offices of Justice of the Peace.
  • The Welsh law of Cyfran, which meant that all sons inherited equally, was abolished in favour of the English law of primogeniture, inheritance by the eldest son only.

It has been argued that the act’s main intention was to gain control over the Marches and not to achieve political union. The changes were welcomed by the Welsh gentry, who recognised that they would be granted equality under the law with English citizens. However, the cultural impact on Wales was catastrophic and remains so to this day.

Tudor (Welsh) dragon and Beaufort (Lancastrian) greyhound symbolize Henry VII’s lineage and royal legitimacy.

Union Jack / Union Flag

Wales snubbed in the creation of the Union Flag?:

Why isn’t the Welsh flag included in the Union Flag?

Have you ever wondered why the Union Flag, more commonly referred to as the ‘Union Jack’*, only appears to have the English, Scottish and Irish crosses/flags on it?

What about Wales?!

*Whilst the British Flag is commonly called the Union Jack by most people this is inaccurate as the Union Flag and Union Jack have specific definitions:

Sometime around 1674 the British flag became formally known as the ‘Union Jack’ when mounted on a warship and the ship was not in harbour.

At the same time the British flag was referred to as the ‘Union flag’ on land.

“It is sometimes claimed that the Union Flag should be described as the Union Jack only when flown in the bows of a warship, but this is a relatively recent idea. From its earliest days, the Admiralty often referred to the flag – however it was used – as the Union Jack. In 1902 an Admiralty Circular announced that either name could be used officially. And in 1908 the UK Parliament approved this verdict, stating that ‘the Union Jack should be regarded as the National flag’. “

Cdr Bruce Nicolls OBE RN (Retd) – The Flag Institute

The Laws in Wales Acts of 1535 and 1542 formally incorporated Wales into the kingdom of England, and ended the existence of the principality of Wales.

When the Acts of Union were enacted in 1706 and 1707, unifying the kingdoms of England and Scotland under one kingdom of Great Britain, Wales had already been considered part of England for over 150 years.

Wales is not represented on the Union Flag because when the earliest version of the flag was created in 1606 by combining the St George’s Cross of England and St Andrew’s Cross of Scotland, Wales was already a principality of England.

The two flags of England and Scotland were combined, but Wales as part of England would be represented only by St George’s Cross.

St Patrick’s Cross was added in 1801 to create the Union Flag which remains unchanged today, with no identifiers of the welsh nation included.

Wales has the longest place name; Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch , Anglesey, signage – Source: Visit Wales

Banning the welsh language:

Through this Henry VIII’s 1536 Unification Act, Wales was governed solely under English Law.

Only 150 words of this Act were concerned with the use of the Welsh language.

The act banned the Welsh language from being used in court. And native welsh speakers who did not speak English were banned from holding government positions.

Wales was to be represented by 26 members of parliament who spoke English. But the majority of those living in Wales did not speak English, meaning that regularly interpreters were needed to conduct hearings.

The acts primary function was to create uniform control over the now United England and Wales, however; it led to the superiority of classes through the use of language. Welsh was now seen as a language spoken by the lower working classes, with those from higher classes seen superior and given roles in government for choosing to speak English.

This part of the Act was not repealed until 1993 under the new and current Welsh Language Act meaning the hierarchy of the English Language controlled the Welsh well into the 20th century.

In 1800 Welsh was the main spoken language of the vast majority of Wales, with the only exceptions being some border areas.

But by 1901 the number of native Welsh speakers had declined to a little over half of the population.

Learning English was enthusiastically encouraged, in contrast, Welsh was not taught or used as a medium of instruction in schools, many of which actively discouraged the use of Welsh using measures such as the ‘Welsh Not’:

A variant of the Welsh Not – source:

The Welsh Not:

The Welsh Not was mild form of corporal punishment used by some schools in Wales in the 19th century to discourage children from speaking their native language at school.

The most common form was a piece of wood suspended on a string that was put around the child’s neck. Other terms used historically include Welsh knot, Welsh note, Welsh lump, Welsh stick, cwstom, Welsh Mark, and Welsh Ticket.

Professor of History at Swansea University Martin Johnes says that neither the Welsh Not nor the efforts to kill off the Welsh language were official state policies, instead coming down to actions taken by individual teachers; but that the Welsh Not nonetheless remains “a powerful symbol of the oppression of Welsh culture.”

Flooding Capel Celyn in 1965, demonstrations led to domestic terrorism in protest of welsh land being flooded to provide water for England – Source : Wales Online

Modern conflict:

Aside from sport rivalries there are still significant political difference and ongoing conflicts between the fiercely independent Wales and the controls of the central English government.

The Welsh MP’s back in the 20th century were completely powerless when it came to influencing changes implemented in their own country.

The water supply bill that involved flooding Capel Celyn was highly controversial.

Capel Celyn was a rural community n Gwynedd, Wales. The village and other parts of the valley were flooded in 1965 to create a reservoir to supply Welsh Water to parts of England,

35 of 36 Welsh MP’s voted against it, but because Parliament was made up of mainly English MPs, the bill was passed.

More recently during the 2020 global pandemic, The Welsh Senedd, like the Scottish parliament, went against the English governments dictated rules and regulations, enforcing their own slightly different rules, asserting their autonomy and right to rule themselves.

Although we see the rivalry set aside with the likes of the Ryder Cup, the Eurovision song contest, the Mosconi Cup, the British and Irish Lions, and even Team GB, the rivalry between the two nations in general will never really disappear.

Wales Vs England, conflict now almost only on the pitch… -Source: Wales Online

We hope you found this brief history of the conflict between England and Wales interesting. We’ll explore in more depth some of the heroes and villains and some of the battles in more detail in future posts.

Did we miss out any important figures or battles? Any questions comments, suggestions or complaints please let use know.

Don’t forget to like and share our posts!

- Dom and Indigo

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get Involved with The Welsh Castle Project