Dafydd ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales

Born: July 11, 1238

Died: October 2, 1283

Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England (Age 45)

Dafydd in History

Although it cannot be said that Dafydd ap Gruffudd accomplished nothing in his life, it would be difficult to debate that he was not always in the shadow of his elder brother Llywelyn, Prince of Wales. When Dafydd and Llywelyn's uncle, Dafydd ap Llywelyn, Prince of Gwynedd, died in 1246 without issue, a power struggle erupted between Dafydd, Llywelyn and their elder brother Owain over who should inherit their uncle's territories. Although Owain, as the eldest of the brothers, had the most valid claim, Llywelyn would prove to be the most ambitious of the three. The tension between the brothers ultimately spread onto the battlefield, and Llywelyn was able to decisively defeat Owain and Dafydd, capturing them and throwing them in prison. Owain would remain imprisoned for over twenty years, whereas Dafydd was lucky enough to be released the following year. Over the subsequent decades, Dafydd's allegiance to his brother was always questionable, and although he aided Llywelyn in his quest to achieve dominance over the entirety of Wales, Dafydd became eager to secure his share of his uncle's inheritance that he had once fought his brother for. It is most likely for this reason that Dafydd allied himself with Prince Edward, eldest son and heir of King Henry III, in a quest to retrieve his lands.

The Treaty of Montgomery (1267), between the English and Welsh, gave Llywelyn the official title of Prince of Wales but also stipulated that Dafydd was to receive his fair share of his late uncle's lands. Llywelyn was reluctant to agree to this part of the treaty, and Dafydd became increasingly frustrated. His frustration culminated in a conspiracy plot to murder Llywelyn. When the prince discovered this plot and summoned his brother to appear before him, both Dafydd and his accomplice, Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn, fled to the English court where they stayed under the protection of Prince Edward, now King Edward I. The king's failure to hand over the men who had conspired against his life angered Llywelyn, and warfare between England and Wales was renewed. This time it would be the English who would come out on top. Llywelyn was defeated in 1277 and forced to give up a large portion of the Welsh territories that he had conquered, though he was permitted to retain the title of Prince of Wales. For his loyal services, Dafydd was greatly rewarded with a slew of lands in Wales. Relations between Dafydd and Edward I seemed to have been mainly cordial until 1281, when Dafydd underwent a sort of patriotic transformation.

The Welshman was unhappy with the interference of the English in the Welsh justice system and felt that Wales should be a separate entity. Edward I did all he could to prevent renewed hostilities, but Dafydd was set on achieving his goals and making Wales independent from English intervention. Llywelyn seems to have been dragged back into rebellion at his brother's urgings and was killed in a minor skirmish in December 1282. Dafydd now took the title Prince of Wales and continued the rebellion for another several months. However, he was ultimately captured and executed (October 1283) in the fashion of traitors (hanging, disembowelment and quartering). After Dafydd's death,  a majority of Wales was absorbed by the English crown. Despite Dafydd's late burst of patriotism, it would be his blind ambition that would ultimately lead him to suffer a gruesome death.

Dafydd in Peele

Appears in: Edward I

Dafydd ap Gruffudd appears in Edward I (as David, the English version of his name) as a man who claims to be a loyal servant to the king, but is actually conspiring with his brother Llywelyn of Wales. The brothers comprise a plan that David will be used as a phony hostage so that Edward will return Llwyelyn's wife Eleanor, which proves effective. In the end, David returns to his brother's side and carries on the fight after Llywelyn's death. David is led, by Roger Mortimer (who historically was deceased at the time) to his execution to end the play. The time-line in the play is highly inaccurate and has John Balliol abdicate the Scottish throne (1296) before David's death (1283).


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