On 16th September Wales marks the anniversary of its national hero being named the Prince of Wales
This is the fifth in a series of occasional features about Wales posted in the months leading up to the first ever Dewithon, or Wales Readathon, which takes place annually from 1st to 31st March.
Owain Glyndŵr (1359 – c. 1415), a descendant of the Princes of Powys, was proclaimed Prince of Wales on 16th September 1400 after rebelling against English rule. He is a central figure in Welsh history and was the last Welsh-born Prince of Wales.
Sadly, due to lack of artillery, the uprising was eventually suppressed by the superior resources of the English, and Glyndŵr was driven from his last strongholds in 1409. However, he was never captured or betrayed and, following his death, achieved an almost mythical status – on a par with Cadwaladr, King of Gwynedd and King Arthur – he became a legendary hero awaiting the call to return and liberate his people.
On 16th September events take place throughout Wales to honour the man who instigated the Welsh Revolt. From Cowen, the town of his birth, to Ruthin, where the successful uprising against Henry IV of England began, on to Machynlleth, the site of the first Welsh parliament in 1404, people celebrate his life and legacy. On this day, Medieval castles and other historic properties across the land open to the public; festivals take place; and people fly the Welsh flag from their homes.
Do you celebrate Owain Glyndŵr Day? Please share your plans here and on Twitter using the hashtag #OwainGlyndwrDay.
GLYNDŴR IN LITERATURE
Through the centuries, the rebel Prince has featured in many works of literature and is the subject of several historic novels (see the list of fictional titles). For instance, he appeared, if somewhat briefly, as John Ross’s ancestor and a ghost who serves the Lady in Terry Brooks’ ‘The Word and The Void’ trilogy.
If you have read William Shakespeare’s play Henry IV, Part 1, you may recall the character Owen Glendower (this being the anglicised version of Glyndŵr’s name) who claims he can “call spirits from the vasty deep”. He was portrayed here as a wild and unconventional figure, ruled by magic and emotion.
Works of Non-Fiction
The following list comprises a mere fraction of the excellent non-fiction titles published on the subject of Owain Glyndŵr:
- Owen Glendower (1931) by J.E. Lloyd
- Owain Glyn Dwr: The War of Independence in the Welsh Borders (1995) by Geoffrey Hodge
- Owain Glyndŵr: A Casebook (2013) edited by Michael Livingston and John K. Bollard
- The Last Days of Owain Glyndŵr (2017) by Gruffydd Aled Williams
- The Revolt of Owain Glyndŵr in Medieval English Chronicles (2014) by Alicia Marchant
>> Although it is now out of print, one can still obtain a Kindle version of Charles Parry’s 2012 study, The Last Mab Darogan: The Life and Times of Owain Glyn Dwr. >>
>> Welsh speakers with an interest in the various ways Glyndŵr has been depicted in Welsh-language literature may like to read E. Wyn James’ 2007 Glyndwr a Gobaith y Genedl: Agweddau ar y Portread o Owain Glyndwr yn Llenyddiaeth y Cyfnod Modern (Glyndŵr and the Hope of the Nation: Aspects of the Portrayal of Owain Glyndŵr in the Literature of the Modern Period). >>
Works of Fiction
Owain Glyndŵr has been featured in numerous works of modern fiction (especially in the historic novel and fantasy genres), including:
- A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury (1972) by Edith Pargeter
- A Dragon to Agincourt by (2003) by Malcolm Pryce
- A Dramatic Biography and Other Poems (2008) by Rowland Williams
- A Night in the Lonesome October (1993) by Roger Zelazny
- Crown in Candlelight (1978) by Rosemary Hawley Jarman
- Glendower Country (1973) by Martha Rofheart
- Owen Glendower (1941) by John Cowper Powys
- Owain Glyndŵr: Prince of Wales (2003) by Rhiannon Ifans
- Owain Glyndŵr: The Story of the Last Prince of Wales (2014) by Terry Breverton
- Silver on the Tree (1977) by Susan Cooper
- The Dragon Wakes: A Novel of Wales and Owain Glyndwr (2012) by T.I. Adams
- ‘The Raven Cycle’ (2012–16) by Maggie Stiefvater
- Uneasy Lies the Crown: A Novel of Owain Glyndwr (2012) by N. Gemini Sasson
Selected Features & Links
- ‘A nation once again’: Owain Glyndŵr and the ‘Cymraec dream’ of Anglophone Welsh Victorian poets (WALES ARTS Review, 2014)
- Glyndwr’s burial mystery ‘solved’ (BBC, 2004)
- Owain Glyn Dŵr Society
- Owain Glyndŵr and the War for Welsh Independence (History Answers, 2018)
- New Owain Glyndwr stamp unveiled (BBC, 2008)
- Skimble-skamble stuff (Calmgrove, 2018)
- The Pennal Letter written by Owain Glyndŵr in 1406 (The National, 2022)
- The Rise and Fall of Owain Glyn Dŵr – a review of Gideon Brough’s recent publication (Elizabeth Jane Corbett, 2017)
Have you read any of the titles named in this post or perhaps other books featuring Owain Glyndŵr? Please do share your discoveries, thoughts and suggestions below.
Categories: Features, Reading Wales
Absolutely fascinating. Thanks for sharing this. I had quite forgotten Wales has such a rich history.
Thank you so much, Alex! 😊
I’ve only skim read Alex Gibbon’s The Mystery of Jack of Kent & the Fate of Owain Glyndwr (2007) — an intriguing book about Marches folklore and the possible end of Glyndwr but appallingly argued and inadequately referenced. Couldn’t bear to finish it or even keep it, but always intended to read a reliable study so your booklist should be really helpful.
Oh, and thanks for the link to my Arthuriana page!
Many thanks, Chris. Well, that’s one book I won’t be adding to the list! Please do let me know if you think I’ve missed anything of importance. 😄
Wow! Imagine a movie tie-in with one of those books! A legend, an uprising, a handsome hero…
You’ve still got marketing in your blood, Gretchen! 😄 Perhaps Mel Gibson would agree to play Owain. You never know, his Welsh accent may be every bit as good as his Scottish one was in Braveheart! 😉
Thank you for the compliment, Paula 🙂 Heroic Mel maybe a bit old for current tastes. Chris Hemsworth is vigorous, easy on the eye and I bet he could do a brooding Owain.
Excellent choice, Gretchen. Chris Hemsworth it is!
That’s so cool! I’ve read Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October and can’t recommend it enough 🙂 October is coming, so it’s a great time for this novel. Owen is a druid there, one of the several players of the great game…
Many thanks for the recommendation, Ola. I haven’t read this title myself but I’ve heard that it’s good. 😃
Lovely post, Paula. I learned a bunch. I have mentioned this author to you before, I think- Sharon Kay Penland? I’ve read the first in her series about the Welsh princes, but these are prior to Owain. I believe the third in the trilogy is about Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. They are well-written, enthralling, and enchanting. Winds are picking up here, but we are well. 🌺
Thank you, Jennifer, I’m sorry I missed this message last night.Yes, I must look into Sharon Kay Penland. I’m certainly interested in the early Welsh princes. I’m glad you reminded me (brain like a colander these days). I hope all is well and your home is still in one piece. I keep thinking of you and hoping Florence doesn’t hang around too long. 🐱🌼
We are still doing well, Paula. The trees and plants are bearing the brunt of the winds, unfortunately, but it could be much worse. Thank you for thinking of me, and I’m glad you’ll be checking out this author!
Hang on in there!
Great post Paula! The only portrait of him I know is the Shakespearean one. Which of the fictional portraits is a good place to start?
Thank you, Madame B. Oh gosh, now you’re asking… One of the most highly acclaimed is John Cowper Powys’ 1941 novel ‘Owen Glendower’. It isn’t a light read – and it’s one of those Marmite books that people absolutely love or completely dislike (much like the author himself) – but he certainly did his research into the man and the period. It is, at any rate, considered to be a ‘great’ historical novel. However, all the fictional titles I’ve listed are fairly popular. I suppose it depends if you are seeking something relatively factual or you would prefer fantasy. Does that help?
That does help, thank you! I’ll try John Cowper Powys & see how I get on!