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Historical Note, His Castilian Hawk

Historical Note, His Castilian Hawk


Wales in the late 13th century was a complicated place, very much affected by the events in England. During Simon de Montford’s rebellion, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd sided with the rebels and this would come back to cost him—especially once Henry III was dead, replaced by the far more forceful Edward I. In 1267, a peace of sorts was established between Llywelyn and Edward. Once condition of the peace was that Llywelyn should exchange the kiss of peace with his younger brother, Dafydd. But when Edward and Llywelyn faced off yet again in 1274, Dafydd happily abandoned his brother for the English king, resenting the fact that his brother would not grant him as much land as Dafydd felt entitled to.

Llywelyn’s attempts to retain his hold on all of Wales failed. To be honest, his hold had never been all that strong: to the south and east the English Marcher lords held sway and the other Welsh princelings weren’t always that thrilled at recognising the House of Aberffraw as primus inter pares. When Edward assembled a huge host and managed to deprive Llywelyn of the harvests on Anglesey, Llywelyn had no choice but to parley and the Treaty of Aberconwy in 1277 was an excruciatingly humiliating document whereby Llywelyn’s power base was substantially reduced to comprise only the lands west of River Conwy.

Dafydd, however, came out a winner as the treaty called for Llywelyn to hand over the land he’d held east of the river to his younger brother. With the Welsh dragon effectively collared, Edward could even be magnanimous and preside over Llewellyn’s much delayed wedding to Eleanor de Montfort. (Delayed because Edward had kidnapped the bride)

Soon enough, Dafydd came to understand that life under the English yoke was not exactly pleasant for the proud Welsh. And so, in 1282, he rebelled, thereby forcing his brother to join him. This time, Edward would not show any mercy. This time, he vowed to crush the Welsh permanently.

Llywelyn died in late 1282, tricked into a trap by the Marcher lords. It fell to Dafydd to keep the rebellion going, but in the summer of 1283, he was captured, and ended his days as described in this novel. And yes, his children were locked up for their natural lives, the two boys disappearing behind Bristol’s walls never to be seen again. The elder died some years later, but Owain was destined to live a long life in his cage.

What happened to Elisabeth, Dafydd’s wife, is unknown. There is some indication she died in 1287 in Wales, but this poor woman is one of the many consigned to be nothing more than a footnote in history.

I have chosen to be a tad harsh in my depiction of Eleanor of Castile. This was a hardnosed lady who accumulated quite the portfolio of landholdings during her life in England. She was also a devoted and very loving wife and the mother of many, many children, most of whom died very young. I dare say all those losses hardened her somewhat, and I do believe the death of Prince Alphonso in 1284 must have been akin to having a stake driven through her heart. So yes, she is harsh, but maybe understandably so.

Little Gruffydd, a.k.a. Lionel, is entirely my invention as are Noor and Robert and all their people. Orton Manor is loosely based on Stokesay Castle, although Orton is nowhere near as big. At least not yet, even if Robert tends to study his home with a calculating glance in his eyes. And no, as far as I know, there has never been a jewel called the Castilian Pomegranate. Unfortunately.