Why and by what means did Edward the first want his second invasion of Wales to “put an end finnally to their mallice”?
Wales like Scotland and Ireland is in origin a separate nation which has lived for centuries in the shadow of its powerful neighbour, England, Relations between the two countries which were always frail were tested to the brink before the end of the thirteenth century. It was no secrete that Edward had sources of contempt for the welsh perceiving them as a backward nation where the laws are wrong by English standards. Edwards’s depictions of Wales mixed with dealings of the arrogant Prince of Wales and his brother laid the foundations for the circumstances that lead to Edwards’s second invasion. “The war was one of conquest, in contrast to that of 1277. Edward intended to do far more than punish a rebellious vassal.”
To gain understanding into why Edward wanted his second invasion “to put an end finally to their malice”, we must revisit and study the period leading up to and around the first invasion of Wales. At the time of Edwards’s coronation Wales was becoming more of a potential force, with the Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Grufford seemingly uniting Wales’s vast provinces to a higher degree than seen under previous monarchs. This dispelled problems for Edward who realised that a politically unified Wales could potentially undermine his authority as overlord. “Llywelyn was addressed by poets as the true king of Wales”, such compliments it seemed were for more poetic extravagance but however distilled a point that reflected their political ambitions, in effect under Llewellyn the relationship between England and Wales was changing. This a popular argument for many historians in particular R.R Davies who believes that the growth and recognition of the prince of Wales created the framework for the Edwardian conquest “A growing sense of the political unity of Wales was however not merely a by product of princely ambition: it drew also upon a heightened awareness of a common nationhood within Wales itself.”
Llywelyn, whilst not directly provoking the king into his second war of conquest, did much to shape the kings hatred of Wales and its people. Their were many instances where Llywelyn infuriated the king, in particular his ill judged decision not to pay homage, therefore effectively denying Edward his rights as overlord. Llywelyn it seemed adopted policies that would directly provoke the king, and ultimately threaten the security of his “kingdom”. Further sources of provocation came when Llywelyn had planned to marry Simon de Montfords daughter, Llywelyn had sided with de Montfort in the wars against the crown, when Edward learnt of the proposed marriage the king was infuriated. “Scatter the seeds which had grown from the malice which her farther had sown.” Whilst these factors on there own were not enough to provoke conquest there can be no doubt that Llywelyn’s actions did much to antagonise and spite Anglo-welsh relations. “These factors collectively augured a dangerous future. Llywelynn’s refusal to present himself to Edward was ill judged in the light of Edwards’s view of kingship. Edward, with his passionate views concerning the rights of the crown, was unlikely to take such a blatant rejection of his rights of his authority with equanimity.” However it has been argued that these incidents are personal feuds between the king and the Prince of Wales therefore can’t be used as realistic evidence as to why Edward adopted a war of conquest on Wales. However I disagree with these sceptical arguments as Llywelyn’s actions were supported by the majority of Wales, “on the eve of the final catastrophe one of their spokesmen declared defiantly that the welsh would never do homage to a stranger with who language, customs and laws are unfamiliar.”
In the end it could be argued that it was the welsh leaders of Dafydd and in particular Llewellyn who provoked Edward into adopting a policy of conquest. Ultimately when the welsh rebellion gained momentum and Llewellyn’s impetus grow, Edward had decided he could no longer trust the welsh, their constant betrayal had forced him into a final war to put an end to their malice. “They were a faithless people: their rulers were a family of traitors: and it is time to put an end finally to their malice.” It is undoubtable that these feelings of contempt for the Welsh were sourced due to the fact that Edward had been fair to the defeated Llywelyn. “Edward 1 behaviour towards Llywelyn after the agreement of the treaty of Conwy was reasonable.” To back up this source we must study the case where the widow of Madog of Bromfield was unhappy about disputed ownership of certain estates in the territory on the border. Edward well in his right to take the matter to English courts, decided it was in Llywelyn jurisdiction, the case gave the welsh prince comfort that he still wielded respect from the English king. While this argument that Edward was fair to him and that joining the rebellion, Llywelyn had been treacherous is a valid argument in explaining Edwards’s war of conquest. However there is evidence that these early compromises with Llewellyn did not last and that Edward may not have been as fair to the welsh as other historians have lead me to believe. “These promising beginnings were misleading portent of what was to come. In the end virtually no cases were referred to Welsh courts.” Perhaps even greater provocation came through Dafydd, a man who had previously sided with Edward in previous wars. His rebellion reinforced Edwards’s conceptions that the Welsh could not be trusted. “There was little doubt that Edward would regard his rebellion as an act of supreme treachery.” The timing of the rebellion from dafydd was further source of concern for the King, as Dafydds attack on Hawarden castle came in Easter, a significant time for the Christian world. Its religious symbolism meant that warfare in this period was strictly forbidden. Therefore the timing of the rebellion added a knew religious element for Edward as to the reasons for the eventual conquest. “Nothing less than a sustained campaign of clerical reform, moral regeneration and political re-education could achieve the interrogation of the welsh fully into the Christian and civilised world.” It is easy for historians to dismiss the religious aspects of the Edwardian conquest, but there is no doubt that the king believed that he was fighting a religious war, that dispelled god’s wishes. In Edwards opinion for the redemption of Wales an English conquest was imperative “The tongue of men can scarcely recount the evil deeds committed by the welsh upon the kings progenitors and him by invasions of the realm from time within memory … but god wishing, as it seems, to put an end to these evil proceedings.” Further more through the church Edward had found a potential way to end the uprising and make way for total conquest. “Edward himself had expected that the assistance of the church with its spiritual weapons of excommunication, would help to bring about a rapid end to the rising.” This source demonstrates the lengths Edward was prepared to go and the fact that the source emphasises that the strategy would not bring about victory show you the extent, Edward wanted to bring about conquest.
It was in fact Edwards’s imperialist ambitions that both lay as a reason for conquest and dispelled a means to start his second war of conquest. In the shadow of victory over the Welsh in 1277, Edward seized his advantage to infiltrate Wales without conquest. “Edwards’s construction projects were not just about building castles however. In their shadow towns grew up.” Edward clearly wanted to demonstrate superiority in the first war, it is clear that he did not want to occupy the land but wanted to apply certain aspects of English control. Further more Edwards castle building strategy displayed a tendency that he was building for a war of conquest regardless of provocation from the Welsh. The contrasts of the two wars were staggering and it is easy to deifier that one was for conquest. The first war cost £23,000 while the second war came to a staggering £150,000. “the body of official records, which record royal decisions and account for government expenditure must be seen in the light of Edwards 1 awareness , that is the campaign was to be a once and for all effort to settle the welsh episode” This was of cause a huge price, and many magnates rejecting Edwards plans, to raise the amount required. Edward relied heavily on feudal summons and a tour of England was organised to raise loans required. Obviously with a war waged on this scale Edward required a huge army, he adopted mainly a feudal (unpaid) service. “Many magnates may have resented the subordination involved in excepting pay and many insisted on performing their traditional feudal duties. This would become important in a war of conquest.” To gain further a scale of the army Edward was achieving we must take into account the fact that Edward wasted little time summoning his overseas armies of Gascony, Pointhies and Ireland. The eventual army were split up into three groups to create a three pronged attack on Wales, therefore stretching Wales’s already thin resources, with Grey synchronising his attack in the north, valances attacking in the south of the land and Mortimer focusing heavily on the middle of Wales, the tactically astute Edward used this policy with great effect creating a campaign that would subsequently focus on a land and sea war, which could outstrip any welsh resistance. The policy adopted to achieve success, was not unlike most contempory campaigns, a policy of manoeuvre and attrition, the aim of this was not to bring the enemy to battle, but to despoil the lands while the cavalry would induce in swift raids. By adopting these policies Edward had found a means to carry out his wishes of conquering Wales.
An alternative view which may be met with a certain degree of scientism is that Edward had always wanted to conquer Wales. Through the provocation of the Welsh leaders Edward had found a just reason to launch the conquest. It becomes apparent when studying the background of Edward 1 that this theory of his desire to conquer Wales gains some credibility. It is not secrete that Edward was a strong King and somewhat of a warlord, this can be backed up by his early unsuccessful campaigns in Wales. Further more we must mention Edwards’s defining wars with the respective nations of France and Scotland. There is no denying the fact that Edward was a king of imperial tendencies. It was in fact no secrete that Edward after his first campaign spent much time and resources on Wales, this was done to increase English control over the country. However this wasn’t an isolated case this integration of English resources into Wales had been occurring for a number of years. This tells me that Edward had planned this war of conquest for a number of years. “Success in Wales, perhaps, not surprisingly, in view of the disparity of resources between the two sides, and the fact that Edwards campaigns marked the culmination of the process of conquest which begun in the eleventh century.” Further more due to the fact that the English viewed Wales as a backward nation, Edward saw his second invasion as a means to culturise the country and introduce an English legal system. “nethertheless its purpose was clear to introduce the Welsh partly by command and partly by persuasion.”
“There was another sense in which the events of 1277-83 were different from earlier raids and conquests of parts of Wales. This was meant to be a final and complete conquest. The public statements of Edward 1 were suffused with an altogether new venom against the Welsh.” This source sums up well how the provocations of the welsh leaders and constant betrayal had forced Edward to find the means to “to put an end finally to their malice.” It is easy to see how the king wanted to end Wales independence by the scale of the war, by calling on all his dominions, his letter to the queen of France opens a new angle on the lengths Edward was to use to complete his conquest. “Begs to be excused from sending her the aid which he promised for her war in the province because he needs all his resources for the war with Llywelyn.” Llywelyn and other Welshman had disturbed the peace of the realm enough times and it appeared Edward justified adopting these means, and it seemed he required that the inhabitants of his realm should be burdened with the expenses and labours. This is giving the sense that it is a war on a larger scale, with the effects concerning more people in the lands. There is however a sense that the two wars do share similar aspects, as the strategies adopted were similar, like the first the second war was won on the intelligent deployment of resources. Overall there is no doubt that the second war of conquest was performed on a much greater scale. With armies in the field for a longer time, it appeared the financial; burden was a price Edward was willing to pay in order to end the malice of the Welsh.
In Conclusion there is no doubt that through the provocative and treacherous measures taken by Llwelyn and his accomplices, Edward was forced to adopt a policy that would “put an end finally to their malice.” However in my opinion the ultimate reason for Edwards change in policy was Dafydds rebellion where he targeted a spiritual time to attack. Edward a strongly religious man did not take kindly this aggressive notion, and perhaps this religious aspect to the Wales saga brought a change in the king and pushed him into the thinking that he was fighting Gods war, and that God wanted the conquest of Wales. However it could be argued that we could never know truly why Edward wanted his second invasion “to put an end finally to their malice,” as according to one source I studied on Edward the idea was put forward that there is some debate whether the documents issued by the king reflected his own opinion. “It is hard to know how far documents issued in the king’s name truly reflect his own view.” There is the argument that Edward had planned the conquest, this argument does gain validity as there is much evidence which shows that Edward placed importance on building towns and castles in Wales. This would ultimately give Edward the means to launch an invasion of conquest, as through adopting policies demonstrated in the first war, along with this added advantage of launching the war in Wales Edward could achieve his policy of, “putting an end finally to their malice.” Ultimately in history we must rely on primary and secondary sources and therefore it was the actions of the Welsh leaders which provoked Edward into a war of conquest