Portal:Biography/Selected article/May 18

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Statue of Llywelyn at Conwy

Llywelyn the Great (Welsh Llywelyn Fawr, Welsh pronunciation: [ɬəˈwɛlɨ̞n]), full name Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, (c. 1173 – April 11, 1240) was a Prince of Gwynedd in North Wales and eventually de facto ruler over most of Wales. He is occasionally called Llywelyn I of Wales. By a combination of war and diplomacy he dominated Wales for forty years, and was one of only two Welsh rulers to be called 'the Great'.

Llywelyn's main home and court throughout his reign was at Garth Celyn on the north coast of Gwynedd, between Bangor and Conwy, overlooking the port of Llanfaes. Throughout the thirteenth century, up to the Edwardian conquest, Garth Celyn, Aber Garth Celyn, was in effect the capital of Wales. (Garth Celyn is now known as Pen y Bryn, Bryn Llywelyn, Abergwyngregyn and parts of the medieval buildings still remain).

During Llywelyn's boyhood Gwynedd was ruled by two of his uncles, who had agreed to split the kingdom between them following the death of Llywelyn's grandfather, Owain Gwynedd, in 1170. Llywelyn had a strong claim to be the legitimate ruler and began a campaign to win power at an early age. He was sole ruler of Gwynedd by 1200, and made a treaty with King John of England the same year. Llywelyn's relations with John remained good for the next ten years. He married John's illegitimate daughter Joan, also known as Joanna, in 1205, and when John arrested Gwenwynwyn ab Owain of Powys in 1208 Llywelyn took the opportunity to annex southern Powys. In 1210 relations deteriorated and John invaded Gwynedd in 1211. Llywelyn was forced to seek terms and to give up all his lands east of the River Conwy, but was able to recover these lands the following year in alliance with the other Welsh princes. He allied himself with the barons who forced John to sign Magna Carta in 1215. By 1216 he was the dominant power in Wales, holding a council at Aberdyfi that year to apportion lands to the other princes.

Following King John's death, Llywelyn concluded the Treaty of Worcester with his successor Henry III in 1218. During the next fifteen years Llywelyn was frequently involved in fighting with Marcher lords and sometimes with the king, but also made alliances with several of the major powers in the Marches. The Peace of Middle in 1234 marked the end of Llywelyn's military career as the agreed truce of two years was extended year by year for the remainder of his reign. He maintained his position in Wales until his death in 1240, and was succeeded by his son Dafydd ap Llywelyn. (Read more...)