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The last Prince of Wales

December 11, 2018 3 min read

11th December – Cilmeri Village In Radnorshire, Powys

What happened at Cilmeri, in 1282?

Cilmeri is a small village in Radnorshire, part of Powys in mid-Wales, with approximately 500 inhabitants. Despite being such a small village, Cilmeri is of great Cilmeri 11th December historical importance to Wales. It is a most hallowed and sad place, for it was there, in a quiet meadow just outside the town of Llanfair my Muallt (Builth Wells) that the last Welsh-born native Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd was killed in battle. Llywelyn died in a minor skirmish with King Edward of England's soldiers, on 11 December 1282. A memorial stone to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Llywelyn ein Llyw Olaf, was erected on the site in 1956 and since then has served as the focal point for an annual day of remembrance on the anniversary of his death, the 11th December each year. As more welsh people understand the history of Cilmeri, the greater has been the remembrance on 11th December each year.

To understand the significance of Cilmeri, we must understand the history of the Edwardian Conquest of Wales during the latter part of the 13th century.

The ambition of King Edward was to unite the whole of the island of Britain under his kingship, and this meant he had to ultimately conquer Wales and Scotland. Prince Llywelyn had managed to form a unified Wales under his leadership, but faced significant problems in holding together the various factions of his kingdom. It was therefore not too difficult for Edward's much larger army to eventually wear down the forces of Llywelyn through attrition and to impose harsh restrictions upon the Welsh leader. 

At the Treaty of Aberconwy in 1277, Llywelyn was forced to accept Cilmeri Monument 11th Decemberhumiliating terms and give up most of his recently acquired lands keeping only Gwynedd west of the river Conwy. Edward followed up his successes by building strongholds around the perimeter of what remained of Llywelyn’s lands. Strong, easily defended castles were built at Fflint, Rhuddlan, Aberystwyth and Builth, garrisoned by large detachments of English immigrants and soldiers. 

However, for Prince Llywelyn, the story was not yet finished. During a period of peace between the two kings, his wedding to Elinor at Worcester was honoured by the attendance of the English king. When the people of Wales, under his brother Dafydd, eventually rose in a massive revolt at the loss of control over their customs and their law and the restrictive and oppressive English rule, Llywelyn was once aqain the unanimous choice to lead their cause.

The last days of Prince Llywelyn

At first, Llywelyn's revolt was successful. The castles of Builth, Aberystwyth and Rhuddlan were overcome and a large English force was utterly destroyed in the Menai Strait between the mainland and Angelsey. Edward was forced to commit all of his resources to deal with the Welsh, yet it was a unfortunate chance encounter in a field at Cilmeri that ended the Welsh dream. 

Llywelyn had become separated from his main army. He found himself in a minor skirmish on the outskirts of the main battle field and was killed by an English knight who was unaware of the Welsh prince's identity. Upon discovery, Llywelyn's head was sent to London to be displayed as that of a traitor. Edward's troubles with the rebellious Welsh, for all practical purposes ended. From then onwards, Wales was to live under an oppressive political system, playing a subordinate role as an integral part of the kingdom of England. A poignant ballad by modern Welsh songwriter and nationalist Dafydd Iwan expresses the grief of the Welsh nation at the loss of their beloved Llywelyn: "Collir Llywelyn, colli'r cyfan" (losing Llywelyn is losing everything). Cilmeri is indeed holy ground. 

Where is the Cilmeri Monument?

In the quiet green meadow on the road from Llanfair ym Muallt (Builth Wells) to Llanymddyfri (Llandovery), beside the little brook, there is a tall granite monolith. At first glance, it looks like one of the ancient standing stones erected thousands of years ago by our Neolithic ancestors, yet a closer inspection reveals it to be a monument erected in 1956 to the memory of Prince Llywelyn, the last welsh-born ruler of Wales.

He became to be known as Llywelyn Ein Lyw Olaf, or "Llywelyn our last ruler". Llywelyn ap Gruffudd is the last real Welsh born Prince of Wales; those who have come after him should not claim this title  - Cymru am byth...

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