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ap leuan Hen. The historic eisteddfod at Carmarthen, 1451, was held
under Griffith's protection.

3 Minister's Accounts, 1 166-8. John Perot was associated with him.



24 THE PENAL LAWS [ch.

represented himself as her protector against the violence of
Griffith ap Nicholas. Lewis escorted her in the guise of
a friend as far as Twygeston, near Bridgend, the home of
his accomplice, Gilbert Turberville. He then unmasked his
dark purpose, which was to force her to become his wife.
Margaret's honour, however, defied imprisonment, brutality,
as well as the hypocritical pleadings of the parish vicar 1 .
A similar case of abduction occurred in Lancashire about the
same time, when Lady Butler was taken from her chamber
at Bart on wood, and carried off in " her kirtle and her
smokke " by one William Pulle of Wirral, who compelled
her to say the words of matrimony in the parish church of
Bidstone 2 .

In 1443, by a royal grant, Griffith ap Nicholas was
invested with the town of Tregaron, and the commote of
Pennarth in which it was situated, a large district in the
upper valley of the Teivy, during the minority of Maud,
daughter and heiress of William Clement 3 . We shall
probably not be far wrong in attributing this grant to the
favourable influence of Hump fcrey, duke of Gloucester, who
had been made Chief Justice of South Wales in 1440, and
who spent some time in Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire
during these years, for Griffith soon became one of the
duke's most devoted followers.

He continued to advance in power and position in
subsequent years. In 1444 he was formally admitted as
a fully privileged English subject 4 . The penal code was
by this time tottering ominously : " Welshmen in increasing
numbers seek to be citizens and to have the same freedom
as Englishmen, which will be to the utter destruction of
all Englishmen." Such were the words of the burgesses

1 Rot. Pari. 1439-40, 14. Lewis Glyn Cothi, i, ioo. Arch. Cambrensis,
1864, 247.

2 Rot. Pari. 1436-37 ; July. 497-8.

3 Cal. Pat. Rolls, 29 April, 1448. See a grant to Lewis ap Meredith,
esquire of the household, of ^20 yearly rendered by Griffith ap Nicholas
for Tregaron and Pennarth. The grant to Griffith bears date July 24, 1443.

* Rot. Pari. 1444, 104.



ii] THE PENAL LAWS 25

of North Wales who, becoming alarmed at the robust vitality
of the Welsh, petitioned parliament to put an end to it.
Parliament, in acquiescing, specifically exempted William
Bulkley of Anglesey, " an Englishman who had married
a woman of half-blood Welsh," and Griffith ap Nicholas.
This indirect allusion is our only official record of Griffith's
denizenship, but it implies that he had received it some years
previously. At a later period his name appears on a
number of commissions. For example, in 1445, he was
authorised with a few others to inquire into the felonies
of one David ap Meredith of Aberystwyth 1 .

The number of those thus formally unfettered by parlia-
ment was comparatively few. Nevertheless, it

The towns r J

of the should not be assumed that the laws against

Welshmen were equally stringent throughout
Wales. Their own selfish propensities, and the struggle for
existence in the turbid pools of riot, compelled the lords-
marcher to lean towards tolerance ; for the greater the
number of law-abiding burgesses, the greater the security
in the towns on their demesnes, and the greater their
revenues.

It may be asserted with a fair degree of probability, that
the early towns of Wales were not so exclusively foreign as
they are sometimes represented to have been. It is certain
that there was no general prohibition against the Welsh on
the part of the lords-marcher, in whose demesnes most of the
towns came into existence. Nor did the unfortunate results
of Glyndwr's rebellion operate for any length of time so as
to exclude Welshmen from the towns of the Marches. In
1406 Edward Charlton granted a charter to Welshpool,
according to which only Welshmen " who were with us in
the rebellion shall be taken into the liberty." There were
Welsh bailiffs in Tenby in the first decade of the fifteenth

1 Cal. Pat. Rolls, sub ann. 369; Stephenson, 11, 508. Other members of
the above commission were Owen Dwnn, David Morys, Morgan Doe (? Dwnn)
and William Burley.



26 THE PENAL LAWS [ch.

century. A charter of the Mortimers to Usk about the
same time declares that the corporation " having obtained
our licence may freely make any Welshman a burgess of our
town 1 ." But if there was a less stringent regime in the
Marches, it cannot be too strongly emphasised that the penal
code perpetuated the cleavage between the two nations,
discouraged the Welsh from peaceful enterprise, and produced
considerable irritation, especially in the shires.

So far we have dealt mainly with those causes of unrest
which might be traced directly to Owen

Welsh and ° J

English Glyndwr's rising. There were others of a

more remote origin. Since the conquest of the
Principality by Edward I, Wales had been divided into
shire-ground and the Marches. The shires were Anglesey,
Merionethshire, Carnarvonshire, Carmarthenshire, Cardigan-
shire and Flintshire. There were two counties-palatine,
namely, the earldom of Pembroke, and the lordship of
Glamorgan. In all these the organisation was in every
respect similar to that of an English county. The rest of
Wales was known as the Marches. Here every lord was
a law unto himself.

Throughout the Marches Welsh and English customs
existed side by side, but the tendency was for the latter
to encroach upon the former. Thus, in 1415, the Welsh
chieftains on the estates of the duchy of Lancaster in West
Wales petitioned that they should hold their lands according
to the custom of their forefathers, and that estates should
not escheat to the Crown in default of heirs direct 2 . Some-
times dues exacted according to English law were super-
imposed upon those exacted by Welsh law. In 1417,
Edward Stradling and the tenants of Bassaleg, in the seignory
of Newport, were distrained upon for a tallage ; but the

1 For a fuller treatment of this question see an article by the author
on " The Welsh and the Early Municipalities," in Celtic Review ; Jan. 1908.

* Rot. Pari. 3 Henry V, 91. Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, was their
overlord. His tenants petitioned that " l'avant dites terres ne serroient
seisez en vos mains autrement que la loi Galoise demande."



ii] THE PENAL LAWS 27

seizures were afterwards restored to them on the ground
that the tallage had not been paid in ancient times except
when the lord attained his majority 1 .

There were instances where the burden became intolerable,
and many of the villeins were driven to seek elsewhere a
more lenient rule, or a more adventurous existence. In 1446,
the king's bondsmen of North Wales were absolved from
the duty of executing felons, to which they were compelled
by the sheriff, " by reason whereof bondmen have gone
from the counties to divers parts of England, so that many
towns are desolate, and rents and services and pence are
taken away 2 ." In some parts villeinage was rampant in
its most hideous form. In 1449 a number of villeins were
sold to William Griffith of North Wales " with their suc-
cessors procreated and to be procreated, and all their
goods 3 ."

Of all the plagues that infested the stricken land the
official worst was that of official tyranny. This state-

tyranny. ment applies more especially to the royal shires.

Here the officials from the " Warnester," or watcher at
the town gate, to the constable of the castle, from the bailiff
to the sheriff, were aliens whose sympathies were rudely
antagonistic to Welsh sentiment. Only in the lower orders
of the Church did the native element predominate. During
the first half of the century all the sheriffs of the counties
of North Wales were English. So also were the constables
of the castles, the chamberlains and the justices. The
same is true of South Wales. Whenever we meet with the
constables of Cardigan, Aberystwyth, Dynevor, Dryslwyn,
Carmarthen, Laugharne, or even with such minor officials

1 Acts and Proceedings of the Privy Council, II. 215-6. February, 1417.
See a writ issued to the Sheriff of the seignory, Morgan ap Evan ap Jankyn
his lieutenant, and Morgan ap Roger (Rosser) his coroner. The lord of the
seignory was the earl of Stafford.

2 Cal. Pat. Rolls, March 29, 1446. 426. Cf. Wynne, 83.

3 See the original document printed in Beaumaris Bay, 25, bearing the
date 20 June, 1449. For this William Griffith see ante. Compare this with
the tendency to emancipate bondmen in England, e.g. on the lands of the
monastery of St Albans. Whethamstede, 11, passim.



28 THE PENAL LAWS [ch.

as porters, they are invariably English. It is not until the
accession of Edward IV that a change appears.

The cleavage between the two peoples, and especially

the clash between the native element and

of h contim- nce th eir English officials, is faithfully mirrored in

porary contemporary Welsh literature, one of the chief

literature. r J

features of which, as we have already remarked,
is its hostility towards the Saxon. The poet Lewis
Glyn Cothi, for example, exults in the rise of Griffith ap
Nicholas to official status because he views it as the opening
of a new era, when " the Saxon will no longer be found
presiding over the Sessions or holding an official position
amongst us 1 ." It is in the poets of the period, too, that we
must seek a true expression of the temper of public opinion
in face of the disabilities under which the people laboured.
Although contemporary poetry was produced largely at the
command of the rich, and to eulogise them, and thus savours
of a fawning timidity in dealing with social evils, nevertheless,
there are many suggestive references to a deep and wide-
spread unrest. " Life is sad and heavy, men who were
formerly in bondage are gradually becoming more enslaved,"
says Lewis Glyn Cothi 2 .

The same poet frequently calls upon his heroes to draw
their swords in defence of the common people and the
innocent 3 . Similarly Guto'r Glyn, in a glowing panegyric
to Edward IV : " Woe betide us who have been born in

1 Ni welir Sais diddirwy

Na Saison mewn Sessiwn mwy,
Na dyn o Sais yn dwyn swydd.

Lewis Glyn Cothi, Works I. xxiv.

2 Mae bywyd trist, mae byd trvvm ;
Meibion a gweision oedd gaeth
Myned weithion maent waethwaeth.

Ibid. I. xx.

3 A'th gledd bydd geidwad

Ar gwmmin werin hyd gaer Warwig gron
Ac ar y gwirion o'th gaer gerrig.

Glyn Cothi, Ode to Watcyn Vaughan.
" From thy stone castle come forward, sword in hand, to defend the
common people and the defenceless."



ii] THE PENAL LAWS 29

servitude, and are the prey of strong thieves. Restore order.
Come thyself, valiant Edward, and check the oppressors 1 ."

Nor did the overbearing temper of the nobility, and the
decline of Welsh law and custom escape the poets. Lewis
Glyn Cothi implores Owen ap Griffith " to mete out justice
to the proud, and restore their ancient customs to the
timid 2 ." Similarly he appeals to another patron to " restore
to Wales her own law 3 ." Guto'r Glyn bewails the social
restrictions which debarred anyone not of baronial lineage
from rising above his station, and vigorously assails the
ineffectiveness of the ecclesiastical law to curb the im-
moderate licence of the clergy. One of the noblest features
of Thomas ap Rosser, a chieftain slain at Edgecote, was that
he evinced practical sympathy for the common people 4 .

Bearing these circumstances in mind, it is not difficult
to realise that contempt of law, which was
general throughout the country, found most
congenial soil in the Marches, where every lord was responsible
for the maintenance of order within his own territories, and
was frequently not without reason to subvert it. It is a
commonplace of history that the Marches experienced every
species of lawlessness which national acerbities, official vindic-
tiveness, and the negation of effective judicial administration,
could engender in a land of pathless woods and inaccessible
mountains 5 . The Marches were deluged by all the barbarous

1 Gwae ni o'n geni yn gaeth
Gan ladron ; gwna lywodraeth.
Dyred dy hun, Ed wart hir,

I ffrwyno cyrph rhai anwir.

Guto'r Glyn, MSS., Cardiff. Hafod, 3.

2 Rhoi cyfraith berffaith i'r beilch
Rhoi devawd i'r rhai diveilch.

Glyn Cothi, 1. 139.

3 Enyn y gyfraith unig i Gymru.

Ibid. 1. 35. Also Cein. Lien. 11. 193.

4 Lewis Glyn Cothi. Ode to Thomas ap Rosser.

5 It is not our intention to digress upon the constitutional position of
the lord-marcher. For a full exposition the reader may be referred to the
admirable work of Morris, Welsh Wars of Edward I. See also Skeel,
Council of Wales, Introduction ; George Owen's Treatise on the Government
of Wales, in the Cymmrodor, vols. xn. and xm. ; etc. For the lawlessness
of the Marches, see Wynne's History of the Gwydir Family, Wright's Ludlow,



30 THE PENAL LAWS [ch.

evils of a degenerate feudalism, countless in number and
variety. Scientific atrocity had almost become an axiom of
life. The savage licence and wolfish avarice of the strong
were let loose upon the weak and the law-abiding. No
recorded deed of romantic heroism relieves the abject bru-
tality of a Lord Powys, the murderer of Griffith Vaughan 1 ,
or the dexterous perfidy of a Grey of Ruthin. There is no
splendid villainy even, such as is recorded in the annals of
some of the Italian states during the century, unless it be
the murder of Sir Christopher Talbot who was struck to
the heart at his own castle of Caws 2 . Official records present
nothing better than a frightful spectacle of barbarity, a
catalogue of robberies and tragedies.

The chief sufferers were the inhabitants of Herefordshire,
Gloucestershire and Shropshire, who frequently reported
their grievances to Parliament. Their cornfields were
ruined, their stock reduced to ashes, their cattle driven to
the mountains ; and not infrequently they were themselves
imprisoned until heavy ransoms were paid. Merchants who
plied their trade in the west were the prey of a godless
nobility and a brutalised peasantry. Security of transit
was impossible where the king's writ did not run 3 . The
estuary of the Severn swarmed with pirates, every creek
giving shelter to its seadogs who had their accomplices in
the towns.

They issued forth like an armed fleet in battle array 4 .
The merchants of Bristol were not more immune than those
of Ireland or Denmark 5 . Stolen cattle and stock were
transferred recklessly by night from one side of the Severn



Eyton's Shropshire. Archaeologia Cambrensis, vols, n., in. Rot. Pari.
Statutes of the Realm, etc.

1 There are many references to the affair in Trevelyan Papers (Camden
Society). Powysland Collections, I. 335-8, 11. 139-168 ; xiv. 126-138.

2 Cal. Pat. Rolls, 21 Henry VI, 397.

3 " Ou le brief du roy ne court." Rot. Pari. 1413-37, 52.

4 Rot. Pari. 1430-31. " En grande nombre arraiez en faire de
guerre." Ibid. 1427 ; 332.

5 Acts of the Privy Council, iv. 208. April 28, 1434.



ii] THE PENAL LAWS 31

to the other, and robbers were not to be deterred by legislation
forbidding night-ferrying. The peasantry retaliated upon
the insolence and ferocity of the municipal officials of North
Wales by organised raids upon Conway, Dolgelly and
Beaumaris on market days, which sometimes ended in
bloodshed 1 . If the people were wronged they were not
so servile as to return thanks for it.

It need hardly be stated that this bewildering lawlessness
was not the work of irresponsible hordes of outlaws and
hardened ruffians. Those who were not to be constrained
to the mean duties of villeins, when villeinage was fast
becoming an anachronism, simply became the retainers of
a depraved nobility whose predatory habits they aped.
John Talbot of Goodrich Castle was a valiant soldier. In
1424 his services were required in France to assist in rescuing
Crotoy. He refused to go until he had indemnified himself
for the arrears of his wages, as constable of Montgomery
Castle, by a profitable raid upon the prosperous citizens and
farmers of Herefordshire 2 . Sir Reginald Grey and Hugh
Wenlok were also among his unfortunate victims 3 . William
Fitzwarren levied a body of armed men in Wales and de-
prived Richard Hankford of Whittington of his castle. The
Corbets were bold enough to abuse and rob the collectors
of the fifteenth in Shrewsbury 4 . John ap Meredith, a cousin

1 Lewis Glyn Cothi, vn. iii ; v. vii. A dark episode called the " Black
Affray of Beaumaris " between the burgesses of that town and the Welsh
of Anglesey ended in the death of the leader, David ap Ieuan of Llwydiarth.
For more minute details of the lawless state of the Snowdon district, see
Hengwrt MSS. in Arch. Cambrensis, 1846-8 ; viz. the Records of Inqui-
sitions for Merionethshire (1452-4).

2 Ordinances of the Privy Council, February 14, 1424 ; in. 138. Rot. Pari.
1424 ; 254. The names of some of the retainers may be of some interest :
William ap Rees, David ap Jankyn, Thomas Walter, John Rotherwas,
John Gam, John Roger, William Prees, Philip Madoc, David Miskyn,
Jankyn ap Adam, Hugh ap Adam, John Gronowe, Walter ap Hugh,
Griffith Kilbrest, Howel Sheplod, John ap David, Ieuan ap Gronowe,
Ieuan Vaughan, Philip Iorwerth, Morys Penreth, Thomas ap Richard,
Griffith Elvel.

3 Rot. Pari. 1425, 275 and 312. Both petitioned Parliament to compel
Talbot to give security that he would keep the peace.

4 Rot. Pari. 1422, 193; and. ibid. 1414-5, 30, 87. Also, Record Reports,
i4ig ; 709.



32 THE PENAL LAWS [ch.

of Owen Tudor, fought out his feuds alternately with William
Griffith, chamberlain of North Wales, and the Thelwalls of
Dyffryn Clwyd 1 .

About the year 1442 the blaze of riot raged with amazing

fury, private property and public finance being
multiply equally involved in the general ruin. It was

found impossible to arrest miscreants. They
passed from one lordship to another, and " having
no place certain to tarry " transferred their ill-gotten wealth
to places of security, and themselves beyond the reach of
law and justice 2 . There was no decent reverence for the
monasteries. Some years previously a papal bull had
empowered the abbot of Margam to excommunicate a number
of people who had despoiled the abbey of Neath 3 . But the
pope's curse could not kill a fly, and his servants could be
bought for a song 4 . The abbey of Strata Florida was placed
under the care and government of the abbots of Whitland
and Margam because the abbot could not guard it against
strong thieves and robbers 5 . The abbot of Basingwerk,
in Flintshire, complained of his losses through riots and
robberies 6 . The abbot of Vale Royal in Cheshire lodges a
similar complaint that " whereas he is fiefed of Llanbadarn
and other property in the counties of Cardigan and Carmar-
then, and as in the said shires are some Welshmen to whom
the said abbot has not given such rewards as they desired,
they have indicted him at the sessions of divers felonies to
compel him to give them rewards and fees ; and when he
came to appear to the indictment he could not pass through
certain lordships without being assaulted and beaten 7 ."

Moreover, " Welshmen accused of treason have been
found to come into the towns and markets and stay there

1 Wynne, History of the Gwydir Family, 44-7.

2 Rot. Pari. 1441-2, 53-4 etc.

3 Glamorgan Charters, 1500 (1423).

4 Lewis Glyn Cothi, passim.

5 Glamorgan Charters, 1590 (1443, March 3). Cal. Pat. Rolls, 95 (1442).
8 Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1442, 42.

7 Rot. Pari. 1442 ; 42-3.



ii] THE PENAL LAWS 33

for several days without being arrested, because the sheriff
and his ministers oftentimes have no knowledge of their
persons nor of their being within the said county, some for
favour and amity, some for doubt of hurt 1 ." Such obliquity
of conduct as these extracts reveal necessarily affected the
royal revenues. The Exchequer suffered by an extensive
evasion of customs' dues on merchandise passing through
Wales and the Marches. Tenants and others in North and
South Wales 2 were frequently summoned to pay their debts
by instalments, or otherwise to answer for the amounts due
from them.

Further, a number of native chieftains were about the
same time outlawed or placed under arrest. The ringleader
in Carnarvonshire was Evan ap Robin 3 ; in the valley of the
Dee, Sir Griffith Vaughan 4 ; in Carmarthenshire, Owen, the
son of Griffith ap Nicholas. The Privy Council ordered
Owen to be placed under arrest ; Griffith himself and the
Abbot of Whitland were summoned to appear before the
Privy Council ; while some militant monk who had been
traversing North and South Wales holding riotous assemblies
called cymmorthau, narrating Welsh chronicles and traditions,
and stirring up the people to rebellion, was immediately
" to be found out and taken 5 ." That this agitator was one
of the bardic fraternity may be presumed with a fair degree



1 Statutes of the Realm, 1444-5 ; Rot. Pari. 1444-5, 106.

2 Proceedings of the Privy Council, v. 209. 29 August, 1442. " A
levy to be made of various sums due to the king from South Wales. Rhys
ap Thomas ap David, 10 marks ; John ap Rees ap Thomas, 10 marks ;
David ap Thomas ap David ap Llewelyn, £71. 135. qd. ; Meredith ap Owen,
/133. 6s. 8d. ; Rees Vaughan ap Rees, £90 ; Maredydd ap Ievan ap Rees,
^22. 13s. 4^. ; Llywelyn ap David ap Rees, £11. is. od." Also, ibid. in. 78,
1423. Rot Pari. 1442.

3 See document in Wynne's Gwydir Family, 34-5, note 3.

4 Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1444, 281. In July of that year Griffith Vaughan of
Treflidyan, Kt, Ievan ap Griffith of Gildesford, Reynold ap lord Griffith of
Treflidyan, and David Lloyd ap Ievan ap Griffith of Gildesford, etc. were
outlawed, and their property (Breamiarth, in Pole) given to John Sutton,
Lord Dudley. — See above for the murder of Griffith Vaughan by Henry
Grey, Lord Powys, in 1447.

* Acts of the Privy Council, v. 244, 233. 5 March, 1443. Griffith ap
Nicholas was in London in January, 1442. Cal. Pat. Rolls, 12.

E. W. R. 3



34 THE PENAL LAWS [ch.

of certainty. He may, indeed, have been Lewis Glyn Cothi,
the most fervid nationalist of his time, whose spirit chafed
beneath the miseries and humiliations of political and social
servitude. For he himself admits that he was at one time
hunted down by the officers of justice, and that he was then
sheltered by Owen ap Griffith ap Nicholas 1 . As we have
just remarked, Owen was also under the ban of the law at
this time ; and as Glyn Cothi was his neighbour, both may
have been acting together.

This defiance of law and order continued with varying
success until the Tudors finally smothered it through the
instrumentality of the Court of the President and Council
of Wales and the Marches. Meanwhile, the administration
of justice rested with the sheriffs of the counties and the
lords of the Marches. They failed notoriously, either from
self-interest, or gross absenteeism, or ineptitude. Conse-
quently the Privy Council was constrained to interfere.

Although empty proclamations rather than energetic
Attempts to action generally characterised its proceedings,
restore order, ^q Privy Council was obviously apprehensive
about Wales. One of the royal castles might at any time
fall into the hands of the lawless element ; and a reduction
of castles held by Welsh rebels had been a costly business
during Glyndwr's wars 2 . The efficiency of the castle

1 Lewis Glyn Cothi, n. ii.

A mi'n nhiredd Gwynedd gynt

Yn herwa, yno hirhynt,

Owain i gadw fy einioes

Ei aur a'i win i'm a roes.
" When formerly I was wandering in Gwynedd, Owen gave me his gold
and his wine to save my life."

1 can see no evidence to support the generally accepted view that
Lewis Glyn Cothi was hunted as a Lancastrian partisan. See the editor's
note on the above passage, for example.

2 Ordinances of the Privy Council, 23 Jan. 1415, 339- See a petition
from Gerard Strong praying that a warrant might be issued commanding
the exchequer to grant him a discharge for the metal of a brass cannon
called " Messager " weighing 4480 lbs, which was burst at the siege of
Aberystwyth ; of a cannon called the " King's Daughter," burst at the
siege of Harlech ; of a cannon which burst in proving it ; of a cannon
with two chambers ; of two iron guns, and three other iron guns ; with



ii] THE PENAL LAWS 35

garrisons in North Wales, therefore, had been a matter of
concern to Henry V. He stipulated that no burgess
should be received into the king's wages at the castle,
and any who had been so received were to be discharged


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