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1100 - 1200 - Welsh Princes and Marcher Lords

When William the Conqueror seized the English throne in 1066, he didn't take control of Wales.

Swansea Castle Welsh Princes print

Swansea Castle Welsh Princes print
The Welsh princes refused to accept Norman rule and for 200 years they attacked from their strongholds' in West Wales (Deheubarth) and Gywnedd. William set up a border zone of new territories and gave them to tough, trusted Norman leaders - the Lords of the Southern Marches.

Henry de Beaumont was the first Norman to be granted the Lordship of Gower in 1106, establishing a Norman foothold in south west Wales. The construction of a castle was de Beaumont's way of demonstrating his control of the area. We know that the timber structure was in place by 1116 as the Brut y Tywysogion (a medieval Welsh manuscript chronicling the history of the Princes of Wales) records a Welsh attack on the castle that year, which was sufficient to destroy the outer defences.

Henry de Beaumont died in 1119 and the Lordship of Gower passed to three further Beaumont Lords. Following the death of King Henry I there was a major Welsh rebellion in 1136: the Welsh were said to have killed more than 500 Anglo-Norman opponents at a battle fought between Loughor and Swansea. There is no evidence that Swansea Castle was attacked at this time and from 1140 some of King Stephen's coins were minted here, suggesting the town was firmly under Norman control. Swansea continued to develop as a flourishing commercial centre - shown by William de Newburgh, Earl of Warwick granting the first Charter of Privileges between 1158 and his death in 1184.

Swansea - a Town at War

The original timber castle didn't last long. In 1189 King Richard came to the throne. He lacked the diplomacy of his father Henry II (who had an "understanding" with The Lord Rhys, Prince of Deheubarth). In 1192 The Lord Rhys, Prince of Deheubarth besieged the castle for 10 weeks, starving people inside, although the castle was eventually saved. 

Follow the story of the Princes of Deheubarth by visiting Laugharne Castle - reputedly the place where The Lord Rhys signed a peace treaty with King Henry II.

Follow the story of the marcher lords by visiting Oxwich Castle, held by Robert de Penres, a knight of the Lordship of Gower, who disputed the powers of William's father, and Weobley Castle, built by a steward of the de Breos family, but lost to Owain Glyndŵr during the Welsh rebellion of 1403-5.

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