Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Sir John Oldcastle: fact and fiction

(I have a real problem with finding out the copyright of images and have no wish to be imprisoned without CAKE for illegally using one - so here is an OK photo which has little to do with the case. Anyway no-one cares what Sir John Oldcastle looked like and we all know what his fictional counterpart resembled.)

Sir John Oldcastle is believed to have been born at Oldcastle in Monmouthshire (sounds a good theory to me) and certainly he was a man of Hereford. He was an early friend of Henry V and a Lollard leader, escaping immediate punishment for his heresy because of this royal connection.
Lollardy was current in Herefordshire and followed the teachings of John Wycliffe in particular, being critical of the Roman Catholic Church and promoting a Bible in the vernacular. Oldcastle was imprisoned in the Tower of London but escaped, organised a rebellion against the king and was executed after 4 years hiding in the Welsh Marches.

An anonymous Elizabethan play entitled The Famous Victories of  Henry V starts with the period of Henry's youth, portraying it as riotous and leads to his transformation into a warrior king, victorious at Agincourt and a wooer of Princess Katherine. You will spot that this drama - believed to be Shakespeare's source material - covers the 3 plays in the Bard's Henriad, (Henry IV pt i, Henry IV pt.ii, Henry V.) Amongst the Prince's band of merry chums is one called Jockey (Sir John Old-Castle). C.A Greer has identified 15 plot elements that appear in the later trilogy, including the Gad's Hill robbery, the Eastcheap tavern and the new king's rejection of his former boozy companions.

This play seems to be a stepping stone in the creation of a character out of the historical religious zealot to become Shakespeare's fictional Falstaff who, in my opinion, assumes in our imaginations a more powerful reality than many actual people. As well as being one of the most comic characters ever imagined, he stands for Riot and insurrection against values such as honour. His decline from lovable rogue through unscrupulous impresser of ragged soldiers to shameless sponger is one of the great achievements in English literature. The scene where King Henry repudiates him is truly shocking and the description of his death - probably from a broken heart - deeply moving as he feels cold from the feet up, calls to God and is assured by the Hostess that he does not need to think of that. Ironic when his source is recalled.

More on Henry V may be found on this blog by using the search button. In particular, further Shakespearean echoes have an article to themselves. The preparations for the invasion have also been covered.
 I have written a complete (?) analysis of Henry IV pt i on my website Classics of English Literature. You need and deserve a huge slice of CAKE whilst reading. I'd be thrilled if some of you did go there.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Local Monmouthshire lad goes to France - what did Henry V take with him?

On 11th August 1415 Henry V and his army sailed for France and the rest - as they say - is history. In Shakespeare's play he nips over the Channel (after an interminable explanation of the justifying Salique law, the famous scene with the tennis balls and the execution of traitors) with a couple of almost photographic Choruses. These invoke the enthusiasm amongst his followers who leave their "silken dalliance" in the wardrobe, sell their pastures to buy a horse, give business to the armorers, think only of honour and then wing it with the speed of thought. Whilst the ship-boys climb the hempen tackle, the "huge bottoms" breast the "lofty surge." The Bard does not mar the dramatic effect with numbers or logistics but the preparations for this invasion were immense, not to be matched until Operation Overlord, more than 500 years later, and all the more amazing considering the period.

The king needed money in vast amounts to pay for men, ships, arms and food for a projected year-long campaign. Taxation income and loans from all possible sources were inadequate and he had to guarantee payment to soldiers beyond the first 3 months before indentures could be struck on 29th April. (These were papers of service divided into 2 by unique irregular tooth-like cuts, which could be pieced together when needed.) He gave the captains jewels as security for the second 3 months with a pledge for redemption by January 1417. Loans came in (earlier Dick Whittington had previously lent £2000) from individuals, towns and religious communities until our financial wizard monarch raised the equivalent of £70 million by, some would say, mortgaging the future of the country.
  The production of arms was well under way, the machine gun of the day being the dreaded longbow, formidable when in the hands of highly trained men, particularly those of Henry's home county, Monmouthshire/Gwent. All men had been obliged to practise after Mass on Sundays and holy days. Archers made up about three quarters of the army but swords, lances, cannon and the more traditional siege weapons such as the trebuchet and mangonel were included, all of which had to be manufactured and shipped. Armour, made in separate pieces (which Shakespeare invokes later with his mention of the sounds of hammers riveting), was not as heavy as is sometimes believed but had to be well-fitted and worn over a thick jacket. The Channel was cleared of enemy ships and home defences such as castles and other fortifications were strengthened and, of interest to us in Wales, Owain Glyn Dwr was sought for in an attempt to quell insurrection.

   Wages were set but the destination kept vague. Henry needed a long-term army of professional fighting men. 600 leather bags ordered to contain the indentures and related documents. A duke would receive 13s 4d a day, an earl half that, a baron 4 shillings, a knight 2 shillings and an archer sixpence. They were paid quarterly in advance. This was far above what the bowman would be paid in his unskilled trade and everyone could hope for more after a battle. Although Henry was strict about looting (we recall the scene in Shakespeare when he becomes enraged at the slaughter by the French of his boy guards for their "luggage") there were ransoms and the indentures stated how spoils would be divided out.
   There were probably about 600 ships as a basis and, in a requisition reminiscent of Dunkirk but enforced, all ships of 20 tons or more, whether foreign or English, from eastern ports were pressed into service. More than 1000 were impounded. These would carry, not only soldiers, but wagons, horses, grooms, farriers, wheelwrights, cooks, minstrels, men of religion and surgeons as well as cattle and the produce of bakeries. This was not to be a chevauchée where men lived off the land. There were around 12000 combatants and hundreds of ships were needed just for the horses.
   The muster took place on 1st July, the king made his will on the 24th and he gave orders for embarkation on the 29th. All was ready for August 1st but, the day before, 3 conspirators were found who had to be tried before execution: Cambridge, Grey and Scrope. Then, free from treachery and backed by the Salique law, our Monmouthshire lad set off in the flagship, the Trinity Royal, on his huge and minutely planned mission on August 11th 1415.

I am particularly indebted for the detail here to Henry V  by Teresa Cole. More information on the formidable longbow and other Medieval combat weapons may be found by clicking on those links and more on Monmouth Castle, birthplace of Henry V. More on Shakespeare's handling of Henry V can be found.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Licence to Crenellate - Medieval planning permission

  If you have lain awake at night for weeks on end waiting for planning permission for a new extension to your house, you might be in the same tense frame of mind as a Medieval knight wishing to add some battlements to his stately home. From the 12th to the 16th century, anyone wanting to add castle-like fortifications to his pile was required to have permission, usually from the king. A normal enough longing, one might think since these features almost define our sense of what a castle is, but the matter was more complex than that, which is why Sir Edsomething de Whatever had to apply for a licence.
You might ask why someone would want these costly embellishments: crenellations, drawbridge, portcullis. murder holes etc. and, in some cases, it was probably for show and to astonish the neighbours. An Englishman's home was not his castle without battlements. True fortification may have been the reason in the earlier part of this period but later there is reason to believe that the motive was to keep ahead of society and make the interior as sumptuous as possible also.
  The king, however, had strong motives to be careful and choosy. No ruler, particularly one in times of trouble - and these were turbulent years in many areas - wants rich and influential men adding to their power and becoming capable of attacking him or defending themselves more efficiently. Such licences had to be carefully vetted and the nobleman had a better chance of approval if he could claim that his new fortifications would help him to support the king's interests against enemies of the crown.

Bodiam Castle, everyone's notion of a prototypic castle. is a good example of military additions as semi-ornaments. Its features would not have been invulnerable to attack: it was built 10 miles from the river Rother which was not particularly open to hostile forces; its moat could be drained quite easily; the windows are larger than usual for defensive purposes; the battlements are rather small in places; the gatehouse, though boasting machicolations, could have been avoided by forces who could nip round and enter at the back and - wait for it - there is no keep. The owner, Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, received permission, however, from King Richard II, to "strengthen with a wall of stone and lime, crenellate and make into a castle his manor house at Bodiam, next to the sea, for the defence of the adjacent country and resistance to the king's enemies." Clearly Sir Edward had glossed over a few matters (such as a 10 mile march) in his application (which did not include a clause about that ghastly bunting.)

  Richard's secretaries were men of few words compared to those who wrote the licence from Edward IV in 1482 to Sir Edmund Bedingfield of Oxburgh in Norfolk which repeats the phrase "embattle, kernel and machecolate" like some magic charm throughout and is a precursor to modern official waffle. Yet, surprisingly, there was often no fee and, if one were demanded, it would be a mark at most. Usually it was knights who applied in order to enhance their status and move up the social ladder, but 11 women are mentioned in the surviving licences and 4 were granted directly to women. Although most applicants were individuals, 28 licences relate to town defences and 44 to churches, abbeys and cathedrals. Of the 1500 castles in England, the surviving licences refer to only 500 sites - did some aspiring noblemen sneak in their battlements, a few at a time, hoping no-one would notice?

I actually find this bureaucratic aspect of Medieval life fascinating and have written a poem about the knight dreaming of his newly endowed abode: I place a bet of a large slice of CAKE that no-one else has versified this topic.

He dreams of stones, of castles - not in air
But grounded, rooted sternly on his land,
Flaunting his prowess, trumpeting his flair.

He'll lord it over neighbours. He has planned
Apartments, chambers, warmed and richly hung
With tapestries, endowed by his strong hand.

His vision grew the windows, crystal lungs
Of this great body; now his rapid heart
Beats at its cords. They throb, too tightly strung.

This grand design, this mental work of art
Must pause or stop as he waits for his king.
A regal nod could crown his hopes: "Now start ...

... The statement of your power, the scaffolding
Of wealth, supremacy" - but everywhere
The villeins chafe. The tail. The hidden sting.

For more on Bodiam Castle click here. If you enjoyed this poem and would like to read more of my work - on less arcane topics such as love - click here for my Formal Poetry website.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Davy Gam: hero or traitor?

If the name Davy Gam seems vaguely familiar to you, it may be because you actually concentrated during the part of Shakespeare's Henry V where the king reads out the names of those killed in the battle of Agincourt (more correctly Azincourt.) After a list of French noblemen with dashing Gallic titles, he turns to a second paper, handed to him by the herald, and notes the deaths of 4 men, the last of whom is Davy Gam, esquire. To the monarch, he is amongst those "of name", meaning that the rest were squaddies, a mere "five and twenty" of them. Perhaps this seems a little snobby for a king who, before the battle, when egging them on, claimed that they were all a "band of brothers" - but even then he was aware that this group included each of the men, "be he ne'er so vile." (Hal, as prince, frequented the ale houses but dropped his drinking mates as soon as he donned the crown). Yet he did go around, in disguise, chatting to the ordinary soldiers the night before. Davy Gam was clearly an aristocrat and, interestingly in this literary connection, some believe him to be the model for Fluellen, the slightly comic but knowledgeable military supporter of the king, who praises him and claims common kinship as a Welshman.  He has read all about the glorious battles of Edward, the Black Prince of Wales, Henry's great-uncle.

Who was he - and why do we want to know?
In case you thought you were getting off lightly pronunciation-wise, part of his full name was Sir Dafydd ap Llewelyn ap Hywel and he lived from approximately 1380 to 25th October 1415. "Gam" is one of those merry Medieval nick-names which draws attention to some physical flaw such as short legs (Curt-hose) and probably means that he was lame. We still have the expression "gammy leg." Rather mysteriously the Dictionary of Welsh Biography thinks it means that he squinted or had only one eye but I find it difficult to fathom how he managed to be a successful warrior with that defect.

  He was a prominent opponent of Owain Glyn Dwr and a supporter of the English king, which made him a traitor from the Welsh point of view. Bearing in mind the destruction that Glyn Dwr's rebellion caused in Wales, it is easy to see why some men were hostile to him. Dafydd could add to the pedigree already mentioned "Fychan ap Hywel ap Einion Sais" but probably told people "just call me Gam." His background locates him round Llanover in Monmouthshire and Pen Pont near Brecon.  Some think he was previously in service to John of Gaunt and had to leave Wales after killing a rival in Brecon High Street. Rumour also places him in Hen Gwrt, near White Castle.

Hen Cwrt
Dafydd Gam was previously paid annually 40 marks (a large sum) by the royal estate and the family's loyalty to the king caused their lands near Brecon to be attacked by the rebels. Another local point of interest is that he was named, by the Scottish Chronicler Walter Bower, as the leader in the critical and crushing defeat of Glyn Dwr's men at the battle of Pwll Melyn near Usk. His local knowledge may have helped the English victory and attracted Welshman to his cause. When captured in 1412 he was quickly ransomed for somewhere between 200 to 700 marks, a large sum indicating the regard in which he was held. He had made a forced promise to Glyn Dwr never to oppose him but, on release, he told King Henry where the rebel was and attacked him, suffering reprisals such as the burning of his house. Another less likely story is that he attacked Glyn Dwr's parliament in Machynlleth in 1404.

  He probably fought with Henry V prior to the French battles but certainly served with three-foot archers (that disposes of the squint theory in my opinion) in the Agincourt campaign. Several chroniclers noted his death in that encounter but no-one agrees as to whether he was knighted then or posthumously. There is a legend that he saved the king's life during the counter-charge of the Duke of Alencon (whose name appears on Shakespeare's death roll of the French) when Henry was fighting hand-to- hand with him. The Frenchman lopped an ornament from Henry's crown with his sword and Dafydd led a group of Welsh knights to intervene. Some believe he killed the Duke before being killed himself.
  In the 19th century George Borrow wrote of him: "he achieved that glory which will for ever bloom, dying, covered in wounds, on the field of Agincourt after saving the life of the king, to whom in the dreadest and most critical moment of the fight, he stuck closer than a brother." Borrow also quotes descriptions of him, supposedly included in satirical englyn (you don't want to know, really you don't) written by Glyn Dwr: "he was small in stature and deformed in person. though possessed of great strength. He was very sensitive of injury, though quite as alive to kindness, a thorough-going enemy and a thorough-going friend." There is a stained glass window commemorating him in the church at Llantillio Crossenny, where the Latin inscription calls him a golden-haired knight. He is also a chief character in the novel Owen Glendower by John Cowper Powys.

If you DO want to know about englyn (and you have only yourself to blame for asking), here is the Wikipedia definition: "... it uses quantative metres, involving the counting of syllables, and rigid patterns of rhyme and half rhyme. Each line contains a repeating pattern of consonants and accent known as cynghanedd." That clarifies that, then. Oh yes - and the plural is "englynion".

My thanks to Wikipedia for much of this information and two of the images.
Hen Gwrt is now a small moated ruin and very atmospheric, quite near the equally charismatic White Castle, one of the Three Castles in the area. Grrr  - you do need a car to get to both but there is excellent walking nearby to earn you your CAKE. You can, however, visit the site of the crucial battle of Pwll Melyn by travelling to Usk by bus and walking up past the castle which you can look at en route.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Christmas Poem

I hoped you would like to read a poem about a modern but traditional Christmas that I wrote some years ago before starting my history blog.

But once a year ...

 ... it comes, with spiced breath, lugging golden bags
of secret foraging from High Street stores
with packaged cubes of gift wrap, glitzy tags;

tucks berried sprigs on pictures, over doors,
gilds cards with instant merriment, then makes
a forest emblem, shimmer-lit. It draws

snow scenes on windows, sprinkles icing flakes
of sugar on mince pies, shortbread and calls
a warning to the children still awake.

Throughout this night a frosted silence falls,
the shambling magic beast has done its trick
again. The waiting time is here and all

the sleepers are the same as minutes tick
toward the dawning of coincidence:
the morning walk in new scarves; kisses; quick

large slurps of sherry; crackers; grand entrance
of turkey to red faces, paper hats
and hopeful dogs. We join the the pretence

that goodwill in the pudding feeds us fat
enough to lose a careless bit each day
until December - when the pit-a-pat

of Christmas padding comes once more to play
The wind is cold, next year is far away ...
the creature's begging. Why not let it stay?

If you enjoyed this terza rima verse, you might like some of my other poems on my website Formal Poetry and other idiosyncrasies. The topics range from love, poems about gardens to science and gender relationships. They all rhyme and many are humorous. For my account of a Medieval Christmas (in prose!) click here. Have a good time, everyone, many thanks for reading my work - back to castles, CAKE and Roman remains in the New Year.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The Medieval Christmas - would you have enjoyed it?

Food and drink
   As you look forward to a giant nosh on 25th December, you will recollect that at least 2 popular items were unavailable in the Middle Ages. Potatoes and turkeys were late-comers to these islands and the birds have been regretting their arrival ever since. What DID they eat in the great mansions and castles?
   On Christmas Day 1347 at Hunstanton in Norfolk, Sir Hamon le Strange and his household consumed bread, 2 gallons of wine (12d), 1 big pig for the larder (4s), 1 small pig (6d), a swan which was a gift from Lord Camoys, 2 hens given as rent and 8 rabbits of which 2 were gifts. If this does not seem much - read on.
   The bread for the lord in any important dwelling would probably have been made with white flour, so precious that it was sometimes stored in a locked chest and the lower orders consumed brown rye bread. All roasted poultry and animals demanded specific ways of carving: a mallard was "unbraced"; a heron "dismembered"; a coney "unlaced" and a hen "spoiled." This delicate work was done by rushlight. Other ingredients might be venison, fawn, kid, bustard, stork, crane, peacock, sparrow, baked quinces, damsons in wine, and a range of vegetables used in sauces rather than served independently. The wine could be Rhenish, Gascon or Spanish and Sir Hamon seems almost teetotal when we recall that Chaucer was allowed a gallon every normal day. No wonder The Canterbury Tales rip along and were never finished!

   William of Malmesbury relates how, on a Christmas night, 12 carollers (holding hands in a circle and skipping around the leader who sang) danced around a church and persuaded the priest's daughter to join them. He uttered a curse so that their hands became inseparably joined and, when the son ran out to save his sister, her arm broke off like a rotten stick. Better keep to Scrabble, say I.

   Yet there would have been music, dancing and performances of "disguising games" - in these plays, the emphasis was on roles exemplified by masks rather than words and scripts. Heroes were pitted against evils such as legendary giants. Edward III was so enthusiastic about these that, for Christmas 1338, he ordered 86 plain masks, 14 with long beards, 15 baboons' heads of linen, 12 ells of canvas to make a forest, a wooden pillory and a cucking [sic] stool. In 1347 he required similar but with some masks as women, angels, dragons' heads, pheasant heads and wings, swan's heads plus starry tunics, whilst, in 1348, he took part in such a mumming himself, dressed as a giant bird. We are going to try all this ourselves this year instead of charades - I have bagsied the role of huge avian.

Role reversal etc

  In the spirit of satire and merriment, household roles would be upturned so that a menial servant could become the lord and give orders to the higher ranks. This period of misrule lasted until January 6th, Twelfth Night. It is an entertaining idea and was no doubt hilarious in enactment, but it represents a serious belief in The Wheel of Fortune. All humans were attached to this wheel, spun by the blindfolded goddess and no-one could be sure of holding his or her position on it as it rotated: the fate of any one individual did not depend on virtue but on chance. The concept permeates King Lear although the play most representative of the traditions is, of course, Twelfth Night, which was first performed at the end of an elongated Christmas period on 2 February 1602 (Candlemas) and whose subtitle is What You Will, suggesting misrule. In it Sir Toby Belch and his cronies (mere guests) upset the order of Olivia's household - love and cross-dressing overturn everything else, including gender roles. The riotous habits of the aptly surnamed Sir Toby were stressed along with musical interludes whilst Malvolio, embodying austerity, is humiliated. Sir Toby's language probably contains obscene slang.
   It is likely that this period, from Christmas to Epiphany, seemed particularly dreary, rainy and frost-bound and so was transformed into a long holiday. Services required of villeins were suspended and manorial servants received their "perquisites", bonuses of food, clothing, drink and firewood, their traditional seasonal due. On Christmas Eve the Yule log, a massive section of tree trunk, was brought in and kept burning for 12 days. If the tenants were invited, they ate food mostly provided by themselves on their own dishes. (Does this explain how Sir Hamon managed to be relatively miserly?) A bean was hidden in a CAKE or loaf and the finder became king of the feast.
  If all this makes our dash to the supermarket seem a little soulless, remember that, in 1251, Matthew Paris complained that Henry III not only economised on Christmas expenses but demanded costly gifts from his subjects, staying in more lowly households which had to honour him with splendid entertainments and gold or silver cups or jewelled necklaces. I think I'll settle for the family crackers and quiz after all.

My personal memory of Christmas past
 After midday dinner all my relatives would arrive by taxi as no-one had cars and we settled down to gambling at unsophisticated card games and a well-worn horse-betting set-up called Backeroo. Tea consisted of cold chicken sandwiches and trifle: even during post-WWII rationing, my mother managed these (although obtaining lard was problematic). What I remember, apart from losing my pennies - this was not a child-centred epoch - is the horrid, sticky nature of the cards which developed little black greasy circles through over-use because of the paper shortage. Even now I marvel that you can buy lovely glossy playing cards so cheaply and actually enjoy handling them. (When she was plucking and dressing the fowl, my mother gave the infant me a claw to play with and I would pull the tendons to make it clench and relax. I have grown up to be quite unsqueamish and averse to gambling.)

You can read about entertainment provided by Roland le Pettour in the household of Henry II or search using the appropriate button on this blog for information on several great houses and castles in Monmouthshire and beyond. 2018 could be the time to follow me on Twitter (New Year resolution?) @BarbaraDaniels6. There is an intimidating list of books I have consulted on the right of each article but here I am especially indebted to Ian Mortimer and Joseph and Frances Gies.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Llewelyn ap Gruffydd Fychan

Llewelyn ap Gruffyth Fychan (easy for you to say!) is not to be confused with anyone called merely Llewelyn ap Gruffydd or the man called Gruffyth ap Llewelyn. If that makes you feel like a cup of tea and slice of CAKE, please go and indulge before reading on but bear in mind that "ap" in Welsh is a patronymic and tells you the name of the father of the person. Over time is has become reduced to a "p" and appears at the beginning of surnames like "Probert", son of Robert, or "Pugh", son of Huw (clearly the speakers were too out of breath climbing mountains to pronounce their h's.)  As you eat your CAKE you will think of others: Powell etc. Yet do not practise the initial "ll" sound simultaneously with your chocolate sponge - save that till later (the CAKE or the practice). Then put the tip of your tongue up against the hard palate behind your two top front teeth and say "ff" and you will make that genuine clicky sound that the Welsh have used for years to terrorise the English. Shakespeare got away with Fluellen and that was probably a wise move to make the leek-wearing warrior a popular, likeable and pronounceable character.

  My regular and devoted readers (love you all) who are endowed with a sharp acumen and instinctive faff filter will, by now, have concluded that I am flannelling (pronounced normally) and they will be right. We do not know much about him. What we do know is derived from our local and under-exposed hero, the chronicler Adam of Usk, Adda o Frynbuga. The other very tricky thing about Welsh is that the consonants change at the beginning of a word according to obscure grammatical rules intended to keep the English good targets for mockery when they attempt to learn the language. Brynbuga is the Welsh for Usk and the "b" has here become "f" - this cunning dodge makes use of a dictionary a teasing challenge for foreigners.

   Llewelyn ap Gruffydd Fychan (Vaughan) of Cayo in Cardigan, lived from 1341 to 9 October 1401 and joined the revolt against Henry IV, led by Owain Glyn Dwr. Adam calls him a "man of gentle birth and bountiful, who yearly used sixteen tuns of wine in his household". Because he was "well disposed" towards the rebel cause, he was executed in Llandovery on the feast of St. Denis, October 9th, "in the presence of the king and his eldest son, and by his command, drawn, hanged, and beheaded, and quartered." It is not crystal clear whether the son was Hal, the future Henry V of Monmouth, or Llewelyn's.  (He probably had 2 sons fighting in the rebel forces.) By the standards of the period, he was quite elderly when tortured in this way. It must be noted that 16 tuns is a remarkable amount of wine and suggests that much generous tippling with guests went on annually on the rich household. Another story tells that Llewelyn deliberately led the English forces the wrong way whilst pretending to take them to Glyn Dwr but Adam merely states that he "willingly preferred death to treachery."

   In 1998 a campaign was started in Llandovery to construct a memorial to this rebel, sometimes called the "Welsh Braveheart". Money was raised locally and from the Arts Council of Wales and, after an exhibition of proposed designs in 2000, a public vote secured the commission for Toby and Gideon Peterson of St. Clears (pronounced "Clares"). I do not know what the others in the competition would have been like but this is the most impressive statue I have ever seen as it stands on the motte of the ruinous castle overlooking the car park. It is 16 ft tall and made of stainless steel which glows in the sun and glowers in cloud: on its base of Cayo stone, it is a figure with empty cloak, helmet and armour representing both the universal nature of Llewelyn's actions and the violence of the mutilation of his body. You will have noted that the drawing of the entrails was the first torture, during which he would have been alive. The artist described it as depicting a "brave nobody."
  Even I, tireless devotee of public transport, would not really suggest a pilgrimage from the east especially but, if you are going to Pembrokeshire on the A40, do stop in Llandovery car park and eat your sarnies gazing at the statue and climb up afterwards to admire it in detail. It is simply stunning.

I have written about Owain Gly Dwr and his rebellion (as has Shakespeare!) and about Adam of Usk who seems little recognised as an important Medieval chronicler, though I am delighted that my blog post has received hundreds of hits. Henry V and Monmouth Castle are the subjects of other articles here. "Llan" at the beginning of Welsh place names means "church" or parish usually of a particular saint (Llandeilo, just down the road and very pretty, means "parish of St. Teilo") but here refers to the meeting of 2 rivers. It is twinned with Pluguffan in Brittany (finish your CAKE before embarking on that one.)