(English: Owain of the Red Hand, French:
Yvain de Galles - Owain of Wales),
full name Owain ap Thomas ap Rhodri (c. 1330 – July 1378), was a
Welsh soldier who served in Spain, France, Alsace, and
Switzerland. He led a Free Company fighting for the French
against the English in the Hundred Years' War.
As the last politically active descendant of
Llywelyn the Great in the male line, he was a claimant to the
title of Prince of Gwynedd and of Wales.
and longbowmen who had fought for Edward I in his campaigns in
North Wales remained armed and sold their services to Norman
kings in their battles in Scotland at Crecy and Poitiers.
Ironically, the Norman attempt to conquer Wales set in train
events which reignited Welsh identity and raised up new Welsh
military leaders such as Owain Lawgoch, claiming descent from
the ancient Princes of Wales.
Owain returned from abroad to claim his patrimony in 1365.
Owain was in
and his lands in Wales and
England were confiscated.
Owain's, Free Company consisted largely of
Welshmen, many of whom remained in French service for many
years. The second in command of this company was Ieuan Wyn,
known to the French as le Poursuivant
d'Amour (pursuer of love).
In May 1372 in Paris, Owain
announced that he intended to claim the throne of Wales. He set
sail from Harfleur with money borrowed from Charles V of France.
Owain first attacked the island
of Guernsey, (where he is still
remembered as Yvon de Galles)
and was still there when a message arrived from Charles ordering
him to abandon the expedition in order to go to Castile to seek
ships to attack La Rochelle. Owain defeated an English and
Gascon force at Soubise later that year, capturing Sir Thomas
Percy and Jean de Grailly, the Captal de Buch.
Another invasion of Wales was
planned in 1373 but had to be abandoned when John of Gaunt
launched an offensive. In 1374 he fought at Mirebau and at
Saintonge. In 1375 Owain was employed by Enguerrand de Coucy to
help win Enguerrand's share of the Habsburg lands due to him as
nephew of the former Duke of Austria.
In 1377 there were reports that
Owain was planning another expedition to claim the throne of
Wales, this time with help from Castile. The alarmed English
government sent a spy, the Scot Jon Lamb, to assassinate Owain,
who had been given the task of besieging Mortagne-sur-Gironde in
Poitou. Lamb gained Owain's confidence and became his
chamberlain which gave him the opportunity to stab Owain to
death in July 1378, something Walker described as 'a sad end to
a flamboyant career'. The Issue Roll of the Exchequer dated 4
December 1378 records "To John Lamb, an esquire from Scotland,
because he lately killed Owynn de Gales, a rebel and enemy of
the King ... £20".
A number of legends grew around
Owain, of which one version from Cardiganshire runs as follows.
Dafydd Meurig of Betws Bledrws was helping to drive cattle from
Cardiganshire to London. On the way he cut himself a hazel
stick, and was still carrying it when he encountered a stranger
on London Bridge. The stranger asked Dafydd where he had cut the
stick, and ended up accompanying him back to Wales to the place
where the stick had been cut. The stranger told Dafydd to dig
under the bush, and this revealed steps leading down to a large
cave illuminated by lamps, where a man seven feet tall with a
red right hand was sleeping. The stranger told Dafydd that this
was Owain Lawgoch "who sleeps until the appointed time; when he
wakes he will be king of the Britons".
assassination of Owain Lawgoch the direct line of the House of
Cunedda / Gwynedd became extinct.
2003, the assassination of Owain Lawgoch was commemorated by the
unveiling of a memorial in Mortagne sur Gironde, 40 miles north
Yvain de Galles (Owain of Wales)
is still regarded as a military hero in France, for his role in
challenging English control of Normandy and Aquitaine during the
100 Years War.