Red Hand Owain 

Owain ap Thomas

Owain Lawgoch




Monument in France to Owain Lawgoch.


Owain Lawgoch (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.

Welsh soldiery 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.

By 1369 Owain was in French service 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".

With the assassination of Owain Lawgoch the direct line of the House of Cunedda / Gwynedd became extinct.

In August 2003, the assassination of Owain Lawgoch was commemorated by the unveiling of a memorial in Mortagne sur Gironde, 40 miles north of Bordeaux. 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.

Source: Wikipedia

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