21. Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (Llywelyn the Last/ Llywelyn Olaf)
Leaders (564 votes)
1230 – 1282
“The Last True Prince of Wales”, who asserted Welsh nationhood before being slain by the English.
For almost twenty years between 1258 and 1277, Wales seemed poised to become a independent nation, unified by laws, customs and language. This was the achievement of Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, the only Welshman ever to be recognised as Prince of Wales by a King of England
That status, awarded by Treaty of Montgomery in 1267, marked the culmination of a remarkable period of expansion during which Llewelyn had extended his power base from the ancient northern kingdom of Gwynedd to cover most of modern Wales.
But while Llewleyn ruled Wales like any medieval monarch, his power had limits. He was obliged to pay homage to Henry III of England under an agreement that had severely reduced the advances made by his grandfather Llywelyn the Great.
While Henry had acquiesced to the resurgence of Welsh nationhood under the younger Llywelyn, his son Edward I was made of sterner stuff. Perhaps unwisely, Llywelyn made a habit of antagonising Edward.
He refused to attend Edward’s coronation, announced plans to marry the daughter of the English rebel Simon de Montfort and started building a large castle on the border in Montgomeryshire.
Edward was not one to take such challenges lying down. In November 1276 he put a price on Llywelyn’s head.
The following year Edward marched across Wales at the head of a huge army
and attempted to starve Llywelyn’s northern heartland into submission. Facing inevitable defeat, Llywelyn capitulated and reluctantly paid homage to Edward.
In 1282 the Welsh rebelled, quickly regaining control of several key strongholds and reaffirming their loyalty to Llywelyn. On the Menai Straits a sensational victory was won over forces loyal to Edward.
Llywelyn led his army into the area surrounding Builth where, on December 11th 1282, he was killed by an ordinary soldier oblivious to the identity of his victim.
So ended Welsh hopes of independent nationhood.