84. Owain Lawgoch (Owain of the Red Hand)
Leaders (62 votes)
1330 – 1378
Princely medieval adventurer who fought for France in the Hundred Years War.
There were two Princes of Wales fighting on opposite sides in mid 14th century France. One, better known to history as the Black Prince, was the official holder of the title. Some would have regarded the other as the true Prince of Wales.
Owain ap Thomas ap Rhodri was the great nephew of Llywelyn II and as such was directly descended from the Royal House of Gwynedd.
Owain was born on his father’s estate in Surrey but, mindful perhaps of his inherited grievances, he went to France for military training and pledged allegiance to the French king . He surfaces in the contemporary writings of Jean Froissart as “Yvain de Galles” –de Galles in French literally meaning “of Wales”.
In the opening decades of the Hundred Years War, the French had done most of the losing. The emergence of Owain as an adept and by all accounts flamboyant commander who had notched up successes in both France and Spain raised the exciting possibility of striking the English in their back yard.
During 1369,having been stripped of his lands in England, Owain declared himself Prince of Gwynedd and assembled a fleet at Harfleur with the intention of sailing for Wales. But the ships were split up in bad weather and the invasion was abandoned.
Having raised 300,000 francs from the French for a second attempt he tried again two years later. Again the weather turned against him and the fleet reached no further than the Channel Islands.
Some historians wonder whether Owain’s invasion threats – which he continued to make over the following years – were merely designed to distract English attention.
In any event he was taken sufficiently seriously for the English to despatch an assassin – a Scot by the name of Jon Lamb. Having infiltrated Owains band of men, Lamb struck during the siege of Mortagne in 1378.
So ended not just the career of this colourful figure but also the entire line of Wales’s most illustrious royal house.