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Describe The Border Wars Between England And Wales In The High Middle Ages. How Did The English Control The Borders And Eventually Conquer The Welsh?

1001 words - 4 pages

Although it was a poor country riddled with petty kingdoms, Wales was the one region in southern Britain that survived the Anglo-Saxon onslaught following William the Conqueror's victory on the island. The main stay of Wales survival came from its mountainous and wooded terrain, and the very fact that the many rivaling kingdoms within its own borders established a ready-made guerrilla warfare that the royalty of England was ill-prepared to subjugate. Because of the lack of communications once the mountain ridge border was crossed, and the difficulty of sustaining logistics during guerilla ambushes, even William I decided on a defensive posture against the Welsh, wherein he established marches along the border that were charged with preventing Welsh encroachment--by royal rights and authority to build castles, and at the same time he permitted free license to the March lords to advance into Wales.The initial English push enjoyed adequate success from 1067 to about 1075, but as English rule spread further into Wales, the Welsh princes put aside their internal conflicts to rally and drive out the English, recovering almost fully the land loss by the English advance by the break of the 1100's. Unfortunately for the Welsh, however, the break in the everyday disunity between Welsh overlords was short-lived, and it was this weakness which the English sought to exploit. Because the Welsh fought a "typically 'dirty' style of war" (Hooper & Bennett 71) the English were already aware that even their heavy cavalry was impotent once they penetrated the guerrilla war-friendly home ground of the Welsh defenders. Gerald of Barry, a royal servant and descendant of a marcher family, recorded his advice on subjugating Wales:Blockade 'free' Wales by land and sea...and prepare castles in the marches and interior. English money should be used to exploit dissension between welsh princes and to recruit expendable mercenaries...[and in] late winter, when the trees were bare...[use] the overwhelming English manpower to wear down the Welsh (72).When war broke out in 1276, it was Edward I that finally followed a course along the advice of Gerald of Barry. It was not a new or great strategy which evolved, but a simple campaign of mobilizing superior forces and supplies against an inferior enemy, and sustaining ground gained through established garrisoned castles. In fact, it was within three cautious campaigns that Edward I conquered the now 'united' Wales under the lordship of Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, 'Prince of Wales.'The first campaign saw a quick advance on Flint, where an established Northern garrison allowed the creation of an in-theater advance base (moved to Rhuddlan in August 1277) from which launch follow-on assaults would cordon off the northern coast line as far west as Anglesey. In mid and southern theater, English soldiers marched from Montgomery and Carmarthen respectively, and helped solidify the encroachment into Welsh territory--effectively reducing the...

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