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The BBC's Wyre Davies
"The fragile document has returned to Wales"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 5 April, 2000, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
Glyndwr letter back in Wales
Pennal Letter
The letter was in the archives of the French Government
An historic letter written by 15th century Welsh hero Owain Glyndwr has returned to Wales after 600 years.

The Pennal Letter called for help from France in Glyndwr's rebellion against England.

Written in Latin in 1406, the letter appealed to the French King for recognition of Wales as a separate state from England.

Glyndwr also set out his aspirations for an independent Welsh church and university system.


Glyndwr's seal
The seal of Owain Glyndwr
The letter was never answered and remained in the archives of the French Government for nearly 600 years despite calls for its return.

But following lengthy negotiations with the French authorities, the letter has been sent to the National Library in Aberystwyth to form the centre-piece of an exhibition of Glyndwr's life.

Last November, Newport MP Paul Flynn tabled a Commons motion calling for the letter to be returned.

Written in Glyndwr's hand

Mr Flynn said at the time that it was of great historical significance and should be reclaimed.

Former Welsh Labour leaders Alun Michael and Ron Davies also backed the campaign.

The letter is one of very few surviving examples of Glyndwr's handwriting and includes a copy of his seal.

He had not always been a rebel. As a lord from the Welsh Marches, he owed allegiance to the English crown and had fought with English army against the Scots in the 1380s.

But the turning point in his career was a land dispute with Earl Grey of Rhuthun in 1400.

Forbidden

His row with the Earl rapidly became a focal point for Welsh grievances experienced under English rule.

Since the death of the Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (the Last) in 1282, the Welsh nobility and peasantry had lived under a number of penal laws.

Welsh people were forbidden from living in borough towns such as Caernarfon and Conwy. Nor did they have the same rights in trade or as churchmen.

Glyndwr was able to unite the Welsh in rebellion and was proclaimed Prince of Wales on 16 September 1400.

Crown

During the revolt, Harlech and Aberystwyth were captured by the rebel army which received widespread support across much of Wales.

It culminated in Glyndwr calling his own parliament at Machynlleth in 1404 from where he sought outside support and legitimacy for his crown.

In 1406 at Pennal near Machynlleth, Glyndwr sent his famous letter to France.

But later in that year, the rebellion began to falter under the sustained pressure of the superior forces of the English crown.

Mystery

Although he was offered a royal pardon, Glyndwr failed to accept it and sporadic uprisings lasted until about 1415.

His final years and death remain a mystery.

Tradition maintains that he hid with his daughter's family in Monnington, Herefordshire, whose descendants kept the secret of his final resting-place.

Work is currently being carried out on a mound identified by members of the family as his grave.

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See also:

06 Apr 99 | The Welsh Assembly
Conquest and union
26 May 99 | UK Politics
Whose Prince?
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