My task is to investigate all the evidence and see how much I agree with the interpretation that Edward built Caernarfon castle solely for the purpose of showmanship.
I have collected lots of evidence and sources and have also been on a field trip to the castle itself to collect first hand information and sources of my own. It can be argued that Caernarfon is the most magnificent castle in Wales. It is obvious from simply looking at it that Edward must really wanted to build something special at Caernarfon.
This is shown in the carvings, the possible links to Rome and it’s size. However, it also has some unique defence features, for example, the three way arrow slits that can only be seen in Caernarfon. Edward and Llewelyn were at war at the time that Edward built Caernarfon castle. For a while, there had been a lot of fighting among the Welsh and Gwynedd had been the largest and strongest region of Wales. In 1244, the English King, Henry III saw the ructions in Wales as a chance to invade and take over.
He did this and had a clear victory.He did still realise though that Llewelyn deserved some respect as he was the Prince of Wales, so he gave half of the divided Gwynedd to him, and half to Llewelyn’s brother, Dafydd, on the condition that they continued to pay homage to the English King. When Henry died, his son Edward became King. Things began to become tense, firstly, when Llewelyn refused to attend Edward’s coronation. He gave the excuse that he feared for his life. A year later, King Edward travelled all the way to Chester for a meeting with Llewelyn to give him a chance to pay homage.Again, Llewelyn failed to turn up.
Edward was very angry with this. The final thing that Llewelyn did to enrage Edward was to become engaged to Eleanor, daughter of Simon de Mountfort, the old enemy of the King. This was seen as a great insult to Edward. After this, war broke out.
The decision of the Great council, written in November 1276 was, “It is agreed by the common council of all the aforementioned prelates, barons, and others, that the King shall not hear the aforesaid petition of Llewelyn and shall not admit his excuses…but that he should go against Llewelyn as a rebel and disturber of the peace. ” Edward won the war over Wales (Gwynedd) and Llewelyn was forced to retreat to the mountains. He eventually had to surrender though, and surprisingly, the English still allowed him and his brother to control small parts of Gwynedd. In 1282 though, a second war of independence started.
Dafydd started this one and his brother was forced to join him. Edward was well prepared though and he sent in three armies. All were well-trained and included knights, foot soldiers, archers, artillery, engineers and camp followers.The Welsh were no match for all of Edward’s soldiers and Llewelyn was killed in 1282, and Dafydd a year later. Their heads were hung on the tower of London, and to make his victory clear, Edward began building castles all over Wales.
A picture I have included at the bottom of this page shows a manuscript depiction of Llewelyn’s death. It may show quite a biased attitude on the behalf of the English, as an Englishman would have drawn it. There are a lot of reasons for why Edward may have chosen Caernarfon as the place to build one of his most magnificent castles.