Since 1415 is the date most often taken as the year of Glyndwr`s death, it could be constructive to look at the evidence. One of the major problems in Welsh history is the lack of adequate records, but if we can rarely be certain, careful inspection and comparison of what we do have can still be productive.
1. Contemporary evidence: the chief source here is Adam of Usk:
“After four years in hiding from the king and kingdom, Owain Glyndwr died and was buried by his followers in the darkness of night. His grave was discovered by his enemies, however, so he had to be reburied, though it is impossible to discover where he was laid.”
Adam of Usk was a contemporary chronicler; he was Welsh by birth, but his career as a cleric lay in the English ambit, so he is a somewhat ambiguous character. Although his reference is fairly brief, it is interesting. Firstly, he says that Glyndwr was buried by his followers – ie, he was not alone. The burial was at night, in secret, but the place became known to his enemies. If that was so, then one has to ask why they allowed his body to reburied in a more secure location, rather than taking it away to be hacked about and put on public display.
2. Chronicle of Owain Glyndwr:
“1415 Owain disappeared on the Feast of St. Matthew in harvest time/the autumn. From then on [the place of] his disappearance was not known. A great many say he died; the seers/bards say he did not.”
This text comes from shortly after 1422, though the copy is mid-16th century; a Peniarth MS.
It shows the beginnings of the legend of Glyndwr as the `sleeping hero`.
3. Vita Henrici Quinti:
“This Owain, for fear and despair that he could not obtain the kings pardon, fled away into deserted places without company; where in caves he continued to live, and upon the top of Lawton`s Hope Hill in Herefordshire where, as is observed and affirmed, he finished his miserable life.”
The author of this work was a Venetian who visited England c. 1436. The Middle English version dates from 1513. There are two manuscripts extant. That in the Bodleian merely says “where in caves he continued and finished his miserable life”; the detail about Lawton`s Hope appears in the Harleian MS version; it is not in the original Venetian version. It is the beginning of the picture of Glyndwr as a desperate, starving fugitive, though in fact we know that he was offered a pardon at least twice and refused it. Lawton`s Hope Hill is near Canon Pyon, nearer to Sarnesfield, the Monnington home, than to Croft or Kentchurch. The extra detail about Lawton`s Hope Hill is said to reflect local tradition in Herefordshire.
4. Edward Hall`s Chronicle: Owain Glyndwr “ being dismayed and in manner desperate of all comfort, by reason of the king`s late victory, fled in desert places and solitary caves, where he received a final reward mete and prepared by God`s providence for such a rebel and seditious seducer. For being destitute of all comfort, dreading to show his face to any creature, lacking meat to sustain nature, for pure hunger and lack of food miserably ended his wretched life.”
This was written in the early 1540s, and shows a further elaboration of the picture of Glyndwr`s miserable fate – this time he simply starves to death. William Baldwin then picked this up for his “Mirror for Magistrates.
5. Ellis Gruffudd`s Chronicle, written in c. 1550, ties the event in with the meeting with the abbot of Valle Crucis and suggests that Glyndwr, in response to the abbot`s comment that he had `risen too soon`, ordered his men to take the body of a man who had just died and bury it as Glyndwr himself at Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant. This would be c. 1412. Gruffudd adds that some say Glyndwr vanished because he could not pay his troops; others said that he just died at that point.
This is presumably an attempt to deal with the lack of information about the hero`s death and burial.
There is clearly a strong propaganda element in the later development of the story. Adam of Usk does describe the burial as secret, but he does not suggest that Glyndwr was alone; at least some of his followers were with him and saw to the interment. Presumably they also kept a watch on the site, so that they knew when Glyndwr`s `enemies` discovered the grave and were able to spirit the body away to a more secure location before it could be vandalised.
Frulovisi the Venetian was in the service of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, and `miserable ` in his account might refer to Glyndwr as a rebel – as in a `miserable traitor` - rather than to his living conditions. If so, then later generations picked up on it in the latter sense, even to the point of having Glyndwr starve to death.
In fact, though Glyndwr was still technically an outlaw in 1415, this was to some extent by his own choice. Henry V clearly had a different attitude to that of his father, who had specifically excepted Glyndwr from the general pardon offered to the Welsh leader`s followers; Glyndwr was twice offered a pardon, in 1415 and 1416, though by the latter year, when he was probably dead, the emphasis was on his son Maredudd – who finally accepted in 1421. Perhaps Henry V himself recognised that Glyndwr was more than a simple rebel, or perhaps he had some respect for an old adversary.
It is worth noting here that even authorities like R.R. Davies and Glanmor Williams have a tendency to undervalue Glyndwr, to see him as basically an outlaw – Davies`s comment that once Harlech was captured, Owain could no longer `play at being prince` is an example of this. In fact he clearly had an administration, a Chancellor, clerks and all the paraphernalia that that entailed, on a smaller scale than that at Westminster, naturally, but still valid. Sadly, as was the case with the archives of the princes of Gwynedd, almost nothing is now extant. Only the occasional document, like the Pennal letter, preserved in the French national archive, has survived to give us some idea of the depth and range of Glyndwr`s ambitions. Later Davies comments that `In  Owain Glyn Dwr finally disappears from the records, probably because he had quietly sidled out of life.` `Sidled` is hardly the appropriate term for the ending of someone who even today, six hundred years later, is too political to be recognised in or near the Senedd.
It has occasionally been commented with some surprise that most of the supposed burial sites are in `England`. However the Marches in the Middle Ages were in many ways neither English nor Welsh; the Marcher lords had family affiliations to both countries, as did Glyndwr himself, and one still has to account for the fact that the Welsh leader married three of his daughters to Herefordshire gentry, and the fourth to a Mortimer, chief of all the Marcher clans.
POSSIBLE BURIAL SITES
1. Sycharth: it has been suggested that he was taken back to his old home for burial, but Sycharth had been destroyed very early on in the rising, and the estate itself had been given to John Beaufort, Henry IV`s half-brother. It would hardly have been a safe location.
2. Corwen Church: this is an example of the way in which names and stories of fabled heroes can be attached to objects that almost certainly have no connection with them. A cross carved on a coffin-shaped stone which has been said to be 11th century in origin, has been christened `Owen Glendower`s dagger`. The hero was said to have thrown his dagger `from the heights above` in a fit of anger, and it has sometimes been suggested that his remains might lie under the stone.
3. Monnington: there are two Monningtons, Monnington-on-Wye and Monnington Straddell, and the story at Monnington on Wye refers to c.1680, but was recorded in 1822 in Thomas Thomas`s Memoirs of Owen Glendower.
“About 1680, the church was rebuilt. In the churchyard stood the trunk of a sycamore, in height about nine foot, diameter two foot and a half; which being in the workmen`s way was cut down. Directly under it, about a foot below the surface of the ground was laid a large grave-stone without any inscription; and that being removed, there was discovered at the bottom of a well-stoned grave the body (as `tis supposed) of Owen Glyndwr; which was whole and entire, and of goodly stature. But there were no tokens or remains of any coffin. Where any part of it was touched, it fell to ashes. After it had been exposed two days, Mr. Tomkins ordered the stone to be placed over it again, and the earth to be cast upon it.”
This is reminiscent of the story of the discovery of the body of King Arthur at Glastonbury.
There is no suggestion as to why they believed it was Glyndwr – was there a local story about this ?
Although one of Glyndwr`s daughters married a Monnington, he was from Sarnesfield; his ancestors may possibly have come from Monnington Court at Monnington on Wye, which dates back in part to the 14th century, but he did not.
4. Treffgarne in Pembrokeshire: Glyndwr owned lands there, and it has occasionally been suggested that he was born there. However, it seems likely to be wishful thinking, though it is interesting in that it demonstrates the “all Wales” nature of Glyndwr`s appeal and reign.
5. St. Cwrdaf`s Church, Llanwrda: this is Alex Gibbon`s suggestion in his book on Glyndwr, but he has no solid evidence, only folklore. To some extent his book on Glyndwr and Jack of Kent belongs to the genre created by The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail`, what might be called the `Quest` genre, and Gibbon`s suggestion has led a group of dowsers to look for suitable `vibrations` there.
6. Monnington Straddell/Straddle: This has supposedly been identified by John Scudamore, a descendant of Glyndwr, as the burial site (whether burial 1 or 2 does not seem to have been raised).
The site explored there is a mound near Monnington Court, which is often incorrectly described as the home of Alys Glyndwr and John Scudamore, her husband. However this Monnington Court is a much later building – mostly 19th century. The mound is seemingly the remains of a motte and bailey castle, and surveys have found traces of `a large rectangular stone foundation`, perhaps that of a tower on the motte. The representative of the Terradat survey of 2000 suggested that the N/S alignment could mean that it was a religious building, but this, if it ever existed, should have had an E/W alignment.
In fact Monnington Straddell did not belong to the Scudamores, who might indeed have buried their relative there if it had belonged to them. It was the property of Dore Abbey, and it is likely that Chapel House, itself dated probably to the 16th century, was originally a grange (farm) of the abbey, hence its name (like Eglwys Nunydd in Margam, `the church of St, Non` - it too was a grange, but would have had a place where the lay brothers who were the farmers could pray and receive the sacrament from one of the priests from the abbey).
When Chris Barber visited the place for his book `In Search of Glyndwr`, he met people from Chapel House and heard stories about dowsers picking up vibrations. One had apparently said that somebody royal was buried in the mound – this person had his sword and shield with him, and `only royalty used to be buried in that manner,` but this is just fantasy.
There appears to be no evidence as to when Monnington Straddell, now perhaps the favourite location for the grave, first began to be suggested. John Scudamore`s identification of it is comparatively recent, but since the current generation`s attitude to the whole story is evidently fairly dismissive, this is unhelpful.
7. Abbey Cwm Hir: John G. Hughes, author of a recent novel about Glyndwr, has suggested that Glyndwr`s daughter Gwenllian might have been involved in the burial, and that Abbey Cwm Hir would be a suitable site – it is where the body of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, last of the Princes of Gwynedd and the only other man to have been officially recognised as Prince of Wales, was buried.
Certainly it was said that Glyndwr spent his last years with one of his daughters, though this is usually said to have been Alys, John Scudamore`s wife.
One thing is certain – wherever Glyndwr was buried, it was in consecrated ground. It also seems unlikely that his body was carried around Wales – Henry V may have offered a pardon, but he was not Glyndwr`s only enemy. There is a possibility that might account for the connection between the Scudamores and the burial site, and that is Abbey Dore. The abbey was Cistercian, an order well known for its Glyndwr sympathies, and somewhere which could have represented a very suitable and safe resting place. After the Dissolution it became Scudamore property. Later, in the 17th century, the Lord Scudamore of the day rescued what was by then the ruined building and spent considerable time and money in restoring and preserving what remained of the abbey. The story locally goes that he was advised to do this by Archbishop Laud, in the hope that God would then give him an heir, which may be true, (and he did apparently in due course have an heir) but as restorations go, this was something special.
In the end, though, probably Owen Rhoscomyl had it right – Glyndwr is not buried, but alive in the hearts of all true Welshmen (and women, obviously). He himself knew the power of myth and legend, and chose to disappear `in the darkness of night`. Perhaps we should respect that.
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Produced by Sally Roberts Jones (for the Owain Glyndwr Society)