to the Penal Laws 1401 - 1414
From the English Parliament Rolls: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/parliament-rolls-medieval/
A number of harsh laws were imposed
on the people of Wales by the Westminster Parliaments of Henry IV and Henry V.
Henry IV was crowned king of England shortly after usurping
the throne of Richard II, and during his first parliament in October 1399. This
parliament set out to reverse many of the ‘injustices’ of the final years of
Richard’s reign, and to invest Henry’s eldest son as ‘prince of Wales’.
Henry’s situation had worsened considerably by the time of his
second parliament in January 1401, however: a group of conspirators had taken
part in the ‘Epiphany Rising’ against him in January 1400; in August he had led
an unsuccessful expedition into Scotland; and in September, Glyndŵr began his Uprising in North-East Wales.
John Trevor (Ieuan Trefor), the bishop of St Asaph, warned the 1401 parliament
about Glyndŵr’s popularity with his fellow countrymen, but the response
was that it ‘cared naught for bare-footed buffoons’. Trevor knew that there was
a growing unease amongst the Welsh, and that scholars from the universities of Oxford
and Cambridge had already returned to Wales to join Glyndŵr’s cause, along
with labourers who had left their jobs in England.
In response to this, the first set of penal laws against the
Welsh were issued:
* Marcher lords
to accomplish the total destruction of all the Welsh
instigators, plotters, contrivers and principal agents of the high treasons and
* No other Welsh
rebels to be granted a pardon, fine, or redemption for their treasons and
rebellions until they had made amends for their arson and robbery.
* Any Welshman
that enters English counties and burns, kills, rapes
or commits any other felony or trespass in the same, and then returns to hide
in Wales, shall face execution of the sentence by the lords and ministers in
that part of Wales.
* Marcher lords
to protect their Welsh castles and lordships so that no loss, riot, nor harm
will come to the king and his realm, nor to any of his lieges, through the actions
of their tenants, residents or any other Welshman.
* Anyone who
accepts any Welshman as a tenant in England should take a pledge that he, and
all those whom he will receive from the nation of Wales, will be loyal lieges
to our lord the king.
full-blooded Englishman shall be convicted by any Welshman within Wales, except
by judgment of English justices, English burgesses, or Englishmen of the lordships
in which they were arrested.
* No Welshman is allowed to purchase lands or tenements within England,
nor within the English borough towns of Wales.
* No Welshman should
be accepted as a burgess, nor to any other liberty within the kingdom, nor
within the aforesaid towns.
The early years of Henry IV’s reign were dogged by financial
troubles, and he called his next parliament in September 1402 primarily to
raise tax revenue. Glyndŵr continued to enjoy
success in his campaign, however, and he had managed to capture two English
noblemen: Reginald de Grey in Ruthin in April; and Edmund Mortimer at the
battle of Bryn Glas in June.
More statutes were petitioned against the Welsh during this
parliament which extended and enlarged upon those of 1401, although they also failed
to curb Glyndŵr’s activities:
* No lords or
others who have lands and possessions in Wales, or in the march of Wales,
should be excused in any way from their services and duties due from their said
lands and possessions.
* No English
liege of our lord the king should be convicted by any Welshman within the land
of Wales except by Englishmen.
* No lord of
Wales should receive felons or malefactors from another lordship; they should
be immediately arrested and sent back to the lordship where they committed the
felony or trespass.
* No Welshman
should receive any malefactor or foreigner for more than one night if he does
not wish to answer for him and his deeds.
* No wasters,
rhymers, minstrels or vagabonds should be tolerated in
Wales for, by their divinations, lies and incitements, they are a cause of the
present insurrection and rebellion in Wales.
* No Welshman
should reside in any walled town, nor purchase lands, burgages or tenements in
them, nor their heirs inherit lands within such English towns.
* No English
burgesses who have married Welshwomen should hold any franchises with English
* No assemblies
or gatherings should be made or allowed to be made by the Welsh in order to take counsel or make proposals, unless they are
held for an obvious reason.
* No Welshman
henceforth should be armed, nor wear defensive armour in towns, markets, churches or gatherings, or on the highways.
* No English or
Welsh man should send victuals or arms to any parts of Wales, unless it is to
provision or stock English castles and towns.
* In every part
of the Welsh march, and in market towns, there should be constables chosen to
inquire and seize all such victuals and arms.
* The most important
and sufficient Welsh persons from every lordship in Wales should be appointed
and chosen to keep the peace within that lordship against robbers, thieves and
malefactors, so that if any felony or robbery is committed within the boundaries of the said lordship they should be answerable for it.
* If any
malefactor from Wales flees because of some misdeed and does not propose to
keep the peace and law, but simply to remain in the mountains and the byways in
order to commit robberies and other crimes in the country; let those who are the most sufficient and closest in kinship
of his kin-group be taken, arrested, and detained in a strong prison, until
they have taken or arrested the aforesaid malefactors, as was accustomed to be
done in ancient times in Wales etc. when the Welsh began to rebel and to
disobey the law etc. as they are doing at present.
* No Welshman
should hold any castle, fortress, or fortified house, either of his own or that
of another, in his custody.
* No merchandise
should be bought, sold, or exchanged for victuals or other goods by the Welsh
in the country, but only in market towns.
* No Welshman,
whether he is a bishop or not, should be a justice, chamberlain, chancellor,
treasurer, sheriff, steward, constable of a castle, receiver, escheator, coroner,
nor chief forester, nor any other officer, nor keeper of records, nor lieutenant
in the said offices, in any part of Wales, nor of the council of any English
* In crown cases
in every lordship throughout Wales, the laws of England should be used
everywhere, and not any custom that is contrary to the common law of England,
as was ordained at the conquest of Wales by King Edward.
* The garrisons
of the castles and walled towns in Wales should be adequately provided and
filled with brave English persons, and not with any men of mixed blood from the
said parts and lordships in Wales, or from the march.
Henry IV called another parliament in January 1404, with its
main purpose again being to raise taxes. Many debts needed to be paid: the
garrison at Calais was owed over £11000 in wages; his own household had debts in excess of £6000; and money was still needed to pay for
his costly campaigns into Wales.
There had been French attacks on the south coast of England,
and opposition from the Percy family had resulted in the battle of Shrewsbury
in July 1403. Also, support for Glyndŵr had continued
to increase, which led to a change in tack from Henry, with Welsh people being
offered pardons to change their allegiance.
* No Welshman
should remain around the person of the king.
* A pardon for
all lieges of the realm of England, and of the country of Wales, and of the
marches of Scotland, for treasons, insurrections, felonies
and trespasses of all kinds committed or perpetrated by them.
Unfortunately for Henry IV, the revenue raised from taxes from
this parliament only reached about a quarter of that expected; very little was received from Wales for a number of years,
and only then from the Englishries in the country.
In October 1404 this led Henry to call another parliament in order to remedy the situation. His son, the future Henry
V, had recently taken responsibility for campaigns in Wales, following the loss
of Harlech and Aberystwyth castles to Glyndŵr and the signing of a treaty
between the Welsh and the French. Representatives from France, Scotland and
Castile had also travelled to Machynlleth to attend Glyndŵr’s first
parliament, and this was all taking place during the ‘Great Schism’ in the
* No Welshman
should have licence to travel to the court of Rome during this time of rebellion.
By the time Henry IV called his ‘Long’ parliament in March
1406, the situation in Wales had not significantly improved for him, and the
commons were unhappy that large parts of the country were still closed to the
English. The parliament probably sat for around 120 days between March and
December, but John Trevor (Ieuan Trefor)
and Lewis Byford (Lewis ab Ieuan), the bishops of St Asaph and Bangor, were not
present as they had both declared for Glyndŵr by
The parliament of October 1407 was held in Gloucester so that Prince
Henry could be better supported in his siege of Aberystwyth Castle. He had
originally agreed its surrender with the castle’s keeper, Rhys Ddu, but Glyndŵr
intervened and the siege continued whilst this
parliament was in session. This served as a reminder to them that Glyndŵr had
not been defeated, and more laws were enacted against the Welsh:
* With regard to felonies and robberies committed in South
Wales, the people of the area should take the said felons and conduct them to
the gaol of that area, in which they will be held.
* If any felony
is committed within any royal lordship in Wales by any felon who then flees to
another royal lordship, he should be seized there and conducted thence to the
lordship where the felony was committed, and there brought to justice.
* No thief or
felon in Wales who is openly known should be allowed by disclaimer to leave the
lordship where the felony was committed.
* The officers
and ministers of Ewyasland shall not seize any beast,
or any other chattel which is found pasturing, straying, or in any other way
wandering or roaming in the marchlands beyond the boundaries of the county of
Hereford, or on the land which has been appropriated by them from the said
county, or the land which in ancient
times was Welsh land.
* Marcher lords
shall compel and force their officers to assist the lieges residing in the county
of Hereford that have been seized and removed to various parts of Wales, by
rebels and other thieves who had come into the aforesaid county.
* Thieves in
Wales cannot disclaim tenancy of the lordship in which they have been arraigned, and should be made to answer in the same manner
as native people in the same lordships in which they are taken.
* Any Welsh
rebel who was seised of lands and tenements in fee
held not directly from the king but rather from others, and
is convicted or attainted of rebellion or of any other treason, and as a result
of that conviction his lands and tenements are taken into the king's hands and
given by patent to someone else by our said lord the king, then the services
which were due before that conviction should be payable to the chief lords of
By the time he called the parliament of January 1410, the
situation in Wales had improved greatly for Henry IV: the castles of
Aberystwyth and Harlech had both been recaptured; and the deaths of Louis, duke
of Orleans, and the Earl of Northumberland meant that most of Glyndŵr’s
foreign alliances had been broken. His forces were still posing a threat in the
* All the
marcher lords, and others who have castles or towns in Wales or in the Welsh marches,
are publicly charged and commanded to occupy and dwell in the said castles, lordships and towns, and to remain there in their own
persons, at their own risk, and to
defend and preserve them.
Due to his father’s ill health, Prince Henry had effectively
ruled England for most of 1410 and 1411. By November 1411, however, Henry IV
felt suitably recovered to call a parliament in order to
reassert his authority. This was his last parliament as he died in March 1413 and
was succeeded by his son.
Henry V called his first two parliaments in May 1413 and April
1414, respectively. When he called his third in November 1414, however, the
Welsh Uprising was still causing him problems, especially through the abduction
of English people in the border counties for ransom:
* Officers of
the lordships where Welsh rebels have fled, after treacherously and feloniously
taking many of the king’s faithful lieges from the counties of Shropshire,
Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and others adjacent to
the same land, have power to seize the same outlawed people bodily as the law demands.
The defining moment of Henry V’s reign was his victory in the
battle of Agincourt in October 1415, and a parliament was called in his absence
a few weeks later in November 1415. The people of Shropshire had continued to
be raided from over the border, and so another piece of legislation was enacted:
* The sheriffs,
mayors, bailiffs or stewards of the counties which adjoin the march of Wales
should issue letters, under their seals to the lords or their officials who have
administration of the lordships in which the malefactors are living, testifying
to the grievances of people through any distraint made on oxen, mares, horses,
cows, sheep, or any other goods by the people of Wales; or if any arrest is
made by the said people of Wales of people of the said counties who come with
their merchandise or other goods, or make plaints against them of debt,
covenant, trespass or other actions in which they are not parties or pledges.
Owain had most probably died by this time, although his son, Maredudd, had led the Uprising since 1412. It was Maredudd that finally accepted a pardon from Henry V in May
At the start of the Uprising, Glyndŵr’s
lands had been confiscated by Henry IV and given to Henry’s half-brother, John
Beaufort, earl of Somerset. John’s second son (also John) became earl of
Somerset in 1418, but was captured in France in 1421
and imprisoned there until his ransom was eventually paid in 1438.
In 1433, Owain’s daughter, Alys, and
her husband, John Skydmore, laid claim to these lands.
This resulted in a petition to the parliament of July 1433 on behalf of John
Beaufort, in his absence. The claim related to:
* The manor and
lordship of Glendower (Glyndyfrdwy) with their appurtenances in Edernyon (Edeirnion), the manor
and lordship of Sawarth (Sycharth) with their appurtenances
in Kentlith (Cynllaith) in
north Wales, the manors and lordships of Hiscote (Iscoed) and Gwinioneth (Gwynionydd) with
their appurtenances in south Wales, among other lordships and manors, by the
name of all the manors, lands and tenements which were Owen Glendower's (Owain
Glyndŵr’s), both in south Wales and in north Wales.
Not only was Beaufort’s claim upheld by the then king, Henry
VI, but in the very next petition it was reaffirmed that:
* No Englishman
married to any Welsh woman of the friendship or alliance of Owen Glendower
(Owain Glyndŵr), should hold office in Wales, nor in the marches. [From
the Penal Laws of 1402]