The Last King of Wales & First to be Hanged, Drawn and Quartered

David became the first prominent person in history to have been hanged, drawn and quartered. His sons died in prison and his daughters were sent to convents.

Dafydd ap Gruffydd (or Dafydd ap Gruffudd, angl. David, son of Gruffydd; (11 July (?) 1238 – 3 October 1283) was Prince of Wales from 11 December 1282 until his execution on 3 October 1283 by King Edward I of England. He was the last independent ruler of Wales. He was hanged, drawn and quartered by the same King Edward who had done it to Sir William Wallace. David was approximately 45 years old.

To be hanged, drawn and quartered (less commonly “hung, drawn and quartered”) was from 1351 a penalty in England for men convicted of high treason, although the ritual was first recorded during the reigns of King Henry III (1216–1272) and his successor, Edward I (1272–1307). Convicts were fastened to a hurdle, or wooden panel, and drawn by horse to the place of execution, where they were hanged (almost to the point of death), castrated, disembowelledbeheaded and quartered (chopped into four pieces). Their remains were often displayed in prominent places across the country, such as London Bridge. For reasons of public decency, women convicted of high treason were instead burnt at the stake.

The distribution of Dafydd ap Gruffydd‘s remains was described by Herbert Maxwell:

“the right arm with a ring on the finger in York; the left arm in Bristol; the right leg and hip at Northampton; the left [leg] at Hereford. But the villain’s head was bound with iron, lest it should fall to pieces from putrefaction, and set conspicuously upon a long spear-shaft for the mockery of London.”

No, thank you.

His Demise

At Easter 1282, Dafydd ap Gruffudd attacked Hawarden Castle, thereby starting the final conflict with Plantagenet-ruled England, in the course of which Welsh independence was lost. In December Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales, had been lured into what was probably a trap and killed on 11 December 1282. Dafydd was his brother’s successor and became the last Tywysog of Gwynedd and Prince of Wales. Dafydd was leader of his nation only for a few months after his brother’s death.

By January 1283, Edward I of England had the heartland of independent Wales ringed with a massive army. Dafydd initially operated from Dolwyddelan and was supported by various royal refugees from Powys Fadog and Deheubarth; including Rhys WyndodRhys Ieuanc and the sons of Maredudd ab Owain. With limited resources of manpower and equipment available the passes leading to Dolwyddelan became indefensible and Dafydd moved down to Castell y Bere. In April, Castell y Bere was besieged by over 3,000 men, and the small Welsh garrison, commanded by Cynfrig ap Madog, surrendered on 25 April. Dafydd escaped the siege and moved north to Dolbadarn Castle, a guardpost in the Peris Valley at the foot of Snowdon. In May 1283, he was forced to move again, this time to the mountains above the Welsh royal home in Abergwyngregyn.

Modern view of Bera Mountain in the distance

“Those who survived fled for refuge to the inaccessible rocks of Snowdonia and David with a few followers hid himself for some months at different places and suffered hunger and cold. At last he retreated to a bog (Nanhysglain), near Bera Mountain about four miles above Aber with his wife two sons and seven daughters. His place of retreat was known to Einion Bishop of Bangor and Gronw ab Dafydd, who basely betrayed him.”

On 22 June, Dafydd and his younger son Owain ap Dafydd were captured at Nanhysglain, a secret hiding place in a bog by Bera Mountain to the south of Abergwyngregyn. Dafydd, seriously wounded (graviter vulneratus) in the struggle, was brought to King Edward’s camp at Rhuddlan that same night (Cotton Vesp. B xi, f30). Dafydd was taken from here to Chester and then on to Shrewsbury. Dafydd’s wife Elizabeth de Ferrers, their seven daughters, and their infant niece, Gwenllian ferch Llywelyn, were also taken prisoner at the same time. Whether they were with Dafydd and Owain at Bera is not recorded, but it is likely.

On 28 June, Llywelyn ap Dafydd was captured. Edward triumphantly proclaimed that the last of the “treacherous lineage”, princes of the “turbulent nation”, was now in his grasp, captured by men of his own nation (per homines linguae suae).[2]

Welsh resistance to the invasion temporarily came to an end. On 28 June, Edward issued writs to summon a parliament to meet at Shrewsbury, to discuss Dafydd’s fate.

On 30 September, Dafydd ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales, was condemned to death, the first person known to have been tried and executed for what from that time onwards would be described as high treason against the King. Edward ensured that Dafydd’s death was to be slow and agonising, and also historic; he became the first prominent person in recorded history to have been hanged, drawn and quartered, preceded by a number of minor knights earlier in the thirteenth century. Dafydd was dragged through the streets of Shrewsbury attached to a horse’s tail then hanged alive, revived, then disembowelled and his entrails burned before him for “his sacrilege in committing his crimes in the week of Christ’s passion”, and then his body cut into four quarters “for plotting the king’s death”. Geoffrey of Shrewsbury was paid 20 shillings for carrying out the gruesome task on 3 October 1283 (though some sources give the date as 2 October).

Dafydd’s daughter Gwladys, like her cousin Gwenllian ferch Llywelyn, was sent to a convent in Lincolnshire – Gwenllian to Sempringham and Gwladys toSixhills, where she died in 1336. Their sons were both imprisoned at Bristol CastleLlywelyn ap Dafydd died at Bristol Castle in mysterious circumstances in 1287 or 1288, while Owain ap Dafydd is last found living in August 1325. Dafydd may have had another (illegitimate) son, Dafydd Goch, who survived.



Mainly Mountains.