Harlech Castle

(1461–1468)
   By holding out for most of the 1460s, the Lancastrian garrison in the Welsh castle at Harlech prevented the establishment of effective Yorkist government in WALES and encouraged Lancastrian resistance throughout England.
   Harlech Castle was one of the massive fortresses built by Edward I in the late thirteenth century to overawe the newly subdued Welsh. Like Edward’s other Welsh strongholds, Harlech was designed and built to be supplied by sea. After EDWARD IV’s victory at the Battle of TOWTON in March 1461, HENRY VI’s half brother, Jasper TUDOR, earl of Pembroke, placed Lancastrian garrisons in Harlech and various other Welsh fortresses in an effort to hold Wales against the Yorkists. Sir William HERBERT, the leading Yorkist in Wales, defeated Pembroke at the Battle of TWT HILL in October 1461, forcing the earl to flee to IRELAND. By the end of 1462, Herbert had captured all the Lancastrian strongholds in Wales except Harlech Castle, which remained in the hands of a garrison commanded by the Welshman David ap Eynon and including such prominent English Lancastrians as Sir Richard TUNSTALL.
   Far from LONDON on the remote coast of northwest Wales, Harlech remained largely unmolested for seven years. The garrison kept North Wales in disorder for the whole time, periodically sallying forth to seize cattle, wheat, and other supplies and loudly proclaiming their allegiance to Henry VI and the house of LANCASTER. Harlech became a safe point of entry and exit for Lancastrian agents and a link to Ireland and SCOTLAND. The fortress also became a center of Lancastrian intrigue. In early 1462, the garrison helped foment a conspiracy to bring Pembroke back to Wales to coordinate Lancastrian attacks there and in England. The Yorkists discovered the plot and executed two Englishmen implicated in it, John de Vere, earl of Oxford, and his eldest son Aubrey, thereby making John de VERE, the earl’s second son, an implacable foe of the house of YORK (see Oxford Conspiracy). In 1461, Edward IV promised a pardon to the garrison leaders if they surrendered and an ATTAINDER if they did not.The garrison ignored the offer. In 1464, PARLIAMENT called upon the garrison to submit, and Edward issued a proclamation giving the garrison until 1 January 1465 to surrender. Harlech’s defenders again ignored the king. In June 1468, Pembroke returned to Harlech. After attracting large numbers of Welsh Lancastrians to his banner, the earl launched a campaign of destruction across central Wales, eventually seizing and plundering the town of Denbigh. These new disorders convinced Edward IV that Harlech had to be taken, and he issued COMMISSIONS OF ARRAY to Herbert to raise an army in the English border counties. Dividing his force of 9,000 into two parts, Herbert sent his brother, Richard Herbert, to devastate the coast north of the castle while he advanced on Harlech from the south. After the northern force defeated and scattered Pembroke’s men, the two wings of the army reunited and forced the surrender of Harlech on 14 August 1468. Although David ap Eynon was pardoned, Sir Richard Tunstall and the other Englishmen in the garrison were conveyed to the TOWER OF LONDON, where some were eventually executed. The king pardoned the rest of the garrison in December. Pembroke once again escaped Wales, but his earldom was awarded to Herbert in September. With the fall of Harlech, all England and Wales were for the first time under Yorkist control.
   Further Reading: Davies, John, A History of Wales (London: The Penguin Group, 1993); Evans, H.T.,Wales and the Wars of the Roses (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1998); Griffiths, Ralph A.,“Wales and the Marches,” in S. B. Chrimes,C.D. Ross, and Ralph A. Griffiths, eds., Fifteenth-Century England, 1399-1509, 2d ed. (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Alan Sutton, 1995); Williams, Glanmor, Renewal and Reformation: Wales, c. 1415-1642 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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