John E. Morris, |
The Welsh Wars of Edward I
Braveheart made Edward the Longshanks known around the world. He was one of the most ruthless kings ever to sit on the throne of England. He was vicious, almost careless in the lives he spent in his various wars, but he was also a brilliant legal mind that forged the foundations of the legal system England and the United States have today. Most of all he was determined to do what his grandfather, King John, failed to do: win back all the lands lost to France and all powers lost to the barons when John signed the Magna Carta. As well, he was determined to end the abuses tolerated by his weak father concerning the Marcher Barons of Wales.
Edward fought long wars with the Scotland, his own nobles, Ireland, France and the Welsh. And though I am sure many believe Scotland was his prime focus, it was really secondary to his efforts to control Wales. When Edward came to the throne in 1272, he was a warrior-prince tested, and he carried that into being a warrior-king.
The borders of Wales -- the Marches -- were always a trouble, so Norman barons had been set to garrisoning the region. However, instead of bringing peace to England, they began to challenge the crown's authority, carrying on their private wars and fermenting rebellion to the very authority they were set to protect.
When Edward determined once and for all to break the spine of Wales, he was faced with fighting his own barons as much as the determined Welsh. The great castles that Edward ringed Wales with to strangle it into control still stand today as a reminder of the vast power this king wielded.
John Morris really gives a super work that is detailed, fascinating, a dynamic portrait of England, Scotland and Wales during the 13th century. He draws heavily on medieval documents of the period, a wealth of information on raids, the castles and Edward's "scorched earth" policy. He lists the nobles, social rankings and even the weapons used in war, such as Edward's great siege engines. He compares tactics of Edward struggle to control Wales, but also the impact these events had on Scotland, Ireland and Gascony.
This is a very thorough work, presented in an readable interesting manner. Highly recommended -- especially to writers of the period.