Llantrisant Castle, Glamorgan
A dark, ivy-covered ruined tower is all that is left of one of the more important 13th-century castles of Glamorgan.
It was built to hold this hill district of Meisgyn which had been wrestled from its Welsh overlords. The castle's strategic and commanding position, guarding the important route from the upland to the lowland zone, is very apparent.
The castle is a small Glamorgan courtyard castle with its commanding panoramic views of the Vale of Glamorgan and the north Devon coastline.
It castle stands on a flat-topped blunt spur on the edge of a steep drop to the south. Ditches separate it from the rest of the ridgetop on the east and west sides. The north side of a circular tower, once called the Raven, is the main upstanding stonework of the castle.
At the height of its power Llantrisant was rated as 'second only to Cardiff in military importance'.
Today the castle is little more than fragments within a public park, surrounded by railings to keep the goats from escaping.
~ History ~
1096 ~ Robert Fitzroy, 1st Earl of Gloucester, Lord of Glamorgan, builds a timber castle protected with dry ditches on the site on an existing Welsh fortification.
1244 ~ De Clare finally defeats Hywel ap Maredudd, the Welsh lord of Meisgyn, and in doing so absorbs the lands into his already extensive estates.
1246 ~ Llantrisant Castle is fortified in stone on the orders of Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Lord of Glamorgan as the administrative centre of the lordships of Meisgyn and Glynrhondda, in the kingdom of Morgannwg.
1252 ~ Margaret, De Clare’s fifth child, is born in the castle.
1262 ~ The small borough of Llantrisant is developing rapidly beside the castle walls although it suffers repeated capture and destruction during the following years of Welsh wars of independance.
1326 ~ King Edward II's queen Isabella flees to France, returning some months later with her lover and ally Roger de Mortimer in an attempt to sweep King Edward from the throne. Her army is small, consisting of barely 1,500 mercenaries, but as she and Mortimer march on London supporters flock to her banner and the King realises that he has to leave the city in order to ensure his own safety. He leaves with the Great Seal of England and £30,000.
He flees westwards, towards Wales where his lover, the despised Despenser holds lands and, more importantly, the powerful fortress of Caerphilly Castle. However, arriving at the inland port of Chepstow, Edward and Despenser decide to take a boat. Unfortunately for them, the wind is against them and they spend five days in the Bristol Channel.
By now Isabella has issued a proclamation saying that she has come to rid the land of the evil of the Despensers. As a result many Despenser properties are looted or burned and the King and his increasingly desperate friend realises that Caerphilly Castle offers their best chance of survival.
News soon reaches them that Bristol Castle, held by the elder Hugh Despenser, has fallen to Isabella's forces and Despenser had been hung. For some strange reason Edward and Despenser now leave the safety of Caerphilly Castle and ride for Neath Abbey. They remain there for two weeks.
From the abbey Edward tries to negotiate peace, sending the abbot and Edward de Boun to his queen to parley and seek a compromise. When the delegates return with a straightforward message rejecting his peace offering, Edward knows he has to return to the security of Caerphilly Castle.
He and his party reach Llantrisant Castle when they are surprised by forces led by Henry, Earl of Lancaster. Edward is detained overnight in Llantrisant Castle, already separated from his beloved Hugh Despenser.
The King is soon moved to Berkeley Castle across the border in England and is still imprisoned there when the announcement of his deposition, quickly and easily passed by parliament, is made.
1327 ~ Edward's son, Edward III, is proclaimed king in his place on 25 January. Once the ceremony is complete, the vengeance of Isabella is swift and decisive. Despenser is quickly condemned. Stripped naked and with messages of hatred scrawled across his body, he is hanged, drawn and quartered. His head is then displayed on London Bridge.
Edward lingers, briefly, in Berkeley Castle. There are two attempts to rescue him by forces loyal to his name and soon afterwards it is announced that he is dead on the order of queen Isabella.
He may have been strangled, possibly suffocated, but popular opinion will always tend to the view that his death came as a result of a red-hot poker inserted into his anus. Some people say that his screams could be heard for five miles around the castle!