In the late summer of 1064 Earl Harold Godwinson brought a gift to King Edward the Confessor; it consisted of the figurehead of the ship of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, king of Gwynedd, who had brought most of Wales under his rule, and the head of Gruffydd himself.1 This macabre offering symbolised the end of a major threat to Harold’s ambition to succeed to the English throne on the death of the childless king. Gruffydd’s alliance with Earl Aelfgar of Mercia had imperilled the precarious balance of power in England and this had necessitated his destruction. On his death Welsh politics reverted to their usual pattern; Gwynedd and Powys passed to his half-brothers Bleddyn and Rhiwallon ap Cynfyn, while Deheubarth and Morgannwg were restored to their own dynasties and this was the situation when the Normans arrived. In 1297 a London goldsmith, Master John Pater Noster, in a petition to the king, referred to himself being in his forge, looking at the head of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, still, after fifteen years, exposed on the Tower of London.2 And on 17 May 1521 Edward Stafford, duke of Buckingham, the last great marcher magnate, met his end at the hands of the headsman.
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A. D. Carr
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