May 29, 2017

Domestic Security in Wales a la Edward I

Castles. What images come to your mind when reading this word?  If you’re like me, you may imagine a beautiful structure that feels romantic and rich.  A place where grand parties or celebrations occurred and sumptuous food was enjoyed along with the best wine.

Harlech Castle Wales by Jelle Drok, on Flickr

We travel miles and miles to see what we think of as romantic castles but did you know most castles were actually built as a method of domestic security?  No other place is this more true than in Wales and the castles of Edward I.

Caernarfon Castle Wales by Jelle Drok, on Flickr

For years the Welsh warlords wreaked havoc against the English kings.  So much so that in 1267 Henry III recognized Welsh independence.  But his son, Edward I, had other ideas and spent years fighting to bring the Welsh back under English rule.  After his successful bids, he spent time securing his lands by building a series of strongholds we now adore as castles!

Conwy Castle by Eifion, on Flickr

Conwy Castle by Eifion, on Flickr

It was during this medieval period that Edward commissioned great architects to build or upgrade a series of impenetrable fortresses that would help protect his lands.  This so called “Iron Ring” was a modern attempt to protect the villages of medieval Britain.  By strategically placing the castles near the sea, Edward’s navy was able to send provisions to the people during uprisings thus ensuring his military success.

Beaumaris Castle Wales by Jelle Drok, on Flickr

Beaumaris Castle Wales by Jelle Drok, on Flickr

After the first uprising in 1277, Edward built castles such as Flint, Rhuddlan and Aberystwyth as well as began upgrading other Welsh castles.

It was after the second revolt that Edward extended his fortifications by commissioning the work of a master architect, James of St. George whose work is now recognized by UNESCO.  It was during this time that the castles at Harlech, Caernarfon, Conwy and Beaumaris were built.

Conwy castle Wales Britain

Conwy Castle by Sarah Lionheart

The castles of Harlech, Caernarfon, Conwy and Beaumaris are known as the big Four Castles of Edward I.  They are also the ones that have survived the years mostly intact.

Caernarfon Castle Wales Britain

Caernarfon Castle interior by Petrusbarbygere

Whether you spend time exploring the ruins of these medieval masterpieces or wandering through one of the more intact castles, the Edwardian castles allow us to explore and touch history.

 

Do you tour castles?  What are your favorites?