Since Llewellyn’s death in 1282, Edward the first of England, also known as Longshanks, spent a fortune in time and money subduing the Welsh nation. To do so, he awarded lands and titles across Wales to those nobles and warlords who swore fealty to the English crown.
To support the occupation he also embarked on an unprecedented building program erecting huge castles across Wales, the like of which had never been seen before. Each was unassailable in its own right but together they formed his famed ring of steel and presented an impregnable chain of oppression from which his forces could maintain their tyrannical grip upon the troublesome country.
For ten years the castles and those loyal to the King held an entire nation beneath their heel and despite the occasional uprising from those frustrated by their masters’ brutality, the rule of Longshanks was never challenged to any serious affect. However, as the decade ended some of the more nationalistic Welsh lords started to talk once more of liberty and though such conversations had taken place many times before, this time there was a realism to the plans.
Edward dismissed the threat and concentrated on his forthcoming campaign to France but as the castles were stripped of cash and indeed manpower to fuel his campaign, the Welsh Lords saw a window of opportunity. Resistance grew across the country and gradually an air of rebellion evolved into the beginnings of a full scale uprising.
In the south, Cynan ap Maredudd, a war lord from the hills of Mid Wales, gathered an army about him and preyed on the supply lines of the castles throughout the country. Meanwhile in the North, a noble by the name of Madog ap Llewellyn claimed royal lineage from Llewellyn the Last and also set about raising a force with which he could resist the occupation.
The move took the English by surprise and within weeks, not only had Castle du Bere, one of Edward’s favoured fortresses fallen to Cynan but also the unthinkable had happened when Caernarfon, one of the most impressive castles on the north coast, was besieged and captured by Madog.
The message soon got back to Longshanks and though it meant postponing his French campaign, he knew he had to wipe out the Welsh threat once and for all. As the winter of 1294 approached, the Welsh celebrated within the giant walls of Caernarfon and as there was no immediate reaction from the English crown, many thought Longshanks had no stomach for a fight and they planned the downfall of the remaining castles.
So it came to be that while Madog and his men enjoyed their impressive victory, across the border, Edward Longshanks, King of England, slowly but surely, drew up his plans.
Medieval IV - Ring of Steel