The Brothers of Gwynedd

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-05-01
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
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Set in 13th Century Wales at the time of the Plantagenets, The Brothers of Gwynedd is an ambitious and absorbing saga about Llewelyn, the grandson of Llewelyn the Great, enveloping readers in the guts and glory of medieval Wales. Llewelyn dreams of one Wales, united against the threat of the English. But first he must tackle enemies nearer home. His brothers vie with him for power among themselves and with the English king, Henry III, and their willful infighting threatens the very soil of their fathers. Despite the support of his beloved wife, Eleanor, Llewelyn finds himself starting down his own downfall, a tragic death he might not be able to prevent, and a country slipping out of his grasp. Originally published as four volumes, this quartet includes Sunrise in the West, The Dragon at Noonday, The Hounds of Sunset, and Afterglow and Nightfall.


<p>My name is Samson. I tell what I know, what I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears. And if it should come to pass that I must tell also what I have not seen, that, too, shall be made plain, and how I came to know it so certainly that I tell it as though I had been present. And I say now that there is no man living has a better right to be my lord's chronicler, for there is none ever knew him better than I, and God He knows there is none, man or woman, ever loved him better.</p><p>Now the manner of my begetting was this:</p><p>My mother was a waiting-woman in the service of the Lady Senena, wife of the Lord Griffith, who was elder son to Llewelyn the Great, prince of Aberffraw and lord of Snowdon, the supreme chieftain of North Wales, and for all he never took the name, master of all Wales while he lived, and grandsire and namesake to my own lord, whose story I tell. The Lord Griffith was elder son, but with this disability, that he was born out of marriage. His mother was Welsh and noble, but she was not a wife, and this was the issue that cost Wales dear after his father's death. For in Wales a son is a son, to acknowledge him is to endow him with every right of establishment and inheritance, no less than among his brothers born in wedlock, but the English and the Normans think in another fashion, and have this word "bastard" which we do not know, as though it were shame to a child that he did not call a priest to attend those who engendered him before he saw the light. Howbeit, the great prince, Llewelyn, Welsh though he was and felt to the marrow of his bones, had England to contend with, and so did contend to good purpose all his life long, and knew that only by setting up a claim of absolute legitimacy, by whatever standard, could he hope to ensure his heir a quiet passage into possession of his right, and Wales a self-life secure from the enmity of England. Moreover, he loved his wife, who was King John's daughter, passing well, and her son, who was named David, clung most dearly of all things living about his father's heart, next only after his mother. Yet it cannot be said that the great prince ever rejected or deprived his elder son, for he set him up in lands rich and broad enough, and made use of his talents both in war and diplomacy. Only he was absolute in reserving to a single heir the principality of Gwynedd, and that heir was the son acceptable and kin to the English king.</p><p>But the Lord Griffith being of a haughty and ungovernable spirit, for spite at being denied what he held to be his full right under Welsh law, plundered and abused even what he had, and twice the prince was moved by complaints of mismanagement and injustice to take from him what had been bestowed, and even to make the offender prisoner until he should give pledges of better usage. This did but embitter still further the great bitterness he felt rather towards his brother than his father, and the rivalry between those two was a burden and a threat to Gwynedd continually.</p><p>At the time of which I tell, which was Easter of the year of Our Lord twelve hundred and twenty-eight, the Lord Griffith was at liberty and in good favour, and spent the feast on his lands in Lleyn, at Nevin where his court then was. And there came as guests at this festival certain chiefs and lesser princes from other regions of Wales, Rhys Mechyll of Dynevor, and Cynan ap Hywel of Cardigan, and some others whose attachment to the prince and his authority was but slack and not far to be trusted. Moreover, they came in some strength, each with a company of officers and men-at-arms of his bodyguard, though whether in preparation for some planned and concerted action against the good order of Gywnedd, as was afterwards believed, or because they had no great trust in one another, will never be truly known. Thus they spent the Eastertide at Nevin, with much men's talk among the chiefs, in which the Lord Griffith took the lead.</p><p>At this time the Lord David had been acknowledged as sole heir to his father's princedom by King Henry of England, his uncle, and also by an assembly of the magnates of Wales; but some, though they raised no voice against, made murmur in private still that this was against the old practice and law of Wales, and spoke for Griffith's right. Therefore it was small wonder that Prince Llewelyn, whose eyes and ears were everywhere, took note of this assembly at Nevin, and at the right moment sent his high steward and his private guard to occupy the court and examine the acts and motives of all those there gathered. David he did not send, for he would have him held clean of whatever measure need be taken against his brother. There was bitterness enough already.</p><p>They came, and they took possession. Those chiefs were held to account, questioned closely, made to give hostages every one for his future loyalty, and so dispersed with their followings to their own lands. And until their departures, all their knights and men-at-arms were held close prisoner under lock and key, and the household saw no more of them. As for the Lord Griffith, he was summoned to his father at Aber, to answer for what seemed a dangerous conspiracy, and not being able to satisfy the prince's council, he was again committed to imprisonment in the Castle of Degannwy, where he remained fully six years.</p>

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