The Tudor Society

12 October – A revenge assassination by bandits in Wales

On this day in Tudor history, 12th October 1555, Lewis Owen, member of Parliament and administrator in Wales, was assassinated on Dugoed Mawddwy, a mountain pass.

Owen was murdered by a group of bandits as revenge for his campaign against them, which had led to around 80 hangings.

Find out more about Lewis Owen, his life and what happened, in today's talk.

Also on this day in Tudor history, 12th October 1537, the eve of the Feast of St Edward the Confessor, Queen Jane Seymour, third wife of King Henry VIII, gave birth to a baby who would become King Edward VI. Find out more about Edward VI's birth, the subsequent celebrations, and the myth that Edward VI was born by caesarean (c-section), in last year’s video:

Also on this day in history:


On this day in Tudor history, 12th October 1555, Lewis Owen, member of Parliament and administrator in Wales, was assassinated on Dugoed Mawddwy, a mountain pass. He had become unpopular after supporting new legislation in Wales, and his assassination is viewed as revenge for his campaign, with John Wyn ap Meredydd of Gwydir, against outlaws. It had resulted in around eighty hangings.
Let me give you some facts about this Tudor Welshman…

• Lewis Owen, or Lewis ap Owen, was the son of Owen ap Hywel ap Llywelyn of Llwyn, Dolgellau, and his wife Gwenhwyfar. His birthdate is not known, but he was definitely born by 1522.
• Owen’s family were descended from Gwrgan ab Ithel, prince of Powis.
• Nothing is known of Owen’s early life and upbringing, but he served Henry VIII at the end of his reign as deputy chamberlain of North Wales and a baron of the exchequer at Caernarfon, as well as sheriff of Merioneth, a post he held on several occasions, and also as a member of Parliament.
• Owen was married twice, first to Margaret, daughter of John Puleston, Constable of Caernarfon Castle and a burgess, under whom Owen served as sheriff. They had a large family and his biographer Peter Roberts notes that “several of the later gentry families of the county … were to trace their descent from ‘Baron’ Owen and his first wife.”
• He acquired lands, leases, monastic lands and fishing rights in the reign of Edward VI.
• It was while serving as sheriff of Merioneth in Mary I’s reign that Owen came to his sad and violent end. Owen was intent on ridding the area of thieves and outlaws, in particular the Red Bandits of Mawddwy, a band of red-haired robbers and highwaymen. Robert Vaughn, a descendant of Owen, in his 17th century Book of North Wales, recorded that these outlaws “never tired of robbing, burning of houses, and murthering of people, in soe much that being very numerous, they did often drive great droves of cattell somtymes to the number of a hundred or more from one countrey to another at middle day, as in tyme of warre, without feare, shame, pittie, or punishment, to the utter undoing of the poorer sort.” Owen was determined to eradicate them, and in this he was assisted by John Wyn ap Meredydd. The two men managed to executed about 80 of the bandits before the bandits attacked Owen while he was on his way home to Dolgellau from attending the Michaelmas assizes for Montgomeryshire and negotiating a marriage for his son, John. The bandits assassinated Owen at a spot known as “Llidiart-y-barwn”, or The Baron's Gateway. Elegies were composed about his 'tragical death'.

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