Welsh service among English armies, particularly in the second half of the fourteenth century is a question complicated by context. The conquest of Wales in the late thirteenth century brought with it something novel: peace. What this meant for Wales and the Welsh has been the dominant theme in the recent historiography of later medieval Wales, the works of historians such as R. R. Davies, R. A. Griffiths and A. D. Carr have explored these themes in some detail and their work forms part of what can be called a ‘British’ approach to the questions surrounding the development of the English realm. The military context of the march of Wales however has not been as fully explored however. Davies and Griffiths, in different ways, related the governance of the March of Wales and the royal lands, generally called the principality through the holders of offices and the management of estates. [1] Their military contribution to the status of their lords has often been overlooked, both by Welsh historians and by military historians. It is apparent that in the last thirty years of the fourteenth century, Welshmen were dependent upon their lords for military careers. The change in the character of the Welsh March is evident in that relatively few of its lords had anything more than brief military careers. Still fewer of these are thoroughly documented; notably the Irish campaigns of the earl of March (though there is some evidence from the 1370s with the participation of the Charlton lords of Powys and the Despencer lords of Glamorgan), in general service by the marcher lords of Wales with their own retinues was relatively rare. [2]


Where it has come to light is in the early military career of Owain Glyn Dŵr, though this, as everyone knows, is a consequence of his later achievements. [3] Dr Bell addresses something of this in his book which reflects upon the influence of Richard, earl of Arundel. [4] The careers of Sir Gregory (frequently noted as Degory) Sais and a man associated with him, David de Hope esquire have been outlined before by A. D. Carr, but this brief re-examination is intended  to place them in a regional context. [5] Sir Gregory Sais was almost certainly the son of Cynwrig Sais ap Ithel Fychan. Sais (lit. English) when used as an element within a name implies a Welshman who had adopted English habits and profited by them. [6] He was from the county of Flintshire on the north east boundaries of Wales, which was governed as part of the English earldom of Chester. In common with much of the elite of north Wales, Gregory was among the descendants of Ednyfed Fychan (d. 1246). In many ways, these descendants, though not of royal blood themselves, claimed the place of the princes of Gwynedd in the century following the conquest, and though their ubiquity was devastated by their adherence to Glyn Dŵr, Henry Tudor was eventually to spring from the same roots.


Sir Gregory was easily the most prominent Welsh soldier in English service, gracing the pages of Froissart and even Arthur Conan Doyle’s The White Company, though he was also known as Desgarry Seys, Adam Chel dAgorisses and Adegorissor. The French, even more than the English clearly found Welsh names more than a challenge. [7] His status in his own community was equally striking; around 1385, the poet Gruffudd Llwyd in a Cywyddau to Owain Glyn Dwr bewailed the fact that only three Welshmen had been knighted in recent years; Sir Hywel Y Fwyall (Sir Hywel of the Axe), Glyn Dwr’s own father-in-law, Sir David Hanmer and ‘Grigor ail Sain Siôr Sais’: Sir Gregory Sais. [8]


His career was a long one and though he is first identified in arms  as captain of Beaumont-le-Vicomte in Maine in 1360, it appears he spent much of that decade as  captain of a free-company. Carr remarks upon a request for papal licence to visit the holy sepulchre with a company of fifty persons in 1361. This is a suspiciously large number; 60 years later, John Clederowe, bishop of Bangor made a similar pilgrimage with a retinue of only seven. Carr was probably correct to note that the cover of pilgrimage would be very useful for the business of such a company and there is some circumstantial evidence that Sir Gregory’s company consisted of men drawn from his own locality. [9] Subsequently, his career took him all over France, to Calais in 1386, to Pembroke in 1377 and notably to Berwick in 1384. [10] His final military command was at Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, though there must be some doubt that Sir Gregory, by then an old man with but two years to live ever actually went there.[11]


Even a brief examination of those who served with Gregory Sais [12] reveals significant continuity of service and strong associations with north east Wales and Cheshire, something that was only to be expected given his origins, but for many of these, particularly those who served at Berwick 1384, the military association was shared with the other notable soldier of the region, Richard, earl of Arundel. True, the most significant of these men was Owain Glyn Dwr, but he was not alone, the region of Cheshire and the north eastern marches of Wales were a fertile recruiting ground, particularly in this period. [13]


Carr reconstructs the court proceedings surrounding the return to Wales of one such man; David, son of Roger the Cooper of Hope. [14] On 22 February 1378 an inquisition presented David as an adherent of Owain Lawgogh who was making war on the King in his company. Owain Lawgogh (red-hand), otherwise, Owain of Wales, Yvain de Galles or Owain ap Thomas ap Rhodri was the last descendent of the royal line of Gwynedd and self-proclaimed prince of Wales.  He was not only a thorn in the side of English military efforts in France but a major fear of the English administrations in Wales. That many among the Welsh community clearly supported him, and indeed fought with him in the French cause can have done little to calm these fears. [15] Where documentary evidence does exist on the French side, it shows a number of the Welsh troops who had originally appeared under Owain Lawgogh had long careers stretching into terms of decades. In these instances of course there is an element of inevitability: it would have been difficult at best and in most instances impossible to effect a return to their native land. In a land where they were clearly foreign, with little fortune or prospect of support from home, many will have had little option but to continue in the path they had by then established. Whether this makes their service comparable with that of their compatriots is a subject that has not been explored. [16] The degree of uncertainty and doubt a military career could occasion is shown in a few isolated incidents from Welsh records. Occasionally these examples can offer insights into the service of Welshmen who remained loyal to the English crown. The case of David de Hope is simply one such example.


As a result of this court action, a burgage in Hope of the by now outlawed David son of Roger Cooper were granted to one Roger le Clerk of Hope on 25 September 1379. When David was finally presented before the court, twelve years later, he announced that the King had pardoned him. The pardon dated 30 July 1389 was produced in court, though most of David’s lands had long been confiscated and redistributed. In consequence, however, those of his lands still in royal hands were restored to him. It is what this pardon described that provides its interest here; it transpired that David had given twenty-eight years of good and loyal service in English armies in Aquitaine, though in its original form, the unfortunate David was rendered as David Hope. It was reissued 11 May 1390, and it included testimonials from John Harpenden, lately captain of Aquitaine, Archambaud de Grailly (by then Captal de Buch), Gailard de Durffert (Lord of Duras – Flanders), and William Raymont of Madellant (Lord of Reasan), all of whom stated that he had never been an adherent of Owain ap Thomas ap Rhodri, and by extension, the King of France. According to the first version of this pardon, the accusation originated with his enemies, though it is equally possible that such accusations represented a form of potentially profitable speculation on the properties of soldiers whose whereabouts were unknown for years on end.


What is perhaps more interesting from this account is what can be determined about his military career. From the information above, only two things can be stated with any certainty. First, that his career must have begun in around 1361, assuming the first pardon coincided with his return, first to England and subsequently to Wales. Secondly, it squares with what little is known of Gregory Sais’ early career in arms.

On the evidence of the testimonials attached to the second pardon, the majority of his time was spent in the defence of Aquitaine, and area doubtless familiar to him from his days as a routier. By coincidence, Owain Lawgogh’s Welsh company also spent much of its time in French service in the South-West, lending a further possibility that David’s enemies may have at one time served with him. While it may not be the same man, there is evidence of a man-at-arms named David Hope serving with Sir Gregory Sais, possibly as reinforcements for Calais in 1386. [17] As yet, no evidence has come to light for the location of his service elsewhere in France. If correct, this not only broadens the scope of his service considerably, but paints an all too familiar picture of poor communication between different areas of government. This loyal soldier had been damned in his absence in his own land eight years previously.


A secondary point of little immediate military significance emerges from this case; the status of David de Hope himself. Hope was a self-consciously English borough within Flintshire, but only six miles south-east of Chester and the man himself clearly of English descent. This is particularly pertinent in this period as Hope had been a racially mixed community before 1351 and the granting of the first borough charter. This charter, based on the privileges granted to Rhuddlan explicitly excluded the existing Welsh community whose burgages were confiscated and redistributed. [18] Yet despite this, and the atmosphere of distrust between Welsh and English it was considered possible, indeed likely that he would rebel for the cause of a putative Prince of Wales. This Flintshire community was a complex mixture of Welsh and English with overlapping national, and ethnic identities. [19] Other English families, notably the Hanmers and the Pulestons had integrated within the local Welsh community of the county. David Hanmer was Owain Glyn Dŵr’s father in law and gained a knighthood through his service as a justice of the King’s Bench rather than as a soldier. [20]

Table: Service of William Puleston with Richard, earl of Arundel



William   Pulleston   Man-at-arms Arundel, Richard Fitz Alan, earl of Arundel, Richard Fitz Alan, earl of 1378 Exped Naval TNA_E101_36_32 m3
William   Pulesdon Esquire Man-at-arms Arundel, Richard Fitz Alan, earl of Arundel, Richard Fitz Alan, earl of 1387 Exped Naval TNA_E101_40_33 m1
William   Pulesdon Esquire Man-at-arms Arundel, Richard Fitz Alan, earl of Arundel, Richard Fitz Alan, earl of 1387 Exped Naval TNA_E101_40_34 m2i
William   Pullesden Esquire Man-at-arms Arundel, Richard Fitz Alan, earl of Arundel, Richard Fitz Alan, earl of 1388 Exped Naval TNA_E101_41_5 m1




The Pulestons [21] were also associated with Glyn Dŵr; Robert Puleston married a sister and appeared as a witness with him at the Scrope Grosvenor trial in 1386. [22]   Further, a William Puleston esquire served in the retinue of the earl of Arundel on more than one occasion, and in 1387, with Glyn Dŵr himself. [23] At first sight, the family were as loyal as any other set of marcher gentry. Yet among the men of Owain Lawgogh, that other ‘son of prophecy’ was another, noted as Yvain or Owain Puleston. Such were the family divisions of this corner of Wales. [24]



Adam Chapman

[1] R. A. Griffiths, The Principality of Wales in the Later Middle Ages I (Cardiff, 1972) and R. R. Davies Lordship and Society in the March of Wales  (Oxford 1978).

[2] Edward, lord Despencer, The National Archives (TNA) E 101/34/5 in 1375 and John Charlton III, TNA E 101/31/37 on a naval expedition in 1372. Information on soldiers has been taken from the AHRC-funded ‘The Soldier in Later Medieval England Online Database’, dev.medievalsoldier.org, accessed, 11th September 2008.

[3] See the Soldier of the Month profile on Owain Glyn Dŵr for more detail: /SoM/December2007.php

[4] A. R. Bell, War and the Soldier in the Fourteenth Century (Woodbridge 2004)

[5] A. D. Carr, ‘A Welsh Knight in the Hundred Years War: Sir Gregory Sais’, Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1977), pp. 40-53. Details of the career of Gregory Sais are almost wholly drawn from this source.

[6] Brendon Smith has suggested to me that it may indicate fosterage within an English family. While the practice was not unknown in Wales and Ireland, there is no evidence in this case.

[7] See Carr ‘A Welsh Knight…’, pp. 40-43.

[8] Carr ibid., p. 40.

[9] Carr, ibid. , p. 41 n. 2

[10] Calais, TNA E 101/40/25, 41/3, 42/14; Pembroke, TNA E 101/34/29; Berwick, TNA E 101/39/39, 39/40.

[11] He was appointed December 1387. His account as constable survives however; TNA E 101/41/6

[12] Search ‘Seys’ under captain name on the medieval soldier database (dev.medievalsoldier.org)

[13] See, for example in the medieval soldier database: John/Jankyn Birchore, Benet of the/del/de la Hope or John Massy, see also, Owain and Tudor Glyn Dwr.

[14] A. D. Carr, Owen of Wales, pp. 60-61. The full references are to be found there, the pardons can be found in Calendar of Patent Rolls 1388-92, pp. 93, 243.

[15] For support of Owain Llawgogh in Wales, see A. D. Carr ‘Rhys ap Roppert’ Denbighshire Historical Society Transactions, 25 (1976), pp. 155-170 and his Owen of Wales, as above.

[16] See M. P. Siddons, ‘Welshmen in the Service of France’ Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, 36 (1989), pp. 161-164.

[17] TNA E 101/42/14. I am grateful to Dr. David Simpkin for this reference and its dating.

[18] Ian Soulsby, The Towns of medieval Wales: A Study of their History, Archaeology and Early Topography (Chichester 1983), pp. 148-9.

[19] For a fuller analysis of these with numerous other examples, see R. R. Davies ‘Race Relations in Post Conquest Wales: Confrontation and Compromise’ Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1975 for 1974), pp. 32-56.

[20] http://yba.llgc.org.uk/en/s-HANM-HAN-1388.html

[21] http://yba.llgc.org.uk/en/s-PULE-EST-1283.html

[22] The Scrope and Grosvenor Controversy, ed. Harris Nicolas, N. 2 vols (London, 1832), i. p. 254 (Glyn Dŵr); p. 258 (Puleston).

[23] See Table: Service of William Pulseton with Richard, earl of Arundel.

[24] Siddons ‘Welshmen in the Service of France’ , pp. 167.