The Significance of ‘After Cilmeri’ by Sarah Woodbury

Posted by on Apr 7, 2014 in Featured Book, Historical Tidbits, Medieval Great Britain | 9 comments

Ashes-of-Time185x280aIt has been over 700 years since Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last Prince of Wales, was ambushed and killed on a snowy hillside near the town of Cilmeri on 11 December 1282. That date is commemorated every year in Wales as the moment when the dream of Welsh independence died. I wrote the first book the After Cilmeri series, Footsteps in Time, because that event stood out to me as one of those pivotal moments in history where history holds its breath. If that moment could have been happened differently, if Llywelyn hadn’t died, the world would have been a different place.

J. Beverley Smith writes:

“Intimations of treachery, of breach of faith, are so often conveyed darkly, and no chronicle, nor any other source, provides the unequivocal testimony which might enable us to unravel the threads in the various accounts of the tragic happening in the vicinity of Builth.  It was alleged at the time, or shortly afterwards, in the most explicit statement we have, that the prince’s decision to venture into the area was influenced by one of the sons of his old adversary, Roger Mortimer.  The Hagnaby chroinicler, an important source for the events of the day on which Llywelyn died, was quite definite:  Roger Mortimer, he says, but, more correctly, his brother Edmund Mortimer, drew the prince there by beseeching him to come to the neighbourhood of Builth to take his homage and that of his men. Along with other lords he hatched a plot to corner Llywelyn and kill him”  (Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, 1998:551).

Whatever really happened, the entry from the Chronicle of the Princes says it all:

And then Llywelyn ap Gruffudd left Dafydd, his brother, guarding Gwynedd; and he himself and his host went to gain possession of Powys and Buellt. And he gained possession as far as Llanganten. And thereupon he sent his men and his steward to receive the homage of the men of Brycheiniog, and the prince was left with but a few men with him. And then Edmund Mortimer and Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn, and with them the king’s host, came upon them without warning; and then Llywelyn and his foremost men were slain on the day of Damasus the Pope, a fortnight to the day from Christmas day; and that was a Friday.
—-Brut y Tywysogyon, Peniarth manuscript 20  (The Chronicle of the Princes)

His head was carried to King Edward I, who ordered that it be displayed on a pike, in London.  Apparently, it stayed on display for over 20 years.  The rest of his body is purportedly buried at Abbey Cwmhir, northeast of Rhayader in Powys.

Llywelyn’s brother, Dafydd, was eventually captured and then hanged, drawn, and quartered, the first man of significance to experience that particular death. In fact, his death was practice for what King Edward did to William Wallace two dozen years later.  Gwenllian, Llywelyn’s infant daughter and only child, was kidnapped from his castle at Aber and sent to a convent in England, where she remained a prisoner for the rest of her life.

In our world, Cilmeri is a small town to the west of Buellt, known now as Builth Wells. King Edward built a castle there, though all that remains of it now are mounds and ditches lost in the middle of a housing development.

I titled my time travel books the After Cilmeri Series because they tell the story of what could have happened ‘after Cilmeri’ if Llywelyn hadn’t died. Yes, it’s obscure. If I had known then what I know now, I may have called it something blander and more accessible like ‘The Children of Time series’. Too late now. 🙂

Sarah Woodbury, April 7, 2014

The eighth novel in the After Cilmeri series, Ashes of Time, was released on 25 March 2014.



  1. If Llywelyn hadn’t been killed, maybe we’d all be speaking Welsh now. Doesn’t bear thinking about. 🙂

  2. I never knew about the history of Wales and the English’s many attempts to subdue it and than finally through deceit and betrayal accomplishing it. It wasn’t until I read Sarah Woodbury’s wonderful series, After Cilmeri, and reading more on my own that I found out about this tragic time in Wale’s history.

    It saddens me even today how ruthless the men in power were then and how that mind set continues even down to this day.

    That said, Sarah, I have thoroughly enjoyed rereading your series and getting ready to read, Ashes of Time. Thank you so much for this series and opening this gal’s eyes and mine to the History of Medieval Wales.

    • Thank you, Patricia! I’m so glad you have enjoyed the books!

  3. Thew treachery displayed as the Noble Houses fall into Edwards grasp shows us that George RR Martin hasn’t really spun any tales in ASoIF very divergent from historic events after all. I’m glad to hear this excellent series is continuing.

  4. I really like the title of your books, Sarah. So, I am very happy that you named it such.