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The Trail of the Fugitive

By Major Francis Jones, C.V.O., T.D.
Wales Herald Extraordinary

Whether fact or fiction, few tales are more absorbing than those relating to escapes and hurried journeys. A journey taken at leisure is a comfortable, unexciting affair, however illustrious the travellers, however important their purpose. The sight of a law-abiding traveller homeward-bound on a mountain road barely attracts attention any more than that of a fox padding noiselessly along a woodland drive. But place a brace of detectives on the heels of the former or a pack of hounds on the trail of the latter, and the whole picture, including our own attitude, is immediately transformed. The pace becomes breathless; ingenuity, cunning, persistance, courage, all bubble to the surface, and if the subsequent chase be long and arduous it assumes the nature of an odyssey, a saga, in which the onlooker often identifies himself with the quarry. Such hurried journeys have engaged the interest of mankind from earliest times the flight into Egypt, the march of the Ten Thousand, Carey's ride to Edinburgh, the escapes of Bonnie Prince Charlie and Lord Nithsdale, the flight to Varennes, and nearer our own day the escape of the young Churchill from the Boers such events never fail to fire the imagination and to enlist our sympathies. They tell of struggles against overwhelming odds, of men who played against the loaded dice, and who, whether submerged in disaster or crowned by final success, often displayed qualities of heroism which ennoble even a cause with which we might profoundly disagree.

Into this class falls the tale of James ap Griffith ap Howel of Castle Malgwyn whose tumultuous life, persecutions, and wanderings entitle him to a prominent place in the calendar of escapes and hurried journeys. James - I shall refer to him only by his first name throughout my narrative unless quoting from original sources came of an ancient Carmarthenshire family tracing its lineage to Elystan Glodrudd, eleventh-century prince of the territory between Wye and Severn, one of the first Welsh states to be overrun by the encroaching English and the land-hungry Norman. Among Elystan's numerous descendants was Grono Goch of Llangathen who stood high in the royal favour, being Constable of Dryslwyn Castle in 1280-81, Forester of Glyn Cothi in 1301, and holder of lands in Caio by demise from the Earl of Cornwall locum tenens of the King in 1307. To Lewys Dwnn, Grono was a "royal captain" of Edward I, who slew Saliner the Frank, whose armorial bearings, a silver shield adorned with a red charger's head with gold snaffle, he added to his own. Henceforth the family occupied an influential position in Carmarthenshire and south Cardiganshire.

The great-grandson of the redoubtable Grono, namely Thomas ap David of Llangathen, had three sons Rhys who settled at Abergwili, Thomas Fychan of Llether Cadfan whose grandson became Esquire of the Body to Henry VIII, and David. This David married Marged daughter of Iorwerth ap Rhys Chwith a prominent Cardiganshire landowner, and went to live at Gwernan in the parish of Troedyraur. From the marriage there were two sons, Griffith ap David of Cryngae in Emlyn who married Gwenllian daughter of Griffith ap Nicholas of Dynevor, and Howell ap David who lived at Gwernan and at Cefncoed in Llangathen. Famed for his open-handed hospitality, Howel ap David extended patronage to the bards, and Lewis Glyn Cothi who flourished in the period 1447-1486, addressed two poems of praise to him and lamented his death in elegaic verse. By his wife, Agnes daughter of the Pembrokeshire knight Sir Thomas Perrot, Howel had three sons. The eldest of these, Griffith ap Howel, married as his second wife Sage daughter of Thomas ap Griffith ap Nicholas, sister to Sir Rhys ap Thomas, K.G. Their only child, James ap Griffith ap Howel of Castle Malgwyn in the north Pembrokeshire parish of Manordeifi forms the subject of my tale.

The descent is as follows :

Grono Goch
Constable of Dryslwyn 1280-1, Forester of Glyn Cothi 1301
Griffith ap Grono Goch  
David ap Griffith  
Thomas ap David (great grandson of Grono)  
David ap Thomas (married Marged)  
Howel ap David  
Griffith ap Howel married Sage Sir Rhys ap Thomas (brother of Sage)
James ap Griffith ap Howel (The Fugitive) Sir Griffith ap Rhys
  Rhys ap Griffith d.1531
  Griffith Rhys (Rice)
  Sir Walter Rice
  Henry Rice

In view of what occurred later, note must be taken of James's connection with the great House of Dynevor, whose brightest ornament, Sir Rhys, was his uncle. James owned Castle Malgwyn (which was his chief residence), the Lordship of Ysbytty in Cardiganshire, Llanddewibreifi in the lordship of the Bishop of St. Davids, and lands in Arwystli and Cyfeiliog in mid-Wales.

James married twice. By his first wife Maud daughter of Morgan ab Evan Llewelin Gwilym Lloyd, he had an only child, Jenkin, who took the permanent surname of Powell, and lived at Penrallt in the lordship of Emlyn, either in northeast Pembrokeshire or northwest Carmarthenshire. By his second wife Elizabeth (or Elen) daughter of Owen ap Philip Fychan, whom he married a little before 1518-19, he had two daughters, Sage and Elizabeth.

Such was the family background of the chief actor in the drama. He comes to the forefront of the stage at the time of the tragic fall of his kinsman, Rhys ap Griffith, grandson of the man who had done so much to ensure the success of the founder of the Tudor dynasty at Bosworth.

'Captaynes and Ryngleders'
Sir Rhys ap Thomas died in 1525. His son and heir, Sir Griffith, who had held an appointment in the household of Arthur, Prince of Wales, died in his father's lifetime. Accordingly, Sir Rhys was succeeded by his grandson, Rhys ap Griffith, a youth of some seventeen years, recently married to the lady Catherine Howard, daughter of the second Duke of Norfolk. Owing to his youth, or more probably to the royal attitude, Rhys did not succeed to his grandfather's offices of Justice and Chamberlain of South Wales, which were granted to Walter Devereux, Lord Ferrers. This led to friction between Ferrers and Rhys which came to a head in 1529 when the latter, accompanied by armed retainers forcibly resisted the new Justice's attempts to hold sessions in the town of Carmarthen. As a result Rhys was arrested, together with about eighty of his supporters, among them the "captaynes and ryngleders" who had led and directed the riots. In November of that year Rhys appeared before the Court of Star Chamber, and both he and Ferrers were severely censured for their conduct, and ordered to remain at amity and to make peace between their warring retinues.

But the matter did not end there. Ever mindful of his family's primacy in Wales, Rhys continued to consider ways and means of embarrassing Ferrers towards whom his hostility had by no means been diminished by his experiences in the Star Chamber, and he became involved in more dangerous activities, or at least activities that could be interpreted as such by a hostile observer. And so, in October 1530 he was arrested on charges of high treason and thrown into the Tower. He was tried, found guilty on the flimsiest evidence, and beheaded on Tower Hill on 4 December 1531, while his enormous landed possessions worth 10,000 a year, together with personal property valued at 30,000 passed into the King's hands. It was a political trial, Rhys's real offence probably being his adherence to Catholicism and his declared opposition to Anne Boleyn whom the king had determined to marry.

James of Castle Malgwyn shared in the fall of his kinsman, with whom he had been "verie familiar together". Apparently he had not been personally involved in the disturbances at Carmarthen in 1529, but was mulcted in large sums for other misdemeanors, the nature of which are unknown. However, he had been actively associated with some of Rhys's later movements, and the extent of his complicity is suggested in the warrant sent by the King to Lord Ferrers on 7 October 1530 for the arrest of "James ap Grillyth ap Howell (who) bath not only dysobeyed sundry our lettres and commandyments, but also fortefyed himself in South Wales within the Castell of Emlyn as our rebell and dysobeysaunte Subjecte", together with "his partakers and adherents being within the said castell". He was arrested and lodged in the Tower. Among those who effected his capture was James Leche, sometime mayor of Carmarthen, who received a pension in September 1535, "in respect of his old service in the apprehension of James Griffith Aphowell, traitour and outlawe"1 While James lay in durance, Rhys, already in custody within the same grim fortress, tried to enlist his help, for the indictment against Rhys states that he dispatched one Edward Lloyd to "Jacobo ap Gruffith ap Howell nuper domino de Castell Maelgom in Wallia, gentilman", to persuade him to enter into a conspiracy. James is alleged to have agreed to act as Rhys's agent by selling or mortgaging the lordship of Emlyn to John Hughes of London in order to raise money on his behalf.

In the event, no indictment was preferred against James, and it is clear that he turned King's evidence. The nature of his testimony is not known but it could not have contained anything likely to have lessened the penalty which the victim was called on to pay. Nevertheless, this remains a blot on James's memory and earned him the undying hatred of the House of Dynevor. When Henry Rice, great grandson of Rhys, later petitioned for the restoration of the royal favour, he made several severe strictures on James, "a man of mean estate, having his chiefest stay of living from the said Rice", and said that he had once been "apprehended by the said Rice for counterfeating the Great Seal, and by him sent up to the lords of the Council, and committed to the Tower", so that his heart became "full of revenge". No evidence has been found to support those grave charges, while several charges contained in the petition can be proved to be totally unfounded. It must be remembered that Henry Rice's object was to whitewash Rhys, and to show that he had been led to his doom by the treachery of associates.

James's accommodating action did not lead to his immediate release, and he finally presented a humble petition praying for a pardon for past transgressions. On 20 June 1532 the King granted a pardon to "James Griffith ap Howell of Castell Malgwn in the county of Pembroke, alias of the lordship of Spyttye in the lordship of St. John in the county of Cardigan, alias of the lordship of Emlyn in the county of Carmarthen, alias of Llanddewibrefi in the lordship of the Bishop of St. Davids, and alias of Arwystli and Cyveiliog in Powys, gentleman". For this he had to pay a fine of 526 13 4, an enormous sum in those days, which suggests the degree of his misdemeanours and the extent of his wealth and standing.

Marked Man
Shortly after being pardoned, James returned to Castle Malgwyn, where we find him sending various sums of money to London to pay towards the fine. Nevertheless, he was a marked man and the government kept close watch on him. His politics were less in question than his religion, for James was a firm and sincere Catholic, a supporter of Queen Catherine, and hostile to Anne Boleyn, but as opposition to Henry's plans, whether based on religion or any other consideration, was liable to be interpreted as treason, or at least disloyalty, life was apt to be difficult for a man whose convictions were stronger than his discretion. James was an outspoken man as he himself admitted on a later occasion, and after the King's divorce had been formally announced on 23 May 1533, his position became precarious, if not impossible. About Whitsuntide, Queen Catherine sent a letter to him hinting that he should flee to Ireland. The lord of Castle Malgwyn was not slow in acting on the hint, and, assembling his family and some faithful retainers, slipped out quietly on one dark night, and set forth through the hills to seek refuge in the house of his friend Rhydderch ap David ap Jenkin, in south Carmarthen-shire, until a vessel could be found to convey them out of the country.

From this time onwards James's movements came under the close scrutiny of the King and his ministers, who, directly and in-directly, found means to harass him at every place he tried to seek refuge. Numerous references in State Papers enable us to follow the winding wake of the hunted man and the continual shifts to which he was put in order to preserve his life and liberty. We follow him from Wales to England, Ireland, Scotland, Flanders, Austria, Germany, France, Italy, to the courts of Emperor, Kings, and Dukes, to the anterrooms of Chancellors and Cardinals, to obscure lodging-houses and dubious waterside taverns, an outlaw moving in the shadow of attainder, relentlessly pursued by the most powerful prince of renaissance Europe.

In his native Wales James continued to enjoy the confidence of his friends, and also of the supporters of the executed Rhys, which suggests that his conduct during the trial of that unfortunate man had not been so nefarious as Henry Rice was to allege some eighty years later. Among those who rallied to him were Thomas ap Rhydderch of Cryngae, David Meredith of Kidwelly, Walter ap John, David Vaughan of Llether Ychen and Trimsaran together with his brothers Roger, Morgan, and Thomas, who had been concerned in the tumults of 1529. It became necessary for him to embark as quickly as possible for every moment's delay meant that the government's agents were closing on him.

On a dark night, David Vaughan led the fugitive to the shore at Kidwelly where a coal-boat lay ready to sail. The party consisting of James, his wife, Sage his daughter, John ap Morgan a kinsman, Lewis a mariner, John ab Evan Tew, John Owen a gunner, David William, Henry Ellington, and "John a pen berere"2 went aboard, and the boat sailed on the ebb tide bound for Uphill, a village near Weston-supermare on the Somerset coast. There they disembarked, and James then engaged a ship of some 16 tons burthen, manned by a master and five men. Posing as a merchant, he filled her hold with a cargo of beans which he proposed to sell at a profit at the next port of call. On the night of 2 June 1533, the vessel left for the little creek of Youghal in southern Ireland, which they reached four days later. There they remained for a seven-night during which the cargo was landed and sold. From Youghal they sailed for Drogheda, and when the vessel drew near the harbour, James told the master and crew that they were not to berth but to change course and sail at once for Scotland. They refused, where-upon James drove them under hatches where he confined them until they agreed to carry out his orders. The voyage continued without further incident and on 22 June the party landed at St. Tronyan's in southwest Scotland.

Hearing that the King of Scots was on his way there, James decided to await his arrival, and took lodgings in the house of a widow. He despatched two of his servants to Wales to acquaint friends of his safe arrival in the northern kingdom. The royal party arrived on 25 June, and James managed to obtain an interview with one of the courtiers, Lord Fleming, in the cloisters of St. Tronyan's whose abbot was the latter's brother. As a result James was presented to the monarch by whom he was warmly received.

But English eyes were watching and within a week or two, Lord Dacre, the Earl of Northumberland, Sir T. Clifford, Sir G. Lawson and Sir Thomas Wharton had sent letters to London with news about the fugitive, "the gentleman of Wales", as they called him. The government acted promptly and the Commissioners of the Border remonstrated with the King for receiving rebels especially at a time when the two nations were proposing to enter into a treaty of friendship.

The Scots King ignored the remonstrance, and when he left for Edinburgh on 1 July, the fugitive and his retinue formed part of his train. At the capital James lodged in the house of a servant of the King's Secretary where he stayed a month, and is also said by one of the English spies to have been "appointed to a castle South West of Edinburgh". James had long discussions with the Secretary, the Chancellor, and Treasurer, whom he tried to persuade to give him a force of 3000 men to accompany him to Wales "that he with the Lyon of Scotland should subdue all England". However the Scots stopped short of hostilities, he received no men, but obtained grants from the Treasury to sustain himself and his party. The friendliness of the King may be partly explained by a circumstance which Sir Thomas Wharton, a Commissioner of the Border, conveyed in a letter to Cromwell on 11 July. He wrote "The Scots King, hearing the woman named his (i.e. James ap Griffith's) daughter to be fair and about the age of 15 years, repaired to the said castle and did speak with the said gentleman, and for the beauty of his daughter as my espeiall (spy) saith, the King repaired lately thither again". The old old story, it would seem. She was Sage, the elder daughter, whom we shall meet again.

Treacherous Servant
Royal dalliance was not what James had bargained for. Having received a report that he was well thought of in the court of Queen Mary of Hungary, then Regent of the Netherlands, he decided to cross into Europe. He obtained a passport from the Council of Scotland to go to Flanders, a sum of 160 crowns from the Treasury, and in July 1533 licence to leave the realm. A ship was found, but on the eve of departure James quarrelled violently with some stray Welshman he met in the capital with the result that both had to appear before the Council. After the "local difficulty" had been solved, James set forth. He reached Newbotell early in August, then on to Dalkeith, and by the end of the month was at Leith.

While at Leith, James addressed a personal letter to Queen Mary, which, together with some other "writings", he handed to his servant Harry Ellington, who was to convey them to the Netherlands. The emissary was ill-chosen, for immediately on arrival at Antwerp he sought out Stephen Vaughan, one of Cromwell's most active agents on the continent, handed the letter and writings to him, and offered to capture and deliver his unsuspecting master to the English government. Vaughan sent an account of the encounter, together with James's letter, to Cromwell, and also dispatched the treacherous scoundrel to London.

Cromwell's response to the situation reveals the subtlety of his methods. Queen Mary the Regent was sister to the Emperor Charles V, a warm partisan of his aunt, the divorced Queen Catherine of England. Anxious to discover the lengths to which the Emperor was prepared to go in her support, the Minister considered that this information might well be obtained through the unwitting services of James ap Griffith ap Howel. Accordingly, Cromwell immediately sent Ellington back to the Netherlands with orders to deliver James's letter to the Queen, to continue to act as if he were the loyal servant of James, and he was to transmit a copy of the Queen's reply and any other relevant information to Cromwell.

The projected "double-cross" did not come off. Ellington re-turned as directed, and on 1 December came to Brussels where he delivered the letter to the Bishop of Palermo, the Queen's Chancellor. In reply the Queen thanked "James Greffythe" for his goodwill towards her imperial brother, and for his "offers", regretted she could not send a vessel for him without the Emperor's command, but said that James would be welcomed in her domains. Ellington, with the letter in his scrip, proceeded to Antwerp, and on 8 December, being a Sunday, went to attend mass in a church in that town. His piety proved his undoing. As he came out, a Scot lately arrived from his homeland and a close associate of James, touched him on the shoulder and invited Ellington to accompany him. James had entertained some suspicions of Ellington, and the Scot having made numerous enquiries about his activities, discovered he had been to London and had shown his master's letter to Cromwell. Accordingly he trailed Ellington on his return and pounced on him as we have seen above. The Scot then informed the authorities of what he had gleaned, had Ellington arrested and taken to "the Pynbanke wheron they wolde apullyd me" so the wretch complained later. As a result he broke down and made full confession of his treachery. He remained in custody for some time, but was later released and was back in England in April 1534.

While all this was going on James remained in Scotland probably in Leith waiting for Queen Mary to send a vessel to convey him over the North Sea. He also tried to keep touch with his Welsh friends and dispatched his servant, David Williams, with a message for them. The unfortunate messenger was marked by English agents, arrested in the house of one Thomas Lewis, and taken to answer interrogatories prepared by Cromwell himself.

How James and his followers left Scotland is not known, but he was at Lubeck in the domains of the Duke of Holste early in May 1534, and on the 12th of that month a watchful English agent sent news of his arrival to Cromwell. As Holste was a supporter of the Protestant cause, James departed before 25 May, and an agent informed Cromwell that "the Welshman" had left the Duke "and privily went his way, some say to Ferdinand, others to the Emperor".

Chapuys, the Emperor's ambassador, met James, and in September 1534 sent a favourable account of him to his master describing him as "a man of courage and good sense, and of the principal lineage in Wales, who could put the King (Henry VIII) to terrible confusion by his partisans". Nevertheless, the Emperor was not disposed towards active measures against England, and by the end of the year James was back in Flanders. In December, the spy, Stephen Vaughan, wrote from Antwerp to tell Cromwell that "My lord of Bure entertains Jamys Griffith ap Powell and his wife and has given them a house in Bure. The knave sent his wife to the Queen of Hungary with an interpreter to show his griefs. The Queen gave her 100 guylden".

Little is known of his movements in 1535. It was reported to Cromwell that he had been "twice with the Regent in Flanders", and English secret agents at Calais made an attempt to implicate David Lloyd ap Owen of Machynlleth, described as "one of the richest men in Wales", a known sympathiser with James, but the business fell through. He continued to send messengers to England, some of them pretty determined fellows, for a note made by Cromwell in 1536 relates to "the execution of him that came from James Griffith ap Howell which killed the two men at Hounslow".

The King Alarmed
Judging from the great care taken in tracing his movements and counteracting his efforts, it is clear that the government regarded James as an important figure. To embarrass him, ambassadors and agents were instructed to prejudice continental courts against him by denigrating his character and lineage, bringing the most serious charges against him, and emphasising that he was a rebel. In 1536 the government was so seriously alarmed, that the King himself took a hand in matters. In March Henry wrote three letters in his own hand, one to a secret agent, one to the Consuls and Senate of Nuremburg, and one to the Emperor Charles V. He requested the Senate "to arrest two criminals, James Griffith Apowell, an English subject of low birth, guilty of treason, robbery, manslaughter, and sacrilege, who is travelling with a rebel named Henry Philip through Germany on his way from Flanders to Italy". He asked the Emperor to take the two "rebels" and hand them over as prisoners to the Archdeacon of Lincoln, England's ambassador at the Imperial court.

Wherever he went James found that the English were using every influence to induce the courts to arrest and punish him, and "in that behalf do high justice and to the King's grace of England high pleasure". Consequently he was constantly on the move seeking new patrons and greater security. But he never seems to have lost his nerve, adversity and persecution hardened his resolve, and although he did not succeed in putting any formidable plan into operation against England, he certainly caused much anxiety to the Tudor monarch and his ministers.

His Welsh supporters were also harassed, and if their recent conduct was above reproach then ancient peccadilloes were revived so that bygones were not allowed to rest. For example, on 30 April 1536, Bishop Lee wrote from Brecon to Cromwell that "David Vaughan, officer of Kidwelly in Wales, is accused by your servant Jenkin Lloyd for assisting the rebellion of James ap Howell Griffith". Vaughan was the man who had helped James to escape from Kidwelly in 1533.

The Henry Phillips, or Philip ap Henry, or Philip ap Henry Fychan as he was variously called, mentioned as James's companion in 1536, was a colourful character. He had been a wild and lively youth, and had fled to the continent after robbing his own father. He then appears as a student at Louvain university where he was known for his intelligence, wit, and command of languages, but continued to be involved in all manner of scrapes. A loyal Catholic, he helped the English priest Gabriel Donne to betray Tyndale to the imperial officers at Antwerp in May 1535, and was personally known to Cardinal Pole who was appointed legate to England in 1537. His connection with James became closer as he married the latter's daughter Sage, the little lady who had attracted the King of Scots. The marriage took place at Regnisburg, and a letter dated 24 March 1538 tells she "was great with child". Nevertheless he was hardly an ideal son-in-law and at one time, even offered to betray James to his enemies.

In April 1537 James started from Wittenberg on his way to Nuremburg, and we hear no more of his doings for the remainder of that year. We pick up the trail again in the following year, when Thomas Theobald, in a letter from Augsberg on 24 March 1538, in-formed King Henry, that the fugitive calling himself "Sir James Greffeth" dared not show himself openly in Augsberg, that he passed through Ulmes "but tarried not", and added that he (Theobald) had met Henry Phillips who had offered to betray his father-in-law. Anyway the ambiguous son-in-law made his peace with the King, and by September 1540 had returned to England, and the minutes of the Privy Council record "the coming over of Philip ap Henry alias Philip ap Harry alias . . . Vaughan". On 29 June of the following year "Philipp ap Harry" received a pardon.

Despite the difficulties, James remained steadfast, and on no occasion offered to appease Henry or his relentless agents. Even the Protestant reformer Melancthon, who met him, was moved to compassion and in a letter to Vitus Theodorus, dated 6 April 1537 says that James had asked to be commended to Theodorus, and that "he formerly held land of his own in which he could raise 12,000 soldiers, and was, moreover, Governor of Wales, but spoke rather freely against the Divorce. To him was particularly commended the daughter of the Queen because she had the title Princess of Wales; and therefore he grieved at the contumelies put upon her. He was afterwards put in prison from which, after a year and three months he escaped by making a rope out of cloth. I beg you to receive and console him; his exile his long, his misfortunes long, and he seems a modest man. Here he has asked for nothing". James's palpable exaggerations are understandable, and are certainly more respectable than the vicious reports spread about him by the English King and his agents. The hunted man, finding, the Low Countries and Germany too hot to hold him, travelled to Italy where he hoped to find patrons, and, in particular, to enter the service of Cardinal Pole. He arrived in the peninsula in August 1538, stayed for a time in Bologna, and then made his way to Rome.

Having failed to lay their hands on him or to persuade continental rulers to arrest him, the government decided to deliver one last blow at their elusive quarry. Early in 1539 Parliament passed an Act of Attainder against a number of the King's enemies. Among them we read the name of "James Griffith Appowel, late of London", and on 3 June, Thomas Rolffe was appointed "auditor of the lands of James Griffith". The attainted man's only son who had remained at Castle Malgwyn, found himself bereft of all sustinonce, and in 1540 "Jenkyn ap Jamys ap Gryffith ap Howell having noo lands nor other lyvyng of certyntie whereby he shuld lyve upon" petitioned Cromwell "out of his most habundant charytie to accepte and admiytte your poore orator into your lordship's service". Cromwell was pleased to grant him some minor office, the nature of which is not known.3

After this we hear little of James's wanderings, and it would seem that the government no longer regarded him as capable of raising serious opposition to Henry in the courts of Europe. He was still in exile in 1549 when Cardinal Pole wrote from Rome recommending "especially Captain Griffeto" to the Bishop of Ceneda, Papal Nuncio in France.

Home is the Fugitive
Whatever we may think of his loyalty, his religion, or his dubious acquaintances, no-one can withold admiration for his courage and his persistance in face of great odds, and few will suppress a feeling of satisfaction to learn that James did indeed "come into his own again", and returned to his Welsh home embosomed in the fair groves above the banks of Teifi. According to Henry Rice, who hated him at a distance of over half a century, "James ap Griffith (a man banished for divers reasons and excepted in all pardons) did confess beyond seas to divers of his acquaintance this damnable practice of his against Rice ap Griffith, and being sore troubled in conscience he returned home with intent to acknowledge his offence and to submit himself to my grandfather Griffith ap Rice ap Griffith. And he (my grandfather not enduring to hear of him) retired himself into Cardiganshire, where he died most miserably; there are some yet alive will affirm this from my grandfather's mouth".

What we do know from a less prejudiced source is that James did return, and not with his tail between his legs by any means. Three suits listed in Early Chancery Proceedings in 1554-5 contain some significant evidence as to his activities. In the first suit James Griffith ap Powell of Castle Malgwyn alleged that David Mortimer and his undertenant Henry Powell, unjustly retained a messuage and 100 acres of land at "Kilvoyer" in Manordeifi parish, which he (James) claimed to have bought, about 1517, from Thomas ap Price ap Hoskyn for 30. In defence David Mortimer alleged that he had a right to the premises as they had been mortgaged for 10, by Thomas' father, Rhys ap Hoskyn, before the sale, to Richard Griffith ap Rees whose daughter, Nest verch Richard, he (Mortimer) had married, and complained of James' power, "being the Ruler of these countreys where the premyses lyeth".

In the second suit James complained that about 26 years previously he possessed goods and chattels amounting to a great value, but "upon grett consideracons hym thereunto movinge att the time departed owt of this Realme" leaving the goods, some of which came casually into the hands of Swellin ap Griffith. He had brought an action against him but he only returned a brass pan, and together with one Jenkyn ap Swellin, offered to compound to satisfy complainant. James said that Swellin had taken 2 kine (worth 4 marks), 20 pieces of pewter vessels (worth 2 shillings each) and 20 bushels of wheat of English measure (worth 20 shillings) which he withheld from him. The defence alleged that James had already given a release for these goods on payment of 4.

In the third suit James Gryffyth ap Howell "of London esquire", said that he had held the rectory or parsonage of Ystrad in Cardiganshire for a term of years, and had appointed one Jenkin David ap David to collect the tithes and oblations. However, "aboute xxxiii yeres past your said orator was dryven and compellyd to departe oute of this Realme of England unto foren partyes" where he remained until his return some twelve months ago. At the time of James's enforced departure, Jenkin had tithes and profits amounting to 19 in value which he unjustly retained.

It will be noted that the Throne was occupied at the time of the suits by Queen Mary whose cause James had espoused over twenty years before. Mary came to the Throne in July 1553, and in the following year we find James back at Castle Malgwyn, again "ruler of the country" in the Manordeifi area, so it is clear that he returned shortly after the accession of the Catholic queen, that his attainder was reversed, and that he received back part, if not all, of his lands, and certainly his old home of Castle Malgwyn.

That is the last notice I have found about James ap Griffith ap Howell. Whether eventually, after the accession of Elizabeth, he withdrew to Cardiganshire to die "most miserably" as Henry Rice affirmed, or whether he passed the evening of his life at Castle Malgwyn we do not know. Perhaps we may be permitted to assume the latter, and that his ashes lie within the hallowed ground of Manordeifi church whose summoning bell he had so often heard from his woodland home.
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