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Dafydd Gam - The Cross Eyed Knight

October 25, 2018

 

Fluellen: "If your Majesty is remembered of it, the Welshmen did good service in a garden where leeks did grow, wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps, which your Majesty knows, to this hour is an honourable badge of the service, and I do believe, your Majesty takes no scorn to wear the leek upon Saint Tavy's day".

King Henry: "I wear it for a memorable honour; for I am Welsh, you know, good countryman".

Henry V- William Shakespeare

Dafydd ap Llewelyn ap Hywel Fychan ap Hywel ap Einion Sais, which in English means David, son of Llewelyn, son of Hywel Fychan, son of Hywel, son of Einion Sais was from a Breconshire family that could trace its line back to the ancient Welsh kings. By the 14th Century the family was prospering under English rule. Dafydd was a short, stocky youth with powerful shoulders and stout legs but his eyes were so crossed that they stared at each other across his nose. Because of this, he was known as Dafydd Gam; gam being a Welsh word for lame or deformed from which the English word ‘gammy’ is taken.

As a boy, he was teased for his gammy eyes until one day when he was walking through Brecon, a man approached him and laughed at his crossed eyes. It was the final insult. Dafydd Gam lost his temper and struck the man so hard that he killed him.

 

“You must go away from here,” said his father.

“But where should I go, father?” asked Dafydd Gam.

“The army is a safe place to hide,” replied his father.

Dafydd Gam did as his father said and enlisted in the service of Henry of Monmouth, Prince of Wales. Dafydd was a courageous fighter and his bravery was soon recognised by the young Henry. Promotion followed and Dafydd’s brothers joined him in the army.

“My father, the King, has commanded me to crush Owain Glyndwr and end his rebellion. Are you with me?” said Prince Henry.

“We are your sworn liege men and will do as you command,” replied Dafydd and his brothers.

When Owain Glyndwr heard that Dafydd Gam and his brothers had sided with the English he was furious.

“Dafydd Gam is a crooked man and his brothers are traitors to their own people,” cried Glyndwr.

From that day on Glyndwr and Dafydd Gam were enemies.

As the civil war raged, Dafydd Gam played a major role against Glyndwr and on 5th May 1405 he defeated Glyndwr at a battle near Usk, capturing Glyndwr’s son and 300 men.

“Execute all the prisoners except Glyndwr’s son,” he ordered after the battle.

Despite the defeat, Glyndwr’s rebellion continued and in 1412 his men captured Dafydd Gam.

“You spared my son at Usk. In return, if you swear an oath never again to bear arms against any Welshman I will ransom you for release to the English,” offered Glyndwr.

Dafydd Gam swore the oath and, with the ransom paid, was released.

Then his master, Henry Prince of Wales was crowned Henry V.

“Come with me. Let us find and destroy Glyndwr together,” ordered the King.

“I cannot, for I have sworn a sacred oath,” replied Dafydd. “But your majesty, I can tell you where he is,” he added.

“Burn Dafydd Gam’s house and barns to the ground,” cried Glyndwr when he heard of the treachery.

“You are still my liege man and I have work for you, Dafydd Gam. We are at war with France. Bring your archers,” said the king.

 

Dafydd gathered stout men from the valleys of South Wales. Men came from Penderyn and Bryn Mawr, from Carmarthen in the west and Caer Llan in the east. They cut branches from yew trees to make war bows and felled birch trees to fill their quivers with arrows.

Dafydd Gam and his archers joined King Henry V in a muddy field in Northern France on the 25th October 1415.

“Your archers look spirited and ready for a fight. You have done well Dafydd,” said the King and drew his sword.

“Kneel before me,” he commanded.

Dafydd dropped to his knees and bowed his head.

“Arise Sir Llewelyn,” said the King and laid the sword on Dafydd’s shoulders.

“Now, my friends, we are outnumbered six to one but the day shall be ours.”

The king and his knights rode towards the French and dismounted, ready to fight on foot in the mud with their men. A great roar went up from the English army and it advanced towards the French. The archers let fly. Arrows cut down the French in swathes. Wounded and dead covered the ground.

Then, the archers threw down their bows and ran forward with swords and axes. King Henry was in the centre of the battle, surrounded by Frenchmen and in mortal danger.

“Protect the King,” cried Dafydd Gam and leapt to his defence.

A French knight slashed a plume from the Kings helmet. Dafydd cut him down. Another lunged at the King with a pike. Dafydd ran him through with his sword.

As the battle raged, French soldiers and knights threw down their arms and surrendered.

“Sire. We are being attacked from the rear,” cried a knight.

“Kill the prisoners,” ordered the King.

It was a pitiful sight as the cream of French nobility was butchered in cold blood.

 

Seeing their friends being killed so callously, the attacking French turned and fled. The battle was won.

“Bring Dafydd Gam to me. He saved my life,” said the King.

“He is dead your Majesty,” replied his men.

“A more loyal man I never knew. He was closer than a brother to me,” said the King.

 

Today, Dafydd Gam is remembered with a stained glass window in the north wall of Llantilio Crossenny church. The Latin inscription reads 'David Gam, golden haired knight, Lord of the manor of Llantilio Crossenny, killed on the field of Agincourt 1415'.

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