Chwilio uwch

Sir Richard Gethin ap Rhys Gethin of Builth, fl. c.1424–38

Guto’r Glyn composed two poems for Sir Richard Gethin (poems 1 and 2), and there is another one by Ieuan ap Hywel Swrdwal (GHS poem 24). On the basis of these we know that Sir Richard was connected with the lordship of Builth (1.8, 2.20, GHS 24.16). We also know that his father was called Rhys Gethin (1.18 and GHS 24.8). His paternal grandfather’s name is also given: it was Owain (GHS 24.10). Ieuan ap Hywel Swrdwal describes Rhys Gethin, Sir Richard’s father, as a man a dorrai siad Sais ‘who would smash/used to smash an Englishman’s skull’ (GHS 24.32). Since the poet has already hinted that Richard Gethin might care to free his own country of Wales from oppression (GHS 24.19–22), this looks like a suggestion that Rhys Gethin fought for Owain Glyndŵr, and indeed there is evidence to that effect (Fychan 2007: 11–17).

Sir Richard Gethin’s genealogy is given in WG1 ‘Elystan Glodrydd’ 9. It agrees with the poems regarding his father and grandfather. Those named in Guto’s poem are shown in bold print and the patron’s name is underlined.

Lineage of Sir Richard Gethin ap Rhys Gethin

The career of Sir Richard Gethin
According to a note in Pen 121, Sir Richard was knighted in France (see WG1 ‘Elystan Glodrydd’ 9). The poets refer to him as a knight (1.11, 40, GHS 24.2, 68). He must have been knighted by 1433/4 since in a document bearing that date he is called Richardus Ghethyne, chevalier, de Wallia (Stevenson 1864: 543).

Everything which is known about his career involves his service in northern France. Here is a summary of his career, the original source or secondary account used being noted in parentheses:

1424 (17 August) He fought at the battle of Verneuil (list of names of those who fought there, in a transcript of the 16th century, Stevenson 1864: 394).
1424 (19 October) Captain of Exmes (muster, SoldierLME (
1429 (May–June) He was with Matthew Gough holding Beaugency against Joan of Arc; they were compelled to surrender the town (Chronicle of Jehan de Waurin, Hardy 1879: 282).
1429 (July/August) He led a company of 160 men in John duke of Bedford’s army defending the Paris region against Joan of Arc (Curry 1994: 61, based on a document in the Bibliothèque nationale).
1432 (about May) Captain of Mantes, gave 1,100 livres tournois as a loan to John duke of Bedford for the costs of the siege of Lagny (Williams 1964: 214, but she does not name her source).
1432 (21 September) Captain of Mantes (Marshall 1975: 259).
1433–4 He is noted as being captain and bailli of Mantes, giving the number of men under his command, and calling him a chevalier, i.e. a knight (document listing the captains in France between Michaelmas 1433 and Michaelmas 1434, ed. Stevenson 1864: 543).
1434 (29 March) Captain of Mantes (muster, SoldierLME).
1434 (16 April) He captained a field army (muster, SoldierLME).
1434 (29 June) Part of his garrison was away in the Gâtinais and at the siege of Montfort (muster, SoldierLME). It is not clear whether Richard Gethin was with them.
1435 He is noted as one of the duke of Bedford’s captains, without naming any specific town which he captained (list of names of captains of John duke of Bedford, in a 16th century transcript, Stevenson 1864: 436). It is possible that he was captain of Conches for a while: Marshall (1975: 240) notes a document calling him captain of the town, sometime before about September 1435. But Henry Standish was captain there on 6 July (Marshall 1975: 240), and Richard Burghill about September (Marshall 1975: 241), and Standish was captain again on 6 October (SoldierLME).
1435 (1 November) He is noted as a knight, bailli and captain of Mantes (receipt for his soldiers’ wages, Siddons 1980–1: 535).
1436 (30 March) Captain of Mantes (Marshall 1975: 259).
1437 (26 February) Captain of Mantes (Marshall 1975: 259).
1437 (22 May) Captain of Mantes (muster, SoldierLME).
1437 (12 November) Captain of Mantes (muster, SoldierLME).
1438 (31 March) Captain of Conches (muster, SoldierLME).
1438 (22 April) He is noted as a knight, former bailli and former captain of Mantes (receipt for his soldiers’ wages, Siddons 1980–1: 536).
1438 (5 May) He is noted as bailli of Evreux and captain of Conches (receipt directed to the receiver general of Normandy, Siddons 1980–1: 536).
1438 (7 November) Captain of Conches (muster, SoldierLME).
1438 (20 December) Commissioner for Edmund Beaufort in Maine and Anjou (named in an agreement between Beaufort and John II, duke of Alençon and Charles of Anjou, Joubert 1889: 269–76).

Sir Richard Gethin’s final years and the dates of the poems
It seems that Sir Richard Gethin left Mantes sometime between 12 November 1437, the date of his final muster there, and 28 February 1438, when Sir Thomas Hoo was captain (SoldierLME). The reason is obvious: he was made captain of Conches and bailli of Evreux. He had received the appointment to Conches by 31 March, but shortly afterwards he disappears: his last muster at Conches was on 7 November 1438. Richard Burghill mustered the garrison there on 21 November (SoldierLME), so Richard Gethin was no longer captain of the town. By that time it is likely that he was serving in Maine and Anjou, as is attested by the letter of Edmund Beaufort, dated 20 December 1438. He is not mentioned again.

The fact that Sir Richard Gethin disappears from the records after 1438 strongly suggests that he died at about that time. If so, Guto’s poems cannot belong to his known period of service under the duke of York in 1441, the service for which there is documentary confirmation, nor to any later date. It follows, therefore, that Guto must have served in France before 1441. The obvious occasion would be the duke of York’s first expedition, in 1436.

Guto states clearly that Richard was in charge of Mantes (1.6 beili Mawnt, 1.10, 21, 32, 48, 56, 2.10 nêr Mawnd, 2.54). It is not a reference to a former role: Sir Richard is urged to defend the town against the French now. Guto does not mention Conches. Ieuan ap Hywel Swrdwal, on the other hand, is vaguer: he talks of going to look for Richard in Rouen, Mantes and Conches (GHS 24.9–14). Rouen was the capital of Normandy, and so a natural place to mention, but the other two are specific and require explanation: there must have been a connection between Sir Richard and those two places.

Richard Gethin’s connection with Mantes had begun in 1432, so it appears, and it lasted until 1437 or the beginning of 1438. Accordingly, both of Guto’r Glyn’s poems must have been composed in the period 1436–8. Since Ieuan ap Hywel Swrdwal refers to Guto’s service in France, his poem must also belong to the same period. But the reference to Conches suggests that it should in fact be attributed to the year 1438, since there is no certain connection between Sir Richard and that town before then. The possibility that he was captain of the town for a brief period in 1435 obscures matters, because if so, Ieuan could have been able to mention Conches as a place with which Sir Richard was associated at any time in the period 1436–8.

For practical reasons, we must reject 1436: that is the time during which Guto would himself have been in France. The duke of York’s army reached Normandy in June. If Guto served for six months, as was common, he would have left at the end of 1436 or about the beginning of 1437. Poem 1 was probably composed back in Wales in that year or in 1438. Since Ieuan ap Hywel Swrdwal’s poem refers to Guto praising Sir Richard, and indeed echoes parts of poem 1 by Guto, it too must date to 1437x1438, and to 1438 in all likelihood because of the mention of Conches.

The date of poem 2 is uncertain. It describes the poet’s horror at hearing (incorrectly) that Sir Richard had been captured by the enemy. There is no way of dating this (non-)event for certain, but there is one possibility worth mentioning. As stated above, there was a muster of the garrison at Mantes on 12 November 1437, and Sir Richard Gethin was captain at the time. On 30 November there is a record of another muster (SoldierLME). This time, it was of soldiers sent to Mantes under Sir Lewis Despoy. They are called an ‘expeditionary army/garrison reinforcements’. We hear nothing more of Sir Richard at Mantes after 12 November: he next appears as captain of Conches on 31 March 1438. Something must have happened at Mantes or nearby to compel the English to reinforce it in November 1437. I suggest that there had been some confrontation between the garrison and the French, and that that was the occasion on which Sir Richard Gethin went missing for a time, thus causing the rumours about which Guto complains so bitterly.

Lewys Glyn Cothi praised Sir Richard Gethin’s nephew, Lewis ap Meredudd of Llanwrin, Cyfeiliog (GLGC poem 197). In this poem he reminds Lewis of his uncle’s exploits on the Continent (ibid. 197.28, 35–8, 51–2).

Curry, A. (1994), ‘English Armies in the Fifteenth Century’, A. Curry and M. Hughes (eds.), Arms, Armies and Fortifications in the Hundred Years War (Woodbridge), 39–68
Fychan, C. (2007), Pwy Oedd Rhys Gethin? Yr Ymchwil am Gadfridog Owain Glyndŵr (Aberystwyth)
Hardy, W. (1879) (ed.), Recueil des croniques et anciennes istoires de la Grant Bretaigne, a present nomme Engleterre par Jehan de Waurin (London)
Joubert, A. (1889), ‘Documents inédits pour servir à l’histoire de la guerre de Cent-Ans dans le Maine de 1424 à 1444, d’après les Archives du British Muséum et du Lambeth Palace de Londres’, Revue historique et archéologique de Maine, 26: 243–336
Marshall, A.E. (1975), ‘The Role of English War Captains in England and Normandy, 1436–1461’ (M.A. Wales [Swansea])
Siddons, M. (1980–2), ‘Welsh Seals in Paris’, B xxix: 531–44
Stevenson, J. (1864) (ed.), Letters and Papers Illustrative of the Wars of the English in France During the Reign of Henry the Sixth, King of England, ii.2 (London)
Williams, E.C. (1963), My Lord of Bedford, 1389–1435: being a life of John of Lancaster, first Duke of Bedford, brother of Henry V and Regent of France (London)