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March's good fortunes, and his enemies' overthrow, "Well then,' said Griffith, “welcome death, since honour and victory make for us;' and so shaking off his clog of earth, he soared up in a divine contemplation to heaven, the place of his rest. And this is more than ever caine to the knowledge of Hollingshed, Hall, Grafton, and others ejusdem furfuris.”
Griffith ap Nicholas was succeeded in his title and fortunes by his eldest son, Thomas, the father of our hero, Rice.
Thomas was of “mild, meek, and gracious disposition; very much retired, full of thoughts, and ever meditating alone, or canvassing with those who might best inform his conscience." Yet he was a perfect proficient in all the manly and vigorous exercises of the age, being the best horseman in the county; “ and for true skill at his weapon, he was inferior to none; being commonly called the Fair Man at Arms." But, notwithstanding this, “ Thomas ap Griffith could, at no hand, away with the fractures and hurtments then in the state; calling it an unnatural sway, where the father fought against the son, the brother against the brother, the servant against his master, and the subject against his sovereign, he being otherwise composed by nature and education, and ever wishing peace.” But to “stand as neuter” in such tumultuous times was neither con
sistent with the chieftain's reputation, nor, indeed, with his • safety; and so he quitted his native land, and served. “ for many years in the Burgundian wars." From Burgundy, however, he was compelled to return, in consequence of a love affair with a near kinswoman of the Duke. “ Cupid, it seems," observes his biographer, “ claiming an interest in him as well as Mars ;" but he found “no true peace or contentment” at home, being' engaged “in feuds, and divers single combats, which he ever performed on horseback, an exercise, in those days, wherein he was singular and ever victorious.” His known skill and dexterity in the “ Monomachie,” or single combat, militated very much against the quiet of our chieftain : for all the turbulent braggarts of the country were anxious to try their fortune with him. After relating several instances of his skill and prowess, our author records the following amusing adventure, which would make an admirable scene in the hands of the Northern Novelist:
“At another time, there fell out some difference between Thomas ap Griffith, and William, the First Earl of Pembroke, of the noble family of the Herberts, but for what cause I cannot learn ; and, it seems, they were flown to such high terms, that one Turberville must needs combat Thomas ap Griffith, on the Earl's behalf. This Turberville was an arrogant cracker, and a notable swash-buckler, one that would fight on any slight occasion, not much heeding, the cause.
He, on a time, sends his cartel, or letter of defiance, to the said Thomas, with the rhodomontade, that if he did not suddenly do him reason, he 'would ferret him out of his cunnie barrie, the castle of. Abermarlais. Thomas ap Griffith smiled at the message; and, shaping his answer, suitable to his humour, that, for his part, he knew him not, neither had he ever cause for quarrelling with him; and, therefore, prayed him that, if he had a desire to be killed, he would make choice of some other, rather than himself, for, at that time, he had neither will nor leisure to undertake so butcherly an office. This scornful return so much incensed and provoked the insufferable pride and haughty stomach of Turberville, that forthwith, in a headlong fury, he hies him to Abermarlais, and coming in at the gate, the first man he saw was Thomas ap Griffith himself, sitting by the gate, in a gray frock gown, whom he took for the porter, demanding of him, whether Thomas ap Griffith were within or no? “Sir,' said Thomas ap Griffith,' he is not far off, and if you would ought with him, let me receive your commands.'- Then, prithee, fellow, said he,-twirling his mustachoes, and sparkling out fire and fury from his eyes,—tell him, here is one Turberville would speak with him. Thomas ap Griffith, hearing his name, and observing his deportment, had much ado to hold from laughing outright, yet, containing himself, he said he would acquaint his master; and so going into his parlour, presently sends two or three of his servants to call him in. Turberville no sooner saw Thomas ap Griffith, but, without any apology made for his mistaking, he tells him of his unmannerliness, and that he was come thither to correct him for his sauciness towards so great a person as the Earl of Pembroke. •In good time, Sir,' said Thomas ap Griffith; • I pray,' said he, 'is not my Lord of courage sufficient to undergo that office of correction, without the help of others?' • Yes, certainly; but you, too mëan a copesmate for one of his place and dignity, he hath left to my chastisement,' said Turberville. •Well then,' said Thomas ap Griffith, though I might justly except against my tutor, where is't your pleasure to have me to school? – Nay, where thou wilt, or dar'st,' said Turberville. “A harsh compliment,' said Thomas ap Griffith. “I am not ignorant, as I am defendant, that both time, place, and weapons are in my choice : but, speaking in the person of a schoolboy, (for no higher account you seem to make of me,) I ween, it is not the fashion for scholars to appoint where their masters shall correct them; yet seeing you leave it to me, let it be at Arthurstone, in Herefordshire, a place indifferent to both, (for in Glamorganshire, perhaps, you may think it is not safe for me, and here in Carmarthenshire I am sure 'tis not for you) there I will attend with my sword at my side, and my lance in my rest, on such a day.'-' match;' cried Turberville; and so, abruptly, for the present they parted. To be short, both these combatants met according to appointment, where, at the very first encounter, 'twas Thomas ap Griffith’s fortune to break the other's back, and there leave him. This overthrow caused a notable heart-burning for awhile between their houses : witness that memorable battle at Trampton Field, in Glamorganshire, fought between the Matthews's and the Turbervilles', in
VOL. XI, PART II.
the quarrel of Sir Rice ap Thomas, wherein the Matthews's got the bet ter of the day, as appears by their pardon, yet extant, for that day's bloody service.”
These, in good truth, were not times when a man could ensure to himself a peaceable exit from the world; and, however much he might be inclined to lead a life of quiet and tranquillity, the hurly burly about him was an insurmountable obstacle to such felicity. The strongest arm and the stoutest heart carried the supremacy; and even a private quarrel became immediately the signal of an extensive family feud. There was not a more peaceably-disposed person in the whole country than Thomas ap Griffith, and gladly would he have worn out the remainder of his life in inactive tranquillity, and have died in his bed under the substantial roof of his ancient castle. But this was denied him. In a combat with one David Gough, a man in disposition somewhat similar to Turberville, he received so many wounds, that although he slew his antagonist, he himself was unable to move from the spot. He was lying on the ground, “flat on his face, to breathe himself after a tedious and wearisome encounter. In the mean time (woe worth the while) there comes behind him some base fellow and runs him through, whereat, turning him about, and looking upon his murderer, he used these words : Ah! my friend, had I remembered to have lain upon my back, thou durst not thus cowardly have killed Thomas ap Griffith :' intimating, thereby, that with the very light of his countenance he would have terrified him from so foul a fact. And so he died.”
We now come to our hero, Rice ap Thomas, who accompanied his father to Burgundy, and who was educated at that court, under the especial patronage of Duke Philip, with whom the young Welshman was soon a great favourite. He began, at an early age, to display the germs of that activity, and talent, to which his subsequent rise in the honours of the state is to be chiefly attributed. The court of Duke Philip was composed principally of warriors, and, accordingly, young Rice was initiated into all the hardy pastimes of the soldier. His biographer tells us, that “ to be in continual action was his chief delight: for he was ever either practising of arms, or playing at his weapons, running, wrestling, riding, swimming, walking, and undergoing all the military duties imposed upon him, with cheerfulness and alacrity. When his father quitted Burgundy, his son accompanied him to Wales, and soon after succeeded to the estates of the family ; his father, as we have already seen, being killed after a combat with David Gough, and his two elder brothers, Morgan and David, falling victims to the turbulence of the times. The wealth and influence which
our hero's ancestors had enjoyed, were increased in him, for his own natural abilities had been much improved by education. He no sooner, therefore, became possessed of his patrimony, than he turned his chief attention to the improvement of the manners and condition of his dependants, and of the people around him. His marriage with Eva, the daughter of Henry ap Gwilym, extended his power and was of considerable service to him in his design of civilizing the people. In the turbulent anarchy with which the whole kingdom was agitated, religion, to use the words of our author, “ was forced to fly to some desart place, leaving neither sanctity, nor innocence, nor faith, nor justice behind her;" but, with the assistance of “ the good and wise” Bishop of St. David's, he established “ both her and her virtuous companions again, and restored them to their pristine state and glory.” He introduced, also, several amusing pastimes and games, appointing certain “ festivaldays,” for the meeting together of the people, thereby directing • their minds to peaceful occupations, and exciting a laudable
and friendly emulation among the little community, of which he might be considered as the ruler. By these means, and by mingling courteously among his dependants, he gained their good will and affection so completely, that they bestowed upon him the cognomen of Great; and his bard, Rys Nanmor, only echoed the opinion of his companions and friends, when he somewhat hyperbolically sang
Y Brenin biau'r ynys
That is to say
All the kingdom is the King's
. But, however consonant this mode of life might have been to the ideas of Rice ap Thomas, he was destined to become a very conspicuous actor in the events which led to the total overthrow of the House of York, and to the establishment of the throne of England, under the dynasty of the Tudors. The weak and indolent habits of Edward the Fourth were not unheeded by the young Welchman. He foresaw that they would lead to some alteration in the state; and without deciding upon the part which he should play, he was assiduous in training up his young tenants to arms, and to strict military discipline.Whether the Duke of Gloucester received intimation of Rice's occupations, is not certain ; but so soon as his own power began to totter, and he found that the Earl of Richmond was likely to become a formidable enemy, he despatched some commissioners to Rice ap Thomas, at Carmarthen, “ there to take of him an oath of fidelity, and further requiring his only son, Griffith Rice, as a gage for the true performance of his future loyalty.” The answer which Rice returned is a curious specimen of a compulsory declaration of loyalty and allegiance. Much influence was used to win over the interest of Rice ap Thomas, and we shall presently see how skilfully the Welchman contrived to compromise his conscience on the occasion ; but the sentiments in the letter are so decidedly at variance with his subsequent actions, that we must confess a little scepticism as to our hero's sincerity.
“Rice ap Thomas, his letter to Richard the Third, . . penned by the Abbot of Talye.”,
Sir, I have received letters mandatory from your Majesty, wherein I am enjoined to use my best endeavours for the conservation of your royal authority in these parts, and to apply likewise my soundest forces for the safe guarding of Milford Haven, from all foreign invasion; especially to impeach and stop the passage of the Earl of Richmond, if so, by any treacherous means, he should attempt our coasts:, and, withall, Sir, an oath of allegiance hath been tendered me in your Majesty's name by certain commissioners, deputed, as it seems, for that purpose, requiring also my only son, as an hostage and pledge of my fidelity. Touching the first, Sir, now an enemy is declared, I hold myself obliged, without further looking into the cause, faithfully to observe the same by a necessary relation my obedience hath to your Majesty's commands, to which I deem it not unseasonable to annex this voluntary protestation : that, whoever, ill-affected to the state, shall dare to land in those parts of Wales, where I have any employments under your Majesty, must resolve with himself to make his entrance and irruption over my belly. As for my oath, Sir, in observance to your Majesty's will, which shall ever regulate mine, I have (though with some heart's grief, I confess, and reluctance of spirit,) as was required, taken the same before your Majesty's commissioners; and if stronger trials, than either faith or path, might be laid upon me to confirm my most loyal affection, I should make no delay to enmanacle and fetter myself in the strictest obligations for your Majesty's better assurance. * * * * Whatever, Sir, other men reckon of me, this is my religion—that no vow can lay a stronger obligation upon me in any matter of performance than my conscience. My conscience binds me to love and serve my king and country; my vow can do no more. He that makes shipwreck of the one will (I believe) make little account of the other. For my own part, Sir, I am resolutely bent, while I can, to spin out nıy days in well-doing; and so, God willing, to conclude the last actions of my life. Now, Sir, for the delivering of my son to your Majesty's commissioners, as a gage of my fealty, I have as yet presumed on this short pause, not in way of opposition to your commands, but to fit myself with such reasons, as shall, I hope, in no