Pennal LetterThe Pennal Letter was originally written in Latin in 1406 and was Owain's attempt to strenthen his cause by allying himself with the French King, Charles VI. In exchange, Owain pledged his allegience to Pope Benedict XIII of Avignon. At this time, the Papacy was divided; Charles VI sided with Avignon, while Henry IV of England remained allied to the Pope in Rome. Thus Owain was making clear both his rejection of English rule and his position as Prince of Wales. In the letter, he lays out his plans for establishing a Welsh Church and two Welsh universities, thus portraying a vision of a strong and autonomous Wales.
The Pennal letter, held in the National Archives of France (J516 B.40 and J516.29), is in two parts: in the first, Owain declares his intention to give obedience to the pope of Avignon; the second is a formal document, endorsed with his great seal, setting out the terms of that allegiance and detailing the schism in the papacy.
This English translation is taken from Matthews 1910.
Most serene prince, you have deemed it worthy on the humble recommendation sent, to learn how my nation, for many years now elapsed, has been oppressed by the fury of the barbarous Saxons; whence because they had the government over us, and indeed, on account of the fact itself, it seemed reasonable with them to trample upon us. But now, most serene prince, you have in many ways, from your innate goodness, informed me and my subjects very clearly and graciously concerning the recognition of the true Vicar of Christ. I, in truth, rejoice with a full heart on account of that information of your excellency, and because, inasmuch from this information, I understood that the Lord Benedict, the supreme pontifex intends to work for the promotion of an union in the Church of God with all his possible strength. Confident indeed in his right, and intending to agree with you as indeed as far as it is possible for me, I recognize him as the true Vicar of Christ, on my own behalf, and on behalf of my subjects by these letters patent, foreseeing them by the bearer of their communications in your majesty's presence. And because, most excellent prince, the metropolitan church of St. David was, as it appears, violently compelled by the barbarous fury of those reigning in this country, to obey the church of Canterbury, ad de facto still remains in the subject of this subjection. Many other disabilities are known to have been suffered by the Church of Wales through these barbarians, which for the greater part are set forth full in the letter patent accompanying. I pray and sincerely beseech your majesty to have these letters sent to my lord, the supreme pontifex, that as you deemed worthy to raise us out of darkness into light, similarly you will wish to extirpate and remove violence and oppression from the church and from my subjects, as you are well able to. And may the Son of the Glorious Virgin long preserve your majesty in the promised prosperity.
Dated at Pennal the last day of March (1406)
Owen, Prince of Wales.
Endorsement: To the most serene and most illustrious prince, lord Charles, by the grace of God, King of France.
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