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Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle - Overview

The Roman fort of Segontium was established on the outskirts of modern day Caernarfon as part of the campaign to subdue the Ordovices in AD77. This camp is mentioned in the story of ‘The Dream of Macsen Wledig’ found in the Mabinogion, a medieval collection of Welsh stories. Following the Norman Conquest, Hugh d’Avranches, Earl of Chester, built three castles across the north Wales, including one at Caernarfon, but by 1115 the Welsh had captured Caernarfon Castle alongside the kingdom of Gwynedd.

In 1283, after the conquest of Gwynedd, King Edward I began rebuilding Caernarfon Castle, reshaping it into a visible token of his rule over the newly acquired province. Modelled after the impressive walls of Constantinople, the towers were given a polygonal shape and coloured stones were set into horizontal stripes. To complete Edward’s display of power, stone eagles adorned the parapets of the highest tower in a play on the imperial past of Wales. Edward II was born at Caernarfon Castle in 1284, and Edward I transferred the title ‘Prince of Wales’ to his infant son to establish his dynastic control over Wales.

With the outbreak of the Glyndŵr Rising, the castle and town were repeatedly under siege by Welsh and allied French forces. With the accession of Henry Tudor to the English throne, Caernarfon Castle lost its significance and fell into decay. However, its defences remained in good enough condition to have been of use for the Royalists garrisoned here during the English Civil War. After this brief period of struggle, the castle was abandoned.

During the Romantic period, tourists started arriving in rising numbers as they took particular interest in the ruined, ivy-covered ruins of Wales. As a result, Caernarfon Castle underwent extensive restoration and conservation work in the late nineteenth century. In 1986, Caernarfon was recognised as part of the UNESCO’s Castles and Town Walls of Edward I World Heritage Site together with Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech. Today, Caernarfon Castle is maintained by Cadw.

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