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History Illustrations: Deaths

Two Welsh rebels were hanged in 1290, but did they die?

The two rebels were William ap Rhys, known as William Crach, and Trahaern ap Hywel. They were tried and sentenced to hang by the Lord of Gower, William de Braose. I told the story of the deaths in last month’s post.

Chapter 4 DeathsTrahaern’s body was cold, having died earlier, but Crach’s body was still warm. Trahaern was buried near the gallows but, due to the intervention of Lady Mary, Crach was carried on the gallows ladder to the nearby St John’s Church to be prepared for burial.

When they arrived at St John’s Church it was locked, so they carried the body down into the town and laid it in the hallway of Thomas Mathew’s house, which was near St Mary’s Church. Why he offered his house for the body of a condemned man may be explained by the intervention of Lady Mary, of which more later.

The question which comes to mind at this point is obviously whether Crach was actually dead. He had voided his bowels and bladder which usually happens at deaths and they were adamant he wasn’t breathing.

The younger William de Braose (the son) visited the house that evening and what he saw convinced him Crach was dead. He gave a graphic description, but if you want to see it, you’ll have to read the book!

Ann Marie Thomas authorAnn Marie Thomas is the author of five medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel, Intruders, Alien Secrets & Crisis of Conscience are out now Follow her at