Shock and awe, medieval style
Impregnable and awe-inspiring, the huge bastion of Caernarfon Castle was built with a specific purpose in mind. Edward I of England had recently defeated the independent princes of Gwynedd and wanted to consolidate his gains with a series of imposing fortresses, of which Caernarfon is perhaps the most spectacular.
Work commenced around 1283 on the site of a Norman motte and bailey fort, under the supervision of Edward’s master engineer, James of Saint George. A wall was erected around the town to separate it from the local population. It has been said that the different coloured bands of stone in the castle walls were inspired by the great walls of Constantinople. The castle differed from others in the area with its polygonal towers, as opposed to the round towers normally used. Though aesthetically astounding, the primary purpose of the structure was defence.
The castle has come under attack on numerous occasions throughout its history. The first time was in 1294, when Madog ap Llywelyn led Welsh forces to Caernarfon in an uprising against the English king.
Edward made sure the birth of his son took place at the castle, in order to present him to the people as the ‘Prince of Wales’.
In 1911 David Lloyd George instigated the modern tradition for the investiture of the Prince of Wales to take place at Caernarfon Castle, an event that was repeated in 1969 when the current Prince of Wales received his title.
The castle and walls of Caernarfon have been officially recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It is now in the care of Cadw.