HENRY II AND THE FIGHT AT COLESHILL THE most exciting event of Henry II's Welsh expedition of 1157 was the ambush in the wood of Coleshill, in which the king was placed in serious danger of his life; Henry de Essex, his standard bearer, indeed, threw away the royal standard, crying that the king was dead. It was plainly a very bad moment for the king and his followers, and its drama impressed itself on several of the English chroniclers;1 nevertheless, even the best-informed of these had plainly only the very vaguest idea of how the king got into this predicament, or of what happened when he escaped from it. This awkward situation of King Henry has been magnified into a Welsh victory, even though it was the Welsh who fell back at the end of the day's fighting. We need not be surprised to find such a reading of events in the pages of the older school of Welsh patriotic historical writers; some of these were regular Drawcansirs of the inkwell, who thought nothing of defeating half-a-dozen English kings in all their power before breakfast. Nor is it surprising to find Giraldus Cambrensis gloating over the 'signal defeat' of the monarch he so detested; the fact that in the same paragraph he was able to bracket together this expedition (generally considered as an expensive victory) with Henry's debacle on the Berwyns in 1165, and at the same time with his bloodless victory-parade to Pencader in 1163, making a triad of the king's 'failures', shows how little he was interested in the truth.2 Later, and far more honourable writers, however, are found taking the same view, and taking it in the teeth of the available evidence. Egerton Phillimore counted it 'a typical defeat of the English' comparable to Cymerau3 (Coed Llathen), a battle in which a powerful English force, falling back in good order towards Carmarthen after an unsuccessful attempt on Dynevor castle in June 1257, was attacked and harassed on the line of march by the Welsh of the south, till it was finally cut to pieces. The typical Welsh victory shown us by the chroniclers, like the typical Welsh defeat, is a pitched battle; it will be clear that Coed Llathen was even more divergent from this than Coleshill. 1 William of Newburgh, Historia Rerum Anglicarum (Rolls series, 1884-9), I, 106-9: Gervase of Canterbury, Historical Works (Rolls series, 1879-80), I, 165-6; Jocelin of Brakelond. Chronicles (1949),. p. 70. Jocelin obtained his information first-hand from Henry de Essex himself, who had been accused of treason in 1163-the charge relating to his throwing away the king's standard-and after his defeat in the judicial combat, had become a monk of Reading. 2 Opera (Rolls series, 1861-91), VI, 137. 3 George Owen, Pembrokeshire (Cymmrodorion Record Series, 1892-1936), IV, 566.