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Fact About Wales and the Welsh

12. The Prince (Princess) of Wales is not Welsh.
In 1300, King Edward of England made his son, Lord Edward, (born at Caernarfon Castle), Prince of Wales and Count of Chester. Ever since that date these titles have been automatically conferred upon the first-born son of the English monarch. The Welsh people were not consulted in the matter although an entry by an English propagandist in Historia Anglicana for the year 1300 reads:
In this year King Edward of England made Lord Edward, his son and heir, Prince of Wales and Count of Chester. When the Welsh heard this, they were overjoyed, thinking him their lawful master, for he was born in their lands.
The task was made easy, for Edward because of the long inability of the native-born Welsh princes to unite their lands and form a single, unified kingdom. Up to King Edward's proclamation, in fact, there had been many kings in Wales. However, there had been only five rulers who could justify their claim to be Kings of Wales: Rhodri Mawr (Rhodri the Great); Hywel Dda (Hywel the Good), Gruffudd ap Llywelyn): Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (Llywelyn the Great); and Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (Llywelyn the Last).

The first important leader to emerge among the Welsh after Mercian King Offa had shut them off in their western peninsular from the rest of the Celtic peoples of Britain (the Scots, Cumbrians and Cornish) was the warrior King Rhodri Mawr (Rhodri the Great, 844-77). In 855, Rhodri became king, not only of the Middle Kingdom of Powys, but through skillful alliances and marriages, of a great deal of the rest of Wales. In the face of increasing Viking attacks, he gave his country a remarkable period of unity and stability. Unfortunately, for the future of an independent Wales, Rhodri's death was followed by a period of internal strife. His sons made alliances with the English monarchy which led to Welsh dependence upon the English monarch for protection, perhaps the first sign that the future of Wales was forever more to be dependent upon its stronger neighbor to the East.

Rhodri himself was killed in battle fighting an English incursion into his lands and it was left to his grandson, Hywel Dda (Howell the Good, 890-950) to re-establish some sort of hegemony among the various petty kingdoms of Wales. Hwyel's territories were known as Deheubarth, which united with Gwynedd and Powys to cover most of Wales with the exception of Glamorgan. His reign lasted from 904-950. It is not his military prowess for which his reign is best remembered, important as it was, but for his brilliant codification of Welsh law.

Almost a century after Hwyel, the only ruler who could claim over lordship of the whole of Wales was Gruffudd ap Llywelyn (1039-63). Through military preparedness, clever alliances and political maneuvering, Gruffudd expanded his territories of Gwynedd in 1039 to become overlord of all the minor Welsh kingdoms, and for the first time a single ruler was recognized throughout Wales. Alas, the euphoria experienced by the people of Wales lasted only seven years, if indeed they ever realized their good fortune, for once again the dream of a strong, fully integrated kingdom, independent of the English monarch, disappeared with Gruffudd's death. The arrival of the Normans on the Welsh borders didn't help.

Almost immediately after his stunning victory over Harold and the Saxon army, William of Normandy set about establishing a strong, centralized kingdom in his conquered territories. Though he did not seem to have designs on Wales, his solution to "that Welsh problem" was to set up powerful, semi-independent earldoms on the borders (at Hereford, Shrewsbury and Chester). From these heavily fortified bases, the "Marcher Lords" made their influence felt not only in their own territories but also over the border in Wales. They completely colonized Gwent by 1087 and much of Southeast Wales by 1100.

Like the later Edwardian masterpieces of masonry, Norman Castles began to dominate the Welsh countryside, it is hardly possible to find a place where they were not built, and even today, their massive piles dominate such centers of urban settlement as Cardigan, Pembroke, Brecon and Glamorgan. In each lordship, the Norman earl reigned as a minor king, usurping the powers previously enjoyed by the native Welsh rulers.

In Northwest Wales, under a few dynamic leaders, much of the area was gradually recovered from Norman rule. Thanks to the heroic efforts of Owain Gwynedd and Madog ap Maredudd, Gwynedd and Powys became re-established as major political units under Welsh rulers and enjoyed Welsh law. At the time, while the Saxon language was abolished from law and government in England, the Welsh language flourished west of Offa's Dyke as a medium of both institutions. It was in Norman interests to develop close ties with the Welsh aristocracy, for their main interest seems to have been a relatively simple one: to establish a secure frontier (a peaceful Wales was necessary, too, for Norman ambitions in Ireland).

In the year 1200, Llewelyn ap Iorwerth, the grandson of Owain Gwynedd, became ruler of the kingdom of Gwynedd. Under his strong and determined leadership, Wales was once more united as a single political unit. In 1204, he was recognized by England's King John, who gave him his daughter Joan in marriage. Despite some early military setbacks, thanks to the troubles between the English monarch and his barons, Llewelyn was ultimately successful in resisting English influence in Wales and received homage from the other Welsh princes. He himself paid his respects to the new English King Henry III and by this gesture was recognized as pre-eminent in Wales.

After Llewelyn's death in 1240, quarreling between his two sons Dafydd and Gruffudd practically undid all that their father had accomplished. In 1247, at the Treaty of Woodstock, East Gwynedd was ceded to King Henry. Then, in 1254 the young Prince Edward was given control of all the Crown lands in Wales.

It was up to another Llewelyn, Llewelyn ap Gruffudd to gain control of affairs. After imprisoning his brothers and taking the kingdom of Gwynedd for himself, Llewelyn was able to assert his claim to be called "Prince of Wales." The title was accorded him officially by Henry III in 1267 at the Treaty of Montgomery recognizing the Welsh leader's claim to the three kingdoms of Gwynedd, Powys and Deheubarth. It seemed, for a short time at least, that the dream of the Welsh people had been realized, they had their own prince, they governed their own territories under their own laws and were able to conduct their own affairs in their own language free from English influence. Wales was poised to take an early place among the developing independent nation states of Europe. All changed, however, and all too soon. The accession to the English throne of Edward I in 1272 completely reversed the tide of affairs.

Edward I was determined to unite the whole of the island of Britain under his kingship and this meant he had ultimately to conquer Wales and Scotland. Llewelyn ap Gruffudd, despite his military successes, still faced formidable problems in holding together all the quarrelsome parts of his kingdom. This meant that Edward's task was much easier than perhaps expected, considering the early defeats that the Welsh armies inflicted upon the invading English, not used to fighting in mountainous terrain. Sadly for his own ambitions, there was much resistance to Llewelyn's authority among many of the minor Welsh princes (forever quarreling among themselves) as well as from the semi-independent Norman lords of the Marches.

It was therefore not too difficult for Edward's much larger armies to eventually wear away the forces of Llewelyn through attrition and to impose harsh restrictions upon the Welsh leader. At the Treaty of Aberconwy in 1277, Llewelyn was forced to accept humiliating terms and give up most of his recently acquired lands keeping only Gwynedd west of the Conwy River. Edward followed up his successes by building English strongholds around the perimeter of what remained of Llewelyn's possessions. Strong, easily defended castles were erected at Flint, Rhuddlan, Aberystwyth and Builth garrisoned by large detachments of English immigrants and soldiers.

Although, Edward was now firmly in control of his Welsh territories, Prince Llewelyn was not yet finished. When the people of Wales, under his brother Dafydd, eventually rose in a massive revolt at the loss of control over their customs, their law and the restrictive and oppressive English rule, Llewelyn was the unanimous choice to lead their cause:

The gentlefolk of Wales, despoiled of their liberty and their rights, came to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and revealed to him with tears their grievous bondage to the English; and they made known to him that they preferred to be slain in war for their liberty than to suffer themselves to be unrighteously trampled upon by foreigners. (Brut y Tywysogion, 1256)
At first, Llewelyn's revolt was successful, the castles of Builth, Aberystwyth and Ruthin fell into his hands and a large English force was destroyed in the Menai Straights in Gwynedd. Edward was forced to devote all of his kingdom's resources to deal with the "malicious, accursed" Welsh, yet it was a mere chance encounter in a meadow at Cilmeri that ended the Welsh dream.

Just outside the English settlement at Builth, in Powys, Llewelyn became separated from his army. In a minor skirmish, the Welsh prince was killed by an English knight unaware of his identity. Upon discovery, Llewelyn's head was sent to London for display as that of a traitor. Edward's troubles with the rebellious Welsh, for all practical purposes were at an end. Henceforth, Wales was to live under an alien political system, playing a subordinate role as an integral part of the kingdom of England. A poignant ballad by modern Welsh songwriter and nationalist Dafydd Iwan expresses the grief of the Welsh nation at the loss of their beloved Llewelyn: "Collir Llywelyn, colli'r cyfan" (losing Llewelyn is losing everything).

After the death of his brother, Llywelyn, Dafydd continued his defiance, also calling himself Prince of Wales. This was made possible by the harsh conditions under which his people suffered. Despite their grievances, however, a lack of the needed resources to conduct a long campaign ended Welsh resistance. Edward was determined to "check the impetuous rashness of the Welsh, to punish their presumption and to wage war against them to their extermination."

Dafydd was quickly captured, dying a traitor's death at the orders of the English king. Edward was now free to do with Wales as he wished. In 1284, the Statute of Rhuddlan confirmed his plans regarding the governing of Wales (apart from the Marches, left more or less as quasi-independent earldoms as rewards for their help in disposing of the Welsh problem). On the Statute, an anonymous scribe wrote, in 1284:

The Divine Providence...has now ...wholly and entirely transferred the land of Wales with its inhabitants...and has annexed and united the same into the Crown... as a member of the said body.
Following the Statute of Rhuddlan, sometimes referred to as The Statute of Wales, Edward embarked on his massive castle-building program, creating such world-heritage sites of today as Caernarfon, Conwy, Harlech and Beaumaris in addition to the not so-well known (or visited) structures at Flint and Rhuddlan. By rule of their new invaders, the Welsh were forbidden to inhabit such "boroughs" or to carry arms within their walls. With the help of the architect Master James of St. George, and with what must have seemed like limitless resources in labor and materials, Edward showed his determination to place a stranglehold on the Welsh. Thus, it was that in 1300, when his wife gave birth to a son at Caernarfon Castle the king brazenly called the baby "Prince of Wales and Count of Chester."

The first investiture of the English Prince of Wales took place at Lincoln in 1301 far away from Wales. It was not until 1400 that a native Welshman, Owain Glyndwr, a wealthy landowner from Sycharth, in the Dee Valley, Northeast Wales, proclaimed himself Prince of Wales, first at Glyndyfrdwy (the Dee Valley) and again at Machynlleth the same year, where he had summoned a Welsh Parliament. In 1404, Owain was officially crowned before representatives from Castille, France and Scotland. His followers believed that he had been appointed by God to deliver Wales from its English bondage. Owain was the last Welshman to claim the title. When his rebellion ultimately ended in 1413, Wales reverted to English rule. To Welsh patriots, he was the last real Prince of Wales and since Owain, no Welshman has come forward to claim the title Prince of Wales.

The modern investiture ceremonies began under the inspiration of the self-serving Welshman Lloyd George, then Chancellor, who had Edward crowned in a mad mixture of medieval nonsense at Caernarfon Castle (The same Edward who later renounced his throne for love). An even more ridiculous ceremony took place in 1969, also at Caernarfon when Charles, the heir to the throne, announced his allegiance to Wales and foolishly promised as "liege lord" to protect his realm from "all manner of foes." He has made it his business to stay away from Wales as much as possible since then.

Note One: Of the investiture at Caernarfon Castle of Prince Edward in 1911, Socialist Member of Parliament Keir Hardie had this to say in a speech given at Tonypandy in the Rhondda:

Wales is to have an Investiture as a reminder that an English King and his robber barons strove for ages to destroy the Welsh people, and finally succeeded in robbing them of their lands, driving them into the mountain fastness of their native land like hunted beasts...The ceremony ought to make every Welshman who is a patriot blush with shame
Note Two: In 1969 the year of his investiture at Caernarfon Castle (birthplace of Edward II), Charles, as Prince of Wales, went to Aberystwyth for a number of weeks to study the Welsh language. The idea was not new. John Davies (of Mallwyd) had suggested it in 1632.
If the guardian of your tender youth see fit, Your Highness should be imbued from the cradle, at the same as with other languages, with the ancient language of this island, which is now restricted to your own Welsh people ... for knowing languages is no indignity for princes." (Dictionarium Duplex 1632)
Davies' suggestion came to naught. It was not brought up again until the reign of Queen Victoria. In 1840, in a letter to the Cambrian (Wales's first English language newspaper) the writer was amused by a proposal to have the infant Prince of Wales instructed in the Welsh language. He wrote that the prince, by trying to pronounce the Welsh "ll" or "ch" would be perceived as "having spasmodic affections of the bronchial tubes" that would lead to "quinsy or some terrible disease of the lungs and jugulum and would alarm everyone." He went on to ask readers to consider the roars of laughter in the House of Commons when the budget of the day includes the following items: "Three thousand pounds per annum for teaching His Royal Highness Welsh, making leek broth and the national mode of eating it." The idea, he continued was revolting, "like trying to cram a calf with logic: nature forbids it."

The same kind of fatuous arguments, of course, appeared in the newspapers of Wales some 120 years later when Charles was being taught Welsh at Aberystwyth University. Contemporary newspapers contain similar letters and articles that discuss the merits of continuing the Welsh language in the schools, of teaching it to newcomers and of its relevance in the modern world.

Despite the fact that, in the earlier period, even that staunch symbol of Empire, Queen Victoria herself advocated the teaching of Welsh in the schools of the principality, even now, in the late 1990's there seems no end to the argument. Perhaps the heated discussions will end now that the majority of the people of Wales, in the absence of a native prince, have decided to have its own democratically elected Assembly. We can only hope that its members will enthusiastically support the aims of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Cymraeg, to give every child born in Wales the chance to be taught the language, so that Wales will welcome the Millennium as a bilingual nation.

Note Three: I have written nothing in the above article about the Princess of Wales. It seems that Diana was the first holder in history to attach any importance to the title or to make effective use of it. As far as I know, not a single index in any history book has an entry for Princess of Wales, regardless of whether the title holder was Welsh-born or not. Perhaps future histories (and reference books) will remedy what we now perceive as a glaring omission.

Note Four: The distinguished Welsh historian John Davies has pointed out the chequered relationship between the British Royal Family and the so-called Principality of Wales. Beginning with the murder of William Rufus (son of the Conqueror) in 1100 and ending with the demonstrations against Queen Elizabeth II's visit to Aberystwyth in 1998, Davies has chronicled the disastrous experiences incurred by British monarchs on their visits to Wales. (The full article, Kings, Queens... and Wales is found in Cambria, autumn 1997).



13. Golf's Stableford System was invented in Wales.
For countless millions of golfers the world over, the Stableford scoring system has proved to be one of their greatest blessings. During the last years of the 19th century at Glamorganshire Golf Club in South Wales (founded in 1890), Dr. Stableford was concerned about the then-current scoring system in the increasingly popular game of golf. The good doctor was concerned that, in other forms of scoring, one bad hole could ruin the entire round, so he introduced a much fairer system that reflected the golfer's complete round, one that would enable him (or her) to recover from a high score on nine or more holes. His new system was announced in a South Wales newspaper that reported on the Golf club's first autumn meeting held 30 September, 1898. After the scores in the bogey competition were listed, a footnote gave the method of scoring as follows:

Each competitor plays against bogey level. If the hole is lost be one stroke only, the player scores one; if it is halved, the player scores two; if it is won by one stroke, the player scores three; and if by two strokes, the player scores four. To the score thus made, one third of the player's medal handicap is added. (South Wales Daily News, 30 Sept., 1898)
The new system favored the better golfers. In 1932, after the stroke index had been introduced, Dr. Stableford re-introduced the system, making only one change: players now added their full handicap to the points they had gained off scratch. Another option was introduced in the same year following a season of heavy gales that heavily favored the player with the highest handicap. Stableford decided that instead of adding the handicap allowance at the finish, the allowance should be taken at the relevant holes.

Dr. Stableford, after a distinguished military career, played golf at his home in Wallasey, Cheshire, no doubt enjoying his scoring system with his golfing companions. At the age of 89, Stableford was going blind and not able to fully enjoy his favorite game, so he committed suicide. A portrait of the Doctor hangs in the Glamorganshire Club, at Penarth, near Cardiff where a memorial plaque also tells of his gift to the golfers of the world.



14. A Welshman was responsible for 19th century US industrial might.
On the 4 July, 1840, a blast furnace constructed under the management of a recent immigrant from Wales at Catasauqua, Pennsylvania, produced its first run of iron using anthracite for fuel. Thus David Thomas, from Neath, South Wales, showed that anthracite, known scathingly throughout the iron industry as "stone coal" could be successfully used to produce high quality iron.

David's arrival, at the request of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, couldn't have come at a better time. For almost two centuries, iron masters had been trying to utilize the vast anthracite coal fields of eastern Pennsylvania with only limited success. The right combination of fuel, furnace size, blast pressure and temperature had not been found; thus enormous sums were paid for imported iron (mostly from South Wales) in an age where the metal was desperately needed to supply the fledgling iron-ship building and railroad industries.

At Ystradgynlais in the Swansea Valley, in South Wales, Thomas had perfected a method that used a hot blast to produce good quality iron from West Wales's anthracite. Urgently needed in Pennsylvania, and promised a good contract, the 43 year-old iron master sold his property in Wales and with his wife and family embarked on the Roscius at Liverpool to begin a new career across the Atlantic.

Upon his arrival in Pennsylvania, Thomas had been regarded as something of a visionary. One local iron master told him, "I will eat all the iron you make with anthracite." Thomas later invited the skeptic to a dinner cooked in his first and very successful furnace. Due to his expertise (at the Crane Works in Catasauqua, near Allentown), the Lehigh Valley had become a world center of iron production -- following ten years of feverish activity that resulted in the setting up of an immense number of blast furnaces, all fueled by "stone coal."

In 1854, Thomas formed the Thomas Iron Company at Hokendauqua, on the Lehigh River, where the production of pig iron per furnace was greater than at any other iron works in the country and perhaps in the entire world. For over 20 years, anthracite was used more than any other fuel in the United States to produce iron. And, using iron rails, now no longer imported from Wales, more railroads were built here than existed in the entire rest of the world.

The anthracite iron era, which David set in motion almost the moment he arrived in the country was to last nearly 80 years before being replaced by the coming of steel manufacture. One of the most influential men in the growth of American industry in the 19th century, David Thomas deserves the title of "Father of the Anthracite Iron Industry in the United States."

Note: a full account of David's pioneering work is found in my book, "David Thomas: Iron Man from Wales, The Story of an Immigrant and of the Country He Left Behind" (Red Dragon Press, 211 Murray Rd, Newark, DE 19711.)

More Facts About Wales & the Welsh


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