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History




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Almost nothing is known of prehistoric Wales, although there are some barrows and funerary sites. The major megaliths at Stonehenge were mined in Wales which may suggest a link between the ancient English and Welsh tribes.

Up to and during the Roman occupation of Britain, Wales was not a separate country, but all inhabitants of Britain and Ireland spoke their version of the Celtic languages and were essentially of the same ethnic origin. The Romans occupied the whole of Wales, where they built roads and forts, mined gold and conducted commerce, but their interest in it was limited, because of the difficult geography and shortage of flat agricultural land. They established only one town in Wales, Caerwent.

Caradoc was thought of by some as a King of the Britons (right).

The Silures were the major tribe of south-east Wales. Their military leader, Caradoc, sometimes called Caratacus or Caractacus, had joined them from another, defeated, tribe. Under his leadership, they defied the Romans for a period after the Claudian invasion, but eventually Caratacus was captured and taken to Rome, where his dignified bearing made such an impression on the people that his life was spared.

The Romans also built the legionary fortress at Caerleon (Roman name - Isca), whose magnificent amphitheatre is the best preserved in Britain. The Romans were also busy in north Wales, and an old legend claims that Magnus Maximus, one of the last Roman emperors, married Elen or Helen, the daughter of a Welsh chieftain from Segontium, near present-day Caernarfon.

Wales was never conquered by the Saxons, due to the fierce resistance of its people and its mountainous terrain. A Saxon king, Offa of Mercia, is credited with having constructed a great earth wall, or dyke, along the border with his kingdom, to mark off a large part of Pozvys which he had conquered from the Welsh. Parts of Offa's Dyke can still be seen today.

Wales remained a Celtic region, and its people kept speaking the Welsh language, even as the Celtic elements of neighbouring England and Scotland gradually disappeared. The name 'Wales' is evidence of this, as it comes from a Germanic root meaning "stranger", and as such is related to Wallonia, Belgium, and Wallachia in Romania, also regions where a 'strange' (non-Germanic) language was spoken.



There are indications of a Romano-British Christian church in south-eastern Wales, but Christian influence may also have penetrated much deeper into Wales in the Roman period. Inscribed stones, though themselves belonging to the 5th or 6th century, carry terms such as sacerdos (probably meaning bishop) and presbyter (priest), which may reflect a well-established Christian church of early origin. Stones with Irish inscriptions and Christian symbols in southwestern Wales suggest that the immigrants, if not already Christian upon arrival, were Christianized soon afterward.

Wales continued to be a Christian country when its neighbour, England, was overrun by German and Scandinavian tribes, though many older pagan beliefs and customs survived among its people.

St. David is the only Welsh saint to be canonized in the Western Church. He has been the patron saint of Wales since the 12th century. He died in 589 or 601 after founding a monastery in the area of Pembrokeshire which now bears his name, and living an austere life devoted to God. He is first to be found in an Irish Catalogue of Saints dating from around 730 and by 800 his feast day was determined as March 1st, Saint David's day.



Dafydd, patron saint of Wales (left) Saint David went on a pilgrimage to Rome during the 6th century, and was serving as a bishop in Wales well before Augustine arrived to convert the king of Kent and founded the diocese of Canterbury.

Although the Druidic religion is alleged to have had its stronghold in Wales until the Roman invasion, many of the so-called traditions, such as the gorsedd or assembly of bards, were the invention of eighteenth-century and Victorian Romantic "historians". For example, the traditional women's Welsh costume, incorporating a tall black hat, was devised in the nineteenth century by Lady Llanover, herself a prominent patron of the Welsh language and culture.

The conquest of Wales by England did not take place in 1066, when England was conquered by the Normans, but was gradual, not being complete until 1282, when King Edward I of England defeated Llywelyn the Last, Wales's last independent prince, in battle. Wales had been a principality since the 13th century, initially under the Welsh prince Llywelyn the Great, and later under his grandson, Llywelyn the Last, who took the title Prince of Wales around 1258, and was recognised by the English Crown in 1277 by the Treaty of Aberconwy.

Following his defeat by Edward I, however, Welsh independence in the 14th century was limited to a number of minor revolts. Edward constructed a series of great stone castles in order to keep the Welsh under control. The best known are at Caernarfon, Conwy and Harlech.

Owain Glyndwr, Prince of Wales (right).

The greatest such revolt was that of Owain Glyndwr, also known by the anglisized version of his name, Owen Glendower. He gained popular support in 1400, and defeated an English force at Pumlumon in 1401. In response, the English parliament passed repressive measures denying the Welsh the right of assembly. Glyndwr was procla- imed Prince of Wales, and sought assistance from ^HHj the French, but by 1409 his forces were scattered ^^H under the attacks of King Henry IV of England and further measures imposed against the Welsh. ^^H

The Act of Union 1536 partitioned Wales into thirteen counties and applied the Law of England to both England and Wales, making English the language to be used for official purposes. This excluded most native Welsh from any formal office. Wales continues to share a legal identity with England to a large degree as the joint entity of England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland retain separate legal systems and identities. The Wales and Berwick Act 1746 (Berwick, a town located on the Anglo-Scottish border) provided that all laws that applied to England would automatically apply to Wales unless the law explicitly stated otherwise. This act, with regard to Wales, was repealed in 1967.

Wales was for centuries dwarfed by its larger neighbour, England. Indeed, one very well-known British encyclopaedia until recently had an entry reading"WALES. See under ENGLAND". In 1955 steps were taken to re-establish a sense of national identity for Wales when Cardiff was established as its capital. Before this, legislation passed by the UK parliament had simply referred to England, rather than England and Wales.


: 2015-09-13; : 12;





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