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CELTIC-L  June 1999

CELTIC-L June 1999

Subject:

For Dave...

From:

mike brown <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

mike brown <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 11 Jun 1999 13:17:05 +1000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (223 lines)

Dave,
Considering that you don't seem to trust my account of Welsh history
(particularly on 'our' prince), I thought I'd post this from the BBC. Let me
know if you think it is remarkably similar to my sentiments on Welsh history
and nationalism (apologises are welcome).

When Prince Charles comes to open the new
            National Assembly of Wales with the Queen, it
            will be the latest twist in his ambivalent
            relationship with the country from which he
            takes his title.

            The very title "Prince of Wales" is loaded with
            historical tensions. It has traditionally been
            bestowed upon the eldest son of the reigning
            British monarch, and its use dates back to
            1284. It is in that period of the Middle Ages that
            those tensions have their roots.

            There were princes in Wales long before 1284 -
            the native Welsh aristocracy who proudly traced
            their ancestry to the earliest Celtic peoples who
            populated most of the British Isles centuries
            before the first Saxon invaders came to the
            eastern shores.

            Since the Dark Ages, those Celtic peoples had
            gradually been pushed back northwards and
            westwards by successive waves of invaders
            from Northern Europe, but within the
            mountainous territory of Wales they found a
            natural stronghold within which they were able
            to preserve and develop their own distinctive
            culture, laws and kinship patterns.

            The Normans arrived in Britain in 1066 and,
            with their ruthless and highly-developed military
            techniques, quickly overran the Saxon territory
            now known as England. But they found Wales a
            harder nut to crack. There, the native dynasties,
            aided by the inhospitable terrain, held out for
            another two centuries.


                            Successive campaigns
                            by Norman kings to
                            subjugate England's
                            western neighbour met
                            with varying degrees of
                            success. The Normans,
                            helped by the perpetual
                            feuds and divisions
                            within the Welsh
                            dynasties, were able to
                            conquer and settle
                            areas of lowland Wales,
                            but the extensive
                            highlands remained
            centres of resistance, and astute Welsh rulers
            like Llywelyn the Great and Llywelyn ap
            Gruffudd were able to ensure the allegiance of
            other Welsh rulers - and eventually of the
            Normans themselves - to their claim to be
            princes of Wales.

            That uneasy balance of power came to an end
            in 1282, when Edward the First of England
            launched an all-out offensive to drag Wales into
            his control, and gained an unexpected swift
            victory when the Welsh Prince, Llywelyn ap
            Gruffudd was killed at Cilmeri near Builth Wells
            in Powys in an encounter some historians
            attribute to chance, others to treachery.

            Edward lost no time in consolidating his gain.
            He built a series of castles to form a
            stranglehold around the Welsh heartland of
            Snowdonia. These castles, including
            Caernarfon, Beaumaris, Conwy and Harlech
            were state-of-the-art military architecture of their
            time and were hugely expensive, but were
            thought a price worth paying for securing a
            unitary state. Today they provide some of
            Wales's most stunning tourist attractions - or
            some of the most oppressive symbols of its
            political subjection, depending on the point of
            view.

            Edward recognised the importance of
            symbolism to a people like the Welsh, for whom
            poetry and images were traditionally potent
            forces. It was this which led him to proclaim his
            own infant son Prince of Wales at Caernarfon
            two years after his conquest of Wales, thereby
            appropriating the title previously only borne by
            the native princes.

            However, Welsh political resistance was not yet
            a spent force. At the start of the 15th century,
            the Welsh nobleman Owain Glyndwr led a
            national revolt against English rule which
            succeeded in taking most of Wales out of
            English control. In 1400, Glyndwr, who claimed
            descent from the native Welsh princes, he
            proclaimed himself Prince of Wales and
            established a parliament at Machynlleth.

            That short-lived period of self-government came
            to an end in 1408 when an English war of
            attrition finally stripped Glyndwr of the land he
            had regained.

            Later that century, the Tudors, a dynasty with
            genuine descent from the Welsh princes, came
            to the throne of England. To
            romantically-minded optimists, this meant the
            Welsh had regained control of the Island of
            Britain. The hard-headed Tudors, however,
            while ready to invoke Welsh sentiment for
            political gain, had no intention of allowing
            Wales to be a separate entity within the
            kingdom they were creating, and their unilateral
            Act of Union of 1536 extinguished Welsh laws
            and ruled the Welsh language out of public life.


                            The title Prince of Wales
                            had little political
                            significance in the
                            following centuries, and
                            next came to
                            prominence in Wales
                            when David Lloyd
                            George engineered the
                            investiture of the future
                            Edward the Eighth at
                            Caernarfon castle in a
                            ceremony which
                            flattered the sensibilities
                            of the Welsh as
                            co-partners with
            England in the British imperial ideal.

            The second investiture of the 20th century,
            however, was to be a much more fraught affair.
            It was against a background of growing political
            discontent in Wales that the 21-year-old Prince
            Charles was formally invested with the title
            Prince of Wales at Caernarfon in 1969.

            The 1960s saw a groundswell of Welsh
            nationalist activity, including a campaign of civil
            disobedience in an attempt to secure public
            status for the Welsh language, and a bitter
            campaign against the decision to drown the
            village of Capel Celyn to create a reservoir.
            Plaid Cymru had gained their first-ever MP,
            when Gwynfor Evans was elected for
            Carmarthen in 1966.

            The investiture of Prince Charles was fiercely
            opposed by Welsh nationalists, including the
            paramilitary Free Wales Army, who saw the
            investiture of an "English" prince of Wales as
            an insult and a cynical attempt to harness
            Welsh national feelings to the interests of the
            British status quo.

            Although widely supported by the Welsh
            establishment, and by the vast majority of the
            Welsh public, the investiture was conducted
            against a background of protests and
            bombings carried out by a minority of
            nationalists. These culminated in the deaths of
            two members of the Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru
            group who were killed by their own bomb on the
            eve of the royal event.

            Public criticism of the prince was blunted by his
            youth, his personal charm and by his
            conscientious attempts to learn the Welsh
            language at Aberystwyth. The investiture event
            passed off largely peacefully, and seemed to
            have fulfilled what cynics had claimed was its
            aim, namely to stifle burgeoning nationalism in
            essentially British pomp and ceremony.


                            Since his investiture,
                            Charles's relations with
                            Wales have shown
                            strain on occasion.
                            There has been criticism
                            that he spends too little
                            time in Wales, and that
                            he seems far fonder of
                            Scotland than of the
                            country which gave him
                            his title. This was
                            countered by what was
                            called a "charm
                            offensive" in the 1990's,
                            in which the Prince
            rebranded some of his activities in Wales, most
            notably by conducting special honours
            ceremonies in his own principality rather than
            asking Welsh recipients to travel to London. On
            one occasion, while making a plea for the
            preservation of the Welsh language and rural
            way of life, he quoted with approval some of the
            most powerful writings of the father of modern
            Welsh nationalism, Saunders Lewis.

            In that, as with his learning of Welsh, Prince
            Charles has proved himself prepared to adapt
            according to the changing political situation in
            Wales. His attendance at the ceremony which
            will endorse a measure of self-government for
            Wales for the first time since the days of Owain
            Glyndwr is the latest chapter in the monarchy's
            uneasy historical relationship with its restless
            principality.

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