Wales is a beautiful country within Great Britain, of mountains, valleys, meadows, and flat coastal plains. It has its own distinctive culture, language, customs, and politics. It is widely praised for its sporting prowess, particularly in rugby, and for its festivals and music, especially in choral singing. Before the Roman occupation, the religion in Wales was pagan. It is commonly believed that, particularly on Anglesey (an old Norse name) that the druids influenced much of the early government of Wales.
Wales is a country steeped in tradition, notable for the ladies’ traditional dress and the beautiful carved wooden spoon love tokens. Popularity of several traditions are kept alive by the Royal National Eisteddford. This features the ‘Mabinagion’, a collection of eleven stories translated from medieval Welsh manuscripts of Celtic mythology and traditions. The motto of the Welsh is “Cymru am byth” = ‘Wales Forever’.
The people of Wales, Cymru, are proudly independent within the British Isles with their own language, ‘Cymraeg’. They have, in several respects, developed separately from the English. Their ethnic origins are complex. In ancient times before the Romans came, Celtic tribes from the European Continent had established themselves all over the British Isles. In various pockets they settled alongside the earlier Iron Age Brittonic people and with Romanised people that remained after the evacuation. In northern Wales there was also an influence from Irish gaelic, (another Celtic tribal language).
The Celts were organised into tribes inhabiting Iron Age hill forts. In Wales, the known tribes included the Ordovices and Deceangli in the north, and the Silures and Demetae in the South. South-East Wales was the most Romanised of all areas. The kingdom of Gwent is likely to have been founded by direct descendants of the Romanised Silurian ruling class. There were the civitates at Carmarthen and Caerwent and at Roman Monmouth, all of which were urbanised sites in Wales. Roman Villas were scattered around southern Wales. Hillforts of the Britons were banned as a matter of Roman policy.
The Gaulish (Frankish) Celts called the Welsh people ‘Walhaz’ and the Anglo-Saxons called them ‘Wealh’ the plural being ‘Wealas’ became ‘Welsh’. During the Roman occupation (400 yrs) there was little distinction between early Britons in Wales and the majority all spoke a common Brittonic language. In Wales this Brythonic continued when the Anglo-Saxons later settled the larger area of Britain. Immigration by the Anglo-Saxons was encouraged following the Norman Conquest. The Landsker line divided Pembrokeshire forming the Englishry and Welshry still noticeable today.
DNA has concluded that the ‘modern Welsh people carry a 30% genetic contribution, or more, from the Anglo-Saxon settlers in the post-Roman period. However, there is no doubting that the Welsh people are closer in origin to the early British and are using a language form of Brythonic.
The last of a truly independent Wales was when it was conquered in 1282-3 when Edward I, built the castles and colonial towns to exclude Welsh aggression. A rebellion under Owain Glyndwr destroyed much of the economy, and the destruction led to some reconciliation on both sides. In 1485, Henry Tudor seized the throne and became King over England and Wales. Two Acts of Union were passed, in 1536 and 1542-3 that together essentially abolished any legal difference between Wales and England. Wales remains culturally distinct, and the Welsh language remains somewhat protected by geography.
The economic collapse of the 1920s and 1930s led to a mass migration into England. During the 1950s and 1960s there was a movement toward ways of recognising Welsh nationhood. Cardiff was made a capital city and the red dragon the official flag. By 1999 the people had their National Assembly for Wales and nowadays Wales is a relatively self-governing country almost independent within the British Isles.
Borough Freemen’s Gilds in Wales
The cheerful Freemen of Haverfordwest
Freemen Of Pembroke showing in the centre Mr Roy Folland ex Warden of FEW and Master of the Gild for the past 30 years alongside Mr Dennis Evans the new Master of the Gild