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Welsh History

Wales as a country was established with Henry VIII’s Act of Union in 1536. Before this time it had been inhabited since 200,000 BC, but up to this point was made up of a number of independent kingdoms and lordships.

When the Romans arrived in 43 AD all people in southern Britain were referred to as Britons and spoke to British language. There were a few tribes that put up fierce resistance to the Romans, but they were just too strong for the Welsh. Wales grew under the rule of the Romans, as there were roads and forts built and many areas commerce and agriculture were developed.  When the Romans left in the 5th century, the Anglo Saxons came in and it was here where the language and culture split into many groups, which the Welsh were the biggest of the groups in the area.

During the Norman conquest of England in 1066 the main ruler in Wales was Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, who was king of Gwynedd and Powys. The Norman eventually took over many parts of his lands and with his death in 1075, this led to civil war and it gave the Normans an opportunity to seize the rest of the lands that Bleddyn once controlled. William the Conqueror arrived and built castles all along the southern area of the country. The Normans thought they had complete control of the area till a revolt happened and this enabled the Welsh under the leadership of Gruffydd ap Cynan to take back territories and build a strong kingdom in Gwynedd. This kingdom saw the rising of arguably the greatest Welsh leader named Llywelyn ab Iorweth, or also known as Llywelyn Fawr (the Great), who by his death in 1240 had taken over much of the entire territory of Wales. After his death Edward I of England was in control of England and without a fierce leader in Wales, war broke out and eventually this led to Wales becoming England’s first colony in 1283.



In 1485, Henry Tudor, or better known as King Henry VII landed in Wales looking for support for the throne of England. He was a distant relative of Rhys ap Gruffydd (The Lord Rhys). Because of his Welsh blood he managed to gain huge support, which led to him defeating King Richard III of England in the Battle Bosworth and this him becoming King Henry VII of England. Under his sons rule (Henry VIII of England) the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 – 1542 were passed, which meant it integrating Wales with England in legal terms abolishing the Welsh legal system, and banning the Welsh language from any official role or status, but it did for the first time define the England-Wales border and allowed members representing constituencies in Wales to be elected to the English Parliament. After this act was passed King Henry VIII passed as well the Laws in Wales Act, which meant Wales would be fully incorporated into the Kingdom of England. Wales become part of the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707 and then the United Kingdom in 1801.

Because of King Henry VIII’s stance on religion and deciding to go against the Pope and the Catholic Church it created many religious issues throughout Wales, Scotland and England. Despite England controlling the country, Wales managed to hang onto its language thanks to the Welsh Methodists in the 19th century who broke away from the Anglican Church and established their own denomination, which is now known as the Presbyterian Church of Wales. This was the only place in Wales where Welsh was taught and spoken, as it was banned in schools. It’s because of this movement that the Welsh language still lives strong today.

In the 18th century the Industrial Revolution began and Wales saw a huge increase and establishment of coal and iron ore mines, which popped up all over the country. This sudden boom saw huge numbers of people flocking to Wales for work. This increase happened till industry went into decline in the 20th century when most of the resources had been used up or weren’t wanted anymore.

After the boom years were over in the mining industry, national sediment and interest in self-governing rose. The nationalist party Plaid Cymru gained momentum in the 1960s and militant groups such as the Free Wales Army and Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (MAC – Welsh Defense Movement) also were gaining in popularity. These groups were responsible for a few bomb blasts that were leading up to Prince Charles inauguration in 1969 at Caernarfon Castle, which the whole country was paying attention to.

The Plaid Cymru were gaining more support and they helped with the establishment of the first Welsh language channel in 1982. This led to the Welsh Language Act of 1993, which gave the Welsh language equal status with England in Wales regarding public sector.

In 1997, there was a referendum in Scotland and Wales, so they could decide on their countries future. It was a narrow ‘yes’ win, but with that decision the Welsh Assembly was set up in 1999. This meant that Wales could determine how their budget is to be spent for the country. In the same year the Millennium Stadium was built in Cardiff and the Welsh had a new found purpose and finally felt a bit independent for the first time in 100s of years.
In 2006 the Government of Wales Act gained Royal Assent meaning that from May 2007 the Queen would have the new legal identity of 'Her Majesty in Right of Wales' and would for the first time appoint Welsh Ministers and sign Welsh Orders in Council. It also made provision for a future referendum to ask the Welsh people if they would like the Welsh Assembly to gain the power to pass primary legislation e.g. to make true Welsh laws.

This is a wonderful time to be in Wales, as it’s almost like beginning of a new country, as they are forging ahead and building their own country once again.


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