Cymru, called Wales by the English, is a region of Britain and one of the six Celtic nations. To the Order of Hermes, it is part of the Stonehenge Tribunal, although it is culturally distinct from England, and at times has been politically independent. The patron Saint of Wales is Dewi Sant, or St. David, whose feast is celebrated on March 1.
Wales is located on a peninsula in central-west Britain. Its area is about a quarter of the size of Scotland). Wales is bordered by England to the east and by sea in the other three directions: the Môr Hafren (Bristol Channel) to the south, St. George's Channel to the west, and the Irish Sea to the north. Altogether, Wales has over 750 miles of coastline. There are several islands off the Welsh mainland, the largest being Ynys Môn (Anglesey) in the northwest.
Large towns include cities of Caerdydd (Cardiff), Abertawe (Swansea), Casnewydd (Newport) and Wrecsam (Wrexham).
Much of Wales' diverse landscape is mountainous, particularly in the north and central regions. The highest mountains in Wales are in Eryri (Snowdonia,) and include Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), which is the highest peak in Wales. Other mountainous features include the Bannau Brycheiniog, a range in the southeast, and the Cambrain Mountains in middle Weales.
The first documented history was recorded during the Roman occupation of Britain. At that time the area of modern Wales was divided into many tribes, of which the Silures in the south-east and the Ordovices in the central and north-west areas were the largest and most powerful. A string of Roman forts were established across what is now South Wales, as far west as Carmarthen (Caerfyrddin; Latin: Maridunum), and gold was mined at Dolaucothi in Carmarthenshire. There is evidence that the Romans progressed even farther west. They also built the Roman legionary fortress at Caerleon (Latin: Isca Silurum.) The Romans were also busy in Northern Wales, and the mediaeval Welsh tale Breuddwyd Macsen Wledig (dream of Macsen Wledig) claims that Magnus Maximus (Macsen Wledig), one of the last western Roman Emperors, married Elen or Helen, the daughter of a Welsh chieftain from Segontium, present-day Caernarfon. It was in the 4th century during the Roman occupation that Christianity was introduced to Wales.
The Six Welsh KingdomsEdit
After the Roman withdrawal from Britain in 410, much of the lowlands were overrun by various Germanic tribes. However, Gwynedd, Powys, Dyfed and Seisyllg, Morgannwg, and Gwent emerged as independent Welsh successor states. They endured, in part because of favourable geographical features such as uplands, mountains, and rivers and a resilient society that did not collapse with the end of the Roman civitas. This tenacious survival by the Romano-Britons and their descendants in the western kingdoms was to become the foundation of Wales. With the loss of the lowlands, England's kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria, and later Wessex, wrestled with Powys, Gwent, and Gwynedd to define the frontier between the two peoples.
Having lost much of the West Midlands to Mercia in the 6th century and early 7th century, a resurgent late 7th century Powys checked Mercian advancement. Aethelbald of Mercia, looking to defend recently acquired lands, had built Wat's Dyke, possibly with Powys' king Elisedd ap Gwylog's own agreement, for this boundary, extending north from the valley of the River Severn to the Dee estuary, gave Croesoswallt (Oswestry) to Powys. King Offa of Mercia seems to have continued this consultative initiative when he created a larger earthwork, now known as Offa's Dyke (Welsh: Clawdd Offa).
Offa's Dyke largely remained the frontier between the Welsh and English, though the Welsh would recover by the 12th century the area between the Dee and the Conwy known then as the Perfeddwlad. By the 8th century the eastern borders with the Anglo-Saxons had broadly been set.
Following the successful examples of Cornwall in 722 and Brittany in 865, the Britons of Wales made their peace with the Vikings and asked the Norsemen to help the Britons fight the Anglo-Saxons of Mercia to prevent an Anglo-Saxon conquest of Wales. In 878 the Britons of Wales unified with the Vikings of Denmark to destroy an Anglo-Saxon army of Mercians. Like Cornwall in 722, this decisive defeat of the Saxons gave Wales decades of peace from Anglo-Saxon attack. In 1063, the Welsh prince Gruffydd ap Llywelyn made an alliance with the Norwegians against Mercia which, as in 878, was successful, and the Saxons of Mercia were defeated. As with Cornwall and Brittany, Danish aggression towards the Saxons/Franks ended any chance of the Anglo-Saxons/Franks conquering their Celtic neighbours.
The southern and eastern lands lost to English settlement became known in Welsh as Lloegyr, which may have referred to the kingdom of Mercia originally, and which came to refer to England as a whole. The Germanic tribes who now dominated these lands were invariably called Saeson or "Saxons". The Anglo-Saxons, in turn, labelled the Romano-British as Walha, meaning 'foreigner' or 'stranger', but the Welsh continued to call themselves Brythoniaid (Brythons or Britons,) and the term Cymru and y Cymry were used from very early times to refer to the whole of the region.
From the year 800 onwards, a series of dynastic marriages led to Rhodri Mawr's (r. 844-877) inheritance of Gwynedd and Powys. His sons in turn would found three principal dynasties (Aberffraw for Gwynedd, Dinefwr for Deheubarth, and Mathrafal for Powys), each competing for hegemony over the others. Rhodri's grandson Hywel Dda founded Deheubarth out of his maternal and paternal inheritances of Dyfed and Seisyllwg, ousted the Aberffraw dynasty from Gwynedd and Powys, and codified Welsh law in 930, finally going on a pilgrimage to Rome. Maredudd ab Owain of Deheubarth, Hywel's grandson would (again) temporarily oust the Aberffraw line from control of Gwynedd and Powys. Maredudd's great-grandson (through his daughter Princess Angharad) Gruffydd ap Llywelyn would conquer his cousins' realms from his base in Powys, and even extend his authority into England. Owain Gwynedd of the Aberffraw line was the first Welsh ruler to use the title princeps Wallensium (Prince of Wales), a title of substance given his victory on the Berwyn Mountains.
The Aberffraw dynasty would surge to preeminence with Owain Gwynedd's grandson Llywelyn Fawr (the Great), wrestling concessions out of the Magna Carta in 1215 and receiving the fealty of other Welsh lords in 1216 at the council at Aberdyfi, becoming the first Prince of Wales. His grandson Llywelyn II also secured the recognition of the title Prince of Wales from Henry III with the Treaty of Montgomery in 1267.
Conquest by EnglandEdit
Later, a succession of disputes, including the imprisonment of Llywelyn's wife Eleanor, daughter of Simon de Montfort, culminated in the first invasion by Edward I. As a result of military defeat, the Treaty of Aberconwy exacted Llywelyn's fealty to England in 1277. Peace was short-lived and with the 1282 Edwardian conquest the rule of the Welsh princes permanently ended. With Llywelyn's death and his brother prince Dafydd's execution, the few remaining Welsh lords did homage for their lands to Edward I. Llywelyn's head was then carried through London on a spear; his infant daughter Gwenllian was locked in the priory at Sempringham, where she remained until her death fifty four years later.
To help maintain his dominance, Edward constructed a series of great stone castles. Beaumaris, Caernarfon, and Conwy were built mainly to overshadow the Welsh royal home and headquarters Garth Celyn, Aber Garth Celyn, on the north coast of Gwynedd.
There was no further major uprising except that led by Owain Glyndŵr a century later, against Henry IV of England. In 1404 Owain was reputedly crowned Prince of Wales in the presence of emissaries from France, Spain and Scotland; he went on to hold parliamentary assemblies at several Welsh towns, including Machynlleth. The rebellion was ultimately to founder, however, and Owain went into hiding in 1412, with peace being more or less restored in Wales by 1415.
Although English conquest of Wales took place under the 1284 Statute of Rhuddlan, a formal Union did not occur until 1536, shortly after which Welsh law, which continued to be used in Wales after the conquest, was fully replaced by English law under the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 - 1542.