Welsh People Possessed A Sense Common Heritage

1316 words - 5 pages

In the introduction to the course, Gareth Elwyn Jones states that "the specifics of the history of Wales have compelled its people to conceive of nationhood in quite different terms [to those of other nations]” , these other terms are “a sense of community, language, culture and a feeling of common heritage” . The course as a whole can then be considered as a brief investigation into these expressions of Welsh national identity.

Perhaps Llywelyn ap Gruffydd was attempting to ossify these ephemeral qualities in the late thirteenth century when, in the words of Rees Davies, he sought "to convert the primacy of Gwynedd among the native dynasties into the leadership of a united native Wales whose status as a separate and unitary principality would be acknowledged by the English Crown” , although Davies has to concede that Llywelyn’s efforts were restricted to the “pura Wallia [of] the unconquered parts of Wales” , referring to those parts of the country that had so far avoided assimilation into Anglo-Norman England in the preceding two centuries. Llywelyn was ultimately unsuccessful, perhaps in large part because the ‘Wales’ that he sought to build was his personal dynastic and political goal of the nation, and was not a goal held nor supported by many of his immediate contemporaries, including his brother . Similarly, Davies’s interpretation of the Edwardian conquest of Wales has not been accepted wholesale, Antony Carr rejects Davies’s notion that Edward’s conquest was a “national disaster” and reminds us that "for most people the new regime meant little change and the traditional leaders of the community retained their power and influence. Indeed, in some ways Gwynedd may have been better off under Edward than it had been under Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, whose heavy financial demands must have been a strain on his people’s loyalty."

Clear distinctions between England and Wales (and by extension, their national identities) are not that apparent in some of the sources from the early Tudor Reformation, and, like the Edwardian conquest, the period has been portrayed as one in which the English consolidated their domination of Wales, this time via "Henry’s Acts of Union (1536 and 1543), which integrated Wales with England, [and] became the focus in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries for the nationalist claim that this legislation, intimately linked to the religious Reformation, represented a deliberate attack on the Welsh language and therefore on Welsh identity" . Following on from the creation of the Church of England in the 1534 Act of Supremacy , the oath of loyalty sworn by the clergy at Ewenny Priory the same year refers to “our aforesaid King Henry is Head of the English Church...in this kingdom of England” . The Tudors, however, were well aware that they were "a dynasty descended from Anglesey stock" suggesting perhaps that the court saw little distinction between the two national identities, uniting their Welsh ancestral seat...

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