Prince of Wales - Sarah Woodbury

Prince of Wales

Why is the Prince of Wales the son of the English king? And why are there so many people claiming to be the ‘true’ Prince of Wales running about? And why were the rulers called ‘prince’ instead of ‘king’?

Like most of Europe, before the Norman conquest of England, all of Britain was divided up into many small kingdoms. At some point after 900 AD, the Saxons in England consolidated all their smaller kingdoms into one with one king, which is why there was a single throne later for William the Conqueror to lay claim to. At that point, Wales was still divided into a dozen small kingdoms, each with a king, not a prince. It was only in 1200 that Llywelyn Fawr conquered most of the country and in order to get recognized by the King of England and cease the endless warfare between Wales and England (whose resources were, of course,10 times Llywelyn’s) he agree dto be acknowledged as “Prince of Wales” rather than “King of Wales”. There was precedence for this as Owain Gwynedd had done the same before his death. He was still “King of Gwynedd” but he was otherwise “Prince of Wales”.

Then, in 1282 when Edward conquered Wales and the then Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (Llywelyn’s Fawr’s grandson), was assassinated, King Edward made his own son, Edward II, “Prince” of Wales with the express purpose of ensuring that no native prince (one who was actually Welsh) would ever be the Prince of Wales again. Since then the Prince of Wales has always been the son of the English king.

Over the centuries, not all the descendants of all the kings of all those former kingdoms were wiped out. Edward imprisoned Gwenllian, Llywelyn’s only daughter, for the rest of her life in a convent, but he had brothers and cousins and extended cousins, and that isn’t even to mention all the descendents of kings of Gwent, Morganwgg, Deheubarth, Powys, etc, anyone who could claim themselves to be the ‘rightful’ Prince of Wales. I myself am descended from Gruffydd ap Cynan, King of Gwynedd, through his daughter Gwenllian and the Lord Rhys. So, if you want to be technical about it, my three sons could be princes of Wales too!


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