The Kingdoms of Wales - Sarah Woodbury

The Kingdoms of Wales

Map of Anglo-Saxon EnglandWales as a country evolved over a period of time after the Saxons completed their conquest of the rest of Britain. To recap, the Romans left Britain in 410 AD, leaving the ‘Britons’ to fend for themselves against succeeding waves of raiders from the north and east. These includes the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. Historians are not in agreement as to exactly how this worked, but the Britons as a culture and society were driven further and further west until they reached their last bastions in Wales.

Map of Early Medieval Wales

Credit to David Ford, Early British Kingdoms

Regardless of the actual timeline, by 800 AD, the Saxons were well established right up to the border of what is now Wales.  Offa’s Dyke, an earthen wall built in the 8th century, delineated the border for much of the early Middle Ages.

“Offa was King of Mercia from 757 to 796 AD. His kingdom covered the area between the Trent/Mersey rivers in the North to the Thames Valley i

n the South, and from the Welsh border in the West to the Fens in the East. At the height of his power, however, he also controlled Kent, East Anglia and Lindsay (Lincoln), and had alliances with Northumbria and Wessex, sealed by the marriage of two of his daughters to their Kings, Aethelred and Beorhtic respectively. He was, therefore, effectively an early King of England.”

Llywelyn the Great's Wales 1217

Wales c. 1217. Yellow: areas directly ruled by Llywelyn; Grey: areas ruled by Llywelyn’s client princes; Green: Anglo-Norman lordships.

By the time of the two Llywelyn’s in the 13th century, the kingdoms of Wales were more consolidated. Llywelyn the Great, who ruled in the early half of the century, controlled all but a few regions of Wales, which the Marcher (Norman) lords still controlled.

His grandson, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, gained and lost (and then gained again) much of this territory over the course of his reign from roughly 1246 to his death in 1282.

5 Replies to “The Kingdoms of Wales”

  1. I’ve tracked this blood line as it is mine . I am a direct descendant. Capt sam matthews is related to them so is cosin so is gardiner . Capt was tried for treason by the English invaders of briton. He however was blood of the the first and only king of briton. This family is directly resplendent for thr formation of America

  2. Come, come, Venkata,
    I completely understand your frustration….yet we are talking about the peoples whose descendents pursued imperialism across the globe. As a descendent via all of my family lines of several of the indigenous groups “overtaken” by this aberrant gene, it is not a pretty experience how they have historically treated with the “conquered”…. yet here we are today with the choice to which viewpoint to give our personal power. Assimilation is a dirty word among some indigenous descendents, but I wonder what is nature’s way? Are we not just a more personally observed version of evolution in action? Ahh…the possibilities, the imaginings, the foundations upon which to base one’s values … !
    Love that you shared this, Sarah. Thanks so much. I greatly enjoyed Venkata’s expressive comment too. I hope others will chime in.
    Beautiful day, ~sp

    1. Hi Sunny! I think it is evident that some cultures celebrated conquest while others did not. The hard thing was to be on the losing side. From an anthropological perspective, however, there isn’t anything more ‘natural’ about one way compared to another. Humans have the ability to be almost anyway. We like to say that conquest is in our genes, but it’s really in our culture. Vikings, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Sumerians, Chinese, English, Dutch, Spanish, Aztecs–they all marched across the globe at various times, rolling over anyone in their way.

      It does seem in recent years that much of the population of our planet doesn’t support conquest anymore, by their nation or any other. Hooray.

  3. Reminds me again after Llywelyn’s death, Wales was taken over which leads to me to the interesting question: why do/did the Saxons and Normans think EVERYTHING belongs to them?
    For example, the Saxons and Normans wanted Wales simply because….it was there. Never mind the Welsh didn’t want or care about anywhere outside Wales, they were just greedy for more territory which is odd since most Welsh land was near worthless ,till the 16th century at the earliest, by Saxon and Norman standards. Why can’t they just leave countries that have done nothing and don’t want to be bothered ALONE?!

    1. Admittedly, the farmland in the March was quite rich.

      Did you know that Normans were actually the descendants of the Vikings? It must just be in that Nordic blood to travel, conquer, and overcome. Initially, the Vikings left their homeland because of famine/poverty/overcrowding. Then it must have just become a habit 🙂

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