The Quest for Welsh Independence - Sarah Woodbury

The Quest for Welsh Independence

When the Romans conquered Britain, the people they defeated were the Britons, the ancestors of the Welsh, a Celtic people who themselves had come to the island hundreds of years before. After the Romans marched away in 410 AD, the Saxon invaders overwhelmed the British in successive waves, pushing them west and resulting in a Saxon England and British Wales. When the next conquerors—the Normans—came in 1066 AD, they conquered England but they did not conquer Wales. Not yet.

For the next two hundred years, power in Wales ebbed and flowed, split among Welsh kings and princes, Marcher barons (Norman lords who carved out mini-kingdoms for themselves on the border between England and Wales), and the English kings.

Through it all, the Welsh maintained their right to independence—to be governed by their own laws and their own kings.

The ending came on December 11th, 1282, when Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last Prince of Wales, was killed on a snowy hillside, the end of a thirty year conflict with Edward I, King of England. Less than a year later, his brother, Dafydd ap Gruffydd, was hanged, drawn, and quartered and dragged through he streets of Shrewsbury, the first man of standing to die that particular death—practice for the murder of Scot patriot William Wallace in similar fashion twenty years later (along with hundreds of other Scots, including three brothers of Robert the Bruce).

In further retribution, Edward took all the signs of the Welsh principality—the true cross, the scepter, the crown—for himself. And he made sure that his son, Edward II, was born at Caernarfon Castle (in 1284), so that Edward could name him the Prince of Wales. The heir to throne of England has been called the Prince of Wales ever since.

It has been 729 years since 1282. Is that too long a time to remember? A 2007 BBC poll reported that 20% of the people of Wales backed independence, while 70% did not; this is in comparison to Scotland, where 32% of the population supported independence from England.

This brutal history prompted me to write, my After Cilmeri series which follow the adventures of two teenagers who travel back in time to the thirteenth century and save Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s life. In my books, the Welsh people maintain their independence and never succumb to Edward I, nor fall under the heel of the English boot.

The practical side of Welsh independence, after all this time, would be very different from the idea of it, no matter how appealing.  Could Wales be self-sufficient?  England has exploited its natural resources for over 700 years.  How much is left?  And if Wales isn’t going to rely on exports, than what … tourism?  On March 3, 2011, Wales voted for more powers for their assembly.

The Welsh Assembly, according its web page, has three tasks:  “The Assembly has three key roles: representing Wales and its people; making laws for Wales; and holding the Welsh Government to account.”  To see what aspects of government for which the Assembly is responsible:

13 Replies to “The Quest for Welsh Independence”

  1. I have lived my whole life under the boot of the English financiers and monarchy. They have held us back for thousand years. Tell me this. If Wales is so dependent on England financially then why are the English not the biggest advocates for Independence for Wales. We don’t need a monarchy we just need politicians with a pair of big ones. Cofiwch Dryweryn. Cymru am Byth. Y Croeso.

  2. Very interesting article. I was trying to find out about the historical relationship between Wales and England, but it appears one has to dig a bit to get the truth. Thank god for the internet, where articles like this can be found!

  3. As a person with distant ancestry ‘Cymraeg’ (but sadly not enough, even to play football for Cymru!) I agree, with the fervour of a convert, that it is our duty to reclaim our heritage and establish an independent Cymru.
    However, until a majority of the Cymry are likewise persuaded, it ain’t going to happen.

  4. This is a fundamentally emotive issue and one which is hugely difficult with which a Welsh person can rationally deal. That fact that even the word, ‘Welsh’ means foreigner in Saxon English, is as deep an insult as one could receive on one’s own land, so 800 years is nothing when those embedded Saxon attitudes remain unaltered in their descendants today. To forgive is the only response worth consideration – true forgiveness, then let freedom reign. Cymru am byth.

  5. I argue in favour of Welsh Independence on the basis that it would free the citizens of Wales from the title of ‘commoner’ and as subjects to the English Monarchy. The idea of a Welsh Monarchy makes my stomach churn, despite my noble ancestry.

    1. Interesting that you feel that way, not that a Welsh monarchy appeals to me, given that I’m an American. We just like to adopt other people’s 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  6. I am as far removed from discussion about Welsh independence as one can possibly be. However in reading some of the pros and cons, one argument struck me as rather odd – that wales must not try to be independent because it is too financially dependent on UK. Assuming it is true, and I don’t know one way or the other, just because Wales is economically dependent now, how is it a reasonable argument that therefore Wales should never try to stand on her own feet.

  7. Worth noting that Wales enjoyed a very large degree of independence until the Acts of Union 1535-42.

    I strongly believe in Welsh independence and will make it happen too but certainly not a Welsh monarchy!!

  8. In my opinion wales will be freed in my lifetime and i hope i can help it happen and if it is we will probably restore the monarchy to the only living decendant which is called Evan Vaughan Anwyl!

    1. Thanks for commenting. As an American, the monarchy doesn’t appeal, but more power to you if that’s what the Welsh nation as a whole approves 🙂

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