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Useful Notes / Wales

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"Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi,
Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri;
Ei gwrol ryfelwyr, gwladgarwyr tra mad,
Dros ryddid collasant eu gwaed."

"Gwlad, gwlad, pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad.
Tra mor yn fur i'r bur hoff bau,
O bydded i'r hen iaith barhau."
The first verse and chorus of "Land of My Fathers", the Welsh National Anthem.

Cymru, the land of the Welsh Dragon, Tom Jones, the revival of Doctor Who, Torchwood and the rest of The BBC Sci-fi/fantasy TV programmes.

In Roman times, the whole of Great Britain was inhabited by a Celtic population. During the Dark Ages, the Germanic Anglo-Saxons invaded and took over most of the island, but one of the parts they didn't take over was the little corner we now call Wales.note  Wales was conquered by the English in The Middle Ages and became legally a part of the Kingdom of England — which is why there's no "Welsh Bit" of the Union Jack, which was formed from the flags of the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and, later, Ireland. Being conquered and repressed has given Wales both a strong sense of identity and the mother of all chips on shoulders. Do not call Welsh people "English"; it will cause immediate and lasting discomfort (ditto for Scottish and Irish people).


Much like Ireland, Wales was initially separated into distinct regions ruled by individual houses, whose leaders were identified as kings or princes. Llywelyn the Great, King of Gwynedd, eventually united all of Wales and ruled as Tywysog y Cymru - Prince of Wales - for 45 years. He was married to Joan, a daughter of King John of England, and had several children, both with her and with mistresses. After his death in 1240, however, his son Dafydd could only inherit part of his father's holdings, and Dafydd's half-brother Gruffudd was supposed to be given lands to rule but was not allowed to be prince at all. (Welsh tradition recognized the eldest son as the eldest son regardless of whether or not he was legitimate, and by the laws of the land the title should have gone to Gruffudd, who was the eldest; the Pope, however, had objections to this because he was illegitimate.) Eventually, Gruffudd was made a prisoner of the English king and died trying to escape; Dafydd, meanwhile, died with only illegitimate minor children, and his lands and titles passed instead to his nephew Llywelyn, son of Gruffudd, who was both an adult and legitimate.


Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, also known in Wales as Llywelyn the Last, was a ruler much like his namesake grandfather and reclaimed the title of Prince of Wales. Edward I nevertheless managed to annex the realm as a principality of England, but in a rare display of benevolence, "Longshanks" agreed to let Llywelyn keep his title in exchange for recognizing English sovereignty. Llywelyn was effectively a vassal to the English throne, much as Alexander was in Scotland at the same time, and things were more or less peaceful. Edward also sanctioned the marriage of Llywelyn to Eleanor de Montfort, a granddaughter of King John, in what is believed to have been a Perfectly Arranged Marriage; Llywelyn is not recorded to have ever had a mistress or sired any illegitimate offspring, which was very unusual for the Welsh nobility.

Unfortunately, the happy marriage was the downfall of the royal house. Eleanor died shortly after giving birth to Princess Gwenllian, Llywelyn's only child, in June 1282. Llywelyn was frankly distraught by her death. In this state, the prince's conniving half-brother Dafydd was able to persuade him to once again take up arms against the English. On December 11, 1282, Llywelyn was lured into a trap and killed, possibly (nobody knows for sure) thanks to Dafydd double-crossing him. Dafydd claimed guardianship of Gwenllian, who was now the rightful Princess of Wales - the first and only woman to be born to that title - and took her and his own children into hiding in a bog in northern Wales. They were captured there in June 1283 and taken to England, where Dafydd eventually became the first man in recorded history to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. His sons were imprisoned, and his daughters and the infant Gwenllian were handed over to various convents and raised to become nuns in order to end the Welsh royal line. Llywelyn's body was never recovered, but his countrymen eventually gave him a memorial stone which calls him "our last prince/our last leader." His daughter, who died in the Sempringham Priory in Lincolnshire in 1337, is memorialized with a plaque at the summit of Mount Snowdon (one of Llywelyn's titles was "Lord of Snowdonia"), and they both have mountains named after them in the region.

The nobles of Wales insisted that Edward I give them a prince who spoke no English and was born on Welsh soil. He invoked some clever Loophole Abuse by presenting his own infant son, the future Edward II, who had recently been born in Caernarfon Castle; he thus spoke no English (nor any other language) and had indeed been born on Welsh soil. Ever since, with only a handful of exceptions, the male heir apparent to the British crown has been called the Prince of Wales.note 

Although long treated as a separate nation to England for cultural purposes, Wales was still part of England for legal purposes until 1967.note  It was not until 1972 that its borders were clarified. Cardiff (Caerdydd) had been proclaimed the capital of Wales in 1955. This was mostly because it was Wales' largest city; there was no government based there at the time, and pre-conquest Wales never really had a fixed capital. Since 1999 Wales now has a devolved assembly based there, albeit one with less power than the Scottish Parliament. This reflects the overall state of Welsh affairs at the moment. Although Welsh is by far the healthiest modern Celtic language and Welsh identity is widespread and firm, the vast majority of Welsh are, all things considered, quite comfortable being British (not English, of course—British), and are certainly nowhere nearly as interested in independence as the Scots. Some have even noted a reluctance on the part of the Welsh Assembly itself to ask for more power from Westminster (in contrast to the Scottish Parliament, which even under the Scottish-Unionist Labour/Lib Dem coalition clearly wanted a bit more authority for itself).

The Welsh language is a Celtic tongue that predates the Roman conquest. It is closely related to Breton and Cornish (spoken in the northwestern French province of Brittany and Cornwall, respectively, with all three making up the Brittonic or Brythonic subfamily), and more distantly related to the Goidelic Celtic languages - Scottish Gaelic, a surviving native language of Scotland; Irish, the native language of Ireland; and Manx, spoken on the Isle of Man.

Welsh is generally regarded by English-speakers as a formidably difficult language, and a glance at the map shows such jaw-crackers as Machynlleth, Pwllheli, and the truly majestic Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. As a result, Welsh speakers tend to find it absolutely hilarious when non-Welsh speakers try to pronounce Welsh words and names. That said, the pronunciation rules are consistent (unlike English) and once you know that a "u" is pronounced "ee"; "dd" is a soft "th" (as in 'there' rather than 'think') ; and a "ll" is a sort-of cross between 'l' and 'th', then it will always be so, although the actual spelling (and hence pronunciation) of a word may change depending on the word preceding it. "Cwm", that perennial favourite of crossword-puzzle enthusiasts, is pronounced "coom" (and means "a hollow in the side of a mountain"). Welsh vowels ('a', 'e', 'i', 'o', 'u', 'w', and 'y') have two distinct pronunciations: one long, one short. For example, 'mẁg' (with a vowel sound like the one in 'book') and mwg (vowel sound like in 'pool'). In addition there are two variations of "y", which can be heard in "yn" (like 'un-' as in 'unhealthy') and "byd" (like 'bead') (obscure and clear sounds, respectively). Welsh English often uses "like" as an interjection, but contrary to stereotypes the word 'boyo' is practically nonexistent.

The Welsh language was suppressed with varying degrees of viciousness by the English from the Middle Ages right up until the 1960s, but since then it has become one of the best-subsidized minority languages in the world, and nowadays around 20% of Welsh people can speak some Welsh, with 14% claiming to use it on a daily basis. Northern and Southern versions differ in details, and 'gogs' (as North Walians are referred to in the Southnote ) are sometimes said to sound like Russian porn stars. Welsh is accorded equal status with English within Wales, so all road signs and official notices have to be in both. (East of Conwy, English is given precedence. West of Conwy, Welsh comes first. Welsh language road signage generally begins at the border: visitors are often consternated that Welsh signage begins even before you have left Chester, largely because Saltney, although part of the city of Chester, lies within Wales. (Big supermarkets in Oswestry, nominally inside England, have bilingual signage.)) The language is the butt of many jokes in England, usually along the lines of "Welsh is very difficult to speak unless you have either a lifetime's study, or a serious throat infection".note  Welsh spellings are also the subject of English humour, sometimes being attributed either to anagrams of breakfast cereal names, some form of encrypted message used by intelligence agents, or escapees from H. P. Lovecraft's less well-known works.

There is also a community of Welsh-speakers in Argentina, dating back to the 19th century, and Welsh is spoken in Patagonia, albeit with a Spanish accent. Eastern Pennsylvania (north of Philadelphia) had a heavy influx of Welsh immigrants in the 19th century due to its booming coal industry, and accordingly had a number of small communities where Welsh was spoken extensively; this has dwindled over time, but is still present in the names of many locations such as Bala Cynwyd.

Wales is notable for its sheep population — c. 10.9 million of them against a human population of about 3.1 million. So, the usual jokes apply. Wales is also notable for its level of rainfall — even more so than the UK as a whole. Second city Swansea (Abertawe) officially holds the distinction of "wettest city in Britain".

The majority of the population live in the southeastern corner, in the corridor between Swansea and Newport. The mountainous middle of Wales is quite sparsely populated. This, as well as the lack of north-to-south transport links (trains from Cardiff to North Wales go through England), means there is a degree of cultural separation between the North and South of Wales. Historically, Wales' population was more dispersed, but South Wales (and to a lesser extent, Wrexham and the North East) boomed in the 19th century due to immense coal deposits. A lot of Welsh cultural identity stems from the 19th-century mining industry, when "the Valleys" saw religious revivals, the enthusiastic adoption of the game of Rugby, and a great tradition of choral singing.

The heavily industrial economy ensured that Welsh politics have always favoured the left. This has continued after the industry declined, as Margaret Thatcher is often blamed for the post-industrial misfortunes of regions like "The Valleys" (to the north of Cardiff). In 1997 and 2001, the Conservatives failed to win a single Welsh seat, although they have since made some inroads. Wales also has its own secessionist party Plaid Cymru ("Party of Wales"), who tend to have the most support in the rural areas.

A lot of people in Wales are called Jones, Williams or Davies, due to the way the Welsh Patronymic naming system was Anglicised — people in small villages will have to use their first names or get nicknames to distinguish each other. Traditionally these were often in the form of "Surname The Occupation", such as Jones The Steam [engine driver] from Ivor the Engine. This results in SAT exams (see British Education System) having to have candidate numbers in Wales. This is also the case with soldiers in Welsh army regiments, who even in the late 20th century were still identified by their unique Army number and not by one of a limited number of family names. Although Jones is traditionally considered the Welsh surname, current surveys show that the most common surname nowadays is Williams — Owen, Jones, and Powell then tied for the next most populous name with Davies and Hughes coming up not far behind.

There are two regiments of the British Army that require their officer candidates to be fluent, and ideally bilingual, in a language other than English. One is the Gurkha Rifles and the other is the Royal Welch Fusiliers (they were founded in 1690, and still insist on the archaic spelling of the word currently rendered as "Welsh").

See also Portmeirion.

There are a lot of famous Welsh people such as:

Welsh Films

  • Hedd Wyn, an anti-war film about a Welsh poet sucked into World War I.
  • Solomon & Gaenor, about a tragic romance between a young Jewish man and a Christian woman in 1911 Wales.
  • Pride (2014)

Welsh TV shows:

Famous Welsh Bands:

Fictional Welsh People and Settings:

  • Pixie from the X-Men comics.
  • Will and Cecily Herondale from The Infernal Devices.
  • Gwen Cooper, Ianto Jones and Rhys Williams, Torchwood.
  • Fluellen, Henry V.
  • Wizard Howl, of Howl's Moving Castle fame.
  • Brother Cadfael.
  • Negi Springfield from Negima! Magister Negi Magi Well, he spent a good deal of his childhood there.
  • The West clan of Gavin & Stacey, plus their friends and neighbors.
    • Also from Ruth Jones, A Child's Christmases in Wales.
  • Ivor the Engine.
  • Several characters from Channel 4's classic sketch show Absolutely, particularly DIY 'expert' Denzil and his equally repulsive wife, Gwyneth (played by Welsh comedy actor John Sparks and Morwenna Banks).
  • Welshy from Futurama is a Red Shirt replacement for Star Trek: The Original Series's Scotty.
  • Able Seaman Goldstein from The Navy Lark, apparently he joined the Navy to work his passage to Swansea.
  • Madoc and all of his descendants in A Swiftly Tilting Planet.
  • The Owl Service by Alan Garner is set in Wales, based on themes from the Mabinogion.
  • The Grey King, part of the series The Dark is Rising, is set in Wales and has a Welsh-speaking boy as its second-most-important character.
  • Jeff from Coupling (the crazy one). Oddly, Richard Coyle — the actor who plays him — is English but used a Welsh accent for no discernible reason, although it was so convincing that several other cast members assumed he was Welsh.
  • The setting of the Chronicles of Prydain is based on Welsh mythology.
  • The country of Llamedos on the Discworld is an extreme parody of Welsh stereotypes, best known as the original home of Imp y Celyn and noted for its rain mines.
    • Llamedos is "Sod 'em all" backwards, a joke taken from the fictional village of Llareggub ("Bugger all") in Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas.
  • The King Arthur of Welsh legend was a Celtic Briton and not necessarily considered to hail from (what is today) Wales, but as the descendants of the Britons, the Welsh always considered him as one of their heroes. Likely as a direct result, Sir Ystin from Demon Knights.
    • Percival is assimilated to the Welsh hero Peredur in some versions.
    • Merlin. The original Merlin was a bard called Myrddin, the founder of Carmarthen (from Caer Myrddin, "Merlin's City").
  • Swansea-born Edward Kenway, the protagonist of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. (The in-universe creators of Devils of the Caribbean choose to remove his Welsh accent to make him more marketable worldwide.)
  • Ddraig of High School D×D is a Welsh Dragon. And of course his name means Dragon in Welsh. It's implied that he looks like a realistic version of the dragon on the Welsh flag.
  • Brother Wales in Scandinavia and the World by Humon plays on all the stereotypes. He is in a meaningful relationship with New Zealand (portrayed as a sheep). The Welsh language, as it appears to this particular Great Dane, is explored here. note 
  • American film How Green Was My Valley is set in a Welsh mining town.

The Welsh flag
The flag's white and green halves recall the colours of the House of Tudor, itself a Welsh family; at the centre is the Welsh Dragon ("Y Ddraig Goch", or "The Red Dragon" in Welsh), said to have been the standard of King Arthur and other Celtic warlords.

The Welsh national anthem
Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi,
Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri;
Ei gwrol ryfelwyr, gwladgarwyr tra mad,
Dros ryddid collasant eu gwaed.

Gwlad! Gwlad! Pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad.
Tra môr yn fur i'r bur hoff bau,
O bydded i'r hen iaith barhau.

Hen Gymru fynyddig, paradwys y bardd,
Pob dyffryn, pob clogwyn, i'm golwg sydd hardd;
Trwy deimlad gwladgarol, mor swynol yw si
Ei nentydd, afonydd, i fi.

Gwlad! Gwlad! Pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad.
Tra môr yn fur i'r bur hoff bau,
O bydded i'r hen iaith barhau.

Os treisiodd y gelyn fy ngwlad tan ei droed,
Mae hen iaith y Cymry mor fyw ag erioed,
Ni luddiwyd yr awen gan erchyll law brad,
Na thelyn berseiniol fy ngwlad.

Gwlad! Gwlad! Pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad.
Tra môr yn fur i'r bur hoff bau,
O bydded i'r hen iaith barhau.

The land of my fathers is dear to me,
Old land where the minstrels are honoured and free;
Its warring defenders so gallant and brave,
For freedom their life's blood they gave.

Home, home, true I am to home,
While seas secure the land so pure,
O may the old language endure.

Old land of the mountains, the Eden of bards,
Each gorge and each valley a loveliness guards;
Through love of my country, charmed voices will be
Its streams, and its rivers, to me.

Home, home, true I am to home,
While seas secure the land so pure,
O may the old language endure.

Though foemen have trampled my land 'neath their feet,
The language of Cambria still knows no retreat;
The muse is not vanquished by traitor's fell hand,
Nor silenced the harp of my land.

Home, home, true I am to home,
While seas secure the land so pure,
O may the old language endure.

  • Devolved parliamentary legislature within a constitutional monarchy
    • Monarch: Elizabeth II
    • First Minister: Mark Drakeford

"The land where history sleeps, and so does everybody else."
Griff Rhys Jones

"I think most of all, the Welsh were doomed by English superiority to become objects of terminal quaintness. The quaint language, the quaint songs. Those amusing choirs and chants"
Simon Schama's A History of Britain

Alternative Title(s): Land Of My Fathers And Their Sheep