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Wales A Brief History of Cymru from the Ancient Period To the Reign of Edward I


Wales, or in Welsh 'Cymru' (this word comes from the Celtic word for 'fellow countrymen') is a land of green valleys, magnificent Snowdonia mountains, and beautiful castles and has a rich, vibrant, and incredible history full of princes, wars and rebellions.

There is historical evidence that Neanderthals lived in the territory of Wales around 230,000 years ago. The first Homo sapiens in this area appeared at the end of the Ice Age, probably 9,000 BC. The stone age hunters did hunting and farming, and at about 2,000 BC they learned to use bronze. At about 600 BC Celts migrated to Wales. Some of the Celtic population must have settled on the territory of Britain in this period. Even before the Roman occupation of Britain, there were independent Celtic tribes living in what is now Wales, ruled by sovereign Celtic kings.

The Roman conquest of Britain (AD 43-410)

The Roman conquerors invaded south-east England and Wales and built a network of forts across Wales to control the Celtic tribes. The most important Roman towns in Wales were Caerwent, Carmarthen, and Caernarfon. After the Roman withdrawal in AD 410, Wales split into numerous small kingdoms. During the 'Age of Migration' the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes arrived in Britain.

Medieval Wales (AD 500-850)

According to historical evidence, one of the first Welsh kingdoms was the kingdom of Gwent, located in what is now Cairwent. Other kingdoms were Dyfed, Gwynedd, Powys, and Seisyllwg. In the eighth century, they became part of the kingdom of Gwyneth, whose king was Rhodri ap Merfyn, also known as Rhodri Mawr and Rhodri the Great for his victories over the Vikings, who were often looting and raiding the coastal areas of England. There was no unified state of Wales, but the kingdoms were united by a set of laws and a common historical and cultural heritage.

Under the descendants of Rhodri, Hywel, and Gruffudd ap Llywelyn, the territories of Wales were further unified. By the middle of the eleventh century, Wales was a single state, consisting of separate kingdoms, which periodically waged war with each other. At the same time from the beginning of the tenth century to the middle of the eleventh century, King Alfred led a campaign to unite England under the rule of Wessex, and in 1063 Harold, the jarl of Wessex, attacked Wales and killed the ruler of Wales. In 1066 William the duke of Normandy remained ruler of England, but Wales remained a set of kingdoms.

William 'the Conqueror' didn't attempt to conquer Wales. He did grant land along the English-Welsh border to powerful Norman lords, who had attacked Wales several times. What happened to Wales can be described as the division of the lands of the former local lords between the border lords and the Crown. The Crown retained Ceredigion (Cardigan), Flintshire, Gwynedd (Caernarvonshire and Merionethshire), Anglesey, and Biand Carmarthenshire. Other lands were awarded to border lords and friends of the king. What is significant about this is that in the Crown lands, royal justice prevailed, the king being the final authority in settling disputes and issuing writs.

The end of Welsh independence and the reign of Edward I (AD 1272-1307)

Princes of Gwynedd, Llywelyn Fawr (1195-1240) and Llywelyn the Last (1223-1282), the second of them being known to be the last prince of independent Wales, tried their best to unite the territories of Wales into a single powerful state. In the mid-thirteenth century Llywelyn the Last united the Welsh kingdoms of Gwynedd, Powys, Deheubarth, and Glamorgan into one country.

In the end England's King Edward I labeled Llywelyn the Last a rebel and defeated him at the Battle of Orewin Bridge in 1282. This battle ended the independence of Wales. To bring Wales under English rule, Edward I built defensive fortresses at Caernarfon, Conwy, Flint, Harlech, Rhuddlan, and Aberystwyth, and the king also created the title of 'Prince of Wales' to emphasise the dependence of Wales upon England and the power of England. The first to receive this title was the son of Edward I, the future King Edward II. In the early fifteenth century, the Welsh under the national leader Owain Glyndŵr rebelled for the independence of Wales against King Henry IV but suffered a series of defeats, and the rebellion was suppressed.

As Henry VII, who put an end to the English War of the Roses, became king in 1485, from now on England was ruled by a Tudor dynasty with Welsh blood in its veins. As a result, under King Henry VIII, two key Acts of Union were passed in 1536 and 1542, uniting the administrative, political, and legal institutions of England and Wales, and finally merging England and the Principality of Wales, with Welsh law replaced by English law.

In this article, we have only attempted to look into some periods in the rich past of Wales. There is much more to learn about Welsh history. If you want to dig deeper, take your time and look at the different articles about certain periods of Welsh history on our website instead of gambling at live casino online. And of course one of the best ways to gain an insight into the Wales past is to visit Wales: Some remnants of the earliest Roman defensive hill forts have survived to the present day on the territory of Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park, not to mention majestic Welsh castles, Offa's Dyke, and different museums!



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