The history of Wales is in large part closely linked to the history of the other parts of Great Britain and thus England in particular. Wales formally became part of the Kingdom of England through the Acts of Union in 1536 and union with Scotland took place in 1707.
As a reminder, England, Wales and Scotland together make up Great Britain. Together with Northern Ireland this then results in the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” (UK = United Kingdom). The Commonwealth of Nation is a loose confederation of states. In the so-called Commonwealth Realms, the English queen or the English king is formally the head of state.
They are – in alphabetical order – in addition to the United Kingdom, the following countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Canada, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Tuvalu.
Early to Roman times
Period The earliest archaeological finds from Wales date back to the Paleolithic. The so-called Red Lady is around 26,000 years old. The skeleton was discovered by William Buckland in the Paviland Caves in 1823. During the height of the last ice age, Wales was likely unsettled because of the hostile temperatures. Resettlement from the continent probably took place between 13,000 and 12,000 BC.
In Gwernvale in Powys – on the outskirts of Crickhowell – the remains of a wooden structure from the Neolithic era have been discovered in front of a stone grave. The Neolithic began in Wales in the 4th millennium and lasted until the beginning of the Bronze Age around 2,500, which in turn continued until around 750 BC. took. Over 30 stone circles were created in Wales during the Bronze Age, making up about one twentieth of all of Great Britain.
The Welsh counties, including that of Penmaenmawr in Caernarvonshire, are almost all Bronze Age. However, based on coin finds, it appears to be clear that there were several smaller minor kingdoms in Wales during the Iron Age.
Until the time of the Roman occupation of Britain, the people of Britain spoke Celtic and were of more or less the same ethnic origin.
Despite their courage and fighting strength, the lack of political unity led to a victory for the more disciplined Roman armies and, as a result, Wales was occupied. The Romans built forts and houses there, but also roads and carried on a brisk trade.
Because of its geographic location, the Romans built only one city in Wales, today’s Caerwent (Venta Silurum).
The Romans left Wales – not least due to the immigration of the Angles and Saxons – around 410 AD.
The time up to the Middle Ages
The Saxon Conquest
In the 5th century the Roman Empire was on the verge of collapse in the course of the migrations. Around 400, fishing rods, jutes and Saxons invaded England. The Celtic residents were driven to Wales. However, the Celtic culture was adopted and a feudal system established. This settlement is known as Saxon settlement. Seven kingdoms were formed in the seventh century: (Heptarchy): Essex, Sussex, Wessex, Kent, Eastanglia, Mercia, Northumbria. The ending -sex indicates the establishment by the Saxons. The new settlers called the country “Angelland”. Christianity gained more and more influence. In 563 the first monastery in western Scotland was founded by the Irish Columbanus. Irish and Roman monks fought to Christianize the country. In the Synod of Whitby, the Northumbrian King Oswy decided in favor of the Roman Catholic Church in 664, giving the country a unified religion. In 784 the King of Mercia, Offa’s Dyke, established the first border between the Welsh and English, and in 844 Rhodri ap Merfyn becomes king of a small area called Gwynedd. By his death (877) all of Wales had been united under his rule.
Great Britain in the Middle Ages
In the middle of the 9th century Danish Vikings invaded the country. Later the Vikings became peaceful and settled. The Danish King Canute (995-1035) also became King of England in 1016. Under the Danes, the country was structured territorially and politically: it was divided into 40 counties, administered by so-called sheriffs (shire reeves), which formed a link between the population and the counts. At the time, this was the most advanced local government in Europe. In addition, the English language experienced significant developments at this time.
In 1040 MacBeth murdered King Duncan in Scotland, 17 years later he himself fell to Malcolm III. Canmore to the victim.
From 1042 to 1066 the Norman Eduard was the confessing king of England and under his rule the southern English defense league of the “Cinque Ports” arose: these six ports were Sandwich, Dover, Hastings, Romney and Rye, later also Hythe and Winchelsea.
The last but most momentous invasion of England took place in 1066. The Norman Duke William-Wilhelm the Conqueror (William the Conqueror, 1027-1087) landed in southern England with 12,000 soldiers.
After the victory at the Battle of Hastings, the English princes were replaced by the Norman-French nobility. Wilhelm I was crowned the first Norman king.
With the Normans, many Romance influences were transferred to the English language. Impressive castles were built and a feudal system was introduced.
In addition, William made London the center of the country. England turned away from Scandinavia and turned to France.
From 1154 to 1189 England experienced a time of peace under Henry II (1133-1189). Henry’s empire also comprised almost half of Frances. Legislative reforms were passed giving the population a say in precedent cases. The foundation stone of the “Common Laws” (customary law and jury courts) was laid. But a rift gradually formed between the Catholic Church and the English crown. In 1170 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket (1118-1170), was assassinated for opposing the circumcision of church rights.
A well-known son and successor of Henry II was Richard I. Plantagenet. Many myths such as the Arthurian legend and the story of Robin Hood surround this so-called Richard the Lionheart (1157-1199). However, Richard stayed in England for only one year during his ten-year reign as he undertook several crusades and was imprisoned in Germanyspent.
In 1215, the Magna Charta laid the foundation for the laws of the British Crown that are still in use today. Among other things, it contained laws on the taxation of the crown and bound the king to law and justice towards his subjects.
In 1193 Gerald von Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis) wrote his famous work “Description Of Wales”. This work is an important chronicle of the social history of Wales and is also the premier travel guide to Wales. From 1196-1240, Llywelyn the Great consolidated his rule in Gwynedd and later in much of Wales. The English King Henry III. signed the “Treaty of Montgomery” in 1267, which confirmed Llywelyn’s claim to the title “Prince of Wales”, among other things I. To show his respect.
Thereupon Edward I put together an army in the years 1276 to 1277 to carry out a campaign against the Prince of Wales. He defeated Llywelyn, who then lost control of all areas in Wales – except for a small area in Gwynedd. But as early as 1301 the title “Prince of Wales” was reintroduced by Edward I for his son, Edward II. In 1284, the Treaty of Rhuddlan established that the English king also ruled over Wales.