Principality of Wales

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Principality of Wales

Tywysogaeth Cymru
Wales after the Treaty of Montgomery 1267.svg
Principality of Wales (1267–1277), the lands ruled directly by the Prince of Wales.
   Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd 's principality
  Territories conquered by Llywelyn
  Territories of Llywelyn's vassals
  Lordships of the Marcher barons
  Lordships of the king of England
Status Client state of England (1283–1294, 1295–1400, 1415–1542)
Capital Abergwyngregyn (Aber Garth Celyn)
Common languages Middle Welsh, Welsh
Demonym(s) Welsh, Cymreig
Government Principality, Feudal monarchy
Llywelyn Fawr and descendants
Edward of Caernarvon and subsequent heirs to the English throne
Historical era Middle Ages
 Statute of Rhuddlan
3 March 1284
Currency penny ( ceiniog )
ISO 3166 code GB-WLS
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of Gwynedd.png Kingdom of Gwynedd
Flag of Deheubarth.svg Deheubarth
Kingdom of England Flag of England.svg
Today part of

The Principality of Wales (Welsh : Tywysogaeth Cymru) existed between 1216 and 1536, encompassing two-thirds of modern Wales during its height between 1267 and 1277. For most of its history it was "annexed and united" to the English Crown except for its earliest few decades. However, for a few generations, specifically the period from its foundation in 1216 to Edward I's completion of the conquest of Wales in 1284, it was de facto independent under a Welsh Prince of Wales, albeit one who swore fealty to the King of England.

Welsh language Brythonic language spoken natively in Wales

Welsh or y Gymraeg is a member of the Brittonic branch of the Celtic languages. It is spoken natively in Wales, by some in England, and in Y Wladfa. Historically, it has also been known in English as "Cambrian", "Cambric" and "Cymric".

Wales Country in northwest Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain. It is bordered by England to the east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It had a population in 2011 of 3,063,456 and has a total area of 20,779 km2 (8,023 sq mi). Wales has over 1,680 miles (2,700 km) of coastline and is largely mountainous, with its higher peaks in the north and central areas, including Snowdon, its highest summit. The country lies within the north temperate zone and has a changeable, maritime climate.

Edward I of England 13th and 14th-century King of England and Duke of Aquitaine

Edward I, also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. Before his accession to the throne, he was commonly referred to as The Lord Edward. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved from an early age in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons. In 1259, he briefly sided with a baronial reform movement, supporting the Provisions of Oxford. After reconciliation with his father, however, he remained loyal throughout the subsequent armed conflict, known as the Second Barons' War. After the Battle of Lewes, Edward was hostage to the rebellious barons, but escaped after a few months and joined the fight against Simon de Montfort. Montfort was defeated at the Battle of Evesham in 1265, and within two years the rebellion was extinguished. With England pacified, Edward joined the Ninth Crusade to the Holy Land. The crusade accomplished little, and Edward was on his way home in 1272 when he was informed that his father had died. Making a slow return, he reached England in 1274 and was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 19 August.


The Principality was formally founded in 1216 at the Council of Aberdyfi and later recognised by the 1218 Treaty of Worcester between Llywelyn the Great of Wales and Henry III of England. [1] [2] [3] The treaty gave substance to the political reality of 13th-century Wales and England, and the relationship of the former with the Angevin Empire. The principality retained a great degree of autonomy, characterized by a separate legal jurisprudence based on the well established laws of Cyfraith Hywel , and by the increasingly sophisticated court of the House of Aberffraw. Although it owed fealty to the Angevin king of England, the principality was de facto independent, with a similar status in the empire to the Kingdom of Scotland. [4] Its existence has been seen as proof that all the elements necessary for the growth of Welsh statehood were in place. [4]

Llywelyn the Great Prince of Gwynedd and de facto Prince of Wales

Llywelyn the Great, full name Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, was a King of Gwynedd in north Wales and eventually ruler of all Wales. By a combination of war and diplomacy he dominated Wales for 45 years.

Henry III of England 13th-century King of England and Duke of Aquitaine

Henry III, also known as Henry of Winchester, was King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Aquitaine from 1216 until his death. The son of King John and Isabella of Angoulême, Henry assumed the throne when he was only nine in the middle of the First Barons' War. Cardinal Guala declared the war against the rebel barons to be a religious crusade and Henry's forces, led by William Marshal, defeated the rebels at the battles of Lincoln and Sandwich in 1217. Henry promised to abide by the Great Charter of 1225, which limited royal power and protected the rights of the major barons. His early rule was dominated first by Hubert de Burgh and then Peter des Roches, who re-established royal authority after the war. In 1230, the King attempted to reconquer the provinces of France that had once belonged to his father, but the invasion was a debacle. A revolt led by William Marshal's son, Richard, broke out in 1232, ending in a peace settlement negotiated by the Church.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

The period of de facto independence ended with Edward I's conquest of the Principality between 1277 and 1283. Under the Statute of Rhuddlan the Principality lost its independence and became effectively an annexed territory of the English crown. From 1301, the crown's lands in north and west Wales formed part of the appanage of England's heir apparent, with the title "Prince of Wales". On accession of the Prince to the English throne, the lands and title became merged with the Crown again. On two occasions Welsh claimants to the title rose up in rebellion during this period, although neither ultimately succeeded.

The Statute of Rhuddlan, also known as the Statutes of Wales or as the Statute of Wales, provided the constitutional basis for the government of the Principality of Wales from 1284 until 1536. The Statute introduced English common law to Wales but also permitted the continuance of Welsh legal practices within the Principality. The Statute was superseded by the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542 when Henry VIII made Wales unequivocally part of the "realm of England".

An appanage or apanage or French: apanage is the grant of an estate, title, office, or other thing of value to a younger male child of a sovereign, who would otherwise have no inheritance under the system of primogeniture. It was common in much of Europe.

Prince of Wales title granted to princes born in Wales

Prince of Wales was a title granted to princes born in Wales from the 12th century onwards; the term replaced the use of the word king. One of the last Welsh princes, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, was killed in battle in 1282 by Edward I, King of England, whose son Edward was invested as the first English Prince of Wales in 1301.

Since the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542, which formally incorporated all of Wales within the Kingdom of England, there has been no geographical or constitutional basis for describing any of the territory of Wales as a principality, although the term has occasionally been used in an informal sense to describe the country, and in relation to the honorary title of Prince of Wales.

Kingdom of England historic sovereign kingdom on the British Isles (927–1649; 1660–1707)

The Kingdom of England was a sovereign state on the island of Great Britain from 927, when it emerged from various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms until 1707, when it united with Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.


The 13th-century Principality of Wales was based on the historic lands ruled by the Aberffraw family, lands in north Wales traditionally including Ynys Môn, Gwynedd-Uwch-Conwy (Gwynedd above the Conwy, or Upper Gwynedd), and the Perfeddwlad (the Middle Country) also known as Gwynedd-Is-Conwy (Gwynedd below the Conwy, or Lower Gwynedd). Additional lands were acquired through vassalage or conquest, and by regaining lands lost to Marcher lords, particularly that of the Perfeddwlad, Powys Fadog, Powys Wenwynwyn, and Ceredigion.

The House of Aberffraw is a historiographical and genealogical term historians use to illustrate the clear line of succession from Rhodri the Great of Wales through his eldest son Anarawd.

Dynasty sequence of rulers considered members of the same family

A dynasty is a sequence of rulers from the same family, usually in the context of a feudal or monarchical system, but sometimes also appearing in elective republics. Alternative terms for "dynasty" may include "house", "family" and "clan", among others. The longest-surviving dynasty in the world is the Imperial House of Japan, otherwise known as the Yamato dynasty, whose reign is traditionally dated to 660 BC.

North Wales unofficial region of Wales, United Kingdom

North Wales is a region of Wales. Retail, transport and educational infrastructure are centred on Wrexham, Rhyl, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno and Bangor. It is bordered to the rest of Wales with the counties of Ceredigion and Powys, and to the east by the English counties of Shropshire, Merseyside, and Cheshire.

Previous Welsh rulers had styled themselves in a variety of ways, usually in relation to a certain patrimony like "Lord of Ceredigion" or "King of Builth". The most powerful were often referred to (by others at least) as "King of the Britons". As Wales was a defined geographical area with agreed borders, yet outside the bounds of England, anyone bestowed with the title Prince of Wales would have suzerainty over any local Welsh ruler but without the territorial ambitions on England of a King of the Britons – which implied "liberating" the Britons who still resided in places long considered a part of England such as Devon, Cornwall, Cumberland and other places, albeit in fewer and fewer numbers.

Suzerainty is any relationship in which one region or nation controls the foreign policy and relations of a tributary state, while allowing the tributary nation to have internal autonomy.

Romano-British culture historical culture

Romano-British culture is the culture that arose in Britain under the Roman Empire following the Roman conquest in AD 43 and the creation of the province of Britannia. It arose as a fusion of the imported Roman culture with that of the indigenous Britons, a people of Celtic language and custom. It survived the fifth-century Roman departure from Britain, eventually finding itself a stronghold in Wales where it was to form the basis of an emerging Welsh culture. Scholars such as Christopher Snyder believe that during the 5th and 6th centuries – approximately from 410 when the Roman legions withdrew, to 597 when St Augustine of Canterbury arrived – southern Britain preserved an active sub-Roman culture that survived the attacks from the Anglo-Saxons and even used a vernacular Latin when writing.

The Aberffraw family had long claimed primacy over all other Welsh lords, including over those rulers of Powys and of Deheubarth. [5] [6] In The History of Gruffydd ap Cynan, written in the late 12th century, the family asserted its rights as the senior line of descendants from Rhodri the Great, who had ruled most of Wales between 820–870, and whose sons came to rule in Gwynedd, Deheubarth, and Powys. [5] [7] Gruffudd ap Cynan's biography was first written in Latin and intended for a wider audience outside Wales. [5] The significance of this claim was that the Aberffraw family owed nothing to the English king for its position in Wales, and that they held authority in Wales "by absolute right through descent," wrote historian John Davies. [5]

Prior to 1284: under the House of Aberffraw

The Principality of Wales was created in 1216 at the Council of Aberdyfi, when it was agreed between Llywelyn the Great and the other sovereign princes among the Welsh that he was the paramount ruler amongst them, and they would pay homage to him. Later he obtained recognition, at least in part, of this agreement from the King of England, who agreed that Llywelyn's heirs and successors would enjoy the title "Prince of Wales" but with certain limitations to his realm and other conditions, including homage to the King of England as vassal, and adherence to rules regarding a legitimate succession. Llywelyn had been at pains to ensure that his heirs and successors would follow the "approved" (by the Pope at least) system of inheritance which excluded illegitimate sons. In so doing he excluded his elder bastard son Gruffydd ap Llywelyn from the inheritance, a decision which would have later ramifications. In 1240 Llywelyn died and Henry III of England (who succeeded John) promptly invaded large areas of his former realm, usurping them from him. However, the two sides came to peace and Henry honoured at least part of the agreement and bestowed upon Dafydd ap Llywelyn the title 'Prince of Wales'. This title would be granted to his successor Llywelyn in 1267 (after a campaign by him to achieve it) and was later claimed by his brother Dafydd and other members of the princely House of Aberffraw.

Aberffraw Princes

The traditional numbering of the Princes of Wales (according to Welsh sources) begins with Owain Gwynedd who ruled from 1137 until 1170. He was never acknowledged as Prince of Wales, and in fact never used that title; however he was considered by later chroniclers to have been the first Welsh prince to unite Wales. This was demonstrated when Owain Glyndŵr was explicitly crowned as Owain IV of Wales in 1404. [8] The English viewed it very differently and considered the title to be bestowed by them and with their grace on only Dafydd ap Llywelyn in 1240 and Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1267. After 1301 the title was granted to the eldest son and heir of an English sovereign.

Owain Gwynedd 1137–70

The prodigious[ clarification needed ] Owain Gwynedd succeeded in retaining for his family the primary position in Wales which his father had achieved. In 1154 he defeated an English and Powysian invasion, but was forced to give up some territory bordering the River Dee. In later years he recaptured these areas and achieved a dominant position for Gwynedd in Wales which had not been seen for centuries. During Owain's reign he changed his title from "King of Gwynedd" to "Prince of the Welsh" (J. B. Smith, Owain Gwynedd, 14–16).

Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd c.1170–95

Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd had usurped the crown from his siblings in a debilitating civil war within Gwynedd. He married the half-sister of king Henry II of England in 1174. He was eventually ousted in 1195 from his much reduced domain by his nephew Llywelyn.

Llywelyn ap Iorwerth 1195–1240

Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (Llywelyn Fawr) ruled Gwynedd and most of Wales from 1195 to 1240 LlywelynFawr.jpg
Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (Llywelyn Fawr) ruled Gwynedd and most of Wales from 1195 to 1240

By 1200 Owain Gwynedd's grandson Llywelyn Fawr (the Great) ap Iorwerth ruled over all of Gwynedd, with England endorsing all of Llywelyn's holdings that year. [9] England's endorsement was part of a larger strategy of reducing the influence of Powys Wenwynwyn, as King John had given William de Breos licence in 1200 to "seize as much as he could" from the native Welsh. [10] However, de Breos was in disgrace by 1208, and Llywelyn seized both Powys Wenwynwyn and northern Ceredigon.

In his expansion, the Prince was careful not to antagonise King John, his father-in-law. [9] Llywelyn had married Joan, King John's illegitimate daughter, in 1204. [5] In 1209 Prince Llywelyn joined King John on his campaign in Scotland. However, by 1211 King John recognised the growing influence of Prince Llywelyn as a threat to English authority in Wales. [10] King John invaded Gwynedd and reached the banks of the Menai, and Llywelyn was forced to cede the Perfeddwlad, and recognize John as his heir presumptive if Llywelyn's marriage to Joan did not produce any legitimate successors. [10] Succession was a complicated matter given that Welsh law recognized children born out of wedlock as equal to those in born in wedlock and sometimes accepted claims through the female line. [11] By then, Llywelyn had several illegitimate children. Many of Llywelyn's Welsh allies had abandoned him during England's invasion of Gwynedd, preferring an overlord far away rather than one nearby. [12] These Welsh lords expected an unobtrusive English crown; but King John had a castle built at Aberystwyth, and his direct interference in Powys and the Perfeddwlad caused many of these Welsh lords to rethink their position. [12] Llywelyn capitalised on Welsh resentment against King John, and led a church-sanctioned revolt against him. [12] As King John was an enemy of the church, Pope Innocent III gave his blessing to Llywelyn's revolt.

Wales c. 1217. Yellow: areas directly ruled by Llywelyn; Grey: areas ruled by Llywelyn's vassals; Green: Anglo-Norman marcher lordships in Wales. CymruLlywelyn.PNG
Wales c. 1217. Yellow: areas directly ruled by Llywelyn; Grey: areas ruled by Llywelyn's vassals; Green: Anglo-Norman marcher lordships in Wales.

Early in 1212 Llywelyn had regained the Perfeddwlad and burned the castle at Aberystwyth. Llywelyn's revolt caused John to postpone his invasion of France, and Philip Augustus, the King of France, was so moved as to contact Llywelyn and propose that they ally against the English king [13] King John ordered the execution by hanging of his Welsh hostages, the sons of many of Llywelyn's supporters [10] Llywelyn I was the first prince to receive the fealty of other Welsh lords at the 1216 Council of Aberdyfi, thus becoming the de facto Prince of Wales and giving substance to the Aberffraw claims.

Dafydd ap Llywelyn 1240–46

On succeeding his father, Dafydd immediately had to contend with the claims of his half-brother, Gruffudd, to the throne. Having imprisoned Gruffudd, his ambitions were curbed by an invasion of Wales led by Henry III in league with a number of the captive Gruffudd's supporters. In August 1241, Dafydd capitulated and signed the Treaty of Gwerneigron, further restricting his powers. By 1244, however, Gruffudd was dead, and Dafydd seems to have benefited from the backing of many of his brother's erstwhile supporters. He was acknowledged by the Pope as Prince of Wales for a time, and defeated Henry III in battle in 1245 during the English king's second invasion of Wales. A truce was agreed in the autumn, and Henry withdrew; but Dafydd died unexpectedly in 1246 without issue. His wife, Isabella de Braose, returned to England; she was dead by 1248.

Dafydd married Isabella de Braose in 1231. Their marriage produced no children, and there is no contemporary evidence that Dafydd sired any heirs. According to late genealogical sources collected by Bartrum (1973), Dafydd had two children by an unknown woman (or women), a daughter, Annes, and a son, Llywelyn ap Dafydd, who apparently later became Constable of Rhuddlan and was succeeded in that post by his son Cynwrig ap Llywelyn.

Owain Goch ap Gruffydd 1246–53 (d. 1282)

Following Dafydd's death, Gwynedd was divided between Owain Goch and his younger brother Llywelyn. This situation lasted until 1252 when their younger brother Dafydd ap Gruffudd reached his majority. Disagreement about how to further divide the realm led to conflict in 1253 in which Llywelyn was victorious. Owain spent the remainder of his days a prisoner of his brother.

Llywelyn ap Gruffudd 1246–82

After achieving victory over his brothers, Llywelyn went on to reconquer the areas of Gwynedd occupied by England (the Perfeddwlad and others). His alliance with Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, in 1265 against King Henry III of England allowed him to reconquer large areas of mid Wales from the English Marcher Lords. At the Treaty of Montgomery between England and Wales in 1267 Llywelyn was granted the title "Prince of Wales" for his heirs and successors and allowed to keep the lands he had conquered as well as the homage of lesser Welsh princes in return for his own homage to the King of England and payment of a substantial fee. Disputes between him, his brother Dafydd and English lords bordering his own led to renewed conflict with England (now ruled by Edward I) in 1277. Following the Treaty of Aberconwy Llywelyn was confined to Gwynedd-uwch-Conwy. He joined a revolt instigated by his brother Dafydd in 1282 in which he died in battle.

Dafydd ap Gruffudd 1282–83

Dafydd assumed his elder brother's title in 1282 and led a brief period of continued resistance against England. He was captured and executed in 1283.

Government, administration and law

Drawing of a Welsh judge from the Peniarth 28 manuscript Laws of Hywel Dda (f.4.r) Judge cropped.jpg
Drawing of a Welsh judge from the Peniarth 28 manuscript

The political maturation of the principality's government fostered a more defined relationship between prince and the people. Emphasis was placed on the territorial integrity of the principality, with the prince as lord of all the land, and other Welsh lords swearing fealty to the prince directly, a distinction with which the Prince of Wales paid yearly tribute to the King of England. [14] By treaty the principality was obliged to pay the kingdom large annual sums. [14] Between 1267 and 1272 Wales made a total payment of £11,500, "proof of a growing money economy... and testimony of the effectiveness of the principality's financial administration," wrote historian Dr. John Davies. [14] Additionally, modifications and amendments to the Law Codes of Hywel Dda encouraged the declined of the galanas (blood-fine) and the use of the jury system. The Aberffraw dynasty maintained vigorous diplomatic and domestic policies; and patronized the Church in Wales, particularly that of the Cistercian Order.

The princely court

At the end of the twelfth century, beginning of the thirteenth century, Llywelyn ab Iorwerth (Llywelyn Fawr or Llywelyn the Great), built a royal home at Abergwyngregyn, known as Tŷ Hir, the Long House, in later documents. To the east was the newly endowed Cistercian Monastery of Aberconwy; to the west the cathedral city of Bangor. In 1211, King John of England brought an army across the river Conwy, and occupied the royal home for a brief period; his troops went on to burn Bangor. Llywelyn's wife, John's daughter Joan, also known as Joanna, negotiated between the two men, and John withdrew. Joan died at Abergwyngregyn in 1237; Dafydd ap Llywelyn died there in 1246; Eleanor de Montfort, Lady of Wales, wife of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, died there on 19 June 1282, giving birth to a baby, Gwenllian of Wales

Population, culture and society

The 13th-century Principality of Wales encompassed three-quarters of the surface area of modern Wales; "from Anglesey to Machen, from the outskirts of Chester to the outskirts of Cydweli," wrote Davies. [15] [16] By 1271, Prince Llywelyn II could claim a growing population of about 200,000 people, or a little less than three-quarters of the total Welsh population. [3] [15] The population increase was common throughout Europe in the 13th century, but in Wales it was more pronounced. [15] By Llywelyn II's reign as much as 10 percent of the population were town-dwellers. [15] Additionally, "unfree slaves... had long disappeared" from within the territory of the principality, wrote Davies. [15] The increase in men allowed the prince to call on and field a far more substantial army. [15]

Drawing of a falconer from Peniarth 28 manuscript. Wales exported hawks. Laws of Hywel Dda (f.4.r) Hawker cropped.jpg
Drawing of a falconer from Peniarth 28 manuscript. Wales exported hawks.

A more stable social and political environment provided by the Aberffraw administration allowed for the natural development of Welsh culture, particularly in literature, law, and religion. [16] [17] Tradition originating from The History of Gruffydd ap Cynan attributes Gruffydd I as reforming the orders of bards and musicians; [5] Welsh literature demonstrated "vigor and a sense of commitment" as new ideas reached Wales, even in "the wake of the invaders", according to historian John Davies. [5] Contacts with continental Europe "sharpened Welsh pride", wrote Davies in his History of Wales. [5]

Economy and trade

The increase in the Welsh population, especially in the lands of the principality, allowed for a greater diversification of the economy. The Meirionnydd tax rolls give evidence to the thirty-seven various professions present in Meirionnydd directly before the conquest. Of these professions, there were eight goldsmiths, four bards (poets) by trade, 26 shoemakers, a doctor in Cynwyd and a hotel keeper in Maentwrog, and 28 priests; two of whom were university graduates. Also present were a significant number of fishermen, administrators, professional men and craftsmen.

With the average temperature of Wales a degree or two higher than it is today, more Welsh lands were arable for agriculture, "a crucial bonus for a country like Wales," wrote the historian John Davies. [18] Of significant importance for the principality included more developed trade routes, which allowed for the introduction of new energy sources such as the windmill, the fulling mill and the horse collar (which doubled the efficiency of horse-power).

The principality traded cattle, skins, cheese, timber, horses, wax, dogs, hawks, and fleeces, but also flannel (with the growth of fulling mills). Flannel was second only to cattle among the principality's exports. In exchange, the principality imported salt, wine, wheat, and other luxuries from London and Paris. But most importantly for the defence of the principality, iron and specialised weaponry were also imported. Welsh dependence on foreign imports was a tool that England used to wear down the principality during times of conflict between the two countries.[ citation needed ]

1284 to 1542: annexed to the English crown

Wales in the 14th century showing the Principality Wales 14C Map.png
Wales in the 14th century showing the Principality

The governance and constitutional position of the principality after its conquest was set out in the Statute of Rhuddlan of 1284. In the words of the Statute, the principality was "annexed and united" to the English crown, [19] It was the king's personal fief. In 1301, this modified principality was bestowed on the English monarch's heir apparent and thereafter became the territorial endowment of the heir to the throne. [20] The rest of Wales continued to be constituted as the "March of Wales" which remained outside of the Principality under the rule of Anglo-Norman Marcher Lords.


The Principality's administration was overseen by the Prince of Wales's Council comprising between 8 and 15 councillors sitting in London or, later, Ludlow in Shropshire. [21] The Council acted as the Principality's final Court of Appeal. [21] By 1476, the Council, which became known as the Council of Wales and the Marches, began taking responsibility not only for the Principality itself but its authority was extended over the whole of Wales. [20]

The territory of the principality fell into two distinct areas: the lands under direct royal control and lands which Edward I had distributed by feudal grants. [22]

For lands under royal control, the administration, under the Statute of Rhuddlan, was divided into the two territories: North Wales based at Caernarfon and West Wales based at Camarthen. [20] The Statute organized the Principality into shire counties. Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire were administered by the Justiciar of South Wales (or "of West Wales") at Carmarthen. In the North, the counties of Anglesey, Merionethshire, and Caernarfonshire were created under the control of Justiciar of North Wales and a provincial exchequer at Caernarfon, run by the Chamberlain of North Wales, who accounted for the revenues he collected to the Exchequer at Westminster. [23] Under them were royal officials such as sheriffs, coroners, and bailiffs to collect taxes and administer justice. [24] [25] Another county, Flintshire, was created out of the lordships of Tegeingl, Hopedale and Maelor Saesneg, [23] and was administered with the Palatinate of Cheshire by the Justiciar of Chester. [26]

Edward I creating his son Edward of Caernarfon Prince of Wales in 1301 (early 14th-century manuscript) Edward I & II Prince of Wales 1301.jpg
Edward I creating his son Edward of Caernarfon Prince of Wales in 1301 (early 14th-century manuscript)

The remainder of the principality comprised lands which Edward I had granted to supporters shortly after the completion of the conquest in 1284, and which, in practice, became Marcher lordships: for example, the lordship of Denbigh granted to the Earl of Lincoln and the lordship of Powys granted to Owain ap Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn, who became Owen de la Pole. [22] These lands after 1301 were held as tenants-in-chief of the Principality of Wales, rather than from the Crown directly, [22] but were, for all practical purposes, not part of the principality.


The Statute of Rhuddlan introduced English common law to the principality, albeit with some local variation. [27] Criminal law became entirely based on common law: the Statute stated that "in thefts, larcenies, burnings, murders, manslaughters and manifest and notorious robberies — we will that they shall use the laws of England". [28] However, Welsh law continued to be used in civil cases such as land inheritance, contracts, sureties and similar matters, though with changes, for example illegitimate sons could no longer claim part of the inheritance, which Welsh law had allowed them to do. [29]

Plantagenet and Tudor Princes

From 1301, the Plantagenet (and later, Tudor) English kings gave their heir apparent, if he was the king's son or grandson, the lands and title of "Prince of Wales". The one exception was Edward II's son, Edward of Windsor, who later became Edward III. [30] Upon the heir's accession to the throne, the lands and title merged in the Crown.

The first "English" Prince of Wales was Edward I's son, Edward of Caernarfon. A late 16th-century story claimed that Edward I gave him the title following his declaration to the Welsh that there would be a Prince of Wales "that was borne in Wales and could speake never a word of English": Edward was born at Caernarfon Castle and, in common with rest of the English ruling elite, spoke French. [31] However, there seems to be no basis for the story. [31] On 7 February 1301, the king granted to Edward all the lands under royal control in Wales, mainly the territory of the former Principality. [32] Although the documents granting the land made no reference to the title "Prince of Wales", it seems likely that Edward was invested with it at the same time, since, within a month of the grant, he was referred to as the "Prince of Wales" in official documents. [32]

Arms of the Black Prince, Prince of Wales 1343-1376. The arms are the origin of the modern insignia of the Prince of Wales's feathers Arms of the Prince of Wales (Shield of Peace).svg
Arms of the Black Prince, Prince of Wales 1343–1376. The arms are the origin of the modern insignia of the Prince of Wales's feathers

The following received the title while the Principality was in existence: [30]

Welsh claimants to the title

Two rebellions occurred during the period in support of Welsh claimants to the title of Prince of Wales.

Owain Lawgoch 1372–78

Owain was the great-nephew of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and Dafydd ap Gruffudd. He claimed the title in exile in France and loyalists revolted in his name across Wales. He was assassinated before being able to return to Wales to lead them.

Owain Glyndŵr 1400–c. 1415

Glyndŵr was crowned at Machynlleth in 1404 during a revolt against Henry IV of England. He claimed descent from Rhodri Mawr through the House of Powys Fadog. He went on to establish diplomatic relations with foreign powers and liberated Wales from English rule. He was ultimately unsuccessful and was driven to the mountains where he led a guerrilla war. When and where he died is not known, but it is believed he died disguised as a friar in the company of his daughter, Alys, at Monnington Straddle in Herefordshire.

After 1542: union with England

The Principality of Wales came to an end as a legally defined territory with the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542.

Later administration

The Encyclopaedia of Wales notes that the Council of Wales and the Marches was created by Edward IV in 1471 as a household institution to manage the Prince of Wales's lands and finances. In 1473 it was enlarged and given the additional duty of maintaining law and order in the Principality and the Marches of Wales. Its meetings appear to have been intermittent, but it was revived by Henry VII for his heir, Prince Arthur. The Council was placed on a statutory basis in 1543 and played a central role in co-ordinating law and administration. It declined in the early 17th century and was abolished by Parliament in 1641. It was revived at the Restoration before being finally abolished in 1689.

From 1689 to 1948 there was no differentiation between the government of England and government in Wales. All laws relating to England included Wales and Wales was considered by the British Government as an indivisible part of England within the United Kingdom. The first piece of legislation to relate specifically to Wales was the Sunday Closing (Wales) Act 1881. A further exception was the Welsh Church Act 1914, which disestablished the Church in Wales (which had formerly been part of the Church of England) in 1920.

In 1948 the practice was established that all laws passed in the Parliament of the United Kingdom were designated as applicable to either "England and Wales" or "Scotland", thus returning a legal identity to Wales which had not existed for hundreds of years following the Act of Union with Scotland in 1707. Also in 1948 a new Council for Wales was established as a parliamentary committee. In 1964 the Welsh Office was established, based in London, to oversee and recommend improvements to the application of laws in Wales. This situation would continue until the devolution of government in Wales and the establishment of the autonomous National Assembly for Wales in 1998.

Other uses of the term

Although no principality has ever been created that covers Wales as a whole, the term "Principality" has been occasionally used since the sixteenth century as a synonym for Wales. For instance, the first atlas of Wales, by Thomas Taylor in 1718, was titled The Principality of Wales exactly described ..., [33] and the term is still used by such publications as Burke's Landed Gentry . [34] However, The Guardian style guide advises writers to "avoid the word 'principality'" in relation to Wales. [35] The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) has defined Wales as a "country" rather than a "principality" since 2011, following a recommendation by the British Standards Institute and the Welsh Government. [36]

The use of the term to refer to the territory of Wales should be distinguished from its use to refer to the title of Prince of Wales, which has been traditionally granted (together with the title Duke of Cornwall and various Scottish titles) to the heir apparent of the reigning monarch. It confers no responsibility for government in Wales, [37] and has no constitutional meaning. Plaid Cymru are in favour of scrapping the title altogether. [38] The Honours of the Principality of Wales are the Crown Jewels used at the investiture of Princes of Wales. [39]


Related Research Articles

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Treaty of Montgomery

The Treaty of Montgomery was an Anglo-Cambrian treaty signed on 29 September 1267 in Montgomeryshire by which Llywelyn ap Gruffudd was acknowledged as Prince of Wales by King Henry III of England. It was the only time an English ruler recognised the right of a ruler of Gwynedd over Wales. Llywelyn's grandfather Llywelyn the Great had previously laid claim to be the effective prince of Wales by using the title "Prince of Aberffraw, Lord of Snowdon" in the 1230s, after subduing all the other Welsh dynasties. Likewise Llywelyn's uncle, Dafydd ap Llywelyn, claimed the title of Prince of Wales during his reign from 1240 to 1246. However, Llywelyn's supremacy in the late 1260s forced recognition of his authority in Wales by an English Crown weakened by internal division.

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Owain Lawgoch, full name Owain ap Thomas ap Rhodri, was a Welsh soldier who served in Spain, France, Alsace, and Switzerland. He led a Free Company fighting for the French against the English in the Hundred Years' War. As the last politically active descendant of Llywelyn the Great in the male line, he was a claimant to the title of Prince of Gwynedd and of Wales.

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Llywelyns coronet

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Coordinates: 52°18′N3°36′W / 52.3°N 3.6°W / 52.3; -3.6