(The Fountain of British Glory)
by Anwar Shaikh
Mill Bay, the inlet at
the entrance to Milford Haven in Wales, should have commanded respect of entire
Britain, the same way as Kaaba has attracted reverence of the Muslims and
Jerusalem of the Christians. This is where Henry Tudor landed to wage the Battle
of Bosworth on August 22, 1485. This Mab Darogan, Son of Prophecy, was not just
a Welsh Redeemer but also the English Messiah; without the Tudor rule, England
which had suffered considerable reduction in her political stature through
defeat in France and Civil War at home, would have become a midget for good.
The English, I must say, have the reputation for
fairness, but when it comes to acknowledging Welsh contribution to the highly
prestigious British role in the world, they become niggardly, and even
oblivious. This is high time that somebody assessed the Welsh role in British
It was Edward III who started a military campaign
against France to possess her as a part of his dominions. The strength of his
claim lay in his maternal connection, which lacked legality because the French
law and custom did not allow a woman to become ruler of the country in her own
right. The contest started in 1337 and continued intermittently until 1453, when
on July 17, during that year, the English were heavily defeated in the Battle of
Castillon near Libourne. This long series of events imbued with blood, brutality
and beheading is called the Hundred Years' War. Henry V, one of the English
stalwarts of this war, was a significant soldier, and the Treaty of Troyes on
May 21, 1420, had recognised him as heir to the French throne but he lacked
chivalrous qualities associated with the medieval warring heroes. On the
contrary, his Welsh soldiers were ebullient with vehemence, valour and
victorious spirit, crowned by the virtues of romance and chivalry. The Welsh did
not join the English army out of poverty; they undertook this way of life
because their pent up energies sought release through zest of action exhibiting
their dare, duty and defiance.
As a result of the perennial persecution and plunder,
there was hardly any household in England which did not enjoy the pleasures of
booty taken from France. Of course, the English were brave, bold and boisterous
but the continual ravaging of the enemy over a period of a century,
unconsciously made fidgetiness, ferocity and fearlessness as their second
nature. They yearned for a life of challenge requiring display of courage and
impunity. Having lost France, they were tempted to turn their own country into a
military arena. This tendency was aided by the Houses of Lancaster and York,
fighting for the throne of England and both claiming their descent from Edward
III, the originator of the Hundred Years' War. This highly devastating series of
battles known as The War of The Roses was named after the badges of the
contending parties: York was associated with the white rose and Lancaster with
the red rose. So fierce was each contest that Englishmen killed their fellow
Englishmen in thousands within a few hours. Law and order became mythical, the
country abounded in widows and orphans: poverty and pestilence became a part of
life; only the tax collectors, thugs and thieves prospered and felt jubilant.
Through an extreme form of ennui, the nation touched its political and moral
nadir. The English needed a messiah to resuscitate and embellish them with the
virtues essential for survival, self-rule and honour.
This messiah was provided by Wales in the form of Henry
Tudor, who slew Richard III in the Battle of Bosworth on August 22, 1485, and
ascended the English throne as Henry VII: he became the founder of the Tudor
Dynasty, rooted in Wales.
Who was Henry Tudor? The cosmopolitan outlook of the
English, which has claimed this charismatic man as one or their own, has blurred
the Welsh vision to recognise the real Mab Darogan. There are several reasons
Firstly, the Welsh have not applied their liberal
standards of thinking to Henry's pedigree. They say that Henry Tudor was only a
quarter Welshman because his mother and grandmother were English. This attitude
is regrettable. The Welsh themselves are composed of at least six racial
strains. Can they tell which of these strains represents the truly Welsh
genetics? Again, Wales has also been called Cymru, Cambria and Gwalia. These
names reveal the multi-racial origin of the Welsh people. For example, Gwalia is
an Indian word, and there is a city in India which is called Gwalia (R).
Historians have repeatedly referred to the Black Heathens of Wales, who
practised Indian religious rites such as asmaveda i.e. Horse Sacrifice. It is
commonly acknowledged that the word "druid" is derived from "vidh"
meaning "knowledge" which is the same as "veda," the Hindus
Scriptures. Druids, the Welsh priests, are a replica of the Indian brahmins both
in doctrine and deeds.
Was David Lloyd George a Welshman? He was born in
Manchester, an English city, and a person's birthplace is a major factor in
deciding his nationality. This is the modern trend. In the days of Henry Tudor,
a person's fatherhood counted as the decisive element in establishing his
nationality. Like many English monarchs, Edward III had a French mother. Was he
Secondly, the concept of Mab Darogan has restricted the
Welsh vision. To the Welsh, mab Darogan, the Son of Prophecy, was the Welsh
Messiah destined to slaughter the English and restore Welsh liberties usurped by
Edward I in 1282. Henry Tudor was a political colossus. It is not surprising
thal he has been misunderstood by his own people despite the fact that he did
for them what they had expected of him, but his way of rising to their
expectations was not only novel but also advanced for their time.
Instead of frightening the English with a policy of
sword and fire as William the Conqueror had done - our centuries earlier, he
projected himself as a Lancastrian to lay a legitimate claim to the English
throne, though the truth is that being a Welshman, he was an impostor, and it
was his victory on the battlefield that entitled him to wear the English Crown.
His soft approach was an act of wisdom, wizardry and wonder. He knew that the
Englishman of his day was different from the time of the Conqueror. After a
passage of four centuries, the English had acquired a rocky character through
incessant military expeditions and the will-to-live honourably. No doubt, they
had fallen from the top through exertion and inauspicious circumstances, but did
possess the ability to recoup and arrest the march of time to leap, lead and
lash again. Therefore, the Welsh conquest of England was the golden opportunity
to affect reconciliation with the English for a harmonious existence on equal
footing. Further, it is believed that Henry VIII had created the political union
between England and Wales as a deference to his father's wishes. This is the
reason that he adopted a patriotic attitude towards England though the Welsh
outlook determined by the concept of Mab Darogan had become revengeful,
retaliatory and repressive.
Though it may prolong the discussion, it cannot be
effective without acquainting readers with the history of Mab Darogan:
As a result of Edward I's legal devices, the Welsh rose
against the English and suffered a heavy defeat. Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, the
Prince of Snowdonia was mortally wounded. Edward Mortimer pounced upon the dying
hero and executed him after prolonging his death agony. Llewelyn's brother,
Dafydd, who had actually started the rebellion on Palm Sunday, 1282, suffered a
worse fate. First, he was dragged by horses to the place or execution where he
was disembowelled when he was still alive; then he was hanged, drawn and
quartered; the various parts of his mutilated body were exhibited in different
cities of England.
These tragic events, especially, loss of freedom,
became a special subject of the Welsh bards, who formed a high order of the
society. To keep this tragedy at the boiling point, they developed vaticinatory
poetry through a combination of eulogy and elegy; it aimed at predicting future
with a defined purpose. This Vaticinatroy or Prophetic poetry foretold the
coming of the Mab Darogan ( Son of Prophecy ) who would free Wales with his
might and occupy the English throne. The fascination that this prophecy exerted
on the Welsh mind was simply devastating. They eagerly waited for the advent of
the saviour to fight the decisive battle against the English to demonstrate
their hope, honour and hilartty. Anyone who showed an inclination to lead in the
desired direction, the Welsh showed their willingness to march with him. Owain
Glyndwr, a Welsh nobleman, who expressed himself as the Mab Darogan, was
enthusisastically believed and followed by both the public and bards. In an
attempt to restore Welsh glory, he sought an alliance with France and also
received support of the northern barons of England, notably the Percys of
Northumebrland. Though a Welsh hero, he did not command the stature of the
predicted Mah Darogan. Therefore, he lost to Henry IV, a gifted soldier. Were he
the Mab Darogan, he would have won.
This honour goes to Henry Tudor, who also acted as the
true Messiah for the English by bringing peace to the self-torn England
injecting some noble Welsh values into the English way of life. I ought to
support this statement with facts regarding:
a. Henry Tudor's pedigree, and
Henry VII's grandfather, Owen Tudor, on the death of Henry
V became a Clerk of the Wardrobe to his widow, Catherine of Valois, who, like
several other English queens, had a French pedigree but their children were
treated as English for having English fathers. Owen seems to have possessed
considerable sexual appeal for members of the opposite sex. Catherine fell in
love with him and bore him no fewer than five children. Even in death, he
exerted an aphrodisiac spell over women. As he was about to be executed in the
Hereford market place at the behest of Edward IV, he neither repented nor showed
any remorse for the misdeeds normally ascribed to ordinary mortals. Instead, he
exhibited the romantic peculiarity associated with the Welshmen of his time.
Ruefully, he told his executioner in a poetic manner "that head shall lie
on the block which was wont to lie on Queen Catherine's lap."
b. What be thought of himself.
c. Henry Tudor was posthumously born at Pembroke Castle,
West Wales, on 18th January, 1457, as the only son of
Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond and Lady Margaret
Beaufort, who was English.
Even his decapitation was followed by the appearance of
an attractive merch (girl). She picked up his severed head; cleaned the blood
stains and washed his hair. Having performed these rituals with a tender
devotion, she placed it on a raised platform; then she lit candles around it as
it were the head of a god seeking adoration from his devotees. In an outburst of
passionate verses, which history has failed to record, she showered kisses on
it. Historians think that she was insane. Maybe they are themselves mad with
jealousy. The Welsh are romantic people: loving and valour are a part of their
This romance being natural, does not devalue the Welsh
pedigree of Henry Tudor. Rightly or wrongly, a person's racial identity is
linked with his fatherhood. Thus Catherine's French connection served to upgrade
Henry Tudor's Welsh status hy imparting it a touch or royal dignity. The House
of Tudor, which has descended from Ednyfed Fychan of Tregarnedd in Anglesey,
could not previously boast of such an imperial splendour. In fact, Fychan, who
died in 1246 served as a steward to Llewelyr ap Iorwerth prince of North Wales.
The members of this family seem to have inherited a strain, which sought
influence and prosperity through boldness and social intercourse; the sons of
Fychan were able to establish themselves as councillors of David ap Llewelyn and
Llewelyn ap Grufrydd. These links raised Henry Tudor's ancestors to the dignity
of gentry in Anglesey and other parts of Wales.
Maruedd ap rudor, the great grandfather of Henry VII
was an ardent follower of Owain Glyndwr. Along with other Welsh patriots, he
fought tenaciously for emancipation of Wales but the struggle collapsed because
Glyndwr did not measure up to the stature of the predicted Mab Darogan. Having
suffered confiscation as an atonement for participating in the rebellion, he
persuaded his son Owen Tudor to seek employment in the household of Henry V,
whose widow, Catherine of Valois, fell for his charm. His son, Edmund Tucor,
became the father to Henry Tudor.
I think that this brief description ought to establish
the Welsh lineage of Henry Tudor. The Welsh people are clanish, yet the
standards of racial purity have never been sought or practised by this nation
whose composition owes itself to many genetic strains. They are a people with a
cosmopolitan outlook. Whoever lives in Wales and shows respect to its culture
and history, is considered a Welshman, but when it comes to Henry Tudor, the
Greatest Son of Wales, who pioneered a new era in the British history, which was
to revolutionise the world culture, some people seem reluctant to admit him into
the Welsh fold. I know the reasons but their discussion will serve no useful
However, I ought to mention that Margaret, the wife of
Owain Glyndwr, was an Englishwoman for being the daughter of Sir David Hanmer of
Maelor, a judge of the King's Bench. Glyndwr had six sons and several daughters
from this marriage, yet no one has suggested that this great Welshman's children
should be treated as English or half- Welsh. If the standards of nationality
were to be applied with extreme precision, one wonders if anyone living in Wales
would qualify as a Welsh person.
Was Lloyd George a Welshman? He was born in Manchester.
b. Probably, the true touchstone of nationality is the
thinking and belief of the person himself. It is because basically, we all are
humans. It is our attachment and loyalty to the land of settlement which really
counts. The Englishman, who is a paid agent of a foreign power, is a traitor and
cannot be treated as an Englishman even if he has been rooted in this country
for a thousand years.
This brings me to section "b" of this
discussion. Let us look at Henry Tudor's behaviour pattern to assess his
1. As he left France to invade England, he landed in
Pembrokeshire, his birthplace to attract the attention of his countrymen, who
had been waiting for the arrival of the Mab Darogan to free them from the
English rule. They actually joined him in hordes. If they thought, he was an
Englishman or a foreigner, they would not have served him with their blood.
It is also noteworthy that Elizabeth I's Welsh relations
were conscious or their racial ties with her. Catherine of Berain proudly
acknowledged her cousinage to the Queen. She was a granddaughter of Roland de
Velville, the natural son of Henry VII. He was knighted by his father at the
battlefield of Blackheath in 1497.
2. History has recorded what he told the Welsh
crowds. He declared that he had come to "restore our realm* of England to
its ancient-estate and prosperity and to free this our Principality of Wales
and the people of such miserable servitude as they have long piteously stood
3. That Henry Tudor was a Welshman, is fully
supported by the fact that he marched under the Red Dragon standard of
Cadwallader. The appearance of this flag had an emotional appeal to the Welsh,
especially for stirring anti-English feeling because this was the same flag
that Cadallon, the King of Gwynedd, had used to defeat the English in 632. The
psychological power of the flag worked on the Welsh crowds, who started
singing the vaticinatory verses associated with the arrival of the "Welsh
Messiah." On the contrary, the Red Dragon also possessed the magical
effect of infuriating the English. Therefore, the Red Dragon was more than a
political convenience; it was the ambassador of Welsh will to spell doom of
the English hegemony in Wales.
4. Henry's Welshness is further demonstrated by the
fact that being a Celt, he sought asylum in Brittany which was still an
independent Celtic duchy. Its ruler, Duke Francis II, had welcomed Henry.
However, I ought to mention that Henry's landing in
Brittany has been held as an accident caused by the gale force but the Duke
did connive at his escape when he was being taken back to England.
5. It is well known to history that Henry Tudor was a
lover of Welsh poetry and customs; he wanted his English subjects to know of
his Welsh origin. This is the
* the phrase: "restore our realm of England ..."
is capable of wider interpretation. It may imply that as once the whole of
England belonged to the Celts, he intended to restore the Welsh patrimony.
reason that at his Coronation tanquet in
Westminster Hall, Sir Robert Dymock, the King's Champion, when he rode in to
issue the customary challenge, his courser had been embellished with the
gorgeous trappings of the Cadwallader arms! Again, the Welsh Dragon was
incorporated in his coinage to support the crown along with the Beaufort
greyhound. It also formed part of Henry's Royal Standard.
One should also bear in mind that with a view to
expressing his Welsh origin, he named his first son after Arthur, the greatest
legendary hero of Wales. Even his retinue was Welsh, and he also had the
courage to celebrate in London, St. David's Day, a Welsh religious
distinction. Considering the divine bigotry of his time, it must have been a
highly courageous step. Above all, he felt proud of publishing his Welsh
lineage to display that he was the Welsh ruler of England.
6. The attitude of Richard III, Henry's arch enemy
also acknowledges the latter's Welsh descent. To exploit the English
supercilious stance about the Welsh, he described Henry Tudor as "an
unknown Weishman, whose father I never knew, nor him personally saw."
7. Another point to remember is the Welsh tradition
which required of the Welsh to trust their princes and follow them in peace
and war confidently. This explains why they loved Glyndwr and hated Edward I.
The mere fact that the Welsh folks joined Henry VII against Richard III,
proves that they believed him to be their own prince. Again, Henry VIII's Act
of Union, 1536, which annexed Wales to England "for ever," certifies
the Welsh descent of the Tudor royalty of England. It is because the Welsh had
fought the English for two centuries to maintain their independence and
identity. The Welsh did not raise a murmur at the Act of Union because it had
been carried out by their own prince, who ruled from London. Though I am not
aware of any historical evidence, it is believed that Henry VII on his
death-bed had asked his son to take good care of Wales.
8. There is good historical evidence available to the
fact that people thought of the Tudors as a Welsh dynasty occupying the
English throne. Like her father and grandfather, even Elizabeth I was
considered a Welsh woman despite being the most benevolent mother of England.
G. M. Trevelyan, the famous historian, observed this truth when he wrote:
"The sight of the House of Tudor occupying the
English throne enabled the Celtic (Welsh) pride to accept union ..... and kept
Wales loyal throughout the dangerous storm of the Tudor period. When
Shakespeare represents Captain Fluellen boasting of the Welsh birth of the
hero King Henry, we suspect that the past had overheard some honest Welshman
boasting in similar terms of the racial origin of Queen Elizabeth. It was well
that the Celtic population had this personal feeling for the House of Tudor,
for a great strain was put on their loyalty by the English Reformation."
This narrative clearly shows that at the Bosworth
Field, the Welsh conquered England the same way as the Normans had done at
Hastings. Henry VII occupied the English throne by dint of his victory over
Richard III, and not owing to any claim arising out of his maternal ties with
England. It is just a ruse to deprive Wales of its legitimate glory.
Owing to the complexity ot the issue, I have indulged
in a fairly long discussion about the lineage of Henry Tudor, who was a whole
and not a "quarter Welshman" as projected by some political
opportunists. Though it is an absurdity, it is injurious to the glory of Wales.
What is Welsh glory? It lies in:
First, magnitude of the Welsh political contribution is
better assessed when we realise that by the time Henry Tudor appeared as the
Conqueror, England through a devastating civil war of thirty years had become an
eye without vision, fire without heat and a body without soul. This land of
Magna Carta, a true human achievemenl, had lost its political and cultural glory
through a century-long misguided imperialism in France, which ended in the War
of the Roses at home. The English had strangled their own splendour through
disunity, discord and distrust. Their murderous tendencies had caused so much
misery that it required a messiah of miraculous might to restore England to its
former majesty. So great are the avhievements of the Tudor dynasty that a short
article like this can only offer a glimpse of the spectacle, which deserves full
It should be remembered that the English historians
have played down the significance of the Welsh Conquest of England deliberately
for the obvious reason though it is far more important than the Norman invasion
of England in 1066. William the Bastard ruled England through terror, tyranny
and torture. This is the reason that he was feared and the English ranked as
second-class citizens compared to their Norman feudal lords but the Tudors
commanded England through a diplomacy based on mutual respect, reward and
reconciliation. These opposing attitudes emanate from the fact that William
lived in Normandy and treated England as a colony whereas Henry Tudor made
England his home and wanted to create a greater Anglo-Welsh nation. This arduous
task was beautifully commenced by him and marvellously accomplished by his
successors. Here is a brief sketch of the Welsh contribution which made Britain
Great, and through her wrought a cultural revolution in the world.
Having described glory of the English culture in the
previous issues of "Liberty," now my task is to establish that it owes
its eminence to the Welsh contribution:
The pre-Tudor England had become the breeding place of
anarchy, violence and corruption: the King was himself a usurpur; instead of
restoring the lawful heir to the throne, he had him murdered along with his
younger brother. Judges hardly knew anything about justice; their verdicts were
mostly venal as they had become protectors of thugs and thieves for suitable
considerations. Juries were often threatened to deviate from the right
deliberations; witnesses specialised in perjury for survival and temporal gains;
confessions were extorted by torture, and treatment of the prison-inmates
depended on their ability to bribe jailers.
Thieving had become a favourite occupation. Everyone
lived in a constant fear of mugging and robbery: the sight of a wedding-ring
seldom failed to stir feelings of depredation. It had to be a brave man to go
out on his own and return home safely. So great was the fear of robbers and
professional murderers that life came to a standstill at dusk, and dawn faced
people's reluctance to resume their outdoor activities.
England was generally a poor country, yet the English
historians boast of the rich and gaudy apparels of their countrymen without
describing the fact that more or less all the English clothing and jewellery
came from the persistently ruthless pillage of France carried over a period of a
century. Actually, England suffered from indigence for lacking commerce and
industry. The English cloth was so inferior that foreign customers were
reluctant to buy it. The number of English sheep described as four per head of
population appears to be an exaggeration; even if it were true, raw materials
have never been adequately paid for by their importers.
Culturally, England was one of the most backward
countries of Europe: almost everybody was illiterate, and books happened to be
the most scarce commodity; neither were there any poets, painters or
playwrighlts in England nor were there any mentionable parliamentarians,
physicians or priests; scholars, scientists and sculptors were unknown and
industrialists, inventors and innovators did not exist. However, the country
abounded in lawyers and tax-collectors, whose machinations had wrought ruination
of the whole society.
Plight of women was pathetic: they had no rights of
inheritance, and the concept of citizenship did not apply to them. Their
marriages were arranged, and rejection of parental choice usually led to beating
and incarceration of the recalcitrant girls. Husband was the master of the
household and wife had no power to seek separation from him. A man could punch
her at will. In practice, she was his property; he could keep or discard her.
She had to be an ever ready bed-partner, burdened with the divine duty of
bearing her man 12-15 children in quick succession. Conjugal relationship was
basically carnal, and sense of companionship, if any, was a secondary phenomenon
of the marriage ritual. Since men were neither connoisseurs of beauty nor
capable of appreciating the feminine magic that asserts itself through the art
of make-up and sartorial elegance, women were usually dull, dowdy and
drab-looking, having hardly any resemblance with modern English women known for
their glamour, gaiety and greatness of manners.
The English spirit of freedom exhibited through Magna
Carta had dwindled so low that it had begun to look alien to the people, who can
proudly claim to he the creator and guardian of the Goddess of Liberty.
Feudalism introduced by Wiliiam the Conqueror, was an expression of suzerainty
based on a cleverly designed system of taxation, which divided the society into
lords and villeins. The latter liked to keep the former and also carried their
stringent yoke of authority. So deplorable were the social conditions of England
that even God deserted her. People sought solace through mysticism, which is
usually projected as the messenger of marvel, mellowness and munificence but the
process of praying and pleading led to passivity and persecution instead of
peace and prosperity. The fountain of this perversion were the well-fed English
clergy whose rubefacient faces apparently radiated the glory of God but
surreptitiously disseminated gloom cleverly wrapped in a message of doom which
all humans must welcome as the Will of God. Standing high on pulpits, they
looked down on their flocks whose wits they craftily benumbed by hurling
scriptural punishment on the sinners. By the lavish use of magniloquence and
powerful imagery, they could make them visualise the flaming hell along with its
mighty scorpions and cobras. Since life on earth had failed them, the
life-after-death had a special appeal for the oppressed. Alfred, the Great had
preached his fellow Englishmen to practise monasticism but they had not
responded to him; now their lives had become a phenomenon of involuntary
withdrawal for lack of interest and direction. This is what had caused ennui
among the English; ordinarily, it implies a feeling of weariness or langour,
arising out of misfortune, hopelessness and loss of self-confidence, but it had
become so severe a psychological condition that it can be equated with
death-wish. The English preferred death to living; only a messiah could convert
it into a hope of life: Henry Tudor, the Son of Prophecy, turned out to be the
English Messiah. He did not come to England alone; with him, he brought the
Welsh traditions, badly needed by the sick English to rejuvinate them.
What were those Welsh traditions?
Philogyny i.e. love of women is a peculiarity of the
Welsh culture. It seems to be rooted in the Hindu epic known as Ramayana, which
describes how Rama, impelled by the love of Sita, his wife, undertakes a
military expedition against Ravana, her abductor, to recover her through a
chivalrous conduct. I come to this conclusion because the Welsh medieval
traditions are quite different from the other Christian countries. The Bible
holds Eve, the first woman, responsible for misleading man, and the subsequent
human sorrows. Therefore, she is held as a mischief-maker and treated as a
second-class citizen. It is for this reason that no European country including
England allowed her any legal rights of inheritance, divorce or choice of
marriage. However, conditions in Wales were different owing to the deep-rooted
custom of philogyny. It is quite simple to understand that if you love
something, it becomes dear to you, and you want it and respect it. As far back
as 950 A.D. we find liberal Welsh laws attributed to the genius of Hywel Dda or
Hywel, the Good. In fact these laws which showed reverence to womanhood must
have formed part of the Welsh customs centuries earlier to emerge as the law
during the time of Hywel, the Good. To realise the beauty of the Welsh medieval
law one must visualise the plight of women in other countries where their legal
status was that of a household chattel; her function was to please and serve
man, who could maltreat her with impunity. The foreign legal codes did not seek
to assure justice between sexes but to extend the iron grip of man over woman.
On the contrary, the Welsh law treated marriage as a
contract based on the individual volition of the spouses, who possessed equal
rights of divorce. A woman inherited half of her husband's property at his death
and the same rule of apportionment applied if she got divorced after seven years
of marriage. The law of guardianship also equally applied to members of both
sexes: like sons, daughters were under the control of their fathers until the
age of twelve when they attained majority. Thereafter, it was optional for a
girl to become her own mistress or stay under the tutelage of her father. She
could hold property in her own right and could marry whom she liked. The custom
of arranging marriage through parental force or social pressure was hardly known
in Wales. A daughter was entitled to a half share of son in her father's
moveables irrespective of whether she was married or single. Marriage was a
source of benefits to her, and not of subordination: husband had to make a gift
known as Cowyll, to the woman, he was about to marry; gwaddol was the share in
her father's moveables by way of dowry; agwedd, was yet another dowry to be
given her by the husband. Gowyn denoted woman's entitlement to spousal fidelity
because it was a penalty that an adulterous husband had to pay his wife. One
staggering Cymric law entitled a natural son an equal share with his legitimate
brothers provided the father had acknowledged him as his son during his life
time. The Welsh social advancement becomes evident when we realise that such law
was passed in England only some 20 years ago!
During the 100 Years' War, as the fighting force was
supplied by the Welsh soldiery, though under the English command, the French
were too backward to recognise the beauty of the Welsh culture, and believed
that "the Welsh have disgusting sexual habits." Eventually, they came
to realise the truth during the reign of Francis (1515-47), who introduced women
in his court and projected the romantic ideal of the medieval knight-king. In
fact, the romantic ideal originally expressed honourable conduct based on
courtesy, warmth and love for women and appeared as chivalry during the 12th and
13th centuries, long after the days of Hywel the Good. Chivalry, evidently owes
its origin to the Welsh customs of philogyny, which travelled to the Middle East
along with the crusaders. There, the concept of honourable conduct as a form of
chivarly appeared as the Order of the St. John of Jerusalem (Hospitallers),
Order of the Temple of Solomon (Templars) and the Poor Knights of Christ.
The Welsh are a warrior race, endowed with a romantic
disposition. This is the reason that they are gentle despite being tough and
prefer defence to offence. This is evident from the fact that the English could
not hold out against the Norman invaders for more than twelve hours at the
Battle of Hastings, but the Welsh though a tiny nation, fought the aggressor for
150 years. Again, it was the Welsh fighters whose splendid skills in operating
the Longbow set the tune of the Hundred Years' War. The fields of Crecy and
Potiers still ring with their heroic performance.
Chivalry is an expression of love for women to be
displayed through poetic and knightly skills. The Welsh chivalrous character
emanates from their culture which has music, poetry and singing as its integral
parts. This is the reason that air of the Welsh mountains and valleys does not
ring with the clangour of arms but echoes with the dulcet sound of lyrical
compositions, hymns and romantic chants. The Welsh cultural traditions going as
far back as the tenth century, show the records of court poets and prove that
the Welsh habitually attended the bardic and musical contests as a national
hobby, which has been handed down to us as the Eisteddfod: it is an annual
festival of music and literary sessions, first arranged by Lord Rhys ap Gruffydd
in Cardigan Castle at Christmas, 1176 A.D. This gives the Welsh culture an
Indulgence in music and poetry is the fountain of
passion for womanhood. Put differently, love of women leads to indulgence in
music and poetry, and winning them over through an honourable conduct, which
involves courage and valour, becomes the source of chivalry. This is the reason
that we find the most chivalrous legend of Arthur rooted in Wales though other
Celtic regions may claim this distinction to satisfy their vanity. Henry Tudor
was aware of this truth. To express his pride in this legend, which personifies
the Welsh culture, he named his eldest son, Arthur.
The influence of Arthur's legend was magnified to such
an extent by the valour of the Welsh soldiers that Edward III, not only ranked
as a great knight in his own right but, in January, 1344, he also took a vow to
restore (Arthur's) Round table. He spent a great deal of time and money to build
the Round Tower of Windsor with the help of 722 men. There in the true Arthurian
fashion, he held a Round Table where his chief knights exchanged pleasantries
and planned projects behoving their rank and dignity. Edward III had presided
there over many jousts in his chivalric majesty. Eventually, he completed his
scheme of establishing the order of the Garter in 1349. This was the most noble
Order of the companions; Edward, the Black Prince was one of them. It was Edward
III's homage to Arthur, the personification of the Welsh culture.
French Odre de la Toison d'or i.e. Order of the Golden
Fleece was founded by Phillip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, on the model of the
English Order of the Garter in 1430, nearly a century later. Yet, historians
attribute the emanation of chivalry to France and nobody remembers the English
indebtedness to Wales. Duke Philip's courtiers roamed Europe doing battles with
fellow chevaliers. As crusading knights went to the Holy Land, they took
chivalry, as the Welsh memento, to the East.
The English learnt chivalry from the Welsh, and were
heroic to the last soldier as they started the Hundred Years' War, but the
opportunities of pillage turned them into mercenaries. Intoxicated with the zeal
of dare and martial skills, the English became unruly and blood thirsty. This
precipitated the War of the Roses. History has noted that at the Battle of St.
Alban, there perished 28,000 Englishmen within a matter of hours.
The English having lost the will to live, suffered from
death- wish. They needed a messiah to rejuvinate them. They were lucky to have
one; he happened to be a Welshman, called Henry Tudor. He was followed in his
footprints by his son Henry VIII and grandaughter, Elizabeth. The Tudor dynasty
of Wales was the best thing that ever happened to England. Having eulogised the
English for their great achievements in my previous articles entitled: the
"British culture," I may not repeat them here, though I must add that
Wales is the fountain of British glory. Describing achievements of each monarch
will entail writing history of the whole Tudor period, which is outside the
scope of this article. However, I must jot down a few headings to signify the
Welsh contribution to the British greatness:
1. The Tudors, not only united England torn by the Civil
War, but also made it a greater England by annexing Wales to England. One
greatness of this amalgam is the fact that the English have never practised
narrow nationalism as observed by other imperial nations.
The English have a lot to be proud of, but fountain ot the
English glory happens to be the Welsh contribution through rule of Tudor dynasty
and infusion of Welsh cultural values: the Welsh chivalrous trait has a special
significance in this context because adventure is an essential virtue of
chivalry. It is the Tudors who breathed spirit of adventure into the English,
opening to them the door of World supremacy. Just look at the conduct of
Elizabeth I to realise the importance of this statement.
Henry Tudor was not only Welsh speaking but also
loved Welsh poetry and culture. Yet, he identified himself with England
without renouncing his Welshness. This is what gave the English, virtues of
tolerance and liberality of thinking.
2. The Tudor monarchs created a cultural novelty not
known to England before their times, and it came to an end with the start of
the Stuart dynasty. Historians call it "monarch worship." The
English loved their Tudor rulers and followed them in patronising their
country. This patriotic spirit of the English, which is a Tudor legacy, is
still as live as ever.
3. The Parliamentary democracy is indigenous to
England but it had lost its vigour through Edward IV's self- sufficiency and
influence of the Civil War. Again, before the Tudor era, parliaments were a
means of raising taxes and did not have substantive legislative and executive
powers. In fact, they were subservient to the English kings. It was through
the Tudor encouragement that the British Parliamentary System gained real
strength. After Elizabeth I, it had the tenacity to stand up to the Stuarts
and wage battles against them to raise its stature as a governing body.
4. Common Law is, of course, native to England but
without the active patronage of the Tudor monarchs, Civil Law might have
prevailed in England as it does in Scotland.
5. One very great Tudor achievement is patronage of
the English language. They gave it the status of national language (as they
did to the English law). We ought to remember that an attempt had been made in
1362 to make English as the language of the law-courts but was frustrated by
the lawyers, who claimed that it was an incompetent medium of expression.
The wider implications of Tudor patronage in the
lingual field are really laudable. Today, the English language is the tongue
of mankind, thus a great factor in international understanding and unity.
6. It was Henry VIII, who banished the "Laws of
Christ" and Pope from England, thus reducing the preponderance of
superstition and making a headway for the Age of Reason. This proved to be a
great fillip to rational thinking of mankind through the influence of British
7. Industrial Revolution, which started during the
reign of Elizabeth I, is yet another rudor contribution. It certainly has
revolutionised the human way of life throughout the world.
Elizabeth had a romantic nature, which she inherited
from her Welsh ancestors. Both her father and grandfather were fond of the
opposite sex. A peculiartiy of romance is that it is restless and seeks
satisfaction through adventure. England was her greatest passion. So, she sought
fulfilment through national expeditions, and that was possible only if her
people could be trained to embrace perils of life chivalrously. Henry VII, her
grandfather, had tried to achieve for England in 1496 through John Cabot and his
sons what Columbus had done for Spain in 1492. Though the venture did not
succeed, it was a step in the right direction. Elizabeth patronised Francis
Drake and gave him the commission to head an enterprise which was, in fact, a
mixture of commerce and piracy. This adventure of the English sailors headed by
Drake is far more romantic than all the stories of the "Arabian
Nights" put together. This voyage, which turned out to be an act of
circumnavigation, was the first lasting honour in the English history.
Commercially, it produced a staggering return of 4700 per cent on the initial
capital. The Queen's share came to 300,000 pounds which, according to J. K.
Keynes, the economist, provided the "Origin of British Foreign
Investments." It has been remarked that Elizabeth invested a large part of
these profits in the new Levant Company, which traded with the Eastern
Mediterranean countries and profits of the Levant Company were responsible for
financing the world-famous East India Company, which founded the greatness of
England through her commercial ventures.
Spain was the most powerful country of Europe during
the Elizabethan era for possessing an empire in which the sun did not set. Osing
her romantic power, she fooled Philip of Spain for many years to believe that
she would marry him one day. This is how she held him back for a long time to
prepare her people for the decisive battle, raising the prestige and glory of
By the time Elizabeth Tudor died, England had become
not only a significant political power capable of dominating the world in due
course but she had also started climbing the high cultural cliffs. This fact is
well explairied by the concept of "English gentlemen." Philip Sidney
(1554-85), who possessed all the knightly qualities, vouches for the chivalrous
traits that Wales injected into the English character.
Without Welsh contribution, the English would not have
been able to play the political and cultural role in the world as they did.
Considering that Wales is a small hilly tract of 8018 square miles (20767 sq.km),
its contribution in qualitative terms is simply mind-boggling.
May Wales, the fountain of glory, keep gushing for