There have recently been some large adverts posted on billboards around Wales with the evocative statement:
Wales doesn’t need a prince
Before we consider this, let’s start with a history lesson. Before the Anglo-Norman invasion, Wales was divided into a series of individual Kingdoms – including Gwynedd, Powys, Morgannwg etc. – each with its own King. From time to time, one of the Kings would exert his authority over the others styling himself ‘King of the Britons’ or ‘King of all Wales’, or in Welsh ‘Tywysog Cymru’ which originally translated as ‘Leader of Wales’.
As the Anglo-Normans progressively advanced over 100 years, the territory of ‘free’ Wales was gradually reduced, but still under the control of the Tywysog. The first use of the title ‘Prince of Wales’ appeared around 1165 – possibly as an act of deference to the English King in order to maintain a degree of independence.
However, the conquest of Wales continued and was eventually completed in 1282 following the killing of Llewelyn ap Gruffudd – arguably the last Welsh Prince of Wales. Shortly after, Wales was fully annexed to the English Crown in 1284 by the Statute of Rhuddlan which divided Wales into the Principality and Marches. The Marches (including Glamorgan, Pembrokeshire etc) came under the feudal control of a series of Norman ‘Marcher’ Lords while the Principality (covering around 60% of the land area of Wales) came under the direct control of the English Crown.
In 1301, the English King Edward I appointed his eldest son as Prince of Wales – becoming the first English Prince of Wales. But following his accession to the English Crown as King Edward II, he did not award the title of Prince of Wales to his son. Instead, the current tradition of awarding the title to the heir of the English Crown only really started in 1343 when Edward III awarded the title to his son, and this tradition has continued to the present day.
For a period of time Wales actually had two princes – the English ‘Henry of Monmouth’ – son of King Henry IV – and the Welsh Owain Glyndŵr – who claimed the title ‘Prince of Wales’ or ‘Tywysog Cymru’ from 1400 until his defeat in 1409, although predictably he was not recognised as such by the English Crown.
But the tradition has not continued unbroken, and there have been significant periods where no Prince of Wales was appointed and the title remained vacant, most recently between 1936 and 1958. Wales managed quite happily without a Prince during this period – not unsurprisingly as the position is purely ceremonial and has no constitutional power or duties – either relating to Wales or to the UK as a whole. Apart from the investiture itself, what has Prince Charles ever done that directly related to Wales – let alone benefitting us??
So, to come back to the original statement – Wales clearly does not need a prince. The only purpose of this position is to remind Wales that we are a subjugated nation – this Prince does not serve Wales but instead serves the English Monarchy.
The current position will be vacated in the next few years when Charles accedes to the Crown, and this presents an opportunity to abolish this archaic tradition. At its recent AGM in September, Gwlad – the Welsh Independence Party – voted overwhelmingly to adopt a policy opposing the continuation of the title ‘Prince of Wales’. It was agreed that when Prince Charles relinquishes that title it should be abolished with immediate effect and not passed on to any other member of the Royal Family, now or in the future.
Maybe a future independent Wales could choose to revive the title of ‘Tywysog Cymru’ but that is a discussion for another day.