Separation from England
Welsh recorded history begins around 2,000 BC when Bronze Age inhabitants
left their great burial chambers and stone circles on the hilltops. You'll
have a chance to see some of these during your holiday.
The Romans occupied the land for 300 years but didn't manage to subjugate
the Celts as much as their neighbours in England where, after Roman withdrawal,
the native population was overrun by the Saxon invaders from the East and
Offa the Saxon king raised a great earthwork separating his kingdom from
the "weallas" - the foreigners or Welsh. These Welsh retained their old
language and cultural identity and existed on the boundaries of Europe
for the next 500 years or so.
Erosion of independence
The Normans began the process of gradual erosion of Welsh territory
and during the reign of Henry I (1107-1142) a network of castles tightened
around the country.
Only England's troubles gave Welsh independence a chance to survive
for the next 100 years and Llywelyn the Great headed up an independent
state whilst the King of England was absent at the crusades.
However half a century later Edward I finally conquered Wales and built
those great architectural glories or symbols of subjugation whichever way
you wish to look at it! - the famous castles including Caernarfon and Conwy.
There was a brief successful flurry for the independence movement masterminded
by Owain Glyndwr in the first half of the15th century but this was short-lived
and Wales was gradually incorporated in Britain.
Separation of Gentry
Henry VIII passed two Acts of Union in 1536 and 1543 giving upper class
Welshmen equal opportunity but the language of justice and administration
was to be English. The result was the gradual Anglicisation of the gentry
beginning the divorce of culture between the gentry and the common people
which was to lead to the political radicalism and religious non-conformism
which so marks Welsh history.