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1450-1571 AD

Mid-15th Century: THE RADICAL POETS
The mid-15th century, following the failure of the rebellion of Owain Glyndwr, was a sad period for Wales. In such times, there was an inevitable return to prophetic poetry in which the tradition called for an overthrow of the hated Saxon overlords. Grievances of the people were given expression by poets Guto'r Glyn and Lewis Glyn Cothi who both longed for the expulsion of English office holders from Wales. An even more radical poet who used his considerable talents to pour scorn upon the English was Sion Cent, who also wrote powerful poetic sermons on the mortality and vanity of all earthly things, and whose work had a lasting and profound influence upon the themes of later Welsh poets.

The final battle of The Wars of the Roses was fought in August, 1485 at Market Bosworth in the English Midlands. Henry Tudor, the only surviving Lancastrian claimant to the English throne, was of Welsh descent. Owain Tudor of Penmynedd in Anglesey, had secretly married Catherine, widow of Henry V. Of their five children, one was Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond who fathered Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII of England. As a result of the battle at Bosworth, and the defeat of Richard III, Henry Tudor ascended to the English throne, thus in a way fulfilling the old prophesies that one day a Welsh monarch would rule the whole of Britain.

Lawyer and author William Owen from Henllys, Pembrokeshire, published his "Bregement de Toutes les Estats", the very first book by a Welshman to be printed in Britain. The first book to be published in the Welsh language (that was not a translation) had to wait until 1585.

Henry VIII, as greedy as ever to acquire lands and property, disposed of the Duke of Buckingham in 1521, and added his Welsh lordships Brecon and Newport to lands owned by the Crown. He then granted the lands of Rhys ap Gruffudd to Walter Devereux, steward of the household of Henry's daughter Mary. When a bitter quarrel ensued between Devereux and Rhys, the King accused the Welsh lord of plotting with the King of Scotland to make himself ruler of Wales. In 1536, King and Parliament showed their determination to settle the matter once and for all.

The so-called Act of Union of that year, and its corrected version of 1543 was inevitable. As many historians have pointed out, full union with England had been practically achieved by the 1284 Statute of Rhuddlan. The new Act stated "persons born or to be born in the said Principality . . . of Wales shall have and enjoy and inherit all and singular Freedoms, Liberties, Rights, Privileges and Laws . . . as other Kings' subjects have, enjoy or inherit."

The Act of Union is one of the most important documents in the whole history of Wales; but though it was welcomed by the ever-increasingly anglicized Welsh gentry and the commercial interests (who would become totally divorced from the language and customs of their country), it was passed with no consultation or consent of the majority of the Welsh people who had no central authority or Parliament to represent them.

The Preamble gives notice that one intention of the Act was "to extirpate all and singular the sinister usages and customs differing from the same [the Kings' realm]" and to ensure that" the said country or dominion of Wales shall stand and continue for ever from henceforth incorporated, united and annexed to and with his Realm of England."

Salesbury worked tirelessly to give the Welsh people the ability to read the scriptures in their own language. Until such scriptures were available, they would have to do with versions in English (a language that most Welsh people could not understand).

This was Salesbury's translation of the main texts of the English Prayer Book. The author had previously set out his mission to the Welsh nation as "to obtain the holy scripture in your own tongue as your happy ancestors, the ancient British, had it."

Though John Penry of Breconshire, had pleaded passionately in Parliament to have the Bible translated so that the Welsh people might better learn English, the Queen and her advisors were more interested in completing the Protestant Reformation throughout Britain than in granting any favors. One of the quickest and surest ways to accomplish this was to give the Welsh people a Bible in their own tongue.

1567: SALESBURY'S NEW TESTAMENT AND COMMON PRAYER BOOK IN WELSH (Y Testament Newydd a Llyfr Gweddi yn Gymraeg)
This book was a forerunner of Salesbury's intention to translate the whole Bible into Welsh, but his quarrel with Bishop Richard Davies (that may have been over a single word) ended the project. The completed New Testament never became popular, however, because of its archaic, difficult language.

The two eisteddfodau at Caerwys, a little town in Flintshire, in 1525 and 1567 marked changes in the craft of Welsh poetry. Though the bards were called together to "bring order and government to the craftsmen in poetic art," the meetings were probably royal attempts to curb the anti-royalist sentiments of the nationalistic poets. The 1567 eisteddfod also marked the end of the Bardic Order as the humanist influences now sweeping in from Europe necessitated changes in Welsh prosody including the replacement of the old bardic system of twenty-four strict metres by that of free metres. The poetic art was thus made more accessible to the ever-increasing amateur poets of the gentry.

Jesus College was Oxford's first Protestant foundation. Following the establishment of many grammar schools in Wales, Jesus College was founded by Dr. Hugh Price of Brecon to cater to the needs of Welshmen anxious to continue their education, especially in law. It has remained a particular venue for the education of ambitious Welshmen throughout the centuries. Its list of graduates reads like an Honour Roll of "Who's Who in Welsh history."


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