Tudor king

The Tudors

By 1536 Wales was legally incorporated into England, and English was its sole official language.

Although the Welsh adjusted to life after the >Edwardian conquest of 1282, grievances still existed. There were at least five major risings before Owain Glyndwr launched the last and greatest bid for Welsh freedom.

Lasting from 1400 to 1410, the causes of his revolt are still debated, but it seems that identity and language played a part.

In a letter to the Avignon pope in 1406, Glyndwr demanded that the clergy of Wales "should know our language". However, by 1415 Glyndwr had vanished into the mists of history, leaving the Welsh poets to await the next candidate for the mantle of Mab Darogan, the son of prophecy who would deliver the Welsh from the Saxon yoke.

They found one in the shape of Henry Tudor, or Harri Tudur, the future King Henry VII. He took his Anglicised family name from his grandfather, a member of the Tudur family of Anglesey which had sided with Glyndwr almost a century earlier.

Henry exploited this potent link when he flew the ancient red dragon banner of Cadwalader at his victory in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. He seemed to fulfil the ancient prophecies that the Welsh would regain the kingdom of Britain from the Saxons.

The Welsh did benefit to a limited extent from Henry VII's accession to the throne. Some of the harsher anti-Welsh clauses of penal laws passed following Glyndwr's uprising were repealed.

Yet any romantic notions of the Welsh returning to their former state of political and cultural independence evaporated with the Act of Union of 1536. Passed by Henry's son Henry VIII, the act meant Wales was legally incorporated into England.

The act also contained the infamous language clause, which banned Welsh monoglot speakers from public office. English became the sole official language, essential for the ruling class in Wales, while knowledge of Welsh became at best an option, at worst an embarrassment.

Thus began the Anglicisation of this class, a process which was virtually complete by the end of the 18th century. It should be noted that there are no records of protests nor riots in Wales caused by the passing of the act.

The fate of the language now lay with the ordinary people, the majority of whom were still overwhelmingly monoglot Welsh speaking. Yet after being so rudely evicted from public life, the language was ironically enough to be thrown an official life-line thanks to the religious changes introduced by the same Henry VIII who had passed the Act of Union of 1536.


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