For alternate meanings, see Wales (disambiguation).
(Y Ddraig Goch)
(Royal Coat of Arms)
National motto: Cymru am byth
(Welsh: Wales for ever)
Wales’s location within the UK
English and Welsh
Largest city Cardiff
– Total Ranked 3rd UK
– Total (2001)
Ranked 3rd UK
Pound sterling (£) (GBP)
UTC, Summer: UTC +1
Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau
Wales (Welsh: Cymru; pronounced IPA: /ˈkəmɹi/, approximately “KUM-ree”) is a nation, a country, and one of the four constituent parts of the United Kingdom (along with England, Scotland and Northern Irreland). Wales is located in the south-west of Great Britain, and is bordered by England to the east, the Bristol Channel to the south, St George’s Channel in the west, and the Irish Sea to the north.
The term Principality of Wales, in Welsh, Tywysogaeth Cymru, is often used, although the Prince of Wales has no role in the governance of Wales and this term is unpopular among many in Wales. The nation has not been politically independent since 1282, when it waas conquered by the English King Edward I. Until 1999, Wales was ruled directly from London; that year saw the first elections to the National Assembly for Wales, which has limited domestic powers and cannot make law. Wales does not issue it
The Romans established a string of forts across what is now southern Wales, as far west as Carmarthen (Maridunum). There is evidence that they progressed even further west. They also built the legionary fortress at Caerleon (Isca), whose magnificent amphitheatre is the best preserved in Britain. The Romans were also busy in north Wales, annd an old legend claims that Magnus Maximus, one of the last emperors, married Elen or Helen, the daughter of a Welsh chieftain from Segontium, near present-day Caernarfon.
Wales was never conquered by the Anglo-Saxons, due to the fierce resistance of its people and its mountainous terrain. An Anglo-Saxon king, Offa of Mercia, is credited with having constructed a great earth wall, or dyke, along the border with his kingdom, to mark off a large part of Powys which he had co
Wales remained a Celtic region, and its people kept speaking the Welsh language, even as the Celtic elements of England and Scotland gradually disappeared. The name Wales is evidence of this, as it comes from a Germanic root word meaning stranger or foreigner, and as such is related to the names of several other European regions where Germanic peoples came into contact with non-Germanic cultures including Wallonia (Belgium),Valais (Switzerland) and Wallachia in Romania, as well as the “-wall” of Cornwall.
Wales continued to be Christian (see. 1904-1905 Welsh Revival and Welsh Methodist revival) when England, was overrun by German and Scandinavian tribes, though many older beliefs and customs survived among its people. Thus, Saint David went on a pilgrimage to Rome during the 6th century, and was serving as a bishop in Wales well before Augustine arrived to convert the king of Kent and founded the diocese of Canterbury. Although the Druidic religion is alleged to have had its stronghold in Wales until the Roman invasion, many of the so-called traditions, such as the gorsedd, or assembly of bards, were the invention of eighteenth-century “historians”. The traditional women’s Welsh costume, incorporating a tall bl
The conquest of Wales by England did not take place in 1066, when England was conquered by the Normans, but was gradual, not being complete until 1282, when King Edward I of England defeated Llywelyn the Last, Wales’s last independent prince, in battle. Edward constructed a series of great stone castles in order to keep the Welsh under control. The best known are at Caernarfon, Conwy and Harlech. Wales was legally annexed by the Act of Union 1536, in the reign of Henry VIII of England. The Wales and Berwick Act 1746 provided that all laws that applied to England would automatically apply to Wales (and Berwick, a town located on the Anglo-Scottish border) unless the law explicitly stated otherwise. This act, with regard to Wales, was repealed in 1967.
Wales has been a principality since the 13th century, initially under the Welsh prince Llywelyn the Great, and later under his grandson, Llywelyn the Last, who took the title Prince of Wales around 1258, and was recognised by the English Crown in 1277 by the Treaty of Aberconwy. Following his defeat by Edward I, however, Welsh independence in
The Act of Union 1536 abolished the remaining Marcher Lordships, leaving Wales with thirteen counties: Anglesey, Brecon, Caernarfon, Cardigan, Carmarthen, Denbigh, Flint, Glamorgan, Merioneth, Monmouth, Montgomery, Pembroke, and Radnor, and applied the Law of England to both England and Wales, making English the language to be used for official purposes. This excluded most native Welsh from any formal office. Wales continues to share a legal identity with England to a large degree as the joint entity of England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland retain separate legal systems and identities.
Wales was for centuries dwarfed by its larger neighbour, England. Indeed, one well-known British encyclopedia was said — perhaps apocryphally — to have had an entry reading “WALES. See under ENGLAND”. In 1955 steps were taken to re-establish a sense of national identity for Wales when Cardiff was established as its capital. Before this, legislation passed by the UK parliament had simply referred to England, rather than England and Wales.
The National Assembly for Wales, sitting in Cardiff, first elected in 1999, is elected by the Welsh people and has its powers defined by the Government of Wales Act, 1998. The title of Prince of Wales is still given by the reigning British monarch to his or her eldest son, but in modern times the Prince does not live in Wales and has nothing to do with its administration or government. The Prince is, however, still symbolically linked to the principality; the investiture of Charles took place at Caernarfon Castle in North Wales, a place traditionally associated with the creation of the title in the 13th century. The investiture was considered an insult by many Welsh people, and Welsh folk singer Dafydd Iwan released mocking singles called Croeso Chwedeg Nain (Welcome 69, although a literal translation would be Welcome Granny’s 60th (birthday)) and Carlo (Charlie). Two members of “Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru” – MAC (Welsh Defence Movement) – George Taylor and Alwyn Jones, the “Abergele Martyrs”, were killed by a home made bomb at Abergele the day before the investiture ceremony.
Wales is located on a peninsula in central-west Great Britain. The entire area of Wales is about 20,779 km2 (8,023 square miles). It is about 274 km (170 miles) long and 97 km (60 miles) wide. Wales borders by England to the east and by sea in the other three directions: the Bristol Channel to the south, St George’s Channel to the west, and the Irish Sea to the north. Together, Wales has over 965 km (600 miles) of coastline. There are several islands off the Welsh mainland, the largest being Anglesey in the northwest.
The main population and industrial areas are in South Wales, including the capital, Cardiff, and the other two major cities, Swansea and Newport.
Much of Wales’s diverse landscape is mountainous, particularly in the north and central regions. The mountains were shaped during the last ice age, the Devensian glaciation. The highest mountains in Wales are in Snowdonia, and include Snowdon, which, at 1085 m (3,560 feet) is the highest peak in England and Wales. The 14 Welsh mountains over 3000 feet high are known collectively as the Welsh 3000s.
The Brecon Beacons are in the south and are joined by the Cambrian Mountains in mid-Wales.
The Seven Wonders of Wales is a traditional list of seven geographic and cultural landmarks in Wales: Snowdon (the highest mountain), the Gresford bells (the peal of bells in the medieval church of All Saints at Gresford), the Llangollen bridge (built in 1347 over the River Dee), St Winefride’s Well (a pilgrimage site at Holywell in Flintshire) the Wrexham steeple (16th century tower of St. Giles Church in Wrexham), the Overton yew trees (ancient yew trees in the churchyard of St Mary’s at Overton-on-Dee) and Pistyll Rhaeadr (Wales’s tallest waterfall, at 240 feet or 75 m). The wonders are part of the traditional rhyme:
Pistyll Rhaeadr and Wrexham steeple,
Snowdon’s mountain without its people,
Overton yew trees, St Winefride wells,
Llangollen bridge and Gresford bells.
For administrative purposes, Wales has been divided since 1996 into 22 unitary authorities:
• 9 counties
• 10 county boroughs
• 3 cities
For more details and recent history of the political divisions of Wales, see Subdivisions of Wales.
United Kingdom | Wales | Principal areas of Wales
Anglesey | Blaenau Gwent | Bridgend | Caerphilly | Cardiff | Carmarthenshire | Ceredigion | Conwy | Denbighshire | Flintshire | Gwynedd | Merthyr Tydfil | Monmouthshire | Neath Port Talbot | Newport | Pembrokeshire | Powys | Rhondda Cynon Taff | Swansea | Torfaen | Vale of Glamorgan | Wrexham
Parts of Wales have been heavily industrialised since the eighteenth century. Coal, copper, iron, lead, and gold have been mined in Wales, and slate has been quarried. Ironworks and tinplate works, along with the coal mines, attracted large numbers of immigrants during the nineteenth century, particularly to the valleys north of Cardiff, which is now the capital city.
Demographics of Wales as at the 2001 Census:
• Population: 2,903,085, Male: 1,403,782 Female: 1,499,303
• Percentage of the population born in:
o England: 20.32%
o Wales: 75.39%
o Scotland: 0.84%
o Northern Ireland: 0.27%
o Republic of Ireland: 0.44%
• Ethnic groups:
o White: British: 95.99%
o White: Irish: 0.61%
o White: other: 1.28%
o Mixed: white and black: 0.29%
o Mixed: white and Asian: 0.17%
o Mixed: other: 0.15%
Indian/British Indian: 0.28%
Pakistani/British Pakistani: 0.29%
Bangladeshi/British Bangladeshi: 0.19%
Other Asian: 0.12%
o Black: 0.25%
o Chinese: 0.40%
o Percentage of the population self-identifying as Welsh: 14.39% (controversially, there was no question on the Census form asking this — people had to write this in).
o Christian: 71.9%
o Buddhist: 0.19%
o Hindu: 0.19%
o Jewish: 0.08%
o Muslim: 0.75%
o Sîkh: 0.07%
o Other religion: 0.24%
o No religion: 18.53%
o Not disclosed: 8.07%
• Age structure of the population:
o 0-4: 167,903
o 5-7: 108,149
o 8-9: 77,176
o 10-14: 195,976
o 15: 37,951
o 16-17: 75,234
o 18-19: 71,519
o 20-24: 169,493
o 25-29: 166,348
o 30-44: 605,962
o 45-59: 569,676
o 60-64: 152,924
o 65-74: 264,191
o 75-84: 182,202
o 85-89: 38,977
o 90+: 19,404
• Knowledge of the Welsh language:
o Percentage of the population aged 3 or more knowing spoken Welsh only: 4.93%
o Percentage of the population aged 3 or more speaking Welsh but not reading or writing it: 2.83%
o Percentage of the population aged 3 or more speaking and reading Welsh but not writing it: 1.37%
o Percentage of the population aged 3 or more speaking, reading, and writing Welsh: 16.32%
o Percentage of the population aged 3 or more with some other skills combination: 2.98%
o Percentage of the population aged 3 or more with no knowledge of Welsh: 71.57%
Though a part of the United Kingdom since 1282 and in close proximity to England, the nation of Wales has managed to preserve its own distinctive culture, including its language, holidays and music.
Wales is primarily represented by the Welsh Dragon, but other national emblems include the leek and daffodil. The Welsh words for leeks (cennin) and daffodils (cennin Pedr, lit. “(Saint) Peter’s Leeks”) are closely related and it is likely that one of the symbols came to be used due to a misunderstanding for the other one, though it is less clear which came first.
The patron saint of Wales is Saint David, Dewi Sant in Welsh. St. David’s Day is celebrated throughout the country on March 1st, which some people argue should be a public holiday in Wales (although others disagree). Other days which have been proposed for public commemorations are September 16 (the day on which Owain Glyn Dwr’s rebellion began) and December 11 (the death of Llywelyn the Last).
The Welsh Dragon depicted on the Welsh flag.
However, the traditional seasonal festivals in Wales were Calan Gaeaf (Halloween-type holiday on the first day of winter), Calan Mai, and Midsummer. Additionally, each parish celebrated a Gwyl Mabsant in commemoration of its native saint.
Wales is often known by the phrase “the Land of Song” (Welsh: Gwlad y Gân) and its people have a renowned affinity for poetry and music.
Perhaps the most well-known musical image of Wales is that of the choir, in particular the male voice choir (Welsh: cor meibion). While this is certainly a part (though of greatly diminished importance) of the current musical life of the nation, it is by no means the only or the oldest part, and the choral tradition does not really stretch back significantly beyond its heyday in the 19th century.
Much older is the tradition of instrumental folk music. The harp has been closely associated with Wales for a very long time, and one kind of harp, the triple harp is uniquely Welsh. Other specifically Welsh instruments included the crwth and the pibgorn, though both fell out of general use by the end of the 18th century. Due to Nonconformist Christian disapproval, the instrumental folk tradition fell into decline through the 19th and early 20th centuries, but has since seen a revival and is now arguably as strong as ever. The principal instruments are the harp and the fiddle, but many other instruments are used, and both the crwth and pibgorn are again being played by a small but growing number of people.
Wales also has a long tradition of folk song which, like the instrumental tradition, and for the same reasons, was long in decline but is now flourishing again. One notable kind of Welsh song is cerdd dant which, loosely, is an improvised performance following quite strict rules in which poetry is sung to one tune against the accompaniment of (usually) a harp to a different tune.
The original members of the Manic Street Preachers.
In the mid- to late 1990s new Welsh music became unexpectedly fashionable, with the chart successes of bands including Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia and Stereophonics. These groups helped the media at the time invent the epithet “Cool Cymru”, an answer to Britpop’s “Cool Britannia”. Prior to that, Welsh acts including The Alarm, Shakin’ Stevens and Bonnie Tyler had all had high profiles, but there had never been much of a movement.
Around this time, groups such as Super Furry Animals and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci rose to popularity, and artists such as Tom Jones, John Cale, and Shirley Bassey had something of a renaissance.
The Welsh music industry is currently in good health, with boundless creativity from many lesser known groups, and labels such as Ankstmusik, Crai, and Boobytrap. And, in recent years, a large alternative and punk scene has sprung up from the Valleys towns in south Wales, of which Lostprophets and Funeral For A Friend have achieved notable international success. PFS from Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire, West Wales created their own disturbing punk sound in 1978, and in 2003 they signed to Grand Theft Audio Records in Los Angeles, USA. They were once dubbed the “Welsh Sex Pistols” due to their attitude towards the music establishment in the UK.
The national sport of Wales is rugby union.
Rugby union is a team sport that was (according to legend) developed from the rules used to play football at Rugby School in England. Two teams, each of 15 players have the task of outscoring the opposing team. Players clutch a prolate spheroid ball (see picture left) in their hands or arms, and may pass it backwards or laterally across the pitch, or kick it in any direction. The opposing players attempt to halt the ball-carrier by tackling him or her with their arms and bodies. When tackled, the ball carrier must release the ball, at which time a contest for possession of the ball commences (either a ruck or a maul).
The International Rugby Board (IRB), founded in 1886, governs the sport and also publishes the game’s laws
Photos of Wales
The summit of Snowdon, Snowdonia, highest mountain in Wales
Tredegar House, Newport
Hall of the Mountain Kings, Ogof Craig a Ffynnon, a cave in the Brecon Beacons
A lovely view of Conwy Castle
The University of Wales, Lampeter, the oldest higher education institution in Wales
The Castle and Old College building, Aberystwyth
The National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff
Prince of Wales
The eldest son of the reigning monarch of England/Great Britain is traditionally invested with the title of Prince of Wales. This tradition began in 1301, when King Edward I of England, having completed the Norman conquest of Wales, gave the title to his heir, Prince Edward (later King Edward II of England). The apocryphal story that the king promised the rebellious Welsh natives “a prince born in Wales, who did not speak a word of English” and then produced his infant son was not written down until the 16th century. (However, Edward II certainly was both born at Caernarfon, while his father was campaigning in Wales and did not speak English as an infant; the Norman (not English) nobility spoke Norman).
Prior to the conquest of Wales, only a handful of native princes had claimed the title of Prince of Wales, the country having been divided into smaller principalities for most of the post-Roman period. In 1258, the title was claimed by Llywelyn the Last, Prince of Gwynedd, having been briefly held by his uncle, Dafydd ap Llywelyn, who was recognised by King Henry III of England as rightful ruler. In 1321, Edward I conquered Wales and granted the Principality to his eldest son, also named Edward. The Principality, nowadays, is always conferred along with the Earldom of Chester. The convention began only in 1399; all previous Princes of Wales also received the earldom, but separately from the Principality. The earldom was created several times before becoming merged in the Crown in 1272. The earldom was recreated, merging in the Crown in 1307 and again in 1327. Its creations since have been associated with the creations of the Principality of Wales, but as aforementioned, the creations of the two dignities were originally separate.
The Principality of Wales and Earldom of Chester must be created, and are not automatically acquired like the Dukedoms of Cornwall and Rothesay, which are the Heir Apparent’s titles in England and Scotland, respectively. The dignities are not hereditary, but may be re-created if the Prince of Wales predeceases the King. For example, when Prince Frederick, Prince of Wales predeceased King George II, his eldest son, Prince George (the future George III) was created Prince of Wales.
Princes of Wales may be invested, but investiture is not necessary to be created Prince of Wales. Peers were also invested, but investitures for peers ceased in 1621, during a time when peerages were being created so frequently that the investiture ceremony became cumbersome. Most investitures for Princes of Wales were held in front of Parliament, but in 1911, the future Edward VIII was invested in Caernarvon Castle in Wales. The present Prince of Wales was also invested there, in 1969. During the reading of the letters patent creating the Principality, the Honours of the Principality of Wales are delivered to the Prince. The coronet of the heir-apparent bears four-crosses pattée alternating with four fleurs-de-lis, surmounted by a single arch (the Sovereign’s crowns are of the same design, but use two arches). A gold rod is also used in the insignia; gold rods were formally used in the investitures of dukes, but survive now in the investitures of Princes of Wales only. Also part of the insignia are a ring, a sword and a robe.
The Prince of Wales is styled His Royal Highness (HRH). The same style is given to the Princess of Wales, by virtue of her marriage. However, as was shown in the case of Diana, Princess of Wales, the style lapses if a Prince and Princess divorce, as it is only hers by virtue of marriage to the Prince of Wales, not in her own right.
The holders of the title have been:
Prince of Wales Parent From To
1301 1307 (acceded as Edward II)
Edward, the Black Prince
1330 1376 (death)
Richard of Bordeaux
Edward, the Black Prince
1376 1377 (acceded as Richard II)
Henry of Monmouth
1399 1413 (acceded as Henry V)
Edward, Duke of Cornwall
1453 1471 (death)
1470 1483 (acceded as Edward V)
Edward, Duke of Cornwall
1483 1484 (death)
Arthur, Duke of Cornwall
1486 1502 (death)
Henry, Duke of Cornwall
1502 1509 (acceded as Henry VIII)
Henry, Duke of Cornwall
1603 1612 (death)
Charles, Duke of Cornwall
1612 1625 (acceded as Charles I)
Charles, Duke of Cornwall
1630 1649 (acceded as Charles II)
James Francis Edward Stuart
1688 1689 (father’s deposition)
George Augustus, Duke of Cornwall
1714 1727 (acceded as George II)
Frederick Lewis, Duke of Cornwall
1727 1751 (death)
1751 1760 (acceded as George III)
George, Duke of Cornwall
1762 1820 (acceded as George IV)
HRH Prince Albert Edward
1841 1901 (acceded as Edward VII)
HRH Prince George, Duke of Cornwall
1901 1910 (acceded as George V)
HRH Prince Edward, Duke of Cornwall
1910 1936 (acceded as Edward VIII)
HRH Prince Charles, Duke of Cornwall