THE SURVIVAL OF THE WELSH LANGUAGE AFTER THE UNION OF ENGLAND AND WALES THE FIRST PHASE, 1536-16421 VISITORS to Wales sometimes express considerable surprise at the discovery, confirmed by the evidence of their own ears, that Welsh is still a language spoken in the streets and shops of towns and villages. They go to Eire and, though they see public notices and signs in Irish, they seldom if ever hear the language spoken. They go to Scotland, and Gaelic is even less in evidence. The wonder of these visitors to Wales is readily understood. To begin with, there is the geographical proximity of Wales to England. Aberystwyth in terms of mileage is nearer to London than is Durham. Geography alone, on the face of it, might have been expected to decree the extinction of Welsh and the survival of Gaelic. But the reverse, relatively speaking, has proved to be the case. Why is this so? This paper is an attempt to deal in part, and only in part, with this question. The geographical proximity of Wales to England is not the only consideration that makes the survival of Welsh apparently so remarkable. There is also the fact that Wales, conquered in the later Middle Ages, was in the early sixteenth century incorporated into England and embodied into the English state. In contrast with Wales, Scotland long remained an independent kingdom and, it could be argued, was never really conquered at all. In contrast again, Ireland was not finally conquered by England until the very end of the sixteenth century and regained her independence in the twentieth. When this is considered in conjunction with the fate of the Goidelic languages, the survival of the Welsh language seems not merely remarkable but almost miraculous. Geography and history together would seem to have conspired in vain against it. And, looking at the sixteenth century from the standpoint of the twentieth, the wonder is that the Welsh language did not move fairly rapidly towards extinction, ironically enough when a family Welsh in origin was the ruling dynasty of England. 1 The following is an expanded version of the paper read at the Congress at Cardiff, July 1963. I should like to acknowledge my indebtedness to Professors David Williams, Idris LI. Foster, and Glanmor Williams and to Mr. E. D. Jones for kindly reading the original draft of the paper and for the help which they gave and likewise to Mr. J. Beverley Smith and Mr. Garfield H. Hughes who both subsequently read the paper and made valuable suggestions. The responsibility for the views expressed and for errors, factual or interpretative, is. of course, entirely mine.