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For alternate meanings, see Wales (disambiguation)

Wales (Cymru; pronounced /"k@mrI/) is one of the countries that forms the United Kingdom. (The term 'Principality of Wales' / 'Tywysogaeth Cymru', though often used, is rejected by many in Wales, the Prince of Wales having no role in the governance of Wales.)

(In detail) royal coat-of-arms
National motto: "Cymru am Byth"
(Welsh, "Wales for Ever")
Official languages:English and Welsh
Capital:Cardiff / Caerdydd
First Minister:Rhodri Morgan AM
 - Total:
 - % water:
Ranked 3rd UK
20,779 kmē
 - Total (2001):
 - Density:
Ranked 3rd UK
Currency:Pound sterling (Ģ) (GBP)
Time zone:WET (UTC; UTC+1 in summer)
National anthem:Hen Wlad fy Nhadau

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Geography
4 Economy
5 Demographics
6 Culture
7 Related topics
8 External link


Main article: History of Wales

The Romans gave Wales the name of Cambria, and established a string of forts across the southern part of the country, 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, and 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 Saxons, due to the fierce resistance of its people. A 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 conquered from the Welsh. Parts of Offa's Dyke can still be seen today.

Wales continued to be a Christian country when its neighbour, 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 black hat, was devised in the nineteenth century by Lady Llanover, herself a prominent patron of the Welsh language and culture.

The Norman conquest of Wales did not take place in 1066, when England was conquered, but was gradual, not being complete until 1282, when King Edward I of England defeated Llywelyn the Last, Wales' 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, Conway and Harlech.


Main article: Politics of Wales

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 14th century was limited to a number of minor revolts. The greatest such revolt was that of Owain Glyn Dwr, who gained popular support in 1400, and defeated an English force at Pumlumon in 1401. In response, the English parliament passed repressive measures denying the Welsh the right of assembly. Glyn Dwr was proclaimed Prince of Wales, and sought assistance from the French, but by 1409 his forces were scattered under the attacks of King Henry IV of England and further measures imposed against the Welsh.

The 1536 Act of Union divided Wales into thirteen counties: Anglesey, Brecon, Caernarfon, Cardigan, Carmarthen, Denbigh, Flint, Glamorgan, Merioneth, Monmouth, Montgomery, Pembroke and Radnor and imposed the Law of England on Wales as well as outlawing the Welsh language for official purposes, excluding most native Welsh from any formal office.

Wales was considered by the English and later Great Britain and United Kingdom governments to be part of England until 1955, when it proclaimed Cardiff as the capital of Wales. Since then legislation has referred to 'England and Wales' where previously only 'England' was used.

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 Prince of Wales is a title given by the reigning British monarch to his or her eldest son, but in modern times the Prince does not live in Wales or have anything to do with its administration or government. He rarely visits the country and has only an extremely limited knowledge of the language.


Main article: Geography of Wales

Wales has thirteen (traditional) counties: Anglesey, Brecknockshire, Caernarvonshire, Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Glamorgan, Merionethshire, Montgomeryshire, Pembrokeshire, Radnorshire, and Monmouthshire, the last-named county being sometimes described as part of England because it was linked to English counties for legal purposes. Between 1888 and 1974 it had been divided into four county boroughs and thirteen administrative counties based on the traditional ones.

Administrative reorganisation resulted in eight administrative counties, divided on the basis of population size: Clwyd, Dyfed, Gwent, Gwynedd, Powys, Mid Glamorgan, South Glamorgan and West Glamorgan. Following the introduction of unitary authorities during the 1990s, a free-for-all took place, with some administrative counties reverting to traditional county names, leaving a confusing situation where some organisations, eg. the police authorities, straddle county boundaries, and some towns and cities qualify as counties, eg Cardiff, Swansea.


Main article: Economy of Wales

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.


Main article: Demographics of Wales


Main article: Culture of Wales

DateEnglish NameLocal NameRemarks
1 JanuaryNew Year's DayDydd Calan
The Friday before Easter SundayGood FridayGwener y Groglith
First Sunday after the first full moon since the vernal equinoxEaster SundaySul y Pasg
The day after Easter SundayEaster MondayDydd Llun y Pasg
First Monday in MayMay Day Bank HolidayGwyl Banc Calan Mai
Last Monday in MaySpring Bank HolidayGwyl Banc y Gwanwyn
Last Monday in AugustSummer Bank HolidayGwyl Banc yr Haf
25 DecemberChristmas DayDydd Nadolig
26 DecemberBoxing DayGwyl San Steffan

Related topics

External link