Who are these people?
When I think of the Welsh, the only ideas that come to mind are towns with interesting and hard to pronounce spelling (with very few vowels to help us); homey thatched roof cottages; and gorgeous movie stars like Catherine Zeta Jones, Ioan Gruffud, and Anthony Hopkins. I also think of Kenneth Branagh, playing Shakespeare’s Henry V and proclaiming in Act IV, Scene 1, “I am a Welshman!” And of course we all know that the heir to the British throne has been designated the Prince or Princess of Wales since the sixteenth century (though possibly as far back as 1301).
But what other important information should we know about Wales?Historically, the Welsh known to be a Celtic people, as are the Scots and Irish. The Celts were nomadic and traveled all over Europe, leaving their imprint in many places from Turkey to the British Isles. If you enjoy all things Celtic, you may want to invest in a wonderful BBC series called The Celts, a two-disk DVD set that transports you to a long distant past and explains much about how these people branched out into so many people groups. Find more information at http://is.gd/p1Ffgt, where I found the following information:
A very brief and ridiculously incomplete history
Like most of Europe, Wales emerged from the Dark Ages as a feudal society. Urban centers were few, with Cardiff boasting a whopping big population of 2,200 by 1300. Wales, you see, was an agrarian society, and most everyone lived and worked on a farm. Prior to the Norman invasion in 1066, women held a surprisingly high status in regard to property and rights over their children. In the 1500s, the Welsh became a part of the Protestant Reformation under England’s Tudor dynasty (though not during the reign of Mary I, of course). From that time on, with what is now called “the Act of Union,” the two countries almost seemed a single entity. The Welsh appear to have been more accepting of English rule than the Scots or Irish, and perhaps that helped them to blend. But please understand that I come to this conclusion from just a cursory online glance at Welsh history. If I were to speak to a Welshman, I would doubtless hear a very different viewpoint. (Picture above of Cardiff Castle by Million Moments (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)
There is a picture of a beautiful and majestic Welsh Cross at www.dreamstime.com/welsh-cross-stock-photography-imagefree6858802)
Sorry that I can't go deeper.
To keep this blog short, I’ve only scratched the surface of Welsh history, yet I have a strong conviction that any people group in my lineage deserves much deeper study. What really makes me sad about my Welsh connection is that I know of no celebrations in America that are attached to Wales, such at St. Patrick’s Day for the Irish in me or Scottish Highland Games for my Scottish roots. When I looked for "costumes," one "official" site said the “traditional” Welsh costumes are 19th century inventions. Again, it would take deeper research to discover the truth about that. On the other hand, a quick search for Welsh food comes up with lots of mutton and vegetable recipes (yum!) and the note that the Welsh love a hearty breakfast. So that's where I get my love of breakfast!
Regarding dances, I also learned that some Welsh religious reformers saw dancing as sinful and so abolished it. I'm guessing that they might have been abolishing the pagan rituals of the past, because the Welsh dancing I've found online is quite sweet and very similar to our energetic American folk and square dancing. Check out this YouTube video for a peek at the dancing and to listen to the announcer speaking in Welsh. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIOS19WzEZM
Regarding literature, one must of course mention Dylan Thomas and his lovely poetry. (I personally plan to “rage against the dying of the light” when my time comes!) Who hasn't studied him in lit classes? Also at YouTube, you can find video of the poet himself reciting his verses.
But what else?Clearly, I need to do a deeper study of my Welsh ancestry. In the meantime, if you know anything about Welsh culture, please leave a comment and tell us all about it. I’m sure I’m not the only one lamenting my ignorance on the subject!
Florida author Louise M. Gouge (left at Busch Gardens/Tampa) writes historical romance for Harlequin’s Love Inspired imprint. She also teaches English and humanities at Valencia College in Kissimmee, Florida. Her July 2013 LIH novel is A Lady of Quality, a Regency romance.