Heraldry in Wales part 1

Heraldry in WalesWhen we look at Heraldry in Wales, we see a system that is not unlike that of the highlanders of Scotland. We have, first of all, a preexisting Celtic nation, divided into tribes, but each with their chiefs and gentry, and basing their gentility on their descent from ancient noble ancestors. Impinging on this culture came the settlement of Anglo-Normans in the 11th and 12th centuries many of whom became absorbed by the native civilization. References often occur in old family histories to the Welsh Heralds, but in fact no such body ever existed. Wales was annexed to England in 1284, and from 1542 was made part of England from a legislative point of view. While the British Royal arms has parts depicting Ireland and Scotland there is no place given to Wales.

Welsh heraldryThe origins of Welsh Heraldry was of a later date than some other western European nations, because the Welsh like the other Celts of Ireland Scotland Cornwall and Brittany, had a civilization quite different from that of the feudal system. Coats of Arms like other western customs, such as submission to the pope in Rome, were adopted comparatively late in history by the Celts. The Anglo Normans that settled in Wales displayed charges on their Coats of Arms, which were unrelated to those of the tribal societies of the principalities of Wales even when they had adopted Welsh names. The native Welsh nobles, on the other hand, were tribally organized, and so a deliberate creation of Arms for the bearer was made by the old Welsh bards skilled in Heraldry. As a result of this all the branches of a scattered tribe could share in the Arms of this ancient, often mythical, chief from whom they claimed to derive their descent. In a large number of cases these original arms assigned to the bearer are differenced for the various branches of the family. In some cases distinct branches arose, and had already adopted quite different Arms from those of their kin, before this conscious effort to tribalise the Arms had occurred. In such cases these quite distinct Arms were sometimes continued, and they were often enough differentiated for their own sub-branches.

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