By Abigail Cengel
Bachelor of Arts Honors Theses, Wittenberg University, 2012
Abstract: The purpose of this study is to determine the ultimate role marriages between Welsh and Anglo-Norman aristocratic families played in the Welsh struggle to retain autonomy from 1066 to 1283. To begin, I will delve into what the Welsh were trying to defend; more specifically, I will examine how the Welsh viewed themselves as a political and cultural unit and how this affected the political maneuvers their leaders made during this time.
Next, the literary tradition of each region will be analyzed in order to more fully define the relations between Wales and England and to determine how the people of each region perceived the other. Additionally, the reasons why Welsh did not ally with any of the other regions in their proximity (e.g. Ireland, Scotland, France) will also be investigated. This will be done through an examination of medieval Welsh and Anglo-Norman chronicles and other literature, medieval Welsh law texts, and correspondence between Welsh and Anglo-Norman rulers from the time.
Upon analysis of these sources, it becomes clear that the Welsh, even though they were unified by a common culture, could not rid themselves of political fragmentation, and were always dependent on the political situation in England.
Wales and England in the High Middle Ages were each their own political entities, and each had their own cultures, as represented through their respective languages, laws, and customs. The Welsh and the Anglo-Normans clashed directly after the Norman conquest of England in 1066 when the Normans began an aggressive campaign of conquest throughout the entire island of England – thus, both groups had to find ways to cope with each other. One method that was frequently used as a political tool by both of these peoples was marriage between their respective aristocratic families. These marriages were utilized by the Welsh in their attempts to preserve their political identity and autonomy against the incursions of the Anglo-Normans, as well as to gain advantages over their Welsh rivals. The Anglo-Normans, in turn, used the marriages to gain land and influence in Wales. In other words, these marriages were meant to bridge the gap and serve as living links between two regions that were frequently at odds during the High Middle Ages.