“A lot of people have come to understand the symbolism and what this title might mean for Wales since the Queen passed away, and they now understand the power it still holds.”
William and Kate this week made their first visit to Wales since assuming the roles. They stopped first in Anglesey in the north of the country — the place where they made their first home after their 2011 wedding — and later travelled south to Swansea. At each location, they were met by thronging crowds hoping to say a few words and have their pictures taken.
The rules of hereditary monarchy mean that at some point in the future, the Wales title will again be passed on to William’s son, Prince George. He will similarly pass it on to his child, and so on. But in the wake of the Queen’s death and the watershed moment it represents, questions are now brewing about the relevance of these titles, what they represent, and whether there is still a place for them in modern society.
A Meeting with Mark
On receiving the title, Prince William, in a phone call with Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, pledged to serve Wales and its people with “humility and great respect”, telling the Welsh Labour leader about his deep affection for the country.
Drakeford received William well, but his comments before the phone call, when the title was passed over, hinted at a niggling sense of exasperation. In an interview with Radio Cymru, he made it known that he “hadn’t heard anything about it before the new King said it.”
On the streets of Cardiff, a similar grievance is echoed: Some people complained to Express.co.uk that they were not asked about whether they wanted William as their new prince. The event has opened a dormant wound in the country, one previously thought to be extinct. The legitimacy of the Wales title has not been questioned with such ferocity for millennia.
An afternoon spent in the Welsh capital — the same day that Kate and William were doing the rounds in Anglesey and Swansea — found a mixed bag of opinions about the new Prince of Wales and the Royal Family.
Some, like Andrew Morgan, 59, who has worked all his life for his family’s butchers in the city’s historic market, had no qualms with William being handed the title. But, he said: “We should’ve been asked. They make decisions without even contemplating what people in Wales think. Whether you’re a royalist or republican it makes no difference. We should have had a say.”
Several others shared similar feelings, like Sarah Powney, 56, director of the Naked Vegan bakery. She agreed with Andrew, but also questioned what a say in the matter would have even looked like: “What would the outcome of it be? Would we be happy? We’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t.”
But others, like Elizabeth, 60, a lifelong Plaid Cymru voter, said she was happy with William’s new role, and that the royals had been a force for good for Wales: “There’s been huge change and an influx of prosperity with the Wales title and the name of the person who holds it.
“I didn’t want a say in the matter. I’m quite happy with it. I’m Plaid, I speak Welsh, but I still think he should’ve been made Prince of Wales.”
They are all sentiments that will likely be explored by Theo Davies-Lewis, a Welsh columnist, in his November lecture, ‘William: The Last Prince of Wales’.
While Davies-Lewis said he understood why many people thought the speed at which the title was passed over was “insensitive”, he did not see a way around it: “It would leave the Royal Family extremely vulnerable to having politicians or public figures criticising their place in modern Wales, and stirring the republican cause, over a prolonged period.”
Before the 12th century, the Prince of Wales title was held by members of the various Welsh royal dynasties.
Its first holder was Gruffud ap Cynan, also known as the King of Wales. As the title was passed down, England was at the same time suspended in a period of flux.
The Norman conquest had put the country under foreign rule, and so came with it a new line of royals from what is today northern France. They were hungry for more land, and turned their attention east, where the last remnants of a Celtic tradition held out.
Several offensive missions on Wales by the Normans had failed, and by 1264, as Llywelyn ap Gruffydd was made Prince of Wales, the country had been completely unified.
But then came King Edward I, who in 1277 sent a brigade of 15,000 men to capture Wales and extend the monarchy’s power. It would prove successful and Llywelyn met his demise at the Battle of Orewin Bridge in 1282.
While accounts differ, one claims he was betrayed by the English after being called for talks in Edward’s camp and murdered on crossing enemy lines.
He met the guillotine and his head was paraded through London, it later being impaled on a spike in the Tower of London. His brother, Dafydd ap Gruffydd, took the princeship but was shortly executed on the orders of Edward after being captured in Shrewsbury in 1283.
Dafydd was dragged through the town’s streets behind a horse, then disembowelled and symbolically made to watch as his innards were thrown into a fire. He became the first person known to be killed by hanging. It marked the end of Wales’ tradition of native princes and the country’s independence. In the 700 years since the title of the Prince of Wales has been held by a royal from outside the country.
“Ich Dein, I serve”
On a damp and dreary day at the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, contemplated the demise of Wales’ native princes. “We should never forget our history, and in some aspects, we should learn from our history,” he told Express.co.uk.
“But I go back to the example that the new King Charles III used in the chamber here in the Welsh parliament not so long ago. He said, Ich dein, I serve, which are the words inscribed on the Prince of Wales’ feathers.”
Davies is a staunch royalist and unionist, two things that appear to be as intertwined as republicanism and nationalism, with his party having long championed the royal cause in Wales.
He said the Royal Family has done much for the country, and even offers a lot to a democratic way of life while remaining outside the political fold.
The leader praised Charles for his ‘The Prince’s Trust’ initiative, which has worked tirelessly to offer those in Wales and all corners of the UK opportunities they may otherwise have missed, and hinted that Charles’ time as the Prince of Wales was not a one-sided affair.
He said: “I think what’s striking is when he was here in his capacity as King, he reflected on his time as Prince of Wales. And when he said Ich dien, I serve, he was saying, ‘I don’t have a divine right to something, I am here to serve. I am here to serve the people who make this great country of ours Wales, and indeed the UK’.”
Those like Davies argue that without a royal framework politics risks descending into chaos. “We have a better way of life under a constitutional monarchy and our politicians are rightly having robust debates in the chamber, be it here in Cardiff or Westminster,” he said.
“But above all, the monarchy is above that, above the politics, and ultimately offers that figurehead role to charities — around half in Wales. The way that Charles has done The Prince’s Trust has been inspirational for many people, putting focus into their lives.”
Charles was the longest-ever serving Prince of Wales, holding the role for 64 years — four years off his own mother’s record-breaking tenure as Queen.
While he never lived permanently in Wales during that time, he and Camilla, now Queen Consort, occasionally stayed at their Welsh residence, Llwynywermod, an adapted farmhouse in Carmarthenshire, bought in 2007 for a sum to the tune of £1.2million.
William went one step further than his father and in 2011 made the decision to move full-time to Anglesey with Kate. William’s heir, Prince George was born during their time there, where they rented a farmhouse for around £750 a month while William trained with the Royal Air Force nearby.
It was, many say, one of the most calm and carefree periods of William and Kate’s lives as senior working royals. William himself once said of Anglesey: “I know that I speak for Catherine when I say that I have never in my life known somewhere as beautiful and as welcoming.”
But in 2013, when the royal’s job as a military pilot ended, the family terminated their tenancy and moved back to London, into the spacious Apartment 1A at Kensington Palace.
Their supporters say this proves that the royals and the Prince of Wales title have a place in Wales: they have opened up economic and charitable avenues, they have paid into the local economy, and they have even lived in the country.
But for many, to have lived in Wales for just two years is nowhere near long enough to be proclaimed the country’s prince. They express frustration that the presence and these fleeting visits and stays often expose shortcomings in their areas.
Powney, the owner of Naked Vegan, remembered from a young age the lengths that her local council went to to clean up the streets, fix potholes, paint lampposts and prune flower beds before members of the Royal Family were due to visit.
“I find it frustrating,” she said. “You just think: is that their perception of how Wales is all the time? Do they not see that this isn’t real? We’ve struggled for years to get things done, and then suddenly, because someone who’s a royal is coming, things immediately get changed.”
For her, it begs the question of whether William, and the rest of the Royal Family, know the true face of Wales and all its flaws.
She fell short of suggesting that there is no place for the Prince of Wales — “Why not? His dad was the Prince of Wales and then it follows through” — but Abbi, 23, an actress from Llanelli, argued just that.
She said: “I think that when the Prince of Wales became the King they had an opportunity to do away with the title. I think it should be abolished.
“We don’t have a royal family of our own, and I know that England and Wales are a merger, but there’s also a lot of history behind the countries’ relationship. It’s digging up bad blood. A lot of people don’t understand the roots of the title and the relationship. The fact that it’s now gone to William and Kate is indicative of that.”
Grace, 21, and Allesio, 23, two restaurant workers in Cardiff, agreed. While Grace said the title made her feel “small” and that she believed there was a palpable “tension” being created between England and Wales as a result of it, she conceded that there was perhaps a place for the title and Royal Family. “ I think people need to have things to put their hope into, and maybe the Royal Family is this magical thing and it’s escapism for people — that’s why they love it,” she said.
Allesio was more glib in his assessment: “If the UK was more like Denmark or Spain where the Royal Family is just for show, maybe it would be better. We could stick the royals in a heritage box in a museum and people could look at them.”
Division in the Senedd
Unlike his father, it has emerged that there are no plans for William to have an investiture in Wales.
There were early talks that he may be indicted in Cardiff Castle, but the combination of a cost-of-living crisis and some pushback within the country, reports suggest, have nipped any grand ceremony in the bud.
Before the news, Drakeford said it was a matter for the Palace to open discussions on any future investiture.
This was met with hostility from Welsh Labour’s government partner, Plaid Cymru. Its leader, Adam Price, who had already pushed back against the title being passed on, responded to Drakeford’s words in a letter seen by Express.co.uk.
It reads: “Wales is a modern democratic country. Decisions about Wales should be made in Wales by the people of Wales and through their elected representatives. This is no different.
“I do not personally believe that there is a need for the role of a royal ‘Prince of Wales’ in a modern, democratic Wales, nor do I believe, given the exacerbating cost of living crisis, the historical sensitives, that an investiture would be appropriate or acceptable.”
Price has never explicitly said that he wants to see the Royal Family abolished. But Plaid Cymru is vehemently republican, wanting to see Wales break away from the UK and flourish as an independent state.
Figures like Davies, however, say Price and other Welsh nationalists are using the monarchy question to push their own separatist agenda.
“The nationalists will always use anything to seek to divide because ultimately, that’s what their goal is. It’s about separation — it’s about creating chaos and confusion,” he said.
“But I go back to this narrative that people have in Wales and indeed other parts of the United Kingdom, where a clear majority respect and value the role that the monarchy brings to this country alongside what the democratic settlement of this country is: providing that plurality of democratic discussion, discourse, debate, and ultimately an ability for people to express their view every four to five years at elections.
“Wales and the UK are stronger, more stable and wealthier both spiritually and financially by having a monarchy that is outside the political forum, and is a constitutional monarchy that gives us that strength and stability.”
A Lasting Legacy
Gruffyd’s petition continues to gain signatures and more and more Welsh people are learning about their country’s history and native Royal Families — “that was one of my main goals,” he said.
Change may be coming. Davies-Lewis noted how even the dialogue currently playing out in Wales between Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru proved that the Royal Family’s place in the country had significantly shifted: “It has been extraordinary that the scope and scale of the investiture has been debated intensely by the two parties over the last few weeks.
“Kensington Palace has already said there are no plans for an investiture like 1969: that, in part, I think will have been influenced by the emotive reaction and debate stirred by leading figures in Welsh public life. Which is a testament to where power truly lies in Wales today.”
But the reality is that the Prince of Wales title is likely here to stay. So wrapped up is the monarchy with political, national and social discourse, that any shift in its legacy will require a mandate never before seen in British civil life.
And the fact remains that many people in Wales still support the monarchy. The latest polling carried out by YouGov as part of a major study by Cardiff University’s Election Study in May found that around 55 percent of the population support having a monarchy. For now, the republicans in Wales are the minority.
Source: EXPRESS CO UK