The Principality of[note 1] Wales is the smallest country on the island of Great Britain (assuming you don't count Cornwall), and is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. It is populated by sheep, growers of daffodils, corgis, leeks, undead singing horses, and Doctor Who (lives in Cardiff).
It is wet.
Wales in the United Kingdom
Wales is one of the five Celtic nations located in the British Isles.[note 2] Wales was annexed to become part of England with the Laws of Wales acts in the 16th century and has since then been part of the legal system of England, apart from the matters now devolved to Wales with the new Welsh Assembly. Wales became recognised as a country following the Acts of Union in 1707 which unified England, Scotland and Wales into the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
The word "Wales" derives from the Old English "Wealys", meaning a foreigner, whereas the local name "Cymru" means "brothers". That sums up the relationship between the two countries. The Welsh language is a constant source of bemusement to people in London, who find it hard to believe that it still exists, and that it doesn't use their spelling system. A number of English people genuinely believe that the Welsh only use their language when they are around, especially in public houses.
According to Jan Morris in the Spectator, "Mocking the Welsh is the last permitted bigotry" (but again, similar claims have been made about many other groups). The English expression to "To Welsh on", or "Welch on" someone (thankfully used less often now) means "to cheat" them by not paying up. A popular English rhyme also has it that "Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief;/ Taffy came to my house and stole a piece of beef". Anti-Welsh prejudice is virulent in the British media, and dates from hundreds of years ago, up to the present day. For example, English wit, and car driver, Jeremy Clarkson says: "It's entirely unfair that some people are born fat or ugly or dyslexic or disabled or ginger or small or Welsh. Life, I'm afraid, is tragic." Another wit who refers to himself as A. N. Wilson wrote in the Evening Standard in 1993 that "The Welsh have never made any significant contribution to any branch of knowledge, culture or entertainment. They have no architecture, no gastronomic tradition, no literature worthy of the name". Since the English are descended from the Anglo-Saxons of Germany, who invaded Britain around the 7th century AD and drove the native Britons into the west, that would make the Welsh the native Britons and the English prejudice very ironic.
Within the parliament of the United Kingdom, Wales is represented by 40 MPs from their 40 voting constituencies, making them the second smallest represented UK nation behind Northern Ireland. After a referendum in 1997 asking about devolution of power to Wales, the Welsh Assembly was created the following year, which had its powers extended following the Government of Wales Act in 2006. The Assembly contains 60 members who are elected on five year terms (it used to be on four year terms, however this was changed so that the Assembly elections wouldn't take place the same year as the British General Election of 2015). The Assembly then elects a First Minister who in turn selects ministers to form a Welsh Assembly Government.
Despite the permanent waterlogged state, Welsh persons are almost exclusively non-swimmers (the descendants of the ones who could swim are now known as Irish and live in Ireland where they went in prehistoric times to escape the stigma of being Welsh). There were at one time lots of mines which produced Queen Victoria's favourite coal. There are now
EistedfodsEisteddfods, rugby, Doctor Who and male voice choirs. To keep warm the native Welsh people were accustomed to burning cottages, but this practice has ceased owing to the increasing shortage of raw material.
The main religions are Christianity and rugby union. The former is often practiced in small non-Conformist chapels. The Life of Brian was banned in Aberystwyth (west Wales), but then later re-released there, since one of the film's stars (the one who played Judith) happened to be Mayor. The citizenry also got to see her naked in it, next to Graham Chapman.
One of the few words which has migrated into English common parlance from Welsh is "Eisteddfod". By Welsh standards, that's relatively easy to pronounce and spell. This should give you some idea of what Welsh is like.
The Welsh language uses the same script as the English language, but don't let that fool you: it actually uses its own alphabet. For example, Ch, Dd, Ff, Ng, Ll, Rh and Th are their own letters (in the Spanish tradition of smashing two letters together and proclaiming them a single letter), and the letters K, Q, V and Z are completely gone. The Welsh language consistently uses y as a vowel (as opposed to English's "A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y") and also uses w to represent a vowel sound instead of a consonant sound. 78% of Welsh jokes are about English speakers attempting to pronounce Welsh phrases. Unlike English though, Welsh is actually written fairly phonetically, once you get the gist of it. The spelling system of the English language is even more illogical than that of Welsh.
Welsh and English have equal statuses as the official language of Wales. While English is more common in everyday conversation, over 20% of the population is fluent in Welsh, and Welsh is taught as a compulsory subject in primary schools. Welsh was eradicated from many parts of Wales, by bullying and corporal punishment. The "Acts of Union" between England and Wales also banned it, which was inconvenient, since at the time over 90% spoke nothing else. A great deal of its survival is due to the victory of the Welsh church in an old ecclesiastical dispute over their demand to translate the Bible into Welsh as the English had already done for English, which made English a great deal less necessary for many years to come.
Wales is traditionally a strong area for the Labour Party, especially in its former heavy-industrial regions, and in 1997 and 2001 the Conservative Party won no Welsh seats at all in the Westminster parliament. In 2009, however, the Tories won the largest share of the Welsh vote in the European Parliament elections, the first time any party other than Labour had topped any Welsh poll since the First World War. In 2014 the United Kingdom Independence Party, widely considered to be effectively an English nationalist party, came within fewer than 5,000 votes of beating Labour. The nationalist party, Plaid Cymru, has never made a significant electoral breakthrough outside the areas where Welsh is most commonly spoken (generally in the west of the country). This would seem to suggest that a secessionist movement a la the SNP in Scotland would be unlikely to win mass support. Polls have however shown a higher percentage of the Welsh electorate than in England to be worried about the effects of Scottish independence.
- Northern Ireland
- United Kingdom
- Welsh Indians
- Australia (not in the British Isles, but boy does it have sheep! It's also the home of New South Wales, but we're not sure where New North Wales is.)
- New Zealand (also not in the British Isles, but it's close to Australia and also has a lot of sheep)
- Williams, Owen. "Wales isn't a 'principality' - sorry!". BBC Wales. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/wales/entries/1fa3ef03-d94a-3a3c-a22f-093c74467401. Created 24/07/2014. Accessed 28/01/2015.
- Welsh, Omniglot, accessed 23 Mar 2016