Certainly the Welsh always appear slightly out of date, when portrayed by English chroniclers, and Half Welsh/Half Norman prelates eager to get an Archbishopric out of the deal.
However we shouldn’t think of Welsh Kings and their nobles as being quite such backwoods hicks. Rhys ap Gruffudd of Deheubarth spoke fluent French and was regarded despite his wars with Henry II as one of the French speaking elite pan European nobility, even Gerald de Barri portraying him mixing with the members of the house of Clare – the Norman Marcher Lords – on equal terms. He didn’t of course, as most of his Anglo-Norman social equals did not, speak fluent (any?) English.
As for knights. Well, probably not – but define ‘knight’. The social class or the military order or the more generic, armoured horseman?
Knighthood as a method of landholding to pay for an armed mounted retainer and his supporters was not part of the Welsh social set up at the beginning of the period (Welsh social relations were in fairly rapid and dramatic flux in this period- commonly touted as non-feudal, there were quite complicated dues paid in kind to social superiors within Kingdoms and these changed to money payments in the thirteenth century).Mounted and armoured (albeit poorly perhaps, in mail for longer than in Anglo-Norman military circles)horsemen, certainly existed and they were socially between the King and the ordinary freemen. Exact relationships are more difficult to work out than in England because many of the original documents that may have clarified matters were lost or destroyed on the ending of individual Welsh courts, or did not exist in clear terms in the beginning beyond the laws of Hywel Dda.
It is precisely during this period that the ‘Welsh’ began using the term Cymro, at first in tandem with, and then in preference to Brython ,to refer to themselves. It marks a growing awareness of a change in their status and reflects a modernising of that self awareness at the leadership level. The idea of a backward looking, romantic, Dark Age, Brythonic Celtic identity fits very nicely with Victorian ideas of English Imperial achievement, but sits at odds with the contemporary evidence of a nation unifying itself in a wider European context. (Just too late unfortunately to counter the imperial ambitions of its largest immediate neighbour).
- This reply was modified 3 years, 7 months ago by Guy Farrish.