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Presidential Address: The Royal Household and the Welsh Lawbooks

  • Goronwy Edwards

On the corresponding occasion last year, I ventured to offer some remarks on the subject of medieval Welsh lawbooks, and more particularly on the editing of them. When edited, they serve as historical evidence. I therefore propose on this present occasion to consider the sort of historical evidence that they contain, and the kind of historical question that they raise. As I have to operate within the narrow compass of an hour, I must limit my field of view, and this can be done quite simply. A Welsh lawbook was made up of a series of what, in the absence of a recognized technical term, may conveniently be called ‘tractates’. I am going to consider just one of those tractates. It is, in more than one sense, the most easily distinguishable of them all. It is also the one that forms the very first part of the text of the Welsh lawbooks, coming immediately after the opening prologue. From its situation at the very beginning of the text, it should be the most inescapable document in the lawbooks—though, as Edgar Allan Poe demonstrated in a famous story, a document situated in the most obtrusive position is precisely the one that may most easily escape notice. It is quite a sizeable document, running to some twenty pages of modern print. It is extant both in medieval Latin and in medieval Welsh.

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page 164 note 1 Glanvill, De legibus et consuetudinibus regni Angliae, book xii, ch. 23; ed. G. E. Woodbine (New Haven, Conn., 1932), p. 156.

page 164 note 2 The earlier form is preserved in the Latin versions and in two of the Welsh versions, the ‘Dimetian’ and ‘Gwentian’. The third Welsh version, the ‘Venedotian’, is a redaction in which the first of the five lists has been recast, and the other four lists conflated—with additions—into a single list. In the present discussion I shall refer mainly to the earliest extant Latin version, now known as Lat. A, printed by Aneurin Owen in Anc[ient] Laws and Inst[itutes] of Wales (Record Comm., 1841), ii, pp. 749–67

page 165 note 1 Dr Thomas Party has remarked upon the 24 Welsh metres, and some of the other Welsh uses of 24, in the Rhŷs Memorial Lecture for 1961; Proc. of British Academy, xlvii (London, 1962), pp. 184–85. See also Hopper, V. F., Medieval Number Symbolism (New York, 1938), especially ch. vi.

page 166 note 1 Anc. Laws and Inst. of Wales, ii, pp. 759–60.

page 167 note 1 The three in the second list (of ‘protections’) who do not appear in the first list (of the Twenty-four) are the ‘janitor’, the ‘kynnuttey’ and the ‘captivus’. Later redactors seem to have noticed this discrepancy between the two lists, and to have adjusted things by observing at the end of the list of ‘protections’, ‘Janitor et cynnutei non sunt de numero xxiiii’, and silently omitting the ‘captivus’; at any rate that is what happens in Latin redaction D; and it seems to have happened also in the exemplar of Latin redaction B, for die confused surviving copy of that redaction printed by Aneurin Owen contains the observation that the ‘janitor’ and the ‘cynnutei’ are not among the Twenty-four; Anc. Laws and Inst. of Wales, ii, p. 820 (no. xiii).

page 168 note 1 Tout, T. F., Collected Papers, iii (Manchester, 1934), p. 194.

page 168 note 2 Stenton, F. M., The First Century of English Feudalism, 1st edn (Oxford, 1932), pp. 7072, 267–68.

page 169 note 1 Hincmar, De ordine palatii, ed. with notes and translation by M. Prou (Bibl. de l'École des Hautes Études: Sciences philologiques et historiques, fasc. 58, Paris, 1885). Text also in Mon. Germ. Hist., Capit. Regum Franc. II, Legum sect. II, torn, ii, pp. 517–30. See the important comment by Halphen, L. in Revue historique, clxxxiii (1938), pp. 19.

page 170 note 1 In Dialogus de Scaccario, ed. Johnson, C. (London, 1950), pp. 129–35.

page 172 note 1 Hist, of Wales, 2nd edn (London, 1912), i, p. 316.

page 172 note 2 In redaction B; Anc. Laws and Inst. of Wales, ii, p. 814.

page 172 note 3 The ‘Venedotian’ redaction of the Welsh version (ibid., i, p. 12) and redaction D of the Latin version attribute this view of the penteulu to the ‘Norwalenses’.

page 172 note 4 Ibid., ii, p. 755.

page 172 note 5 Ibid., i, p. 18.

page 173 note 1 Lloyd, , Hist. of Wales, ii, pp. 622, 684; Littere Wallie, ed. Edwards, J. G. (Cardiff, 1940), pp. 4, 28, 45; Anc. Laws and Inst. of Wales, ii, pp. 752, 754.

page 173 note 2 Dict., of Welsh Biography (London, 1959), s.n. ‘Ednyfed Fychan’.

page 173 note 3 Anc. Laws and Inst. of Wales, ii, p. 761.

page 174 note 1 In 1266 the dean and chapter of St Asaph received £20 as a loan from Llywelyn Prince of Wales: the money was handed over by ‘Richard the Clerk, vicechamberlain of the lord Prince’; Littere Wallie, p. 39. If this ‘Richard the Clerk’ was the same as ‘Richard the Clerk of Mold’ who was one of four messengers sent by the Prince to Chester in 1268 to hand over 4000 marks of the tribute due from him under the terms of treaty of 1267, then by 1270 he had become the Prince's ‘treasurer’, for he is mentioned with that title in two documents of that year; ibid., pp. 143–45, 150

page 174 note 2 In the recast list of the Twenty-four given by the ‘Venedotian’ Welsh version (see p. 164, n. 2 above), the queen is credited with eight court officers instead of the four assigned to her in the earlier redaction of the list. It would be interesting to know why the redactor of the ‘Venedotian’ Welsh version made this change: possibly his purpose was schematic, to make the proportion of king's and queen's officers as two to one, instead of four to one as in the earlier list.

page 174 note 3 Anc. Laws and Inst. of Wales, ii, p. 893 (Latin redaction C).

page 176 note 1 The fact that the assertion is repeated in all the redactions subsequent to that contained in Peniarth MS. 28 adds nothing to its value as evidence.

page 176 note 2 Jones, J. Morris, A Welsh Grammar, historical and comparative (Oxford, 1913), p. 7. On orthographical evidence see also the noticeably cautious paper by SirParry-Williams, Thomas, ‘The language of the laws of Hywel Dda’, Aberystwyth Studies, x (1928), pp. 129–50.

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Transactions of the Royal Historical Society
  • ISSN: 0080-4401
  • EISSN: 1474-0648
  • URL: /core/journals/transactions-of-the-royal-historical-society
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