Location of Wales (orange)
– on the European continent (camel & white)
– in the United Kingdom (camel)
|Motto: Cymru am byth
(English: Wales forever)
|Anthem: Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau
(English: Land of my fathers)
|Patron Saint(s): Saint David (Dewi Sant)|
|Official language(s)||Welsh, English|
|Government||Devolved Government in a Constitutional monarchy|
|-||Prime Minister of the United Kingdom||David Cameron|
|-||First Minister of Wales||Carwyn Jones|
|-||Secretary of State (in the UK government)||Cheryl Gillan|
and National Assembly for Wales
|-||by Gruffydd ap Llywelyn||1057|
|-||Annexed to England||1536|
|-||Wales and Berwick Act Repealed||1969|
|GDP (PPP)||2006 (for national statistics) estimate|
|-||Total||US $85.4 billion|
|-||Per capita||US $30,546|
|Currency||Pound sterling (£) (
|Time zone||GMT (UTC+0)|
|-||Summer (DST)||BST (UTC+1)|
Wales (Welsh: Cymru) is a country in northwest Europe, a formerly independent principality, and one of the four constituent parts of the United Kingdom. Located in the southwest of Great Britain, it is bordered by England to the east, the Bristol Channel to the south, St. George's Channel in the west, and the Irish Sea to the north. Although Wales shares a close political and social history with the rest of Great Britain, and almost everyone speaks English, the country has retained a distinct cultural identity and is officially bilingual. Over 580,000 Welsh language speakers live in Wales, where it is spoken by a majority of the population in parts of the north and west. Wales had a population of 3,064,000 as of 2011 and has a total area of 20,779 km2 (8,023 sq mi).
The term Principality of Wales (Welsh: Tywysogaeth Cymru) is sometimes used, although the Prince of Wales has no role in the governance of Wales and this term is unpopular among some. Wales has not been politically independent since 1282, when King Edward I of England defeated the last Welsh monarch, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, at the Battle of Cilmeri, although Welsh law was not replaced in all cases by English law until the Laws in Wales Acts 1535-1542. Since 1955, the capital of Wales has been Cardiff, although Caernarfon is the location where the Prince of Wales is invested and Machynlleth was the home of a parliament called by Owain Glyndŵr during his revolt at the start of the 15th century. In 1999, the National Assembly for Wales was formed, which has limited domestic powers, and holds responsibility for a range of devolved policy matters.
During the Iron Age, the region of Wales—like all of Britain south of the Firth of Forth—was dominated by the Celtic Britons and the British language. The first documented history was during the Roman occupation of Britain. At that time the area of modern Wales was divided into many tribes, of which the Silures in the south-east and the Ordovices in the central and northwest areas were the largest and most powerful. The Romans began their conquest of Wales in 48 AD and was completed in 78 AD, with Roman rule lasting until 410 AD. Roman rule in Wales was a military occupation, save for the southern coastal region of South Wales east of the Gower Peninsula, where there is a legacy of Romanization.
The Romans established a string of forts across what is now southern Wales, as far west as Carmarthen (Maridunum), and mined gold at Dolaucothi in Carmarthenshire. There is evidence that they progressed even further west. They also built the legionary fortress at Caerleon (Isca), whose magnificent amphitheatre is the best preserved in Britain. While Romanization was far from complete, the upper classes of Wales began to consider themselves Roman, particularly after the ruling of 212 that granted Roman citizenship to all free men throughout the Empire. Further Roman influence came through the spread of Christianity, which gained many followers after Christians were allowed to worship freely in 313.
The national identity of the Welsh people emerged among the Celtic Britons after the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the 5th century, and Wales is regarded as one of the modern Celtic nations. After the Romans departed from Britain in 410, opening the door for the Anglo-Saxon invasion, Wales became divided into several kingdoms. Attempts by the Anglo-Saxon tribes to invade these kingdoms failed due to the fierce resistance of its people and its mountainous terrain. Thereafter British language and culture began to splinter, and several distinct groups formed such the Welsh, Cumbrians, Cornish, and Bretons. The Welsh people were the largest of these groups, and are generally discussed independently of the other surviving Brythonic-speaking peoples after the 11th century. They continued speaking the Welsh language, even as the Celtic elements of England and Scotland gradually disappeared.
The name Wales is evidence of this, as it comes from the Anglo-Saxon word Wēalas meaning "foreigner's land," itself derived from a Germanic root word (singular Walh, plural Walha) meaning "stranger" or "foreigner," and as such is related to the names of several other European regions where Germanic peoples came into contact with non-Germanic cultures, particularly Celtic and Italic peoples, including Wallonia (Belgium), Valais (Switzerland), and Wallachia in Romania, as well as the -wall of Cornwall. The Anglo-Saxon word for "foreign" or "foreigner" was Waelisc from which the demonym Welsh is derived. The modern Welsh name for themselves is Cymry and Cymru is Welsh for "Wales" or "Land of the Cymry." In Welsh literature, the word Cymry was used throughout the Middle Ages to describe the Welsh, though the older, more generic term Brythoniaid continued to be used to describe any of the Britonnic peoples (including the Welsh) and was the more common literary term until c. 1100. Thereafter Cymry prevailed as a reference to the Welsh. The Latinized forms of these names are Cambrian or Cambric (meaning "Welsh") and Cambria (meaning "Wales"). They survive as lesser-used alternative names for Wales, Welsh, and the Welsh people.
Wales continued to be a Christian country when neighbouring east Britain (modern England) was overrun by pagan German and Scandinavian tribes, though many older beliefs and customs survived among its people. Thus, Saint David went on a pilgrimage to Rome during the 6th century, and was serving as a bishop in Wales well before St. Augustine of Canterbury arrived to convert the king of Kent to Christianity and founded the diocese of Canterbury. The death of Wales' last independent prince, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, in 1282 marked the completion of Edward I of England's conquest of Wales, though Owain Glyndŵr briefly restored independence to what was to become modern Wales, in the early 15th century. The whole of Wales was annexed by England, and incorporated within the English legal system, under the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542, in the reign of King Henry VIII of England. The Wales and Berwick Act 1746 provided that all laws that applied to England would automatically apply to Wales (and Berwick, a town located on the Anglo-Scottish border) unless the law explicitly stated otherwise.
In the 20th century, Wales saw a revival in its national status. An independence movement was led by Plaid Cymru, seeking greater autonomy for the region from England. In 1955, the term "England and Wales" became common for describing the area to which English law applied, and Cardiff was proclaimed as capital. Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society) was formed in 1962, in response to fears that the language may soon die out. Nationalism grew, particularly following the flooding of the Tryweryn valley in 1965, drowning the village of Capel Celyn to create a reservoir supplying water to Liverpool. In 1966, the Carmarthen Parliamentary seat was won by Plaid Cymru at a by-election, their first Parliamentary seat. A short terror campaign was waged by Welsh nationalists for a short period by the Free Wales Army (FWA) and Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (MAC - Welsh Defence Movement). In the years leading up to the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales in 1969, these groups were responsible for a number of bomb blasts destroying water pipes and tax and other offices.
In 1969, the Wales and Berwick Act 1746 was repealed for Wales, and a legal definition of Wales, and the boundary with England was stated. A referendum on the creation of an assembly for Wales in 1979 led to a large majority for the "no." However, in 1997 a referendum on the issue was secured, albeit by a narrow majority. The National Assembly for Wales was set up in 1999 (as a consequence of the Government of Wales Act 1998) and possesses the power to determine how the government budget for Wales is spent and administered.