The Dominion or Principality of Wales may be described as a broad indented peninsula, situated in the South Western part of Great Britain. Its greatest length from North to South is about 135 miles, and its breadth from East to West ranges from 35 to 95 miles. It is bounded on the North by the Irish sea and the estuary of the Dee, on the West by St. George's Channel, on the South by the Bristol Channel and on the East by the English counties: Cheshire, Shropshire, Herfordshire, and Monmouthshire. The present Eastern boundary was settled by Henry VIII.
The counties of Wales are named as follows, with their Welsh equivalents.
Anglesey.        Ynys Mon.
Carnarvonshire.        Sir Gaernarfon.
Denbigshire.        Sir Dinbych.
Flintshire.        Sir Fflint.
Merionethshire.        Sir Feirionyd.
Montgomeryshire.        Sir Drefaldwyn.
Becknockshire.        Sir Frycheiniog.
Cardiganshire.        Sir Aberteifi.
Carmarthenshire.        Sir Gaerfyrdin.
Gtamoranshire .        Sir Forgannwg.
Pembrokeshire.        Sir Benfro.
Radnorshire.         Sir Faesyfed.
Monmouthshire.        Sir Fynwy.
The first six comprise what is generally termed North Wales, and the remainder South Wales. Their boundaries preserve to some extent the ancient divisions of the Principality. There are also two large country boroughs, Cardiff and Swansea.
Monmouthshire is technically an English county, but is essentially Welsh in origin, language and customs. The thirteen counties are divided into "hundreds," poor-law unions, highway districts, etc. The most ancient political divisions were Cantrefs and Cymwds. These land divisions, however, should not be confounded with the division of the "Cymric," land into small kingdoms or principalities, among the regal or princely families.
The geographical boundaries and divisions given by countries are, as indicated, those of the present day and of later times. The Wales, or Britain, of more ancient times, in the days of the Romans and for several centuries thereafter, comprised a large part of what is now Great Britain. Extending from the Bristol Channel on the South, to the Clyde and the Forth on the North, including as well the South Western peninsula.
Wales is quite mountainous, particularly in the North, where Snowdon, the culminating point of South Britain, rises to a height of 3571 feet. It is rich in minerals, particularly copper, coal and iron. Has many beautiful lakes and numerous rivers, also many fertile valleys.
The Welsh cherish their ancient Brythonic, or Cymric (Celtic) language, with great affection and it is quite generally in use among the people at the present time. In 1891 there were 508,000 persons in Wales who habitually spoke only Welsh; 402,000 who spoke both Welsh and English, and 759,000 who spoke only English.
In Welsh "C" has always the sound of "K," however the present Welsh alphabet does not recognize "K".
"G" never has the English sound of "J" or "dzh," as in John or James. "F" is sounded "V", but "V" is not included in the modern Welsh alphabet.
"D" has the sound of "th" in the English words "this" and that". "Ll" is a simple and single consonant.
"R" is trilled as in Italian, and in "rh", it is a surd strengthened by the aspirate.
"S" is never sounded "Z."
"W" and "I" may be either vowels or consonants.
"U" is sounded like "i" in the word "bit", and so sometimes is "Y." Thus "Gruffyd" or "Gruffud" is sounded and spelled in English "Griffith."
The literature of the Welsh is of considerable consequence and note, but the compositions of their Bards are the most celebrated and best known. These poetry making singers had an important part in the national life of ancient Wales.
The earliest laws of Wales, of which we have the most definite knowledge, were established and promulgated by Howel Da (Howel the Good), one of the ancient Kings of all Wales, about 942; and that they were good laws and loved by the people, is well evidenced by the fact that they remained in force throughout Wales, practically uninterruptedly, until the conquest of Edward I. in 1282, a period of 340 years, and in some sections for a much longer time. It is stated that Howel summoned four "laics" and two "clerics" from each commote in his dominions, to meet at Ty Gwyn and that this assembly, under his direction and guidance, formed these laws.
These codes deal first with the organization of the household of the King. Howel appointed the following servants of the court:
Chief of the Household.
Priest of the Household.
Chief Falconer.
Judge of the Court.
Chief Groom.
Page of the Chamber.
Bard of the Household.
Chief Huntsman.
Mead Brewer.
Door Ward.
Including eight officers of the queen:
Chief Groom.
Page of the Chamber.
The rights, privileges and duties of these officers were set out in great detail. The Chief of the Household was required to be of the royal blood.
Besides these twenty-four officers, there were eleven servants of the household, i. e.:
Groom of the rein.
Foot holder. Land Maer. Apparitor. Porter.
Watchman. Woodman. Baking woman.
Smith of the Court.
Chief of song. Laundress.
There was also a "table of precedence," which went into much detail.
The near relations of the king formed an exclusive, royal class. Next in rank were the nobles or "highmen"; then the bonedigion, (gentlemen); and then the unfree persons; and finally a class of menial or domestic slaves, which of course was the lowest class of all.
Courts were established by these laws, judges appointed and minute and detailed regulations were made, for the duties, rights and privileges of the people and for the enactment of justice in all things and in all matters, according to the views and ideas of these ancient lawmakers, which were evidently wise and just in the eyes of the people, who fondly cherished the laws which they promulgated, for many centuries and fought numerous, desperate and bloody battles for their retention, as
against the English laws, which their enemies sought to enforce upon them.