After an occupation lasting 360 years, the Romans left a Britain which was thoroughly permeated by the civilization of the Empire. In this Wales largely participated, though it is chiefly in Southeast Wales that the traces of Imperial Rome must be sought. Recent excavation has exposed vast remains of the power and luxury of the conquering race, at Caerwent in Monmouthshire (once a seaport);
and at Caerleon, in the same county, classical antiquity competes with Arthurian romance for the visitor's attention. Many Welsh pedigrees assign existing families a Roman ancestor in the person of some official who lived in the period between the departure of the legions and the Saxon conquest. It is, however, chiefly in the domains of language and religion that Rome has left an abiding imprint
After the departure of the Romans from Britain, the native inhabitants retained a semblance of Roman institutions. Considerable vestiges of these remained among the Welsh in the time of the Saxon Heptarchy. The clan system and other Celtic customs, however, continued in force long after imperial forms were forgotten. Only for a brief period were the Welsh united under one sovereign, in the
successive reigns of Rhydderch Mawr (Roderick the Great) and his son Howel Dda, or the Good, both of whom were strong rulers and wise legislators. The laws of Howel Dda are yet extant. They commence with a declaration that the king had obtained their sanction by the Pope of Rome, and their tenor is one of reverence for the Christian Faith and Church.
It was only by slow degrees that the native laws and customs were ousted by Anglo-Norman usages and the machinery of feudalism. The feudal system, indeed, hardly penetrated beyond the borderland (called the Marches) where, in their castles and walled towns, dwelled the Palatine lords who held those lands by right of conquest. By Henry VIII the laws of the principality, native and feudal, were
assimilated to those of England -- though certain peculiar legal institutions, such as the courts of great session, remained till the reign of William IV. At the same time Wales was divided into counties or shires, some of which were based on and named after the ancient lordships. Though possessing many old boroughs, Wales had no capital town until a few years ago. In 1905 King Edward VII by
royal charter conferred on the county of Cardiff the rank of a city, and gave to its chief magistrate the title of lord mayor. This action afforded great satisfaction to the Welsh people, inasmuch as Cardiff is superior to any other town in Wales both in commercial importance and in antiquity. Its history goes back to the Roman occupation, and the place is linked with Llandaff, the oldest
episcopal see. These considerations have earned for Cardiff universal recognition as the capital of Wales.
The conquest of Wales by England did not take place until 1066, when England was conquered by the Normans, but was gradual, not being complete until 1282, when King Edward I of England defeated Llywelyn the Last, Wales's last independent prince, in battle. Edward constructed a series of great stone castles in order to keep the Welsh under control. The best known are at Caernarfon, Conwy, and
Harlech. Wales was legally annexed by the Act of Union 1536, in the reign of 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. This act, with regard to Wales, was repealed in 1967.
Following the defeat of Llywelyn the Last by Edward I, Welsh independence in the 14th century was limited to a number of minor revolts. The greatest such revolt was that of Owain Glyndwr, who gained popular support in 1400, and defeated an English force at Pumlumon in 1401. In response, the English parliament passed repressive measures denying the Welsh the right of assembly. Glyndwr was
proclaimed Prince of Wales, and sought assistance from the French, but by 1409 his forces were scattered under the attacks of King Henry IV of England and further measures imposed against the Welsh.
In 1955 steps were taken to re-establish a sense of national identity for Wales when Cardiff was established as its capital. Before this, legislation passed by the UK parliament had simply referred to England, rather than England and Wales.
Since 1993 and the passing of the Welsh Language Act it has been law for all documents produced by public bodies to be in both English and Welsh. Many private companies have followed suit, producing literature with similar bilingual qualities.
The National Assembly for Wales, sitting in Cardiff, first elected in 1999, is elected by the Welsh people and has its powers defined by the Government of Wales Act 1998. The title of Prince of Wales is still given by the reigning British monarch to his or her eldest son, but in modern times the Prince does not live in Wales and has no direct involvement with administration or government. The
Prince is, however, still symbolically linked to the principality; the investiture of Charles took place at Caernarfon Castle in North Wales, a place traditionally associated with the creation of the title in the 13th century.