It was a few years ago when I did some research into ‘ancient’ British history – Welsh history in particular.
I was going back to the valleys for a first visit in over fifty years. Why wouldn’t I want a road map?
As a child growing up in Wales I wasn’t aware of the ‘Welsh Not.’ We spoke English. The ‘Welsh not’ disappeared as a punishment used in schools sometime around the late 1800’s – not that long ago.
“The Welsh Not, was traditionally a piece of wood, with the initials W.N carved into it. It was attached to a piece of string.
If a child in school was caught speaking Welsh (usually their first language) they had to wear the Welsh Not around their neck.
They could get rid of the Not, but only if they were to overhear another child speaking Welsh, and were encouraged to tell tales on them. Thus, the Not was transferred.
At the end of the day, the child left wearing the Not, would get caned. This was also the case for the child left wearing it at the end of the week.”
This way of somewhat forced assimilation is a familiar story to many minority cultures and my only point in mentioning it is to draw attention to what is hidden or ignored in the writing of history.
The printing press was forbidden in Wales until 1718, many reasons but nonetheless forbidden. I didn’t learn that in childhood.
King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, dragons, giants and more were part of an enchanted childhood imagination and were discarded as ‘real’ along with Santa Claus.
And yet … Arthur comes up in Welsh history as real person, Grandson of Tewdrig, son of Meurig and father of Morgan, all of them Kings within what is now South Wales.
The Llandaff Charters detail gifts of land from King to Church, of who gave what to who, how much, the witnesses – all detailed in the church records.
‘Don’t shoot the messenger.’ comes to mind. Who pointed me towards the Llandaff Charters was the remarkable Alan Wilson who, along with Baram Blackett, has done remarkable research and been ignored and vilified without anyone actually contradicting his work.
There’s a great deal at stake in keeping Arthur as a ‘legendary’ and commercial useful entity based in England.
Be that as it may, a lovely story follows which, of course, is true regardless of culture.
"Young King Arthur was ambushed and imprisoned by the
monarch of a neighbouring kingdom. The monarch could have
killed him but was moved by Arthur's youth and ideals. So,
the monarch offered him his freedom, as long as he could
answer a very difficult question. Arthur would have a year
to figure out the answer and, if after a year, he still had
no answer, he would be put to death.
The question?...What do women really want? Such a
question would perplex even the most knowledgeable man, and
to young Arthur, it seemed an impossible query. But, since
it was better than death, he accepted the monarch's
proposition to have an answer by year's end.
He returned to his kingdom and began to poll
everyone: the princess, the priests, the wise men and even
the court jester. He spoke with everyone, but no one could
give him a satisfactory answer.
Many people advised him to consult the old witch, for
only she would have the answer.
But the price would be high; as the witch was famous
throughout the kingdom for the exorbitant prices she
The last day of the year arrived and Arthur had no
choice but to talk to the witch. She agreed to answer the
question, but he would have to agree to her price first.
The old witch wanted to marry Sir Lancelot, the most
noble of the Knights of the Round Table and Arthur's closest
Young Arthur was horrified. She was hunchbacked and
hideous, had only one tooth, smelled like sewage, made
obscene noises, etc. He had never encountered such a
repugnant creature in all his life.
He refused to force his friend to marry her and endure
such a terrible burden; but Lancelot, learning of the
proposal, spoke with Arthur.
He said nothing was too big of a sacrifice compared to
Arthur's life and the preservation of the Round Table.
Hence, a wedding was proclaimed and the witch answered
Arthur's question thus:
What a woman really wants, she answered....is to be in
charge of her own life.
Everyone in the kingdom instantly knew that the witch
had uttered a great truth and that Arthur's life would be
And so it was, the neighbouring monarch granted Arthur
his freedom and Lancelot and the witch had a wonderful
The honeymoon hour approached and Lancelot, steeling
himself for a horrific experience, entered the bedroom. But,
what a sight awaited him. The most beautiful woman he had
ever seen lay before him on the bed. The astounded Lancelot
asked what had happened?
The beauty replied that since he had been so kind to
her when she appeared as a witch, she would henceforth, be
her horrible deformed self only half the time and the
beautiful maiden the other half.
Which would he prefer? Beautiful during the day....or
Lancelot pondered the predicament. During the day, a
beautiful woman to show off to his friends, but at night, in
the privacy of his castle, an old witch? Or, would he prefer
having a hideous witch during the day, but by night, a
beautiful woman for him to enjoy wondrous intimate moments?
Noble Lancelot said that he would allow HER to make
the choice herself.
Upon hearing this, she announced that she would be
beautiful all the time because he had respected her enough
to let her be in charge of her own life.
.......... the moral to this story?
If you don't let a woman have her own way....
Things are going to get ugly .