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the Bible in their own language; set over them pastors who sought not them but theirs ; and confided the superintendence of these pastors to English bishops and other officials, many of whom were utterly indifferent to the moral elevation of the people.
THESE are heavy charges; but they are amply sustained, both by the history of the past and by the present condition of the Establishment. The Christian religion was early introduced among the Welsh. We need not, for our present purpose, investigate the condition of the British church under the Romans. Suffice it to say, that in the sixth and seventh centuries the Welsh clergy would not sit down at the same table with the English clergy, who served at the altars of Rome. This feeling, however, gradually disappeared, for in the ninth century we find Asser Menevensis, a Welsh clergyman, becoming a bishop in the English church. In the tenth century, though a bishop was appointed to the see of Llandaff, in opposition to the wishes of the Pope, yet his authority was so far acknowledged as to induce Prince Howel the Good to proceed to Rome, to seek the papal sanction for his celebrated code of laws. In the same century, the bishopric of St. David's was conferred on an Englishman of the name of Hubert.
The settlement of the Normans in Glamorganshire, and the victories of Henry I. in the western parts of South Wales, prepared the way for the introduction of Anglo-Normans to the sees of St. David's and Llandaff; the South Wales dioceses thus first falling a prey to the English government. The stern spirit of the North was not so easily subjugated. At length, however, English influences prevailed, though the Welsh princes
of that wild region were frequently excommunicated by the Pope, for their patriotic struggles against English aggression.
In the year 1188, Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, visited the four cathedrals, and performed mass; and this date may be fixed upon as the period when the authority of Canterbury was ecclesiastically acknowledged. After this, we find but one indication of the ancient independence of the Welsh church. In the year 1198, the see of St. David's became vacant; and on the canons being summoned to elect a new bishop, they appointed Giraldus Cambrensis, Archdeacon of Brecon. King John and the Archbishop of Canterbury refused to ratify this selection, on the ground that Giraldus was a Welshman, and insisted upon an Englishman being chosen. The quarrel waxed warm,
and Giraldus twice visited the Eternal City to plead his cause with Innocent III., who rejected his supplications. This treatment induced the Welsh princes to remonstrate, and Giraldus visited Rome for the third time, when, after being plundered of all the money which the Pope could exact from him and his partizans, his election was declared null and void.
The petition of the Welsh princes to the Pope, in this their last struggle for ecclesiastical freedom, is almost as applicable to the present time as to the circumstances of those days; the only difference being, that Dissent has now made that provision for the spiritual wants of the population which did not then exist. The Welsh princes, Llewelyn ab Iorwerth, Gwenwynwyn, Madawc, and the four sons of Rhys, prince of South Wales, complained of the “hardship and perdition of souls” to which the people were subjected by the policy of the English court. Their first specific complaint was that the Archbishop of Canterbury appointed English bishops, who were ignorant of the language and customs of the people, and who could neither preach the word of God nor preside at the confessional, except by means of interpreters. The prelates, it was alleged, hated the people, despised their feelings, and sought to be lords over them rather than to promote their welfare. They rarely attended to the duties of the pastoral office; but whatever they could lay their hands upon, or wring from the people, they carried into England, where it was wasted and consumed in abbeys, and on lands given them by the king. The cathedral lands they sold, gave away, or otherwise alienated.
Whenever the Saxons rushed into the land, the archbishop immediately excommunicated princes and people, if they offered resistance to the invaders of their homes and hearths. The thunder of the archbishop was faithfully re-echoed by the bishops, and every stout-hearted Welshman, who died on the field of battle, perished under the curse of excommunication. The good princes, with sighs and tears, besought the Pope to give them effectual relief from these grievances, and to look upon them with an eye of pity. They, in return, promised to render willingly any service in their power to “ the Holy Apostle Peter.” The Pope, however, had no bowels of compassion to yearn over them, and the evils of which they complained continued up to the death of the last Prince of Wales, Llewelyn ab Gruffydd, who, for his patriotic efforts, was cast out from the bosom of the church as an abomination. “ The bravest of the race retired” under the maledictions of ecclesiastical vengeance. His decapitated body was buried in unconsecrated ground, on a cross-road-the usual burial. place for persons dying under excommunication; and Cefn y Bedd,* where his remains were deposited, still utters an indignant, though a silent, cry against the iniquitous conduct of rendering a Christian church the political instrument of kingly wrath.
After the death of Llewelyn, the policy of the English court became milder. Having achieved its objects of conquest, the Government was content to let the agencies of the church return to their own proper channel. During the first three reigns after the subjugation of the Principality, but few English bishops were imposed on the church, especially in North Wales. But this state of repose did not long continue. The insurrection of Owen Glyndwr, in the time of Henry IV., called forth another reign of terror. Owen, descended from the
* Llewelyn was buried near Builth, Brecknockshire,
ancient princes of his country, and having been insulted by the king and some of his agents, resolved to place himself at the head of a movement, which all his countrymen desired, but which no one had ventured to commence. The ancient standard was raised, the genius of the Welsh muse was again exerted in rousing national feeling, and Owen was publicly and solemnly proclaimed Prince of all Cambria. Henry advanced against him, but
“The king had never but tempest foule and rain,
As long as he was ay in Wales grounde.” The success of Owen, however, only continued for a short time. Having failed to unite his forces to those of Henry Percy, son of the Earl of Northumberland, the latter was slain at Battle Abbey, near Shrewsbury; and the aid which the King of France rendered him proved ineffectual, as the soldiers were but little accustomed to dearth of food, and the usual tactics of Welsh warfare. The tide of victory turned against him, though he long maintained a formidable position. Relying on foreign aid, the Welsh were less successful than their ancestors, who always relied on themselves. When the insurrection was put down, the people were visited with the fiercest indignation of their oppressors. Welshmen were excluded from all offices of trust in their own country—from that of a “judge, a viscount, or a chancellor,” down to the humble and rustic duty of a “ forester.” The bishoprics were again transferred to English ecclesiastics, and the revenues of the church in North Wales, as had previously been the case in the South, became the booty of English monks.*
But the national spirit of the Welsh, was not quelled. The foreign yoke was uneasily borne, until Cambria attained the summit of her ambition on the field of Bosworth, and the consequent ascension of Henry VII. to the throne of England. Two-thirds of Henry's army were Welsh: they fought, they conquered, and they rejoiced in being able to place a prince with some Welsh blood in his veins on the throne of
Johnes' Essay on the Causes of Dissent in Wales, p. 142. Thierry's History of the Norman Conquest, vol. ii. pp. 286–290.
the conquerors of Wales. And having done so, they have ever yielded to that throne the most childlike obedience, and have even defended its stability with heroic bravery. They supported Charles I. to his death, and the vote of a Welsh member secured the crown to the line of Brunswick, in whose veins the Welshman is able to trace a considerable admixture of the blood of his own ancient princes.
This was the state of things when the Reformation occurred. The social condition of the people had been somewhat improved under Henry VII., but his son, Henry VIII., undertook to destroy their ancient customs and language, as well as their church revenues. The Welsh parted with the Church of Rome without repugnance, as it had always sought to crush their national independence, and the doctrinal changes involved in the Reformation were accepted by them as a thing of course.
When Henry VIII. assumed the supremacy of the Establishment, the monasteries and other religious houses fell in Wales, as in England. But this was not the only act of spoliation. The county of Merioneth was stripped of tithes equal in amount to nearly onehalf of the whole income of all her resident clergy, for the erection of the new Bishopric of Lichfield. Carnarvonshire was similarly taxed for the sake of Chester; whilst other new sees were enriched at the expense of South Wales. In the North, the tithes of many of the richest parishes were made the perquisites of English colleges; in the South, the tithes of the majority were conferred upon laymen. In the county of Glamorgan alone, no fewer than ten parishes are in the gift of the Dean and Chapter of Gloucester.*
It will be seen from the foregoing details, that the Church Establishment in Wales existed for the sake of princes, and not for the sake of the people. Neither temporal nor spiritual benefit did it confer on the
That the former was not bestowed has been already proved, and abundant materials are at hand to demonstrate the latter. The government of Henry VIII. ordered the Scriptures to be translated into
Johnes' Essay, p. 144. Third Edition.