Saturday, June 12, 2010

Gelligaer and LLancaiach Fawr

My historical ramblings have fast-forwarded three centuries.

Now we're in the period of the Civil War.

The first one, that is. The English Civil War. Which as it turns out, impacted South Wales and the valleys too.

This is Llancaiach Fawr, meaning the big house by the river, which stands in a tributary valley to the east of the Rhondda. It is a fortified manor from the earlier Tudor period, and was the family home of the Prichards, which itself is an Anglicanism of the Welsh patronymic ap Richard or "son of Richard."

The Gaelic speaking countries all used patronymics rather than surnames, and only switched to surnames on Anglicization.

The owner at the time of the Civil War (1642-1651) was Colonel of militia Edward Prichard, a noted Puritan. As the local magistrate as well as the military authority, he did his share of running out of office the lax priests of the loyalist party, who, the Parliamentarians thought, were slipping back to the days of Catholic corruption.

If you were a Roundhead, the nickname for members of the parliamentary party, you were for the more developed forms of biblical Protestantism then appearing, most likely the Puritan version of Anglicanism, which of course led to the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Congregationalist traditions in the United States, as well as other evangelical denominations that are descended from these, such as the African Methodist Evangelical tradition. You were for the Bible in English, accessible to the lay folk. You were for the plainer ceremony of the Book of Common Prayer. You may, like Prichard, have been an Anabaptist.

Economically, you were for the new forms of industry and mercantilism and against the big landowners. Politically, you were for the new democratic tradition then emerging from feudalist dogma in the Mother of Parliaments. You were for the parliamentary liberties enshrined in Magna Carta and the Provisions of Oxford. You were against the great feudal overlords and their serfdom.

Two or three decades earlier, if you were an especially radical Puritan, when persecuted by the King, you might have chosen to emigrate to Massachussetts as part of the Great Migration.

Where, a century later, there would be another war, this one a Revolutionary War, where you would again be on the side of the rebels against the King's Party, for the rights of common individuals and political representation in the new Parliament, the Continental Congress.

A century after that, there would be a third round, an American Civil War, in which the question of feudal slavery was settled once and for all, by force.

So all in all, says Kevin Philips in The Cousin's Wars, there were three Anglo American Civil Wars. These three wars together defined the scope of liberty and civil rights in all the English speaking countries, for what became law in England in 1688, when the Bill of Rights that settled the questions for which the English Civil war was fought was finally passed, was then law in Canada, and eventually became the law in Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, and so on.

While in the United States, the Bill of Rights was extended twice, by the Revolutionary War, and then the Civil War.

For his part, Edward Prichard of Llancaich Fawr marched for Parliament and took part on the battle of Saint Fagans and the siege of Cardiff Castle.

For which service we latter day Roundheads, who enjoy the rights to free speech, to vote, and to hold land free of feudal obligation, thank him by visiting and admiring his beautiful but well-defended house.

I guess a Welshman's home is also his castle.

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