Princesses of Wales

Princesses of Wales

Princesses of Wales

Princesses of Wales

Synopsis

The title "Princess of Wales" has enjoyed a high profile in recent years, and the events of 2005 placed it once again in the spotlight. Yet until now we have lacked any published overview of the history of the title and the lives of the women who have held it. Deborah Fisher looks back to the Norman conquest of Wales, and earlier, to describe the princess's changing role, bringing the picture comletely up to date and speculating on future developments. Incorporating material from a variety of sources, she unravels a history that includes love, duty and motherhood along with adulterous passion, divorce and tragic death--a history that often repeats itself.

Excerpt

The concept of a 'Princess of Wales', on which this book is based, is essentially artificial. Before the final conquest of Wales by the English King Edward I, our country was not as we know it now. It consisted of a number of principalities, each with its own prince (and sometimes princess), of which Gwynedd became dominant in the twelfth century. Although the princes of Gwynedd assumed the title 'Prince of Wales', and ruled an area reaching as far as Deheubarth in the south, they did so without prejudice to the claims of lesser lords to be called princes in their own right. Since the last of these native leaders died, in 1283, the title 'Prince of Wales' has been held (mostly) by English princes who had no power or jurisdiction over the people of Wales; in many cases, they never set foot in the country. This does not prevent Welsh people from feeling a loyalty towards the Prince and Princess of Wales, whose existence helps to give them a sense of national identity. Nowhere was this more clearly shown than in the reaction of the Welsh to the death of their most recent princess.

After the conquest of Wales came a long succession of English princes who inherited the title of Prince of Wales. Because of the violence of the power game and the general struggle for survival, they often did not reach maturity, so that there are many gaps in the sequence of princesses between the reigns of Edward I and George I. The 'English' Princesses of Wales, in the first four centuries of the title's existence, were mere pawns in international political games: Anne Neville and Katherine of Aragon are particularly tragic figures. Finally, we emerge into relatively peaceful times and a series of women who prospered along with their husbands, usually ending their lives as queen . . .

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