The Story Of Wales: England And Wales

7:00pm Thursday 4 October on BBC TWO

In August 1485 a young nobleman sailed back to Wales – the land of his fathers – with one mission in mind: to seize the English crown. Though only a quarter Welsh, with one of his family seats being Penmynydd in Anglesey, the future Henry VII carried a standard bearing a red dragon and was widely supported by his countrymen.

In Henry VII’s time, Wales had no court, no capital and no means of steering her own destiny, and, as presenter Huw Edwards discovers, when Henry VIII came to the throne, he delivered the Act of Union, effectively outlawing the Welsh language in official business, and delivering a huge psychological blow.

The Welsh still managed to be influential in Tudor times – the biggest ethnic group in Shakespearean London, they were active at court and in trade. One prosperous family, the Williamses of Whitchurch, Cardiff, even married into that of Henry VIII’s enforcer Thomas Cromwell – a descendant, Oliver Cromwell, was the key figure in the Civil War which set Welsh fathers against sons and brothers.

But as Huw discovers, the Welsh were about to undergo a transformation. Circulating schools meant for the first time half of the population could read, and as they discovered the Bible for themselves, the Methodist Revival gained ground.

Ep 3/6

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