The Story of 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

7:00pm Wednesday 3 October on BBC TWO

In the second episode of The Story Of Wales, broadcaster Huw Edwards visits the longest ancient monument in Britain, Offa’s Dyke, built in the 8th century, and marking the first territorial border between what would become England and Wales.

Though the people behind the dyke were often thought of as uncivilised, Huw discovers there is evidence of a sophisticated people as he visits a crannog – an artificial island – in Llangorse lake in the Brecon Beacons, where a royal palace once stood.

Huw also looks into the legacy of Hywel Dda, who gave Wales its first written laws – some with a surprisingly modern flavour. He also visits the abbey at Strata Florida in Ceredigion, reviews the impact of the death of Llywelyn the Last, acknowledged by the English king as Prince of Wales, and tells of the rebellious exploits of probably Wales’s greatest hero, Owain Glyndwr, who anointed himself with the latter title after being roundly snubbed by Parliament when he took a grievance to them.

Ep 2/6

7:00pm Tuesday 2 October on BBC TWO

Broadcaster Huw Edwards presents The Story of Wales, one of BBC Cymru Wales’ most ambitious series ever – epic in its scale, and covering 30,000 years of the Welsh nation’s history from the ice age to the information age.

The Story of Wales is packed with heroes and triumphs, grand dreams and great endeavours. From a land of story-tellers, this is the story of the land itself and the people who’ve shaped it.

Shot on location across the country, with dramatic reconstructions and impressive CGI, Huw starts the six-part series with a recreation of the earliest-known human burial in Western Europe – that of the ‘Red Lady’ of Paviland in Gower – 30,000 years ago.

In the first programme, Huw also looks at what markings on an ancient tomb in Bangor can reveal about Wales’ contact with Europe at the time, travels to Caerleon to review the latest findings about the Roman settlement there and examines the Age of the Saints.

Ep 1/6

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