The ‘loyal unknown soldier’: Wales and the English Civil War
Robin Evans assesses the contribution of the Welsh to the troubles of 1642-49.
When civil war broke out in 1642 the conflict was not confined to England as all the nations of the British Isles found themselves part of the struggle. While historians have paid due attention to the war in the English regions and to the roles of Scotland and Ireland, Wales has been largely ignored. Yet in the civil war, as Gwyn Alf Williams states, ‘Poor Taffy was certainly Charles the Martyr’s most loyal unknown soldier’.
This article discusses Welsh attitudes towards the conflict, the nature and extent of Welsh support for the two sides at the outbreak of hostilities and the part played by Wales in the war.
Welsh Attitudes on the Eve of War
Wales had been officially incorporated into the English nation state through the Acts of Union (1536-1543). By these acts Welshmen were given equal rights with their English peers and for the following century the Welsh gentry had taken full advantage of their newfound status. The Tudors were regarded as a Welsh dynasty and loyalty to the crown was taken for granted and transferred to the Stuarts.
This is not to say that Wales slavishly supported the monarchy’s policies in the decade preceding the outbreak of war. There had been a general condemnation of Charles’ Personal Rule and throughout the country, as in England, county after county had defaulted on ship-money. There were also issues peculiar to Wales which caused resentment. The Council of Wales and the Marches in particular was accused by those appearing before it of having them ‘questioned wrongfully … and fined to as much as he is worth and more’.