Welsh had more legal status after Acts of Union than thought, lost National Library treasure trove reveals
The Welsh language had more de facto legal status after the Acts of Union than previously thought, a treasure trove of documents once lost within the National Library has revealed.
In his new book Ewyllysiau Cymraeg: Pennod Goll yn Hanes yr Iaith (Welsh Wills: A lost chapter in the history of the language) historian Gerald Morgan says that it was a surprise how many of the lost legal documents fund hiding in the National Library of Wales were in Welsh.
Discovered in the 1990s, the probate documents included wills, property lists and letters. But despite being banned as a legal language by the laws of 1535/42, many of the wills were written in Welsh.
A large number of the wills were dictated orally by family or neighbours who were with the sick on their death bed, and many were unable to speak English.
Gerald Morgan suggested that the Church in Wales had realised that whatever the law said the reality was they would have to recognise these Welsh language documents as legal documents.
Gerald Morgan, who lives in Aberystwyth, said: “I believe that this subject throws new light on a period in history.
“It shows a new attitude towards the relationship between English law and the Welsh language.”
Records of crime laws and civil cases would have been in English, he said.
The documents give a precious insight and are a means of studying the lives and families of people from the past – their furniture, their animals, their tools.
As in previous volumes, the author has shared a host of interesting and memorable stories as he takes us through the history.
“The book allows us to read the last words and wishes of some of Wales’ ordinary people from 1560 until 1858,” published Y Lolfa said.
Ewyllysiau Cymraeg by Gerald Morgan is available now (£9.99, Y Lolfa).
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