Welsh Affairs : Norman French Language


For three centuries after the Norman conquest in 1066, the French culture predominated in England, but not in Wales, where the indigenous culture was very strong and fiercely resisted Norman rule, finally defeating it at Bosworth in 1485 and establishing the Tudor House after four hundred years of warfare. Norman French however became the language of the courts, church and polite society, and in Wales it was spoken with Welsh and Latin. Norman French retains many words of Scandinavian origin, for example Havard in Normandy. In Normandy histories began to be written in Norman French as opposed to Latin. An example of mediaeval French is the Chanson de Roland, and I suppose that this might have been similar to Norman French, still spoken in Normandy and the Channel Islands. It opens as follows. Carles li reis, nostre emperere magnes Set anz tuz peins ad estet en Espaigne. Charles the King, our Lord and Sovereign, Full seven years hath sojourned in Spain. I can translate into modern French as follows Charles le roi, notre empereur magnes Sept ans tout pleins etait en Espaigne In eleventh century Brecon, the Normans were referred to as “Y Cochion”, the red headed people. Bernard de Neufmarche invaded Brycheiniog in rebellion against William Rufus and won a battle in 1092 against the Queen’s ancestor Prince Rhys ap Tewdwr, the grandfather of Prince Rhys ap Gruffydd, whose arms I bear now in modified form as a Gentleman. Prince Bleddyn ap Maenarch of what is now the Swansea Valley also fought against Bernard de Neufmarche at this battle. The Normans, with modern weaponry were too strong in pitched battle, but were vulnerable to guerrilla tactics, thereafter employed against them until they were defeated. Wales became saturated with warfare against the Normans and finally in 1485, Henry Tudor established the Tudor Dynasty by defeating Richard III at Bosworth form Wales. At that battle a Gentleman called Thomas Havard of Caerleon fought on the Tudor side and is in the battle roll. England and France still dispute Normandy, in England the Queen is the Duke of Normandy. However, as a Leveller and Republican all that is rather irrelevant. Suffice it to say that the Normans were a ruling elite which brought a lot of culture to England, and to a limited extent, Wales. However Welsh has no words of Norman French or Latin, essentially, and English is 60% derived form Latin and Norman French, plus Greek etc.


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