Laws in Wales Acts (1535-42)

During the reign of Henry VIII, the English parliament passed laws to completely regularize English law within Wales and to downgrade any remaining Welsh practices. During the War of the Roses (c.1455-85), a struggle between various dynasties for the throne of England, a number of the lords of the Welsh Marches (along the southern part of Wales) had been killed and their territories were directly annexed by the English king. Henry VIII increasingly feared that some of the Marcher Lords who survived might pose a threat to him, and his solution to this threat was the total annexation of Wales to England, so that it would no longer exist as a separate entity. These are some excerpts from the 1535 Act.

Albeit the Dominion, Principality and Country of Wales justly and righteously is, and ever hath been incorporated, annexed, united and subject to and under the Imperial Crown of this Realm, as a very Member and Joint of the same, wherefore the King’s most Royal Majesty of meer Droit, and very Right, is very Head, King, Lord and Ruler;

(2) yet notwithstanding, because that in the same Country, Principality and Dominion, divers Rights, Usages, Laws and Customs be far discrepant from the Laws and Customs of this Realm,

(3) and also because that the People of the same Dominion have, and do daily use a Speech nothing like, ne consonant to the natural Mother Tongue used within this Realm,

(4) some rude and ignorant People have made Distinction and Diversity between the King’s Subjects of this Realm, and his Subjects of the said Dominion and Principality of Wales, whereby great Discord, Variance, Debate, Division, Murmur and Sedition hath grown between his said Subjects;

(5) His Highness therefore of a singular Zeal, Love and Favour that he beareth towards his Subjects of his said Dominion of Wales, minding and intending to reduce them to the perfect Order, Notice and Knowledge of his Laws of this Realm, and utterly to extirp all and singular the sinister Usages and Customs differing from the same, and to bring the said Subjects of this his Realm, and of his said Dominion of Wales, to an amicable Concord and Unity, hath by the deliberate Advice, Consent and Agreement of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and the Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the Authority of the same, ordained, enacted and established, That his said Country or Dominion of Wales shall be, stand and continue for ever from henceforth incorporated, united and annexed to and with this his Realm of England;

(6) and that all and singular Person and Persons, born and to be born in the said Principality, Country or Dominion of Wales, shall have, enjoy and inherit all and singular Freedoms, Liberties, Rights, Privileges and Laws within this Realm, and other King’s Dominions, as other the King’s Subjects naturally born within the same have, enjoy and inherit.

II. And that all and singular Person and Persons inheritable to any Manors, Lands, Tenements, Rents, Reversions, Services or other Hereditaments, which shall descend after the Feast of All-Saints next coming, within the said Principality, Country or Dominion of Wales, or within any particular Lordship, Part or Parcel of the said Country or Dominion of Wales, shall for ever, from and after the said Feast of All-Saints, inherit and be inheritable to the same Manors, Lands, Rents, Tenements, Reversions and Hereditaments, after the English Tenure, without Division or Partition, and after the Form of the Laws of this Realm of England, and not after any Welsh Tenure, ne after the Form of any Welsh Laws or Customs;

(2) and that the Laws, Ordinances and Statutes of this Realm of England, for ever, and none other Laws, Ordinances, and Statutes, from after the said Feast of All-Saints next coming, shall be had, used, practised and executed in the said Country or Dominion of Wales, and every Part thereof, in like Manner, Form and Order, as they be and shall be had, used, practised, and executed in this Realm, and in such like Manner and Form as hereafter by this Act shall be further established and ordained; any Act, Statute, Usage, Custom, Precedent, Liberty, Privilege, or other Thing had, made, used, granted or suffered to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding. […]

XX. Also be it enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That all Justices, Commissioners, Sheriffs, Coroners, Escheators, Stewards, and their Lieutenants, and all other Officers and Ministers of the Law, shall proclaim and keep the Sessions Courts, Hundreds, Leets, Sheriffs Courts, and all other Courts in the English Tongue;

(2) and all Oaths of Officers, Juries and Inquests, and all other Affadavits, Verdicts and Wagers of Law, to be given and done in the English Tongue;

(3) and also that from henceforth no Person or Persons that use the Welsh Speech or Language, shall have or enjoy any manner Office or Fees within this Realm of England, Wales, or other the King’s Dominion, upon Pain of forfeiting the same Offices or Fees, unless he or they use and exercise the English Speech or Language.