Statute of Rhuddlan
After the deaths of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and his brother Dafydd, in 1282 and 1283 respectively, Edward I continued his relentless drive to incorporate the territories of Wales thus far conquered into English dominion. Fittingly the royal decree (though it is known as a statute in spite of not having passed through Parliament) was made from one of Edward’s ‘iron ring’ castles, Rhuddlan , which were built to provide the bases from which English armies would suppress the rebellious Welsh.
The so-called statute was an administrative and legal measure: sheriffs were imposed on the counties of Anglesey , Caernarfon , Cardigan , Carmarthen , Flint and Merioneth, but more significantly in the longer term English law was forced on the Welsh for all but the lowliest criminal cases. In one of the complexities beloved of lawyers still, however, for a time Welsh law continued in civil matters, with inheritance one of the areas covered still by the old laws.
The upshot of imposing English administration on the Welsh – bailiffs were brought in as well as sheriffs – was that tax gathering was facilitated.
This was a major blow to Welsh independence, and to national identity: English common law was alien to the conquered territories, where traditionally legal matters had their philosophical grounding in kinship rather than relating to the central authority of the monarchy.
Rhuddlan was not the end point of the conquest of Wales and its subjugation, but it was a significant one, important and effective enough to remain on the statute books until 1536.
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