Thoughts of Wales

By | 1 March 2017

St David’s day!  Perhaps it is because we are nearing the end of term, but memories of happy childhood holidays in Wales are bubbling to the surface …

The good news is that for the would-be legal historian there is a professional requirement for us to schedule a return visit to the principality soon!

For holders of an Oxford Single Sign interested in a good refresher & overview on this topic, we recommend the entry for Welsh law by Thomas Glyn Watkin in the Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History  If you can visit the Law Bod Our print copy is on Floor 2 at Ref 103.

KL401.5.HYW 1986

If you hadn’t already made his acquaintance, you will encounter the important 10th century King, Hywel Dda & the Cyfraith Hywel.

The Law Bod can then provide you with modern translations in The law of Hywel Dda : law texts from medieval Wales at KL401.5.HYW 1986

So clearly, we all really do need to go to the Heritage Centre (Whitland, Carmarthenshire) celebrating his life and works. One of its intriguing features is that claims to have “the only garden in Europe dedicated to law.” Not one garden in fact, but a series “Each is themed to reflect a separate division of the Law – Society, Kindred and Status; Crime and Tort; Women; Contract; Property; King and Court. Each garden has its own distinct character, and features enamel slate plaques that depict the laws in action.” So the Willow Garden (dealing with Women and the law) has a plaque listing the three reasons a woman could leave her husband according to the Cyfraith Hywel:
“1. If he was a leper
2. For not being able to fulfil his duties as a husband
3. For having bad breath.”

The National Library of Wales has digitized one of the earliest (mid-thirteenth century) surviving manuscript compilations of Welsh laws, Peniarth 28 – as it has some appealing pen & ink illustrations. Folio 4r (which we reproduce below) has an illustration of a judge in his chair, a law book in his hand. Finger pointing was obviously a gesture associated with people of power and authority!
Peniarth 28 f. 4r.