Picture of Gerald of Wales

Gerald of Wales

places mentioned

Book 2, Ch. 9: How Wales should be governed

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In what manner Wales, when conquered, should be governed

As therefore this nation is to be subdued by resolution in the manner proposed, so when subdued, its government must be directed by moderation, according to the following plan. Let the care of it be committed to a man of a firm and determined mind; who during the time of peace, by paying due obedience to the laws, and respect to the government, may render it firm and stable. For like other nations in a barbarous state, this people, although they are strangers to the principles of honour, yet above all things desire to be honoured; and approve and respect in others that truth which they themselves do not profess. Whenever the natural inconstancy of their indisposition shall induce them to revolt, let punishment instantly follow the offence; but when they shall have submitted themselves again to order, and made proper amends for their faults (as it is the custom of bad men to remember wrath after quarrels), let their former transgression be overlooked, and let them enjoy security and respect, as long as they continue faithful. Thus, by mild treatment they will be invited to obedience and the love of peace, and the thought of certain punishment will deter them from rash attempts. We have often observed persons who, confounding these matters, by complaining of faults, depressing for services, flattering in war, plundering in peace, despoiling the weak, paying respect to revolters, by thus rendering all things confused, have at length been confounded themselves. Besides, as circumstances which are foreseen do less mischief, and as that state is happy which thinks of war in the time of peace, let the wise man be upon his guard, and prepared against the approaching inconveniences of war, by the construction of forts, the widening of passes through woods, and the providing of a trusty household. For those who are cherished and sustained during the time of peace, are more ready to come forward in times of danger, and are more confidently to be depended upon; and as a nation unsubdued ever meditates plots under the disguise of friendship, let not the prince or his governor entrust the protection of his camp or capital to their fidelity. By the examples of many remarkable men, some of whom have been cruelly put to death, and others deprived of their castles and dignities, through their own neglect and want of care, we may see, that the artifices of a crafty and subdued nation are much more to be dreaded than their open warfare; their good-will than their anger, their honey than their gall, their malice than their attack, their treachery than their aggression, and their pretended friendship more than their open enmity. A prudent and provident man therefore should contemplate in the misfortune of others what he ought himself to avoid; correction taught by example is harmless, as Ennodius (29) says: "The ruin of predecessors instructs those who succeed; and a former miscarriage becomes a future caution." If a well-disposed prince should wish these great designs to be accomplished without the effusion of blood, the marches, as we before mentioned, must be put into a state of defence on all sides, and all intercourse by sea and land interdicted; some of the Welsh may be stirred up to deadly feuds, by means of stipends, and by transferring the property of one person to another; and thus worn out with hunger, and a want of the necessaries of life, and harassed by frequent murders and implacable enmities, they will at last be compelled to surrender.

There are three things which ruin this nation, and prevent its enjoying the satisfaction of a fruitful progeny. First, because both the natural and legitimate sons endeavour to divide the paternal inheritance amongst themselves; from which cause, as we have before observed, continual fratricides take place. Secondly, because the education of their sons is committed to the care of the high-born people of the country, who, on the death of their fathers, endeavour by all possible means to exalt their pupil; from whence arise murders, conflagrations, and almost a total destruction of the country. And, thirdly, because from the pride and obstinacy of their disposition, they will not (like other nations) subject themselves to the dominion of one lord and king.

Gerald of Wales, The Description of Wales (Oxford, Mississippi, 1997)

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