WELSH LAWS, or LEGES WALLIAE. There is, comparatively speaking, no great distance of time between the leges barbarorum and the Laws of Wales, while the contents of the latter show a similar, nay almost the same, idea of law as the former; and, apart from the fact that Wales became permanently connected at the end of the 13th century with a Teutonic people, the English, it has been noticed that in Wales Roman and Germanic, but no traces of a specific Welsh, law are found. King Howel Dda (i.e. the Good), who died in 950, is the originator of the Welsh code. 1 In the preface it is stated that Howel, " seeing the laws and customs of the country violated with impunity, summoned the archbishop of Menevia, ether bishops and the chief of the clergy, the nobles of Wales, and six persons (four laymen and two clerks) from each comot, to meet at a place called Y Ty Gwyn ar Dav, or the white house on the river Tav, repaired thither in person, selected from the whole assembly twelve of the most experienced persons, added to their number a clerk or doctor of laws, named Bllgywryd, and to these thirteen confided the task of examining, retaining, expounding and abrogating. Their compilation was, when completed, read to 1 There is no historical foundation for the legendary laws of a prince Dymal (or Dyvnwal) Moel Mud, nor for the Laws of Marsia, which are said to belong to a period before the Roman invasion, even so early as 400 years before Christ. An English translation by the side of the Welsh text of the so-called triads of Dyvnwal Moel Mud is given by Owen, in The Ancient Laws of Wales.
the assembly, and, after having been confirmed, proclaimed. Howel caused three copies to be written, one of which was to accompany the court for daily use, another was deposited in the court at Aberfraw, and a third at Dinevwr. The bishops denounced sentence of excommunication against all transgressors, and soon after Howel himself went to Rome attended by the archbishop of St David's, the bishops of Bangor and St Asaph and thirteen other personages. The laws were recited before the pope and confirmed by his authority, upon which Howel and his companions returned home." All this could not have been effected before Howel had subjected Wales to his own rule, therefore not before 943. We have three different recensions of the code, one for Venedotia or North Wales, another for Dimetia or South Wales, a third for Gwent or North-east Wales. We do not know how far these recensions were uniform in the beginning; but a variance must have occurred shortly after, for the manuscripts in which the codes are preserved differ greatly from each other. The code was originally compiled in Welsh, but we have no older MSS. than the 12th century, and even the earliest ones (especially those of the Venedotia recension) contain many interpolations. The Latin translations of the cod.e would seem to be very old, though even here we have no earlier MSS. ( belonging to the Dimetia recension) than the 13th century. The Latin text is much shorter than the Welsh, but we do not know whether this abridgment was made on purpose, or whether the translation is an imitation of an earlier text. The texts present only a few traces of Roman law, which, however, are evidently additions of a later period.
The whole body of Welsh laws was published in one volume by Aneurin Owen under the direction of the commissioners on the public records as Ancient Laws and Institutes of Wales (London, 1841). The text of Howel's laws has been edited by A. W. WadeEvans as Welsh Medieval Law (London, 1909).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)