‘My respect would be increased’: Prince William urged to learn Welsh

Calls grow as first minister suggests Prince of Wales will want to ‘recognise the importance’ of language

Champions of the language and nationalist politicians have called for the new Prince of Wales to learn Welsh, after the country’s first minister stressed how important it was for modern Wales.

Mark Drakeford said nobody expected William to suddenly be fluent in Welsh but suggested he would “want to recognise the importance of the Welsh language and the part it plays in shaping contemporary Wales.”

Nia Jeffreys, a Plaid Cymru councillor who has campaigned for St David’s Day to be made a bank holiday, agreed. “The Welsh language is central to modern Wales: an understanding and respect for the language is crucial to anyone involved in public life in Wales,” she said.

“I hugely admire anyone who makes a commitment to learn Welsh: leaning a new language takes years of hard work but is very rewarding and can be fun, too. I am sure many would support and help William and Kate should they decide to embark on the journey of learning,” Jeffreys said.

King Charles spent nine weeks at Aberystwyth University learning Welsh language and history before his investiture as Prince of Wales in 1969. He was taught by the Welsh nationalist Dr Tedi Millward and went on to give a number of speeches in Welsh.

Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson on Welsh language and culture, Heledd Fychan, said: “Welsh is a language that belongs to us all. Learning Welsh can enrich someone’s experience of Welsh culture, way of life, sense of community and understanding of the history of Wales. As the descendant of Brythonic, the ancient language of much of Britain, learning Welsh can teach us a lot about the rest of Britain, too.

“Plaid Cymru want to ensure that everyone has the right to learn and use Welsh. That should, of course, include Prince William, too.”

The Welsh language was front and centre at the service of prayer and reflection at Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff on Friday, with Drakeford reading from the Bible in Welsh.

But it has angered some that Charles’s visit to Wales is taking place on Owain Glyndŵr Day, a celebration of the life and legacy of the last Welshman to be known as Prince of Wales. Many nationalists and republicans see the modern incarnation of the title as a symbol of English oppression, and almost 30,000 people have signed a petition calling for it to be abolished.

Huw Morgan, one of the organisers of an event to celebrate Owain Glyndŵr Day in mid Wales, said: “The short answer is he should learn Welsh.”

He added: “If William learned Welsh to a decent small-talk level, and actually used it during, for example, visits to Wales, I believe it would go a long way to promoting more people to learn Welsh. And although I would still be opposed to the royal family, my respect for William would be increased somewhat.”

Some are so against the concept of the Prince of Wales title that they think the debate about him speaking Welsh is irrelevant.

Ffred Ffransis, a leading member of the pressure group Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society), said: “Learning a bit of Welsh would be tokenistic. The truth is that we were ‘trafficked’ as a people from one prince to another. Insults we can put up with, and are accustomed to them. But this is a medieval affront to democracy.”

Marion Loeffler, a reader in Welsh history at Cardiff University, was much more positive. She said: “The Prince and Princess of Wales – since in a historic move they were confirmed together – should learn Welsh. I am very sure the London Welsh community would be very willing to supply teachers and help.”

Craig Prescott, an expert on the monarchy at Bangor University, said he thought Drakeford’s comments, made on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday, had struck the right balance.

He said: “The Welsh language is an important aspect of Welsh culture and identity. I don’t think anyone is expecting the Prince or Princess of Wales to be fluent in Welsh. However, showing some knowledge of Welsh and the confidence to use some Welsh is likely to be appreciated.”


Steven Morris

The GuardianTramp

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