Prince of Wales

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Prince of Wales is a title essentially 'of honour' for the eldest son, and consequently heir apparent, of the monarch ruling England, and, since the Union of the Crowns, of Great Britain. The title was first bestowed in this way by Edward I on his 16-year-old son Edward in 1301, in recognition of his conquest of Wales: he had defeated Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, a native-born Prince of Wales, in 1282. The heraldic device of the position is three white feathers held in a golden coronet; the motto is Ich Dien (German for 'I serve'). These are trophies taken by Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince, from the blind King John of Bohemia after the battle of Crecy (1346), in admiration of the latter's courage. There is no proof of this tale.

Wales had been a region occupied by many small states and principalities. It had begun to be united in the twelfth century under overlords who claimed various titles, such as Llywelyn 'the Great' (Llywelyn Fawr): Llywelyn ab Iorwerth (c.1173-1240), who called himself Prince of Dyfed. His grandson, Dafydd ap Llywelyn styled himself as 'Prince of Wales' around 1244, the first Welsh prince to do so, according to wikipedia. In 1246, his nephew Llywelyn Llywelyn ap Gruffydd succeeded to the throne of Gwynedd, styling himself Prince of Wales as early as 1258: he was recognized as such by both Henry III of England and the representative of the Papacy. (Lywelyn, killed in 1282, is romantically known by Welsh nationalists as 'Llywelyn the Last', although his brother Dafydd ap Gruffudd (d. 1283) assumed the title on his death.) After the success of the Edwardian conquest, three leaders of revolts called themselves 'Prince of Wales', in opposition to the English heirs apparent: Madog ap Llywelyn ((fl. 1277-1295); Owain Lawgoch, Owain ap Thomas ap Rhodri (c.1330-1378); and Owain Glyndŵr, who appears in Shakespeare's Henry IV part 1 as Glendower. His revolt succeeded from 1400-1406, finally petering out in 1415.

(In Scotland, the medieval equivalent to 'Prince of Wales' was 'Prince of Cumberland' (in, for example, Shakespeare's Macbeth, I iv), and the actual title borne by the monarch's heir in Scotland is Duke of Rothesay.) The title of Prince of Wales is invariably accompanied by that of Earl of Chester. The automatic titles of the eldest son of a monarch are Duke of Cornwall, in England, and Duke of Rothesay in Scotland.

The investiture of the eldest son as Prince of Wales is not automatic; the monarch decides whether, rather than when, it is appropriate. Sometimes this is in infancy; at others, it is nearer adulthood. Edward, for example, the only son of Richard III (1474 or 6 -84), was installed as Prince of Wales at Richard's coronation at York in September 1483, when he was 7 (or 9). This reflects his father's new status, and asserted a dynastic claim for the family in the future - one which failed to materialize (he died in 1484, a year before his father was killed at Bosworth); during the Wars of the Roses, the future Edward V was created Prince of Wales at under one year old, partly so that Parliament could swear allegiance to the House of York). Princes of Wales created at more mature years tend to be second sons whose elder brothers have died young, or sons of monarchs who have taken over unexpectedly. "Of the 21 holders of the title since 1301 , 14 have succeeded to the throne" (Cannon, 2009). In recent times, the Prince of Wales has often formed the centre of 'Society' - i.e the groups of upper-class people who congregate wherever descent and inherited wealth are regarded as the most important criteria of success. In their own times, the 'Prince Regent' (who became George IV), Edward VII and Edward VIII have been the centre of the fashionable and aristocratic young people, who often behaved very loosely in the opinions of their parents.

Among the better-known Princes of Wales since the reign of Edward I have been:

Edward of Carnafon

(1284-1327; Prince of Wales 1301-1307), the future Edward II - as a young man, the 'first' Prince of Wales. He was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester at the Lincoln Parliament in 1301, when he was 16, which gives the lie to the story that his father presented him as a babe to an assembly of Welsh-speakers, saying "I will give you a prince who can speak no English". He was the youngest of 14 or 16 children of his father's first marriage, to Eleanor of Castile, and the only survivor. See also Edward II.

Edward the Black Prince

Edward of Woodstock (1330-1376; PoW 1333-1376) to his contemporaries, and the Black Prince since the Tudor period, was a heroic military leader. Among his famous victories include Crécy in 1346 and Poitiers in 1356 and the capture of Calais by siege. His death in 1376, probably of dysentery, a year before his father (Edward III) left the throne to Edward III's grandson, the Black Prince's son Richard II. Shakespeare's King of France mentions him in Henry V (II iv), saying that Henry V:

is bred out of that bloody strain
That haunted us in our familiar paths:
Witness our too much memorable shame
When Cressy battle fatally was struck,
And all our princes captiv'd by the hand
Of that black name, Edward, Black Prince of Wales
Henry of Monmouth

(He is named 'Hal' in both parts of Shakespeare's Henry IV.) Became Henry V (1386/7-1422; PoW 1399-1413). He it is whom Falstaff abuses in the phrase "Go hang thyself in thine own heir-apparent garters" (1 Henry IV, II ii 43-4".

Edward of Westminster

The Prince of Wales slain at the battle of Tewkesbury (1472), and mentioned in the third part of Shakespeare's Henry VI is Edward of Westminster (1453-1471). He is sometimes called Edward of Lancaster (as the only Lancastrian claimant), but contemporaries knew him as Edward of Westminster (his birthplace). He was the son of Henry VI (1453-1471), and was PoW from 1454 to 1461. He was replaced as heir and Prince of Wales by the Duke of York, who had defeated the Lancastrians. He subsequently reclaimed the title after he landed at Weymouth in 1471, but was defeated and killed at Tewkesbury a month later..

Arthur Tudor

(1486-1502; PoW 1489-1502) was the eldest son of Henry VII, and elder brother of the Prince of Wales who became Henry VIII. Named for propaganda purposes after the legendary King Arthur who is central to one myth of 'Englishness' (and his father ensured that he would be born in Winchester, where a 'Round Table' is shown), he set out on the same path of learning and military and administrative duties that led to his brother's being hailed as a Renaissance Prince. Arthur married Katherine of Aragon in 1501, when they were both 15; she later swore that the marriage had never been consummated. This was in relation to the divorce proceedings of Henry, whom she married after Arthur's untimely death the following year. The divorce was on the grounds that the Bible (Leviticus) had forbidden a man to marry his brother's widow, and the complications that ensued led to the English Reformation.

Henry (Henry Frederick)

(1594-1612), son of James VI and I. He was admired for his horsemanship, learning and general promise when he came south with his father in 1603, immediately being created Duke of Cornwall. He was installed as Prince of Wales in 1610. Henry died of typhoid, leaving his less talented younger brother Charles to succeed their father.

Charles Stuart

The Prince of Wales who became Charles II was the first son of Charles I to survive: his first-born brother lived for only two hours. He shared in the tribulations of the Civil War until the final defeat at the Battle of Worcester, when he famously escaped the man-hunt that was out after "a tall black man, over two yards high", partly by hiding in an oak-tree.

Georg August

Georg August ((1683-1760; PoW 1714-1727) became George II. He was not on speaking terms with his father between 1717 and 1720, "and even then a cold and taciturn audience was the best that could be managed" (ODNB).

Frederick Lewis

Frederick Lewis (1707-1751; PoW 1729-1751) was the first child of George II, then Prince of Hanover, was born in Hanover, where he was baptized Friedrich Ludwig. His quarrel with his father began with his own extravagance, and his father's alleged mean-ness; the period of not speaking lasted from 1737 to 1741. Prince Frederick was a great connoisseur of the arts, and had ambitions for the dynasty that were cut short by his early death in 1751.

George William Frederick

The Prince of Wales who became George III (1738-1820; PoW 1751-1760) was the son of Frederick Lewis, and grandson of George II, whom he succeeded in 1760 as George III. The first Hanoverian monarch to be born in England and to speak English as his first language, he was only 13 when his father died, and 22 when his grandfather did: there were no great quarrels with this Prince of Wales.

George Augustus Frederick

The Prince of Wales who became George IV, on the other hands, quarrelled bitterly with his father - the same George III. Prinny, as he was known, was a man of talent, who wasted much on wine and women, as well as being a lavish patron of the arts, particularly of architecture; his extravagance and debauchery angered his father. After the latter had succumbed to the mental troubles that had plagued him all his life, in 1810, 'Prinny' was declared Regent (as he nearly had been in 1789), and remained as such till 1820, when he succeeded. This period, and the time around it, is known as the Regency Period, and identifies a style in architecture and the decorative arts in general. As Prince of Wales, he was not popular: he was involved in acrimonious divorce proceedings with Queen Caroline, who was popular with the mob, who took her side; as Regent, he supported some oppressive measures, like the Peterloo Massacre of 1819. But he presided over the victory in the Napoleonic Wars.

Albert Edward ('Bertie')

The Prince of Wales who became Edward VII was invested when he was one month old, continuing in the role for 60 years - longer than any other. He was brought up to be like his father, Prince Albert, educated severely and in many areas. He disappointed his parents, becoming a by-word for loose living and immoral behaviour: he gambled, on horses, cards and roulette; he was a fanatical shot of game-birds; he had many mistresses, and was very fond of Paris, which had a very raffish reputation. He led a full and active life in 'Society', of which he was the unofficial head, leading a group known as the 'Marlborough House [his London home] Set', among whom he was known as 'Tum-Tum', on account of his corpulence. His mother never trusted him.

Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David ('David')

The Prince of Wales who hardly reigned as Edward VIII was invested on his father's accession as George V in 1910, when he was 16 years old. He was known by his family as 'David'. Like his grandfather, he was a centre of 'Society', and led a self-indulgent life after the First World War; but he was also genuinely interested in talking to 'the people' - a habit he developed while serving with the army in France during the first world war. This became a real determination to help the poor during the Great Depression of the 1920s and consequent unemployment of the 1930s.

For I've danced with a man.
I've danced with a man
Who - well, you'll never guess.
I've danced with a man who's danced with a girl
Who's danced with the Prince of Wales!
Farjeon, Herbert (1887-1945), cited Knowles, 2009

referring to the popularity of Edward VIII when Prince of Wales

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