Language champions and nationalist politicians have called on the new Prince of Wales to learn Welsh after the country’s first minister stressed how important it was to modern Wales.
Mark Drakeford said no one expected William to suddenly become fluent in Welsh, but suggested he “would like to recognize the importance of the Welsh language and the role it plays in shaping modern Wales”.
Nia Jeffreys, a Plaid Cymru councilor who has campaigned for St David’s Day to become a bank holiday, agreed. “The Welsh language is central to modern Wales: an understanding of and respect for the language is vital for anyone involved in public life in Wales,” he said.
“I really admire anyone who commits to learning Welsh: learning a new language takes years of hard work, but it’s very rewarding and can be fun too. I am sure that many would support and help William and Kate if 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 assuming his duties as Prince of Wales in 1969. He was taught by Welsh nationalist Dr Tedi Millward and went on to give a series of speeches in Welsh.
Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for Welsh language and culture, Heledd Fychan, said: “Welsh is a language that belongs to us all. Learning Welsh can enrich one’s experience of Welsh culture, way of life, sense of community and understanding of Welsh history. As a 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 wants to ensure that everyone has the right to learn and use Welsh. That should, of course, include Prince William.”
The Welsh language was front and center 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’ 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 the Prince of Wales. Many nationalists and republicans see the modern incarnation of the title as a symbol of English oppression and nearly 30,000 people have signed a petition calling for its abolition.
Huw Morgan, one of the organizers of an event to mark Owain Glyndŵr Day in mid-Wales, said: “The short answer is he needs to learn Welsh.”
He added: “If William learned Welsh to a decent level of small talk and actually used it during, for example, visits to Wales, I think it would go a long way towards encouraging more people to learn Welsh. And although I would still be opposed to the royal family, my respect for William would increase somewhat.”
Some are so opposed to the concept of the title Prince of Wales that they think the discussion of him speaking Welsh is irrelevant.
Ffred Ffransis, a leading member of the Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) lobby group, said: “Learning a bit of Welsh would be symbolic. The truth is that we were ‘trafficked’ as a people from one prince to another. Insults we can tolerate and are used to. But this is a medieval affront to democracy.”
Marion Loeffler, reader in Welsh history at Cardiff University, was much more positive. He said: “The Prince and Princess of Wales – having been confirmed together in a historic move – will have to learn Welsh. I am very sure that the London Welsh community would be very happy to provide teachers and help.”
Craig Prescott, an expert on the monarchy at Bangor University, said he believed Drakeford’s comments, made on BBC Radio 4’s Today program 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 expects the Prince or Princess of Wales to be fluent in Welsh. However, showing some knowledge of the Welsh language and the confidence to use some Welsh is likely to be appreciated.’