Language campaigners and nationalist politicians have called for the new Prince of Wales to learn Welsh, after the country’s first minister stressed its importance to modern Wales.
Mark Drakeford said that no one expected William to suddenly be fluent in Welsh, but suggested that he would “want to recognize the importance of the Welsh language and the role it plays in shaping the Wales of today.”
Nia Jeffreys, a Plaid Cymru councilor who has campaigned for St David’s Day to be made a public holiday, agreed. “The Welsh language is central to modern Wales: understanding and respecting the language is essential for everyone involved in public life in Wales,” she said.
“I have huge admiration for anyone who commits to learning Welsh: learning a new language takes years of hard work but is very rewarding and can be fun too. I’m sure many will support and help William and Kate if they decide themselves to embark on the learning journey, Jeffreys said.
King Charles spent nine weeks at Aberystwyth University learning Welsh language and history before becoming Prince of Wales in 1969. He was taught by Welsh nationalist Dr Tedi Millward and gave a number 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 someone’s experience of Welsh culture, way of life, sense of community and understanding of Wales’ 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. Of course that should include Prince William as well.”
The Welsh language took center stage 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 takes 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 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, say, visits to Wales, I think it would go a long way towards encouraging more people to learn Welsh. And although I still would be opposed to the royal family, my respect for William would be somewhat increased.”
Some are so opposed to the concept of the Prince of Wales title that they believe the debate about him speaking Welsh is irrelevant.
Ffred Ffransis, a leading member of the Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) pressure group, said: “Learning some Welsh would be tokenistic. The truth is that we were ‘traded’ as a people from one prince to another. We can tolerate insults, and are used to them. But this is a medieval violation of democracy.”
Marion Loeffler, a reader in Welsh history at Cardiff University, was much more positive. She said: “The Prince and Princess of Wales – since they were confirmed together in a historic move – should be learning Welsh. I am very sure that the Welsh community in London would be very willing 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. But showing some knowledge of Welsh and the confidence to use some Welsh is likely to be appreciated.”