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The Age of ConquestWales 1063-1415$
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R. R. Davies

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198208785

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198208785.001.0001

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Native Wales: The Bonds of Society

Native Wales: The Bonds of Society

(p.115) Chapter 5 Native Wales: The Bonds of Society
The Age of Conquest

R. R. Davies

Oxford University Press

‘There are three grades of men: king, noble and villein’. So declared the lawbooks in Wales with brisk confidence. The categorization is, of course, grossly over-simplified. It is but one example of the passion of Welsh literary tradition for encapsulating all life and learning in snappy, mnemonic triads. However, the triad does at least have the virtue of directing attention to the centrality of status in medieval Welsh society. Every man had his status or privilege; so also did land, office, communities, vills, and churches. Even the value of a dog, according to the jurists, was determined by the status of its owner. There is no need, of course, to believe that the detailed provisions and tariffs of the law-texts on status were rigidly or consistently enforced; equally, there is no doubt that a strong sense of the distinctions, privileges, and obligations of status left a deep imprint on early Welsh society and gave it a markedly hierarchical character.

Keywords:   king, noble, villein, triad, status, Welsh medieval society, Wales

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