Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Hamlet the Dane

The Welsh Land Commission, set up by the government to enquire into the relationship between tenants and landlords, came to Rhayader to take evidence in May 1894. As well as hearing from tenants who had suffered injustices, such as being evicted without compensation for the improvements they had made to their holdings, the commissioners also took evidence from tenants who had nothing but praise for the landowning class. One such claimed that he doubted if many tenants would come forward to complain, "We take pride in believing that we are descended from Hamlet the Dane. We are not exactly Cymro in Radnorshire."

"Then how came you to have the name David Lloyd?" asked commissioner Rhys to laughter from the audience.

"A colony of Danes settled in Radnor from whom I say we are descended" replied the tenant, which was no doubt news to the eminent chair of Celtic at Jesus College, Oxford.

So why did Mr Lloyd claim kinship with the Danes? A hint of something had been reported in Archaeologia Cambrensis in 1881: "I have heard a legend in Radnorshire that the 'Denes' (Danes) ploughed the hills; and if you ask who the 'Denes' were, you will be told simply that the 'Denes' were red men."

So there may well have been some legend or other floating around. The real reason though must lie with the attitudes of the day. The Welsh, for "Radnorshire's most distinguished son" George Cornewall Lewis and his circle of Liberal Old Etonian chums, had been "a miserable race of Celtic savages." Meanwhile scientists obsessed about negrescence and the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon to the Celts of Wales and Ireland. Little wonder that the occasional Radnorian might clutch at the straw, however farfetched, of belonging to a Teutonic tribe.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm , in view of this, is the scaffolding around the Cornewall-Lewis monument in Maesyfed a restoration scheme or contrived for some other purpose?

radnorian said...

Some other purpose? Surely you're not calling for a revival of the gibbet that used to greet visitors to our fair county?

Ancient knightonien said...

Radnorians descended from Hamlet the Dane? Get a grip! It's carnage at the end, no descendents... only poor old Horatio still alive to tell the world what happened.

radnorian said...

I suppose he was the only Dane Mr Lloyd had heard about, this was before the days of Nina and Frederik

Ancien knightonien said...

... well that sent me scrambling to Google (I'm only 46).