Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Precarious Position

We left our Welsh ancestors in a very precarious position. The Norman invasion and conquest of England was at hand, and by 1086, the military conquest of Wales was underway. However, several key events took place which changed the future timing of the complete conquest of Wales and the gradual introduction of the JONES surname.

First, William I died in 1087 leaving his son William II to continue his plan of Welsh conquest. However, with any change in power, there is a change in control and administration. This change in leadership allowed at least a "break" in the intensity of the military invasion.

Second, the Norman lords and barons were becoming increasingly independent, and the death of William I allowed for a more lax sense of loyalties. Also, these same "lords" were beginning to want more independence and control of their own lands. Thus, the Normans starting fighting one another.

Third, the Welsh princes began to recognize that the Norman invasion was threatening to become a permanent occupation of Welsh territories. They realized that actions needed to be taken to maintain their remaining lands and to recover occupied lands.

It is important to recognize that the Welsh responses to the Norman invasion were different within the geographic regions of Wales. The multiple family groups tried to figure out how to face this new challenge to the best of their advantage.

The northern most sections of Wales responded to the Norman invasion by intense and fierce rebellion for the next 200 years. Influenced by the heritage of the oldest son of Rhodi Mawr (Royal Tribe I), this geopolitical region maintained resistance to Norman conquest until 1282 A.D. The last direct heir, Llwewllyn ap Griffith, Prince of North Wales, was killed at the battle of Builth on the Wye.

The border areas of Wales were bound by a stronger Roman tradition, laws, roads, and commercial ties with the Anglo-Saxons. Already more "Anglicized" [the Welsh term was Sais], this geopolitical region tended to respond to the Norman invasion by offering their daughter in marriage to the Norman lords. This strategy helped them to maintain their lands, resources and trade, while keeping Welsh lands identified with ancient Welsh traditions. However, this strategy also gave lands to the Normans as the Welsh-Norman families evolved under this new breed of "land barons". It was in this geopolitical region that the most powerful Norman "lords" evolved. This area became known as the "March" and the nobles were know as the "Lords of the March". [Lords of the Border] Their strength was partly due to the Welsh support obtained by marriage. This strategy often produced treaties which could be used by the Welsh princes to use the Norman military to their advantage. By treaties, the Welsh princes agreed to aide the Normans in their battles. In return, the Welsh families obtained recognition of their royal and legal claims under Norman law, while becoming essentially vassals to the Norman lords. It was in this context that the JONES surname evolves.

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