The so-called Act of Union of that year, and its corrected version of 1543 seemed inevitable. More than one historian has pointed out that union with England had really been achieved by the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284. Those historians who praise the Acts state that the Welsh people had now achieved full equality before the law with their Englishcounterparts. It opened opportunities for individual advancement in all walks of life, and Welshmen flocked to London to take full advantage of their chances.
The real purpose was to incorporate, finally and for all time, the principality of Wales into the kingdom of England. A major part of this decision was to abolish any legal distinction between the people on either side of the new border. From henceforth, English law would be the only law recognized by the courts of Wales. In addition, for the placing of the administration of Wales in the hands of the Welsh gentry, it was necessary to create a Welsh ruling class not only fluent in English, but who would use it in all legal and civil matters.
Thus inevitably, the Welsh ruling class would be divorced from the language of their country; as pointed out earlier, their eyes were focused on what London or other large cities of England had to offer, not upon what remained as crumbs to be scavenged in Wales itself, without a government of its own, without a capital city, and without even a town large enough to attract an opportunistic urban middle class, and saddled with a language described by Parliament as "nothing like nor consonant to the natural mother tongue used within this realm."
From 1536 on, English was to be the only language of the courts of Wales, and those using the Welsh language were not to receive public office in the territories of the king.
It was the arrival of the Welsh Bible, however, that brought the language back to a respected position.
In 1588, the translation of the whole Bible itself, the climax of the whole movement, made Welsh the language of public worship and thus much more than a generally despised peasant tongue. Perhaps it is to this that much of the present-day strength of the Welsh language is owed, compared to Irish (which did not get its own Bible until 1690) and Scots Gaelic (which had to wait until 1801).
The Welsh Bible, a magnificent achievement, was completed after eight years by William Morgan and a group of fellow scholars. In 1620 Dr John Davies of Mallwyd and Richard Parry, Bishop of St. Asaph, produced a revision of William Morgan's Bible. Most of the nearly one thousand copies of.the earlier book had been lost or worn out, and this revised and corrected edition is the version that countless generations of Welsh people have been thoroughly immersed ever since, it has been as much a part of their lives as the Authorized Version has been to the English-speaking peoples or Luther's Bible to the Germans.
In 1630, the Welsh Bible, in a smaller version (Y Beibl Bach), was introduced into homes in Wales and as the only book affordable to many families, became the one book from which the majority of the people could learn to read and write. Other, poorer families, unable to afford the Bible, were able to share its contents in meetings held at the homes of neighbors or in their churches or chapels. Later on, countless generations of children were taught its contents in Sunday School. It is in this way, therefore, that we can say the Welsh Bible "saved" the language from possible extinction.
It has been touch and go all the way since, however, with determined efforts coming from both sides of Offa's Dyke to stamp out the language for ever. Yet every time the funeral bells have tolled, the language has miraculously revived itself.
For the continued survival of the language, however, there had to be a groundwork laid in the field of general education among the masses. There were still too many people in Wales who could not read or write. As so often in Welsh history, help came from outside the country itself.
In 1674, a charitable organization, the Welsh Trust, was set up in London by Thomas Gouge to establish English schools in Wales and to publish books "in Welsh." Over 500 books were printed in 1718 and 1721 at Trefhedyn and Carmarthen respectively. Many of these were translations of popular English works, Protestant tracts that encouraged private worship and prayers, but along with the six major editions of the Bible that appeared during the same period, they had the unpredicted effect of ensuring the survival of the language in an age where many scholars were predicting its rapid demise. Of equal importance were the cheap catechisms and prayer books.highly prized by rural families who read them (along with the Beibl Cymraegd) in family groups during the long, dark winter nights.
So successful were educators, benefactors and itinerant teachers that perhaps as many as one third or more of the population of Wales could read their scriptures by the time of Griffith Jones' death in 1761. Jones had realized that preaching alone was insufficient to ensure his people's salvation: they needed to read the scriptures for themselves. Though not intended by such as Jones (the rector of Llanddowror and therefore not a Nonconformist minister), his writings created a substantial Welsh reading public primed and ready to receive the appeal of the ever-growing Methodists, whose ability in such preachers as Hywel Harris was matched by their eloquence in the pulpit, and who obviously filled a great need among the masses.
One influential convert was Thomas Charles who joined in 1784, and who set up the successful Sunday School movement in North Wales that had such a profound and lasting influence on the language and culture of that region. Another preacher of great influence was Daniel Rowland, who had converted in 1737 after hearing a sermon by Griffith Jones. With Hywel Harris, he assumed the leadership of the Methodist Revival. Rowland's enthusiasm along with that of his colleagues, attracted thousands of converts, and though their initial intention was to work within the framework of the established church, opposition from their Bishops, all of whom had little real interest in Wales and knew nothing of its language and culture, led finally to the schism of 1811 when an independent union was founded.
This was the Calvinistic Methodist Church (today known as the Presbyterian Church of Wales). Providing the excitement and fervor that the established church had been lacking for so long, it did much to pave the way for the rapid growth of the other non-conformist sects such as the Baptists and