Wales’s Legal Identity
Twenty-first century Wales is heir to a rich legal heritage.
For a thousand years from the departure of the Romans to the sixteenth-century union with England, Wales was governed by its own distinctive native laws, traditionally associated with the tenth-century prince, Hywel Dda, whose codifications survive in an extensive manuscript inheritance.
With the introduction of the English common law under the Tudors, Wales acquired its own law courts, the Great Sessions, based on those created for the principalities of north and south Wales by Edward I, and which survived until 1830.
The nineteenth century saw increasing demands for recognition of Wales’ discrete legal identity, culminating in enactments which applied only in Wales, the campaign for and ultimate creation of a Department of State for Wales, and finally, as the twentieth-century closed, a devolution settlement which has since matured to provide Wales with its own Parliament, the Senedd, and Government.