The Welsh first minster has spoken of his emotion at the “contemporary resonances” he perceived in a letter written by a 15th century Prince of Wales envisioning a country free from the rule of the “barbarous” English.
During a visit to France, Mark Drakeford said he was moved by the Pennal letter sent by Owain Glyndŵr to the king of France, Charles VI, in 1406 asking for help in his fight against English rule.
Drakeford was shown the original of the letter at the French national archive in Paris during a trip aimed at strengthening political, business, cultural and sporting links between Wales and France.
In the letter, Glyndŵr said he wanted to create a Welsh church free from the authority of Canterbury and that clergy should be able to speak Welsh. He talked of founding two universities.
Drakeford told the Guardian: “The Pennal letter is probably the most single celebrated letter in Welsh history, written by Owain Glyndŵr to the French king asking for help in his campaign against the barbarian English, as it says in the letter.
“I found it a moving experience. I was struck by the contemporary resonances it has, not in relation to what it says about internal UK matters, but the pitch of the letter is that Glyndŵr would establish a separate Welsh church with its headquarters in St David’s in south-west Wales and found two new universities, one in the north, one in the south.
“And it would be a requirement of any clergy training for the ministry that they would be able to offer services in linguam nostram – our language – the Welsh language.”
There has been growing interest over recent years in the idea of Welsh independence. Drakeford has been critical of the approach by some Tory politicians in Westminster to devolution but supports a strong Wales within the union. Increasing the number of Welsh speakers is a key Welsh government aim.
Drakeford’s visit marks the start of Wales in France, a year-long celebration of links between the countries.
France is Wales’ second largest export destination after Germany, with Welsh exports there valued at just over £1.8bn in 2020.
Drakeford, who will attend the France v Wales Six Nations rugby match in the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday, said the letter was a reminder that the relationship went back “centuries and centuries”.
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