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Wednesday, June 30, 1999 Published at 19:01 GMT 20:01 UK


Three decades as Prince of Wales

Prince Charles: his principality has changed.

Three decades after the Prince of Wales was invested with his title, his principality is a very different place.

On 1 July 1969 Prince Charles, then aged 21, was made Prince of Wales in a ceremony at Caernarfon Castle in north Wales, amid political controversy and growing nationalism in Wales.

The 1960s saw a groundswell of Welsh nationalist activity including a campaign of civil disobedience to win public status for the Welsh language, and a bitter campaign against the drowning of the village of Capel Celyn to create a reservoir for England.

Plaid Cymru gained its first ever MP when Gwynfor Evans was elected to represent Carmarthen in 1966.

Fierce opposition to 'English' Prince

The investiture of Prince Charles was fiercely opposed by Welsh nationalists, including the paramilitary Free Wales Army who saw the investiture of an "English" prince of Wales as an insult and a cynical attempt to harness Welsh national feelings to the interests of the British status quo.

Although widely supported by the Welsh establishment and by the majority of the Welsh public, the investiture was conducted against a background of protests and bombings carried out by a minority of nationalists.

These culminated in the deaths of two members of the Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru group, killed by their own bomb on the eve of the royal event.

[ image: Charles learned Welsh at Aberystwyth]
Charles learned Welsh at Aberystwyth
Public criticism of the prince was blunted by his youth, his personal charm and his conscientious attempts to learn the Welsh language at Aberystwyth.

The investiture event largely passed off peacefully, and seemed to fulfil what cynics claimed was its aim - to stifle burgeoning nationalism in essentially British pomp and ceremony.

Thirty years on, Wales is a very different place. The country has its own devolved government, the National Assembly for Wales, its own Welsh language television and radio channels, a host of other new national institutions, and a law, the Welsh Language Act, which has given the country's ancient language its long-sought official status.

Charm offensive

Since his investiture, Charles's relations with Wales have occasionally shown strain. There has been criticism that he spends too little time in Wales, and that he seems far fonder of Scotland than of the country which gave him his title.

[ image: The prince has faced controversy]
The prince has faced controversy
This was countered by what was called a "charm offensive" in the 1990s, in which the Prince rebranded some of his activities in Wales, most notably by conducting special honours ceremonies in his own principality rather than asking Welsh recipients to travel to London.

On one occasion, while making a plea for the preservation of the Welsh language and rural way of life, he quoted with approval some of the most powerful writings of the father of modern Welsh nationalism, Saunders Lewis.

Changing political situation

In that, as with his learning of Welsh, Prince Charles has proved himself prepared to adapt according to the changing political situation in Wales.

His attendance at the ceremony which will endorse a measure of self-government for Wales, for the first time since the days of Owain Glyndwr 600 years ago, is the latest chapter in the monarchy's uneasy historical relationship with its restless principality.

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