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Okay here we go.
In medieval Wales land was owned and managed under the gwely system, by which land was held by the family as a four generational family concern.
Land was ultimately a family commodity.
#Wales #History #medievaltwitter #WelshHistory
No one person truly owned the land. It was owned by the family as a whole. With each inheritor essentially owning a lifetime interest in the land. As such gwely or family land (land held by an established free Welsh family as opposed to land worked by unfree tenants
or by religious institutions) could not be sold or bought since no individual could dispose of land which ultimately belonged to the family as a whole and to their descendants.
(Although people would obviously find ways to work around this legal hitch).
Although no one person truly owned the land it was vested in the person of the penteulu, the head of the family and on his death (only men could hold land) the land property descended to his heirs,
who inherited the land jointly as a whole. Typically these were his sons although if a son was predeceased then his share in the land would pass jointly to *his* sons.
The land descending to their sons onto the fourth generation at which point the gwely would dissolve and
new gwely groups would begin with the inheritors as their heads, each respective land inheritance becoming the interest of the new gwely.
This system was called cyfran/sharing, ie each son holding an equal right to inheritance, including illegitimate sons.
The land was owned jointly but it was managed individually. It was the duty of the youngest son to divide the inheritance into equitable shares. The children then taking pick of the shares according to seniority, the youngest picking last, incentivising him divide fairly
This (and reasons such as sarhaed and galanas liability) was a reason for the Welsh 'obsession' with genealogy. Knowing ones family history and ones relations was central to the issue of inheritance and legal liability.
Cyfran and the gwely system even operated at it's base level at the highest echelons of society. Llywelyn ap Gruffudd inherited the rule of Gwynedd jointly with his brothers (although only one, Owain, was in a position to press this claim) and much of his political
career would be concerned with attempting to accommodate his brothers legal right to land and a share of rule within his own ambitions to establish himself as the sole and unquestioned Prince of all Wales.
These systems, as the middle ages progressed, came to share space with an increasingly common and applicable feudal system, exacerbated by increasing norman influence in Wales and in Welsh politics.
Llywelyn Fawr caused a scandal in essentially applying primogeniture
feudalism in disinheriting his son Gruffudd in favour of his son Dafydd, ignoring long established Welsh law.
By the C13th Welsh law and feudal structures were operating alongside one another, rulers often cherrypicking which system to follow according to their interests
You're average poor medieval Welsh herdsman when he hears there's been a death in the family
Multiple gwely made up the cenedl, the kin, which has the wider meaning of nation as in "a people, a folk". This wider family was headed by the pencenedl, the head of the kindred who acted as a lord of sorts of the wider family, a political representative of the kin.
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