Thursday, April 28, 2011

At His Father's Platter

A male child born in the kindred was described in the Welsh law books as follows:

"From when the son is born until he is fourteen years old, it is right for him to be at his father's platter, with his father as lord over him. And no punishment of him is right save his father's."

Thus, from birth, a male child was the responsibility of the father, and no other person was allowed to punish the male child.

"At the end of the fourteenth year, it is right for the father to take his son to the lord and to commend him to him. And then it is right for him to do homage to the lord, and to be dependent on his lord's status..."

"And his father is from then on no more entitled to strike him than a stranger..."

"And from that age on he will be of the same status as an innate bonheddig [ a Welshman of full free status, a man of known ancestry]

At fourteen, the male was to become essentially a ward of the gwlad (state). His status (social standing) was to be that of his lord who was usually a kinsman. This "lord" was most likely the kinsman of highest statue within the tribe.

Now before any of the above could happen, a "son" had to be "legally laid" to his father. This was done by the mother in the following way:

"Whatsoever woman wants to lay a son legally, thus it is for her to lay him: she and the son come to the church where his burial-place is, and she comes as far as the altar and puts her right hand on the altar and the relics, and her left hand on the son's head, and so swears, to God first, and to that altar and to the good relics which are on it, and to the son''s baptism, 'that no father created this son in a mother's heart save' (such-and-such man, naming him) 'in my heart'. And so it is right to lay a son to a Welshman."

The above quotes are taken from "Hywel Dda, The Law" tranlated as "The Law of Hywel Dda, Law Texts From Medieval Wales, Translated and Edited by Dafydd Jenkins, Gomer Press, Llandysul, Dyfed, 1986. The quotes are abstracted from pp. 130-133.

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