Arthur II of Wales
22nd Monarch of Wales

22. Arthur II.png
King of Wales
King of Wales
Reign 1st July 1959 - 9th November 1982
Coronation 2nd March 1960
Predecessor Marged
Successor Llywelyn III
Principality of Morgannwg
Reign 16th August 1950 - 20th July 1964
Predecessor Marged of Morgannwg
Successor Llywelyn I of Morgannwg
Spouse Serena Bernadotte of Sweden
Issue Prince Llywelyn of Wales

Prince Iestyn of Wales

Princess Heledd of Wales

Full name
Arthur Christian Rhisiart Frederick Peter Oldenburg-Morgannwg
Posthumous name
Arthur Goroeswyr (The Survivor)
House House of Oldenburg-Morgannwg
Father Christian Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
Mother Marged Alexandra Catherine Maria Morgannwg
Born 30th August 1938
Palas Cwm Hyfryd
Died 9th November 1982
Ysbyty Brenhinol Caerdydd (Cardiff Royal Infirmary)
Burial Royal Crypts, Llandaff Cathedral
Religion Roman Catholic
Arthur came to a throne which was precarious at best. The two preceding monarchs had in their own ways damaged almost to the point of no return the position of the Welsh monarch in the hearts of the Welsh people. He came to power in the last year of the 50's a young 20 year old man. The funeral of his mother, whilst lavish and colourful was an event which held little resonance outside of Caerdydd. His own coronation in 1960 would again see a colourful, televised event which on the surface appeared to be a popular event. Outside of Royal circles and outside the capital, however, republicanism still held sway. By the end of his short reign in contrast to his mother his own funeral in 1982 would be an event commemorated throughout the kingdom and the coronation of his eldest son Llywelyn would be an event celebrated with enthusiasm. The path through which his reign moved covers Wales entry and participation in the Vietnam war, the return of the Communists to power in the 1970's, rising tensions with the Americans as well as rising tensions with the British State.

Early Life

Born in Caerdydd on the 30th August 1938, the first son of Princess Marged and her husband Prince Christian, Arthur was not in line for the Welsh throne. With Iago as King and with his son, Owain, as Crown Prince, the line of succession looked secure. Add into that the German prince Daffyd Morgannwg and his son Prince Xavier (who was five years Arthur's senior) it did not look like Arthur was destined for any great offices of state. This changed with the outbreak of the Great War. At the start of the war, Wales was allied to the German State. The Welsh Armed Forces, under the command of Maeslywyd Thomas, staged a coup that resulted in Iago being removed from direct control of Wales. Arthur himself would be too young to remember many of these important events, although he would later recall the last time he saw his cousin, the Crown Prince in 1944. Arthur was then only 6 years old and the dashing, 23 year old Prince visited his aunt at Plas Senghenydd. He danced with Marged at a ball given in his honour and presented Arthur with a beret and badge of the 2nd (The King's) Morgannwg Hussars of which Owain was an officer. It would be the last time he saw his cousin and the start of a constitutional nightmare from which his mother would emerge as heir to the throne and Arthur as a future Welsh King.

Crown Prince

With his mothers coronation Arthur was elevated to the rank of Crown Prince. The 13 year old prince was still in school at this point but his father took a great interest in ensuring that Arthur had effective training in the role of king. The death of Prince Christian in 1953 was a blow from which neither Arthur or his mother fully recovered from. For the Queen it was to lead to her seclusion from public life, for Arthur it lead to the removal of the guiding hand in his development as a man. The forceful Chancellor, Tomos ap Tomos, was also a guiding hand in the young princes development, showing him the power that the Chancellor could wield and how the monarchy had had its hand tied by the growing power of that office.

This was highlighted to the Prince at the funeral of his father. As the Crown Prince, his position was second only to that of the Queen herself. In the funeral procession however, the Prince of Gywnedd walked behind the Queen as Llywydd y Cyfrin Gyngor, with Tomos ap Tomos behind him, with the Prince relegated to fourth in line behind the Queen. Being underage did not help the Prince to build his own power base, with the Americans openly favouring Tomos ap Tomos in his power building attempts.

Arthur, in these early years, was already showing the shrewd politicians touch which he was to display during his reign. His mother, ill and disinclined to interfere in politics, left a hole in the centre of Welsh politics. Courtiers and many politicians were unwilling to tie themselves to either Prince Owain or to Chancellor Gruffyd, these started to gravitate to Arthur, who started to build up an inner council of advisors.

In 1956, with his 18th birthday approaching, Arthur struck a deal with the Chancellor. With the Queen now unable to rule due to illness, Arthur would be proclaimed by Parliament as Tywysog Rhaglaw (Prince Regent), as part of the role of Prince Regent, Arthur was entitled to head the Privy Council, hence eliminating Gruffyd's political rival, Prince Owain. There was little love lost between Arthur and Owain either, as both disliked the other. On the 39th August 1956, the announcement was made, making Arthur the Prince-Regent

Tywysog Cymru Rhaglaw

American Ambasador 1950's

American Ambassador to Wales, Theodore Williams III and US Officers during 1956

The first test of Arthur's rule occured quickly following his elevation to Prince-Regent. The Armed Forces mutiny of 1956 had started in the March of '56, before his elevation, with the Naval Bases in west Wales rising in revolt. The naval dockyards of Penfro and Aberdaugleddau were in the hands of the Communist Party and faced with growing disquiet within the Army and Air force, the Chancellor, panicked. Both the Prince and the Chancellor agreed that the Americans would be needed and the Chancellor asked the American ambassador for aid. The ambassador, Theodore Williams III, watched the rising of the Welsh military with disgust. By the time that the Chancellor asked Williams for American aid, the Army barracks at Llywdlo had also risen in revolt, with Moriddig ap Madog, the Communist Party leader, looking more and more likely to topple the Welsh government. American aid, however, came at a price. An increased American presence within the Welsh Government, increased troop numbers in the country and the placing of nuclear arms within Wales as well as the outlawing of the Communist Party and the active hunting down of known sympathisers. Gruffyd readily agreed to the terms and advised Arthur to do so as well. Williams presented himself to Arthur at court in Palas Cwm Hyfryd, again repeating the terms of American assistance. Arthur, advised by Gruffyd, agreed to the terms. With the Crown Prince's agreement, American troops and agents from the CIA moved in and using heavy handed tactics crushed the nascent rebellion. The Communist leader, Moriddig was one of the first victims, arrested on the 13th September, tortured and executed on the 30th September 1956. The CIA led repression lasted until early 1960 and would see several thousand Communist activists arrested, with many tortured and many executed. The other major victim of the uprising was the Chancellor himself. As details of the concessions to the Americans became public knowledge, his support both within the CDP and nationally plummeted. Sensing a chance to remove an irritant, Arthur intrigued with senior members of the CDP to replace him. With open revolt within the CDP close to breaking out into the open, Gruffyd resigned on the 5th October 1956. He was pensioned off with a Y Frerigaeth (Baronetage), raising him to to the title of Breyr- Farchog (or Barwnig/Baronet) of St Donats.

Arthur himself did not survive the revolt unscathed. With the political repression of the Communists, it became open knowledge that he had consented to the American actions. Coupled with the presence of American "observers" within the Privy Council, the Crown Princes moves were limited in scope. Protests against the monarchy increased as well during the last few years of Marged's reign.

The remaining years of Marged's reign saw little excitement on the scale of 1956. The new leader of the CDP, Dafydd Fychan, a relative of the Earls of Gwyr, was someone whom Arthur found it easy to work with and the two men worked well together until Fychan's retirement in 1968. The elections of 1957 were clearly and obviously rigged. Although in principle, the election was open to all parties, the Communist Party had just been declared

President Eisenhower

illegal by order of the Privy Council and the other parties (Social Democrats and the Catholic Party) were tainted with socialism and monarchism respectively. As a result the CDP was returned with a super majority in both houses of the Senedd. With this super majority, Dafydd formed a pro-American, pro-monarchy government and the US President, Eisenhower, paid a state visit to the Kingdom, meeting the Crown Prince and the invalid Queen.

In the summer of 1958, Marged entered her last illness, slipping into a coma on the 18th August. Arthur, as Crown Prince, now gained full control of the crown, short of being crowned king. With the Queen dying slowly, plans were made for both her State funeral and his own coronation. Finally, on the 1st July 1959, the Queen died.

Arthur Brenin Cymru

Regalia of Hywel III

The Regalia of Hywel III

Arthur's coronation on the 2nd March 1960 was a lavish, televised event. Academics had spent since 1958 researching the Welsh annals looking for the more spectacular frills which could be added to the event. Attended by several former European monarchs, the British represented by Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Princess Elizabeth of York, the US Vice President (Nixon) and taking place in St Davids Cathedral, which had spent since 1958 being renovated and restored, Arthur was crowned by a Cardinal Archbishop with the crown of Hywel III, rather than the crown of Rhisiart III, which had been used to crown all monarchs since Rhisiart III (Rhisiart I & II had been crowned using a coronet, whilst Arthur I had used the crown of Dafydd V). The use of what had been termed the "Imperial" crown (due to the amount of gold and jewels utilised and which had been amongst the treasures saved in the evacuation of 1718) was to be a symbol that Arthur intended to restore the full majesty of the Welsh crown. Arthur even had a law passed in council making the Hywel Crown the official coronation crown and the Rhisiart Crown the "state" crown (for use in parliament).

With his coronation Arthur set out to complete the full clawing back of Royal powers lost during the reign of his mother. The first move was an increase in the size of the Welsh armed forces. Following the end of the Great War, the Welsh military had stagnated. With the Communist infiltration of the military, the previous administrations and the American's had seen to the disbanding of units throughout the military. In the April of 1960, a large recruitment drive was launched for both the Air force and Army. This was at odds with the increasing decolonisation efforts also taking place, but Welsh troops were also based in Germany as well as seeing action alongside American troops (first in Korea during Marged's reign and later in Vietnam in Arthur's reign).

The Welsh economy had also improved in the last ten years leaving a more confident Welsh state entering the 1960's. This new found confidence, however, also led to increased political protests. Starting in 1961, the latent anti-Americanism prevalent in Welsh society came to the fore again. The summer of 1961 saw march after march in Caerdydd and other major Welsh cities against the presence of American troops in the country. Arthur was concerned over these protests and marches as they often dovetailed into anti-monarchy protests as well, and the CIA and Welsh Security Service therefore were ordered to thourghly penetrate the protest organisations.

1962 was a pivotal year in terms of politics in Wales. A new election was called, with Dafydd Fychan again leading the CDP into the polls. The CDP did not this time return in a super majority. Both the Catholic Party and the SDP had recovered sufficiently to pose an electoral risk to the CDP. Although Fychan was able to form a new government it was a more precarious administration than before. The one factor in his favour was the CDP's retention of control of the Senedd itself. When in 1963, the SDP under Rhys Bowen, tried to pass a Limitations of Power Bill (restraining the Royal prerogative) it was passed in the Lower House in spite of Fychan's opposition to it. The Senedd however, refused to ratify the Bill, ending with it being refused Royal Assent. It was, however, a timely warning shot over the Royal bows. Arthur's advisors, some of whom dated back to the reign of Iago, recognised the signs that had led to Iago's confinement to Castell Coch, and advised Arthur that a lighter touch must be applied in order to avoid the same fate. Parliament had already established the precedent of over-ruling a monarch, they could do so again.

The continued economic stability and progress allowed Welsh society to recover from the horrors of the war years as well as from the stagnation of the 1950's. This new stability coupled with ideas leaking from the UK though led to increased demands for political representation. The American's and British since the 1940's had been pressing for an increase in the Welsh Franchise. Chancellor Fychan in 1964 put forward a bill finally extending the right to vote to all Welsh citizens aged 18 and over.

Stability and the Return of the Communist Party

1965 would see the birth of Arthur's heir, Prince Llywelyn, giving Arthur a secure, Welsh heir, removing for the time being the possibility of a German king on the Welsh throne (something still feared by the political elite). 1965 would also see Wales entering the Vietnam War. In the March, America commenced its ground war in South Vietnam, and Welsh troops accompanied the American's to the region. By the end of the year there were over 1000 Welsh soldiers deployed (as part of the 200,000 strong American deployment). Between 1965 and 1973, Welsh troop numbers would fluctuate within the theatre, but they would be a constant presence there during this period.

In 1966, in a build up of public pressure, the year opened with a series of marches through Caerdydd orchestrated by the banned Communist Party. The Communists had tapped into the growing Welsh disillusionment with American troops being stationed in Wales, the storing of nuclear arms on those bases and the feeling that Wales had now become a puppet state, subordinate to the wishes of the White House. With the Vietnam War also beginning to bite (already Welsh casualties had been reported) the marches also had a strong anti-war message to them as well (something which was to continue for the rest of Wales' participation in the war). The American President took the unusual step of filming a broadcast for the Welsh media, addressing their concerns and expressing "regret that left wing extremists are trying to sow the seeds of discord between two states fighting for freedoms worldwide". He also went on to include the long history of Wales and America linking the two wars of Independence fought at the same time, with American pressure on England allowing Rhisiart II to free more of Wales. Such an intervention by the American President was unheard of, but following his lead, Arthur also made his first televised broadcast later on in the year.

As the sixties drew to a close, Arthur and Chancellor Fychan faced up to the constant pressure being placed by both the Senedd and the American's on Arthur's continued active political role within Welsh politics. Several laws were passed in 1967 outling exactly where and when the Royal Prerogative could be applied by Arthur and whilst none of these laws curtailed the Crowns powers as such, for the first time since the 1901 Constitution, a monarch had had his powers firmly detailed in line with the laws of the realm.

Entry to the European Economic Community

A goal of Chancellor Fychan since his first rise to power in 1957 had been to gain entry to the EEC which had been set up by the Treaty of Rome in 1957. The Chancellor spent the next ten years working to persuade the EEC (mainly President De Gaulle) that Wales was not an American, or worse, an English, puppet state.

The Chancellor was aided in his attempts to bring Wales into the European fold by the relationship between France and Wales in the past as well as a genuine wish by the German Chancellor to include Wales.

The political price, however, for entry would be tough. Changes to labour laws, changes to the voting laws (passed in 1964), changes to the laws regulating political parties (the 1967 Political Parties Act) and finally a Royal Prerogative Limitation Bill (passed in 1967) which for the first time since the end of the Great War in 1945 provided a clear definition of Royal power compared to the power of Parliament in the Ty Isod and the Senedd. Wales' entry to the EEC would also be the final highlight of Dafydd Fychans political career. The by now 70 year old Chancellor would go onto to lose the upcoming 1968 election as a direct result of the changes he ushered in to allow Wales to join the EEC

The 1970's

The end of the period of the close relationship between monarch and chancellor began in 1968. In the election that year, Dafydd Fychan's CDP lost power to Harri Protheroe's SDP. The SDP were a centre left party, which whilst not hostile to the presence of the monarchy were not as close to it as the CDP were. The elections of 1968 were also notable for the re-emergence of the Communist Party. Such had been the pressure in the years previous, that as part of the bills past in 1967 confirming Welsh membership of the EEC, the ban on the Communist Party had also been lifted.

The SDP Government - 1968-73

Long years of rule by the CDP had resulted in a shock election night. The SDP were returned as the majority party in the Ty Isod, but the Communists, led by Gethin ab Harri Griffiths, had overtaken the CDP to take second place and therefore formed the Official Opposition. The immediate effect of this was soon felt in the corridors of power. Within the SDP were many politicians who's political leanings sailed very close to Communist sentiments. Using this fact, Gethin Griffiths forced an early vote in the Senedd over the Royal Prerogatives. Between the two left wing parties Griffiths was able to secure a majority for the "Reduction of the Crown's Prerogatives Act". This Act went before the Upper House where it was rejected, but Griffiths forced it back to the upper chamber, this time with a warning over the superiority of the powers of the Lower House. On its second visit, the Act passed the Upper House and was presented to Arthur for  Royal Consent. This was something that Arthur wanted to reject. His advisors though reminded him of the increasing popularity of the Communist Party again within the Welsh electorate, and reluctantly, Arthur gave his assent to the act. With this first victory under his belt, Griffiths, then pushed through a parliamentary bill reducing the numbers of American troops sanctioned to be based on Welsh soil and then in late 1969 pushed through the Decolonisation Act, starting the process by which the remaining Welsh colonies would be granted their independence from Wales.

Chancellor Protheroe's grip on power during his five-year chancellorship was always very precarious. His party only held a six-seat majority in the Ty Isod, and in the SDP he had at least 5 members whom Griffiths could count on if he pushed hard enough to vote against their own party in favour of the Communist Party's agenda. Protheroe was too weak internally within the party to force these member out as that would trigger by-elections which he could not guarantee the SDP would win.

Chancellor Protheroe's government would, however, go down as the de-colonisation government, finishing what had been started in the 1950's and early 60's with Sierra Leone finally gaining full independence from the Welsh State. The remaining Pacific Island colonies and southern Atlantic would remain for a few more years until the mid 1970's where the Pacific Islands finally gained full independence.

Protheroe's government also had to contend with two of the economic realities of this era. The first was the decimalisation of the British currency. As Cardiff had long followed London's economic lead in such matters when the UK-ES began plans to abandon both Imperial measurements and the old LSD currency, Wales also began to follow. In 1970 the new decimal currency was rolled out for the first time.

In addition to Wales being heavily influenced by the Anglo-Scottish economy, it was also tied to the American economy. The collapse of the Gold Standard and the Bretton-Woods system in 1971 and the subsequent devaluation of the US Dollar threw the Welsh economy into chaos. The Ty Isod was paralysed in its attempts to navigate through the chaotic early 70's economic mire. The SDP and the Communist Party both differed in their approach and the other parties, the CDP and the Catholic Party offered little support to either parties to force the issue through parliament. Struggling to hold his thin majority together, Chancellor Protheroe thought that he saw the faint glimmers of hope. These faint glimmers were brought crashing down by the Yom Kippur war in 1973. This war with its oil embargo and the subsequent stock market crash resulted in the economic free fall of the Welsh economy.

In desperation, Harri Protheroe gambled with an election. Hoping that given the situation the SDP would be returned with a strong enough majority to deal with the major crisis, instead in a night of political frights and shocks the Communist Party was returned to power.

The Communist Government: 1973-79

The return of Gethin Griffiths as Chancellor in November 1973 was nothing short of a political fairy-tale. From being in a banned party to leader of the opposition to Chancellor of Wales. However, his government, like his predecessors suffered from not having a majority. The new Communist Government was a minority government, helped by  members of the SDP who could be counted on to vote for sympathetic policies. What it failed to give Griffiths was the power to bring down the monarchy and replace it with a republic.

Arthur, throughout these years had kept his distance from active politics. With the advent of an actively hostile anti-monarchy party, he now resolved to keep his hand from the political tiller, to avoid providing extra antagonism, however, his advisors started to push into the limelight the Royal Children. Although the eldest, Edling Llywelyn,  was only nine years of age, he was started to be seen with his mother on official visits, and the press would be given official photos of the Royal Children (Prince Iestyn, the future Duke of Senghenydd, and Princess Heledd, the future Princess Royal) both at school and at play. Also the king's brother, Christian, the Duke of Deheubarth, also gradually gained a more significant public role.

Pressure was applied on Griffiths from all points. American, British and from the EEC. Coupled with the economic crisis that saw his party returned to power trying to change Wales from a Kingdom to a Republic was not something to pursue at this point. Instead and to the surprise of many commentators, the Communist government went about its duties seriously and with due diligence. Tackling first the economic mess Wales was in, they nationalised many industries, and set about reforming the welfare state. They also in 1975 tackled yet more of the Royal powers. The 1975 Royal Limitations Act stripped yet more power from the Crown and placed it either in the Ty Isod itself or in the office of Chancellor. The Royal Limitations Act also reduced the power and scope of the Privy Council.

It was in 1975 that the Soviets approached Griffiths. Brezhnev, looking to gain a satellite state in western Europe offered Soviet support to Griffiths, encouraging him to declare a Peoples Republic. Griffiths, however, at the last wavered. Wales still existed in a precarious state. The monarchists both within the government and in the country as a whole would fight the declaration of a Peoples Republic. Wales would also be physically isolated from the Eastern Bloc. American troops were still based in Wales and the British would not sit by idly whilst their nearest neighbour became an enemy. Griffiths refused to travel to Moscow and refused to see the Soviet ambassador. The result was a rift between the Welsh Communist Party and the Moscow leadership that would last until the fall of the USSR.

The other outcome of this was that the American's began to pay close attention to the Communist Chancellor with a state visit by President Carter to Wales in 1977. As a result of the visit, the CIA began to again pay close attention to the Welsh Communists, aided by the Welsh Secret Service.

In 1978, a fervent monarchist shot and killed Chancellor Griffiths as he watched a football match in Abertawe. The assassin was controlled by the CIA and the Welsh Secret Service, though this did not become open knowledge for many years. With the assassination of Griffiths, the Ty Isod was called into session and voted to promote his deputy, Tudor Ivan, to the office of Chancellor as well as voting an emergency parliamentary session, extending the Communist governments mandate until 1979. This was not something that the American's had wanted from their actions and as a result, significant funds were channeled into the anti-Communist groups and political parties in readiness for the next election.

By 1978, Arthur had become seriously ill with lung cancer, though this was kept secret almost until his death. As a result of his illness Arthur's involvement in the politics had diminished throughout the 1970's, with his son, Llywelyn not yet old enough to step into the royal breach.

Final Years - 1979-1982

The elections of 1979 were a watershed moment for Welsh politics. For the first time since the 1957 election, Arthur played no role in the campaign. Previously, the monarch would display some sign as to who he favoured. The new royal restrictions placed on him by the Communist government coupled with his increasing ill health led him to not intervene in the 1979 elections. These elections were marred by corruption on both sides, with American money and propaganda proving decisive in returning a Christian Democratic Party victory. The new chancellor Griffith Preece was not grateful for long. The long simmering anti-American feelings in Wales erupted soon after the new government took power, resulting in Chancellor Preece's first move being to pass legislation removing the American bases on Welsh territory. This would take over ten years to implement but the breach with Washington was public and driven by the office of the Chancellor empathising the increased prominence and prestige of the office itself.

On sports pitches of Wales a major boast was achieved when CP Caerdydd (Cardiff FC) won the European Cup in the May of 1980, beating Hamburg in the Bernabeu Stadium, Madrid. It would prove to be the only Welsh victory but it did usher in an era of growth in Welsh football enabling the Welsh League to grow throughout the 1980's.

The last public appearance of the king occurred during the wedding of the Anglo-Scottish king, Charles III to Lady Diana Spencer. The Welsh public was shocked to see how ill he appeared and the sudden outpouring of support for him proved how far his reign had gone in restoring the monarchies popularity in the eyes of the general Welsh public.

Legacy of his reign

When Arthur died on the 9th November 1982, the edling, Llywelyn ordered that the bells of all the churches in Caerdydd should ring out. The pealing of the bells alerted the population of Caerdydd to the news, confirmed later that day by a live television announcement by the new king himself.

When Arthur had acceded to the throne it was in a perilous state. His uncle had come close to losing the throne to a republic and his mother, ill suited to the crown and disinterested in it, had laid the foundations for the ending of the monarchy on a less tumultuous setting. Against that backdrop and given his frequent early interventions in Welsh politics, Arthur had gradually grown into his role as king. Always popular as the Edling, he turned that personal popularity into his greatest weapon as king. He was aided in the early years by a close personal friendship with the Chancellor and backed by American money and troops. His personal gratitude for the American assistance was never in doubt even when public opinion went against the Americans.

During his reign he saw the Communists return to power and against the expected odds both his crown and grip on the final reins of power remained intact.

The crowning legacy of his reign was two-fold. Under various governments and finally under the Communist government of the 1970's Wales was transformed into a modern European democracy, where Parliament held the upper hand and the office of Chancellor finally became a power in its own right. Royal powers were at long last restricted and tied to the constitution. At points in the 1970's it was feared that Arthur would represent the last of an era, much like his namesake in the far distant Romano-British past but he and the crown survived. He may have failed to restore the crowns pre-eminence but its survival into the 1980's was success enough.

The second part of the two-fold legacy was his funeral and the coronation of his son and heir, Llywelyn. The funeral of Queen Marged was a muted affair with a rebellious population, his own coronation, whilst lavish, also suffered the same muted rebellious undertones. His funeral, though, was one where the entire population mourned his passing, with the full state funeral attended by presidents, crowned heads of state and the great and good of Welsh society. The coronation of his son would be equally lavish and popular, showing that the House of Oldenburg-Morgannwg was in rude health.

Preceded by:
Kings of Wales
Succeeded by:
Llywelyn III

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