The Ancient Britons: Sociability, Pageantry and Patriotism in the First London Welsh Society
The Most Honourable and Loyal Society of Ancient Britons, founded in London in 1715, was a complex and multi-faceted patriotic phenomenon. It was simultaneously a mouthpiece for royalist propaganda and a haven for political radicals, a piously charitable foundation and an excuse for having a good time. In a period when distinctly Welsh institutions had largely ceased to exist, the Society’s annual celebration of St. David’s Day in the English capital offered a rare example of eighteenth-century Welsh people deliberately imagining into existence an identifiably Welsh nation, using ceremony, sociability, poetry, and politics to fill the institutional void. This lecture tells the story of this important precursor to the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, trying to get to the bottom of what it meant for these London Welshmen to proclaim themselves Ancient Britons during the formative years of the British nation-state.
Image courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University