Teulu – the Welsh Warband


(Picture Source: Wikipedia Commons)

It's been a little while! A week is too long, I know, what have I been up to? Lots of writing is the answer, but, in all honesty, I think it's time for another entry now!

What's that word there, I hear you cry? (Unless you're a Welsh speaker of course, then you'll recognise it!) 'Teulu' is pronounced 'Teylee', and in modern use-age means 'family'. However, back in the Dark Ages and early medieval period, it meant something else – 'Warband'.

The medieval Cyfreithiau Hywel Dda (the Laws of Hywel the Good, a tenth century Welsh king) explain what a 'Teulu' is – the retinue of the King , Prince or Lord comprising of usually twenty-four courtly officers, plus a number of other combatants numbering up to 120. All these men were warriors drawn from the old Welsh aristocracy, who enjoyed the patronage of the ruler at court in return for their absolute loyalty and allegiance. The existence of warbands such as these were common throughout the Heroic Societies of Europe at this time, especially in post-Roman Britain. As well as being skilled in martial arts and often mounted warriors, the foremost members of the Teulu were also given specific roles to perform within the ruler's court, as exemplified by the laws.

The relevance here to Dragon Line? Well, I envisioned that this is a custom which might be resurrected to some extent amongst the post-Apocalyptic militias across Wales, including the one which the main character Patrick encounters in Llanberis (more on this later). The 'Teulu' of this group would be the senior officers under the overall commander. It seemed apt to envisage the concept being re-adopted, and I wanted to put something more of Wales's pre-Act of Incorporation past into the story, as it is depicted in the scenario as a once more independent but fragmented culture living on the fringes of the former United Kingdom. I've also included the 'Teulu' in a recent scene in the novel, hence the reason for this subject's inclusion on tonight's posting!

Also, I'm reading a nice little book about Welsh history at the moment which makes mention of the Teulu and is very helpful as background: 'Anglo-Welsh Wars 1050-1300' (by Stuart Ivinson, Bridge Books, 2001). I found it on sale at the shop at Stokesay Castle, Shropshire, a few weeks back, and I figured it was worth a read! I'm not disappointed (apart from the fact they should have sacked the proof-reader!) Worth a look, if you are interested in this sort of thing!

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About Owen Law

My pen-name is ‘Owen Law’ (real name: Nicholas Davies.) I’m a science fiction writer specialising in dystopian/apocalyptic visions of the future. I’m from Shropshire, England (on the borders with Wales) and I’m in my forties. I have a background in public services and training. I’ve been working on my first novel, Dragon Line, since 2008. I’ve also written several short stories, one of which you can find on this blog (‘Matilda Leviathan‘). I now reside on the border of Shropshire and Wales, and my interests include writing (of course!), current affairs and environmental issues.
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