Friday, July 24, 2009

Men of Harlech

As many think that “Waltzing Matilda” should be the national anthem of Australia, “Men of Harlech” is a song that commemorates the siege of Harlech Castle in the 1400s and is the alternate national song of Wales. You may remember the song in the film Zulu. At the battle of Rourke’s Drift, many of the British Army engineers were Welsh. There’s a chilling scene where the Welshmen sing the song in counterpoint to the Zulu warriors.
King Edward I had the castle constructed as one of twelve in Wales during his subjugation of the tribes there. A French architect oversaw construction and much of the stone actually came from France. While it’s a beautiful spot, I could see how indeed this was a true fighting castle, designed for defending and killing. There’s nothing that idyllic about it, nothing romantic to me other than the fact there’s the view of a beautiful seaside golf course to the north as well as Mount Snowdon on a clear day. Prince Harry, later Henry V cut his military teeth at a siege here. The place changed hands many times.

But it’s sacred ground to many, Welsh and English. You could compare it the Alamo, Valley Forge, maybe Concord Bridge, the Bastille.

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