Welsh Rareties

The Welsh Pony and Cob Society Museum has re-opened in Bronaeron, near Felinfach, according to the BBC.

Artefacts on display include medals, paintings, books and copies of its Welsh Stud Book, published annually since 1901.

This is a little fanciful though:

King Henry VIII believed that the only horses of value were those capable of being used in warfare, which resulted in his decree to destroy all stallions under 15 hands and mares under 13 hands.

But the breeds survived the slaughter by escaping into the Welsh hills.

From what I’ve read, this is a total misrepresentation of Henry’s legislation, and nothing like it was carried out – no “massacre of the innocents” took place, thank goodness. There was no infrastructure to enforce the death sentences, and ponies went on being sold in markets as before. According to Anthony Dent and Daphne Machine Goodall in Foals of Epona, the “disastrous fall” in the leather market didn’t help Henry either.

They speculate mischievously that Henry was

“…unsure of himself genealogically. He wanted to be legitimate. It had been enough for his father, the Lucky Harry of his day, to be King of England by the right of his arms and to continue so by the use of his wits and never mind the Almanach de Gotha. But Henry VIII badly wanted to be descended from the Lancastrians, the Plantagenets, the Angevins, the Normans, Aeneas, Hercules, the Trojans and Brut of Albion. He did not much want to be descended from Edmund Tudor, son of Owen Tudor, the Welsh squire  who had the luck and good sense to marry Henry V’s widow. So that every time he saw an undersized horse he thought of the little Welsh stallions running on the mountains, and it  cut him to the quick.”

Foals of Epona is, mischief aside, a beautifully and rigorously researched book the likes of which I cannot imagine a twenty-first century publisher commissioning, alas. I should recommend it to Faber Finds… Find old library copies while you can.

Published by Susanna Forrest

Writer Amazons of Paris, The Age of the Horse and If Wishes Were Horses.

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