New Prince of Wales? Ancient capital prefers to celebrate Owain Glyndŵr | Wales

While King Charles III and Camilla, the Queen Consort, are being greeted with pomp and ceremony during their visit to Cardiff on Friday, preparations will be under way for a modest but defiant event to be staged 100 miles north in the market town of Machynlleth.

The town’s people will gather to mark Owain Glyndŵr Day, a celebration of the life and legacy of the last Welshman to be known as Prince of Wales, the title bestowed by Charles on William in his first speech as king.

“There will be some folk music, a few drinks, a bit of food,” said Huw Morgan, one of the organisers. “I reckon it will be packed.”

Certainly, the event is bound to be more pointed than usual, with Charles’s announcement that William would become Prince of Wales – Tywysog Cymru – going down badly with many nationalists and republicans.

By Wednesday, almost 25,000 people had signed a petition calling for the title to be abolished and activists have vowed to protest at the ceremonies in the Welsh capital.

Morgan, a professor of astronomy, said: “There are lots of people like me who don’t care to hear about the royal family. They are entitled, they are rich and assume they rule over Wales.” Morgan has nothing against the royals as individuals. “But they are symbols of oppression. The English royal family was imposed on Wales centuries ago.”

Elwyn Vaughan with his dog
Elwyn Vaughan: ‘People do feel hurt and insulted by this sudden announcement.’ Photograph: Dmitris Legakis/The Guardian

Machynlleth, which bills itself as the ancient capital of Wales, is home to Glyndŵr’s senedd-dŷ (parliament building), where the 15th century Welsh leader reputedly held an assembly after being crowned prince as he fought the English for an independent Wales.

Gail Jenkins, who runs the Caffi Alys next to the parliament house, said many people were upset by the alacrity of Charles’s decision. “It didn’t give us a chance to have our say. This would have been a great time to show unity and not impose this on us again.”

A local Plaid Cymru councillor, Elwyn Vaughan, said there had been a backlash: “People think they have been taken for granted.”

An Owain Glyndwr statuette
The last Welsh Prince of Wales: an Owain Glyndŵr statuette inside the Senedd Dy. Photograph: Dmitris Legakis/The Guardian

Vaughan said there was some warmth for Charles and his thinking on the environment in Machynlleth, which for decades has been a haven for the eco-conscious, and for William, who worked as a search and rescue pilot in north Wales.

He said: “People have been restrained, have tried to show respect to those who do genuinely care about the royal family but they do feel hurt and insulted by this sudden announcement.

“If we are supposed to be an island of equals, then show respect. We need to respect our neighbours, England, and the establishment there but they must respect us as Wales, our historical differences, our culture, our language, our outlook on the world. Otherwise you create division, hate and negativity.”

Charles’s investiture in 1969 at Caernarfon Castle in north Wales led to protests and years of bitterness for many. The Welsh Labour first minister, Mark Drakeford, said this week there was an “alive” debate surrounding the role and “no rush” for William’s investiture.

But the very idea of any sort of investiture angers many. Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts, said her party had not wanted this conversation now out of respect for those grieving. “But a conversation about an investiture of the Prince of Wales has been started by the first minister and others.

“We should remind ourselves that, unlike the constitutional role of the monarch, the Prince of Wales is a purely ceremonial title. It is for the King to decide what he wishes to call his son. An investiture, however, funded by public money and attended by politicians and diplomats, would give the Prince of Wales a semi-official role as a representative of our nation.”

Judith Williams in her shop door with portrait of Queen in window.
A small portrait in Judith Williams’ shop window was the only sign of the Queen’s death in Machynlleth high street. Photograph: Dmitris Legakis/The Guardian

Laura McAllister, professor of public policy and the governance of Wales at Cardiff University, said if there were to be an investiture it would be much more low key than in 1969. McAllister said there was “some ambivalence” around the title and role of Prince of Wales and that people were “taken aback slightly” by the swiftness of the announcement. “Given, I’m sure, that he is aware of the tension that exists over the title, it does seem odd that it was so rushed.”

On the main shopping street in Machynlleth the only sign of the Queen’s death was one framed portrait next to a vase of roses in a shoe shop window.

“I wanted to pay my respects,” said Judith Williams, who created the display. “I know not many people here have done anything. We like the royal family and will be taking three of the grandchildren to London this weekend. Her passing in Scotland seemed to make Scottish people come together. We haven’t had that in Wales as much. It’s a shame.”

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