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The rivalry between England and Wales is well known throughout Britain and the general dislike of the English is something that binds many Welsh people together and is an underlying factor of Welsh culture. But what are the roots of this rivalry and how has it been perpetuated?
The main reasons why the Welsh hate the English can be summarised as historic factors, the Anglo-fication of Wales, holiday homes, and sporting rivalries.
In the rest of this article, we’ll look at each of these factors and uncover some statistics behind them to help us understand once and for all.
Why Do the Welsh Hate the English?
A survey of 300 Welsh people revealed that around a quarter of them said that they hate the English, this is a similar number to the French and far more than Germans. Below, we’ll break down the main reasons behind this statistic:
1. Sporting Rivalries
One of the most prominent rivalries between England and Wales is on the pitch. There is no doubt that rugby is massive in Wales and the on-pitch rivalry between England and Wales is only exacerbated by the cultural and historical rivalry.
In 1977 Phil Bennett, the Welsh rugby player, prior to a match against England roused his team by saying:
“Look what these b******s have done to Wales. They’ve taken our coal, our water, our steel. They buy our homes and only live in them for a fortnight every year. What have they given us? Absolutely nothing. We’ve been exploited, raped, controlled and punished by the English – and that’s who you are playing this afternoon.”The Telegraph
In this speech, Bennett actually touches on many of the reasons why the people of Wales have a general dislike for the English, aside from sporting rivalries.
However, it is natural when there is a history of contention that the anger and frustration built up over centuries surface in a high-stakes situation like a sports match. One need only visit Cardiff or any other big Welsh town during the Six Nations to gain a sense of the Welsh love of the sport and the hatred for the English.
But the rivalry doesn’t stop at rugby. A survey by History UK of 300 Welsh people revealed that a quarter of Welsh people hat the English, with football hooliganism among the top reasons.
2. The Anglo-Fication of Wales
For many Welsh people, the decline of the use of the Welsh language is representative of an overall loss of Welsh culture at the hands of the English.
According to the Annual Population Survey conducted by the Welsh government, around 30% of the population of Wales can speak some Welsh and around 15% speak it daily1 (source: Welsh Government). Whilst the general impression is that the use of the language is declining, those who can speak it are not.
29.7% is actually an 0.5% increase from the previous year and the figures have been gradually increasing since 2010 when the percentage was 25.2%.
3. Holiday Homes
As mentioned above in Bennett’s colourful quote, there is also anger towards the English who buy holiday homes in Wales.
As of January 2022, the number of second homes in Wales seems only small at just 23,974 of the 1.43 million dwellings in Wales. However, the high concentration of these second homes in their often small town and villages makes it such a prominent issue for Welsh people.
For example, 10.76% of the homes in Gwynedd are holiday homes, 9.15% of those in Pembrokeshire and 8.26% in Anglesey. This creates a number of issues for locals, not least it drives up the prices of the houses in the area2 (source: The Senedd).
4. Historical Factors that have Exacerbated the Rivalry
There are also deep-rooted, historical and cultural reasons for the resentment towards the English. For example, as far back as the Anglo-Saxon period, English kings and rulers were attempting to march into Wales and take it for themselves, despite the country having its own kings.
The historical rivalry between Wales and England began in 1066 when the Normans attempted to travel into Wales, albeit slowly. The Norman leader and new king of England William the Conqueror enforced his position in England by putting in place along the Anglo-Welsh border earls who would be loyal to him.
This led to centuries of war with the Welsh as powerful English earls, often acting on behalf of the English crown attempted to take pieces of Wales for themselves. Many of them built castles and a lasting legacy of this period is the sheer number of castles in Wales3 (source: Historic UK).
In more recent history the rivalry was exacerbated further by the industrial revolution. Wales was rich in natural resources, like coal and water sources. The English sought to exploit this and in the process treated the Welsh poorly.
Are the English Welcome to Wales?
Despite the age-old rivalries (and as an English woman who has spent three years of her life living in Wales), the people of Wales are warm and welcoming people. Because of this, and for many other reasons including Wales’ stunning natural beauty, many English people continue to visit and live there.
For example, according to The Guardian, in 2019 21% of the people living in Wales (650,000) were born in England, a quarter of which are aged over 65. Furthermore, according to a study by the Welsh government in the year 2018, there were 10.021 million overnight trips to the country by people who lived in Great Britain that year4 (source: Welsh Government).
Furthermore, these 10 million visitors brought with them an expenditure of £1,853 million. In addition to this, many English people visit and live in Wales for university. With eight universities, Wales attracts a great many English students every year. Often these students grow attached to the country and settle down there5 (source: The Guardian).
What Do the Welsh Think of the English
As a whole, the Welsh like the English and are very warm and welcoming, the rivalry often exists as banter between friends.
What Do the Welsh Call the English?
Apart from the most famous nickname for the Welsh used by the English that cannot be repeated here, there does not seem to be any other nationwide nicknames. There may be some nicknames that are part of regional dialects, however, and there are certainly those made by the Welsh for people from other parts of Wales.
Molly is Wales Guidebook's expert on castles. She has a master's degree in history and studied at Swansea University where she learnt about Welsh history and it's many castles. Molly loves to get out and explore historical buildings in person, with Oystermouth, Cardiff, and Caerphilly Castles among her favourites. When not geeking out on castles, Molly likes to spend her time reading, exploring the countryside or in the gym.