The Reformation in England was, to begin with, a purely political movement. Henry VIII. wished to rule his people in his own way, in religion as well as in politics; and, eventually, he became Supreme Head of the Church as well as the king of the country. His new power brought changes. It was necessary to reform the Church, and the wealth of the monasteries tempted him to do it. There was a new spirit of enquiry, and the King was led on by that spirit, with dilatory and hesitating steps, to examine old creeds. The religious fervour of the Reformation had caught the people; and the King stood still, if he did not turn back.

But his ministers had no misgivings. Thomas Cromwell tried to hurry the Reformation on - the monasteries were dissolved, the Bible was translated, and the sway of Rome was disowned. The king appointed the bishops, decided church cases, and even determined what the creed of his country was to be. Somerset, in the reign of Edward VI., made the movement a doctrinal one, and forced it on with equal vigour.

Wales looked on, with indifference and apathy at first, and then with murmurs. The movement had no attraction: it had many causes of offence. In England the political movement became a patriotic, an intellectual, and a religious movement; and it succeeded. In Ireland, also, it was political, but it could not appeal to patriotism, because it was an English movement; and it failed. In Wales, it was neither welcomed nor opposed; it was simply tolerated, and with a bad grace.

For one thing, it brought English instead of Latin into public worship. Latin, the old language of prayer and even of sermon, was venerated, though not understood. But English was not only not understood, it was also regarded as inferior to Welsh. The Tudors' dislike of various tongues was as strong as their dislike of various jurisdictions. Henry VIII., in giving Welshmen the Act of 1535, says that the tongue of Owen Tudor is "nothing like ne consonant to the natural mother-tongue used within this realm," and enacts that all officials in Wales shall speak English. And, in the same spirit, the Welshman was told that the Kingdom of Heaven was now open to him, but that he must seek it in English, or not at all.

Again, the reformers - men of the type of Bishop Barlow - despised and shocked a people they never understood. The sanctity of St David's, the theme of the best poets of the Middle Ages and the goal of generations of pilgrims, was described by its Protestant bishop - who unroofed the palace in order to get the lead - as a desolate angle frequented only by vagabond pilgrims. A Welshman is not appealed to by what is an insult to his country and a shock to his religion at the same time. The relics were ruthlessly swept away; they were taken possession of by the agents of Cromwell and destroyed, or sent to London. The images carried in the village processions were lost - the images that could keep the superstitious Welshman from hell, or even bring him back from it, or heal his diseases, or keep his cattle from the murrain, and his crops from blight. I only know of one of those relics that can still be seen. It is the healing cup of Nant Eos, a mere fragment of wood. The people's faith in the relics can be estimated from the fact that the cup has been used within the last century.

Again, the monasteries were dissolved. The wealth of the monasteries, their meadows and barns and sheep-runs and fish ponds, were coveted by the rich; the poor thought of them as sources of alms. The monks were good landlords; and they gave freely, not only the comforts of religion, but of their medicinal herbs and stores of food. The Welsh monasteries were not so rich as those of England, and they were all dissolved among the lesser monasteries - those with an income under 200 pounds a year. But though none of them were very rich, they nearly all had almost 200 pounds a year. Their loss affected the whole country, as each part of Wales had one or two of them - Tintern, Margam, Neath, and Whitland in the south; Strata Florida, Cwm Hir, Ystrad Marchell, and the Vanner in central Wales; and Basingwerk and Maenan in the north.

The Reformation brought the poorer classes in Wales, not only insults to their national and religious feelings, but material loss. It appealed only to the English bishops who had adopted the new Protestant tenets, and to the Welsh and English landowners who had lost their reverence for relics, and had learnt to hunger for land.

The movement was a severe strain on the loyalty of the Welshman to the Tudors, but he had learnt to look to the king for guidances and he suffered in silence. Mary was welcomed, and no Welsh blood was shed for the Protestant faith. The passive resistance to the Reformation might have broken out into a rebellion if a leader had come.

In Elizabeth's reign two attempts were made to disturb the religious settlement. One was made by the Jesuits - the wonderful society established to check the Reformation movement and to lead a reaction against it. In 1583 John Bennett came to North Wales; in 1595 Robert Jones came to Raglan; and several Welsh Jesuits suffered martyrdom. The other attempt was that of John Penry, who wished to appeal to the intellect of the people by means of the pulpit and the printing press. The apostle of the new creed was crushed, like those who wished to revive the old; he was put to death as a traitor in 1593, after a short life of importunate pleading that he might preach the Gospel in Wales.

Before the end of the reign of Elizabeth, however, the Welsh language was recognised. The last school founded, that of Ruthin in 1595, was to have a master who could teach and preach in Welsh. And in 1588 there had appeared, by the help of Archbishop Whitgift, the Welsh Bible of William Morgan. It was the appearance of this Bible that aroused the first real welcome to the Reformation. But the Reformation that gave England a Spenser and a Shakespeare aroused no new life in Wales, not a single hymn or a single prayer.