There is a very interesting article on wikipedia on Welsh Law. Though it defines the structure of the Court in Wales in the late medieval period, it says nothing of the status of other nobles and notable personages compared to those in the king's household.

In addition to that I read that both Ireland and Wales consisted (pre-Normanisation) of petty kingdoms. What was the way these kingdoms worked? Did they have a common social structure and laws? Were they classic fiefdoms with the king appointing the power to the Nobles and they in turn to other minor ones? Was there a reason why these two nations have so much in common (common ancestry maybe?) or is it far-fetched to even propose that. Even their laws seem to have been of the same philosophy.

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    Common descent, certainly: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celtic_nations Jun 26, 2013 at 8:51
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    I took the liberty to retag a bit... Jun 26, 2013 at 8:57
  • What is the question? Could you update the title to be a question to clarify what it is you want to know? The second paragraph contains a lot of very very broad questions, and I'm not sure where to start research.
    – MCW
    Aug 5, 2015 at 12:05

1 Answer 1


The modern conception of kingdoms is viewed as synonymous with the nation/state - i.e. Great Britain or Spain or Sweden. A kingdom could be viewed as a unit of sovereign law - thus if I run things on some island and the island is not otherwise 'possessed' by another country then I am 'king'.

Migratory tribes tend to have leaders responsible for making rules and settling disputes, the term we usually use today are 'chieftains' such as for American Indians or the Irish. If a tribe occupies and claims a fixed territory then it becomes a 'kingdom'. In such a circumstance the king becomes responsible for law, dispute resolution, and defense. Often such kingdoms formed alliances with other kingdoms for common defense, but over time the strongest of these tended to take over neighboring territories, and the 'kings' of these subordinate territories became lesser ranked nobles. This is what we see coming out of the Middle Ages, such as when the Tudor family assumed control of England.

At some point the combination of sovereign kingdoms into a greater whole creates an 'empire'. Thus we have a Japanese empire that was the assimilation of various sovereign families that controlled distinct regions within Japan. Often a kingdom in the early middle ages might control an area that we would currently describe as a 'county' - just large enough to see the borders from a central fort or castle.

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    This is a decent general disquisition on government - but how does it answer the very specific question on Wales and Ireland? Jun 26, 2013 at 21:31
  • Indeed it is very intresting, but the question was about the structure of the Goverment of Wales and Ireland while they consisted of petty kingdoms. In this case it was for many years (near 300 for Ireland) that no kingdom ascertained control over the others. Jun 28, 2013 at 12:10
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    @Felix - it doesn't answer the specific question. It puts the topic in a larger context. Other responses will hopefully fill in more details. Jun 28, 2013 at 19:26

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