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Program 119
Caernarfon, Gwynedd, WalesHighlightsLocation

Caernarfon, in northwest Wales, lies at a strategic point on the southern end of the Menai Straits, which separate Anglesey from the mainland. A vibrant stronghold of Welsh culture and language, Caernarfon's history stretches back further even than most "ancient" towns and villages. In fact, Caernarfon has been continuously inhabited since before Roman times. To this day the town is still presided over by an ancient Roman fortress. Segontium, which was occupied for almost 40 years from A.D. 78, was the Roman Empire's westernmost stronghold.

But Caernarfon is perhaps best known for a different, though no less picturesque fortress, which was the site of the investiture of Prince Charles as the current Prince of Wales in 1969. The 21-year-old prince stood within the magnificent medieval walls of Caernarfon Castle at the mouth of the Seiont River, as his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, invested him Prince of Wales. It was an ancient rite in a truly modern age, as images of the ceremony were broadcast around the world.

The English royal tradition actually dates to the 13th century. In 1277 King Edward I and his English armies invaded the neighboring principality of Wales, defeating the forces of Prince Llewelyn ap Gruffydd. To mark out the perimeter of his conquests, Edward went on to erect a series of castles throughout Wales. At Caernarfon, Edward began to build the mighty fortified palace we see today, with its polygonal towers and colorful stone walls. He hoped it would reflect the awe of Constantinople, then the center of Roman empirical power. Edward's son, who would eventually rule as Edward II, was born in Caernarfon Castle in 1284, his father creating him the first English prince of Wales. And from that time on, the title has been bestowed by the monarch upon male heirs to the English throne.

Also housed within Caernarfon Castle is the museum of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, Wales' oldest infantry regiment. In continuous service to Great Britain since their founding in 1689, the Fusiliers have been in nearly every campaign involving the British army for the past 300 years. In World War I, nearly 10,000 Fusiliers gave their lives. Among those who survived were the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves. It was Sassoon who penned the lines that capture so well the bitter ironies of warfare and patriotism:

"You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
who cheer when soldier lads march by.
Sneak home, and pray you'll never know
the hell where youth and laughter go."

Despite its martial heritage, Caernarfon today is a peaceful, albeit bustling, market town, government center and popular tourist destination where visitors can experience one of Wales' most historic places set against a backdrop of great natural beauty.

To learn more about Caernarfon, visit: and castle.htm.


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