The following is an account of the law and society as they stood in ancient Britain during the centuries preceding the Roman invasion of 55 BC. It is based upon the surviving laws of king Dyfnal Moel Myd (Dunvallo Molmutius), who reigned in the 5th-4th centuries BC. […]
Wherever little children, dogs, and poultry are found, the place has a right to the privilege of the court and the sacred place. The fields were private property, but cultivated in common tillage. The wild land was tribal property, free for wood-cutting, hunting, and gathering acorns to feed pigs; but it could not be taken into cultivation without consent of the lord and his court. Iron mines were common property; but the ore dug out was private. […]
The mutual bonds of a social state are equal protection, tillage, arid law. The duties of public help, which every person must render, are in invasion, the public cry of base deeds or murder, and fire. […]
In more personal matters no arms might be shown in a convention of the country and lord, or convention of independence, or convention of the bards. The things indispensable to a free man were his tunic, harp and kettle. The indispensables of a vassal were his hearthstone, bill-hook and trough. The property of which a man might not be deprived were his wife, children, clothes, arms, and implements of the privileged arts. The three ornaments of a tribe were a book, a harp, and a sword, and they could not be distrained by law. […]
The native rights of all freeborn men and women were the gift and free use of five acres of land (eight English acres), the carrying of arms, and a vote to a man at puberty, and to a woman when she marries. A woman also had the privilege that if she had a son by a foreigner against her consent, as when in the power of foreigners in any way, by tribal order or accident, her son inherited as a free man, although a foreigner could not inherit privileges of free men for nine generations. Each generation of bondmen or foreigners that married a freeborn woman gained one degree of the nine necessary for freedom. […]
Learning was greatly respected. Privilege of support was given to rank, to bards or teachers, and to orphans. The free man must support a wife, also a fighting man if he does not fight himself, and a family tutor. The family teacher was exempt from all manual work, bearing arms, or cultivation, like infants and the aged. The privileged arts, that give complete liberty, are bardism, metallurgy, and learning or literature. Those who profess these have an extra five acres of land besides their five acres as free men. The smith, mason, and carpenter all had equal rights. No bondman was to learn the arts of freemen; if he did so he was free, but his sons reverted to bondage. Hereditary learning therefore kept the family free, before the nine generations of bondage were over. […]
The most remarkable part of the law was the respect to foreigners. A foreigner under the protection of the tribe must be assisted in travel. He was as a trader not to be oppressed or injured though speaking a barbarous tongue. The foreigner practising arts obtained the status of freeman in the third generation. He was to be allowed an advocate in law courts, protection and support from the taxes, and to be excused in case of capital crime, as ignorant (????). In case he was shipwrecked on the coast he had free maintenance.