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The Harp in Medieval Welsh Law

By the laws of Wales (Leges Wallicae), a harp was one of the three things that were necessary to constitute a gentleman, or a freeman; and none could pretend to that character who had not one of these favorite instruments, or could not play upon it. To prevent slaves from pretending to be gentlemen, it was expressly forbidden to teach, or to permit, them to play upon the harp; and none but the king, the king’s musicians, and gentlemen, were allowed to have harps in their possession. A gentleman’s harp was not liable to be seized for debt; because the want of it would have degraded him from his rank, and reduced him to that of a slave.

William Chappell
Popular Music of the Olden Time, Vol. 1
1859, reprinted Dover, 1965
p. 5

Source: The Wire-Strung Harp


Harp (Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911)


Brutus of Troy (English mythology)

1 Comment

  1. Tim B.

    Same source URL as above:

    “Although in Ireland and Wales in later centuries the harp became associated to a great extent with what is loosely called ‘folk-music’, this was the result of particular political and social circumstances. The harp has generally been an aristocratic, high art instrument, and nowhere more so than in Ireland in medieval times. It was a valuable object, produced by an expert instrument maker and then often exquisitely decorated. A harper was a skilled specialist musician, and no poor man could have maintained or hired one, any more than he could maintain a race-horse today.

    Joan Rimmer
    The Irish Harp/Cláirseach na hÉireann
    Cló Mercier, Corcaigh, 1977
    p. 37”

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