King of Enlli
At the end of the C18 Enlli had a king. Nobody’s certain who he was or why a monarchy was established. One possibility is so that Enlli’s inhabitants could feel very much part of an independent state or members of Lord Newborough’s colony, and they were free from having to pay tax or rent.
In William Bingley's “North Wales” book, published in 1804 it is said that the unnamed king of Enlli was crowned around eight years earlier.
‘Curiosity induces many persons to visit this island almost every summer; but the grandest sight the present inhabitants ever witnessed, was a visit of the proprietor, Lord Newborough, about eight years ago, accompanied by Lady Newborough, and several persons of distinction, in the whole to the number of about forty. This company embarked in fishing smaks from Porthor, near Carreg Hall, in the parish of Aberdaron. On their arrival in the island, marquees were immediately pitched. The whole company dined in the open air; and, at the conclusion of their repast, all the inhabitants were assembled. The ensuing scene reminded a gentleman of my acquaintance, who was
present, of what he had read respecting the inhabitants of some of the SouthSea Islands. They were drawn up in a circle, and the Lady Newborough adorned the heads of the females with caps and ribbons, whilst Lord Newborough distributed hats among the men. The nominal king and queen of the island were distinguished from the rest by an additional ribbon.
Part of the day was occupied in strolling over the island, examining the creeks, and picking up shells; and the rest was spent in mirth and pleasantry. On the embarkation it was intended, being in the heat of summer, that the whole party should continue in the island till the next day. The ladies, however, in the evening suddenly changed their resolution, and judiciously ordered the boats to be got ready. The rest of the company followed so good an example, and the night was spent, under the hospitable roof of Mr.Thomas of Carreg, much more agreeably than could have been done in the island.’
‘North Wales’ Vol. I. William Bingley (1804)
This king died in 1826. He was not named but we can be certain of the date as Lord Newborough II (Thomas John Wynn) received a letter on 3 July regarding the design of Enlli’s lighthouse. The letter states that the King of Enlli had died.
'The poor old King of Bardsey is dead and buried on the island.'
There is no record of his grave in Enlli’s graveyard. Within three weeks Lord Newborough had visited Enlli on a ship called ‘Arvon’. He brought friends with him in other boats for the new king’s coronation.
John Williams I
John Williams, Cristin Uchaf was crowned (King John Williams Ist) in August 1826 and the crown was used for the first time. We assume that Lord Newborough was responsible for the crown and that he brought it with him to the ceremony.
King Enlli’s crown is now displayed in Bangor Museum, now known as Storiel, after spending many years in Liverpool’s Maritime Museum.
A detailed description of the 1826 coronation is given by John Jones FRGS who visited Enlli to write his articles on the island for ‘Y Traethodydd’ in 1884.
John Williams, King of Enlli (1841-1926)
‘The King and queen (John Williams 1st) have been dead for a while their three children remain, possessing the
regalia which consists of the crown and a snuff box. During the life of the present Lord Newborough’s uncle,
John Williams, Cristin was formally crowned king of the entire island, and there was quite a fuss about the
ceremony. The ceremony took place outdoors by the “Cafn”. The elected king was made to stand on a chair as
the crown was placed on his head, and spectators all shouted ‘Hooray’ which ripped the sky. As many as a
dozen yachts full of ladies and gentlemen floated nearby, all of which had come to the ceremony. To celebrate
the coronation cannons were fired continuously, fireworks were thrown from the yachts and money was
distributed to the islanders. It was a joyous day on the island. The crown remains with the Cristin Uchaf family to
this day, although there is no formal king or queen. The regalia remain there and displayed to visitors with joy
and much pleasure.’
King John Williams 1st was born in 1799. He farmed Cristin Uchaf and was the Trinity House agent on the island. In 1833 he heroically sailed the barque ‘Lady Douglas’ to safety at St. Tudwal's Islands. Despite his skills as a seaman John Williams drowned in the Swnt (Sound) on 14 April 1841. He was buried in Aberdaron cemetery. He reigned from 1826 to 1841.
A detailed report in the ‘Caernarvon Herald’ describes the tragic events of April 1841.
‘Having some business to transact at Pwllheli, John Williams, ‘Master of the Bardsey Light Tender’ and ‘King of
Bardsey,’ instructed his servant that morning between five and six o’clock to get a small boat ready, with a sprit
sail, for the purpose of crossing to Aberdaron. But after the two men had gone some distance John Williams
landed the servant on the island, saying that he could manage the boat very well alone. The servant went home
but he glanced back and saw that the boat had capsized. John Williams struggling in the water. The servant
dashed to get help and another boat was launched immediately and manned. The ebb tide had already drawn
John Williams a long way out to sea, his only support being two small oars, which he had managed to get under
his arms. When taken into the rescue boat he was said to have been much exhausted. He spoke but a few words
and expired. He was about 42 years of age and his wife had given birth to a child the Sunday evening prior to this
accident which made her a widow.’
The newborn baby was too young to succeed his father and it is likely that Enlli remained without a king until the end of C19.
Despite this, there is reference to the Rev. Robert Williams being the monarch. He was born in Y Gegin Fawr, in 1796 but lived on the island from 1824 until his death in 1875. He was buried in the cemetery.
In his diary, the Revd. William T Jones, a Missionary/Minister on Enlli from 1875 said that his predecessor Robert Williams was King of Enlli as well as a Calvinist Minister and farmer of Hen Dŷ and that his wife Sian was queen. He was highly respected and was called Esgob Enlli (Bishop of Enlli), and referred to himself as king. Whilst preaching on temperance in Betws Y Coed he told the congregation.
'Roedd yn uchel iawn ei barch fe’i gelwid yn Esgob Enlli ac yntau mae’n debyg yn honi iddo’i hun fod yn frenin. Tra’r
ddirwest ym Metws y Coed rhoddodd ar ddeall i’r gynulleidfa mai ef oedd y Brenin ac ymhellach,
“On the land where I live there is a King and queen who have signed the pledge and both are keen abstainers.”
John Williams II
John Williams from the Cristin family became king at the end of the C19. It is said that he reigned for a short period, possibly until 1918, and that he then emigrated to the mainland. Drink took its toll on him – spirits that came ashore following shipwrecks in the First World War. It is said that a cairn of empty beer casks was built on the mainland to attract John Williams. He unwillingly crossed the Swnt to the Promised Land and was soon taken to the workhouse in Pwllheli where he died.
M Dinorben Griffith visited John Williams II’s home in 1898 and provided the Wide World Magazine with an article (December 1899) together with a picture of his living room. But this is a photograph of the living room in Carreg Bach. John Williams lived in Cristin.
'The Bardsey of today is as unique as it was in the past. It has only seventy-two inhabitants thirty-six men and thirty six females. They are ruled by a "King," who is crowned on his election, and who, like his subjects, earns his bread by the sweat of his brow. The present Ruler succeeded his father, King John Williams the First, who was unfortunately drowned whilst crossing over alone to the mainland. With great difficulty we in-duced his present Majesty to sit for his portrait; it was the first and only one ever taken of him. He permitted the crown to be placed on his head for the occasion, but no persuasion even on the part of his wife could make him put on his regal Sunday suit. The crown is of home manufacture, and is neither very valuable nor very beautiful, and the King, with a sigh of intense relief, as soon as the sitting was over, exchanged his cumbrous emblem of sovereignty for an old hat.'
This is how the picture of John Williams II was taken, and it featured on a popular postcard.
King John Williams II wearing his crown in 1899
The last king of Enlli was born at Tŷ Pellaf and was not of the Cristin lineage. Love Pritchard was born in 1842 .That is how Syr Mortimer Wheeler met him in one of Aberdaron’s taverns when he visited Llŷn in 1922 but there was not much conversation.
‘Against the bar was leaning an old salt, with a mahogany face framed in whiskers. Then to our ‘good morning’ he vouchsafed a grunt. Then, after a long lapse, he spoke slowly in a rather gruff Caernarvonshire singsong – ‘Where did we come from?’ I rashly ventured ‘Cardiff.’ The fog thickened during another long pause, and then from the whiskers came the terse sentiment. ‘All sorts comes from
Cardiff’ followed by a skilful expectoration towards the door. Shortly afterwards our pirate, without further speech, left the bar and made his way down to the shore where a boy was preparing to hoist the sail in a twentyfoot boat. The postman leaned over the bar: ‘That was the new King of
Bardsey,’ he said, ‘he does not much like foreigners.’ So much we had inferred, but the prospects of our
forthcoming visit to the island kingdom were none the happier for our new knowledge.
Eventually our launch arrived. In mid channel we found the Royal Barge becalmed and adrift. I stopped the launch and offered a tow, which was grudgingly accepted. The gesture was not infructuous. When we landed, we were graciously beckoned by His Majesty to the hospitality of his cottage, and when we left the island that evening three lively lobsters of the most vivid ultramarine hue were put on board by Royal Command. During a long and difficult journey back to Caernarvon through the rainy darkness, the lobsters and I conducted an unceasing battle on the back seat of a lampless car. The lobster is a cunning and unprincipled fighter ...’
‘Still Digging’ (Sir Mortimer Wheeler) (1955)
According to Wheeler, Love Pritchard had been promoted king in 1918. But it is said that he had taken over the role in 1911, probably due to John Williams II’s condition.
Love Pritchard offered his services in the First World War but was rejected because of his age. This refusal did not please him, and it maybe explains why some people said jokingly that Enlli remained
neutral during the war and that it allegedly supported Kaiser Wilhelm II. A photograph features Love Pritchard with one of his boats in Porth Solfach wearing his crown in the company of Captain Jarret, one of the lighthouse keepers, and another of him in his working clothes wearing his crown. Like many of the islanders Love Pritchard left for the
mainland in the 1920’s.
A year before his death in 1926 he visited the National Eisteddfod in Pwllheli and was welcomed by the crowds as one of the ‘Cymry Tramor’ a Welshman visiting from another land.
He was buried in Aberdaron cemetery close to the beach.
In ‘Y Dinesydd’ (June 1931) there is an article about the last king of Enlli written by Gwylfa, the editor.
‘Indeed, it would be difficult to find anyone more skilful at catching shellfish than the folk of Enlli. This is what the
old Love Pritchard was doing up to the end of hil life catching lobsters. Even on his deathbed he called to his
sister “Put the lobster pot down, will you.” The old fisherman’s mind was now revisiting his ‘cynefin’ (haunt) his
favourite pastime...??? After the old king died his sister said:”The last thing he did you see was catch lobsters.
He knew where to get them, and he was telling me where to put the pot down, poor Love, “the last of the kings.”
This is how his island career came to an end. He was of the same blood as Madryn family Sir Love Jones Parry
and his line. The same name runs in the lineage “Love”. The king was honest and harmless. He would
sometimes drink when visiting Aberdaron, but if his antics were reported, “I only had four small glasses, Mr
Ifas.” Then he would detail where he’d enjoyed each one of the four glasses, with the innocence of a child. There
was no nonsense about the old islander.’