Cornwall: A Celtic Nation Trapped in England
Cornwall: A Celtic Nation Trapped in England
Cornwall, or Kernow in the Cornish language (Kernowek), is a Celtic nation in southwest England.

It’s now an English county, but was once an independent Cornish Kingdom. Cornwall has maintained a distinct identity for centuries, and even its own language. Today, 400-500 people speak fluent Cornish, up from 4-5 following the Cornish language revival. I travelled to Truro, Cornwall’s capital, to meet Cornish locals and find out what makes Cornwall unique, aside from the Cornish pasty, of course. I spoke with a councillor for Mebyon Kernow, a Cornish nationalist political party, campaigners for Kernow Matters to Us (KMTU), fluent Cornish speakers, and someone from the Cornish Language Fellowship (Kowethas an Yeth Kernewek).

Cornwall lost its independence in 838, and has since been absorbed into the UK. It is separated from Devon, it’s neighbouring county, by the Tamar river, one of the oldest geopolitical boundaries in the world. The Cornish are ethnically and culturally distinct from the English, but as it is so culturally underrepresented in the media, many people in the rest of the UK don’t even know that a Cornish language exists. UNESCO changed the classification of Cornish from “extinct” to “critically endangered” in 2009, but the number of Cornish speakers is growing. Cornish is a Brythonic Celtic language (also known as a P-Celtic language, as opposed to Q-Celtic). There are several Celtic languages, but only two others exist in this category with Cornish; Welsh and Breton. 

Since Cornwall is part of England, which in turn is part of the UK, Cornwall is a country inside a country, inside a country. It is one of the 6 Celtic nations: Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Ireland, and Brittany in Northwestern France. There’s also debate over whether Galicia and Asturias in Northern Spain are Celtic nations as well, which would bring the total to 8. The Cornish are decendents of the Britons (aka Celtic Britons or Ancient Britons), who remained unconquered by the Saxons or the Normans, and even allied with some invaders of what is now England at times.  

Part 2

Author, educator, musician, dancer and all around creative type. Founder of "The Happy Now" website and the online jewelry store "Silver and Sage".

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