At the end of last month we saw a clash with huge cultural and political significance take place in South West London. One that comes at least once a year and is rooted in years of conflict, deceit, upset and eventual submission. No, it’s not Wales playing rugby against England at Twickenham, it’s the definitely-not-invented-by-a-press-release CLASH OF THE CAMBRIDGES.

In their official roles as patrons of the WRU and English RFU, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge respectively, now get to sit above the action in a Six Nations match like Roman emperors ready to declare pollice verso on the lowly combatants beneath them.

Columnist Leigh Jones asks which nation the Welsh Rugby Union really serves. Source: Huw Evans Picture Agency &  PAJoaquin Phoenix as Emperor Commodus in Gladiator (2000). Pollice verso is a Latin phrase, meaning 'with a turned thumb'. Photo: Universal Pictures

As if the spectacle of “the rugger” couldn’t have been sanitised more in recent years than by the prawn sandwich brigade, the event attendees and sky high ticket prices, the English Royal Family’s PR machine has decided to reduce the stakes from centuries of history and conflict to one of a household feud between a wife and her faithful, devoted husband.

No more important than betting for matchsticks on the Grand National.

Prince George dutifully sat between the Duke and Duchess at the game to temper the appearance of any genuine conflict. Like an eight-year-old fire blanket being preemptively deployed. As if that perfect couple would ever disagree on anything!

Columnist Leigh Jones asks which nation the Welsh Rugby Union really serves. Source: Huw Evans Picture Agency &  PA

William took over as patron of the WRU five years ago when his grandmother divested herself of 25 different patronages as she reduced her workload on her ninetieth birthday.

There must have been long discussions in the palace as they doled out the patronages to her descendents as they contemplated what would be the most politically appropriate inheritances. Princess Anne got the Royal Geographical Society, for some reason Camilla got Battersea Dogs Home, and Anne also retained the patronage of Save the Children, despite rumours of a dispute over that one between her and Andrew.

It should come as no surprise to anybody that William would get “the Welsh ones”. And by great fortune to his future self, he got the crown jewel of Welsh patronages.

READ MORE: Why does Wales wear the three feathers? The history behind the symbol

We love our rugby, don’t we? Us Welsh. What better way to ingratiate oneself with their future subjects than to cheer for their rugby team at the games as if you were one of the lowly werin datws? Although it’s safe to say that he probably has somebody to get up for him and obstruct somebody else’s view every five minutes.

Of course, the English royal family’s buttering up of Wales towards William has been a long time coming. After the bombing campaign in the lead up to Charles’ investiture as Prince of Wales, it only makes sense that the royals have decided to play the long game with William instead of just sending him to Aberystwyth for a couple of months and hoping for the best.

Royals of William’s rank by default don’t have surnames, but computer and data systems need them. When he graduated from Sandhurst’s academy they needed to find a placeholder, and 'Lieutenant Wales' received his commission.

His time living on Ynys Môn was another early warning sign that the protests and anger around Charles’ investiture hadn’t changed the royal family’s mind about giving the title of Prince of Wales to the heir of the English throne, but that they simply had to be more subtle and win people’s consent before foisting him upon Wales.

Columnist Leigh Jones asks which nation the Welsh Rugby Union really serves. Source: Huw Evans Picture Agency &  PAPrince Charles' investiture at Caernarfon Castle in 1969

I’m sure that William is lovely if you get to know him, regardless of whether or not you're the most English of roses. But the symbolism of helicoptering an English future head of state into a ceremonial role in one of Wales’s most apparently Welsh institutions is so completely patronising.

Questions must be asked of the WRU who are apparently happy to be used in this way.

Contemporary Wales and Welshness owes a huge part of its existence to the establishment of separate Welsh institutions in the nineteenth century - the WRU perhaps chief among them. But the context of that time was that Wales had a proud, separate identity sat at the top table of the British empire. Right on the edge, far from middle and surviving on crumbs passed down, but at the top table nonetheless.

READ MORE: Michael D. Jones: Tad y Wladfa – or father of the modern Welsh nation?

The empire has long gone, so how does the WRU express a distinct Welshness today?

There’s been a long-standing relationship between the WRU and the Royal Welch Fusiliers (re-badged in 2006 as The Royal Welsh), who famously parade their goat at home games. A more apt metaphor for the way that the WRU sees Wales’ role could not be devised. A first line infantry division operating in the British army - the Welsh making sacrifices for the greater good of the UK.

In Wales, rugby frequently gets described as “our national sport”, but which nation is rarely specified.

When you see those three feathers dotted across the tie of the future English king, feathers that used to bear the German for “I serve”, one has to ask who Welsh rugby currently serves.

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