Friday, November 20, 2015

Gwenllian, the Warrior Princess

A Welsh tragedy. From English Historical Fiction Writers:
What the Lord of Gwynedd said to his son and wife when he returned from England to find that Gwenllian was now married to the Prince of Deheubardd is not recorded but the alliance changed Welsh politics. The word ‘alliance’ still means ‘wedding ring’ in modern French and medieval marriages were as important as battles in shaping events. But Gwenllian was no mere trade object. Her soubriquet of ‘warrior princess’ was earned by living rough and fighting alongside her husband.

When Henri I died in 1135 and England was unstable, combined Welsh forces from north and south rose up against the Anglo-Norman castles in a more organised way. At one point in these skirmishes and sieges, Gruffydd won Kidwelly Castle, and Gwenllian lived there for a few months, pregnant, and enjoying the life of a lady. However, Deheubardd was not strong enough to hold Kidwelly. Soon Gwenllian was once more living with her people in the wooded hills, the traditional Welsh tactic to protect women and children in times of war. The nomadic way of life allowed lightning strikes and withdrawals, so the marcher lords were never secure. One consequence of this period was to convince Maurice de Londres, Lord of Kidwelly Castle, that Gruffydd and Gwenllian were a serious threat to Kidwelly.

In 1136 Gruffydd was in North Wales, seeking help from his father-in-law and Gwenllian was Lord of Deheubardd in Gruffydd’s absence. She received word that a Norman army was on its way from England to meet up with Maurice de Londres, intending to wipe out Gruffydd, Gwenllian and their troublesome family. (Read more.)

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