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Monday, June 8, 2009

A Real Historical Hussy

If you looked in the dictionary under Historical Hussy, I have no doubt you would find a picture of Princess Nest of Wales.

During the Norman invasions and conquest of Southern Wales, war and upheaval was an everyday part of life. Had her father lived, Nest would have been a common noblewoman, married to a prince of a neighboring land. But the death in battle of Rhys ap Tewder, the last true king of South Wales, changed the fate of his young daughter and also the path of the History of three countries. 

The Normans realized the value of holding the kings children as their hostage. Her brothers were captives of Norman invaders in Ireland and England and at the tender age of ten or eleven, Nest was sent to live at under the rule Arnulf of Montgomery. 

Arnulf was one of the most powerful Normans in Southern Wales, so young Nest found herself in the company of men who would change the history of Wales. She was a very pretty child and caught the eye of Prince Henry, the brother and probable heir to England’s king, William Rufus.

Henry had himself appointed her protector and, as Nest grew into a great beauty, of course he fell in love with her. The only problem was the future king could not marry a low-level Welsh princess. Nest was smart enough to realize that the mistress of a prince and possible king, had nearly as many advantages as being his wife. She bore Henry a son, also named Henry and the FitzHenry line was born.

After Henry became king in 1100, he undertook to make sure that Nest and her son were provided for by marrying her to a favored vassal, Gerald of Windsor. Gerald was Henry’s steward of south Wales, so Nest became the most powerful woman in the territory.  She bore him several and so we have the FitzGerald’s.

In 1109, the beautiful Nest, caught the eye of Owain ap Cadwgan, the leader of the Welsh resistance to the Normans. He kidnapped Nest from Gerald’s castle and carried her off to his own lands. She reportedly had a child by him and so Nest added her royal blood to the FitzOwain’s line as well. King Henry had to eventually intervene to send Nest back to Gerald. Rumor has it that she was not happy about it, but to maintain the peace, she went back to Pembroke Castle.

Nest managed to outlive Gerald and married twice more. She had a son by Hait, the sheriff of Pembroke and two more children by her last husband, Stephen, the Constable of Cardigan. So the Hay’s and the FitzStephens’ can lay claim to being of royal blood as well.

Quite a busy woman was Princess Nest of Dyfed. In her lifetime, she managed to be the mother of five prominent families. Many of her children rose to importance in Wales and England. Placed as a hostage with the Normans as a child, Nest could have been merely a pawn in the politics and intrigue of the times. Instead she used her beauty and brains to become an astute manipulator of men, English and Welsh.


If you’d like to know more about Nest of Dyfed and her times, I recommend, Princess Nest of Wales: Seductress of the English, by Kari Maund.


Hanna Rhys Barnes is one of those people with an evenly balanced right and left brain.  She has a BA in English, but recently finished her final year as a high school math teacher.  She loves to cook and was a pastry chef in a former life.

A member of RWA’s national organization and of several local chapters, she currently lives and works in Portland, OR, but occasionally visits her retirement ranchette outside of Kingman, AZ

Hanna’s Debut Novel, Widow’s Peak, is due to be released September 23, 2009 from The Wild Rose Press. She is currently working on Book 2 in the series, Kissed By A Rose.



Jeannie Lin said...

I love learning about influential women in history. Princess Nest sounds like a fierce woman who could definitely hold her own.

Hywela Lyn said...

What a fascinating entry, Hanna. As a fellow WRP author, and a Welsh woman (now exiled in England LOL) I am always interested to learn more about my own country and its history. I didn't know much about Nest, although I come from Aberystwyth, a few miles from Cardigan. There are so many characters in history who lend themselves well to a romance novel!

Mary Ricksen said...

I love a blog that teaches me something.

Emma Lai said...

Great post! Princess Nest is just the type of historical woman who fascinates me.

Minnette Meador said...

Wow...a princess and, from the sounds of it, mother to the future of Wales. Quite an accomplishment. It's interesting that she did not want to leave her kidnapper. Stockholm syndrome? :)

Jen Childers said...

LOL she didnt want to leave her kidnapper because he was a sexy viking. I did read something that said the English women appreciated the bathing habits of the vikings. Hey if you gotta be conquered...
I had never heard of her, this was really interesting.