In the 12th century, the Welsh noblewoman, Nest ferch Rhys, was married to the Norman steward of Pembroke Castle, Gerald FitzWalter. One dark night, soon after Christmas, the Welsh prince of the neighbouring kingdom of Powys, Owain ap Cadwgan, broke into the castle where Nest, Gerald, their children and household were sleeping. Owain was accompanied by fourteen Welsh warriors and may have tunnelled under the gates to gain access.
Nest urged Gerald to escape down the castle toilet chute. Owain violated Nest and abducted her along with the couple’s four small children. Many aspects of the kidnap are uncertain – the date, the place (either Cilgerran Castle or Carew Castle), and Nest’s role. Was this a violent rape or did Nest collude and willingly cooperate with the abduction, as some historians claimed, dubbing her ‘Helen of Wales’?
My post discussing these questions is published today on The Writing Desk.
My trilogy on Nest ferch Rhys has just been reissued with new covers by Jessica Bell Design. The final book in the trilogy, The Anarchy, is published on Monday 1 May.
Cover image: No image of Nest ferch Rhys exists. The cover image shows Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Helen of Troy (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons).
If you want to delve into some of the sources for the kidnap, you can find them here.