Dynwen – Wales’s Saint of Love (Part 1)
There’s not much to tell really of my early life. Certainly no one could have predicted what would happen. Princess I was, but one among 24 daughters. In our busy household no one would have said I stood out. Not the prettiest , not the cleverest, not by a long way. Certainly not my father’s favourite. Why, when he had a kingdom to oversee would he even notice another girl, other than to comment on how much I ate or the expense of a new gown? To be fair, my mother kept me out of his way. Our mothers kept us all out of his way.
There was always so much to do anyway. Life wasn’t easy, even for a princess. From my earliest years my first job was to collect the hens’ eggs and woe betide me if I dropped one. As I grew, I tended cattle and sheep and the pigs and learned my way around the kitchen.
In every family there are times of great sweetness, and there were quarrels. We were no different. Among my sisters I loved some and avoided others. As they reached womanhood, one by one they were committed to marriage. Mostly, though not always, I remember obedient compliance.
Some went far away to live new and possibly strange lives in other lands. Some remained nearby. Some seemed to be happy with the choices made for them. Some wept bitterly, going to their new husbands trembling and wretched. Now and again. A sister would rebel and was beaten or locked up until she realised the futility of her resistance.
Those that moved away might never be seen again, married to warriors, or kings from other lands. There were sisters who stayed nearby, and sisters remaining in our household. Those sisters we watched swell about the waist with their babies, some of whom survived and grew as we had done to work the land and tend to the tasks of living.
My life had certain privileges. I never knew hunger and if I were cold, I could soon find warmth. I was petted and fussed over sometimes and ignored at others. I had no cause to question if I were happy. I did not consider what my future might be, not in the early days. I lived as the hours of the day dictated and the seasons spun around me in their correct orbit. We ate, we prayed, we laughed and we cried and time passed.
It was only when my feelings for Maelon first struck me that I found I had ambition. He was just a few years older than me; we had played together as children, but as I stepped onto the threshold of womanhood I saw him for the first time as a man and his beauty overwhelmed me .
I marvelled that I had not seen before that his eyes were the soft hazel of a doe. His hair was fiery red and his mouth seemed to me then in my innocence, the mouth of an angel. He made me laugh with his capering and, when he shyly took my hand, he made my heart beat fast like a bird that was captured in the cage of my body.
We met of course, as all lovers will, whenever opportunity presented. Sometimes it was for a moment stolen between chores. Sometimes there could be hours of languid dreaming, our hearts and lips hungry for one another in barn or meadow or wood.
Did no one notice? Of course they did but we were young and hot-blooded and there are always those with romantic hearts who will commit themselves to complicity to protect what looks like true love.
Of course there must come a time when lovers are discovered by those with less compassion in them, and this was inevitably so with us.
People will tell of us summoned to an audience with my father, the King, who ranted and railed against us. They will say that Maelon begged and that I crawled upon my knees before my Lord.
Some of my sisters had married for love. We knew that, and hoped for that blessing, but in my heart I knew we girls were a commodity, and if the match had not been convenient, love would have counted for nothing.
They say that my father, the King, fixed us with his fury and, with a heart hardened against us, dismissed us with dire warnings.
To be continued tomorrow…