Princess Nest – Chapter 3
Nest ferch Rhys was born around 1085 – the daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr (Rhys ap Tudor Maw), King of the Deheubarth, and Gwladys ferch Rhiwallon ap Cynfyn of Powys. At only 13 Nest became the mistress of Henry I before he became king. During her life she bore nine children to five different men, was at one time abducted and generally led an eventful life for a woman of her time. Despite this, there is not a lot of information about her. The following series is based on some essential historical research and our own imagination.
Those early days… The king was in England and his court was in the charge of his steward who did not bother to greet us but sent a surly serving woman to lead us up a winding stairway to our rooms. We were exhausted but I could not rest until I had swept the place free of stale, soiled straw.
The castle was so different from our home. The simplicity of our wooden hall and warmth of our own hearth were going to be sorely missed. This grey stone fortress of stairways and cold, echoing chambers with heavy wooden doors felt unwelcoming, and I wondered how we would not freeze when winter came.
We had no choice but to make the best of things. Over the weeks that followed, the horror of our journey caused my Nest to be, at least at first, and against her normal nature, unnaturally cautious. I was grateful for that, not least as my violation had consequences to be endured.
When my woman’s time did not come, at first I prayed that it was the difficulties of the past month, but when my stomach began to broil and heave I knew the worst. If we had been at home in our fair Welsh hills, I would have known what herbs to use to end the problem, but in those early days we were confined close, and even if I could have gone abroad, the land was strange.
You may judge me that I could think of such a thing and I know that God will judge me too when I stand before him in the last days, but I was less pious then and not so close in time to that inevitable end. My heart was set upon my lady and her wellbeing, not my eternal soul, and to be truthful, it was not the worst of either thought or deed in the matter that would follow in the days to come.
I had not seen my husband for many months before we were forced to leave our home. Long ago, when my little one was but a babe, I had urged him to find another woman as I was bound now to my little Princess, but of occasion we did meet, if fleetingly, in those years that she was growing from kittenhood to young womanhood.
I should have liked to see his sweet face one more time before I was forced away from the land I loved. I could not know it then but the last time we were together in this sad life was on the night of a full and chilly moon in early spring. I remember still his firm arms around me beneath the old chestnut tree that was our meeting place. My last remembering was of his hand raised in farewell.
I had raised myself up to brush a lock of hair from his eyes and to kiss his soft lips. I cannot now, in the dark of my years, recall his dear face but the image of his turning to wave in the moonlight, then his beloved body trudging away through the trees while I clung to myself in grief at our parting, is etched upon my heart.
I had known no other man, before or since, so this worm in my belly was the seed of that bastard who had tried to rob my girl of her innocence. I could not know how these strangers might behave to me if they knew I was carrying a child. What if they took me for a whore and turned me out, leaving my Princess to fend for herself without friend or comforter?
I could not forgive him, the one who had placed us in this predicament, and I could not find in my heart the love or compassion natural to a mother. Though I prayed long and hard to the Mother of our Lord in Heaven for acceptance. No acceptance came.
I called then upon the dark lady and the ways of the earth and I did what any wild abandoned thing does in her grief and rage, I plotted against the evil I felt within me. I denied the foul thing all sustenance, hoping that if I ate little and worked with all my strength, it would come to a natural end and leave my body.
To be continued…