Princess Nest – Chapter 4
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.
As the unwelcome seed grew in my belly, I said nothing to my charge, but she noticed soon enough that I ate little, and even though our captors watched us less, I went abroad not much. Nest brought me sweetmeats and tasty treats from table and urged me eat. She began to learn the tongue of these Norman men and women and tried to lift my spirits with gossip from the court. Time passed and my belly swelled with persistent new life.
One day she came to me while I lay in our bed exhausted and aching with impotent fury. Climbing onto the bed beside me she took a handkerchief of fine linen and brought from it a rose crafted from marzipan. Knowing this to be my favourite, she had stolen it from the kitchen where a feast was being prepared.
I shook my head, thanking her but saying I was not hungry. She shook her head and reaching into her gown brought forth a piece of looking glass and held it before my face.
“ Look, Alwen,” she said, “look at what you are becoming.”
The fragment showed the hollows of my eyes and the sunkenness of my cheeks. I knew my teeth were becoming loose in my gums too but the shock of the sallow skull’s face that looked back at me made me weep.
“I cannot lose you, you are my mother, my sister and my dearest friend,” my sweetheart said softly, stroking the hair from my face, her own eyes filling with tears.
Then she placed her hand on my belly. “This might have been me, but for you. Together we will make all things well.”
Nothing more was said and I saw reason. I began to go abroad, to sit in the sun, and sometimes even to laugh again, though still hiding my condition. I began to eat again also, but just enough to keep my body and soul together in the hope that the blight within me would wither and die.
The court was a strange place for us. There were few women and those that were were pale, pretty, fluffy-headed beings of no great learning and with little conversation. The king had no wife and no children, preferring the company of young men. These young men wore their hair long and dressed in delicate pointed shoes and finely embroidered suits. They showed little interest in my Princess in the ways that I had feared, but instead loved to pet her and dress her as though she were a pretty cat.
For the first time since we had left our home, there was much laughter and I felt myself relax. We knew that the king had a fearsome reputation and wondered what would happen upon his return to court, but always some gossip or scandal or pretty tale diverted us.
Then, some seven months from the incident in the forest, my pains began. I will not dwell on the birthing. When I groaned in pain, afraid to cry out, my dear little one soothed me. She was no milksop maiden, my Nest. God help me, if she had been like the girls at court who knew nothing about the violence of new life, I don’t think I could have survived. No, my girl had been midwife to calf and kitten since her earliest days and had learned well from her elders. She did not flinch from this birthing and as the detested product of that evil debauchers seed slithered eventually from my exhuasted body, she took it up immediately.
Our eyes met as she folded the infant in blood-soiled linen.
“ It has no life,” she told me in a strong, determined voice. “ Nothing shall come of this.”
And she bade me rest
No life. Nothing to be done. She slipped from the room with her bundle hidden and I let her go, even though for an instant I thought I heard a mewling cry, just for an instant. A beginning of a breath cut short as if by a heavy hand…
To be continued…