Princess Nest: Chapter 9
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. This series is based on some essential historical research and our own imagination.
I never quite grew accustomed to sleeping alone. Most nights now, Nest came home to our room as the sun came up and slept away the morning.
Sometimes, if rarely, in the dead of night, my Princess would slide into our bed shivering with cold and press herself to me. Then she would be asleep almost instantly, in the way only the young know.
In the mornings, while she slept, I would attend to the finery she had shrugged herself out of and had left puddled on the floor.
Then one rare night when we were both deep asleep together, the door flew open, and the room filled with cursing. The Prince, drunk and lecherous had come seeking my girl. Crashing onto our bed, he called for her and in the last glow of the fire I gathered my shift and my cloak and hurriedly left them alone.
That night I dozed in a chair by the fire in the great hall, a dog at my feet and the snores of pages for an accompaniment. I woke to Nest’s sweet face and a handful of honeyed nuts she had begged from the kitchen.
A few days later she came to me in triumph. “Pack up,” she told me laughing. “Pack everything. The mistress of the Prince is moving and you,” she chucked me under the chin and beamed into my face, “you, my dear and faithful companion, are coming with me.”
Our new apartment was close to the Prince’s own residence. It faced south and consisted of two rooms. The Prince had spoken with his brother, Nest told me, and these rooms had been made available as befitted a favourite mistress.
As we took possession of this grandeur, I could not help but consider who might have been the previous tenant, but I kept my concerns to myself. It was not much, but it was better than we were accustomed to.
As I busied myself sweeping and supervising the laying of fresh sweet straw upon the floor, Nest took my arm and pulled me away towards the door that led from the larger room.
“Look Olwen,” she announced with such pride and pleasure. “Our garden.”
Our own door and a patch of earth ready for planting. More than the inside of darkness and stone, this made our hearts sing. A piece of the good earth to do with as we pleased. We danced with pleasure that morning and spent the afternoon seeking out the roots and tender bulbs of herbs and flowers that would be our greatest blessing.
What pleasure I would take in tending that garden, planting what I could find and beg and plotting what could be coaxed to life that would nourish our bodies and our souls, not just now, but through all the seasons to come.
But the good fortune of one is often the fall of another and it did not take long to discover the one who had been evicted to make way for us. Only the day after our move, I came upon a brooch. It had fallen into a crack between the wall and the dusty floor. Turning it in my hand I remembered where I had seen it last.
Later that day I made enquiries of a page and went to return my treasure.
To be continued...