Princess Nest – Chapter 2

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.

Chapter 2

There was celebration, a feast where the new masters availed themselves of the spoils they had won in battle and the Queen did her best to keep herself and her women as far from the drunkenness and the revelry as possible, but there was no escaping the inevitable packing of trunks and the leave-taking a few days later of all we had ever known.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

We left in mist and darkness and the days that followed were terrible for me. My little one was soon enlivened by curiosity. As we moved further and further from her father’s lands and into strange country so different from our own, Nest brightened. Her eyes shone with wonder at new hills and strange valleys, at magical waterfalls and the dark shadows of foreign folk who did their best to hide from our band as we passed their dwellings.

I watched her. I watched as a hawk watches her chick, seeing danger everywhere. There was one among our captors who seemed a little too interested in the brightness of my little one’s manner. I saw him and knew his intent as clear as I saw her innocence. I watched as he petted her and flattered her and drew her upon his knee as a man draws down a woman, though she was a child still.

That journey was a nightmare for me. I dared not sleep and hardly ate. I was only eyes and ears and ruffled feathers and sharp claws, so that I snapped at and harried at my girl, causing her to come to my side and stay till she was sick of me and turned away from me. 

Then one night, camped in the woods, less than a day from port, with the moon full and bright in a strange sky, I could not find my sweet girl. Frantic with worry I went about the camp and found no sign. So, despite my fear of being abroad in the woods alone in the dark, I went out among the trees towards the stream where we had collected water upon pitching our camp.

Image by art Tower from Pixabay

It was there that I heard him. His harsh, foreign words made no sense to me, but his tone and the weeping and begging of my bright girl were all I needed to know. By the light of the moon I threw myself upon him and beat him about the head and shoulders, shrieking at Nest to run. For once, she obeyed me. I watched the flash of her pale legs as she scrambled back and away into the undergrowth.

Then he cast me off from him and cuffed me about the head so hard my ears rang for hours after. As he bore down upon me, spitting and cursing I understood that he had been thwarted by my arrival and meant to use me instead, in my sweet lady’s place.

It is better not to dwell upon such things. It was my duty and my promise to keep her safe, and though I had anticipated such violence, it was better that it were me and not my little one to suffer so.

At least when he was done with me he left us both in the hollow. The child came to me weeping and we held each other close until we were calmer, and then, still arms folded about one another, we made our way back to camp. Where else could we go?

By the time that we came to the port and the ship that would carry us across the sea to Normandy, I had only my iron will. All other strength was gone from me and my heart was sick and heavy.

But, praise be to God, the awful sea proved to be our saviour, bringing low most of the company with heaving guts, taking even my sweet girl to her bed, such as it was. We were left alone.

Mercifully the crossing is short between our world and the land that was to be our home. We arrived on a day that shone clear and clean and bright, and were met by soldiers of the court and carried to the king’s place unscathed. The lord who had attacked us went home, I suppose to whatever family he owned, and we never saw him again.

Image by Ruth Archer from Pixabay

To be within four walls again and under the protection of King Rufus was great relief. The court was finer and grander than anything we had known, but the manners strange and the speech of these people, like those who had transported us so far, was unknown to us.

No more good, soft Welsh voices, like poetry in your heart and soul. No more sweet Welsh lamb and the heat of the cawl in your belly on a cold day. We were sad for home, the two of us, and it was a time of tears  after the excitement of the travelling.

But nothing remains the same for long. So it was with us. We stood, heartsick with longing for all that we had known, and all the while a new life with all its perils and pleasures leapt forward in full force to claim us.

To be continued…

Kitty Parsons

Kitty has forgotten how long she has been here now but she loves Pembrokeshire for its beauty and it's people. She spends her time searching out stories for pembrokeshire.online, swimming in the sea , drawing and painting as Snorkelfish and eating cake. She says "Pembrokeshire.online has been an opportunity to celebrate this beautiful county and its people. Keep the stories coming. We love to hear from you."

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