Princess Nest: Chapter 7

Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay

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.

(See previous episodes)

There are those who will talk of my girl in those now far-off times and think they have the truth of what came about. Some still talk of ‘poor’ Nest, ‘helpless’ Nest. They still choose to see my lady as a victim.

Let me tell you the truth of it. You will not hear better from anyone else.

For a little while there was a merry time in the castle. A time of feasting. The king was at home and enjoying all that hall and hearth might offer. He seemed to take some small pleasures in the company of my little princess, and she sharpened her wit on him, but his attention was more upon the boys at court with their long locks and their fancy clothes, and even fancier ways.

The priests were angry, as priests usually are, and spoke against the frivolity that seemed to have taken hold. The king, not a sweet-tempered man at the best of times, began to grow dark and brooding. It was easy in these moods to cause his displeasure, and our need for a protector began to occupy our thoughts day and night.

We talked about it together, often in the small hours of the night, in the glow of the embers of our fire, as we snuggled together between the linens and the furs of our tower bed,.

“We need someone,” Nest had said, many times now, aware that if she did not take control and find someone, the king would soon be making a choice that suited him. A young woman, a princess, was a valuable commodity. Soon enough he must turn his attention to how useful she would be to him. We talked over whom he might choose and we feared those choices, not least because almost everyone we could think of would take her away and there was always the possibility that I would not be allowed to follow.

We searched about us. The king himself, might, under other circumstances seem the likeliest of choices. He was unmarried and had no mistresses. Unusually, despite the blathering churchmen, he seemed in no way concerned for his reputation. He was violent and brutal and ill-tempered enough that no one dare cast aspersions at his manliness. For his soul, he seemed unconcerned.

He was a lost cause, we decided, and as it was to turn out, in this, we made a wise decision.

One of the courtiers might have been chosen. There were several handsome young men with a reputation to make, and marriage to a Welsh princess would have looked well for them. We saw that none were likely to make a husband in the sense that a woman would expect, but we scrutinised each dandy and hoarded snippets concerning their wealth and character.

And then a visitor arrived, and our fortunes changed. As spring began to breathe her soft warm breath into the land, and the first blossoms dared to bud upon the branches, Henry came home.

We had had acquaintance of Henry, but briefly, for he came to visit occasionally on the king’s business, often with news of people and property. He was brother to the king and not unlike him in looks. A man of medium stature, given to a roundness of the belly which would certainly come upon him in his later years. A keen hunter and happy reveller, he displayed a more even temper but, more importantly for us, an eye that took in my girl in all her glowing youthful loveliness.

“What do you think?” Nest asked me one night as I escorted her from table. I had seen the way Henry’s eyes had followed her. Noted the way he had suddenly taken her hand when she poured ale into his cup. I had also noted the way she playfully disengaged that hand while meeting his eyes, for just a moment too long.

I did not answer. Had I hoped for love for my princess? Of course, but not yet. She had little more than 13 years upon the earth. I wished her a few more years unencumbered by the trappings of womanhood.

As though she heard my thoughts, she shook her head. Beneath the brush I had taken to her untameable hair I felt her shoulders stiffen, whether with sadness or resolve I could not tell.

Finally she said: “I am a woman, Alwen. My bleeding comes with the moon and has done for a time now. There‘s no better time to play the part that we have plotted over. I am a woman in need of protection and who better to protect me than the brother of the king.” Pausing she turned to me then, her eyes wide: “He likes me. I must ensure he does not cease to like me.”

“I understand,” I answered with a sigh and there was no need of further deliberation. Henry it was, Henry, brother of the king.

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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