Nearly a thousand years ago, at a time when history traditionally records the deeds of great men, one wonderful Welsh woman stands out as a true heroine.
Gwenllian married Gruffydd ap Rhys, Prince of Deheubarth, a territory that included much of south-west Wales. However, by Gwenllian’s time, the area was occupied by Norman lords including Maurice de Londres of Kidwelly Castle.
In 1136 Gruffydd saw an opportunity to revolt and went north to gather support. In his absence, de Londres assembled his forces for an assault on the Welsh. Gwenllian decided to take the fight to de Londres and led her army in an attack on Kidwelly. A great battle took place and Gwenllian was captured and decapitated. Of her four sons, one was killed and one was imprisoned. Her sacrifice was not in vain; her husband eventually regained his lands and power. Their youngest son, Lord Rhys, become an important Welsh ruler who is credited with establishing the first ever Eisteddfod.
Gwenllian is remembered in a traditional Welsh lullaby known as the Caniad Hun Gwenllian, attributed to Meilyr Brydydd (c.1100-1137), chief bard at the court of Gruffudd ap Cynan, king of Gwynedd, reproduced by Iolo Morganwg in the' Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales'.
Where to Visit?
Kidwelly’s medieval castle stands close to the field where Gwenllian died in battle. There is a memorial to her just outside the gatehouse.