Friday, 13 December 2013

Women Warriors - Ellen Gethin

People who don't like the idea of women warriors might criticise my last post by pointing out that Gwenllian was a Princess, and she was leading troops in the place of her husband, so maybe she didn't really count as a woman warrior in her own right.
That's why I'm fond of Ellen Gethin.

Here she is, on her tomb in Kington Church, in Herefordshire, next to her husband Thomas, the Black Vaughan. She looks quite demure, doesn't she? Yet her name means "Ellen the Terrible".

Family feuds were quite common in the late middle ages, and Ellen's brother was murdered by one of his cousins. There was no police force in those days, and no-one was going to do anything about the murder. So Ellen found out that the murderer was going to take part in an archery competition nearby. She disguised herself as a boy, and went off to take part in the archery competition. When her turn to shoot came, she turned from the target and shot her murderous cousin dead - and she got away with it!
Later she married another cousin, Thomas, who was known as the Black Vaughan and reputed to be a magician. He was executed after the Battle of Banbury in the Wars of the Roses in 1469. After his ghost was seen, sometimes in the form of a black bull or a black dog, twelve clergymen with bell, book and candle were recruited to imprison his soul in a small box which was thrown into the pool at Hergest Croft, which had been his home. It's supposed to be still there.

When I was choosing a name for my medieval re-enactment character, I had to go for Ellen Gethin. I'm also an archer, and I have been known to make up the numbers in a skirmish (I die very quickly).
It's worth bearing in mind that Ellen Gethin must have been a good archer already - accurate shooting takes quite a bit of practice with a longbow.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I've used your photograph, in my recent post on Black Vaughan (with acknowledgement and a link to your post on my blog ) I couldn't find your email address to ask permission, hence the comment here. I will remove it immediately should you object.