Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Women Warriors - Gwenllian

I've become involved in a conversation on Facebook about realistic armour for women in fantasy role playing games and so on - and one chap said (I'm paraphrasing here) that it didn't matter if women were dressed in chainmail bikinis because the whole idea of women warriors was unrealistic anyway.
But, I countered, orcs and elves and dwarves are not real, and they are given sensible armour that protects their bodies.
And once you start looking, women warriors are everywhere, so I thought I'd highlight a few here.
Since it's the anniversary of the death of Prince Llewellyn of Gwynnedd in 1282, ambushed just outside Builth Wells, I thought I'd start in Wales.

In medieval Welsh history, the Welsh would often use as their battle cry "Revenge for Gwenllian!".
Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd was a Princess of Deheubarth in the 12thC - she died in 1136. She was the daughter of Prince Gruffydd ap Cynan of Gwynnedd, who was responsible for having the Mabinogion written down - this is the major collection of Welsh myths and legends that has survived from that period, and includes some of the earliest stories of King Arthur (back when he was a Celtic warlord, stealing pigs with Kai). Memories of the stories kept Gruffydd going during his long captivity in Chester castle, a prisoner of the Norman Earl Hugh of Chester.
For some time, Gwenllian lived virtually as an outlaw in her own lands, with her husband Gruffydd ap Rhys, fighting the Norman invaders. In 1136, while Gruffydd was in Gwynnedd in North Wales seeking an alliance with her father against the Normans, Gwenllian raised an army to defend Deheubarth's Welsh from Norman attacks. After a battle outside Kidwelly Castle, she was captured and beheaded. Two of her sons, Morgan and Maelgwn, also died. News of the deaths led to a general uprising against the Normans.
Her youngest son went on to become one of the greatest leaders in South Wales, the Lord Rhys.

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