Nest ferch Rhys (Gt x 25 grandmother)

From Cathal Hickey, Nanjing, China.

Here is my contribution to the website if you are interested.

Nest ferch Rhys (1073 – 1136) was a Welsh princess who was renowned for her beauty. Nest was the daughter of Prince Rhys ap Tewdwr . Her brother was Gruffydd ap Rhys – Prince of Deheubarth. After her father’s death in 1093, Deheubarth was conquered by the Normans and King Henry I of England appointed himself her protector. Nest is thought to have borne him two sons, Robert, Earl of Gloucester (born 1090) and Henry FitzRoy (FitzHenry) 1103?1158 .
Around 1095 King Henry decided to marry Nest to one of his followers, Gerald de Windsor, whom he appointed Constable of Pembroke, though evidentially Henry maintained visitation rights, hence the arrival of Henry FitzRoy eight years after Nest?s marriage to Gerald. (Henry was raised in Gerald?s household) . Consequently, Nest is the maternal progenitor of the FitzGerald dynasty, one of the most celebrated families of Ireland. Nest and Gerald had at least five children one of which was Maurice our great x 24 times grandfather. Nest was grandmother to Gerald of Wales, the historian and a nephew of Maurice.
.During Christmas 1109, Nest and her husband were visited by her cousin, Owain ap Cadwgan. The story goes that Owain was so taken with Nest’s beauty that he and fifteen companions attacked the castle of Cenarth Bychan, seized Nest, and carried her and her children off. Tradition also has it that Gerald escaped by jumping down the garderobe (i.e. the lavatory chute) to get away. The children were later returned to Gerald. Nest is said to have borne Owain two sons, Llywelyn and Einion, before finally being returned to her husband.
This abduction earned Nest the nickname “Helen of Wales” because it led to civil war on a small scale. Owain ap Cadwgan left the country to avoid retribution, whilst Owain’s father, Cadwgan ap Bleddyn, lost his own lands. Gerald waited for Owain to return to Wales, then ambushed and killed him in combat as retribution for kidnapping his wife and children.
After Gerald’s death, Nest became the lover of Stephen, Constable of Cardigan, by whom she had another son, Robert Fitz-Stephen who died in 1182. With his half-brother Maurice, our ancestor, he captured the town of Wexford in 1169. They were granted joint custody of the town.
There are several works of historical fiction which chronicle the life of Nest, or Nesta as she is popularly known, which include:

Alderson, Bryan, ?Nesta:The Story of a Welsh Princess?Fairburn, Eleanor, “The Golden Hive”
Knight, Bernard, “Lion Rampant”
Orford, Margaret, “Royal Mistress”.
Bell, Anne, “Daughter of the Dragon”
McKinlay, Margaret, “Pawns of Kings”

We are directly descended from Nest and we share that distinction with a number of people of note, including,

Winston Churchill (Great X 20 Grandmother)
Lady Diana (Great X 24 Grandmother)
Louis XVII (Great X 21 Grandmother)
George I (Great X 17 Grandmother)

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One thought on “Nest ferch Rhys (Gt x 25 grandmother)

  1. Thanks Cathal, great story, I’ll have it up on web site in a few days. So that’s where we get our good looks from! Best wishes, Eoin & Nora.

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