Geraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales).
to Historical Individuals
Cambrensis birthplace was Manorbier c.1146.
Son of William
de Barri and the lovely Angharad. She was the daughter of Nest who was the wife
of Gerald de Windsor. Nest was the daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr prince of South
"alarmed" during his boyhood, probably when Tenby was taken by the
Welsh in 1153. He is reputed to have taken refuge in the Church. He was the
youngest of four Brothers; two of which took part in the Anglo Norman conquest
studies under guidance of his Uncle David fitzGerald Bishop of St Davids then St
Peters Abbey, Gloucester and then Paris.
to Dyfed and successfully executed a minor mission for Archbishop Richard.
archdeacon of Brechnock plus additional holding at Mathry, Llanwnda and Tenby.
1176. Hoped to
succeed his Uncle as Bishop of St David's but was disappointed. For next few years
moved from place to place Paris.
Administrator of the See of St Davids visited Ireland. Cleric at Court.
visit to Ireland. Published "The Topography of Ireland".
1185. Spent 2
years in Ireland.
1188. Tour of
Wales with Archbishop Baldwin.
his "Itinerary through Wales".
his "Description of Wales".
King's service to study Theology at Lincoln.
1198. Began his
great fight for the independence of St David's. (IN VAIN).
Office of Archdeacon devoted his remaining years to study.
Wales: The Journey through Wales 1188 AD.
His first stay
in France seems to have lasted till 1174, he then returned to Britain and was
immediately given livings in England and Wales. According to W. L. Williams he
held the livings of Llanwnda, Tenby and Angle and afterwards the prebend of
Mathry, the living of Chesterton in Oxfordshire, was also prebendary of
Hereford, canon of St David's and in 1175, when only 28 years old became
Archdeacon of Brecon.
the River Tywi in a boat and travelled to Carmarthen, leaving Llanstephan and
Laugharne on the rocks by the seashore on our left. These were the two castles
which Rhys ap Gruffydd took by assualt after the death of Henry II,... the
garrisons being forced to capitulate. Rhys then ravaged the provinces of
Pembroke and Rhos with fire and sword, completely devastating the whole
neighbourhood and besieged Carmarthen, but failed to take it. (Immediately after
the death of Henry II in July 1189, Rhys ap Gruffydd attacked and captured the
two castles of Laugharne and Llanstephan, ravaged Pembroke and Rhos and beseiged
Carmarthen, Gerald had been sent home from Normandy by Richard I to promote
peace in Wales. According to him he had some success.) (Carmarthen is the site
of a hill fort of the Demetae known by the latinised Celtic name of Maridunum.
Under the Romans it was an important centre where many roads met. In Gerald’s
day part of the Roman walls was still standing.)
When we were
travelling from Carmarthen to the Cistercian monastery called Whitland (Whitland
Abbey had been moved from Little Trefgarn near Haverfordwest C1151) the
Archbishop was told by messengers of how a young Welshman, who was coming to
meet him in all devotion , had been murdered on the way by his enemies. He
turned aside from the road, ordered the bloody corpse to be wrapped in his
almoners cloak and with pious supplication commended the soul of the murdered
youth to heaven. The next day twelve archers from the nearby castle of St
Clears, who had killed the young man, were signed with the Cross in Whitland as
a punishment for their crime.
The folk who
live in the neighbourhood came from Flanders, for they had been sent there by
Henry I .... to colonize the district (The flemings seem to have come at various
times, in 1105, 1107 and 1111. They are a brave and robust people but very
hostile to the Welsh and in a perpetual state of conflict with them. They are
highly skilled in the wool trade, ready to work hard and face danger by land or
sea in the persuit of gain, and, as time and opportunity offer, prompt to turn
their hand to the sword or the ploughshare.
A strange habit
of these Flemings is that they boil the right shoulder blades of rams, but not
roast them, strip off all the meat and, by examining them, foretell the future
and reveal the secret of events long past.
The province of
Pembroke comes next after Rhos, lying towards the south and by the sea: indeed,
a branch of the sea divides the two. Its main town, also called Pembroke, is the
capital of Dyved. It is built high up on an oblong plateau of rock, and it
extends along the north and the south of an inlet of the sea which runs down
from Milford haven. Hence it’s name Pembroke, which means the head of the
Montgomery was the first to build a fortification here, from wooden stakes and
turf, in the days of Henry I, king of the English. (Arnulf de Montgomery,
younger son of Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, built his first fortress
at Pembroke c.1091, in the reign of William Rufus.) It was not very strong and
it offered little resistance. When he went back to England, Arnulf left the
fortress and a small garrison in the charge of Gerald of Windsor, a stalwart
cunning man, who was his constable and lieutenant. (Grandfather of Gerald of
ado the inhabitants of South Wales began to lay siege to the place (This was the
uprising of 1096. The Welsh leaders of the attack on Pembroke were Uchtryd ab
Edwin and Hywel ap Gronw.) They had just lost their prince, Rhys ap Tewdwr, a
warlike leader, who had been betrayed by his own troops in Brecknockshire, and
they were left with his son Gruffydd, who was still a boy. (Rhys ap Tewdwr was
killed near Brecon in April 1093). Under cover of darkness 15 knights deserted
the fortress in desperation, clambered into a boat and tried to escape over the
water. The very next morning Gerald transferred their estates to 15 of their own
men-at-arms, dubbing them there and then as knights. The siege lasted a long
time, and those inside were greatly reduced and near the end of their tether.
When they had hardly any provisions left, Gerald, who, as I have said was a
cunning man created the impression that they were still well supplied and
expecting reinforcements at any moment. For he took four hogs, which were all
that they had, cut them into sections and hurled them over the palisade at the
besiegers. The following day he thought of an even more ingenious stratagem. He
signed a letter with his own seal and had it placed just outside the lodging of
Wilfred, Bishop of St David's who chanced to be in the neighbourhood (This was
at Llamphey, two miles away. Wilfred seems to have been Bishop of St David's
from c.1083 onwards).
There it would
be picked up almost immediately, and the finder would imagine that it had been
dropped accidentally by one of Gerald's messengers. The purport of the letter
was that the constable would have no need of reinforcements from Arnulf for a
good four months. When this dispatch was read to the Welsh, they immediately
abandoned the siege and went off home.
The next thing
Gerald did was to marry Nest the sister of Gruffydd, Prince of South Wales, with
the object of giving himself and his troops a firmer foothold in the country (he
married her c1100, she was the maternal grandmother of Gerald of Wales) In the
process of time she bore him a large number of children, both boys and girls.
With the help of this family the sea coast of South Wales was held secure by the
English and Ireland too, was stormed, as is narrated in my “Vaticinal
History”. (The Conquest of Ireland).
Only about 3
miles from Pembroke Castle is the fortified mansion known as Manorbier, that is
the house of one Pyrrus. The same man also owned Caldy Island, called by the
Welsh Ynys Byr, which means the Island of Pyrrus. There the house stands,
visible from afar because of its turrets and crenellations, on the top of a hill
which is quite near the sea and which on the western side reaches as far as the
harbour. To the north and north-west, just beneath the walls there is an
excellent fish pond, well constructed and remarkable for its deep waters. On the
same side there is a most attractive orchard, shut in between the fish pond and
a grove of trees, with a great crag of rock and hazel nut trees which grow to a
great height. At the east end of the fortified promontary, between the castle,
if I may call it such, and the church, a stream of water which never fails winds
its way along a valley, which is strewn with sand by the strong sea winds. It
runs from a large lake, and there is a water mill on its bank. To the west it is
washed by a winding inlet of the Severn Sea which forms a bay quite near the
castle and yet looks out toward the Irish Sea. If only the rocky headland to the
south bent round northwards a little farther, it would make a harbour most
convenient for shipping. Boats on their way to Ireland from almost any part of
Britain scud by before the east wind, and from this vantage point you can see
them brave the ever changing violence of the winds and the blind fury of the
waters. This is a region rich in wheat, with fish from the sea and plenty of
wine for sale. What is more important than all the rest is that, from its
nearness to Ireland, heaven's breath smells so wooingly there.
Of all the
different parts of Wales, Dyved, with its seven cantrefs, is at once the most
beautiful and the most productive.
Of all Dyved,
the province of Pembroke is the most attractive:
and in all
Pembroke the spot which I have just described is most assuredly without its
equal. It follows that in all the broad lands of Wales Manorbier is the most
pleasant place by far. You will not be surprised to hear me lavish such praise
upon it, when I tell you that this is where my own family came from, This is
where I myself was born. I can only ask you to forgive me.
arrived in Pembroke on 21st September 1171 on his way to Ireland . He was
delayed by contrary winds for nearly a month).
The King (Henry
II) had left the following garrisons behind him in Ireland: in Dublin, Hugh de
Lacy (assassinated in 1186) to whom he had given Meath in fee, with twenty
knights to support him, FitzStephen (Robert FitzStephen was the son of the
Princess Nest by Stephen, constable of Cardigan, and thus an uncle of Gerald.)
and Maurice Fitzgerald (Maurice Fitzgerald was the son of the Princess Nest by
her husband Gerald of Windsor and thus both a half brother of Robert FitzStephen
and an uncle of Gerald) together with twenty more knights.
noblemen were sent to the island (Anglesey) by the King (Henry II). They were my
own uncles: Henry, son of Henry I and Uncle of Henry II, the child of Nest, the
noble born daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, Prince of Dyved in South Wales: and
Robert FitzStephen, Henry's brother, but by a different father. Robert was a man
who, in our own time, led where others followed, for it was he who soon
afterwards invaded Ireland. I have recorded his deeds in my “Vaticinal
History”. Henry behaved far too rashly and, with no support from his troops,
fell in the first line of battle,
pierced by a number of spears, to the great grief of his soldiers. Robert was
badly wounded and escaped with great difficulty to his ships, abandoning all
hope of defence.
before the fall of Britain, the Welsh were instructed and confirmed in the
Christian Faith by Faganus and Duvainus who at the request of King Lucius, were
sent to the island by Pope Eleutherius.
Germanus of Auxerre and Lupus of Troyes were sent over because of the corruption
which had gradually resulted from the invasion of the pagan Saxons and more
especially to put an end to the Pelagian heresy, but they found nothing
heretical or contrary to the articles of true faith." (Gerald’s
references are Bede “Historia Ecclesiastica” I.4, I.17 and Geoffrey of
Monmouth, “The History of the Kings of England” IV.19, VI.13)
religious practices which Germanius and Lupus taught them”
meeting with Augustine at Aust. p164
How the Welsh
people live p251
Gerald as personal legate of Archbishop Richard of Canterbury (to insist
on the payment of tithes of cheese and wool in the diocese of St David's*)
excommunicated William Carquit, Sheriff of Pembrokeshire and Constable of
Pembroke Castle, for removing eight yoke of Oxen from Pembroke Priory.
* The Flemings established by Henry I in Rhos had been granted immunity from the tithes of cheese and wool, but Gerald made sure that their fellow nationals outside Rhos should pay.
to Historical Individuals