Nesta Verch RHYS
- Born: 1073, Wales
- Marriage: Gerald Fitzwalter DE WINDSOR
- Died: 1136 at age 63
Another name for Nesta was Of BEHEUBARTH.
Princess Nesta was a very remarkable woman. She is sometimes referred to as the "mother of the Irish invasion" since her sons, by various fathers, and her grandsons were the leaders of the invasion. She had, in the course of her eventful life, two lovers, two husbands, and many sons and daughters. Her father is quoted as saying that she had 10 children as a result of her matrimonial escapades, eight sons and two daughters, among them William fitzGerald de Windsor. One of her lovers was King Henry I of England. Some years before she married Gerald, her father, the fierce old Prince of South Wales, was fighting the English under Henry, (then the Prince and later King). Henry succeeded in taking the lovely Nesta as hostage. By this royal lover, she had two sons; Meyler fitzHenry and the celebrated Robert of Gloucester. It would seem that Gerald, busily engaged in military business, could have had no peace about his wife, since she was clever as well as beautiful, and every warrior seems to have fallen in love with her. In 1095, Gerald led an expedition against the Welsh on the borders of what is now Pembrokeshire. In 1100, he went to Ireland to secure for his lord, Arnulf Montgomery, the hand of the daughter of King Murrough in marriage. He was the first of the Geraldines to set foot in Ireland, where they were later to rule like kings. Later, Arnulf joined in a rebellion against the King, was deprived of his estates and exiled in 1102. Then the King granted custody of Pembroke Castle to Gerald. Later, he was appointed president of the County of Pembrokeshire.
But it was Nesta that occupied the center of their stage during their marriage. Her beauty continued to excite wonder and desire throughout Wales. At Christmas in 1108, Cadwgan, Prince of Cardigan, invited the native chieftains to a feast at Dyvet (St. David's). Nesta's beauty was a subject of conversation. She excited the curiosity of Owen, the son of Prince Cadwgan, who resolved to see her. She was his cousin, so that the pretense of a friendly visit was easy. He successfully obtained admission with his attendants into Pembroke Castle. Her beauty -- it was even greater than he expected -- excited his lust. He determined to carry her off! In the middle of the night, he set fire to the castle, and his followers surrounded the room where Gerald and Nesta were sleeping. Gerald was awakened by the noise and about to discover the cause, but Nesta, suspecting some /treason, persuaded him to make his escape. She pulled up a board and let her husband escape down a drain by a rope. Then Owen broke open the door, seized Nesta and two of her sons, and carried them off to Powys, leaving the castle in flames. Owen had his way with Nesta, (historians say that one of her ten children was his), though whether she yielded from desire or force was uncertain. But at her request, Owen hastened to send back the two sons to Gerald. When King Henry heard of Nesta's abduction, he was furious. He regarded it as an injury almost personal, since Gerald was not only his steward, but his particular friend. The abduction of Nesta led to a war, which resulted in her return to her husband, and Owen fled to Ireland. Gerald took a conspicuous role in the fighting. In 1116, Henry ordered Owen, who had returned to Wales, to apprehend Gruffuyd, son of Rhys ap Tewdyr. As he passed through a wood on his march to join up with the royal forces, Owen seized some cattle. The owners of the cattle, as they fled, met Gerald, Constable of Pembroke. Gerald was also on his way to join the royal forces. When the cattle owners requested his assistance, he was only too delighted to have the opportunity for revenge for the insult to his honor done by Owen's abduction of Nesta. He lost no time in pursuing Owen, found him, and a skirmish followed. Owen was slain, an arrow piercing his heart, and Gerald's honor was avenged.
Gerald died about 1135, leaving three sons and a daughter by Nesta. They were: Maurice, one of the principal leaders of the Irish invasion in 1169; William, ancestor of the families of Carew, Grace, Fitzmaurice, Gerald, and the Keatings of Ireland; David, who became bishop of St. David's; and Angareth, wife of William de Bari, and mother of the historian, Gerald Cambrensis. Nesta married again. Her second husband was Stephen, Constable of Cardigan, by whom she had one son, Robert fitzStephen. Nesta's children and their descendants constituted a menace to the English rule of Wales. Royal Welsh blood mingled with the blood of the nobles of Normandy in all the half-brothers, sons of Gerald of Windsor and Stephen of Cardigan. Bastard or legitimate, they were turbulent princes in a /troubled land. Now fighting the Welsh natives, now allying themselves with their cousin, Nesta's brother Gruffuyd, the unconquered Prince of Wales, on whose head Henry had set "a mountain of gold", they remained a constant source of /trouble to the King, an ever-present threat to his security.
And so they fought, these Norman barons, and they went on fighting. It was the able and ambitious Henry II, one of England's really great kings, (the Henry of "Becket" and "Lion in Winter"), the father of Richard the Lionhearted and John of the Magna Carta, who was to find a solution. He was to give these Norman adventurers a free hand in Ireland. It was thus that the Norman invasion of Ireland came about, and the Geraldines arrived in 1169.
Nesta married Gerald Fitzwalter DE WINDSOR, son of Lord Of Eaton Walter Fitz-Otho DE WINDSOR and Beatrice DE OFFLAY. (Gerald Fitzwalter DE WINDSOR was born in 1069 in Windsor, Berkshire, England and died before 1136.)