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Chapter 1


Now in these days were hotte wars upon the Marches of Wales.
LEWIS'S _History._


The Chronicles, from which this narrative is extracted, assure us,
that during the long period when the Welsh princes maintained
their independence, the year 1187 was peculiarly marked as
favourable to peace betwixt them and their warlike neighbours, the
Lords Marchers, who inhabited those formidable castles on the
frontiers of the ancient British, on the ruins of which the
traveller gazes with wonder. This was the time when Baldwin,
Archbishop of Canterbury, accompanied by the learned Giraldus de
Barri, afterwards Bishop of Saint David's, preached the Crusade
from castle to castle, from town to town; awakened the inmost
valleys of his native Cambria with the call to arms for recovery
of the Holy Sepulchre; and, while he deprecated the feuds and wars
of Christian men against each other, held out to the martial
spirit of the age a general object of ambition, and a scene of
adventure, where the favour of Heaven, as well as earthy renown,
was to reward the successful champions.

Yet the British chieftains, among the thousands whom this spirit-
stirring summons called from their native land to a distant and
perilous expedition, had perhaps the best excuse for declining the
summons. The superior skill of the Anglo-Norman knights, who were
engaged in constant inroads on the Welsh frontier, and who were
frequently detaching from it large portions, which they fortified
with castles, thus making good what they had won, was avenged,
indeed, but not compensated, by the furious inroads of the
British, who, like the billows of a retiring tide, rolled on
successively, with noise, fury, and devastation; but, on each
retreat, yielded ground insensibly to their invaders.

A union among the native princes might have opposed a strong and
permanent barrier to the encroachments of the strangers; but they
were, unhappily, as much at discord among themselves as they were
with the Normans, and were constantly engaged in private war with
each other, of which the common enemy had the sole advantage.

The invitation to the Crusade promised something at least of
novelty to a nation peculiarly ardent in their temper; and it was
accepted by many, regardless of the consequences which must ensue,
to the country which they left defenceless. Even the most
celebrated enemies of the Saxon and Norman race laid aside their
enmity against the invaders of their country, to enrol themselves
under the banners of the Crusade.

Amongst these was reckoned Gwenwyn, (or more properly Gwenwynwen,
though we retain the briefer appellative,) a British prince who
continued exercising a precarious sovereignty over such parts of
Powys-Land as had not been subjugated by the Mortimers, Guarines,
Latimers, FitzAlans, and other Norman nobles, who, under various
pretexts, and sometimes contemning all other save the open avowal
of superior force, had severed and appropriated large portions of
that once extensive and independent principality, which, when
Wales was unhappily divided into three parts on the death of
Roderick Mawr, fell to the lot of his youngest son, Mervyn. The
undaunted resolution and stubborn ferocity of Gwenwyn, descendant
of that prince, had long made him beloved among the "Tall men" or
Champions of Wales; and he was enabled, more by the number of
those who served under him, attracted by his reputation, than by
the natural strength of his dilapidated principality, to retaliate
the encroachments of the English by the most wasteful inroads.

Yet even Gwenwyn on the present occasion seemed to forget his
deeply sworn hatred against his dangerous neighbours. The Torch of
Pengwern (for so Gwenwyn was called, from his frequently laying
the province of Shrewsbury in conflagration) seemed at present to
burn as calmly as a taper in the bower of a lady; and the Wolf of
Plinlimmon, another name with which the bards had graced Gwenwyn,
now slumbered as peacefully as the shepherd's dog on the domestic
hearth.

But it was not alone the eloquence of Baldwin or of Girald which
had lulled into peace a spirit so restless and fierce. It is true,
their exhortations had done more towards it than Gwenwyn's
followers had thought possible. The Archbishop had induced the
British Chief to break bread, and to mingle in silvan sports, with
his nearest, and hitherto one of his most determined enemies, the
old Norman warrior Sir Raymond Berenger, who, sometimes beaten,
sometimes victorious, but never subdued, had, in spite of
Gwenwyn's hottest incursions, maintained his Castle of Garde
Doloureuse, upon the marches of Wales; a place strong by nature,
and well fortified by art, which the Welsh prince had found it
impossible to conquer, either by open force or by stratagem, and
which, remaining with a strong garrison in his rear, often checked
his incursions, by rendering his retreat precarious. On this
account, Gwenwyn of Powys-Land had an hundred times vowed the
death of Raymond Berenger, and the demolition of his castle; but
the policy of the sagacious old warrior, and his long experience
in all warlike practice, were such as, with the aid of his more
powerful countrymen, enabled him to defy the attempts of his fiery
neighbour. If there was a man, therefore, throughout England, whom
Gwenwyn hated more than another, it was Raymond Berenger; and yet
the good Archbishop Baldwin could prevail on the Welsh prince to
meet him as a friend and ally in the cause of the Cross. He even
invited Raymond to the autumn festivities of his Welsh palace,
where the old knight, in all honourable courtesy, feasted and
hunted for more than a week in the dominions of his hereditary
foe.

To requite this hospitality, Raymond invited the Prince of Powys,
with a chosen but limited train, during the ensuing Christmas, to
the Garde Doloureuse, which some antiquaries have endeavoured to
identify with the Castle of Colune, on the river of the same name.
But the length of time, and some geographical difficulties, throw
doubts upon this ingenious conjecture.

As the Welshman crossed the drawbridge, he was observed by his
faithful bard to shudder with involuntary emotion; nor did
Cadwallon, experienced as he was in life, and well acquainted with
the character of his master, make any doubt that he was at that
moment strongly urged by the apparent opportunity, to seize upon
the strong fortress which had been so long the object of his
cupidity, even at the expense of violating his good faith.

Dreading lest the struggle of his master's conscience and his
ambition should terminate unfavourably for his fame, the bard
arrested his attention by whispering in their native language,
that "the teeth which bite hardest are those which are out of
sight;" and Gwenwyn looking around him, became aware that, though,
only unarmed squires and pages appeared in the courtyard, yet the
towers and battlements connecting them were garnished with archers
and men-at-arms.

They proceeded to the banquet, at which Gwenwyn, for the first
time, beheld Eveline Berenger, the sole child of the Norman
castellane, the inheritor of his domains and of his supposed
wealth, aged only sixteen, and the most beautiful damsel upon the
Welsh marches. Many a spear had already been shivered in
maintenance of her charms; and the gallant Hugo de Lacy, Constable
of Chester, one of the most redoubted warriors of the time, had
laid at Eveline's feet the prize which his chivalry had gained in
a great tournament held near that ancient town. Gwenwyn considered
these triumphs as so many additional recommendations to Eveline;
her beauty was incontestable, and she was heiress of the fortress
which he so much longed to possess, and which he began now to
think might be acquired by means more smooth than those with which
he was in the use of working out his will.

Again, the hatred which subsisted between the British and their
Saxon and Norman invaders; his long and ill-extinguished feud with
this very Raymond Berenger; a general recollection that alliances
between the Welsh and English had rarely been happy; and a
consciousness that the measure which he meditated would be
unpopular among his followers, and appear a dereliction of the
systematic principles on which he had hitherto acted, restrained
him from speaking his wishes to Raymond or his daughter. The idea
of the rejection of his suit did not for a moment occur to him; he
was convinced he had but to speak his wishes, and that the
daughter of a Norman, castellane, whose rank or power were not of
the highest order among the nobles of the frontiers, must be
delighted and honoured by a proposal for allying his family with
that of the sovereign of a hundred mountains.

There was indeed another objection, which in later times would
have been of considerable weight--Gwenwyn was already married. But
Brengwain was a childless bride; sovereigns (and among sovereigns
the Welsh prince ranked himself) marry for lineage, and the Pope
was not likely to be scrupulous, where the question was to oblige
a prince who had assumed the Cross with such ready zeal, even
although, in fact, his thoughts had been much more on the Garde
Doloureuse than on Jerusalem. In the meanwhile, if Raymond
Berenger (as was suspected) was not liberal enough in his opinions
to permit Eveline to hold the temporary rank of concubine, which
the manners of Wales warranted Gwenwyn to offer as an interim,
arrangement, he had only to wait for a few months, and sue for a
divorce through the Bishop of Saint David's, or some other
intercessor at the Court of Rome.

Agitating these thoughts in his mind, Gwenwyn prolonged his
residence at the Castle of Berenger, from Christmas till
Twelfthday; and endured the presence of the Norman cavaliers who
resorted to Raymond's festal halls, although, regarding
themselves, in virtue of their rank of knighthood, equal to the
most potent sovereigns, they made small account of the long
descent of the Welsh prince, who, in their eyes, was but the chief
of a semibarbarous province; while he, on his part, considered
them little better than a sort of privileged robbers, and with the
utmost difficulty restrained himself from manifesting his open
hatred, when he beheld them careering in the exercises of
chivalry, the habitual use of which rendered them such formidable
enemies to his country. At length, the term of feasting was ended,
and knight and squire departed from the castle, which once more
assumed the aspect of a solitary and guarded frontier fort.

But the Prince of Powys-Land, while pursuing his sports on his own
mountains and valleys, found that even the abundance of the game,
as well as his release from the society of the Norman chivalry,
who affected to treat him as an equal, profited him nothing so
long as the light and beautiful form of Eveline, on her white
palfrey, was banished from the train of sportsmen. In short, he
hesitated no longer, but took into his confidence his chaplain, an
able and sagacious man, whose pride was flattered by his patron's
communication, and who, besides, saw in the proposed scheme some
contingent advantages for himself and his order. By his counsel,
the proceedings for Gwenwyn's divorce were prosecuted under
favourable auspices, and the unfortunate Brengwain was removed to
a nunnery, which perhaps she found a more cheerful habitation than
the lonely retreat in which she had led a neglected life, ever
since Gwenwyn had despaired of her bed being blessed with issue.
Father Einion also dealt with the chiefs and elders of the land,
and represented to them the advantage which in future wars they
were certain to obtain by the possession of the Garde Doloureuse,
which had for more than a century covered and protected a
considerable tract of country, rendered their advance difficult,
and their retreat perilous, and, in a word, prevented their
carrying their incursions as far as the gates of Shrewsbury. As
for the union with the Saxon damsel, the fetters which it was to
form might not (the good father hinted) be found more permanent
than those which had bound Gwenwyn to her predecessor, Brengwain.

These arguments, mingled with others adapted to the views and
wishes of different individuals, were so prevailing, that the
chaplain in the course of a few weeks was able to report to his
princely patron, that this proposed match would meet with no
opposition from the elders and nobles of his dominions. A golden
bracelet, six ounces in weight, was the instant reward of the
priest's dexterity in negotiation, and he was appointed by Gwenwyn
to commit to paper those proposals, which he doubted not were to
throw the Castle of Garde Doloureuse, notwithstanding its
melancholy name, into an ecstasy of joy. With some difficulty the
chaplain prevailed on his patron to say nothing in this letter
upon his temporary plan of concubinage, which he wisely judged
might be considered as an affront both by Eveline and her father.
The matter of the divorce he represented as almost entirely
settled, and wound up his letter with a moral application, in
which were many allusions to Vashti, Esther, and Ahasuerus.

Having despatched this letter by a swift and trusty messenger, the
British prince opened in all solemnity the feast of Easter, which
had come round during the course of these external and internal
negotiations.

Upon the approaching Holy-tide, to propitiate the minds of his
subjects and vassals, they were invited in large numbers to
partake of a princely festivity at Castell-Coch, or the Red-
Castle, as it was then called, since better known by the name of
Powys-Castle, and in latter times the princely seat of the Duke of
Beaufort. The architectural magnificence of this noble residence
is of a much later period than that of Gwenwyn, whose palace, at
the time we speak of, was a low, long-roofed edifice of red stone,
whence the castle derived its name; while a ditch and palisade
were, in addition to the commanding situation, its most important
defences.

Sir Walter Scott