Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Lady Gwladys, Star of Abergavenny

In honor of International Women's Day, I pay tribute to a noble Matriarch, the Lady Gwladys, Star of Abergavenny - "the happy and the faultless." Or, in other words:

Y Seren o y Venni
At Duw a'r Saint y troes hi;
Gwladus, lwydiannus ddinam,
Oedd o gorf syr Davydd Gam.

from Gwaith, Poetical Works of Lewis Gynn Cothi at 1.

I have got to learn more Welsh!

The effigy above (and below) is of Lady Gwladys next to her second husband, Sir William ap Thomas, progenitor of the Herbert Family, Earls of Pembroke, of Raglan Castle. It is said of Lady Gwladys that she married well - twice. Her first husband, Rhossier Fychan, or in anglicized form, Roger Vaughan, was knighted, according to tradition, on the field of Agincourt for his sacrifice in defense of the King, Henry V. This posthumous honor set up his widow to remarry a wealthier, titled man also connected to the Royal Family and whose descendants did well enough (changing sides during the War of the Roses) to come out at the end with the Tudors, Henry VII being raised for a time at Raglan (sort of "under protection" when the Earls of Pembroke were still Yorkists). Her father, Davydd Gam is mentioned in Shakespeare's Henry V in the lists of the British dead, presumably at the side of his son-in-law.

The Lady Gwladys was a patroness of Welsh culture and arts. I suppose that's how you get Welsh bardic poetry written about you. Her sons by Roger were set up well by the patronage of her second husband and they had estates at Tretower and Hergest. Some were good and some were bad - her son Thomas a.k.a. "Black" Vaughan, was a cruel lord who supposedly came back to haunt Hergest Castle as a ghostly canine - claimed by the locals to be the inspiration for Conan Doyle's "The Hound of the Baskervilles" changing the related surname "Vaughan" to something more romantic sounding (and yes, we are related to the Baskervilles, too). But even Thomas's family were patrons of Welsh culture maintaining the Red Book of Hergest, one of the principal sources for the modern Mabinogion - or collection of Welsh mythology including my dear Peredur, the original Parsifal, of the Roundtable and Holy Grail fame.

I have ancestral lines that go back to the Lady Gwladys by both husbands, making her one of those genetically powerful ancestresses. Here's to ancient Matriarchs!

Paying respect to the Lady Gwladys and Sir William
St. Mary's Priory Church, Abergavenny, Wales
August 19, 2010
Pointing out the Gam Family shield on Lady Gwladys's side of  the family armor
The red and blue with the lions belongs to Sir William and the Herberts
Raglan Castle, August 20, 2010


  1. Lady Gwladys is my 20th Great Grandmother. Thanks for the fantastic information!! Katie

  2. Lady Gwladys is my 18th Great Grandmother, what an amazing, interesting Lady, many thanks for this insight. Caroline

  3. She's my 18th great fascinating...thanks so much for this

  4. She's my 16th great grand mother. Made it to Tretower this summer but missed this grave in Abergavenny. Will be back!

  5. As a descendant of Sir Dafydd Gam myself, I am grateful for the information and will be going to Wales to visit too!

  6. I too am a descendant of Sir Dafydd. Another of his descendants and a many great uncle of mine was Major General Edmund Pendleton Gaines who was a lifelong military man in America fighting in the War of 1812. Fort Gaines in Mobile Bay Alabama was named for him and it played a role in the pivotal battle of Mobile Bay in the American Civil War. General Gaines also once arrested Aaron Burr and testified at his trial.

  7. Small world to see Mobile mentioned here. I too am a descendant of Sir Dafydd and from Mobile, AL.

  8. I am just now looking into my ancestors. I became confused when I got to this part of my tree. I see her listed twice showing that her daughter and son from separate marriages were married and then conceived Eve Givillian Henry. Just wondering if this is accurate? Any shared information would be much appreciated!


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