Gwenllian, Last Princess of Wales

Gwenllian of Wales or Gwenllian ferch Llywelyn (June 1282 – 7 June 1337) was the only child of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the last native Prince of Wales (Tywysog Cymru).

Born in the Gwynedd royal home in Abergwyngregyn near Bangor, Gwynedd, Gwellian’s mother died in childbirth. Gwellian’s mother was Eleanor de Montfort, Princess of Wales and Lady of Snowdon. Eleanor was the daughter of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester and Eleanor of England. Descended from dual royal bloodlines: Gwellian was the daughter of the Prince of Gwynedd, but her maternal great-grandfather was King John of England.

In late 1282, northern Wales was surrounded by King Edward I’s army at a place called Climery, along the Welsh border. During this military engagement, Gwenllian’s father, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, became separated from his troops and was killed. Her uncle, Dafydd ap Gruffudd, attempted to protect her, but in June 1283, Dafydd ap Gruffudd and his family was captured at Nanhyslain. Dafydd was severely injured and eventually removed to Shrewsbury, where he was executed.

Dafydd’s children and Gwenllian were confined to the priories in Lincolnshire. She spent the next 54 years (in 1337) of her life at the Gilbertine Prior at Sempringham. [See my piece on St. Gilbert from Monday for more information of the man and the priory.] As Gwenllian was the Princess of Wales, her removal and being under King Edward’s oversight assisted the English king is keeping dissenters under control. Gwenllian could, obviously, not be permitted to marry and have sons that might lay claim to the Principality of Wales. Keep in mind what I said in the first paragraph. Gwenllian was not simply the heir to Wales’s principality, her maternal grandmother was Henry III’s sister Eleanor, providing Gwenllian a distant claim to the English throne, as well.

Upon her passing, she was buried somewhere in Sempringham, but no one knows the exact site. There is a Princess Gwenllian Society, and they have erected a memorial to mark the “supposed” burial place of The Last Welsh-Born Princess of Wales.

Having been taken from her native land so young, Gwenllian is unlikely to have remembered any Welsh she may have learned as a toddler, and perhaps never knew the correct pronunciation of her own name. The priory record-keepers listed her as “Wencilian” and was herself shown to have signed her name “Wentliane”

Memorial to Princess Gwenllian at Sempringham, England. ~ CC BY 3.0
File:Gwenllian memorial Sempringham.jpg
Created: 28 August 2008 ~

About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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