Gwenllïan by Bethan M. Hughes
The only child of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, ‘y Llyw Olaf’, the last true prince of Wales, Gwenllïan was born in Abergwyngregyn, Gwynedd in 1282. Her mother died in childbirth and her father was murdered by English mercenaries six months later. On the orders of the English king, Edward I, she was taken ‘in her cradle’ to Sempringham, Lincolnshire and incarcerated in a nunnery for the rest of her life. She was denied her family, her language, her landscape, her lineage, her heritage; and was prevented from having her own children so that there would be no heirs to the Welsh royal line.
She had no connection, the lines of her lineage were severed, and the memory of her almost wiped out. She is named in only a handful of historical records and her story was almost unknown even in Wales until recent times. Thanks to the efforts of those who sought to restore her name and her memory, she now has a mountain named for her (Carnedd Gwenllïan), there is a society in her name, her birth date is noted, and a memorial stone stands on the site of Sempringham Abbey.
The quilt features text from two of the rare historical records which name Gwenllïan – the Annales Cambriae (in Latin) and Robert Manning’s English Chronicle (in Middle English). It also includes a contemporary poem by Mererid Hopwood, Yn Sempringham, used with the poet’s permission.
The black and white of a nun’s habit sit alongside the symbolic red of Wales. The horizontal and vertical lines of a family tree are severed, scribbled out and show no connections. The flat low-lying landscape of Sempringham is reflected in the horizontal piecing and quilting – Gwenllïan was denied the mountains and coast of Gwynedd. The oak leaves refer to the elegy to Llywelyn by Gruffudd ab yr Ynad Coch, in which he fears that, with the prince’s death, the world is at an end, as the stars fall from the skies and the oak trees crash together
Poni welwch chi hynt y gwynt a’r glaw? Poni welwch chi’r deri’n ymdaraw?
Cotton, applied and screen-printed ink, free piecing, applique and free-motion machine quilting
(Photo: Dewi Tanat Lloyd)
This quilt is part of the Connection touring exhibition by Cwilt Cymru currently showing at Forge Mill Needle Museum in Redditch.