Nest (DNB00)

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NEST or NESTA (fl. 1106), mistress of Henry I, daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr (d. 1093), king of Deheubarth, and Gwladys, daughter of Rhywallon, who was made king in South Wales by the English in 1063 (Norman Conquest, ii. 475), received as her portion the lordship of Caerau, or Carew (Land of Morgan, p. 45), and about 1095, or soon afterwards, married Gerald of Windsor, constable of Pembroke Castle, a loyal and prudent man (Itinerarium Kambriæ, pp. 89, 91). She was clever and beautiful. About 1106 her cousin Owen, son of Cadwgan, visited Pembroke, and fell in love with her. He surprised the castle by night, and, in order to gain entrance into the room where she and her husband were, set fire to it. Nest pulled up a board and let her husband into a drain, by which he escaped. She was carried off into Powys, together with two of her sons by Gerald, and two of his children by another woman. Cadwgan was angry at his son's act, for he feared the wrath of the English, and begged him to send Nest back, but he would not. However, she persuaded him to send her husband's children to him. Her abduction led to a war, in which Gerald took a conspicuous part (Brut, pp. 84, 86; Caradoc of Llancarvan, pp. 128, 129). After a time she rejoined her husband, who appears to have died before 1136. She was also the wife, or more probably the mistress, of Stephen, constable of Cardigan, and was a mistress of Henry I. It has been asserted that her connection with Henry preceded her marriage to Gerald, and that he owed his advancement to his marriage with her (Palgrave, England and Normandy, iv. 715; Freeman, William Rufus, ii. 97, 451). Of this there is no proof, and in the list of her children given by her descendant, Giraldus Cambrensis, the names of the three fathers to whom the greater number of them are assigned stand in order as Gerald, Stephen, and King Henry; indeed, it seems certain that her eldest son was by Gerald (Giraldus Cambr. De rebus a se gestis, i. c. 10, Opp. i. 59, and see App. to Pref. to Topographia Hibernica, Opp. v. c. ci.). It is probable that her connection with Stephen did not begin before 1110, and that she bore a son by Henry after his expedition into Dyved in 1114 [see under Fitzstephen, Robert]. Seven of her sons became lords of cantreds in South Wales, and from her descended some of the most famous of the conquerors of Ireland. Her children by Gerald were William Fitzgerald, her eldest son, father of Raymond Fitzgerald [q. v.], Maurice Fitzgerald (d. 1176) [q. v.], David [q. v.], bishop of St. David's, and a daughter, Angharad, who married William de Barri, lord of Manorbeer, and was the mother of Giraldus Cambrensis [q. v.], the historian, and two other sons. By Stephen, Nest was the mother of Robert Fitzstephen [q. v.], and by King Henry of Henry (filius regis), who was slain in Anglesey in 1157 (Itin. Kambriæ, p. 130), and was the father of Meiler Fitzhenry [q. v.] and Robert Fitzhenry (d. about 1180) (Expugnatio Hibern. p. 354). Nest also bore, probably by one or more other lovers, William Hay, Hoel, Walter, and a daughter Gledwis or Gwladys (Giraldus Cambr. De rebus, &c., u.s.). She was not, as has been asserted, the mother of Robert, earl of Gloucester (Norman Conquest, v. 852, 853). Nor must she be confused with Nest, the wife of Bernard of Neufmarché or Newmarch [q. v.], nor with Nest, the daughter of Gruffydd ab Llewelyn (d. 1063) [q. v.], the mother of Bernard's wife.

[Giraldus Cambr. i. 21, 58, 60, v. App. to Pref. c. ci. 229, vi. 91, 130 (Rolls Ser.); Brut y Tywysogion, pp. 84, 86 (Rolls Ser.); Caradoc of Llancarvan's Hist. of Wales, pp. 128, 129, ed. Powel; Clark's Land of Morgan, p. 45, 2nd edit.; Palgrave's Engl. and Normandy, iv. 715; Freeman's Norm. Conq. v. 210, 211, 852, 853; Freeman's William Rufus, ii. 97, 110 n, 379, 451.]

W. H.