1093. The three sons of William the Conqueror Robert Duke of Normandy, William II King of England and Count Henry fight with each other for control of the Anglo-Norman kingdom created by their father s conquest. Meanwhile, Nest ferch Rhys, the daughter of the last independent Welsh king, is captured during the Norman assault of her lands. Raised with her captors, the powerful Montgommery family, Nest is educated to be the wife of Arnulf of Montgommery, in spite of her pre-existing betrothal to a Welsh prince. Who will Nest marry and can the Welsh rebels oust the Normans? 'Daughter of the Last King' is the first in the Conquest Trilogy.
This is the first book in a trilogy about Nest ferch Rhys. Nest’s father was king of the Welsh kingdom of Deheubarth (roughly covering modern-day Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire) and he was killed by the Normans in 1093. Nest was taken as a child by the Norman aggressors after the slaying of her father and two of her brothers.
She had a series of marriages to the Norman steward of Pembroke Castle, then the Norman constable of Cardigan, and then probably also to the Flemish sheriff of Pembroke. She was the mistress of King Henry I (son of William the Conqueror) and was kidnapped from her first Norman husband by the Welsh prince Owain ap Cadwgan. It was a colourful life to say the least. Nest has been dubbed the Welsh Helen of Troy. Her sister-in-law Gwenllian ferch Gruffudd, daughter of the king of Gwynedd, died leading Welsh troops into battle against the Normans at Kidwelly Castle.
I was inspired to start writing it when I was living near Narberth, commuting weekly by train to my teaching job in Oxford. The trainline took me back and forth past the spectacular triple river estuary at Carmarthen Bay and Llansteffan castle. I spent time staying in Llansteffan, walking along the cliffs, writing notes.
I imagined Nest writing the story of her life and stuffing it into a stony hiding place in Llansteffan castle where it might be discovered centuries later, long after the constant to and fro between Welsh and Normans as they each won and then lost the castle. I was irritated by some male historians rather flippant references to Nest, as if her complex sexual career were simply caused by her extreme beauty or down to her own lascivious nature. I wanted to imagine what happened to her from her point of view.
Who was she? Was she simply a symbolic pawn for both Normans and Welsh? Simply a victim? How much agency did she have in the events of her life? Then as the story developed I tried to also bring in the perspectives of some of the Norman characters as Nest moves between Cardiff Castle, Westminster, Woodstock, Abingdon and back to Pembroke Castle, Carew, Llansteffan, Cilgerran and Cardigan.
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About the Author
Tracey Warr was born in London, lived for several years in Pembrokeshire, Wales and currently divides her time between the UK and France. She studied English Literature at Oxford University and holds a PhD in Art History. She worked as an art curator and university lecturer in art history and theory before starting to write fiction six years ago. She undertook an MA in Creative Writing at University of Wales Trinity St Davids in Carmarthen. Her first historical novel Almodis (Impress, 2011) was set in early medieval France and Spain. It was shortlisted for the Impress Prize, presented in the Rome Film Festival Book Initiative and won a Santander Research Award. Her second novel The Viking Hostage (Impress, 2014) topped the Amazon Australia Kindle bestseller lists last year. She was awarded a Literature Wales Writer’s Bursary for work on her trilogy about Princess Nest and King Henry I, set in 12th century Wales and England. She also received an Author’s Foundation Award from the Society of Authors last year for a biography she is working on about three French noblewomen, three sisters, who held power in 11th century Toulouse, Carcassonne, Barcelona and the Pyrenees. Tracey reviews books for Historical Novels Review, Times Higher Education and New Welsh Review. Her most recent publication on contemporary art is Remote Performances in Nature and Architecture (Routledge, 2015). She is a tutor for residential writing courses in France with A Chapter Away (www.achapteraway.com). Find our more at http://traceywarrwriting.com and find Tracey on Twitter at @TraceyWarr1