Gerald of Wales

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Anglo-Welsh churchman; born ca.1146; died 1223. His father was William de Barry, of a family of Norman settlers; his mother Angharad, daughter of the Welsh princess Nest and of the Norman Gerald of Windsor, Nest herself being daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, and reputedly mistress to Henry I for a time.

As well as being a churchman -- he rose to be an archdeacon, and to be elected bishop of the principal Welsh see, of Saint David's (although he was never to take office there, the Pope eventually annulling the election) -- Gerald was a writer, the source of his greater fame.

Among his works were

  • The Conquest of Ireland

and

  • The Topography of Ireland
written after he had accompanied, in 1185, Henry II's son John, "lord of Ireland", on an expedition to cow and control unruly Norman-Welsh settlers in Ireland. (It failed).
  • Itinerarium Cambriae -- The Journey through Wales
an account of the journey in 1188 of Archbishop Baldwin of Canterbury through Wales to preach the Crusade, beginning at Hereford and going (roughly clockwise) via Radnor, Hay, Brecon, Abergavenny, Newport and Cardiff, Swansea, Carmarthen, St.David's, Cardigan, Lampeter, Llanbadarn, Llanfair, Nefyn, Rhuddlan, Chester, Oswestry and Shrewsbury

followed later by

  • A Description of Wales
  • Lives of Saints David, Hugh, Remi and Ethelbert and of Geoffrey Archbishop of York

He was known, variously, as Geraldus Cambrensis, Gerald de Barry, Gerald fitz-Gerald, and Gerald the Marcher.
He retired in 1194 to the Cathedral of Lincoln, where he wrote a number of somewhat more invective books, not least De Principis Instructionae -- The Instruction of a Prince -- in which he savagely attacked the Plantagenet kings whom he had served.

This article was inspired by the 1988 Cadw text A Mirror of Medieval Wales, which is an account of Gerald, and of the 1188 journey.