Siwan, a Welsh love story
Wales > Anglesey >  Siwan, Princess Joan and Prince Llywelyn, Lord of Snowdon, Wales


Joan, a Lady of Wales

Siwan's sarcophagus, the tomb of Princess Joan at Beaumaris ChurchThere may have been many Ladies of Wales over the centuries, but Joan was one of the first to bring romance and heartbreak to the country…

In 1191 Joan (also known as Joanna or Siwan in Welsh), was born to King John, king of England, and a woman named Clemence Pinel. Joan spent a happy childhood living in France, until in 1205 her father decided that he would marry her to the Welsh Prince, Llywelyn Lord of Snowdon (who was to become known as Llywelyn the Great) in the hope of restoring peace with Wales. In May 1206 and at the age of 15, Joan was taken from France and wed to Llywelyn in a ceremony at Chester.

The years went by and Joan fast became a confident, outspoken and passionate character amongst Llywelyn’s people, far different to most wives of the kings and princes of the time, who had little or nothing to do with politics or the government. Joan managed to win much of the land in Gwynedd under Llywelyn’s reign, quickly making a name for herself within the political world at the time.

Although their marriage showed no troubles at the beginning, Joan would go on to betray Llywelyn. William de Braose, a Norman Marcher lord, was the 10th Baron of Abergevenny, and was detested by the Welsh, hence them giving him the name Gwilym Ddu (Welsh for Black William). In 1228 he was captured by Llywelyn’s men following fighting in the commote of Ceri near Montgomery in Wales. William was later ransomed for £2,000 and later came to an agreement with Llywelyn, allowing his daughter Isabella de Braose to marry Llywelyn’s only legitimate son, Dafydd. However, in Easter 1230, he was found with Joan in hers and Llywelyn’s bedchamber.

Furious, Llywelyn had William de Braose hanged in a field behind the palace known as Garth Celyn in Abergwyngegyn, North Wales. In his heartbreak and outrage, Llywelyn imprisoned Joan in a tower at Garth Celyn, where she spent the duration of twelve months. Afterwards Llywelyn forgave her for her adultery and took her back as his wife. She restored her title as princess and once again became the Lady of Wales.

Joan died in February 1237. In his grief, Llywelyn founded a Franciscan Friary near to the shore of Llanfaes, where he had Joan buried. From his castle at Abergwyngregyn, he would be able to look across the waters of the Menai Strait towards the Friary, remembering Joan as he did so. The Friary was consecrated in 1240, just a few months before Llywelyn’s death in April of the same year. Llywelyn was not buried with his wife, but at Aberconwy Abbey, to where he had retired during the last few years of his life. Devastatingly Joan’s Friary was destroyed in 1537 as part of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in Wales. Joan's tomb was desecrated by the English “Taliban” army and the whereabouts of the coffin were unknown for many years until it was found in the town of Beaumaris use as a horse trough for some 200 years. Today  Joan’s huge stone coffin lies in the church porch at Beaumaris Church where flowers are displayed to celebrate this great Welsh Lady.

The story of Joan lives on in the play ‘Siwan’ (Welsh for Joan) written by Saunders Lewis, which is still acted in theatres across the country.

Although she died several centuries ago, this Lady of Wales certainly hasn’t taken the story of adultery, lust, love and heartbreak to the grave.


Walk in the footsteps of Joan and Llywelyn on our Abergwyngregyn Walk (Aber Falls Walk) >>

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