The forgotten massacre of 100 Welsh women
NOVEL SHEDS LIGHT ON CROMWELL KILLINGS
A NOVELIST has brought to light a forgotten atrocity when more than 100 Welsh women were murdered by English Roundhead soldiers.
Jerry Hunter’s Dark Territory is set around the time of the English Civil War in the 17th century, and highlights how violence associated with religious extremism is nothing new.
American-born Mr Hunter, who lives in Penygroes, near Caernarfon, said: “It is relatively well known that during his bloody military campaign in Ireland, Oliver Cromwell approved the wholesale slaughter of civilians because they were Catholics.
“But less attention has been given to another massacre suffered at his forces’ hands. It is the story of the Women of Naseby, a dark episode of Welsh history which has been absent from popular histories.”
He added: “After the Battle of Naseby in June 1645 the Parliamentarian cavalry, in pursuit of fleeing Royalists, came upon a Royalist camp and a large group of women. Hearing them screaming in an unknown tongue, the English soldiers assumed they were Irish Catholics, and cut them down in cold blood.
The Professor of Welsh and Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Bangor added: “These women were crying out in Welsh. Most of Wales had declared for the King, and these were the wives of soldiers in Welsh Royalist regiments who had followed their husbands to war to cook and wash for them.
“Despite over 100 of them being killed on the spot, and the faces of others mutilated, their fate has largely been forgotten.”
Prof Hunter (below) said Dark Territory is a work of fiction and that he did not know where the women are buried.
The novel’s protagonist is “zealous Welsh puritan” Rhisiart Dafydd, whose beliefs initially lead him to embrace Parliament’s cause and the violence of Cromwell’s New Model Army, but whose conviction is tested by these atrocities.
Described as “an epic historical adventure set during one of the most turbulent periods in history”, the novel also poses questions about violence, power and religious extremism.
Prof Hunter said: “With this novel I also wanted to crossexamine the ideological foundations of ‘ American exceptionalism’.
“For centuries politicians in the USA have referred to the nation as a ‘shining light’ for the rest of the world to follow. Through the prism of fiction, this work examines the dark realities at the foundations of those beliefs.”
Prof Hunter said this is particularly relevant today in the age of Trump, when the “old myths of exceptionalism are being invoked once again in an attempt to ‘make America great again’.”
Literary critic and author Jon Gower described the novel as “the work of a master... nothing less than a classic”.
Prof Hunter is best known as a Welsh-language author and won Welsh Book of the Year for his academic work, Llwch Cenhedloedd, and the National Eisteddfod Prose Medal for Gwenddydd. ● Dark Territory, £9.99, Y Lolfa
● Cromwell at the Battle of Marston in 1644 – a year before his forces slaughtered the wives of Welsh soldiers after the Battle of Naseby
● Professor Jerry Hunter’s Dark Territory is set around the time of the English Civil War in the 17th century