Finding my Celtic roots!

The last destination on our trip in July 2005 was Wales.  The whole trip to England and Wales had started with an invitation from a cousin to visit the area in Wales which our Great Great Great Grandfather had immigrated from when he moved to the United States in 1836 … Lledrod, Wales.  This is a town high in the hills of central Wales, fairly close to Tregaron.  My cousin had rented an entire wing of the country estate Penpont in Brecon, Wales, which we used as the launching pad for our Welsh Adventures. When you visit Wales … you just have to visit lots of Castles.  I should just let you know right now that my maiden name is ‘Herbert’ and a couple of the castles we would see in this magical land are linked to that name.

Roman Fortress at Cardiff Castle

Roman Fortress at Cardiff Castle

The first Castle on our list was Cardiff Castle in the Welsh capital city of Cardiff.  The Castle was purchased by William Herbert, later known as the Earl of Pembroke, in 1550 and was controlled by the family until 1733 when it passed to the 1st Marquis of Bute, the son-in-law of the last Herbert heir, Lady Charlotte, through her daughter Lady Charlotte Jane Windsor.  After the death of the 4th Marquess of Bute in 1947, the 5th Marquess sold all the remaining property to pay the estate taxes, and then donated the Castle itself to the City of Cardiff.  Originally the site of an old Roman Fortress, the Roman walls still stand on the top of a hill.  Next to the old Roman Fortress is the modern home. Extensive renovations were ongoing through the 17th to 19th centuries with the last changes dating to the 1920’s.  While a lot of the original furniture was moved and sold in 1947 … the Cardiff Counsel has taken pains to return the home to the feel of it’s former splendor.

St. David Cathedral on the Western Coast of southern Wales

St. David Cathedral on the Western Coast of southern Wales

Next up was St. David’s Cathedral & Bishops Palace. On the far western shores of Southern Wales, the Cathedral is still fully functioning while the Bishops Palace is just a ghost of it’s former glory.  Saint David’s is said to be located on the site of the birth place in 500 ad of David, a Roman Catholic priest who rose to be a Bishop of Wales.  The site rose to such a level of importance to the Roman Catholics in the British Isles, that Pope Calixtus stated in the 12th Century that two pilgrimages to St. Davids equaled one to Rome … and three pilgrimages to St Davids equaled one to Jerusalem. There are so many wonders to behold in this vast complex that it would take a day to really see everything … but one of my favorites was the tomb of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond.  He was the father of King Henry VII who was the founder of the Welsh-born Tudor dynasty. Kings & Queens, Princes & High Born Lords have all visited this site and graced it with their generosity.

Raglan Castle near Abergavenny, Wales

Raglan Castle near Abergavenny, Wales

Herbert Standard @ Raglan Castle

Herbert Standard @ Raglan Castle

Last, but not least on our list of Castles to visit was Raglan Castle, a Medieval Castle on the outskirts of the town of Raglan.  This castle was particularly fun for me as it was built in the mid 15th Century by the minor son of a Welsh family, who’s name was Sir William ap Thomas.  His son dropped the Welsh version of their name and called himself … William Herbert.  William’s grand- daughter Elizabeth was the last Herbert to inherit Raglan and the Castle passed into the Somerset line through her marriage. The fun part for me is that my middle name is Elizabeth …. so I felt totally at home in the Castle of my ‘name’ ancestor … if not ‘blood’ ancestor!  The castle retained it’s splendor until the 1600’s when it was destroyed during the English Civil War of 1642.   The tombs of several members of the Herbert family are laid to rest in the Priory Church of St. Mary in the nearby town of Abergavenny. Our trip to Wales was topped off with a visit to the town of Lledrod … we toured the small church where my ancestors were baptized, married and buried.  Although we could not find any grave stones, we knew that they were there with us in spirit.

Categories: Europe

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