Conjugal Visits in Medieval Jails?

+7 votes
Gruffydd ap Llywelyn has one of the colorful stories of medieval Wales -- oldest but illegitimate son of Llywelyn the Great, he had a claim as heir under Welsh law, but not under the English law of Llywelyn's wife Joan or her father King John of England.  To keep his claims in check, he was kept prisoner by one figure or another during most of his life.  

Still, he managed to marry one (or even two) wives, and have as many as 7 children.  I'm descended from Catherine, who may or may not have been his daughter.  One factor in establishing his issue could be whether he actually had the opportunity to have that many children!  

His final captivity was in the Tower of London, from which he fell and died in 1244.  In that "easy" captivity, as it has been described, he was accompanied by his wife and some of his children.  So does anyone know if it was unusual or a common practice to enjoy the presence of one's spouse during such captivities, which would then allow for a greater number of children than the calendar might otherwise suggest?
WikiTree profile: Gruffudd ap Llywelyn
in Genealogy Help by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (353k points)
The Tower of London is more akin to a small walled village than a jail, complete with apartments and everything.  I for one once thought "The Tower" was one of the towers of Tower Bridge.  :D
English Victorian mock-Gothic cons a lot of people into thinking they're looking at something ancient.  But there's steel framing behind that stone cladding.
All of which is a diversion from speculation about when Gruffydd's wife actually had an opportunity to become pregnant.....
Unless she was locked up, so to speak, I'd think she had loads of opportunity.
I wouldn't think the Tower of London is a stone clad steel-framed Victorian mock-Gothic structure.  That would probably knock it off the list of World Heritage Sites.  Also would make all the archeologists that dig around it with tooth brushes and dustpans look silly.  :D

2 Answers

+3 votes
Jack, I think the answer to this would be - 'it depends ....'

It certainly sounds like his imprisonment in the Tower of London accompanied by his wife and children; they would all be in the same apartment, but I don't think that is going to be the norm.  

It would really depend on why someone is imprisoned, where they are imprisoned in regards to their usual abode, who is imprisoning them, etc, as to whether conjugal visits were possible.

If you are trying to prove that Catherine is Gruffydd ap Llywelyn's daughter than it isn't looking good.  I presume she isn't named in any Welsh sources, which do name 5 of his children?

If the only source for her is Burke's Landed Gentry, then that is a concern as he was known as repeating 'stories' without any checking of sources.
by John Atkinson G2G6 Pilot (456k points)

Well, John, perhaps we need an additional category of sources we could call "flaky" -- such as Burke.  I've not heard of a deliberate intent to defraud as with the infamous Gustave Anjou, but without checking sources, some percentage of his material, however large or small, is going to have errors. Catherine is mentioned in the 1853 edition of Burke.  The Brittanica article mentions efforts of subsequent editors to clean up errors, but that some certainly remain.  Is there an easy way to access the most recent version?  If Catherine no longer appears, that would certainly give the message that her existence was reviewed and documentation found wanting.  On the other hand, if she still appears, she could still be an error.  

The other weak spot in my line back to Welsh Royalty would be the several generations from the time, having become drapers, they moved to Shrewsbury and changed their name to Hosier, back several generations to names with multiple sources.  Joseph Morris (The Provosts and Bailiffs of Shrewsbury, p. 261 in Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, Third Series, Vol IV, 1904. ) covers most of those generations, but one is covered only by John Skinner, (Cambrian Archeological Association, Archaeologia cambrensis. "Oswestry, Ancient and Modern, p. 50.  The link to Skinner's page not only completes the line backwards in time, but contains an error that I already know of, where Skinner makes Alice, wife of another generation of Hosiers, into Alice Trentham.  If there were a person named Alice Trentham, she would have a clear path through the Corbets back to Charlemagne, but solid documentation of her supposed Trentham parents includes no reference to a daughter Alice, so Alice Hosier lives on in WikiTree as Alice LNAB Unknown.  

Burke's is sufficiently condemned by not citing sources.  But they can certainly be charged with knowingly printing wrong stuff.

In the 19th century, their main method of "research" was writing to heads of families.  They got the official version.  In the Landed Gentry books, the less important people paid for their entries.

Everybody knew that many of the pedigrees were fakes.  The people who bought the books were the people in the books, and they knew they'd had work done on their own story.

And in effect Burke's offered an update service, so Sir George could let it be known that as of the 17th edition he was a distant cousin of the Marquess of Exeter, but was not and never had been a kinsman of the Duke of Yorkshire (such a shame about his sister).

This of course was what people needed to know.  They could get the dirt on the grapevine, but heaven forbid that people should print that sort of stuff, society would fall apart.

So Burke's became the gentry's official history of themselves.  Nobody then thought that genealogy ought to be about true history, and there wasn't any money in that.

The publishers oiled the wheels by adding those misleading preambles which imply that Sir George was descended from Sir John who did homage in 1197 and Lord Richard who fought so bravely at Agincourt, although there wasn't really any connection.

However, they've always been very slow to follow up on actual research, and continue to print debunked lines long after they're debunked, until they think the market favours dropping them.

And the current publishers, still intent on giving the customers what they want, now seem to be cynically picking up discredited immigrant lines from 19th century American books.
+2 votes
The Dictionary of National Biography 1885-1900 Volume 23 states that Gruffydd's wife, Senena, was allowed to visit him in the Tower of London.

Wikipedia mentions a daughter named Catherine, but doesn't give a source other than the one above (which doesn't mention any daughters.)
by Angelique Chamberlain G2G6 (9.8k points)
Yes, Angelique -- I think the Wikipedia account goes back to a Burke entry, which I had found.  On the positive side, the Burke entry is a sideline in a particular line of descent -- Adam was the father of Barry, Barry was the father of George, George was the father of Melvin who married Alice, Melvin was the father of Robert, etc.  "Alice" is not essential to this narrative I just made up, and the Burke entry is the same for Catherine.  But on the negative side, Atkinson's point is well made, that Burke just put together material from wherever he got it, without sourcing it, so it's weak -- and the best documented sources don't include her.  So at this point I've marked Catherine's parents "uncertain"!

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