That the mother of two of Robert’s sons, Richard and William, existed, there is no doubt, but because of the monkish scribblers’ eclectic choice of facts, and a degree of misogyny, not many women of the time got any credit for their achievements in life. Tegwin appears in history, that much is certain, but not perhaps as a single person…
There is a, very nearly buried, rumour of a dalliance by William the Conqueror with a Welsh or Saxon maiden named Maud Ingelrica, in the Peak district of Derbyshire. The Peak district was inhabited by the Welsh long before the Saxons pushed them westward and named themselves the people of the Peaks, ‘Pecsaeta,’and no doubt there was a degree of intermarriage, as was normally the case in these tribal movements.
The girl produced a child, called William, and was married off to a Norman lord named Ranulph Peverell. The family prospered and later became sheriffs of Nottingham.
The Welsh have long existed as a nation of two, divided between the north and the south. If King William wanted peace on his borders he may well have felt the need to bring Wales under control first by uniting it; the favoured method of the time being a suitable marriage.
The leader of revolt against Norman rule in North Wales at the time was an Irish/Welshman named Gruffudd ap Cynan. If a suitable blood relative of that family could be found then King William would be well on his way to manufacturing that marriage; especially after Gruffudd formed a loose alliance with the prince of the South, Rhys ap Tewdwr. This fell apart but Gruffudd was taken prisoner (through treachery) by Hugh of Chester, a Norman marcher lord, and later escaped from Chester under conveniently mysterious circumstances.
In 1081 King William visited ap Tewdwr at St David’s and concluded a treaty with him, the details of which are unclear, but it may have contained a long-term agreement to seek the unity of Wales through the mechanism of marriage. If the child of a Norman prince (Robert) and a Northern Welsh woman (Tegwin) was to marry the child of a Southern Welsh prince (ap Tewdwr) all the problems of Welsh unity and secured English borders would be solved at one stroke of the nuptial agreement.
Long term realpolitik in action – and this tactic was not unnoticed by the youngest brother, Henry, when he took up with ap Tewdwr’s daughter, Nest ferch Rhys, to produce Henry Fitzhenry, one of his numerous bastards.
Tegwin’s appearance in Robert’s life at Leicester is as likely to be the truth as fiction, given King William’s propensity for plotting and planning. Neither is her later re-appearance at Saint-Ceneri-le-Gerei entirely unexpected. It is in fact a matter of record, as is the witchcraft trial and the subsequent protection of her and the two children, Richard and William, within King William Rufus’ court.
In Tegwin’s times, perhaps even now, nothing upsets an organised religion more than having another form of worship make an appearance. Any suggestion that the woman was attached to the ancient Celtic gods would certainly be a gift to her Christian enemies, and none more certainly than if her god of choice was Rhiannon, Queen of Goddesses, often depicted in equine form. The witchcraft trial by fire is recorded in all of the chronicles, as is her triumph in surviving it; the accused were not expected to escape unblemished from this primitive test yet survive it she did. How she achieved this outcome remained unexplained until now, except, of course, by divine intervention.
From a forensic investigation of events and occurrences, which a novelist can connect where historians must hesitate, it is possible to bring this woman to life. She certainly figured as a tool in the Conqueror’s ambitions of empire-building, and as her boys were taken into King William Rufus’ court, she almost certainly figured strongly in Robert and his brother’s plans too.