Tuesday, October 4, 2011


One parent wants Gwen. One parent wants Lily. Didn't you know that you can have both? Now you do!

Gwenllian (pronounced "gwehn-LEE-an") is a Welsh name composed of the elements gwen meaning "white" or "blessed," and llian meaning "flaxen." This name is almost unheard of in America, but has a long and illustrious history in Wales.

Gwenllian ferch Llewellyn was only a few months old when she became an orphan in the 1200s. Her mother, Eleanor de Montfort, died giving birth to her and her father, Llewellyn ap Gruffudd, was captured and put to death by the English. Gwenllian's life was in danger because she was the only heir to the throne of Wales. But she had family ties to English royalty, so she was not killed. King Edward I arranged for her to and her cousins to live in Lincolnshire while he took the title of Prince of Wales. Gwenllian was not allowed any freedom, and she never learned any Welsh. Documents indicate that she didn't know how to spell her own name, she signed it as "Wentiliane." She has been referenced in at least three works of poetry and song. After a lengthy campaign, the mountain Carnedd Uchaf was renamed Carnedd Gwenllian in her honor.

Now, this Gwenllian is often confused with Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd, also known as Gwenllian the Brave. This Gwenllian was the daughter of Gruffudd ap Cynan and Angharad. Born in 1097, she was the youngest daughter of eight children; her sisters were Mared, Rhiannell, Susanna, and Annest, her brothers were Cadwallon, Owain, and Cadwaladr. She was strikingly beautiful, and became romantically involved with visiting Prince Gruffydd ap Rhys who she eloped with. According to legend, Gwenllian and her husband would take goods and money from the English, Norman, and Flemish colonists and redistribute them among their people.

Gwenllian the Brave died in The Great Revolt of 1136. Her husband had left their kingdom in order to enlist help from her father. While he was gone, the Normans attacked. Gwenllian was compelled to lead an army against them. She was eventually captured and beheaded. She is the only known Medieval Welsh woman to lead an army into battle. For centuries after her death, Welshman cried out, "Revenge for Gwenllian!" while charging at the enemy. Historians often compare her to the Celtic leader Boudicea. The field where The Great Revolt is believed to have taken place is named in her honor.

Although this name has never been popular in the United States, the two elements split apart are very familiar. Gwen peaked in the 1950s at #327. Lily is, of course, an enormously popular name today at #17. You could even make the compound more obvious and use Gwenlily.

Gwenllian is a great name for those that want to honor a great female warrior. But it also has a sweet, delicate side. The "lily" aspect falls in line with today's name fashion, so only time will tell if this name will jump across the pond to our country.


Image Credit:
Found via http://pinterest.com/


  1. It's a beautiful ancient name; though the pronunciation is a bit more complicated. The 'll' is not pronounced 'l'. 'll' in Welsh is a letter in its own right, and hard for non-Welsh speakers. A Welsh speaker has actually done it on Forvo:


  2. It's a great and historic name, very popular here in Wales. It's my youngest daughters name, she is named Gwenllian Ellen after two of her great grandmother's.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.