Eleanor de Montfort was the English-born wife of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, under whose reign Gwynedd was finally conquered by the English. She was the first woman known to have used the title ‘Princess of Wales’, although her residence was relatively brief.
Eleanor’s father Simon de Montfort, the 6th Earl of Leicester, led a successful rebellion against King Henry III of England, the father of Edward I. In 1263 de Montford had forged an alliance with Llewelyn against their common enemy, an alliance that was strengthened by the betrothal of his infant daughter to the prince of Gwynedd. It was to be some time, however, before the couple were to marry.
In 1265 Simon de Montfort was killed at the Battle of Evesham, and Eleanor and her mother fled to France. When her mother died 10 years later, a marriage to Llewelyn ‘by proxy’ (with neither bride nor groom present at the ceremony) took place. Eleanor set sail for Wales, but her ship was captured off the Isles of Scilly. She was imprisoned first at Bristol and later at Windsor Castle by the new king, Edward I.
At the Treaty of Aberconwy in 1277 Llewelyn effectively submitted to Edward, and in 1278, desperate to produce an heir, he and Eleanor finally formalised their marriage in the king’s presence at Worcester Cathedral. In 1282 Eleanor died giving birth to a daughter, Gwenllian, at the royal llys at Abergwyngregyn. She was buried at Llanfaes on Anglesey alongside her aunt Joan, the ‘Lady of Wales’ and the wife of Llewelyn the Great – another English spouse of a Welsh prince.