Persona Development

Or, some kind of ramblings that I might pick back up on someday. How did I pick my name? It was presuming a lot but when doing family tree research, the oldest record I was able to trace led me back, on my mother's father's line, to Wales. So, I thought I would select a name from Wales that represented my father's family's last name, but in Welsh to tie in the mother's side. It is common in the Society to attempt to show mixed parentage in your name, though this simply wasn't done in period, by the way.
Rhyd-helyg, the welsh for Willow Ford. The surname was originally derived from a place name meaning "willow ford" in Old English.
I found a historical ancestry record of someone who was from Rhydhelyg, Herefordshire, England in 1430 to base this on. Based on Google Maps.

Gerald has Ridhelic, varients: Rid helig, Rithelic.

Per Dimock and Warner (1868), Ridhelic, i.e., Vadum Salics, or Wiliford, 165; Sir R. C. Hoare supposed it to be Walford, Herefordshire.

I liked the sound of Aronwy - Welsh girl's name, meaning "One who lives by the river." It was a start, at least. I ended up with Arianwen, Aranwen, or Arganwen, based on the Saint Gabriel website. I was so happy to get the spelling I actually wanted!

Timeline - the name Aranwen Ridhelic is a spelling appropriate for around 1200.
The byname comes from 1194, when it appears in Geraldus Cambrensis' Descriptio Cambriae as Ridhelic.

For my persona's name, I selected Welsh to base her and her first name on because as best as I can guesstimate, that's where some of my mother's roots came from. I also selected English, for the last name, because that's clearly where my father's family came from! The name Williford is from England, Willow Ford, and this place just happens to be the English name for the old Welsh name of Rhydhelyg. Perhaps all of my roots came from the same general trunk of land. What a great example of having one's worlds collide! So this makes my research doubly as interesting. What's great is I have never enjoyed history until the SCA made it fun. Perhaps I would have done better in the historical studies of my youth had this been a part of my curriculum. ;)

I am currently on a quest for more information about what might have been going on in Aranwen's world at the time of her living. Since she was alive in 1200 I have a slight range of years in which to develop the persona. First will be deciding on what type of garb would have been appropriate for her. To do that, I must know what people she was with, and where that was, exactly. During the original time I was going to place her in, Wales was not yet called Wales, and Agnarr the Viking would have set sail from his place of dwelling for a conquest upon her lands. But, he comes a good bit earlier than she does, historically speaking at least (but we don't have to tell HIM that). If her name would have been spelled something more like Arganguen Rhydhelyg, she would have lived in an earlier time. But that spelling seemed too cumbersome, so Aranwen was my preferred name spelling, which I got! So... later on in time it is, then.

I would presume that she lived near Rhydhelyg, since after all, her surname bears this title. My quest now lies in finding this on a map at the right time. It would indeed appear that Wales - or, the Britons, rather - held this location for quite some time against the English, but not forever. In the 1400's I have found some others' old genealogical records showing that a William Vaughan of Rhydhelyg lived in Herefordshire, England in about 1430. [As an aside, the Norman invasion came at the south and eastern borders of Wales; one of the most famous border counties was Hereford.] Prior to this time, the name Rhydhelyg was spelled as Ridhelic, which is spelled as my persona's last name. It can be documented to around 1200.

What I have figured out so far, based on the timeframe of the name, is that she still lived in the free Wales, and in the days after the Norman invasion (which they succeeded in resisting). These days were prior to Llywelyn ap Gruffydd's death in 1282. [He was the last independant prince of Wales before its conquest by Edward 1 of England (Edward Longshanks), who subjected Wales to English rule, building castles and towns throughout the countryside, settled with Englishmen, before he moved on to attempt (and fail) to do the same with Scottland.] Aranwen lived before some pretty harsh times came about. The first Eisteddfod was held in 1176. Was she perhaps a youth at this time? Medieval Wales around this time must have been crazy, even if where she was at was better than some areas.... what with all the attacks and chaos that ensues from such. I can imagine it was a huge relief once the Normans turned their focus, from their foothold in Wales, towards Ireland for additional land in the 12th century. Norman Wales remained a land with a mosaic of lordships, per the History of Wales [Henry Weisser], as opposed to Norman England with its more centralized system of administration and law. But Wales could not be subdued. The independant natives, Wallia pura, carried on their own culture and ways of life, a division which still exists to this day. The areas to the North and West were too wet and rough for the Normans to carry out their large scale farming so they generally left those regions alone. I tend to think that Aranwen probably went here, rather than being humiliated by the Normans, forcing their serf labor upon the Welsh holdings. Although there is evidence that cross-culture adoption began: Normans took on Welsh traditions, and vice versa. So perhaps the two cultures melded together more smoothly in some places. So instead, she could have been one of those who was determined to carry on life as normal as best as possible, holding on to the old traditions in her same place of living.

Religion, of course, was another area changed by this invasion. The Normans were sent with reforms to tear the old Welsh away from their own old Celtic Christian practices, and instead align them under monasteries. I am sure that the tales which Gerald of Wales told of what he saw while travelling throughout Wales would have perked my interest on this topic.

I also wish to figure out where exactly on the map Willow Ford, or Rhydhelic, was located exactly. I'm getting pretty close. It was in the region of Powys, at some point.

Baesd on this Mediaeval Wales Map

"It takes some eight days to travel the whole length of Wales, from the mouth of the River Gwygir in Anglesey to Portskewett in Gwent. In breadth it stretches from Porth-mawr, that is the Great Port near St David's to Rhyd-helyg, the welsh for Willow Ford, called Walford in English, this being a journey that lasts four days."