|Family tree of the House of Brutus|
Gwendolen (Latin: Guendoloēna) was a legendary queen of Britain, as told by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his pseudohistorical work Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain; c. 1138). According to Geoffrey, she was the repudiated queen of King Locrinus until she defeated her husband in battle at the River Stour, the dividing line between Cornwall and Loegria, and took on the leadership of the Britons herself, becoming their first recorded queen regnant. Her victory and subsequent rise to fame as a righteous ruler shows how fractured Britain was at the time.
A daughter of Corineus, eponymous king of Cornwall and one of Brutus's warriors, Gwendolen was married to Locrinus, the eldest of King Brutus's three sons, and became by him the mother of Maddan, a boy. Upon her father's death, Locrinus divorced her in favour of his Germanic mistress, Estrildis (by whom he already had a daughter called Habren), and Gwendolen fled to Cornwall. Having built up a large army, she waged war against her ex-husband; a battle was fought near the river Stour, in which Locrinus was killed. Gwendolen then assumed his throne and ruled independently in the manner her father had in Cornwall. After having both Estrildis and her daughter drowned in the river Severn (Old Welsh: Habren), the ancient British monarch reigned peacefully for fifteen years, then abdicated in favor of her son and lived out the remainder of her life in Cornwall.
Gwendolen has been seen as a prime example of a female invader who successfully changed the entire direction of the monarchies in Albion. She was one of the first British Queens to demonstrate the power women, especially royal women, could have. She displayed power over the line of succession, proved just how far ruling powers could extend even when in the hands of a woman, and used what was seen as a detriment to her prospects (her gender) to her advantage. Gwendolen is an example of a queen willing to go to any lengths to protect her kingdom, resorting to violence and invasion. She occupied a role as both insider and outsider to King Locrinus's court and she used that unique status to become a so-called savior of Britain.
She is mentioned in Spenser's poem The Faerie Queene (1590) as Guendolene, and appears in the mythopoeic writings of William Blake as one of the twelve Daughters of Albion. It seems likely that her character also influenced that of the title heroine of Emmanuel Chabrier's opera Gwendoline (1886).
- Olson, Katherine (2008). "Gwendolyn and Estrildis: Invading Queens in British Historiography". Medieval Feminist Forum 44 (1): 4–20.
- Harper, Carrie Anna (1964). The Sources of the British Chronicle History in Spenser's Faerie Queene, p. 33, at Google Books. p. 33.
|Queen of Cornwall||Succeeded by
|Queen of Loegria and Albania|
|Queen of Kambria|
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