Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: Raphael Holinshed
Editor: Rosemary Gaby
Peer Reviewed

Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (Selection)


[1405 - from volume 3, page 528]

29This was a shrewd discomfiture to the Welsh by the EnglishAbr. Fl. out of Thom. Wals. Hypod. pag. 159. , on whom sinister lot loured, at such time as more than a thousand of them were slain in a hot skirmish; and such shameful villainy executed upon the carcasses of the dead men by the Welshwomen; as the like (I do believe) hath never or seldom been practised. For though it was a cruel deed of Tomyris, Queen of the Massagetae in Scythia,Lust. lib. 1. Herod. lib. 1. Val. Max. lib. 8. cap. 7 against whom when Cyrus, the great king of Persia came and had slain her son, she by her policy trained him into such straits, that she slew him and all his host; and causing a great vessel to be filled with the blood of Cyrus and other Persians, did cast his head thereinto, saying, "Blood thou hast thirsted and now drink thereof thy fill." Again, though it was a cruel deed of Fulvia, the wife of Marcus Antonius (at whose commandment Popilius cut off the head and hands of that golden mouthed orator, Tully, which afterwards were nailed up over the place of common pleas at Rome), to hold in her hands the tongue of that father of eloquence, cut out of his head after the same was parted from his shoulders, and to prick it all over with pins and needles. Yet neither the cruelty of Tomyris nor yet of Fulvia is comparable to this of the Welshwomen, which is worthy to be recorded to the shame of a sex pretending the title of weak vessels, and yet raging with such force of fierceness and barbarism. For the dead bodies of the Englishmen, being above a thousand lying upon the ground imbrued in their own blood, was a sight (a man would think) grievous to look upon, and so far from exciting and stirring up affections of cruelty that it should rather have moved the beholders to commiseration and mercy. Yet did the women of Wales cut off their privities, and put one part thereof into the mouths of every dead man, in such sort that the cullions hung down to their chins; and not so contented, they did cut off their noses and thrust them into their tails as they lay on the ground, mangled and defaced. This was a very ignominious deed, and a worse not committed among the barbarous, which though it make the reader to read it, and the hearer to hear it, ashamed. Yet because it was a thing done in open sight, and left testified in history; I see little reason why it should not be imparted in our mother tongue to the knowledge of our own countrymen, as well as unto strangers in a language unknown. And thus, much by way of notifying the inhumanity and detestable demeanor of those Welshwomen, after the conflict between the English and the Welsh, whereof desultory mention is made before pag. 520, where Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, was taken prisoner.