Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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KATHERYN of BERAIN (‘ Catrin o'r Berain , 1534/5 - 1591 ), ‘ Mam Cymru ’ (‘ The mother of Wales ’) .

Born in 1534/5 , Katheryn was the daughter of Tudur ap Robert Vychan of Berain, Denbs. , by his wife Jane , daughter of Sir Roland Velville (d. 1527 ), a natural son of Henry VII , whom Henry made constable of Beaumaris castle . Katheryn , who is said to have been a ward of queen Elizabeth , ultimately acquired by mortgage Penmynydd in Anglesey .

She was m. four times:

(1) to JOHN SALUSBURY , son and heir of Sir John Salusbury of Llewenni (the settlement deed is dated 11 Feb. 1556/7 ). They had two sons ( a ) Thomas (b. probably 1564 ) and ( b ) John (b. 1565 or 1566 ); John d. 1566 , before his father;

(2) in 1567 to Sir Richard Clough ; she went with Clough to Antwerp , where he was concerned in business for Sir Thomas Gresham . It is said that Maurice Wynn of Gwydir proposed to her as he led her from the church after her first husband's funeral, but she refused as she had already accepted Sir Richard on the way to church, promising, however, ‘that in case she performed the same sad duty (which she was then about) to the knight , he might depend on being the third’ ( T. Pennant , Tours in Wales , 1810 ed., ii, 146-7). From Antwerp they travelled to Spain and in 1569 they moved to Hamburg , where Clough d. in 1570 . She and Clough had two daughters, ( a ) Anne (b. 1568 ), who m. Roger Salusbury , and ( b ) Mary (b. 1569 ), who m. William Wynn of Melai . Clough provided handsomely for his widow and daughters and for his two stepsons. Katheryn returned to Berain and engaged William Cynwal of Penmachno , the bard and genealogist , to compile a record of her family — see his own words in Christ Church MS. 184 (photostat in N.L.W. MS. 6496 ).

(3) Sometime before Jan. 1573 , to Maurice Wynn of Gwydir (see under Wynn of Gwydir ) as his third wife, thus becoming the step-mother of Sir John Wynn of Gwydir . A child marriage between her son Thomas Salusbury , and Margaret , daughter of Maurice Wynn by his first wife, was arranged in 1574 . This led to trouble over the wardship of Thomas , who upon the death of his grandfather ( 18 March 1577/1578 ) became the ward of the earl of Leicester , who, however, gave his consent to the completion of the marriage agreement. Maurice Wynn d. in Aug. 1580 . There were two children of Katheryn 's third marriage, ( a ) Edward and ( b ) Jane .

(4) Sometime in 1583 , to Edward Thelwall , son of Simon Thelwall of Plâs-y-ward, Denbs. . At the same time a child marriage was arranged between her daughter Jane Wynn and his son Simon (b. 1570 ) .

In 1585/6 a daughter was born to Thomas and Margaret Salusbury , and in Sept. 1586 Thomas , who was implicated in the Babington conspiracy , was executed for alleged treason , and a commission was sent to inquire into his estate. In Dec. of the same year, Katheryn 's other son John (now Sir John Salusbury of Llewenni ) m. Ursula , a daughter of Henry Stanley , 4th earl of Derby (see N.L.W. MS. 5390 ).

On the death of her father-in-law Katheryn and Edward Thelwall moved to Plâs-y-ward , and Berain was settled on her grand-daughter, Margaret Salusbury .

Katheryn d. 27 Aug. 1591 and was buried in Llanefydd church. Many were the stories, true and untrue, told of her in North Wales . During her lifetime and after her death many tributes to her goodness were produced; see, for example, the poems preserved in Christ Church MS. (see above) and in N.L.W. MS. 6495-6 . Interesting as a personality, per se , she is also of importance as the ancestress of several North Wales families or of families connected with Wales . Thus Hester Lynch Salusbury (aft. Thrale , aft. Piozzi ) was a descendant of Katheryn 's first marriage, whilst Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn , 3rd. bart. of Wynnstay , was a descendant of her third marriage. Sir John Ballinger (in a long article on Katheryn in Y Cymm. , xl) gives four genealogical tables, facsimiles of her signature (she appeared to favour the form ‘ Katheryn ’), and reproduces four alleged portraits, to the authenticity or otherwise of each of which he devotes attention.


  • J. Ballinger , ‘Katheryn of Berain,’ in Y Cymmrodor , xl, and sources cited therein;
  • Calendar of Wynn (of Gwydir) Papers, 1515–1690, in the National Library of Wales and elsewhere (1926) ;
  • Christ Church College Oxford Manuscripts 183, 184;
  • NLW MSS 5390, 6495, 6496, etc.


Sir William Llewelyn Davies, M.A., LL.D., F.S.A. (1887-1952), Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959