Horrible Histories of Wales
The wild women of Wales

We’d never want to put you off visiting our lovely country, but some pretty nasty stuff has happened in Wales over the last 250,000 years or so. It’s fine now, though, honest.

The forgotten women of Wales


Everybody remembers the first French invasion of Britain in 1066 – they remember King Harold the hero who died with an arrow in his eye.

Sadly, Jemima Nicholas and the Pembroke Mum’s Army have been almost forgotten. She was a woman, of course, and it doesn’t seem to matter that she actually won! 

This is her dramatic – and almost forgotten – story.

Blown off course

On the 22 February 1797, 1,500 French troops, known as the Black Legion, landed at Carreg Wastad, near Fishguard, on the west coast of Wales. The main French army was planning to invade Ireland and set it free from British rule.

The French sent these 1,500 to attack Bristol – to make the English think THAT’S where the attack would be. But gales blew them past Bristol so they sailed round to Fishguard instead.

The French expected the Welsh to rise up and fight the English! Bad idea. But they picked a good place to land. The defenders only had eight cannons in the whole of Fishguard – and those cannons only had three cannonballs! So what did the defenders do? They fired blanks! It kept the French army quiet until Lord Cawdor arrived with a proper army.

Jemima Nicholas

Jemima Nicholas – a local cobbler – went out into fields that day and saw a dozen of the French soldiers wandering around. They were poor soldiers – half of the French army were criminals fresh out of jails. Some of them still had ankle irons on. They were starving and drunk; Jemima caught them chasing her sheep and chickens to eat.

She picked up a pitchfork and pointed it at them. 

They threw down their weapons. Jemima marched them down to the local jail. She became a Welsh heroine and was awarded a pension of £50 a year for life.

Reproduced by kind permission of Scholastic Children’s Books.