How far to Milford Haven? A Response to Garrett Sullivan's "Civilizing Wales: Cymbeline, Roads and the Landscape of Early Modern Britain"
Lisa Hopkins
Sheffield Hallam University

Hopkins, Lisa. "How far to Milford Haven? A Response to Garrett Sullivan." Early Modern Literary Studies 5.1 (May, 1999): 16.1-5 < URL:

  1. In his very interesting essay, Garrett Sullivan draws attention to the fact that Imogen experiences particular difficulty in finding her way to Milford Haven when she is six miles from it. The specificity of this distance set me wondering whether there might be any particular significance to it, and a look at a map, along with my own memories of trips to Pembrokeshire, confirms that there are three places of considerable interest in the likely area. None of them is, as far as I can establish, exactly six miles from Milford Haven, but then it is part of the point of Sullivan's argument that precise distances were very hard to establish. More important, I think, is that all of them are places that a person on their way to Milford Haven might pass through, and all of them are very suggestive in connection with Cymbeline (indeed I wonder whether one reason that we are not specifically told where Imogen is might be that anyone familiar with the topography would recall all three places).

  2. The first of them is Manorbier Castle. Still dominating the small coastal village of Manorbier (FIG 1), though with modern buildings now nestling incongrously inside the walls (FIG 2), it is perhaps best known now for having featured as Cair Paravel in the BBC television adaptations of C.S. Lewis's Narnia stories. In Shakespeare's day, however, very different associations clustered round it: it had been the home of Gerald of Wales, who hymns its beauty and superb location. Gerald is an important figure in both the history of Wales, through his family links with the Geraldines and with his grandmother Princess Nest, the "Helen of Wales," and its historiography, through his careful account of his tour with Archbishop Baldwin. To evoke him both taps into the history of colonialism (the Geraldines had initiated the wave of Anglo-Norman settlers in Ireland), a resonant context for a play concerned with Britain's relationship with Rome, and also steps firmly into the area where history and legend, particularly those of Wales, meet. An allusion to his celebrated grandmother Nest would also be particularly appropriate in this play, for Nest represented a diametrical contrast to Imogen by being a Princess of Britain who really had committed adultery (with both King Henry I and with her cousin Owain ap Cadwgan, son of the Prince of Powys) but who had effectively escaped any punishment for it (though her husband, Gerald de Windsor, killed Owain ap Cadwgan). There would be a certain appropriateness in having Shakespeare's maligned Princess Imogen, on her way to Milford Haven, knock on the door of the daughter of Princess Nest and ask for directions.

  3. It would, however, be equally fitting to have her knock on another door not very far away, that of Carew Castle (FIG 3), home of Nest herself. Carew too has strong connections with earlier periods of Welsh history, as is indeed indicated by the name, which derives from 'caerau,' the Welsh word for an old fort: a cross commemorating the death of Maredudd ap Edwin in 1035 (FIG 4) is visible from the castle, and it later became the home of Sir Rhys ap Thomas, the South Wales magnate whose decision not to resist the landing of Henry Tudor at Milford Haven had been a major factor in the latter’s success (indeed the guidebook to Carew Castle suggests that Rhys may well have entertained Henry there on his march to Bosworth). However, if the castle was of interest to Shakespeare at all it would have been so primarily as the home of the Perrot family, and particularly of Sir John Perrot, another figure prominent in the history of Ireland -- he had been Lord Deputy there -- who was also widely rumoured to be the illegitimate son of Henry VIII, and thus the natural half-brother of Elizabeth I. To have a Princess of Britain going into Wales and finding long-lost brothers there begins, in such a context, to look rather double-edged.

  4. The Perrots were an important family with many court connections; one of their members, Sir Thomas, made a particularly distinguished, albeit runaway, match with Dorothy Devereux, sister of Elizabeth I's favourite the Earl of Essex. This probably came about because Essex himself had strong local links. His father -- yet another Lord Deputy of Ireland -- had been buried in Carmarthen, and Essex himself had spent much of his youth at nearby Lamphey Palace (FIG 5), which thus becomes my third candidate for the place where Imogen stops. Now a remote and peaceful spot, Essex's residence there had once made Lamphey an important centre of power and patronage; when he launched his ill-fated rebellion in 1601 a considerable degree of his support came from Wales or had Welsh connections, not least because of his family connections with the Perrots and indeed with the Earl of Pembroke himself, whose uncle, Sir Philip Sidney, had been the first husband of Essex’s wife Frances Walsingham. Thus, if Manorbier and Carew speak primarily of the past, Lamphey has a far more contemporary and pointed resonance.

  5. It is, of course, completely unprovable that Shakespeare invites us to contemplate his Imogen at any of these locations. But for anyone in the audience who did know the Pembrokeshire area (perhaps even, indeed, for the Earl of Pembroke himself, to whom the First Folio was dedicated in terms that imply personal acquaintance and patronage) to stop and wonder where Imogen might have passed on her journey might well be a very suggestive exercise.

    Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at EMLS@UAlberta.ca.

    © 1998-, Lisa Hopkins(Editor, EMLS).