Estrildis was the beloved mistress of King Locrinus of the Britons and the mother of his daughter Habren, according to the 12th-century chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth.[1][2][3]

Mediaeval literature

In Geoffrey's pseudohistorical Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), Estrildis, the daughter of a king in Germania, was brought to Britain as a captive of Chief Humber the Hun during his invasion following the death of King Brutus. Eventually Humber's Huns were defeated by Brutus' three sons, the eldest of whom—Locrinus—fell in love with the beautiful Germanic princess upon discovering her in one of Humber's ships.[4]

Locrinus was forced to honour his prior betrothal to Gwendolen, the daughter of King Corineus of Cornwall, but kept Estrildis as his mistress.[5][6] For seven years he secretly visited her in a cave beneath Trinovantum (London, i.e., "New Troy"), where she was cared for by servants.[7] Estrildis bore him a daughter, Habren.

When Corineus died, Locrinus deserted Gwendolen and their son Maddan and declared Estrildis his queen. Gwendolen retaliated by raising a Cornish army against Locrinus and defeating him in battle; she then had Estrildis and her daughter, Habren, drowned in a river thereafter called Hafren in Welsh and Sabrina by the Romans (which is the River Severn in English).

Post-mediaeval literature

Elstridis and her story feature in Elstrild by Charles Tilney (d. 1586),[8] The Faerie Queene (1590) by Edmund Spenser, The Complaynt of Elstred (1593) by Thomas Lodge, and Locrine (1887) by Swinburne.[2]


Her name is probably a Latinized form of the medieval name Estrild (Old English: Éastorhild), which survived in England only until the 12th century, according to the 1984 Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names.[9]


  1. Tatlock, J. S. P. (January 1936). "The Origin of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Estrildis". Speculum. 11 (1): 121–124. doi:10.2307/2846878. JSTOR 2846878.
  2. Drabble, Margaret; Stringer, Jenny; Hahn, Daniel, eds. (2007). "Estrildis". The Concise Oxford Companion to English Literature (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191727092. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  3. Olson, Katherine (2008). "Gwendolyn and Estrildis: Invading Queens in British Historiography". Medieval Feminist Forum. 44 (1): 36–52. doi:10.17077/1536-8742.1708. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  4. Brewer, E. Cobham (1898). Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  5. Tolhurst, F (2013). Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Translation of Female Kingship. Springer. pp. 111, 197. ISBN 9781137329264. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  6. Johns, Susan M. (2013). Noblewomen, aristocracy and power in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman realm. Oxford University Press. p. 41. ISBN 9781847790538.
  7. Reinhard, John Revell (1939). Mediaeval Pageant. Collection of English versions of select mediaeval tales. Ardent Media. pp. 619–621. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  8. Berek, Peter (1982). "Tamburlaine's Weak Sons: Imitation as Interpretation Before 1593". Renaissance Drama (New Series). The University of Chicago Press for Northwestern University. 13: 68–69. JSTOR 43264629.
  9. "Feminine Given Names in A Dictionary of English Surnames" (Medieval Names Archive at
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