Maud (Matilda) de Braose was also known as the Lady of la Haie and to theWelsh as Moll Walbee . Married to William de Braose, the "Ogre ofAbergavenny", she was a significant warrior in he r own right. Her longdefence of Pain's Castle when it was besieged by the Welsh earned it the name "Matilda's Castle". The local people saw her as a supernaturalcharacter. She was said t o have built Hay Castle single handed in onenight, carrying the stones in her apron. When on e fell out and lodged inher slipper she picked it out and flung it to land in St Meilig'schur chyard, three miles away across the River Wye at Llowes. The ninefoot high standing stone ca n still be seen inside the church. The final fall of her husband may owe a lot to her hasty reply to KingJohn when he requeste d her son William as a hostage in 1208. She refusedon the grounds that John had murdered hi s nephew Arthur whom he shouldhave protected. The dispute between John and the de Braoses le d to Mauddying of starvation in the King's castle at Windsor along with her son,while her hus band, stripped of all his lands, died the following year inexile in France. Maud de Saint Valery appeared before the English army disguised as a nun.She was accompanie d by a Welsh hermit from Llowes who assured the menthat they should go into battle without fe ar. "And they believed him, asbeing a holy man, they did so, and in one day slew of the Wels h threethousand." Died by starvation, walled up in Corfe Castle ordered by KingJohn. Some strange folk tales about Maud de Saint Valery have survived. Onestory calls her Moll Wal by and tells how she built the castle of Hay onWye, single handed in one night. She carried t he stones in her apron butone lodged itself in her slipper. She flicked it out over the rive r Wyethree miles away, where it survived the centuries as a nine foot tallstanding stone wit h magical powers. Substantial remains of the de Braose castles can still be seen in themarches. The towns of Ab ergavenny, Hay and Brecon were each dominated bya massively fortified family residence. The a rmoured and mounted knightswhich clattered over the drawbridges were a persistent menace. A typical piece of folk lore begins two miles from Matilda's (or Pains)castle. The baron wa s returning with his men from a hunting expeditionwhen they spotted a Welsh princess and he r attendants bathing in a lake.William carried off the women and imprisoned them in the castl e. Theprincess caught the attention of her grieving relatives by holding afamily token ove r a candle at her dark prison window. William denied thathe had taken the girl but Rhys ap Gr uffydd launched a bloody attack onthe castle and rescued her. The great lord Rhys of Deheubarth did lead a massive campaign in 1196,taking Matilda's castle , Builth, Radnor and others before his death in aterrible plague the following year. Perhap s there is some truth in thefolk tale. Saint Mary de Haura church was once very much larger. William deBraose's additions were so e xtensive that he may have intended toestablish an abbey there. It is the finest of its type i n the country.The unusual name of the church is thought to relate to its position bythe harbo ur of New Shoreham.
By tradition, Maud's stone landed in the churchyard of Saint Meilig's atLlowes, near Hay o n Wye. In 1956 it was moved inside the church where itnow shares a corner with an old hand pl ough. Modern scholars believe theancient three and a half ton stone was moved from a mountain side spotstill called Croesfeilig (Saint Meilig's Cross ). The outline of a womanis carved o n the reverse side.