ON Valentine’s Day, when we celebrate all things romantic with gaudy cards, tasteless trinkets, florid flowers and candles boasting all sorts of stomach churning scents it’s worth remembering that as well as buying overpriced tat, love makes people do the strangest of things. 

When Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s third wife Mumtaz Mahal died giving bird to child number 14 he banned all music and entertainment for two years and built the Taj Mahal in her memory. One hit from Cupid’s arrow was enough to make King Edward VIII give up the throne to be with American divorcee Wallis Simpson. And so devastated was Joe DiMaggio in the wake of his former wife Marilyn Monroe’s death that for 20 year years he left red roses at her grave three times a week. 

Yet a little lady from Abergavenny called Alice tops them all in the crazy little thing called love stakes. Let’s rewind the clock and take a look at the story of the woman known to history as Alice the Vicious.

The year was 1170 and a twenty-something servant girl called Alice was on her way to the Emerald Isle with her Norman Marcher Lord lord lover in a battle party led by Raymond le Gros.

Alice was involved in the invasion because it was customary for the higher-ups in the Norman ranks to takes their wives and lovers along for the ride and provide a little light relief from all the casual slaughter. 

The ten knights and 70 archers landed on Baginbun Beach in County Wexford and began doing what Normans did best - build a fort to make their presence known and intimidate the locals. 

Feeling a tad peckish after their labours, the invaders decided to go kill some cattle and have a steak night. 

The Irish didn’t take kindly a bunch of strangers with superiority complexes and French names stealing their cows and cooking them, so they did what any self-respecting Celt would do in such circumstances - pick up an axe, start screaming and charge!

Around 3,000 to 4,000 Irish ladies and gentleman stormed the fort. They easily overpowered the Normans in number. However, Raymond le Gros was a cunning old fox and as the Irish attacked, he ordered the gates to be opened at the last moment. Lo and behold out came the startled cattle in a panicked rush. The gang of bovines hadn’t been cut into fillets, sirloins, rib eyes, and rumps and barbecued after all, but merely kept captive as a clever ruse to anger the natives. 

The stampede that ensued was chaotic enough to allow the Normans to charge the Irish ranks and cause all kinds of merry hell. 

According to “The song of Dermot and the Earl, “They rushed upon the Irish in a very short space of time. The Irish could not withstand them: they were obliged to break ranks, and Raymond and his Englishmen rushed between the Irish. Because their ranks were broken, the Irish were thrown into such disarray that their last company fled in this confusion.”

It was a huge victory for the Normans who were said to have killed 500 or more of the Irish, but sadly for Alice, her lover was one of the  few Normans who was cut down in the conflict.

Here’s where things get particularly bloody. 

As the Normans were discussing what to do with the 70 Irish prisoners they had captured, an angry Alice, crazed with grief and bloodlust stepped forward and snarled something along the lines of, “Let’s kill ‘em all!” She then added, “And if no man here’s got the stomach for it, I’ll take care of what needs doing!”

The collective shrug of the shoulders from the nervous and embarrassed men and their inability to meet Alice’s eye was all the permission she needed to go on the rampage. She picked up an axe and systematically decapitated every last prisoner before kicking their headless corpses off the cliff and into the sea. Hell hath no fury indeed! 

Alice’s psychotic actions were immortalized in “The Song of Dermot and the Earl.” It reads,“Up to seventy Irishmen were taken prisoner and the brave knights had them beheaded. They gave an axe of tempered steel to a servant girl who beheaded them all and threw their bodies over the cliff, for she had lost her lover that day in the battle. The girl who served the Irish thus was called Alice of Abergavenny.”

And so was born the legend of Alice the Vicious. 

Interestingly, Alice’s tale got a surprisingly modern twist when Irish doom metal band Mael Mordha released a song entitled, “Bloody Alice of Abergavenny.” 

With lyrics like, “A screaming wraith atop a cliff writhing in an orgasm of slaughter. One-by-one seventy men did she despatch with an ever blunting blade of an axe,” and “From what fashion house does your cloth come? All natural fibres I’ll warrant. From the dye, to the cloth, to the thread from the dead,” it’s pretty strong stuff and a fitting tribute to a psychopath. Particularly the verses, “Though he was of the invading force and dispatched by the defenders. As so often is the case in life a woman’s rational is replaced by madness. A screaming atop a cliff, bloodied breasts for all to see. Yet no man looked on her with lust, as her needs fulfilled with a mountain of corpses to her knees.” 

Check it out on Spotify if you want some absent background music for that all-important dinner date! 

In the aftermath of the carnage committed by her hand, Alice seems to have faded in obscurity. However, local legend has it that if you don’t buy your other half a ridiculous amount of gifts to show your appreciation on Valentine’s Day, a lady with a big axe and the most blood-chilling grin a mortal can encounter this side of hell will step out of the shadows and ask you softly but firmly to be a little bit more romantic.