Betsi Cadwaladr: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Betsi Cadwaldr, the famous Welsh nurse who treated the wounded of the Crimean War.

  • Elizabeth Cadwaladr was born in Llaycil in north Wales in 1789. She was commonly known as Betsi Cadwaladr, but she is sometimes referred to as Beti Cadwaladr or Elizabeth Davis.
  • As a child, she was employed as a maid in Wales. When she was fourteen she left Wales for England and became a maid to a household in Liverpool.

  • She moved to London and worked as a servant and as an assistant. She often travelled with her employers and she apparently witnessed the aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo and was deeply moved by the injured soldiers.
  • In her 30s she became a maid to a ship’s captain. This gave her the opportunity to see more of the world. She spent time in South America, Africa and Australia.
  • Although she hadn’t received any formal training as a nurse, Betsi Cadwaladr often cared for the sick when she was on board the ship.

Betsi Cadwaladr

  • Betsi was moved by an article in The Times detailing the conditions facing those injured in the Battle of the Alma (one of the conflicts in the Crimean War). She decided to train as a nurse in London, and she joined the military nursing service.
  • Florence Nightingale, who came from a privileged background, did not want the Welsh working-class Betsi Cadwaladr to go to the Crimea, but Betsi, who was now in her 60s, went anyway.
  • She was posted to the hospital being run by Florence Nightingale in Scutari in Turkey. The two nurses didn’t get on. Florence Nightingale felt that strict rules and regulations should be in place, where as Betsi believed in a more instinctive and intuitive approach to caring for the sick.
  • Betsi Cadwaladr was moved to Balaclava. She worked twenty-hour days and made massive improvements to the hospital. Even Florence Nightingale was impressed by Betsi’s work in Balaclava.
  • Betsi Cadwaladr was forced to return to London in 1855. She had cholera and was suffering from dysentery.  She died in 1860.
  • In 2009 the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board was named in honour of the Welsh nurse.

What next? Discover more about the Crimean War and learn about Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole.

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