While Richard Pole basked in royal favour and Margaret bore his children, the Earl of Warwick’s doom was fast approaching. Since the failure of the Lambert Simnel uprising, Warwick had been immured in the Tower. This was not necessarily meant to have been a permanent state of affairs, for in 1488, he had been allowed to witness a document in Warwickshire–perhaps a sign that Henry VII was considering his release. The next pretender, however, would soon put an end to even these feeble hopes for Warwick.
Who precisely ‘Perkin Warbeck’ was remains controversial, but he was most likely born in Tournai, France, to Jehan de Werbecque and Nicaise Farou. Working as a silk merchant, in 1491 Warbeck eventually landed in Cork in Ireland, where he caught the eye of diehard Yorkists who saw in him a likely pretender. This time, the role to be played was that of Richard, Duke of York, who with his older brother Edward V had disappeared during Richard III’s reign. Warbeck was briefly supported by the French, but then moved onto the more promising ground of Burgundy, where Edward IV and Richard III’s sister, Margaret, was the dowager duchess. Maximilian, King of the Romans, who was married to Margaret’s stepdaughter, backed an invasion of England in 1495, which failed, but James IV, the king of Scotland, lent his own backing to the pretender, even going so far to marry him in 1496 to his relative Lady Katherine Gordon, the daughter of George, Earl of Huntley. After another failed attack in 1497, Warbeck went into sanctuary at Beaulieu Abbey, but surrendered in exchange for his life.
Having confessed his imposture and undergone the humiliation of being paraded around London, the captive Warbeck joined Henry VII’s court, where he was kept under close surveillance and separated from his wife (who stayed with the queen), but otherwise treated rather well for a man who had tried to unseat a ruling king. In June 1498, however, Warbeck escaped from Westminster Palace. Within a few days, he was recaptured and sent to the Tower.
Meanwhile, another plot was brewing: this one involving Robert Cleymond, a servant of the imprisoned Earl of Warwick who in February 1498 had met with a John Fynche, a London haberdasher who told Cleymond of a prophesy involving the restoration of the earl, and a Thomas Astwode, who had been condemned to death for treason in 1495 but had been pardoned. In July 1498, soon after Perkin Warbeck was imprisoned in the Tower, John Williams, a servant of the Earl of Warwick, introduced Astwode to the young earl. Astwode promised the earl ‘to do you good and help to put you in your right’. Soon–according to the government–the imposter Perkin Warbeck was plotting with Cleymond, Astwode, and Warwick to topple King Henry from this throne.
Whether the conspiracy was spontaneous or, as some have suggested, manufactured in part or entirely by the government to entrap Warbeck and Warwick, the young earl was ill-equipped for such intrigues. Several decades later, the chronicler Edward Hall would write that Warwick, ‘[b]eing kept in the Tower from his tender age, that is to say from his first year of the king to this fifteenth year, out of all company of men and sight of beasts, in so much that he could not discern a goose from a capon’. Quoted out of context, this statement has been taken by some to indicate that Warwick was mentally deficient from birth; yet Hall’s meaning simply seems to be that Edward, having been imprisoned since the beginning of Henry’s reign, was naive and unworldly. Having been a prisoner since childhood, he had never had the chance to exercise judgment.
Sir Simon Digby, the lieutenant of the Tower, learned of the plot in early August. The king and his council, informed of the plot, did nothing, allowing the case against the principals to build. On 12 November 1499, the king consulted his councilors, who agreed that Warwick and Warbeck had to die.
A common belief is that Warwick’s fate was sealed by the need to assure Ferdinand and Isabella, whose daughter, Katherine of Aragon, was pledged to marry Prince Arthur, that England was free of the threat of future civil war. As Hall, writing several decades later, stated, ‘The fame after his death sprang abroad, [that] Ferdinand king of Spain would never make full conclusion of the matrimony to be had between Prince Arthur and the lady Katherine his daughter nor send her into England as long as this earl lived. For he imagined that as long as any earl of Warwick lived, that England should never be cleansed or purged of civil war and privy sedition, so much was the name of Warwick in other regions had in fear and jealousy’. This may well have been the case, although the appearance in early 1499 of a second Warwick imposter, one Ralph Wilford, and astrological predictions of coming trouble played their role as well. In March 1499, Don Pedro De Ayala wrote to Ferdinand and Isabella of the prognostications, ‘Henry has aged so much during the last two weeks that he seems to be twenty years older’.
Following a trial on 16 November 1499, Perkin Warbeck was hanged at Tyburn on 23 November. Warwick, in turn, was brought to trial before John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and other lords at Westminster, as befit a peer of the realm, on 21 November. He confessed to the charges against him and was sentenced to the traitor’s death of hanging, drawing, and quartering. Such a sentence was usually reduced to a beheading (the preferred means of execution for a man of noble blood), and this held true in Warwick’s case. On 28 November, twenty-four-year-old Warwick was beheaded outside the Tower of London. The king paid for the interment of his head and body at Bisham Abbey, the resting place of his ancestors. Two months later, the Spanish ambassador, Rodrigo de Puebla, crowed that ‘not a doubtful drop of royal blood remains in this kingdom, except the true blood of the king and queen, and above all, that of the lord prince Arthur’.
Margaret, of course, remained in the kingdom, but as a female who had been married to a loyal subject, her own royal blood was of little concern. We can assume that she grieved for her brother, but no one recorded her reaction to his execution. How well she knew him is another question. She and her brother had lived apart for years, and we do not know whether they communicated after he was imprisoned. Later, Margaret would declare that her brother had neither ‘experience nor knowledge of the worldly policies nor of the laws of this realm’, which could indicate that Margaret had been in contact with her brother during his last years; alternatively, Margaret could simply be repeating what she had heard from others.
Whatever the depth of Margaret’s sorrow, there would soon be a welcome distraction: her son Reginald was born in March 1500 in Stourton Castle. The following year there would be a distraction on a national level: a royal wedding.
Susan Higginbotham is a lawyer and lives in North Carolina, USA. She is the author of ‘The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England’s Most Infamous Family’ and five historical novels set in Lanacastrian and Tudor England. Her new book ‘Margaret Pole: The Countess in the Tower” by Amberley Publishing is available now.
Sir William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, was a prominent Yorkist during the Wars of the Roses. His service to King Edward IV of England brought him power, status and wealth. Herbert came from a family of Welsh gentry – not a great noble house – yet by the end of his life he was one of the foremost men in Edward’s realm. Nevertheless, as was the case for so many of his peers, his time in the sun was short; he was ultimately executed as a ‘traitor’, following his defeat in battle. This article provides a brief insight into his tumultuous career.
Herbert was born in 1423 at Raglan in the Welsh Marches. He was a son of Sir William ap Thomas and his second wife, Gwladys, meaning that he was of Welsh descent on both sides. Herbert and his siblings were the first members of his family to adopt an English-style surname – we cannot be certain about the reasons for this choice – although his kinsmen had already established a proud record of service to the English kings. His father was a veteran of the Hundred Years War. His maternal grandfather, Dafydd Gam (‘the lame’) was also a celebrated warrior. Dafydd died fighting for Henry V at Agincourt, and he is traditionally regarded as the model for Shakespeare’s Fluellen.
With this background in mind, one might have predicted that Herbert would also seek fame and fortune in the French wars. By the late 1440s he had risen to become captain of Carentan, where he shared command with the formidable Matthew Gough (another Welsh veteran). His time in France must have provided valuable military experience, although by this point there were fewer opportunities to gain advancement or renown; the tide had long since turned in the favour of the French. In any case, Herbert’s service in France came to an abrupt end in 1450, when he was captured at the Battle of Formigny. He was ransomed, however, and swiftly returned home.
In the years that followed Herbert devoted himself to local affairs. He had inherited his father’s influence as well as his lands (the elder Sir William died in 1445), and he now began to assert himself more strongly in the south-east of Wales. Fifteenth-century Wales was a turbulent place, not least due to simmering Welsh resentment in the wake of Owain Glyndŵr’s revolt. In much of Wales, responsibility for maintaining law and order lay with the powerful marcher lords, but they often resided elsewhere. This meant the Marchers needed to find local men to whom they could delegate authority. Herbert earned the trust of several lords. By 1453 he was the Earl of Warwick’s sheriff of Glamorgan. He also developed strong ties with Richard, Duke of York, who held extensive estates in the Marches.
A fifteenth-century gentleman could achieve a great deal via service to magnates or the crown, but he also needed to maintain effective relations with his peers. It is probably within this context that we should seek to explain his marriage to Anne Devereux, a member of another local gentry family. Their wedding took place in 1449, shortly before Herbert’s last campaign in France. Their union cemented an alliance that would become increasingly important to both of the families involved.
Anne was reputedly a beautiful woman, but aristocratic marriages were only rarely driven by romantic passion. Nevertheless, Herbert does appear to have respected his wife – he appointed her, for instance, as an executor of his will – and there is some tantalising evidence which suggests he might have felt more. A fifteenth-century signet ring has been found near Raglan which bears the initials W and A, as well as the inscription ‘to yow feythfoull’. While the couple inevitably spent long periods apart, in time they would become parents to nine children (of whom several survived to be adults). It must be said that Herbert also fathered at least five illegitimate children, although his relationships with their mothers are thought to have been youthful affairs that predated his marriage to Anne.
York or Lancaster?
As the 1450s progressed, local and national politics became increasingly fraught, as civil war loomed. It might be assumed that Herbert would have been an instinctive Yorkist, given his closeness to the Duke of York, but he also established connections with the Lancastrian court; he was knighted in 1452 by Henry VI, alongside the king’s half-brothers Edmund and Jasper Tudor. Even so, by 1454 Herbert had already aligned himself explicitly with York, stating that he was ‘no man’s man’ but the duke’s. It is possible that Herbert fought for York at the first Battle of St Albans, in 1455. In the following year he joined a group of Welsh gentlemen who resorted to further violent action on the duke’s behalf, seizing control of two important Welsh castles. Edmund Tudor was captured, contracted an illness (probably plague) and shortly afterwards died.
Herbert was outlawed by the royal authorities and briefly imprisoned, but he somehow obtained a pardon. For the rest of the 1450s he maintained a distance from York, as well as his allegiance to Henry VI. Herbert was conspicuous by his absence at the ‘Rout of Ludford’, in October 1459, when the Duke of York and his closest followers were driven into exile. It was also around this time that Herbert commissioned a splendid book, including Lydgate’s epic poem about the Trojan War, which was probably intended as a gift for Henry. (The beautiful illuminations include a depiction of Herbert and his wife kneeling before the king.) Nevertheless, when the Yorkist lords returned to England, and defeated the royal forces at Northampton (10 July 1460), he threw himself irrevocably behind the Yorkist cause.
The Duke of York was killed at the Battle of Wakefield (30 December 1460), but this, of course, was not the end of the matter. Leadership of the Yorkist faction now passed to his eldest son, Edward, Earl of March. At the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross, on 3 February 1461, Edward defeated Jasper Tudor and announced himself as a great military commander. Herbert was at Edward’s side.
On 3 March the Yorkists were admitted to London, where Edward was acclaimed as England’s new ruler. On 29 March Herbert fought at the Battle of Towton, where the main Lancastrian army was destroyed. Now that his title was secure, the young king rewarded his supporters. Although we can only speculate about the strength of their personal relationship, it is clear that Edward already valued Herbert’s service. When Edward chose to confer important offices in South Wales upon Herbert, in preference to his chief ally the Earl of Warwick, this confirmed the Welshman’s status as a prominent member of the new regime. Herbert was ennobled after Edward’s coronation, which took place in late June, and in the following year he became a knight of the Garter.
The ‘Master Lock’
The Battle of Towton was a great victory for the Yorkists, but their opponents did not give up the struggle. The Lancastrian resistance was strongest in Northumberland, where King Henry’s supporters continued to hold important castles, but there was also resistance in Wales; this owed much to the efforts of Jasper Tudor, whose major role in the Wars of the Roses has only recently begun to be fully recognised. Edward IV completely delegated the direction of military affairs in Wales to Herbert, a charge he exercised with vigour.
Ably assisted by his younger brother Richard, Herbert gained a series of victories. Pembroke Castle quickly fell to the Yorkists, and Jasper’s nephew Henry, the future king, was captured. (Henry Tudor would go on to spend his formative years in Herbert’s household, and there were later plans for him to marry one of Herbert’s daughters.) In October 1461 Herbert defeated the elder Tudor at the Battle of Tŵt Hill, near Caernarfon, compelling him to seek refuge overseas.
By May 1462 only Harlech Castle remained in Lancastrian hands. Incredibly, Harlech’s garrison continued to defy the Yorkists for several more years, but when Jasper Tudor returned to Wales in 1468, with French support, Herbert responded with a determined and brutal campaign. Tudor was once again forced into exile, and Harlech finally surrendered on 14 August.
As a reward for his capture of Harlech, the last Lancastrian stronghold in the British Isles, Edward created Herbert Earl of Pembroke (a title previously held by Jasper Tudor). This was the pinnacle of Herbert’s career, although it must be seen as the culmination of a series of rewards. Assisted by a network of people who were tightly bound to him by ties of kinship and service, Herbert effectively ruled Wales on Edward’s behalf.
With greater responsibilities came greater wealth, and Herbert diverted vast sums into a spectacular building programme at Raglan. The castle’s best known feature remains its imposing great tower, which was constructed for Herbert’s father, but over the course of the 1460s there was a massive expansion of the site. There was an emphasis on comfort and luxury, as the workmen created well-appointed apartments that were flooded with light. The castle was set within an extensive managed landscape, including gardens, orchards, and a park well stocked with game. During Herbert’s lengthy absences it fell upon his wife to supervise the day-to-day running of the project; records suggest she played a vital role. By the end of the 1460s the Herberts had transformed Raglan into a palatial home.
The architects at Raglan incorporated the latest fashions from England and the Continent, but Herbert did keep sight of his roots. He offered hospitality to Welsh bards, following the ancient traditions of native lordship, and in return they celebrated his achievements. Recounting stories of Herbert’s martial exploits, Lewys Glyn Cothi described his ‘frame ablaze on prancing steed, and his eyes glistening like glowing embers’. It was the same man who gave Herbert his famous soubriquet: Edward IV’s ‘master lock’. But the bards’ support was not unconditional. Now that Herbert was undisputed master of Wales, Guto’r Glyn urged him to use his power for the benefit of the Welsh people; ‘and should England resent it, Wales will rally to your side!’
Herbert and ‘the Kingmaker’
Herbert’s activities were by no means restricted to Wales, however. He sometimes attended the English court, as a trusted member of Edward IV’s council. Yet as Herbert’s power continued to grow, he also made powerful enemies. The most significant of these was the Earl of Warwick, whose own relationship with the king was steadily deteriorating. Warwick’s ire was principally directed at the Woodvilles, the family of Edward’s queen, but there can be no doubt that he also resented the influence of Herbert – his former servant – whom he regarded as an upstart.
There was mutual hostility. In October 1467 Herbert captured a Lancastrian messenger. When the messenger implicated Warwick in Lancastrian plots Herbert sensed a chance to destroy his great rival. He sent the prisoner to the king, along with a full account of the messenger’s allegations. On this occasion Edward chose to accept Warwick’s denials – which were probably sincere – and this led to a thaw in their relationship. Warwick returned to court, following a self-imposed exile in the north, and Herbert himself was publicly reconciled with Warwick. But tensions remained. Warwick continued to oppose Edward’s pro-Burgundian foreign policy (the former favoured an alliance with the French). We must assume that more personal issues were also unresolved.
In the summer of 1469 disturbances throughout the country convinced Warwick that the time was ripe for rebellion: he was now determined to put forward his own policies by force of arms. Warwick devised a two-pronged strategy. In the north, a prominent member of the earl’s affinity raised rebellion under the guise of ‘Robin of Redesdale’, an obscure figure associated with an earlier revolt. But when Edward was lured northwards, calling for Herbert and the Earl of Devon to join him en route, Warwick was quietly preparing a rebellion in the south. The rebels included Edward’s own brother, George Duke of Clarence, who had grown dissatisfied with his position within the Yorkist regime. Herbert cannot have been aware of the full scale of the threat, but he quickly assembled his men and hurried to Edward’s aid.
The Battle of Edgecote
On 9 July Edward reached Newark. Thinking he was to deal only with local disturbances, his progress northwards had been leisurely. By the following day, however, he became aware that the rebel army was no common rabble, and that ‘Robin’ had raised a vast host. Edward retreated southwards to Nottingham in the face of the rebels’ advance, where he presumably hoped to combine his forces with those of Herbert and Devon. But Robin outflanked the king, speeding south towards a rendezvous with Warwick and Clarence (who were now openly in arms to the south). This led to an encounter with Herbert’s own forces at Edgecote near Banbury.
By this time Herbert had already joined the Earl of Devon, but all of the sources agree that the Yorkist forces became separated, which meant that Herbert and his Welshmen were left to face the northern rebels alone. Why this division occurred is unclear. According to Warkworth’s Chronicle and Hearne’s Fragment, the Yorkist lords ‘fell to variance over lodgings’; the Tudor chronicler Edward Hall, perhaps attempting to enliven his sources, tells us that Herbert and Devon quarrelled over a woman at an inn. The work of Jean de Wavrin, a Burgundian chronicler, offers a more prosaic explanation; he believed that poor reconnaissance was to blame. Whatever the cause, the separation was crucial because Devon’s contingent is said to have included most of the Yorkist archers.
On the evening of 25 July the opposing armies – Herbert’s Welsh forces and the northern rebels – camped on either side of the River Cherwell. Next morning there was a struggle to secure the river crossing, in which the northerners were worsted. The bards may have coloured the Welsh exploits, but it seems clear there was fierce fighting. The northerners experienced heavy casualties. Of the nobility and gentry, Sir Henry Neville and Sir John Conyers’ son, also called John, were killed; Robert, Lord Ogle died later of his wounds.
The rebels’ morale was shaken, but late in the day the northerners were reinforced by an advance party from the Earl of Warwick’s army. Sir Geoffrey Gate and Sir William Parr persuaded the rebels to attack again. Now Herbert was outnumbered and his forces overwhelmed.
Herbert and his brother were both taken prisoner. On the following day they were taken to Northampton, where Warwick presided over their summary execution. The Welsh bards lamented Herbert’s death, which they saw as a national catastrophe. As Guto’r Glyn put it, ‘my nation is destroyed, now that the earl is slain’.
Bereft of Herbert’s support, Edward IV was taken by surprise and captured. Warwick’s triumph was short-lived, however, and Edward quickly regained power. Warwick later joined with the Lancastrians, but he was defeated and killed at the Battle of Barnet. A further Yorkist victory at Tewkesbury ensured that Edward’s title was never seriously challenged again. Herbert’s son, also called William, was therefore able to inherit his father’s title – at least for a time – although he never achieved his father’s influence. But through his granddaughter, Elizabeth, Herbert became the ancestor of the dukes of Beaufort: a noble dynasty that survives to this day.
Ian Dawson, ‘Anne Herbert: A Life in the Wars of the Roses’, The Historian (Spring 2014).
H.T. Evans, Wales and the Wars of the Roses (Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1998, c. 1915).
R.A. Griffiths, ‘Wales and the Marches’, in The Fifteenth Century, ed. S.B. Chrimes et al (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1972).
D.H. Thomas, The Herberts of Raglan and the Battle of Edgecote 1469 (Enfield: Freezywater Publications, 1994).
David Santiuste teaches history at the Centre for Open Learning, University of Edinburgh. He is the author of two books: Edward IV and the Wars of the Roses and The Hammer of the Scots. He is also the creator, with Rae Tan, of the website Reflections of the Yorkist Realm (yorkistrealm.com). You can follow him on Twitter @dbsantiuste.
For those of us looking centuries back through history, it is easy to end the dynasty of the Plantagenets and begin that of the Tudors with a clean line drawn through 1485. The truth for those who survived the Wars of the Roses was much more complicated. Henry Tudor made clear with his decree that his reign began on the day before the Battle of Bosworth that he was not going to tolerate Yorkists who wished to continue the fight.
Those Yorkists were allowed to become faithful followers of the first Tudor king, however, and many took him up on that offer. Elizabeth of York may be the best example of this, choosing to marry and support Henry rather than press a claim of her own or that of a male relative. Many, most notably the children of Edward IV and their families, made similar decisions.
Not all of these converts stayed true to their Tudor king. John de la Pole was the first of his brothers to stand up to Henry. The son of Edward IV’s sister, Elizabeth, and once named Richard III’s heir, the eldest de la Pole son initially bowed to Henry Tudor and served him for two years before challenging him in the Battle of Stoke. Since de la Pole was killed in the fighting, it is impossible to know what his plans were had he been victorious. It is unlikely that he would have placed the crown on the head of Lambert Simnel, who had been held up as Edward of Warwick to rally the troops. Would he have taken it for himself or given it to the true son of George of Clarence, who was securely held in the Tower of London?
Edward of Warwick is one of the most tragic stories of the York remnant under Henry Tudor. Only ten years old when Henry took power, he had already been branded the son of a traitor when Edward IV had George of Clarence executed for treason seven years earlier. As his cousins, who became known as the Princes in the Tower, discovered, being a young boy close to the throne was not necessarily an advantage. Edward spent Henry’s reign imprisoned for nothing besides his excess of royal blood before being executed in 1499 to clear the way for Catherine of Aragon and Arthur Tudor’s wedding.
The story of Edward’s sister is somewhat more encouraging. Margaret was married to Richard Pole early in Henry’s reign. His treatment of her seems to indicate mixed feelings. As the daughter of the one-time heir apparent of England, marriage to an ordinary knight was rather beneath Margaret. However, her father had also tainted the family with the scent of treason, and her family had been replaced upon England’s throne. Richard and Margaret were appointed to serve Arthur at Ludlow, demonstrating some amount of trust in the girl who had likely grown up expecting a different future. After the death of Prince Arthur and Queen Elizabeth, Margaret seems to have largely stayed out of Henry’s way as she grew her own family. It is after the rise of Henry VIII that Margaret’s story gets interesting.
Henry also had his wife’s many sisters to deal with. Cecily, the second oldest York princess, had her marriage to Ralph Scrope annulled so that she could be paired with Henry’s choice for her: loyal Lancastrian John Welles. Cecily was often at court to serve her sister and seems to have built a relationship with everyone’s favorite mother-in-law to villainize, Margaret Beaufort. Upon the death of Viscount Welles and the two children they had together, Cecily made a scandalous secret marriage in keeping with Woodville tradition. Henry was unforgiving, reducing her income by taking her lands. Cecily and her descendants fell into obscurity, living partially on support from Queen Elizabeth.
Little is known of sisters Anne and Bridget, neither of which left surviving children. Bridget was pledged early as a nun, while Anne was wed to Thomas Howard. These two quietly lived out their lives within the new regime.
The final York princess has a well-known history. Catherine married William Courtenay, and neither they nor their children seemed able to stay on the good side of the Tudors. William was imprisoned throughout much of Henry’s reign, only to die shortly after his merciful release by Henry VIII. Their son, Henry, would be wrapped up in the Exeter Conspiracy with their Pole cousins in 1538. The longest surviving of Edward IV’s children, Catherine lived until 1527 but did not remarry.
The members of the fallen York dynasty could rise or be brought low during the reign of Henry Tudor. Their fate was largely dependent upon their willingness to bow to their new king or decision to press their own claim.
Samantha Wilcoxson is an American writer and history enthusiast. Her 2015 novel, Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen, features Elizabeth of York and was selected as an Editors’ Choice by the Historical Novel Society. This novel is followed by the June release of Faithful Traitor, which carries on the story of the Plantagenet remnant in Tudor times with Margaret Pole. The Tudor England trilogy will be completed with the story of Queen Mary. Samantha has also published two middle grade novels, Over the Deep: A Titanic Adventure and No Such Thing as Perfect. Each of these are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle format.
Samantha lives on a small lake in Michigan with her husband, three children, two dogs, and two cats. This crew provides plenty of good times and writing inspiration. When she is not reading or writing, Samantha enjoys traveling and learning about new places.
It’s easy to pinpoint when I begun to love the Tudors; surely I became a fan of the Tudors in school, and for years as a kid I carried around the ‘Ladybird Book of Henry VIII’ with me wherever I went. The blue and white colours of the cover appealed to my rather icy clinical aesthetic tastes, and the striking Holbein-riffed picture of Henry on the cover did the rest. Even though the child-friendly text skates neatly around issues of Anne Boleyn’s supposed incest and Jane Seymour’s tragic childbed death, the book still evokes a little smile of nostalgia for me, even now. I long ago lost that original copy – perhaps it’s buried under a mountain of old ‘Doctor Who’ paperbacks up in the loft – but I recently picked up a copy on Ebay and that now sits on my Tudor shelf alongside the countless Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser texts; oh, and a couple by yours truly, too.
It’s also fairly easy to pinpoint why as well; surely I became a fan of the Tudors because of how utterly bizarre the whole thing was; six wives, who live and die in perfect symmetry – 1 & 4 divorced, then 2 & 5 beheaded, and 3 and 6 die in childbirth, albeit 6 dies after Henry’s done for. To this day that sort of coincidence still makes me wonder whether or not the whole thing is made-up? And I mean, also, virgin queens who lock rival young beautiful queens up in a tower for the rest of their lives?! A patriarchal monarch obsessed with begetting on the kingdom a boy-king, only for – wait for the massive irony – that boy king to be a weakling who dies in his teens, and the real ruling is done by his feisty half-sisters?!? If this was a fiction pitch they’d have slung it in the slush pile by now. And don’t even get me started on Mary Queen of Scots; blowing up a husband – allegedly – in the middle of Edinburgh?! Assassination plots with ciphered messages hidden in beer barrels?! Escaping from an island in the middle of a Scottish lock by swapping places with your lady-in-waiting and then shamming everyone into thinking it’s a May Day frolic?! Please.
It’s that sort of crazy mentality I tried to bring to mind when it came to creating a 2016 version of the ‘Ladybird Book of Henry VIII’; ‘I Love the Tudors’ is a slightly irreverent chronological romp through the entire 1485 – 1603 Tudor timeline, spouting as many of those bizarre and at times frankly fantastic facts as possible, all richly illustrated with some pictures I’m really rather proud of, including a fabulous x-ray mock-up of what Anne Boleyn’s alleged sixth finger might’ve looked like. I guess my greatest hope for the book is that out there somewhere it might one day inspire another frankly sceptical little schoolboy into thinking that actually yes, this stuff might be as far-fetched as your average late-70s ‘Doctor Who’ story, but look, it really was true!!
Mickey Mayhew is a UK historical author and researcher living in London. You can find out more on his website – mickeymayhew.com – and also on Twitter @MickeyMayhew. His best-selling book ‘I Love the Tudors’ is available on Amazon and at all the usual Tudor haunts around the country; likewise for ‘The Little Book of Mary Queen of Scots’, only maybe moreso in Scotland for that one. He is also author of the urban fantasy novel ‘Jack and the Lad’.
Following in the footsteps of Henry and Jasper Tudor – Author Tony Riches goes down the secret tunnels.
There is an often repeated legend that on June 2nd, 1471, the fourteen year old Henry and Jasper Tudor went into hiding below the streets of the seaside town of Tenby in Pembrokeshire before fleeing to Brittany.
It is certainly likely that they could have hidden in the cellars of Jasper’s good friend Thomas White’s house in the high street, where Boots the chemist now stands. It is also said that they later escaped to the harbour through underground tunnels which run towards the harbour, and sailed to Brittany on one of Thomas White’s boats.
Today I was lucky enough to be shown the cellars and tunnels by Fiona Bousie, the Manager of Boots in Tenby, as part of the research for my new novel ‘Henry ~ Book Three of The Tudor Trilogy’.
Reassured to learn there are no rats living down there, we started in the extensive basement cellars, now used as store-rooms by Boots, and it is easy to see how Jasper and Henry could have remained there out of sight for as long as they needed to.
As we entered the tunnels we were plunged into darkness and had to rely on torches. I could see that the roof of the tunnel closest to the entrance had been rebuilt with bricks and the remains of a fireplace complete with chimney. This seemed a strange thing to have in a tunnel and could be further evidence for its use to hide people, who could need a fire for warmth.
Further down the tunnel the roof was roughly hewn through bedrock, with several other exits bricked up. This looked to have been done centuries ago, as there was calcification of the surface, which takes a long time to form.
After emerging back into the winter sun of Tenby I went to pay my respects to Thomas White, who rests with his son in St Mary’s church across the road. We may never know if the story is true but I am now convinced it was at least possible.
Tony Riches is a UK historical fiction author living in Pembrokeshire, Wales. You can find out more on Tony’s blog ‘The Writing Desk’ at http://www.tonyriches.co.uk and find him on Twitter @tonyriches. His best-selling book Owen ~ Book One of the Tudor Trilogy is available in eBook and paperback on Amazon. Jasper ~ Book Two of The Tudor Trilogy will be published at Easter and the final book in the trilogy in 2017.
It has become standard practice for history enthusiasts to be an unquestioning supporter of either Henry VII or Richard III, naming the other as the worst villain of their age. Is this a fair assessment? The fact that we cannot agree on which man is the evil one should be enough to make one wonder if they weren’t both something between demon and angel.
Historical fiction has been particularly unkind to Henry Tudor. He is expected by readers to be cold, calculating, and a little too much of a mama’s boy. One bestselling author even paints him as a rapist, while others simply have him treat his wife, Elizabeth of York, with contempt and disdain. Primary records demonstrate that this picture of Henry is almost completely false.
In Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England, Thomas Penn establishes that Henry was an intelligent ruler who unified England after decades of bloodshed in the Wars of the Roses. He was also devout, as is evinced by the fact that his few money-spending occasions were those that took place within the church and before God: coronations, weddings, and funerals. Known as a penny-pincher, Henry was willing to outlay cash when he felt it was worth it, but he also worked to correct the state of the royal coffers that he had taken over.
Even before his surprising success, Henry Tudor had looked to unite the kingdom he hoped to rule. On Christmas 1483, he pledged to marry the oldest daughter of the late king, Edward IV. Elizabeth was undoubtedly a prize, but one can see the thought for the future in Henry making this vow. It is also worth noting that the Plantagenet princess married him and supported Henry in his goals for improving and unifying England.
Henry was described by contemporaries as ‘spare’ with ‘high cheek bones’ and ‘dark hair faintly greying around the temples.’ Although they called him ‘grave,’ those presented to the first Tudor king also referred to him as ‘gracious’ and a ‘wonderful presence.’ This does not sound like the awful person we have been trained to believe Henry Tudor was.
However, Henry was also not the savior of England. In a cruel move as soon as his predecessor was dead, Henry had his reign dated beginning August 21, 1485. This was the day before his troops had killed Richard III in battle. Every man who had fought for their anointed king could then be named a traitor.
Henry’s reputation is also soiled by his execution of Edward of Warwick to appease Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain during negotiations for the marriage between Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon. Edward, nephew of Edward IV and Richard III, was almost certainly innocent of any charges against him and had spent the entirety of Henry’s reign within Tower walls based on no charges whatsoever.
What we can say of Henry is that he left England a better place than he had found it. Financial security, internal peace, and a plan for the succession are more than Edward IV and Richard III had managed. Despite his faults, Henry VII had a positive impact on the land he had taken by conquest.
This brings us to Richard III. Unlike Henry Tudor, Richard brings different visions to the minds of those who study his history. On one side is the Shakespearean character, almost ridiculous in his abundance of evil that leaves him twisted in spirit and physical form. Opposing this, we have the Richard of more recent authors’ creation that make him a romantic leading man, caught up in circumstances that were beyond him and underestimating the ambitions of others. What is difficult with Richard III is taking middle ground, where the truth likely lies.
We will probably never know the complete truth about when Richard decided to take his nephew’s throne or whether or not he had his brother’s children murdered. Unsolved mysteries do not constitute evidence, so let us consider what we do know. Documentation of Richard’s life and character takes a unique form. Centuries after the last change in dynasty, contemporary historians had to determine what was truth and what should be written to please the new Tudor king. Contemporary accounts vary almost as much as modern opinions.
Before Richard’s death, historian John Rous described him as, ‘a mighty prince’ known for ‘commendably punishing offenders of the laws’ and ‘cherishing those that were virtuous.’ Once Henry Tudor was in power, Rous painted a different picture of Richard, more suited to Tudor taste. Polydore Virgil, who believed that Richard had killed his nephews, nonetheless admitted, ‘he had a sharp wit’ and ‘his courage also high and fierce.’
Richard III attempted to rule in a more prudent way than his brother had. Edward IV was charismatic and an unbeatable soldier. He had also been impetuous and short-sighted, leading to division over his choice of wife and handling of foreign relations. Richard was an upright, serious presence next to his boisterous brother. Dependable enough to carry out a wide variety of duties as Duke of Gloucester, Constable of England, and an impressive list of other titles given to him by his brother, Richard proved himself reliable and loyal throughout Edward IV’s reign, but scandal and rebellion make it difficult to discern whether he could have ruled the kingdom as well as he had managed other responsibilities.
With a reign of just over two years, Richard gives us less evidence to judge him by than Henry Tudor does. He was pious and devout as his brother had been pleasure-seeking, supporting several religious houses, churches, and King’s College at Cambridge. For a man accused of many illegal acts, Richard’s actions show that he was ‘much concerned that justice should be done,’ according to biographer Charles Ross. Born and raised in a time of war, Richard was particularly driven to ensure peace and justice were available to all Englishmen, rich and poor. He had served as Constable of England under Edward IV and earned a reputation for fairness only challenged after Edward’s death.
Like Henry, Richard has marks against him. The executions of Anthony Woodville, Richard Grey, and William Hastings are often the first points brought up (after accusing Richard of ridding himself of his nephews). Was Richard acting legally as Constable of England and Protector of the Realm when he ordered these executions? Certainly. Was he acting prudently? The fact that we continue to discuss it today indicates that he was not. Even if one believes these acts were judicial murder, they are no different than Tudor’s actions against Edward of Warwick. In fact, I challenge any student of history to name a medieval monarch who did not execute at least one person on charges that would never stand up to modern standards. Each Plantagenet and Tudor ruler is certainly guilty of this. While this does not make Richard innocent, it fails to make him stand out as a villain.
Richard had managed an area of England that had been plagued by border wars for years. The ongoing battles with Scotland would continue even after Henry VII negotiated a treaty that made his own daughter the wife of Scotland’s King James IV. During this time, Richard was not accused of wrongdoing but was beloved in the north and especially in York. One wonders if it is true, as some biographers have suggested, that the responsibilities of kingship were simply too much for him and he was not given time to find his way. This characterization indicates that Richard was inept but not evil.
Dare I suggest that neither Henry VII nor Richard III was the devil incarnate, attempting to make England his domain on Earth? Both men made mistakes and purposely took actions that would be unacceptable for a 21st century ruler. They both attracted supporters and made positive changes in the lives of those under their authority. If we remove the lens of romanticism and the need to have a ‘bad guy’ to blame for occurrences in history, I believe we will find two men who believed they were doing what was right, boosted by personal ambition for gain and glory much like any other nobleman of their era.
Rather than joining Team Richard or Team Henry, we can gain much by learning about both of these dynamic kings and appreciating their history for what it is. This change of power ended a three century long dynasty and began one of the most well-known dynasties in English history. The fact that we are still talking about it 500 years later is proof in itself that there is more going on here than good versus evil.
Samantha Wilcoxson is a writer with a passion for history. Her most recent novel, Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen: The Story of Elizabeth of York, is a Kindle best seller in the US and UK. For more information, visit her blog at SamanthaWilcoxson.blogspot.com.
The Wars of the Roses: The Key Players in the Struggle for Supremacy by Matthew Lewis
Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England by Thomas Penn
Richard III by Charles Ross
The Last White Rose: The Secret Wars of the Tudors by Desmond Seward
The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones
Master goldsmith Jean Dassier was born in Geneva in 1676. He studied in Paris and became an assistant to his father, who was the official Mint Engraver for the Canton of Geneva. In 1720 he succeeded his father as the official engraver for Geneva and built a reputation as one of the most celebrated engravers of the eighteenth century.
Between 1731 and 1732 Dassier moved to London and engraved the dies for a series of the Kings and Queens of England, a continuous series of English sovereigns, from William I to George II. His work was sometimes criticised for being taken from unauthentic sources and some of the dates on the inscriptions being incorrect.
One set was presented to King George II, to whom the series was dedicated. He liked the medals and requested a special medal for his wife Queen Caroline to be added, so when the series sold in 1731 it consisted of thirty-four medals. Sir Edward Thomason of Birmingham issued copper medals from the dies around 1830.
The rendering of King Henry VII is considered one of the better portraits and one is displayed in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York:
Tony Riches was born in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, and spent part of his childhood in Kenya. He gained a BA degree in Psychology and an MBA from Cardiff University and worked as a Management Consultant, followed by senior roles in the Welsh NHS and Local Government.
After writing several successful non-fiction books, Tony decided to turn to novel writing and wrote ‘Queen Sacrifice’, set in 10th century Wales, followed by ‘The Shell’, a thriller set in present day Kenya. His real interest is in the history of the fifteenth century, and now his focus is on writing historical fiction about the lives of key figures of the period.
His novels ‘Warwick ~ The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses’ and ‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’ have both become Amazon best sellers. He is now working on The Tudor Trilogy, book one of which is about Owen Tudor, the Welsh servant who married Queen Catherine of Valois and founded the Tudor Dynasty.
Romantic is not a word that is typically applied to Henry Tudor, but there is evidence that he and his Plantagenet bride, Elizabeth of York, had a happy marriage. If you have only envisioned a Henry VII who is miserly, withdrawn, and admittedly determined, I challenge you to open your mind and picture him in private with his beautiful wife.
Elizabeth of York was the oldest child of Edward IV and his scandalous bride, Elizabeth Woodville. Though people do not agree on the extent to which Elizabeth Woodville influenced Edward’s rule, few would say that their marriage wasn’t passionate. Growing up in a large family, Elizabeth of York would have always known that she was loved, even as rebellions against her father sent them into sanctuary.
Henry, on the other hand, had spent much of this time in exile. His few drops of royal blood were enough to make him a Lancastrian focal point, and Edward would not allow him to step foot in England, despite Henry’s mother’s pleading. Without any family besides his uncle Jasper to support him, Henry grew up in an ill-defined, precarious position.
Though their lives before 1485 could not have been more different, Henry and Elizabeth would be tossed together after Henry’s surprising victory at Bosworth made him King Henry VII. A betrothal had been arranged previously, but one must wonder how much hope Elizabeth had placed in Henry ever being capable of claiming his bride.
He did. On January 18, 1486, the couple was married in a stunning ceremony that was carefully designed to draw together any remnant of Lancaster or York rebels. The peace that the couple hoped to instill in England was undoubtedly one of the things that drew them together.
Evidence of their happiness appeared a short 8 months after their marriage when their greatest hope for the future was born. Prince Arthur was likely born prematurely, possibly even conceived on Henry and Elizabeth’s wedding night. The royal couple praised God and asked his blessings on their future as they welcomed this sure signal from God that their union had His favor.
Their faith is another element of Henry and Elizabeth’s relationship that would have drawn them close together. When Henry landed at Mill Bay to begin his conquest of England, he is recorded to have dropped to his knees and quoted Psalm 43, pleading “Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause.” Upon meeting and quickly marrying Henry, Elizabeth would have done so because she saw it as God’s plan for her life and the best hope for her dwindling family.
Henry is one of the few English monarchs noted for their apparent faithfulness. Though some rumors swirl around about Catherine Gordon, the wife of Perkin Warbeck, Henry did not marry her when he had the chance after Elizabeth died. In fact, he never married again, though two of his three sons had predeceased Elizabeth. In the turbulent early sixteenth century, that is a strong sign of devotion and love.
When Henry and Elizabeth had experienced deaths of their children, Elizabeth and Edmund in infancy and Arthur heartbreakingly later, they are known to have found comfort in each other and their faith in God. Arthur’s death is particularly documented. Fifteen years old, heir to the throne, and recently married, his parents had legendary hopes for the future good King Arthur. If his birth had been a sign that their marriage was blessed, what did his untimely death portend?
While Henry and Elizabeth surely experienced the ups and downs of any marriage, the historical evidence suggests that a true love grew between them. When Elizabeth died in childbirth on her 37th birthday in 1503, Henry was crushed and ordered a lavish funeral. It is one of the few public displays that demonstrated the romantic side of Henry VII.
I greatly enjoyed delving into the personalities and relationship of this intriguing couple as I performed research for my book, Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen: The Story of Elizabeth of York. Elizabeth may have been a quiet and devoted presence, but she skillfully bridged the gap between the Plantagenet and Tudor dynasties, a feat that Henry may not have been capable of successfully handling on his own. With devotion to her husband, her family, and her faith as a driving force, Elizabeth set aside any future she may have been expecting and took on her role as the first Tudor queen and mother of a new dynasty.
Samantha Wilcoxson is an American writer and history enthusiast. Besides three novels, Samantha has written on a variety of topics as freelance work for global websites. Living with her husband on a small lake in Michigan with three kids, two cats, and two dogs, Samantha has plenty of writing inspiration.Her book ‘Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen’ is available now.
Henry VII, the first of a mighty, famous and infamous dynasty is oft forgotten and easily overlooked. Everyone knows the first Norman king, the Conqueror. The first Plantagenet, Henry II, is famed, not least for his troubles with his wife and children. James VI and I is a famous founder of the Stuart dynasty in England and the Hanovers had George I. Henry VII, though, remains a more shadowy figure, loomed over by the Wars of the Roses that gave him his crown and his larger than life son, Henry VIII. This is perhaps because he played his part so completely perfectly.
Born into a stormy Welsh night in 1457 to a thirteen year old mother at the outbreak of a civil war that would define his life, his childhood was a mess not of his own making. Born without a father on the wrong side of a war in which his only offence was to have the wrong name and the wrong blood in his veins, his fortunes were those of the House of Lancaster until he defined his own. In my novel, Honour, I describe Henry as the Merchant King and I think it is a fitting title.
When the tide of the Wars of the Roses turned against his house, Henry was taken into custody as a child, comfortably contained within the household of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, a committed Yorkist who had been given Henry’s uncle Jasper’s title. Although he would later concede that Herbert had been kind to him and ensured that he was well educated and amply provided for, Henry was nevertheless a prisoner. Separated from his mother as a boy, it was the kind of painful detachment that he would have to get used to.
During the brief Lancastrian revival of 1470-1, Henry was suddenly on the right side. As a thirteen year old, he was presented to his father’s half-brother, the venerable but unstable King Henry VI. If his mother, Margaret Beaufort, hoped that her son’s fortunes had changed, it was a short lived delusion. With the thunderous return of the Yorkist King Edward IV in 1471, Henry was bustled into exile with his uncle Jasper aged fourteen. He would spend another fourteen years with little hope of return to a country that did not want him.
Taken into the care of Duke Francis of Brittany, Henry’s comfortable imprisonment did not begin badly. Secluded within the duke’s own summer residence at Suscinio with Jasper, Henry was surrounded by woods and parkland and permitted to ride, hunt and train with his uncle. As a messy squabble erupted between Edward IV and Louis XI of France it became obvious to Francis that he had something valuable in his possession. Henry was, for the moment at least, a commodity and that would give the future merchant king a unique perspective.
Francis split his assets, separating uncle and nephew. He courted the overtures from both England and France, waiting until his prize possessions could bring him the richest reward possible. These years must have been comfortable but miserable for Henry. He was well provided for, educated and clothed, frequently in black. Francis sent gifts to his ward, but he remained isolated. The parting from his uncle was surely the most painful, probably even more distressing than the separation from his mother. Jasper was a father figure, a mentor, a protector and Henry’s only comfort in his teenage exile.
Henry would remain in a kind of comfortable isolation until 1483. Negotiations were progressing well to see Henry returned to England safely and perhaps even married to a daughter of Edward IV. Henry’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, was by now married to her third (or fourth, depending on whether John de la Pole is included – which he never was by Margaret herself, who called Edmund Tudor her first husband in a will drawn up in 1472) husband Thomas Stanley and the couple were at the centre of Yorkist power. Margaret was trying to arrange her son’s return home and surviving records suggest that she was close to reaching a deal with the Yorkist king. I think it is unlikely that Henry’s intended bride was Elizabeth of York, simply because Edward would have had bigger plans for his oldest daughter.
The veracity of this arrangement is unclear. Edward may have been laying a trap for the last, straggling remnants of Lancastrian resistance in exile. Once back on home soil, his fate might have been less than certain. Alternatively, Lord Stanley’s influence might have convinced Edward that Henry could be reconciled safely and the final threat to Yorkist dominance brought within the fold. Either way, Henry’s fate was out of his hands and he was once more a commodity for others to weigh, value and barter over.
The death of Edward IV on 9 April 1483 brought these negotiations to an abrupt halt. If Edward IV had been willing to entertain the idea of a return for the Earl of Richmond because of his own established security, Richard III did not share that luxury and Henry’s future was once more that of a perishable good for the purveyance of others. This seems to have been the point at which Henry took the first step of any successful merchant – a risky venture.
Buckingham’s Rebellion was always, in truth, Henry Tudor’s rebellion. Quite how he sprung to the forefront and why the rebellion doesn’t bear his name, is a mystery open to interpretation, but Henry arrived at the south coast with one of the merchant’s necessities – a cautious eye. The story that he was beckoned ashore by men telling him Buckingham had been successful, only for Henry to narrow his shrewd, businessman’s eyes and decide something wasn’t right is entirely believable. The market was not yet ready and the order of business now was patience.
Henry became once more a desirable commodity. France still wanted him as a weapon against England, particularly now Richard III seemed far more likely than his brother to seek war across the Channel. Richard needed control of the last Lancastrian hope to help secure his own position. Duke Francis had sworn to protect Henry and was not particularly keen to hand him over to anyone, enjoying the influence his prisoner brought, but Francis was not a well man. Pierre Landlais, his chief minister, took control of Brittany, and Pierre was very interested in Richard III’s financial inducements. Agreement was reached and Henry was parcelled up and sent to the coast.
Fortunately for the anti-Ricardian cause, Henry had friends with ears to the ground. It was probably Bishop John Morton who warned Henry of what was happening and the fugitive slipped his guards and fled over the French border. It was here that Henry was to learn some of his most valuable lessons. It was the last piece of an unlikely apprenticeship that gave the merchant precisely what he needed.
In Paris, Henry was disingenuously welcomed as the true son of King Henry VI, the younger brother of Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales. The display was utterly magnificent. French kingship had always been wrapped in a royal majesty melded with a religious spirituality that had not reached the English crown. Henry learned, as he rode into Paris in splendour, that the truth could stand some adaptation if the need was real and that display could accomplish more than a sword, more than a threat. Give the impression that you are an unassailable monarch sent by God and the people will believe it.
When Henry landed at Milford Haven on 7 August 1485, it was as King of England. He summoned men to his cause as their ruler. He took the field of battle at Bosworth on 22 August as a reigning monarch seeking to drive out an imposter. This was what the merchant king had learned in France. The best way to create wealth is the illusion of wealth. The surest way to become king was to convince everyone that you already are king. Henry landed as a merchant with fabulous wares to offer – stability, certainty, salvation.
The first Tudor monarch ruled like a merchant king too. His control over his kingdom was based on money and the illusion of an inevitable, inexorable right to the throne that he had won. Henry VII did his own books. He knew every penny that came into and went out of his coffers. He developed a reputation as a miser, but that isn’t really the whole story. Henry’s accounts, which he diligently audited and signed personally, show an astounding willingness to spend money on his family and on the promotion of his image as king. He would initiate financial relationships with kingdoms all over Europe, selling them security in the form of his money and ensuring that they remained indebted to him. Trade was always a central plank of Henry’s efforts to increase his wealth, influence and security.
When Perkin Warbeck loomed large over the fledgling Tudor regime, Henry had his second son created Duke of York for no reason other than to demonstrate that he was in control. The old House of York was gone, absorbed into the bodies of his offspring and the new House of York was the future. The old one was dead. Warbeck could not be the heir to something that no longer existed.
Edmund de la Pole proved a serious thorn in Henry’s side when he claimed to be the heir of York and rightful king. Ever the pragmatic merchant, Henry made trade agreements to the detriment of English merchants in order to deprive the White Rose of support. He always had an eye for the bigger picture, the main deal. He could give with one hand if the other was taking far more in the long run. When Archduke Philip, son of Maximillian, the Holy Roman Emperor, was shipwrecked on the south coast in January 1506, Henry sprang into his finest bargaining mode. Philip was treated with the utmost respect, but Henry negotiated from a position of power now and he did so with ruthless brilliance. Edmund de la Pole was living under Maximillian’s protection and Henry made it clear that not only would the Emperor have to settle some outstanding trade disputes in England’s favour but he would also have to hand over Edmund before he would see his son again. It worked, and another threat was neutralised.
Henry VII built a hugely successful enterprise from nothing. He served a long apprenticeship and perhaps struck out on his own a little too early. He was wise enough to write off the early setback. What he learned in France showed that providence was on his side and he would apply all that he knew to the commencement of his greatest enterprise; the establishment of the family business. In 1509 he would hand over this business to his son, who lacked his father’s hard-earned experience but knew how to project magnificence even better than his mentor.
I think Henry VII was England’s first merchant king. He grew wealth from the illusion of wealth and power from the illusion on power. Why do we believe that the Wars of the Roses ended in 1485? We believe it because Henry VII told us it was so. In truth, it was nowhere near its end when Richard III was swiftly buried within the Grey Friars at Leicester. The period was neatly packaged and placed on a shelf for display like a family trophy, a memento that could not be bought but defined the origins of the family business. No-one really knows what is inside and the shopkeeper would swat the hands of nosy children who looked too closely because although it was on display, it was not to be opened. Ever.
The Wars of the Roses: The Key Players in the Struggle for Supremacy unwraps this mysterious box and lays out the contents to examine the real beginnings and obscure endings of a civil war that broke a nation and made a dynasty. Fortunes waxed and waned, but Henry Tudor was, eventually, the biggest winner from the manoeuvres of the second half of the fifteenth century because he played the game so well, finally making the rules himself. His security was hard won but in many ways it remained an illusion, an elusive ambition. The extent of his achievement can be found in the fact that at his death, he was the first king in eighty-seven years not to lose his throne.
Matthew Lewis is the author of two histories, A Glimpse of King Richard III and A Glimpse of the Wars of the Roses, and two historical fiction novels, Loyalty and Honour. Matthew was born in the West Midlands and has a degree in Law. He blogs regularly about the Wars of the Roses and operates two history podcasts. He lives in Shropshire.
His latest book is The Wars of the Roses: The Key Players in the Struggle for Supremacy, published by Amberley. The Wars of the Roses were not a coherent period of continual warfare. There were distinct episodes of conflict, interspersed with long periods of peace. But the struggles never really ceased. Motives change, fortunes waxed and waned, the nature of kingship was weighed and measured and the mettle of some of England’s greatest families was put to the test. Matthew Lewis examines the people behind these events, exploring the personalities of the main players, their motives, successes and failures. He uncovers some of the lesser-known tales and personal stories often lost in the broad sweep of the Wars of the Roses, in a period of famously complex loyalties and shifting fortunes.
An exclusive extract from the new book ‘Everything you Wanted to Know About The Tudors But Were Afraid to Ask’ by Terry Breverton.
HENRY VIII THREW BONES OVER HIS SHOULDER. Tudor etiquette at court and in the great houses was to place one’s leftovers in a common ‘voiding bowl.’ Dogs, to which the bones were allegedly thrown, were not allowed in court.
LADY JANE GREY WAS THE ‘NINE DAYS QUEEN’. She was the de facto ‘thirteen days queen’. Edward VI died 6 July but his death was not proclaimed until 10 July, when she was announced queen. The Privy Council changed sides and announced Mary I as queen upon 19 July 1553, but Jane had been queen since 6 July, or there was a period where England had no monarch.
GREENWICH PALACE WAS IN LONDON. The palace was in Kent until 1889 when the county of London was created.
THOMAS MORE WAS A SAINT. Not to Protestants – he had forty imprisoned and another six burnt alive. In 1529 More became Lord Chancellor on the fall of Wolsey, and ruthlessly persecuted Protestants while strongly opposing the proposed relaxation of the heresy laws. In 1530 a Protestant named Thomas Hitton was burned at Maidstone. With characteristic Christian tolerance, More called him ‘the Devil’s stinking martyr’. According to Samuel Johnson, More ‘was the person of the greatest virtue these islands ever produced.’
ELIZABETH WAS THE LAST OF THE TUDOR DYNASTY. It is always reprted that there was no Tudor successor to Elizabeth I. However, Lady Catherine Grey (The Lady Herbert of Cardiff, 1540–1568) married Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford, for which she was confined by Elizabeth I to the Tower until her death. Seymour was fined the enormous sum of £15,000 for seducing a virgin of the royal blood, and Elizabeth had their sons officially declared illegitimate, although she had no authority to do so. Catherine Grey died without the legitimacy of her two sons, born in the Tower, ever being proven, but this was later established after the death of Elizabeth I. Catherine Grey being dead, her sons should have succeeded upon Elizabeth’s death. Edward Seymour was the elder of her sons born in the Tower of London, where his mother had been imprisoned for secretly marrying his father, against the wishes of the queen. His mother was already pregnant when she entered the Tower, and was given poor living conditions, apparently in the hope that she would either miscarry or die. For many years, her children Edward and Thomas were regarded as illegitimate because no proof could be produced of her legal marriage. Regardless of legal problems, by 1603 Edward Seymour, Viscount Beauchamp was the senior qualified heir of Henry VII’s will, stipulating that the elder line of Stuart, through Margaret Tudor, should be passed in favour of the younger line, through Mary Tudor, his favourite, younger, sister. Edward Seymour’s only possible rival under the will was Anne Stanley, Countess of Castlehaven (1580-1647), who would have been heir if Edward and his brother Thomas were considered illegitimate.
Lady Mary Grey (1545–1578) was like her sisters Lady Jane and then Catherine, next in line to the succession under Henry VIII’s will, as Elizabeth I was childless, but Mary was persecuted by the queen. Upon Mary Grey’s’s death, Margaret Stanley, Countess of Derby, should have been the heiress to Elizabeth. Her son Ferdinando was probably poisoned in 1594, aged 35, and would have been heir to Elizabeth, giving us a King Ferdinando I.
HENRY VIII MARRIED ANNE BOLEYN. There was a secret marriage in Dover Castle in November 1532, and another upon 25 January 1533 in secret at York Place, now Whitehall Palace. Both were bigamous, as his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was not annulled until May 1533. Thus Henry was never officially married to Anne. This is not pedantry. Eric Ives believes that there a ‘commitment’ ceremony in November, quite possibly a binding pre-contract, a watertight legal declaration of intent to marry each other. After such a ceremony had taken place, sixteenth century canon law stated that it was permissible for the couple to commence sexual intercourse with one another. Engagements were thus treated with suspicion by future brides. It was on grounds of such pre-contracts that Henry VIII’s subsequent marriages to Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard were declared invalid. With the pre-contract formally ratified in November, Henry and Anne began sleeping together, and conceived Elizabeth before wedlock.
ANNE BOLEYN COMMITTED ADULTERY. Three days before her execution on charges of adultery, Anne’s marriage to Henry was annulled and declared invalid. Thus she could not have committed adultery, or even been executed for the crime if she had never in law been married to the King.
‘BLOODY MARY’ WAS A DESERVED REPUTATION. This is Elizabethan propaganda. It should have been ascribed to the far, far more bloody reign of ‘Bloody Henry.’ The exact figure may never be known, but according to Raphael Holinshed, the English Chronicler who died in 1580, the number of executions in his 38-year reign amounted to 72,000. This is probably an exaggeration, but many thousands of the poor were executed during the reign of Henry VIII, most for what are now regarded as minor crimes such as stealing.
HENRY VIII HAD SIX WIVES. As his marriages to Catherine of Aragon, Anne of Cleves and Anne Boleyn were annulled, i.e. illegal (Anne Boleyn’s marriage being annulled just before her execution), Henry VIII technically only had three wives. The annulment of the marriage to Catherine of Aragon was on the grounds that she had already been married to his brother, although this annulment was never recognized by the Catholic Church, not his succeeding marriages, so according to the Catholic Church, Henry had one wife. Anne Boleyn was subject to an annulment on the grounds that she had allegedly seduced him with witchcraft and was incestuous and unfaithful. The marriage to Anne of Cleves was annulled as the marriage was unconsummated (and therefore was not legal) and because she had previously been engaged to someone else. The marriage to Catherine Howard was never annulled. She had committed adultery with Thomas Culpeper, so on 22 November 1541, it was proclaimed at Hampton Court that she had ‘forfeited the honour and title of Queen’, and was from then on to be known only as the Lady Catherine Howard. Under this title she was executed for high treason three months later.
HENRY WAS LOVED AS ‘BLUFF KING HAL’. This is a far later description of the monarch.
ELIZABETH WAS UNIVERSALLY LOVED BY HER SUBJECTS. There were the Northern Rebellion (1569); the Ridolfi Plot and assassination attempts (1571); Anthony Tyrrell’s Plot (1581); the Throgmorton Plot (1583); the Somerville Plot (1583); Dr. Parry’s Plot (1548) the Babington Plot (1586); Dr. Rodrigo Lopez’ poisoning attempt (1594) and the Essex Plot (1601) among the attempts to rid her that we know of.
HENRY VII MURDERED THE PRINCES IN THE TOWER. Why announce his marriage to their sister, when in exile in Rennes, and as a claimant to the throne after their disappearance. Henry was not in the country and had no power in the realm. The conclusive proof of Richard’s murder of the princes can be seen in the Yorkist desertion of his cause when he came to the throne and in this author’s biography of Richard.
ONLY KNIGHTS WERE ALLOWED TO WEAR SWORDS. However, just as with those wearing of armour, not everyone who carried a sword was a knight. The custom, or even the right, to wear a sword varied according to time, place, and changing regulations.
ARMOURED KNIGHTS HAD TO BE HOISTED INTO THEIR SADDLES BY CRANES. Armour worn for jousts, short periods of exertion, was heavier and designed for maximum defence. However, battle armour had to be lighter and more flexible to be able to fight. Most men-at-arms would have been able to put one foot in a stirrup and mount their horse without assistance. A stool or perhaps the help of a squire would have made the process even speedier for the richer knights. Cranes are a 20th-century myth.
HENRY VII WAS A QUARTER WELSH, A QUARTER FRENCH AND HALF-ENGLISH. He was certainly a quarter British, i.e. Welsh, as the genealogies demonstrate through his paternal grandfather Owen Tudor. He was also a quarter French through Owen’s wife Catherine of Valois. Thus on the side of his father, he was a quarter British and a quarter French. His mother Margaret Beaufort was the offspring of the Beauforts and Beauchamps, French families. Many were born in France, e.g. the first Earl of Somerset at the Chateau de Beaufort in Angers in Anjou. Even Somerset’s father John of Gaunt was born in Ghent, and the Angevin and Plantagenet royal families had little English blood. In his bloodline, Henry VII was predominantly French.
PEASANTS FEARED THE BLACK DEATH. This term first appeared in 1755, according to the OED. The plague was known as the ‘Pestilence’ or the ‘Great Mortality’.
HENRY VIII, EDWARD VI AND MARY I WERE BRITISH KINGS. The English were never called British or Britons until Elizabeth’s reign, at the suggestion of Dr. John Dee, basing claims for an empire overseas upon the legends of British kings over foreign realms. The case of the Celts taking Rome under Brennius (the Welsh for king is brenhin, and brennius is its Latin equivalent) seems to have been conflated with Arthur’s expeditions across Europe. Equally the legend of Prince Madog ap Owain Gwynedd discovering America in 1170 was used to justify Northern American expansion.
CHAIN MAIL WAS ARMOUR. Defensive garments composed of interlinking rings should correctly be referred to as mail, from maille armor. The phrase ‘chain mail’ is a Victorian misunderstanding.
TUDORS WERE TINY. Henry VII was 5 feet 9 inches, but his son Henry VIII was 6 feet 2 inches, probably following his mother’s father Edward IV, who was 6 feet 4 inches. Catherine Parr was thought to be around 5 feet 10 inches. The hundred or so skeletons of crewmen recovered from the Mary Rose indicate an average height of 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 8 inches tall.
HENRY VIII WAS FAT. However, he only began to put on weight after being unable to play sports or hunt, from his time with Anne Boleyn. He was then 45 years old. He lived to be 55, and it was only in his last five years that he grew into obesity. Henry, however, was merely playing at obesity compared to Queen Victoria. She went from 20 inches aged eighteen (size zero) to something around 56 inches (size 38) with her ‘spilt drawers’ recently auctioned. Having nine children could not have helped. She was just under 60 inches tall, so would have been ball-shaped.
NINE OUT OF TEN PEOPLE DIED BEFORE THE AGE OF FORTY. Statistics can be meaningless, as politicians know full well. Historians believe that average life expectancy at birth was about 35 years in the 16th Century, in other words 50% of people born reached that age. However, high infant and child mortality skews these figures. If one could survive until 21, one had a good chance of living to a good age. A professor of mathematical statistics, H.O. Lancaster, researched mainly aristocratic males in Expectations of Life (1990). In 1500-1550, for 52 males who reached the age of 21, their extra years of life were 50.27, so they would die aged 71. Again, for a 100 males from 1550-1600, they could expect to live until they were 68.25 years.
THE NAME OF THE DYNASTY WAS ‘THE TUDORS’. However, it should have been the Merediths, Maredudds, Meredudds or even Bowens. Henry VII’s grandfather was known as Owain ap Meredudd, Owen Meredith and the like from his birth around 1400, through his time in France around 1421 and when granted letters of English denizenship as ‘Oweyn fitz Meredyth’ in 1432. He was known as Owen Meredith and like names during his imprisonment in Newgate in 1438. As ‘Owen ap Maredudd’ he was in the court party that went to France in 1444 to bring back the young Margaret of Anjou, the King’s new queen. The Owen or ‘Owyn’ Meredith in the royal household between at least 1444 and 1453 is almost definitely Owen Tudor. Then again, it easily could have been the Owen or Bowen (ab Owen) dynasty. Neither of Owen’s sons Edmund or Jasper is noted in the English records as the ‘son of Owen’. Like him, they are called ‘ap Meredith ap Tydier’, in 1437, whereas they should have been called ‘ab Owen ap Meredith.’
HENRY VIII WAS BEARDED. He was clean-shaven during the early years of his reign and first grew a beard only in 1519 as part of a friendly pact with François I of France. He soon shaved it off to please his wife, Catherine of Aragon, but from c.1525 sported a beard, so for only 21 years of his 55 did he have a beard.
THERE WAS A 100 YEARS WAR. Upon 19 October 1453 Bordeaux surrendered, seeing the end of 116-year war which began in 1337. Its end led indirectly to the great barons concentrating upon England and Wales, leading to the Wars of the Roses and the Tudor dynasty.
Historian Terry Breverton is a former businessman, consultant and academic and is now a full-time writer, having received the Welsh Books Council’s Book of the Month Award five times. He is an expert in Welsh culture and history and has presented documentaries on the Discovery Channel, the History Channel etc. Terry has worked in over 20 countries and has written over 40 well-received books including Richard III: The King in the Carpark; Breverton’s First World War Curiosities; Owain Glyndŵr: The Story of the Last Prince of Wales; Wales: The Biography; Wales: A Historical Companion; Immortal Words; Immortal Last Words; Breverton’s Nautical Curiosities: A Book of the Sea; Breverton’s Phantasmagoria; Breverton’s Encyclopaedia of Inventions; Black Bart Roberts; The Journal of Penrose, Seaman and Breverton’s Complete Herbal.
Breverton’s latest releases are ‘Jasper Tudor: Dynasty Maker’ and ‘Everything You Have Ever Wanted to Know About The Tudors But Were Afraid To Ask’, both published by Amberley.