The Tenby Tunnels – Following in the Footsteps of Jasper and Henry Tudor

By Tony Riches

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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Unmasking the Villain

By Samantha Wilcoxson

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.

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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.

Additional Reading:

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

The Henry VII Dassier Medal

By Tony Riches

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:

http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/659084

Dassier Medal

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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.

The Romance of Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York

By Samantha Wilcoxson

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.

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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.

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Henry VII – The Merchant King

By Matthew Lewis

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.

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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.

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Tudor Myths

By Terry Breverton

An exclusive extract from the new book ‘Everything you Wanted to Know About The Tudors But Were Afraid to Ask’ by Terry Breverton.

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Tudor Myths

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.

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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.

The Lincoln Roll – the Princes’ Death Certificate?

By David Durose

The Lincoln Roll – the Princes’ Death Certificate?

This article is about the family tree that belonged to John de la Pole, the Earl of Lincoln and what it says about the fate of the so-called Princes in the Tower – Edward V and his young brother Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York. It provides an approximate date for the death of Edward V and disproves the idea that either of the Princes might have survived. It also puts the actions of Lincoln, his younger brothers and Margaret of Burgundy in a new perspective.

While this new evidence supports the ‘traditional’ view held by most historians that Richard III ordered the killing of his nephews, it also completely revises the narrative provided by the various contemporary chroniclers and Thomas More. It supports a view of Lincoln – and by extension, his uncle Richard III – as ruthless in their attitude to the Princes. It eliminates a number of the alternative ‘suspects’ that have emerged in recent years, while introducing a new one – John de la Pole himself.

At the end of this article there will be a link so that the reader may see a video of the digitizing of the manuscript and investigate the content of the roll itself.

Who was John de la Pole?

John de la Pole was the nephew of Edward IV and Richard III, being the son of their sister Elizabeth (1444 to 1503) and John de la Pole, 2nd Duke of Suffolk (1442 to 1491 or 1492).

John was the first-born and was a young adult during the period spanning Edward IV’s death and Lincoln’s death at the Battle of Stoke in 1487. He was made Earl of Lincoln by Edward IV in 1467.

He was treated as one of Richard III’s close family. He supported Richard completely during his seizure of the throne in 1483 and benefited greatly from his uncle when he became king. He was Richard’s spare heir and when Edward of Middleham died he became Richard’s heir presumptive.

Throughout Richard’s usurpation of the throne between April and July 1483, Lincoln was at his side and supporting him throughout.

In an interview for the Nerdalicious web site’s History Salon entitled ‘The Survival of the Princes in the Tower’, four authors discussed the evidence – David Baldwin, Annette Carson, Toni Mount and Josephine Wilkinson have all written about Richard III or the ‘Princes in the Tower’.

In the interview, Toni Mount, who is a member of the Research Committee of the Richard III Society, gave Lincoln as an example of a contemporary of the Princes who believed in their survival. We will see from his genealogical roll that she was wrong in that assertion.

What is the John de la Pole genealogical roll?

In the middle ages most important families would keep family trees and documents in order to be able to prove their descent and as evidence in disputes over inheritance, land and titles. The roll in question is a parchment that has been collected over years and is intended to demonstrate the descent of John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln from Brutus, mythical ancestor of the kings of Britain.

The roll belonged to Lincoln and in addition to providing his family tree it contains an element of propaganda. It will be the Lincoln view of things.

The roll is held in the John Rylands Library Special Collection. The library is part of the University of Manchester in England.

The existence of the roll is not a new discovery, it has been known to historians for some time. It was mentioned in Hicks’s ‘Richard III’ and in Michael K Jones’s Bosworth 1485: Psychology of a battle. However its most prominent display to the public was in the television documentary Henry VII: Winter King by Thomas Penn shown on BBC 2. It seems that these historians did not look closely at the detail of the roll, because they were using it to make specific points.

The roll has been used to demonstrate that Lincoln considered himself to be Richard’s nominated heir after the death of Edward of Middleham, which is stated clearly on the document. Thomas Penn used it to emphasise how much opposition Henry faced after 1485 and to demonstrate how Lincoln regarded the new Tudor line as an interloper onto the scene of legitimate Yorkist royal blood.

The roll does demonstrate this very graphically. The descent of the kings, queens and de la Poles is shown with an explanation of their pedigree and small amount of commentary. It is clearly not Tudor propaganda – for it shows Henry descending from his grandfather, Owen Tudor, a servant.

Each individual person in the family tree is represented by a medallion containing a description of the person. The medallions of kings and queens are decorated and include stylized portraits. The lines showing descent are shown in red, however, the invading Tudor line is expressed in thick black.

The roll clearly ceased to be worked on at some point in the early days of the reign of Henry VII, since it shows the marriage to Elizabeth of York. Children of their marriage are hinted at by combined red/black lines of descent, but it is difficult to use the children as dating evidence, since the four red/black lines bear no names or commentary.

What does the Lincoln Roll say about the Princes?

The individual medallions for Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville show them as king and queen. In the medallions representing Edward V and Richard of York there is no mention of illegitimacy. The boys are shown in every way as though they were children of a valid marriage. Their legitimacy is not questioned in any way or it was of no interest to Lincoln.

Edward V’s medallion reads

Edward first-born son of King Edward and Elizabeth

“In iunie tute sine liberis decessit”

In June safely without issue deceased in childhood (my translation)

Richard, Duke of York’s medallion reads

Richard second son of King Edward and Elizabeth

“Etiam decessit sine liberis”

 Also deceased without issue in childhood

What is the significance of this information?

The period between the death of Edward IV and the Battle of Stoke incorporating Bosworth is one of the most confused and the most written about in English history. This small new piece of information rewrites much of what has gone before, which was the product of chronicles written by persons who were close to the action, but were not sure of what had happened to the Princes. This information comes from a person at the very centre of power, who was at Richard III’s side throughout the usurpation.

These writings were put into some kind of narrative by people like Thomas More, who will have used some eye witness reports and his imagination to create a believable story. Later writers, like Alison Weir will have followed the clues provided by More to solve the ‘case’ – concluding that the Princes must have been put to death in September.

There have been other documents found that stated that Edward V died in June: Colin Richmond noted that the Anlaby Cartulary stated that he died on 22nd June.

The June date also fits in with the documentary evidence of the dismissal of the Princes’ servants and the authorization of their payment shortly after.

The representation of Edward V in the roll shows none of the decoration of the other kings and queens and the text does not refer to him as king. It is shown as though Richard III had succeeded Edward IV directly because Edward IV had no heirs still alive.

However, it is the use of the word tute – safely that gives the implication of complicity on the part of Lincoln. He viewed the existence of the Princes as a threat and because of the closeness of Lincoln and Richard III it is reasonable to assume Richard felt the same way.

If the Princes were dead by the end of June, it makes the appointment of Brackenbury as Constable of the Tower make more sense. He was a man who seems to be of kindly disposition of whom no-one is critical. So gentle Brackenbury would never need to act out of character because there was no longer any dirty work to be done. It also explains why Richard and Lincoln could embark on a royal progress in July with few worries that Edward V could have been freed while they were away.

The rescue attempt of July can no longer be misconstrued as an assassination attempt and must be seen on face value as a well intentioned act by people who did not know the truth.

Since Sir James Tyrrell’s confession may have been another of More’s inventions, it is possible that attempts to place him at the Tower later in the year are pointless and confusing.

Pretenders during Henry’s reign

Since Lincoln fled to Flanders to raise money to finance the Lambert Simnel rebellion, it is safe to assume that his brothers, who continued to cause trouble for Henry VII throughout his reign, knew the truth about the Princes – as must Margaret of Burgundy. Their complicity would shed a new light on later events. Many Ricardians like to characterize the de la Pole family as unfairly hounded by the Tudors.

The implications of this are far reaching and difficult to even summarize in a short article.

Link to the Roll at John Ryelands Library

https://rylandscollections.wordpress.com/tag/john-de-la-pole/

The above link allows you to see a video about the roll – to see very high quality images click on the link just above the embedded YouTube video.

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David Durose is a recently retired IT Consultant who has always enjoyed history and became interested in the period after family research established his descent from one of Henry Tudor’s Breton knights. He also borrowed the title for this article from a post on Susan Higginbotham’s Facebook page.