Statues of Henry VII

By Nathen Amin

It is often stated that King Henry VII is regarded as the overlooked Tudor, a king who has long loitered in the shadows of his infamous progeny. When one considers the Tudor dynasty their collective 118 year reign the names that are often put forward are monarchs such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth, events such as the Reformation and the Spanish Armada, and an added dash of scandal and romance from the likes of Anne Boleyn and Robert Dudley. This is without considering the enduring presence of Shakespeare.

By comparison, the original Tudor king is often considered tame at best by the causal observer, a dull accountant-type miser who just happened to be the father of the larger-than-life egotist that was ‘Bluff King Hal’. The more seasoned academic of the Tudor family know this is not an accurate depiction of a man who won his crown on the battlefield, united the kingdom through marriage and spent untold fortunes on jewels for his wife and palaces for his dynasty.

It may be a possible that the popular stereotype of the first Henry Tudor is the reason why his depiction is often difficult to come by when one thinks of pub signs, street names or other modern forms of tribute to personalities of the past. This is not a man who is often openly commemorated throughout the nation he once ruled over, although the enduring usage of insignia and symbols connected to him such as the Beaufort Portcullis and the Tudor Rose is perhaps a more subtler legacy.

 I have previously campaigned for a statue of Henry Tudor to be erected in his birthplace of Pembroke and whilst such a venture has proven popular with local dignitaries, this request is as yet unfulfilled. Nonetheless it does lead to the question, just where exactly are there statues of King Henry VII in his erstwhile kingdom?

 Exeter

 The South West town of Exeter played a crucial role in the reign of Henry VII as it was the location of the capture of the pretender Perkin Warbeck. Warbeck had long been attempting to land in England with an army and usurp the crown for himself, claiming to be one of the princely sons of Edward IV. His capture was a momentous moment for the king and Henry visited Exeter in 1497 to thank the city for its support. He presented the city with a sword and a cap of maintenance which is still held in the Guildhall.

 The East Gate, a traditional entranceway to the city and through which Henry had passed in 1497, was rebuilt in 1511. A large stone statue of the recently deceased king was placed upon the gateway, depicting the king holding a sceptre and a globe. Accompanying the statue was the royal coat of arms, complete with dragon and greyhound supporters and a Beaufort portcullis.

 The gateway was pulled down in 1784 and the statue was replace on the front of a new building in the town. It remained in place until it was redestroyed by bombing raids in during the Second World War. The 431-year-old statue was ruined.

A new fibreglass statue was created in the 1950s to replace the traditional sculpture which had been lost and was placed on the exterior of the modern Eastgate House. This building was pulled down around a decade ago and the statue has yet to be resited.

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Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral is the mother church of the Anglican communion and has been considered the premier holy seat of England for over a thousand years. It is fitting that the kings and queens of England are commemorated outside a cathedral most if not all would have visited during their reigns. Henry VII is no exception.

His statue is situated amongst other Tudor monarchs such as his son Henry VIII and granddaughter Elizabeth I and is placed about 10 feet from the ground. The statues are generally of Victorian origin.

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City Hall, Cardiff

Cardiff serves as the capital city of Wales and the city hall in particular is known as the seat of its local government. The building was erected in 1906 and is a grand masterpiece of Edwardian Baroque style. The first floor landing of the hall is designated the Marble Hall and features 11 marble statues depicting famous figures from Welsh history. As well as statues of Owain Glyndwr, St David and Hywel Dda amongst others, stands Henry Tudor.

The statues were chosen via a newspaper poll in the Western Mail and were unveiled by future Prime Minster David Lloyd George in 1916. The statue of Henry Tudor depicts the king on the battlefield in a suit of armour with his fist defiantly clenched. Evident is a banner bearing his red Welsh dragon symbol which was present at the Battle of Bosworth. The second figure in the statue is considered to be his Welsh ally, Rhys ap Thomas.

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Hay-on-Wye

Hay-on-Wye is renowned as the quaint ‘town of books’ and home to the Hay Book Festival, an annual soiree which draws visitors from around to globe to the small mid-Welsh border settlement. Due to its historically precarious position in the Welsh March, Hay-on-Wye both prospered and suffered during the medieval period as generation upon generation of Welsh and English battled for regional supremacy. That being said, the town played no major role during the Tudor period yet does possess one sixteenth century-related attraction of note.

In 1995 a large white statue of King Henry VII was unveiled on the end wall of the old market hall, affording this inanimate Tudor monarch commanding views across Castle Square in a place of utmost prominence. The six foot figure is looking to his left whilst adorned with a crown upon his head, an orb in his left hand and a sceptre in his right hand. It is a portrayal of Henry Tudor in all his majestic glory and currently the only of its kind in Wales. The plaque below the statue proudly boasts ‘Henry VII first Welsh king of the English’.

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City Hall, Bradford

Bradford City Hall has a wonderful collection of Victorian statues adorning the exterior of the building, each one depicting the kings and queens of England and then Britain since the Norman Conquest in 1066. The statues were erected in 1873 after construction of the hall was completed.

The statue of Henry Tudor depicts the king as a peaceful monarch, wearing a similar long tunic and robe as shown in various contemporary portraits of the king. He holds a sceptre and an orb and is wearing a cap rather than a crown.

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Bath Abbey

The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Bath is one of the most spectacular cathedrals standing in England and contains many features from the Tudor period.

On the magnificent west front stands a large statue of Henry VII in all his majestic glory, a crowned king holding his sceptre and orb. Beneath the king is the royal coat of arms of Henry, complete with dragon and greyhound supporters. On the same Western Front of the abbey is a ladder which reaches towards the top of the church, climbed by a collection of angels. The building of this front was overseen by Bishop Oliver King, appointed to the bishopric during the reign of King Henry VII in 1496. The statue is thought to be Victorian in origin.

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If you are interested in reading more about my previous efforts to have a statue of Henry VII erected in Pembroke, you can read about it here – Statue Campaign

Henry VII and the Potassium Alum Trade

As king, Henry Tudor was heavily involved in the Potassium Alum trade, a participation through which he accumulated a large part of his great wealth. Potassium Alum was one of Europe’s most precious commodities and was coveted for its medicinal and cosmetic properties, particularly its usage in the 15th and 16th century as a dye-fixer in the wool and cloth trade upon which a large part of the English and Low Country economy was built. To say it was an indispensable mineral to the continuation of the English economy is an understatement to say the least. Alum was plentiful in the Eastern Mediterranean region which was under the control of Turkish Muslims whereas in Western Europe there was only one source and that was the Papal-owned mine at Tolfa, near Rome. The Papacy determined to ensure maximum profits from this source and therefore attempted to restrict the supply and therefore raise prices; in short they created a monopoly on Alum in Christian Europe and threatened excommunication and anathema on anybody who traded with the ‘infidel’, that is, the Muslim East.

In 1503 Pope Julius II endeavoured to once more raise prices which caused an economic slump in the Low Countries and forced the Habsburgs Maximilian and Philip to flout Papal decrees and deal with the Muslims. Maximilian was Holy Roman Emperor and as such it was not possible for him to openly disobey a papal edict therefore it was decided to go via England, and Henry VII. The King loaned his great ships Sovereign and Regent to the scheme which was undertaken by the Frescobaldi bank of Italy and they sailed to the Ottoman Empire to bring back Alum to England. From here Henry’s own broker Ludovico della Fava, who was also a representative of the Frescobaldi Bank, brokered deals to sell the mineral onto the Low Countries. Henry claimed money not only from the Alum itself, but also on huge import charges and customs duties, helpfully arranged by Edmund Dudley. In one single occasion a ship brokered by Henry, Dudley and della Fava brought in £15,166 which in modern estimates is around £10m.

In May 1506 the Pope was forced to issue a papal proclamation forbidding the involvement of all persons secular and ecclesiastical from trading with any alum that didn’t come directly from the Papal mine at Tolfa. Julius amusingly declared that his Alum, rather than being for mere profit, was ‘reserved and consecrated to the preparations for a great crusade against the Sultan of Constantinople’. Henry was unmoved by such threats of anathema and possible excommunication despite his genuine enthusiasm for the idea of a crusade in defence of the church. He loved the church but he additionally loved making a profit and saw no reason that he would need to compromise one for the other.

Through his involvement in the alum trade, Henry retained his position at the heart of European power politics through his financial supremacy over his militarily-superior rivals. Ever the consummate schemer, as always Henry demonstrated an economic wisdom that enabled the continued resurgence of his kingdom.

Brittany and the Tudors

By Nathen Amin

The Exile

2014 signals the 500th anniversary of the death of Anne de Bretagne or Anna Vreizh, the last independent sovereign of Brittany before its annexation to the Kingdom of France. As the only child of Duke Francis II, the last male member of the ruling Breton House of Montfort, Anne was destined to become a key figure in the story of Brittany, an independent duchy that had long been coveted by various Kings of France. On the 6th December 1492 she was married to Charles VIII of France although when he died six years later she was legally obliged to marry his successor, his cousin Louis XII. She died at the Chateau de Blois on the 9th January 1514 and was buried in St Denis. Her attempts to preserve Breton autonomy and independence against intense French pressure have ensured her reputation as a Breton heroine in the modern period. Her successor was her daughter with Louis XII, Claude. Four years later Claude married the new king of France, her cousin Francis I of France, and the Duchy of Brittany was forever lost to the French monarchy.

The latter years of the independent Duchy of Brittany were closely aligned with the rise of the Tudor Dynasty, the ruling family of England from 1485. For two decades Brittany offered the Tudors support in their darkest moments, and vice versa. It was a relationship built on luck, necessity and international politics. The Welsh and the Bretons have a shared history stretching back thousands of years, both peoples descended from Brythonic Celtic tribes. It seems natural that the Tudors, with their Welsh roots, would find a lot in common with the people and culture of Brittany.

The rise of Henry Tudor from relative obscurity to become king of England is a tale that although renowned probably deserves greater attention than it has been afforded. It is a tale in which Brittany features prominently. Henry Tudor was the son of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, and Margaret Beaufort and was born in Pembroke, West Wales, in 1457. His father had died a few months before his birth and Henry was thus seen as the Earl of Richmond from birth. Edmund Tudor was descended from Welsh and French royalty; he was descended through his father Owen from the great Welsh princes of the early medieval period whilst his mother Katherine of Valois was the daughter of Charles VI of France. Margaret Beaufort meanwhile was a great-granddaughter of Edward III of England, providing young Henry Tudor with an intriguing fusion of English, Welsh and French royal blood.

Edmund Tudor and his brother Jasper Tudor were the half-brothers of King Henry VI of England due to their mutual mother Katherine of Valois. They were loyal to the king’s House of Lancaster; when a rival faction lead by Richard, Duke of York, attempted to dethrone the king and take the crown the Tudors remained loyal to their half-brother. This was the start of the Wars of the Roses and the rise of the Tudors. After Edmund’s death in Carmarthen Castle in 1456 the young Henry was taken into the custody of his devoted uncle Jasper, the Earl of Pembroke and an unrepentant Lancastrian. Jasper was driven into exile in 1461 after losing the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross and witnessing his brother’s crown taken by Edward IV, the son of the now deceased Richard of York. Henry was taken into the custody of the Yorkist military leader William Herbert whilst his Uncle Jasper was forced to escape to France and Scotland to seek a desperate alliance. Henry would remain in the care of the Herberts until England once again descended into civil war a decade later. The House of Lancaster, with Henry Tudor’s half-uncle Henry VI reinstated as king, was resurgent and Jasper Tudor returned to reclaim his nephew. It was a resurgence which would last under two years. Edward IV returned and decimated the Lancastrians at the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury in 1471; the King Henry VI was killed and so too was his son and heir Edward of Westminster.

Jasper Tudor once more succeeded in escaping his enemies and journeyed deep into West Wales where a boat was awaiting him in Tenby Harbour to take him back to France. This time he had with him his 14 year old nephew Henry. Together they set out for the open sea and for France where they would seek refuge with their Valois relations. Fortune had different plans for the pair however. The Tudors were blown of course and were forced to alight at Le Conquet in the extreme west of the independent Duchy of Brittany. Unsure what would greet them as they made their way inland from the scenic Breton Coast and towards the Breton court at Nantes, the Tudors had begun their twelve year exile in the Duchy of Brittany.

Refugees

The Tudor uncle and nephew met with Francis II in Nantes and shadowed the court to Vannes having successfully been granted a degree of asylum within the Dukedom, albeit as privileged prisoners as opposed to free citizens. Littered with many impressive structures across his lands, the Duke’s first action was to have Henry and Jasper placed within the picturesque Chateau de Suscinio in the southern part of Morbihan around October 1472, just over a year after they first washed up on Duke Francis’ shores. Situated on the protruding Rhuys peninsula and overlooking the Gulfe de Morbihan, this idyllic and rural Chateau was an impressive structure with a large and imposing gate guarded by two huge cylinder towers divided by a typical drawbridge across the moat. Further improving both the defences of the chateau and the scenic view from atop the ramparts was the lake that is situated just beyond the moat. Escape would have been difficult. Henry and Jasper’s stay here would initially have been comfortable and liberal as they were welcomed guests of Duke Francis. The Chateau was built as a kind of pleasure palace for the dukes on the coast and was naturally a pleasant retreat. It can be assumed that both Tudors would have revelled in hunting on the plentiful lands that surrounded the chateau as well as fishing in the bountiful Atlantic Coast which begun only a few hundred metres from their apartments.

Although things had begun in this fashion it was not a situation that would last. Their increasing status as pawns in the great diplomatic three-way tussle between the squabbling Bretons, French and English would gradually see the Tudors situation become more restricted. The English demanded they were treated as monitored prisoners whilst the French commanded they were put under stricter control so as to stop them being captured by the English. King Edward clearly wanted to extinguish this distant but last remaining line of the House of Lancaster and to finally secure his own House of York beyond all doubt whereas King Louis wanted the Tudors to use as a bargaining chip against England. Louis XI was also the first cousin of Jasper Tudor as his father King Charles VII was the brother of Jasper’s mother Catherine of Valois, the dowager Queen of England whom had scandalously married her servant Owen Tudor after her husband Henry V’s death. This, Louis believed, meant he had right to the guardianship of his kinsmen. Duke Francis, undoubtedly with some reluctance after initially extolling himself as a gracious and respectful host, was forced to accept such terms and the Tudors movements subsequently began to be more limited. Finally the access to the sea was seen as more of a curse than a blessing as it was seen to be too exposed to the possibility of English attack. The Tudors stay at this scenic chateau was abruptly cut short and they were urgently relocated and perhaps of more concern to the pair, separated. Jasper was sent to the Chateau de Josselin whilst young Henry was placed in the formidable confines of Chateau de Largoet in Elven.

Prisoners

Josselin is situated in the heart of Brittany and the scenery surrounding the Chateau would have been dramatically different to the view Jasper Tudor would have become accustomed to in Suscinio. The Atlantic Ocean had been replaced by the conjoining green masses of grassy hills and tall trees as far as the eye could see. The chateau is in the heart of a medieval town with the historic town walls running parallel to the roads. It was the ducal home of the preeminent Rohan family.

Standing at the base of the fortress wall, the height of the three connected towers that compromise today’s modern Chateau is truly astonishing and would surely have been a behemoth of the Middle Ages. One can only imagine the effect it would have had on Jasper as he stood beneath the towers for the first time, particularly as the castle would still have had many of its other towers still intact. Jasper was moved here at some point between 1473 and 1474 and would have either entered through the opulent gate in the town square or perhaps through the smaller gate through which visitors today enter the Chateau in the centre of the town itself. The castle would have been intact at this period, with nine towers and complete walls merely reinforcing this formidable structure. After it was slighted at a later period only four of the towers remain today but from the courtyard one still gets a feeling how impressive this fortress would have been. On the right hand side is the modern day Chateau and still home of the Rohan-Chabot Dukes, a gothic creation built into the original walls which overlook the flowing River Oust. Although built decades after Jasper’s enforced stay here, the early 16th century renaissance building still displays the intricate architecture that has become synonymous with the period and is worth witnessing. Particularly worth studying are the differing galleries that can be found on the front of the facade, each demonstrating the various allegiances of the Rohan family, from the motto A PLUS to the large A for the then-duchess of Brittany, Anne. On the left hand side and thus directly opposite the Chateau stands one of the original towers, isolated from the reminder of the compound yet still standing proud and majestic. From the walls, one gets incredible views across the Oust Valley and although not on the ocean front, the chateau certainly has charming views that rival Suscinio. The keep itself where Jasper may have been kept prisoner is now gone, replaced by a simple empty space from which the banner of Josselin flies proudly over the valley.

Henry meanwhile was taken to the town of Elven, situated about halfway between Suscinio and Josselin. Unlike Josselin where the Chateau is situated in the heart of the town, Largoet is rurally based with nothing in the vicinity except rolling hills, thick forests and a small lake. Largoet was designed to be a military fortress and its location certainly plays a part in its defences. The chateau is reached along a lengthy path through a forest until the gatehouse and thirteenth century walls suddenly appears into view, connected to the courtyard via a wooden bridge over a moat. The owner of the chateau during Henry’s incarceration was Jean, Lord of Rieux, and it was into his protection that Henry was placed. An intriguing family connection between Jean of Rieux and Henry Tudor came at the beginning of the fifteenth century. Henry’s distant relation Owain Glyndwr, the first cousin of his great-grandfather Maredudd ap Tudur, rebelled against English rule in the first decade of the century and was allied with many Bretons and Frenchmen, amongst them Jean of Rieux’s grandfather.

Two things would have instantly captured Henry’s eye as he entered the courtyard of Largoet. On the left hand side and down a small dip stands the Round tower, three stories high with a hexagonal construction atop the highest level. The most striking aspect of the Chateau however is the incredibly high Tour d’Elven, the Elven Tower that stands 6 stories high and 144 feet from the base. This octagonal dungeon tower possesses a tiring 177 steps in total, is the highest dungeon in France and also was built to include views out to sea around 15 miles away. This immense structure had only been constructed around a decade earlier and it was in here which Henry would be housed for the next few years. Entering through the ground floor entrance, one can make their way up the large staircase to the second floor to the small and narrow room in which he was put. It is also possible that Henry was kept on the sixth floor, arguably the most impenetrable part of the entire chateau and demonstrative of his importance to the Bretons. The Lord of Rieux was an ally of Henry and felt honoured to be guarding this ‘comte of Richemonte’ and was duty bound to ensure he didn’t escape or was kidnapped. The evolving foreign policy of continental Europe during this period however would ensure the status of the Tudors would periodically be reevaluated by the Bretons.

A Close Escape

The first five years of the Tudors stay in Brittany had been in a state of part guest, part prisoner under the protection of Duke Francis II. He had up to this point rejected the amorous advances of the English to hand over his prized possessions and kept his word to Henry and Jasper to grant them asylum. After many failed attempts to bribe the Duke into handing over the Tudors, the English envoys changed tact and began promising to safeguard Henry Tudor back to England where, rather than the expected imprisonment and execution, he would instead receive his full Beaufort inheritance and be married to a prominent Yorkist woman. It may have been a possibility that Edward in fact wished to marry Henry to his own daughter Elizabeth to fully integrate this potential usurper into his own inner circle.

The reality is it was probably merely a negotiating ploy to get control of this last remaining threat to complete Yorkist control of the English throne. This being said, after years of pressure and having succumbed temporarily to illness, by the winter of 1476 Duke Francis finally relented and agreed to release Henry Tudor into English hands under the assurance he would enjoy a good marriage in England and be treated honourably. Such a move was against his Admiral Jean du Quelennec’s wishes but the admiral was crucially away from court when the Duke reached his decision. The decision was a pleasing one to many of the minor courtiers of Brittany who were eager to be rewarded by King Edward IV for supporting this outcome. Henry was taken back to Vannes where he was passed into English hands. The English envoys took their ward north to the coastal town of St Malo where their ships awaited to take Henry back to England. It is probable that Henry would have entered the town either through the Dinan gate or the splendid La Porte Saint Vincent. Both feature the coat of arms of St Malo and Brittany and display the motto ‘Potius quam mori quam foedari’ – better dead than sullied.

It was a mixture of quick thinking and the tight, cobbled streets of St Malo which possibly saved the life of Henry Tudor on that winter’s day in 1476 when, shortly after entering the town, he seemingly feigned an illness that swiftly halted the envoys march towards the ship, and thus England. As this delay was taking place, Admiral Quelennec had returned and was dismayed at his Duke’s action in releasing Henry Tudor from protective custody. The chivalric admiral felt that Duke Francis had made a promise in good faith and should have kept his oath to protect the Welshman. Convinced he had made a mistake, Francis sent his treasurer and key political aide Pierre Landais to St Malo in order to stop the sailing. Aided by the delay through illness, Landais arrived just in time to advise the English the deal was off and entered into lengthy dialogue with the exasperated envoys. It appears during these heated exchanges, the 19 year old Henry slipped away from his captors and escaped through the narrow streets whilst being pursued. Making his way to the church that stands in the centre of the old town, the Earl of Richmond claimed sanctuary within the confines of St Vincent’s Cathedral. With the local Bretons unwilling to allow the English to break the sanctuary tradition by entering the Cathedral armed, the envoys eventually admitted loss in their attempt to take Henry back to England and they left the shores of Brittany empty handed. They had him their possession for only three days. St Malo’s Cathedral still stands proud in the centre of the town and in fact the roads are so narrow and tight as befitting its history as a medieval town the building appears almost out of nowhere as you wander aimlessly through the many streets. Henry used these streets to his advantage and managed to evade all attempts at detection. It must have been a terrifying event for the young exile.

 The Lancastrian Claimant

Henry made his way back to the Breton Court for an audience with the Duke, Francis apologising profusely for his blunder and reassuring the Earl of Richmond that he would not be handed over to the English after all. It was an emotional reprieve for Henry. The English envoys were naturally furious at coming so close to attaining their goal of returning the Lancastrian exile to their Yorkist king but Pierre Landais and the Duke could only appease them by promising to again ensure the Tudors were kept secure in custody. Although lack of evidence exists to suggest the timeframes and locations of Henry’s next temporary place of residence, by 1480 he was in captivity at the Chateau L’Hermine in the southern coastal town of Vannes where he was joined from Josselin by his devoted uncle Jasper. As throughout the exile, envoys from both France and England continued to pressurise Duke Francis and at such a critical point in the Dukedom’s history it may have seemed at times he had no reason but to capitulate. In June 1482 King Edward reconfirmed his alleged desire to welcome Henry Tudor back into his kingdom as a treasured member of his inner court, particularly once married into a strong Yorkist family of which he may have had in mind his own daughter Elizabeth of York. Edward stated that should Henry acquiesce to this request then he would treated as a loyal and valued courtier and not only would he receive his Beaufort inheritance on his mother’s death he would receive a whole lot more. The flipside of this however, should Henry continue with his exile, was that he would lose everything if he did not return to English shores immediately. It is thought that Margaret Beaufort herself, a Lancastrian by birth whom had found herself married into the wider Yorkist regime, supported such a move. It certainly seemed to be the best this exiled Welshman could hope for at this junction. Although the Yorkist Dynasty seemed secure on the throne of England hitherto the political scene dramatically changed in April 1483 when the obese King Edward IV died, leaving his child and namesake Edward the new king. The future of Henry Tudor and the deal to bring him back home was suddenly cast into doubt. This was further complicated when Richard, Duke of Gloucester and younger brother to Edward IV, captured his nephew and usurped the crown. Disenfranchised Yorkists unhappy at this turn of events looked abroad to Henry as a possible alternative and scores of knights and nobles began to flee to Brittany. Duke Francis acknowledged this dramatic change in status of his charge and Henry was afforded greater freedom. This exiled Earl of Richmond found himself transformed from a little-known Lancastrian exile to a potential king-in-waiting. With little other prospects other than continuing his exile it was a role he embraced.

With his force growing daily as previously loyal Yorkists seeked sanctuary away from London, Henry Tudor faced his large force at Vannes Cathedral later that year and swore an oath to each and every man. He promised to lead them to the throne of England as their rightful monarch, to which he would have been greeted with support and the pledging of loyalty from the men. Henry left Vannes cathedral as a man with an army that was willing to fight for him, or at least to fight against Richard III. Henry and his closest advisors probably acknowledged that claim to the throne was weak, particularly as it was through an illegitimate female line. The decision was taken that uniting his claim with that of Edward IV’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, would bolster his acceptance as monarch and ensure the continuing loyalty of the Yorkist dissidents. To this effect Henry met with his faction at Rennes’ St Pierre Cathedral to pledge an oath to marry Elizabeth and unite the rival Houses. The Cathedral in Rennes sits in the centre of the city and constitutes an incredibly high front façade that certainly matches the similar structure at Westminster Abbey. As you enter and your eyes become accustomed to the darkness, you instantly become aware of the numerous marble pillars on each side that lead down the aisle to the altar. Situated underneath a great basilica and in the presence of many Catholic shrines, it was here on Christmas Day 1483 that Henry made his oath to marry Elizabeth of York and unite the warring factions. Present on this day was the majority of his force, both Yorkist and Lancastrian, in addition to the Duchess of Brittany herself. As the premier minister in the land Pierre Landais was also present and through him Henry obtained Francis’ solemn promise to support and assist in the cause. The ceremony included a mass which was officiated over by the Duchess’ own priest. Henry had entered into a pledge which he could not turn his back on; if his invasion of England was successful and he became King, he would marry Elizabeth of York. It was in effect a betrothal, a marriage in proxy. It could be argued that it was within Rennes Cathedral that the end of the Wars of the Roses was conceived.

The End of the Exile

Francis had grown increasingly ill and by 1484, his treasurer Pierre Landais was effectively in control of the dukedom. Francis had, for the main part, always kept his promise to protect Henry whilst he was in his control and had certainly grown accustomed to his company. With Henry’s role changing from mere exiled noble to claimant to the throne of England, both needed each other for different reasons. Henry needed Francis in order to succeed. Francis needed Henry to be King in order to gain a powerful ally in his constant battles with France. However during Francis illness during the summer of 1484, Landais began to listen to Richard’s constant overtures and certainly seemed as though he was about to hand the Tudors over. Landais not only thought this was the best thing for Brittany, but it was also self-preservation for himself to create a personal relationship with the King of England. The plans to hand over Henry Tudor to Richard III were almost set in motion when Henry’s ally, Bishop Morton, had found out through his sources about the plot to betray him behind Francis’ back. Henry in turn decided to hatch his plan whereby he would escape across the border into France where he would seek asylum in the court of the new French king Charles VIII. Henry had already made two incredible escapes during his lifetime; first as a 14 year old from Tenby Harbour and again as a 19 year old from English forces in St Malo. Leaving his base at Vannes at some point in September under the pretence of visiting a supposed friend, around 5 miles later Henry suddenly left the road and dipped into the woods where he changed into the clothes of a peasant. Disguised from detection, Henry then rode fiercely for the French border and asylum at Charles’ court. His uncle Jasper had equally crossed the border two days earlier in a similar manner.

Henry’s escape had scuppered Pierre Landais’ plans to transfer Henry to prison and into the hands of King Richard III and in fact they were only an hour behind Henry as he raced through the marches and into French territory. Deeply troubled and ashamed at what had transpired, Francis conveyed his regret to Henry and rather than punishing the English exiles that had been left behind in Brittany, Francis provided them not only with safe conduct to France but helped to finance the move to France. It was an honourable move borne out of the chivalric characteristics Duke Francis had on the whole shown his Welsh guest and Henry was deeply thankful for this gesture. Provided with extra funds from France, whom were finally eager to use the Tudors in their diplomatic squabble with England, the plans to launch an invasion from the coast of France began to gain pace as did Henry’s own appeals to other nobles in Wales and England to support his claim. The forces that Henry had gathered, a combination of Lancastrians, dissident Yorkists and French mercenaries, were assembled at the Norman port of Honfleur where on 1 August 1485 they finally set sail for the coast of Henry’s native Wales. Henry’s ragtag force landed at Mill Bay, Pembrokeshire on 7 August and landing on Welsh soil for the first time since he was forced into exile 14 years earlier, the Welshman fell to his knees and kissed the soil. Henry was heard to cry “Judge me, Lord and fight my cause”. Two weeks later Henry Tudor was proclaimed King of England and of France, Lord of Ireland and Prince of Wales.

The Royal Tudors and Brittany

After Henry Tudor acceded to the English throne and was crowned as Henry VII, it was anticipated that Brittany and England would enjoy a close relationship due to the personal connection of the two respective rulers. The reality was that once Henry became King of England, he had to act in accordance with the wellbeing and interest of his own kingdom as opposed to any sentimental loyalty to Brittany. Henry also owed a debt of gratitude to the French for their role in supporting his Bosworth campaign and therefore a policy of non-intervention was considered prudent by the new English king whilst he secured his crown.

The question of Breton independence was thrust to the forefront of European diplomatic matters in September 1488 when Henry’s protector in exile, Duke Francis II, passed away. He was succeeded by his daughter Anne of Brittany who at once became one of the most sought after brides on the continent, particularly by the French. Whilst Henry Tudor certainly had a personal interest in the future of Brittany his most pressing concern must have been the aggressive attempts of his former ally France to annex Brittany and secure control of the entire southern part of the English Channel. French control of Brittany would also have a detrimental effect on the economy of England for the Bretons were a key trading partner of the English. Henry initially attempted to act as mediator between his two allies but a French military defeat of Breton forces in 1488 at the Battle of St-Aubin-du-Cormier suggest Brittany needed vital assistance.

Henry resolved to support Brittany against France to this end and the Treaty of Redon was signed in February 1489. The treaty pledged 6000 English troops under the command of Giles Daubeney to be deployed to Brittany as required, although they would have to be funded by the Bretons. The Papal Ambassador in England wrote to the Pope after the treaty that the king was ‘compelled at present to defend Breton interests, both on account of the immense benefits conferred on him by the late Duke in the time of his misfortunes, and likewise for the defence of his own kingdom’. The military support was too little to have any major impact in the issue and in December 1491 Anne of Brittany was married to Charles VIII of France, effectively signaling the end of Breton independence. The following October Henry VII landed at Calais at the head of a might army, primed to invade France as a defensive tactic caused by their annexation of Brittany and support of the pretender Perkin Warbeck.

Henry commanded a force of around 15,000 troops and 700 ships, allegedly the largest English expedition of the fifteenth century. Although besieging the town of Boulogne it is arguable that Henry never planned to launch a serious military attack against France, for he came to a swift agreement with the beleaguered Charles VIII who was forced into paying his English counterpart a mammoth annual pension of 50,000 French crowns, total payable being 745,000 gold crowns. Although many were disappointed Henry seemingly had no desire to claim the throne of France it was an incredible display of power that served to demonstrate Henry’s growing influence on the never ending chessboard that was European diplomacy. The fact was that England could not match France force for force. The resultant Treaty of Etaples signed on 3 November also saw French support for the cause of Warbeck withdrawn, who quickly fled for Flanders. The campaign would draw criticism yet Henry’s chief objectives were achieved with little expense or bloodshed, although he had failed to preserve the sovereignty of Brittany. He had demonstrated to Europe that he was a king who was a major player in continental affairs, whilst removing an immediate threat in a French-backed Warbeck and significantly boosting his income. Brittany however was lost. And lost it would remain, never regaining her independence. The Tudors and Brittany is an intriguing story; rags to riches on one hand yet riches to rags on another. Both played a major role in the rise and fall of each other.

The Extraordinary Bond Between an Uncle and His Nephew

By Debra Bayani

During the Middle Ages good relationships between close relatives could not always be taken for granted. Especially during the Wars of the Roses, also known as the ‘Cousin’s War’, at times it seemed impossible to even trust your own brother. In marked contrast to this was the bond between one particular uncle and his nephew, Jasper and Henry Tudor.

It was in November 1456 that Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond and half-brother to King Henry VI, died under puzzling circumstances at Carmarthen Castle. He had been locked up there a few months prior to his death by William Herbert and his father-in-law Walter Devereux, supporters of the Duke of York, probably for the reason that Edmund, at the behest of the King, had finally been successful in taking control of South Wales and several strongholds, some of which belonged to the Duke. During his protectorate earlier that year, York had been less than triumphant in his effort to wrest control from the notorious, powerful Welshman Gruffydd ap Nicholas, whereas Edmund had not only won the same struggle but afterwards stayed on friendly terms with Nicholas. This may, at least partly, explain York’s actions.

Although plague has been suggested as the cause of Edmund’s death, it is quite likely that he died due to wounds inflicted during his arrest or imprisonment. His death was lamented by many. One of the bards, Dafydd Nanmor wrote:

For us it’s sad to see how happy his enemies are,

they obliterate us.

There was no sadness for even a moment

without joy and a leader.

As another Jasper of yore

came with the myrrh for wise Mary’s son,

so too Jasper (no less of a man)

for our sake brings healing for [for the loss of] a kinsman.

 

Edmund’s death left many people grieving, including his young teenaged wife, Margaret Beaufort, then seven months pregnant, and his younger brother Jasper. This must have been a particularly sad loss for Jasper as the brothers were close in age and had been raised together, and quite likely was the origin of the lifelong bond between uncle and nephew. (There was a younger brother, Owen, also known as Edward Bridgewater, a monk at Westminster Abbey.)

Edmund’s only son was born at Jasper’s castle of Pembroke, where Edmund’s pregnant widow had sought the protection of her brother-in-law. After a long and difficult labour, she gave birth on 28 January 1457 to a small and delicate but healthy baby boy, Henry Tudor. In his infant years Henry was known to the Welsh as ‘the younger Owen’ after his Tudor grandfather, which was possibly Jasper’s choice to honour his father. Although Margaret Beaufort remarried the year after Henry’s birth, her son spent the first four years of his life safely under his uncle Jasper’s wing at Pembroke Castle.

These peaceful years were harshly interrupted when, in 1460–61, a series of battles took place. Among them were the battle of Wakefield in December 1460, which caused the death of the Duke of York, and two months later one at Mortimer’s Cross following which Jasper’s father Owen was executed by the orders of the victorious Edward, Earl of March, son of the late Duke of York. Edward seized Henry VI’s crown and, now Edward IV, gave William Herbert control over the Lancastrian properties in Wales, including Pembroke Castle. That September Herbert took possession of the castle, together with four year-old Henry whom he found inside. As a result Herbert was granted the boy’s wardship and marriage.

During the next few years Jasper travelled constantly between England, France, Scotland and Wales, always trying to muster as much support for the Lancastrians as he could, while never giving up on his belief. Even though Herbert was killed by the Earl of Warwick in 1469 at the Battle of Edgecote, young Henry remained in the Herbert household until 1470, when the Lancastrians for a short period recovered the crown with the help of Edward’s former ally Warwick and brother Clarence. Jasper was then able to take his 13-year-old nephew, whom he had not seen in nine years, from the custody of, Anne Devereux, Herbert’s widow, and, after spending some time together, reunited Henry with his mother. Margaret Beaufort had been able to visit her son on several occasions while he was in the Herberts’ care, but now she was able to spend some weeks with him at her manor at Woking. These peaceful times were again all too short-lived, however, for in April 1471 Edward returned from his exile in Flanders and succeeded in killing Warwick at the Battle of Barnet and taking possession of King Henry and his crown.

At this stage Jasper was in the Severn Valley seeking to muster a force to join up with Queen Margaret’s, but Edward was aware of their plan to connect and made sure that it failed. As a result, the Queen’s forces, without Jasper, met with Edward at Tewkesbury, where they were completely defeated and the Lancastrian heir, Prince Edward, was killed. The Queen was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London, where her husband, King Henry VI, was murdered the same night as she arrived. It seemed that Edward IV had entirely defeated the Lancastrian cause and ‘crushed the seed’, as the Milanese Ambassador at the French Court put it.

All Edward had to do now was to destroy one final pocket of rebellion – and kill Jasper. For this he quickly sent Roger Vaughan of Tretower, William Herbert’s half-brother, to Chepstow. Jasper, however, was warned in time and turned the tables by killing Vaughan. Even so, he must have recognized that there for the time being there was no cause left to fight for and that the lives of both himself and his nephew were in grave danger – and in his hands alone. He therefore quickly took Henry from his mother and left for Pembroke. Edward IV was again on to Jasper’s plans and quickly ordered Morgan ap Thomas, Vaughan’s son-in-law, to carry out what his father-in-law had failed to do. While Jasper and Henry were at Pembroke Castle Morgan moved to surround the castle and dug deep ditches in order to starve them out of hiding. Luckily for the Tudors help was on its way in the shape of Morgan’s brother David, who successfully freed them from their dangerous situation and possibly brought them to Tenby. From there, after spending some days in the cellar of Mayor Thomas White (as tradition has it), they sailed on 2 June 1471 from the shore of Tenby towards the English Channel, heading for France.

King Louis XI of France, Jasper and Henry’s distant cousin, had earlier given Jasper his word to not only shelter him but also to protect Henry if ever necessary. That time had now come. But instead of sailing safely to France, the uncle and nephew were probably seized by the Bretons and arrived at the Breton coast at Le Conquet. They were then conveyed to the court of another distant cousin, Duke Francis II of Brittany. Jasper and Henry would spend 14 years between Brittany and France, living under conditions that varied from comfortable to restricted. The hardest part of this exile for both of them must have been between 1474 and 1476 when they were separated and each imprisoned in a remote castle, Jasper at the Chateau de Josselin and Henry at the Chateau de Largoët, deeply hidden in the woods. This was done for several reasons. Separating the two of them made it nearly impossible for them to plot against Duke Francis or Edward IV, or for them to be kidnapped (rumours concerning which were circulating during this time). But most of all, Duke Francis knew that, by keeping them apart, the likelihood of escape was nearly nil because it was highly unlikely that Jasper would leave without his nephew.

One can only imagine the anxiety of the 17-year-old Henry Tudor and his uncle when they heard that they were to be separated, for Jasper had been the boy’s constant advisor throughout most of his adolescence. In 1475 negotiations between Edward IV and Duke Francis to for Henry to be handed over led eventually to success for Edward. By the autumn of 1476 Henry was taken from Largoët and sent, in the company of Edward’s ambassadors, to St Malo where a ship was waiting to carry him to England. Powerless, Jasper could now only wait to see what would happen. Eventually Henry, allegedly by pretending to be sick, was able to escape to sanctuary in a nearby chapel. It was probably by October that Jasper was also released from Josselin and brought to the Breton court at Vannes where he was reunited with Henry. Even though living as prisoners under the supervision of different custodians, Jasper and Henry both stayed in Vannes and from then on were not parted again. They remained at the Breton court wherever it was residing and Duke Francis kept his promise – made to both Edward IV and the Tudors themselves – to guard them. Following Edward’s sudden death in 1483, Francis was free to release both men and he set Jasper and Henry at liberty again.

Jasper and Henry knew that their only chance to return to England was to assemble a strong enough force. Plots had been going on to usurp the crown of the usurper Richard III and so they decided to join with Buckingham. Whatever Jasper and Henry’s precise hopes may have been – and their relationship to Buckingham’s plans – the rising presented them with an opportunity to return home after 12 years of exile.

However, their homecoming was not as easy as they may have imagined; essentially, too much of it depended on sheer good luck whereby everything had to happen at the right place and the right time. In the end, Buckingham was caught and beheaded and the Tudors had to return to refuge in Brittany. Even though Jasper and Henry’s chances of a successful return to England now looked very dim they were able to reassemble a new force with a steady flow of English fugitives making their way across the Channel to join them. On Christmas Day 1484, in the Cathedral of Rennes and in the presence of his supporters, Henry pledged to marry the Yorkist princess Elizabeth and so to reunite both houses, as soon as he became king. This of course attracted previous supporters of Edward IV and Henry’s force swelled even further. Jasper continued to guide his nephew wherever necessary, negotiating with Duke Francis for further aid, and in September 1484, when the Duke finally gave in to Richard III’s demands to hand Henry over, Jasper made sure that Henry was able to escape safely to France. He did this by travelling ahead with a few of the exiled English noblemen, to give the impression they intended to visit Duke Francis Rennes not far from the French border. When Jasper and his companions came near to the border they made a run for it and successfully arrived in the province of Anjou. Henry was now also on his way but was closely followed by Pierre Landais, one of Duke Francis’s advisors, who intended to bring him back. Henry was lucky once again and by probably the end of September or the beginning of October he was able to join his uncle Jasper and the other English noblemen at the French court at the Chateau of Angers. There Jasper again negotiated with the French king for aid for his nephew’s cause.

From Angers the French court travelled to the ancient town of Montargis where both Jasper and Henry remained during the winter of 1484–85 and by the beginning of spring they joined King Charles VIII at Rouen to prepare their invasion of England. Although records of Jasper’s whereabouts are very scarce it is clear he would not leave sight of Henry.

Soon they were ready to disembark and on 1 August 1485 the Tudors and their forces left Harfleur to arrive at Mill Bay near Pembroke Castle on 7 August. Wales was chosen for their landing because of Jasper’s roots in that country and his past authority there, and many of Jasper’s Welsh supporters were expecting and keenly awaiting their hero’s arrival in the land of their fathers. In several poems Jasper is called upon to put an end to the Yorkist claim to the throne – for example, in these lines from a poem by the bard David Nanmor:

The stag’s head with an eagle’s action

ahead of a company, he shatters passionately.

I aimed towards their cries,

the moon in a heavy battle yonder.

The eagle’s black chick succeeds

in bearing the crown, his tone is just,

and although it’s borne, I wouldn’t cry,

for this man won’t have long to live.

 

It was clear that many supporters from Wales came to aid Henry’s cause because they ‘were ready to serve Jaspar ther erle’ and many joined his army in the course of the march to Bosworth. It was Jasper’s constant advice that had guided Henry for all the years in exile and it was now his advice that steered his course towards the decisive battle which on 22 August 1485 led to their victory at Bosworth.

Jasper was now around 54 years old and he had played a key role as his nephew’s closest advisor, confidant and mentor. It was now time for Henry to demonstrate his gratitude towards the man who had given up so much for him and his cause. Soon Jasper was granted many rewards, including the Dukedom of Bedford. The choice of title could hardly have been more significant. There had only been two previous Dukes of Bedford and one of them was Henry V’s brother John, a pillar of the royal house who had enjoyed great popularity, whom Henry must have had in mind when seeking an appropriate title for his beloved uncle. It shows Henry’s gratitude towards the uncle who had devoted his life to his nephew, and without whom Henry’s kingship, possibly even his very survival, would have been out of the question. From now on, whenever Henry referred to Jasper he spoke about ‘our dearest uncle’.

Great trust was placed in Jasper, and powers were granted to him immediately after 1485 that were greater than those enjoyed by anyone else. It is clear that Henry recognized that he owed an enormous part of his success to his uncle and continued to do so for the coming years. Jasper had a leading role at many of the happy occasions that followed, including the coronations of Henry and his wife Elizabeth of York. At Henry’s wishes, Jasper was married to Katherine Woodville, youngest sister of the dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville and aunt of the Queen, the wealthy Duchess of Buckingham.

When a Yorkist rebellion broke out in the Marches in the spring of 1486 it was Jasper who was sent with a strong force to suppress the uprisings. It was also Jasper who, after careful consideration during negotiations, proposed that a pardon would be provided to all who would lay down their weapons. This strategy seems to have worked; for Duke Jasper was highly respected and praised for the way he dealt with this problem.

A year later it was again Jasper, along with the Earl of Oxford and Rhys ap Thomas, who was given command of the King’s forces and defeated the Yorkist rebels at the Battle of Stoke.

No doubt Jasper must have enjoyed his position as one of the most important men in the kingdom and being granted the rewards he so abundantly deserved until the end of his life. One senses, however, that the satisfaction of his key role in bringing down the Yorkist dynasty and seeing the nephew he surely regarded as a son succeed to the throne was his greatest reward of all.

Selected sources

Chronicle of Six Ages, NLW Manuscript 3054D, Elis Gryffydd.

The Itinerary of John Leland, ed. L. Toulmin Smith, vol. 3, (London, 1964), p. 116.

‘Elegy for Edmund Tudor, earl of Richmond’ in The Poetical Works of Dafydd Nanmor, ed. T Roberts and I Williams (Cardiff and London, 1923), poem XV, translated into English by Eurig Salisbury for Debra Bayani, Jasper Tudor Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty (2014).

A Prognostic poem for Henry Tudor by Robin Ddu, in Ceinion Llenyddiaeth Gymreig, ed. Owen Jones (London, 1875), pp. 220–21; translated by Eurig Salisbury for Debra Bayani, Jasper Tudor, Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty (2014).

Jasper Tudor, Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty by Debra Bayani (2014)

Jasper Tudor, Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty is now available in colour and black & white editions on all the Amazon websites and Book Depository.

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 About the Author

Debra Bayani is a researcher and writer, living in the Netherlands with her husband and children. She previously studied Fashion History and History of Art. She has been interested in history as far as she can remember with real passion for the Middle Ages and the Wars of the Roses, and has spend many years researching this period. Currently she is working on a visitor’s guide to places connected to the Wars of the Roses. Debra’s debut non-fiction book, the first biography on the subject, ‘Jasper Tudor, Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty’, was published in 2014.

Her website can be found at: http://www.thewarsoftherosescatalogue.com and she is the admin of the coordinating Facebook page The Wars of the Roses Catalogue and her author page on Facebook.

The Henry Tudor Walking Tour of York

By Nathen Amin

This is a walk designed to cover most if not all of the locations in York associated with Henry VII and his reign. As king, Henry reigned England from 1485-1509 and visited York on two occasions – 1486 and 1487.

*start at the King’s Manor in Exhibition Square*

1. King’s Manor

King’s Manor was originally built to house the abbots of the adjacent St Mary’s Abbey. The current construction was built atop the original Norman building and many parts of the building date from the 15th century. After the Abbey’s dissolution by Henry VIII in 1539 it became the headquarters of the Council of the North for the next 100 years. Henry VIII was noted to have stayed here during a progress to the north.

King's Manor

King’s Manor

*walk across Exhibition Square*

2. Queen Margaret’s Arch

Queen Margaret’s Arch is a small entranceway in the defensive walls which once provided protection to St Mary’s Abbey. The portion which remains today is the familiar arch through which scores of residents and tourists pass on a daily basis to traverse to and from the city centre. This opening was created in 1497 to provide easy access to and from the Minister from the Abbey; it was further utilised in the summer of 1503 when the convoy of the teenage Princess Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, passed through with her convoy on her journey north to Scotland for the commencement of her marriage to King James IV.

The visit of this Princess of England and Queen of Scotland to York was of great importance to the citizens of York as it offered an opportunity to display due reverence and loyalty to the King of England and to gain the favour of the Tudors in the aftermath of the turbulent Wars of the Roses. It is stated that the streets were lined with such large crowds it took her two hours to progress from the archway to the Minster. She had been met by the Mayor and the Aldermen dressed in their finest crimson robes and adorned with their chains of office. The following day Margaret attended High Mass at the Minster and witnessed another procession. She was ‘richly arrayed in a gown of cloth of gold with a rich collar of precious stones and a girdle reaching down to the ground made from spun gold’.

This occasion was commemorated in 1899 by a local historical society who commissioned a plaque which is presently positioned on the wall next to the arch.

Queen Margaret's Arch

Queen Margaret’s Arch

*cross the road to Bootham Bar*

3. Bootham Bar

Bootham Bar has been a gateway into York for over 2000 years and was used as an entranceway by the Romans. The existing structure primarily dates from the 14th century, with the arch an 11th century Norman creation. In 1501 during the reign of Henry VII a door-knocker was installed with the requirement that any visiting Scots had to knock and obtain permission from the Lord Mayor to enter the city. A portcullis can still be viewed in the empty chamber. During the Lambert Simnel conspiracy Bootham came under attack from rebels, “the lords Scrope of Bolton and Upsall, constrained as it was said by their folk, came on horseback to Bootham Bar, and there cried ‘King Edward’ and made assault on the gates, but the commons who were watchmen there well and manfully defended them and put them to flight’. After another rebellion in 1489 over tax was more successful in breaching Bootham Bar, Henry VII criticised the city for not maintaining the walls in a good condition.

Bootham Bar

Bootham Bar

*walk through Bootham Bar and along High Petergate; at the Minster turn left and enter Dean’s Park*

4. Archbishop’s Palace

The Archbishop Palace is located a few yards from the Minster within the confines of the Dean’s Park. As its name suggests it was the one-time medieval residence of the Archbishops of York before their eventual relocation, firstly to Cawood Castle and then to Bishopthorpe Palace. On 9 September 1483 Edward of Middleham, only son and heir of King Richard III, was invested as Prince of Wales within the walls of the Archbishop’s Palace, an attempt at turning attention away from the exiled Henry Tudor and towards Richard’s own hopes for the future of the House of York. Today the remaining buildings of the Palace house the Minster Library.

Archbishop's Palace

Archbishop’s Palace

*continue walking past the Archbishop’s Palace and along Minster Yard lane. When you reach the small junction turn left*

5. St William’s College

St William’s College has no direct link with Henry VII but is nonetheless another intriguing and important 15th Century building in York. The current incarnation of the building was built during the start of the reign of Edward IV, in the early 1460’s.

It was designed to accommodate 24 priests who were entrusted with praying for the souls of the deceased in exchange for payment, a common medieval activity. The building was named for Saint William Fitzherbert, Archbishop of York in the mid twelfth century and a nephew of King Stephen. Henry VI was responsible for the initial licensing for the chantry in 1457 before his successor Edward IV renewed the royal licence in 1461 shortly after coming to the throne, encouraged no doubt by his Neville cousins. Building commenced in 1465, the year George Neville became Archbishop of York, and would remain the abode of the Minster’s chantry priests until the reformation the following century.

St William's College

St William’s College

*turn right and walk back towards the Minster*

6. York Minster and St Michael-Le-Belfry

 York Minster is undoubtedly one of the greatest examples of medieval architecture in Europe, a true landmark renowned across the continent and a wonderful demonstration of the Gothic style.

The Rose Window in the Minster was believed to have been created during the early Sixteenth Century and is a celebration of the union of the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster in the marriage of Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor. During Henry’s progress to the city in 1486, when he would have heard Mass in the Minister, a pageant was put on in his honour in which was featured ‘a royal rich red rose, unto which rose shall appear another rich white rose, unto whom all flowers shall give sovereignty’. This was the birth of the Tudor Rose, the symbol of a new era.

Inside lies the tomb effigy of Thomas Savage, Archbishop of York between 1501 and 1508. Savage was a much-valued ecclesiastical figure during the reign of Henry VII. He was a kinsman of the Stanleys and his brother Sir John Savage had commanded part of the Tudor forces at the Battle of Bosworth. Archbishop Savage was said to lead a live more akin to that of a nobleman than a cleric, enjoying hunting and other secular pursuits. As archbishop he played a key role in the marriage of Prince Arthur to Katherine of Aragon and also in the ennoblement of Prince Henry as Duke of York. He also served as President of the Council for an extended period, a position of utmost importance as it was he who presided over the meetings whilst the chancellor was absent. By 1498 he was referred to by the Spanish envoy as being one of the most influential people in the kingdom.

Opposite York Minster stands the city’s only 16th Century church, and a wonderful place of worship in its own right. The current incarnation of St Michael-le-Belfry was built during the tumultuous Reformation period of 1525 and 1537. The Minster’s Master Mason John Forman was the architect and it’s an interesting fusion of the traditional Medieval Gothic Style evident in the Minster with flourishes of the new Renaissance period. Although it was built after the time of Henry VII it is nonetheless an intriguing Tudor construction, unique in York. It also served as the church in which the notorious Guy Fawkes was baptised in 1570.

York Minster

York Minster

*Opposite the Rose Window, walk a few yards down the small path until you reach Starbucks at the entrance of Stonegate*

7. Stonegate

Stonegate is one of York’s most important and historic streets; the current thoroughfare lies atop the Roman Via Praetoria, suggesting the integral part this street has played for thousands of years. The street also played a key role in the construction of the Minster; stone from Tadcaster was brought from the River Ouse up the street to the Minster. During Medieval times the street was home to goldsmiths, printers and glass painters amongst other craftsmen. Mulberry Hall, situated about half-way down Stonegate is a prominent medieval building built in the mid-15th Century. In April 1486 as part of his progress to York, Henry VII passed through Stonegate where he was greeted with a pageant. A lady dressed as the Virgin Mary blessed the new king in what was a joyous welcome to the centre of York for the new king.

Mulberry Hall on Stonegate

Mulberry Hall on Stonegate

*turn up the small alleyway underneath the ‘Ye Olde Starr Inn’ sign and enter Coffee Yard*

8. Barley Hall

Barley Hall is a reconstructed medieval townhouse in the centre of York situated just off Stonegate, an historic thoroughfare close to the towering Minster that would have been one of the most prestigious streets in England during the 15th century. Accessible through two small atmospheric alleyways, the townhouse portrays how the building appeared in the 1480’s. Rooms include the great hall, a buttery and pantry, a parlour and several bed chambers, each of which is fitted with furniture relevant to the era.

Originally built in 1360 by monks of a priory, by the reign of Henry VII it was a bustling residence playing an important role in the civic life of England’s second city. The property came into the ownership of successful goldsmith William Snawsell in 1466, who initially rented the townhouse for the relatively high price of 53 shillings and 5 pence. Snawsell was wealthy in comparison to his fellow townsfolk and owned a multitude of property throughout York and the neighbouring villages. As a prosperous gentleman he served the city in various capacities, earning a degree of regional prominence as Chamberlain in 1459, Sheriff in 1464, Lord Mayor in 1468 and alderman for twenty years thereafter until his retirement due to illness in 1492.

As a prominent civic officer Snawsell was a contemporary of Richard III when he was both Duke of Gloucester and King of England, As Alderman it would have fallen upon men like Snawsell to welcome Richard to the city on his various visits and to walk in procession during the subsequent celebrations. Adorned in his purple gown of state, this was a role Snawsell would have continued under Henry VII, only retiring from service in his seventies. Snawsell also played a prominent role in taking gifts to Richard’s son Edward of Middleham and honouring the newly invested Prince of Wales in September 1483. Further enhancing his credentials as a loyal member of Richard’s northern affinity was his relationship through marriage to Thomas Wytham, who was one of Richard’s councillors when Duke of Gloucester and a former Chancellor of the Exchequer under Henry VI and Edward IV.

In August 1485 Snawsell was amongst the city elders who had been informed of the invasion of Henry Tudor in an attempt to depose Richard from the throne and had to decide accordingly what course of action to take. He was present during an emergency meeting of the City Council which decided you dispatch around 80 troops to fight Richard’s cause at Bosworth although disastrously they failed to reach the battlefield in time. The following day William Snawsell’s name is listed first in the records of those York councillors present to hear a report of the battle, an account which stated “King Richard late mercifully reigning upon us was thrugh grete treason…piteously slane and murdred to the grete hevyness of this citie.”

Presented with the loss of a patron who had treated York, and in particular its civic gentlemen like William Snawsell well, the elderly alderman chose to make an immediate peace with the new monarch and accordingly swore allegiance. As alderman it is probable that Snawsell would have honoured Henry VII during the new King’s progress to York, forming a core part of the welcoming committee at Micklegate Bar. It is believed he died around 1495 although no will has survived to verify.

Snawsell’s townhouse at Barley Hall would have been amongst the most opulent in the city and would have been served by around twelve servants, including a cook, a steward and various scullions to ensure the smooth running of the household. Snawsell lived at the property with his wife Joan Thweng of Sheriff Hutton and their children Seth, Isobel and Alice. William remained in possession of the residence under 1489 when it was sold to William Carter, a wine merchant.

The reconstructed Barley Hall stands today almost as a testament to the importance these local civic officers played in shaping history’s most dramatic moments, a participation that is generally overlooked in favour of the kingdom’s elite nobles. William Snawsell succeeded in achieving what very few nobles managed to do in the 15th century, and that was to serve four kings and both the House of Lancaster and House of York.

Barley Hall

Barley Hall

*continue through Coffee Yard and turn left along Grape Lane. At the end of Grape Lane turn right onto High Petergate and just before the Poundland turn left up the small alleyway*

9. Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate

Church of Holy Trinity was founded in the early twelfth century and features thirteenth and fourteenth century architecture. The church received substantial restructuring during the 1470’s under the guardianship of Rector John Walker. The rector was responsible for the magnificent stained glass window on the east wall, which was added in 1471. The tower was added during the reign of Henry VII and was completed between 1495 and 1496.

Holy Trinity Church

Holy Trinity Church

*Follow the path until you enter Goodramgate opposite Tesco. Turn left and follow the road until you reach Monk Bar*

10. Monk Bar

Monk Bar is the site of the Richard III Experience. The Bar is a 14th Century construction that was heightened under the orders of Richard III. The section of Wall from here to Layerthorpe was probably repaired during the reign of Henry VII; the arches are late medieval and correspond to other late 15th Century walls in London and Tenby.

Monk Bar

Monk Bar

 

*Enter the York Walls on the right of Monk Bar. On the right just a short walk along you will see the timbered hall of the Merchant Taylor’s Guild*

11. Merchant Taylor’s Hall

The Merchant Taylor’s Hall is a 14th Century timber-framed building that has served as the base of the Taylors Guild in York for over 600 years. They were one of seven guilds in the medieval city and were a powerful entity. They received the patronage of Henry VII in 1503 when he officially recognised their name through charter as the Merchant Taylor’s Guild.

*Follow the wall until you come to the end of this section in Layerthorpe*

12. King’s Fishpool

The King’s Fishpool was a large shallow lake lying between Layerthorpe and Foss Bridge. It was created during on the orders of William the Conqueror in 1069 when he dammed the River Foss and added another level of defence on the eastern side of the city. The Fishpool would remain in situ for the next 700 years and its boundaries can be understood by the lack of walls between Layerthorpe and the Red Tower. Today the name for the area is Foss Island, derived from the 18th century when the Fishpool began to silt up creating a series of marshy islands. The fishpool provided a plentiful supply of fish to the nearby castle.

*walk along the main road for a few hundred meters until you reach the Red Tower and the resumption of the town walls*

13. Red Tower

The Red Tower in York, constructed during the reign of Henry VII. This watchtower once marked the end of the city walls before the commencement of a large swamp that was part of the King’s Fishpool. An agreement was made between King Richard III and York City Corporation to strengthen and repair the walls, an understanding that continued into the reign of Henry Tudor.

Construction began on the Red Tower in 1490. The Corporation did not wish to pay the higher rates to Stone Masons and therefore employed the cheaper Tilers Guild to build the tower using bricks. This decision angered the Stone Masons who had hitherto been responsible for all such construction work in the city and a feud erupted between the masons and the tilers, who complained that their tools were being routinely broken or stolen. The situation escalated until 1491 when a tiler named John Patrick was murdered. Two masons were charged with his murder. One man was Christopher Horner and the other was William Hindley, Master Mason at the Minster. Hindley escaped arrest as he stayed in the Minster area which fell under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop rather than the city authorities. Both men escaped conviction, an indication of the power masons held in the city. The tilers were permitted to finish the Red Tower but it would prove to be York’s only brick building of the period. It was first referred to as the Red Tower in 1511 when artillery was kept there.

The Red Tower

The Red Tower

*walk along the town walls until you reach Walmgate Bar*

14. Walmgate Bar

Walmgate Bar is the most complete of the city’s four bars as the only gateway that still retains its barbican. Similar to the other bars, the eldest part of Walmgate is the 12th century stone archway with the remainder generally being 14th century. Uniquely the inside of the Bar features a timber-framed Elizabethan house. The heavy wooden doors date from the 15th century. Henry VIII entered York through this bar in September 1541.

*walk along the town walls until you reach Fishergate Bar*

15. Fishergate Bar

Fishergate Bar was an alternative medieval entrance into the city. The arch was restored in 1487 by the Lord Mayor of York William Todd who is commemorated on the plaque above the archway. Mayor Todd was knighted that year by Henry VII for providing support against the forces of Lambert Simnel, Yorkist pretender to the throne and in celebration funded the restoration of 55 metres of the walls including Fishergate. Only two years later however an uprising occurred in York amongst some of the citizens angered at the raising of taxes by Henry VII. One of their acts of civil disobedience was the torching of Fishergate Bar on 15 May 1489, carried out by Sir John Egremont and John Chambers. After the attack Thomas Wrangwysh was reprimanded for not keeping the two bars in adequate repair. The damage was such that the Bar was bricked up and would remain as such until 1827. The king also ordered that the walls in the area be repaired and strengthened. In 1491 the king further ordered the walls and ditches to be repaired and guns to be obtained. The Mayor pleaded poverty in response so the king granted £98. The guns didn’t materialise until the reign of his son Henry VIII in 1511.

Fishergate Bar

Fishergate Bar

*walk along the walls until you reach Fishergate Postern*

16. Fishergate Postern

Fishergate Postern is a large, rectangular stone building built first erected in the early 16th century. It was a defensive tower used to keep guard over the nearby postern gateway. The original early 15th century tower was designed to be a secondary entrance to the larger, nearby Fishergate Bar.

The Postern saw increased usage during the reign of Henry VII after the destruction and subsequent bricking up of Fishergate Bar after the tax riot of 1489. In 1501/02 the Mayor and Corporation of York ordered that a new stone postern tower be built, and construction was between 1504 and 1507 which is the tower we see today. The stone gateway was probably rebuilt at the same time, complete with portcullis.

Fishergate Postern

Fishergate Postern

*cross the road and bridge and follow the pavement around until you reach Clifford’s Tower*

17. Clifford’s Tower

Clifford’s Tower is the only substantial remnant of the medieval York Castle, an unusual two-story quatrefoil keep built in the late 13th Century on the orders of Henry II. It served as a defensive base within York in addition to a medieval prison and place of execution. By the late 15th century the castle had fallen into a state of disrepair; Richard III was killed before his orders for renovation work had been carried out and it seems there was no urgency or need from Henry VII to continue with the plans. By the reign of Henry VIII the castle had fallen into further disrepair although it was still used for executions, for example Pilgrimage of the Grace leader Robert Aske was hanged from the tower in 1536.

Clifford's Tower

Clifford’s Tower

*cross the road and pick up the York Walls trail by walking through the park next to the river. Walk up the steps to Skeldergate Bridge and walk across. On the right hand side looking up river you will see the Ouse Bridge*

18. Ouse Bridge (from Skeldergate Bridge)

Henry VII crossed the Ouse Bridge in 1486 during his northern progress to York. He was greeted on the bridge with a throne and ‘King Solomon’ who led six men who portrayed the six earlier King Henrys. Together the group offered Henry VII a sceptre to accompany a crown he had earlier been presented at Micklegate Bar. A shower of rose water and comfits completed the exuberant and merry scene.

*At the end of Skeldergate Bridge, enter the York Walls and follow through until Micklegate Bar*

19. Micklegate Bar

The location of the Henry Tudor Experience

Micklegate Bar was the most important gateway to York and traditionally was the place royalty was welcomed into the city. The base of the Bar dates from the 12th century, similar to the city’s other bars whilst the top two stories date from the 14th century.

For hundreds of years Micklegate Bar was used to display the severed heads of rebels and traitors, including that of Richard, Duke of York, in 1460. The last severed head was not removed until 1754.

Henry VII first visited York in 1486 and his entrance to the city was through Micklegate Bar. Court chronicler Polydore Vergil wrote ‘he set out for York, to keep in control the people of the north, wild and readier than others for rebellion’.

He was met by the city’s sheriffs, aldermen and Mayor at Bilborough Cross and was accompanied into the city. No expense was spared in paying tribute to this new gain and to seek his favour; it was said children lining the street cried out ‘King Henry’ and red and white roses were displayed to symbolise York and Lancaster’s union. Henry was presented with a crown and the keys to the city, symbolic of York’s submission to the king. He was greeted by a citizen dressed as Ebrauk, the legendary founder of York, who exclaimed in verse ‘To you, Henrie, I submit my citie, key and croune; To reuyll and redresse, your dew to defence; never to this citie to presume ne pretence; but holy I graunt it to your governaunce; As a principall parcel of your inheritaunce’.

Henry returned again in July 1487 but this time he arrived at Micklegate at the head of an army having just defeated a Yorkist threat to his throne. The Mayor and Corporation of York met him at the Bar, where the king was accompanied by a thousand noblemen dressed in armour. A Mystery Play was put on for Henry who watched from the Coney Street house of Thomas Scott.

Micklegate Bar

Micklegate Bar

*From here follow the remainder of the walls to cross Lendal Bridge. You will emerge by the King’s Manor and York Minster*

Henry VII, the King Maligned as a Miser

By Nathen Amin

History has not been kind to Henry VII of England. The first Tudor king has often suffered from long-held accusations that he was a dark and greedy monarch, a man of such a suspicious disposition that his reign was a tyrannical period for England centred on the King’s grasping nature.

It could be argued that the one adjective used more than any other when describing Henry Tudor is ‘miser’. One needs to only witness the character assassination that accompanied the recent documentary ‘The Winter King’ by historian Tom Penn to understand this phenomenon. Amongst a plethora of speculative descriptions of the king in this overwhelmingly negative portrayal was “terrifying”. Penn further stated that Henry utilised ruthless methods to control England, whilst ‘money was dearest to his heart’. Are such accusations justified? It would appear by referring to the sources that the prevailing attitude of many historians, both professional and amateur, that Henry VII was a ‘miser’ king are wide of the mark and constitute an unfair description of both the man and his reign.

Henry Tudor was born into nobility as the son of the wealthy heiress Margaret Beaufort, only child of the Duke of Somerset, and Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond and half-brother to King Henry VI of England. Royal patronage of the Beauforts and Tudors by their regal relative should have ensured a comfortable upbringing for Henry but the internecine conflict known as the Wars of the Roses transformed the young boy’s prospects before he had even been born. His father Edmund, a loyal Lancastrian, was captured and imprisoned in Carmarthen Castle by Yorkist commanders and died shortly afterwards, whilst his uncle Henry VI was deposed by the House of York when the young Earl of Richmond was only four years old.

Henry’s wardship was purchased by his father’s foe Sir William Herbert and Henry found himself integrated into the Herbert household at Raglan. Henry’s destiny was out of his hands, completely dependent on the protection and will of Lord Herbert, who at least appeared to be a good guardian. Henry would remain with the Herberts until he was a teenager, later referring to this period as one of being a prisoner although he was admittedly honourably brought up. From 1471 until his triumphant landing in Wales in 1485 Henry was a penniless, land-deprived exile existing in the continued good will and generosity of firstly the Duke of Brittany and secondly the King of France, both of whom utilised the attainted Earl of Richmond as a political pawn in European affairs.

This uncertain upbringing ensured Henry grew up without any estates or money to call his own, a feather in the wind without stability or roots. This situation undoubtedly helped shape Henry’s outlook on life when he finally encountered great wealth and land for the first time at the age of 28 when he acceded to the throne of England. It was the archetypal rags to riches story. Did such an impoverished background ferment itself in adulthood miserliness however? Let us consider evidence to the contrary;
The sources leave an indication that Henry VII was not the miser some would believe. His patronage of renaissance artists and writers, his lively court and his extensive building campaign alone suggest that Henry was a man who enjoyed spending money on things he deemed beneficial to his family and his kingdom.

Henry was a man who surprisingly was recorded spending money on his controversial predecessor Richard III; on 1 March 1486 Henry granted John Plantagenet, the natural if illegitimate son of Richard III, an annual income of £20 whilst in 1495 Henry paid the not insubstantial fee of £50 for a marble and alabaster monument to mark Richard’s grave in Leicester.

Henry was also noted to lavish expensive gifts on his family. In May 1491 he paid the colossal sum of £3800 for cloth of gold, pearls and precious stones designed to adorn his family, whilst another record states the king paid 13s 4d for a lute for Princess Mary. A generous payment of £31 10s is also commanded to be ‘delivered to the Quene’s grace for juels’. Indeed from 1491 to 1505 the king was stated to have spent between £200,000 to £300,000 in jewels and plates, an incredible investment designed to secure the family’s financial future. In 1497 the Milanese ambassador was shown into the king’s presence and reported home that Henry was standing behind a chair of cloth of gold in a ‘most rich’ collar of rows of pearls and gems.

Entertainment was important to the king, in its various disguises. On Christmas Eve 1491 the king paid £5 to a certain Ringley for his participation as the ‘Lord of Misrewle’. Furthermore a payment of 6s 8d was made in 1501 to a person for eating coals whilst other records show payments of £1 to a child that played recorder and another pound to minstrels. In January 1494 Henry paid four actors from Essex £1 and the day made a further payment of £2 to morris dancers. He was also noted as making a payment of £2 to a certain Dick the Fool for new clothes. In 1492 the king was recorded as paying out the enormous sum of £132 to jousters who competed at a grand tournament held in his honour. Further entertainment-related payments can be viewed in the king’s expense records; there is a payment to ‘an Italian, a poete’ for £20 whilst another payment of 6s 8d is made to ‘a Walshe man, that maketh rhymes’. An intriguing payment of £20 is also made to ‘a maiden that danceth’.

Further examples of Henry’s expenditure include him losing £13 4s shooting at the butts, paying £3 6s 8d in 1497 for a blind poet and a payment of 6s 8d to ‘Grifhith Aprice, a man with a berde’. Henry’s general generosity can also be understood from seemingly spontaneous payments to a variety of people. Minor payments to persons for services rendered include ‘one who brought the king a fresh sturgeon’, ‘the woman that presented the king with cherries and strawberries’ and ‘to a poor man that had his corn eaten by the king’s deer’. A payment of £2 13s 4d was also made ‘to the one that brought the king a lyon’.

Henry VII certainly engaged in some extreme measures in order to enrich the royal treasury. Bishop Morton’s infamous rationale, recently known as ‘Morton’s Fork’, has been considered an unfair method of ensuring all subjects were taxed without exception whilst the relentless activities of councillors Empson and Dudley earned the pair an enmity capable of hurtling them towards their demise once their royal protector passed away. Of course, it is not often acknowledged that this method of taxation was not Henry’s invention, nor even Morton, adapted as it was from the reign of Edward IV. Should Morton’s Fork be more properly known as the Yorkist Fork? Henry’s actions were taken for the benefit of his fledgling dynasty and by extension for that of England. The country had been ruined by civil war and the crown was in a perilous financial situation prior to Henry’s accession, a legacy of the wars with France. Henry’s financial policies and decisions were taken with the aim of securing a peaceful succession for his son, the first such in almost a century, and to ensure a prosperous future for England and her people.

Henry has attracted a large degree of criticism from historians, both contemporary and modern, but it must be argued that such a difficult transition period from war to peace must encounter tough, unpopular decisions. It is absurd to denigrate this political ideology of careful and considered financial management of the kingdom and the crown to be the actions of a tyrannical despot. Henry Tudor is as much responsible for the rise of England’s ‘Golden Age’ under his granddaughter Elizabeth I as any other personage of the medieval period. Henry Tudor has in time been vilified and maligned as greatly as that other monarch he is forever and irrevocably linked to, Richard III. Henry VII was a king of his time and circumstances, acting with only the interest of his dynasty and the kingdom they ruled. The legacy of this great king is England’s growth from a provincial civil-war ravaged island into a major European power able to compete with its continental rivals. The Milanese ambassador during Henry’s reign wisely observed ‘this kingdom is perfectly stable, by reason first of the king’s wisdom, whereof everyone stands in awe, and secondly on account of the king’s wealth’. History, if not those who often interpret it and only see what they wish to see, has justified Henry’s actions. Henry a miser? Don’t you believe it.

The Princes in the Tower; The Defence Case for Henry VII

By Nathen Amin

 The Princes in the Tower is one of British history’s greatest tragedies and has long been a spectre looming large over the English Middle Ages in particular. Two young brothers, one 12-years-old and the other just 10, were forcibly removed from public view shortly after their father’s death and were never seen again. The reason this story has resonated through history is for the fact that these two children happened to be Royal Princes; in fact, in the case of the elder child, Edward, he was no longer a Prince but a King. As the only male children of King Edward IV, upon their father’s death at Westminster in 1483 they became the highest ranking nobles in the realm, Edward ascending to the throne as King Edward V whilst his brother becoming the Heir presumptive and maintaining his status as the dual Duke of York and Norfolk. Although still children, the foundations had been set for their dominance of the Kingdom’s governance for the foreseeable future and undoubtedly there were great hopes for these sons of York.

This golden future however would never materialise for the Princes. Shortly after young Edward’s ascension and traditional acknowledgement as King, he was imprisoned by his Uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester who surreptitiously seized the throne from his nephew. Richard alleged that the brother he had loyally served for the entirety of his reign was in fact illegitimate, thereby rendering his sons not of the true royal line. Further to that, Richard official allegation was that his brother Edward IV had been previously betrothed before his marriage to the Princes’ mother Elizabeth Woodville, thus ensuing any offspring betwixt the two were bastards by the law of the church. It was an act that would become known as Titulus Regius and ensured Richard himself was able to seize the crown as Richard III. It was a controversial move but as the Duke was in all probability the most powerful magnate in the realm and had support amongst other nobles whom were in opposition to the detested Woodville faction that compromised the Princes maternal family, he was successful in his coup.

After their imprisonment in the Tower of London in the summer of 1483, although initially spotted playing in the grounds of the Royal fortress they were never seen again and their ultimate fate has endured as one of England’s great mysteries. As a royal murder intrigue, many have resolved to appropriate blame towards various persons of the period, most notably their Uncle Richard III and his successor Henry VII. Other suspects have included the Duke of Buckingham and a Yorkist Knight James Tyrell. Although the case will never be given a conclusive answer, I feel the recent rise in those finding Henry Tudor guilty in spite of the lack of compelling evidence needs to be addressed in a coherent manner. Guilt in a British court can only be ascertained if the defendant has been proved to have committed the crime and not on circumstantial evidence and as such it will be impossible to prove guilt in this case. That said, it is possible to argue the case for a not guilty plea.

Henry Tudor had never met the Princes in question as their paths had never had reason to cross. Henry came from a staunch Lancastrian family; His father Edmund Tudor and uncle Jasper Tudor were the half-brothers to King Henry VI and had therefore valiantly fought for the House of Lancaster until its eventual demise with Henry VI’s death in 1471, possibly at the behest of the aforementioned Richard of Gloucester. As a result of the fall, Henry was exiled from the Kingdom the same year with his Uncle Jasper and spent his formative years in the Duchy of Brittany. He was 14 when he left and would not set foot in England until a few days prior to the Battle of Bosworth where he defeated Richard III. He was 28 by this point.

Henry Tudor’s claim to the throne was weak to say the least. At time of his ascension there were an estimated 29 other nobles with a greater claim to the throne than his. Henry’s claim came through his mother Margaret Beaufort whom was the sole inheritor of the illegitimate Beaufort line, offspring of John of Gaunt at the end of the 15th century. Directly related from King Edward III through this line, it gave Henry Tudor a slight claim to the throne but due to the plethora of other, legitimate claimants ahead of him this claim remained insubstantial to covet the crown. That is, until Richard III seized the throne from his nephews and targeted any Yorkists whom refused to transfer their allegiance from the young boys to him. The result was that Henry suddenly became the person that both exiled Lancastrians and disenfranchised Yorkists flocked towards in order to relieve them from the reign of Richard. The consequence was of course that Henry would mobilise this support and eventually claim the Crown of England through the right of conquest if not predominantly through right of bloodline.

Henry naturally would not have been able to become King of England if the two Princes were still alive, the same issue that Richard faced as King. If Richard was a usurper, then Henry was usurping the usurper and his position was even weaker. The accusation from Ricardian supporters is that once Henry was King, he killed the Princes in order to secure his throne and then married their sister whom was now considered the true heir following their death. Henry was now King through right of conquest and through his wife’s legal claim to the crown. Supporters of Richard III thus consider Henry Tudor most likely to be the monster whom committed the atrocity against the two Princes, pointing to the ruthlessness of the Tudor dynasty as a whole for supporting this act. But what of the evidence…well, quite simply, there isn’t any.

i) The two Princes were last seen in public around June 1483. They had been noted as playing in the grounds of the Tower of London shortly after imprisonment, presumably content and unaware of their impending fate. Their Uncle had been named their protector and it is probable they felt no harm came to them. With regards to Henry Tudor, without the possibility of a flying visit in 1471 as a teenage boy to visit his half-uncle King Henry VI during the short Readeption, Henry Tudor did not step foot into England until August 1485, two full years after the Princes were last seen. Henry had spent the entirety of their imprisonment as an exile in Brittany, spending his time as a virtual prisoner of the Duke of Brittany and evading capture by King Edward IV. His influence in England was non-existent and in fact many were not even aware of him or his claim. The idea that Henry Tudor had arranged for the death of the Princes from his base in Brittany is absurd to say the least. No man within Richard’s retinue would seriously consider killing the Princes at the behest of some distant Welshman in a foreign land with no money and no apparent prospects.

ii) If Henry was unable to murder the children through orders from afar, then supporters of Richard III gleefully point out that he certainly could have killed them upon his ascension to the throne of England. As all-powerful King, the Tower of London would have come under his jurisdiction and all prisoners within the walls would fall within his remit. Henry would have jealously guarded his throne and it is an historical fact that both he and his son systematically wiped out the remaining Plantagenet claimants throughout their reigns. One only needs to consider the executions of Edward Plantagenet in 1499 and his sister Margaret Pole in 1541 for evidence of this. However, once again one must wonder why the Princes had not been released by those in the Tower after learning of Henry’s victory in the ensuing weeks before the victor’s arrival in London. Is it likely that the boys were still alive a full two years after their disappearance just for Henry Tudor to finally kill them? Surely someone, somewhere would have released details of this. Many consider Henry VII to be so powerful once he took over that he instantly began rewriting history and destroying the remnants of the Yorkist regime, yet is it not true that Henry faced almost continuous rebellions in his early reign from outcast Yorkists eager to recapture the throne? Surely someone would have made public that Henry was responsible for the deaths of the boys if that was the case. Their silence is in itself telling…the boys had been murdered under the previous Yorkist regime.

iii) If the children had not survived until 1485 when Henry Tudor took the throne and thus was able to have access to them, one wonders why had the previous King, Richard, failed to publically display the children in the aftermath of their disappearance two years earlier. Suffering damaging accusations from disenfranchised Yorkists and Lancastrians alike over his role in their disappearance and probable death, if this was not the case then surely it would have been easier to Richard to produce them publically to redeem his reputation somewhat, a reputation don’t forget that arguably cost him his life.

iv) Henry Tudor never sanctioned an official public version which some use against him as an admission of guilt. Of course, it was not in Henry’s interests to dwell on the murder of his brothers-in-law as it merely reminded the people that he had come to the throne because of their tragedy. Another idea that he never revealed their fate is because, as a stranger to the land, he simply did not know. Their fate was clearly a closely guarded secret and is possible that it was taken to the grave by the few who would have been involved in their disposable. If no one qualified their fate to the King, then it was not possible for him to reveal their whereabouts. In the Bill of Attainder that Henry brought against Richard III after the Battle of Bosworth, specific reference to the Princes was omitted although it did carry an obscure mention of Richard’s “shedding of infant’s blood”. This was the closest the Tudor regime officially came to accusing Richard of involvement in the deaths.

v) Although Henry Tudor had as much to gain as King Richard from the deaths of the children, in 1483 Henry was not necessarily a genuine contender to the throne. He was a partner in the so-called Buckingham conspiracy but his prospects as an alternative King to Richard were not particularly promising. Richard however had a great deal to gain in the short term from their deaths and in order for him to secure his crown he had to ensure the Princes could not be used against him. It follows that he was responsible, or at least knowledgeable, of their disappearance after 1483.

vi) James Tyrell was a York loyalist whom once confessed to committing the murders on behalf of his patron, Richard III. His evidence is interesting in that he appears to be the only such person to have admitted to the crime although this confession did come under torture by the Tudor regime and therefore considered inadmissible. That said, it is the closest we have come to a confession of any kind and clearly exonerates Henry Tudor from wrongdoing. That is, if one believes Tyrell’s story.

vii) Various contemporary chronicles from the period refer to rumours about the disappearance and murder of the Princes, notably the Croyland Chronicle and the raconteurs Dominic Mancini ad Philippe de Commines whom report on rumours of the Princes deaths as early as winter 1483, a date as stated above logistically near-impossible for Henry to have an involvement. Chronicles were never consistent in their reporting and much of what has been said would be disproved by later antiquarians but nonetheless they remain important insights into the lives of the period they cover and the public feeling.

viii) One primary reason it is unlikely that Henry Tudor was involved in the slaying of the Princes is the very fact that not only did he marry the boy’s sister, but their mother was instrumental in the politicking that brought him to the crown. Elizabeth Woodville was drastically removed from power after the death of her husband and although expected to remain the premier female in the realm through her son, once he had been imprisoned by her brother-in-law Richard her very existence was under threat. By the end of 1483, often considered the period the Princes were done away with, Elizabeth Woodville began conspiring with Henry Tudor’s mother Margaret Beaufort to put Henry Tudor on the throne of England. The provision of this of course was that Henry would have to marry the Princes’ sister, Elizabeth of York, a concession that Henry was only too happy to agree too. The Yorkists loyal to the deceased Edward IV and by extension his sons Edward and Richard quickly defected to Henry Tudor’s cause, led by Elizabeth and the Woodville faction. It is almost impossible to believe that this family would agree to join the cause of Henry Tudor if he was responsible for the deaths of their beloved Princes, or equally if they believed them to still be alive. The Woodville faction allowed the Tudor claim to be realised through Elizabeth of York as they were certain that her brothers were dead and understood they would only remain a degree of power by inserting Elizabeth as Queen. This was duly done and the Woodville’s never regained the power they had enjoyed under Edward’s IV and V.

ix) Henry, as shown, may not have known the fate of the Princes as he had been exiled from the country at the time they disappeared from view. Throughout his early reign Henry was beset with uprisings and rebellions, none more so than the revolt that appeared under the leadership of Perkin Warbeck whom claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury, the younger Prince. Henry’s behaviour during this rebellion was certainly of a nervous nature, unsure who this man was and determined to investigate further. Henry’s alarm at the rising of this “Richard” certainly points to his innocence regarding the murder of the Princes. If he had committed or ordered the act himself, he had no need to become so worried over the rebellion for he would have known the Prince was dead. In reality, Henry was suitably worried enough to crush the uprising with full military strength.

With this in mind, Henry Tudor at best is a minor suspect in the case of the Princes deaths and not a serious one. He was accepted as a family member by the Princes’ own sister and mother, was not in the country at the time of the death and won the loyalty of men whom would never disassociated themselves with the Princes had they believed they still lived. As for the real culprit, the jury still remains undecided. From Richard III to the Duke of Buckingham, and from James Tyrell to perhaps another unidentified suspect, there remains a lack of prove to satisfactorily close the case. In my opinion ultimate responsibility would fall on the shoulders of Richard III. His dying brother’s wish was for his loyal and hardy younger Richard to be Protector of his young sons, both in official office and in a familial capacity. Whether Richard ordered the killing himself or not, the fact remained that the Princes did not receive the protection of his uncle and their tragic death by an unknown source remains something that ultimately he must be held accountable for. No amount of revisionism by the Richard III society will be able to undo this blemish against the character of Richard. Henry Tudor…we therefore find you Not Guilty.