Henry Tudor or Henry Beaufort? A Question of Paternity

By Nathen Amin

When Henry Tudor won the crown of England at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, he acceded to the throne as the first sovereign of the House of Tudor, a cadet branch of the House of Lancaster.

Henry had wrested the crown from Richard III and claimed kingship through right of conquest – God had granted him victory through battle. Nonetheless it was prudent to put forward a blood claim to the throne which Henry duly did, emphasising his descent from Edward III through his mother Margaret Beaufort. For good measure Henry also ensured the people were aware of his descent from the ancient Welsh princes who had ruled the island before the arrival of the Norman Plantagenets and his close-kin to his uncle Henry VI (although he shared no blood ties to English royalty through this connection).

Traditionally it has been understood and accepted that Henry’s direct lineage was as the son of Margaret Beaufort, herself the daughter of John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset and Margaret Beauchamp, and Edmund Tudor, the son of Owen Tudor and Katherine de Valois. Lately however a theory has been put forward that Henry’s father Edmund was in fact the son of Edmund Beaufort and not Owen Tudor, thus casting the entire Tudor ‘myth’ into disarray.

So should Henry Tudor, first king of the Tudor Dynasty…have in fact been Henry Beaufort?

Edmund Beaufort and the Queen

So who was Edmund Beaufort? Edmund was born in 1406 and was the son of John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset and an illegitimate son of John of Gaunt. Although dynastically very powerful through his Lancastrian connection, Edmund was not blessed with a great inheritance and was often given many well-paid offices by his cousin Henry VI. This method of overt favouritism did not sit well with Richard, Duke of York, who not unfairly viewed Beaufort as a rival for power. This quarrel turned deadly rivalry would form the foundation of what eventually became known as the Wars of the Roses.

In 1422 Henry V died of dysentery in France and left a young, beautiful widow, Katherine de Valois. The council which governed in the name of her new-born son Henry VI were presented with the unusual scenario of a dowager queen still young enough to remarry – a potential situation which was a political issue. This was compounded by rumours that she already had an admirer – the brash and ambitious young Edmund Beaufort.

It is often alleged that an affair was already in commencement by 1427 between the roughly 21-year-old Edmund and 26-year-old Katherine. This was possibly the catalyst for an unusual parliamentary statue passed that year which expressly forbid the remarriage of any dowager queen without the consent of the king. Although evidence of the act no longer exists it was referenced by later historians, including mention by the seventeenth century writer Edward Coke who stated the act stipulated ‘no man should contract with, or marry himself to any Queen of England, without special licence or assent of the King, on pain to lose all his goods and lands’. In 1427 the king was only six years old, with the expectation he would not be able to grant his assent for another decade. It is assumed this act persuaded Edmund Beaufort to cease his relationship, real or otherwise, with Katherine de Valois, who would shortly become involved with Owen Tudor, a Welshman of no lands and no goods.

From around 1430 until her death in 1437 it has commonly been accepted that Katherine de Valois and Owen Tudor were secretly cohabiting and together had four children – Edmund, Jasper, Owen and a daughter. If their marriage was not known to the Council before her death, it certainly became so after she passed away in January 1437. Owen was rapidly arrested by the council and accused of breaching the aforementioned act. He eventually won his pardon from the king, his step-son, in November 1439; his sons Edmund and Jasper were taken into the care of their half-brother Henry VI whilst Owen was embraced by the monks of Westminster Abbey.

Edmund Beaufort became an English army commander in 1431 and named Earl of Dorset in 1442 and promoted to Marquess a year later. He was Lieutenant of France for five years and in 1448 inherited his brother’s dukedom of Somerset. By 1451 Edmund Beaufort was arguably the most powerful man in England, entirely created by his cousin Henry VI. After the king’s gradual ceasing of rule following various catatonic breakdowns, a rival powerbase began to be developed by Richard of York, a mortal enemy of Beaufort. In May 1455 hostilities erupted into war and the Duke of York, together with his kinsmen and allies the Neville earls of Warwick and Salisbury permanently removed Beaufort from power by targeting and killing him in St Albans.

Father of the Tudors?

The Tudor ‘myth’ is a recent phenomenon that has caught the imagination of a group of revisionists of late who are eager to destroy the reputation of the Tudor dynasty in a misguided attempt to ‘redeem’ the maligned Richard III. The paternity of the Tudors is a key tactic in this cause and it centres on the paternity of Edmund Tudor, thought to have been born around 1430.

There are a few circumstantial reasons which have led rise to this theory, which I will attempt to refute below. As always with the fifteenth century, and particularly around ‘hot topics’ like Richard III and the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, we cannot know the answers for certain, we can only deliberate and discuss based on the small amount of information present.

Coat of Arms

A major part of the theory that Edmund Beaufort fathered Edmund Tudor centres on the coats of arms that both men bore; they are allegedly of such similarity that one must have derived from the other, that is, the son’s from the father’s.

The coat of arms of Owen Tudor have never been uncovered but he is often credited with those of his ancestors of North Wales, a red background with three helmets and a Hermine chevron. Quite frankly this looks nothing like the coats of arms which were accorded to his sons, Edmund and Jasper.

Edmund Tudor was made an Earl of Richmond by King Henry VI in 1452 and together with his brother Jasper, the new Earl of Pembroke, was granted the right to bear arms. The centre of Edmund’s shield featured the coat of arms of the King of England whilst the bordure was blue and gold littered with the Fleur de Lis of France (and Katherine de Valois) and martlets. Comparatively the coat of arms of Edmund Beaufort also featured the coat of arms of England, bordered by the Beaufort livery colours of blue and white. The allegation is that the bordure of Tudor is clearly designed to reflect his descent from Beaufort. This doesn’t seem to be the case.

It seems more likely the reason Edmund Tudor received a coat of arms that included the insignia of the Kings of England, to which he had no ancestral right to unless he was the son of say, a Beaufort, is that he was granted the right to do so by his half-brother, King Henry VI. We must put this into the context of the time – Henry VI had little to no close family members and the House of Lancaster had been severely depleted through the deaths of Henry’s uncles and the lack of any heirs. Henry had adopted his young half-brothers and was determined to integrate them into his family unit. The granting to them of coat of arms that featured his own royal insignia is undoubtedly a public indicator of this desire. The Tudor boys are no longer merely the sons of Owen Tudor and Katherine de Valois…they are the brothers of the King of England. There was a precedent for this – Richard II issued his older Holland half-brothers coats of arms that had his own royal arms as the centrepiece with differentiated borders. It is clear to anybody who casts their eye upon the coats of arms of Edmunds Tudor and Beaufort that the borders share no similarity and it is disingenuous to suggest they are connected.

Edmund Tudor

Edmund Tudor

Edmund Beaufort

Edmund Beaufort

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Act of Parliament in 1452 which announced Edmund’s ascension to the earldom was effusive in its praise of his qualities, both of character and of kinship to the king as his ‘uterine brother’ through Katherine de Valois. It also accords Edmund with the right to bear ‘emblems of illustrious dignity’. Part of the text is as follows;

“…our sincerely beloved Edmund de Hadham, our uterine brother, to be distinguished, and among other things [considering] the nobility of birth and proximity in blood by which he is related to us as someone who is descended by right line from the illustrious royal house; and, moved by his foregoing merits, honouring him with singular grace, favour and benevolence, and thinking it right that, as he every day produces better examples of virtue and probity, our affection towards him should at the same time expand and grow according to the increase of his virtues, and that we also should adorn him, whom the nature of virtue and the royal blood have ennobled, with a title of civil nobility, the sign of a special honour, and the emblems of illustrious dignity”

Tombs and the Dissolution

The Dissolution of the Monasteries in the late 1530s was an upheaval in English society arguably unseen since the Norman Conquest 500 years earlier. Initiated at the command of Henry VIII, the grandson of Edmund Tudor, it was a wide-scale destruction of church property and reallocation of lands and wealth. A natural if wretched by-product of such a movement was the ruin or discarding of a hundreds of years’ worth of tombs and memorials that had been interned in the abbeys and monasteries. Some were salvaged and relocated; many were lost.

A further allegation aimed at the paternity of Edmund Tudor can be connected with events that would happen over eighty years after his death. Of Henry VIII’s paternal ancestors, it appears only one tomb was salvaged from destruction – that of Edmund Tudor. The tomb had been placed in the Grey Friars Monastery of Carmarthen after his death in 1456 but after the dissolution was moved to St David’s Cathedral, where it still stands next to the altar. The tomb of Owen Tudor, also interned in a Grey Friars in Hereford, was not saved and was lost. This must therefore suggest that Henry accepted Edmund as his grandfather but not Owen as his great-grandfather? Not really.

There is no evidence to suggest that it was Henry VIII himself who commanded the tomb of Edmund Tudor to be salvaged. It could be just as likely it was removed and saved by local Welsh gentry, who paid great reverence to the Tudors who had risen from amongst their stock.

If Henry VIII did not command the tomb of his grandfather Edmund Tudor to be saved, then why would he salvage the tomb of his great-grandfather Owen Tudor? If he did save Edmund’s tomb, perhaps there were logistical reasons for not saving Owen’s. Perhaps it was merely a generation too far back for him to care? Is it prudent to salvage all ancestors’ tombs? Where does one draw the line?

Edmund Tudor's tomb

Edmund Tudor’s tomb

It should be noted that one tomb not saved, which perhaps had cause more than most to be safely guarded, was that of Jasper Tudor. He died in 1495 and his tomb and body was interned at Keynsham Abbey near Bath. Jasper was arguably the single foremost reason the Tudor dynasty came to the throne and he died during Henry VIII’s childhood. This great-uncle of the king must have been a figure of some considerable standing in Henry’s mind yet he was not saved. Astonishingly, considering Henry’s apparent closeness to his illegitimate son, Henry himself it seems did not actually intervene to save the tomb of Henry Fitzroy. This was left to the Dukes of Norfolk who handled the movement from Thetford Priory. Nevertheless, the remains of Edmund Beaufort, deposited in St Albans Abbey after his death at the Battle of St Albans in 1455, never received preferential treatment from either Henry VII or Henry VIII therefore no credence can be given to this theory.

No Contemporary Recognition of Edmund Beaufort

There was no contemporary recognition of Edmund Beaufort as the father of Edmund Tudor. This is a modern invention, or discovery based on your viewpoint, not based on any sourced material. Arguably the best source to counter any claim of Beaufort parentage of Edmund Tudor comes from an unlikely source – Richard III.

During the preparation for invasion in 1484, both Richard and Henry Tudor engaged in a war of propaganda designed to secure support and influence from England’s population. There were elements of mistruths from both parties, eager to stain the reputation of the other. That being said, at no point did Richard, who had lambasted Henry’s maternal Beaufort line as bastards, level the same accusation at his paternal line. Richard used the Beaufort connection that Henry Tudor had through his mother Margaret to belittle his enemy but surely if he had any suspicion or information that Edmund Tudor’s father was possibly Edmund Beaufort, surely this would have increased Richard’s attack ten-fold.

Richard himself referred to the Tudor lineage as ‘one Henry Tydder, son of Edmund Tydder, son of Owen Tydder’. The thought of even lying about his Beaufort ancestry, in the interests of propaganda, did not cross the mind of Richard III. To castigate Henry Tudor’s parents as close cousins who married without any dispensation could have been a crippling blow to Henry’s cause. Furthermore Richard referred to Henry’s ancestry as ‘bastard blood both of father and of mother side, for the said Owen the grandfather was bastard born, and his mother was daughter unto John, Duke of Somerset, son unto John, Earl of Somerset, son unto Dame Katherine Swynford’. There is no evidence Owen Tudor was bastard born, but nonetheless no reference to Edmund Beaufort. The fact is Richard III had no doubts over the father of Edmund Tudor – it was Owen.

Name

The name Edmund for Katherine de Valois’ son has always been a curious one and ostensibly helps confirm the theory that he was named for his true father, Edmund Beaufort. This overlooks another possibility – that Edmund, although son of Owen Tudor, was named for Edmund Beaufort as he was his godfather. Perhaps Katherine truly did love Edmund Beaufort and although the son was Owen’s, she named him in honour of her previous love. A difficult pill to swallow for Owen perhaps, but a possibility. Perhaps the child was named for Edmund the Martyr or St Edmund; we do not have Edmund Tudor’s date of birth but if he was born on a date related to a saint, then it is not unheard of for the child to be named in honour of that saint. Edmund Tudor was born in Much Hadham Palace, in the ownership of the Bishop of London, and possibly his birth had a high level of clerical involvement. St Edmund was also considered a Patron Saint of England during the Middle Ages, based around Bury St Edmunds where the saint’s remains were sited. This was under 50miles away from Much Hadham. Personally it does likely that there is some connection between Edmund Beaufort and the naming of Katherine’s son, but this does not automatically extend to parentage.

 

Conclusion

As explained elsewhere, based on the limited information we have, very little of it informal or personal, it is difficult to make any concrete claims on historical persons. Consider yourself – if we take the facts about your life as we know them, dates of birth, marriage dates, where you have lived and your shopping receipts, we could build up a basic picture of you and what you purchase but nonetheless that will only be a percentage of who you are as a person. The same principle needs to be remembered when considering historical figures.

We do not know when Edmund Tudor was born for exact, and we also do not know who his father was for definite. We do not know why he was named Edmund. To put forward a definitive theory based on a coat of arms, a name or the salvaging of tombs and claiming it as fact is unfair and does not necessarily mean the answer has been discovered. I have refuted each point of this theory with plausible explanations even though I must also acknowledge they are not definitive answers as we quite simply do not possess the full picture of a bygone era. I can confidently state however I have yet to be presented with an acceptable case that they Tudor Dynasty are not the Tudors. It suggests to me that this is modern propaganda designed to inflict damage on a family who ruled 500 years ago.

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Nathen Amin grew up in the heart of Carmarthenshire, West Wales, and has long had an interest in Welsh history, the Wars of the Roses and the early Tudor period. His first book Tudor Wales was released in 2014 and was well-received, followed by a second book called York Pubs in 2016. His third book, the first, full-length biography of the Beaufort family, the House of Beaufort,  is scheduled for release in the summer of 2017. He is the founder of the Henry Tudor Society and has featured discussing the Tudors on BBC radio and television, as well as in print and online media across the UK. He has a degree in Business and Journalism and now lives in York, where he works as a Technical Writer.

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Owen Tudor; Father of a Dynasty

By Nathen Amin

Welsh and English history is littered with romantic figures, gallant and brave warriors blessed with an innate sense of chivalry and morals that ensure their name lives on in the annals of history. The embodiment of such a character is undoubtedly King Arthur, the mythical Prince whom all later Kings would strive to replicate. Scores of medieval men, inspired by the many retellings of Arthur and his chivalrous Knights, equally endeavoured to adopt such personas in an attempt fulfil their lives according to the sacrament of chivalry.  Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudur was one such 14th century man, blessed with wit, romanticism and martial talent as well as the noble background needed to be considered a chivalric knight.

Son of an Outlaw

Owain ap Maredudd was born around 1400, the same year his father Maredudd’s cousin Owain Glyndwr raised a rebellion against English rule and it is a possibility the child was named for his noble second cousin. By the time Owain was 6 the rebellion and the dream of Welsh Independence had all but been vanquished and his father was dead. Some stories persist that Maredudd actually fled to the mountains of Snowdonia after killing a man and indeed took his son with him whilst other accounts state he escaped to London to raise his household after the family fortune and reputation was irrevocable damaged by the instinctive but ultimately ruinous alliance with Glyndwr. Maredudd’s older brothers Rhys and Gwilym played an integral part in Glyndwr’s rebellion which begun with their ambush on the forces of King Henry IV when he arrived in their native Anglesey determined to wreak vengeance on parts of the population and the local towns in an overt display of martial strength and authority. Henry IV’s imposing force floundered as he was constantly attacked by the Tudor’s guerrilla campaign and was forced into a humiliating retreat to the safety of the marches. Embittered by this encounter, Henry IV issued a proclamation where he endeavoured to pardon every rebel whom dropped arms; a caveat to this pardon was that three people in particular were excluded from pardon – Owain Glyndwr, Rhys ap Tudur and Gwilym ap Tudur. The elder brothers then proceeded to up the ante by capturing one of the King’s most important fortresses at Conwy on April 1st, 1401.

Although Maredudd was now outlawed as a result of the rebellion, under the previous King he had been an accomplished local official, continuing a long tradition of Family service to the ruling Monarch, be they English or Welsh  Princes. He had served as rhaglaw of Malltraeth from 1387 to 1395, burgess of the nearby Newborough and finally as escheator of the Isle of Anglesey itself between 1388 and 1391. These titles and lands however would become forfeited after the rebellion and after the deaths of first Maredudd and then his brothers Gwilym and Rhys, the Tudor family were effectively ruined as a Welsh noble force. Of the limited information available, it appears that Maredudd was employed as an esquire to the Bishop of Bangor in 1405 in the midst of the uprising however it is suspected that by 1407 he had died. Again the circumstances surrounding this frustratingly are almost non-existent but he is not mentioned again after this date. Maredudd did manage to marry just prior to the outbreak of the rebellion and as the respected official he was at the time entered into a union with Margaret ferch Dafydd, daughter of the Lord of Anglesey. It was through this union that their son was born in 1400, just as the world around them collapsed and became fraught with danger and uncertainty. Although not the ideal circumstances to raise a child they persisted and christened the child Owain ap Maredudd, the man whom would shortly become sole male-line survivor of the Penmynydd Tudur’s dominant dynasty which within a decade was crushed as a result of the War of Independence.

There is a lack of information about the exact circumstances surrounding Owain’s early life but what seems clear is that by the age of seven he was at the English court of Henry IV to become a page to the King’s Steward. This may seem unusual since his father, uncles and cousins were fighting against Henry IV in the Welsh war of Independence but the fact remains it was at court where any ambitious man had to be in order to make a fortune and with the Tudur’s on the irredeemable path to catastrophic ruin, London was the only place for Owain to realistically be positioned to advance. Just like all Welshmen in this dire period, Owain would have faced a future in Wales under strict, harsh and oppressive laws imposed by the bitter King Henry IV and although his Welsh nationality would not have made it easy to adapt to life in London or to gain acceptance amongst the locals, with the right guidance and patron there was at least the opportunity to earn a reasonable life. By the time Owain was a teenager he would have been accepted as part of the King’s army as an able adolescent and it is a possibility he saw action in or at least around the infamous Battle of Agincourt in 1415. By this time the King was Henry V and the courageous and warrior-like ruler took a personal part in leading his army to an immortal victory over the French forces. Whatever role Owain played in the battle, or whether he was actually there, soon after he was promoted to the position of “Squire”, a status for boys around the age of 14 or 15 whereby they were essentially apprentice Knights.

A Squire had many roles that he needed to undertake for the particular Knight that he was assigned to, roles similar to that of a servant but more in keeping with the overall aim of becoming a Knight oneself. Typical roles would include being the Knight’s shield bearer, looking after the Knight’s armour and horses and accompanying the Knight on any battles or recesses. A Knight would have many such Squires and they would all equally be attempting impress their benefactor in order to achieve a dubbing themselves to become a mythical and decorated Knight. Little else is known of his life at this period however it seems he was present in France again around May 1421 in the service of the prominent Sir Walter Hungerford, an English noble and Baron whom was playing a key role as the King’s Steward in the wars with the French. His name during this period was given as Owen Meredith and at the age of around 21 this period would have been his first serious introduction to warfare. It was also around this exciting if dangerous time, although the exact dating is difficult to verify, that he entered the service of the newly widowed dowager Queen Katherine of Valois, surviving wife of the recently deceased King Henry V. This post would have been perhaps the highest position a man of Owain’s background could hope to reach and is more than likely one he entered because of his service to the 1st Baron Hungerford, whom had been steward of the King’s Household himself from July 1415 to July 1421. His role was as Keeper of the Queen’s Wardrobe when she was living at Windsor Castle and the role essentially meant he was in control of the Queen’s tailors, dressers and anything else relating to her wardrobe room. It was also within his remit to handle all inventories of the dresses and to ensure all clothes that were taken on progresses were satisfactorily accounted for when returned. His presence would also ensure that any jewel thieves were discouraged, a common occurrence considering the opulent nature of a Queen’s wardrobe.

Husband to a Queen

There exists no evidence to support how exactly Owain ap Maredudd and Katherine of Valois met, although as a member of her household it is a possibility they would have had some interaction in his role as Keeper of her Wardrobe. Many apocryphal accounts exist to suggest the various ways they met and fell in love although these are generally discredited by serious historians as mere fancy of a more romantic later period. One such account states that Owain was river bathing in the summer sun and Katherine, upon seeing the handsome and tall Owain in the bare flesh, swapped clothes with her maid to introduce herself without betraying her high station. Owain apparently came on too strong after becoming besotted with her and accidently cut the cheek of the ‘maid’ thus ending the lust-driven moment. The next morning when waiting on the Queen as per usual, Owain became aware of the cut on Katherine’s cheek and at once realised with whom he had been with the previous day. The couple reconciled and thus began their loving and loyal relationship. A second story persists which claims that the lowly commoner Owain was intoxicated at Windsor Castle during a typical medieval ball and feeling unsteady on his feet whilst dancing, he tripped and fell into the lap of the seated Queen Katherine. Whichever way Owain first met his future Wife, in the words of 15th Century poet Robin Ddu of Anglesey he “clapped his ardent humble affection on the daughter of the King of the land of wine” and they both fell deeply in love. Robin Ddu originated from the heartland of the Tudor family on the island of Anglesey and as an acquaintance of Owen Tudor it is very possible that he would have retrieved his information directly from the source, or at least have been privy to the information of those close to the couple.

Writing during their grandson’s reign and thus taken with a degree of cynicism surrounding the intention and plausibility of the words, the Italian historian Polydore Vergil wrote: “this woman after the death of her husband…being but young in years and therefore of less discretion to judge what was decent for her estate, married one Owen Tyder, a gentleman of Wales, adorned with wonderful gifts of body and minde, who derived his pedigree from Cadwalleder, the last King of the Britons”. Again due to the clandestine nature of their relationship, as it needed to be as a consequence of the parliamentarian restrictions on Katherine, the date of their actual marriage is unclear but is generally accepted to have been around 1429-1430. Living away from court may have certainly aided in keeping their relationship secret along with some loyal staff whom had pledged their devotion to the couple above that of the strict law of the land. Although such a secretive existence under the threat of constant exposure must have stressed the young and daring couple, their surreptitious marriage prospered without interference. The marriage itself was kept secret due to necessity, after all not only had the Queen broken the act by proceeding without the King’s consent but she had certainly married beneath her privileged and royal station. In 1430 their son Edmund was born at the couple’s Hertfordshire manor Much Hadham House and was followed by Jasper a year later at the Hatfield home of the Bishop of Ely. The following years also brought a third son called Owen and latterly the couple’s first daughter of whom unfortunately there is little known.

Although it seems incredible these days that a full term pregnancy could be comfortably hidden, it must be stressed that in such a period these country retreats operated completely independent of the main Court and were run by servants dependable to those at the top of the local hierarchy. Furthermore the baggy loose-fitting nature of 15th century clothing would have helped conceal such a prominent physical feature such as pregnancy and was regularly utilised in cases where a female had conceived a bastard child. Secrets may not necessarily have been kept in a devious and underhanded manner, but being so far removed from those in power certainly helped prolong the status quo. It must be noted however that although the general public could be relatively sheltered from the matter it is likely that at least some of the main councillors knew of Katherine’s condition and her morganatic marriage. She was particularly noticeable in her absenteeism from the coronation of her son Henry VI as King of her native France at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in December 1431, unlikely to have been an event that she would have willingly neglected to attend and more probably an event from which she was excluded from as punishment for her indiscretion. Particularly of significance around this period was Owain’s granting of “the rights of Englishmen”, a constitutional status conferred upon him that helped free him from the harsh penal restrictions placed upon all Welshmen in the post-Conquest period. Indeed it was still illegal for a Welshman to own a property in England or to marry an Englishwoman.

Although this denizenship was certainly more than the majority of his fellow Welshmen received apart from high ranking subjects whom had proved their worth to the crown during active military service against the French, he was still not granted the full rights. Owen was still barred from becoming a burgess as well as finding himself categorically restricted from holding a crown office in any city, borough or market town in the land. Although he was given permission to acquire land, bear arms, inter-marry with an Englishwoman and run a marital household the fact he still had some restrictions held over him may point to a level of suspicion directed towards him from the authorities. The Welsh, and therefore Owen, were clearly not people to be trusted. It was also possibly around this time that Owain ap Maredudd became Owen Tudor or at least began to be unofficially referred to as this. Undoubtedly his Welsh patronymic style would have caused issues in England for accountants and administrators unused to such a naming system and due to this confusion he had previously been referred to in various ways as Owen ap Meredith, Owen Meredith, Owen ap Tudur and so on. Whether it was through his own choice or through a misattribution by a muddled scribe his name was anglicised to Owen Tudor. What is curious about this action is that it was Tudur that was taken as his surname as opposed to Maredudd, Tudur of course representing the name of his grandfather as opposed to his father. Whilst perhaps not something that particularly caused much of an issue at the time for either Owain or his associates, it did have a direct consequence only a few generations later when the family ascended to the throne of England as the House of Tudor. Children in schools up until the present day very easily could have been studying “The Meredith’s” in history classrooms across the World. It was this name that was subsequently passed onto his own children in the English tradition of surnames passing from the father.

Whilst Edmund and Jasper appear to have been initially brought up by their parents, it would appear that the third brother may have been raised by Monks as unlike his brothers he spend his live serving God at Westminster Abbey and has never been recorded as living with his elder siblings. It was this third son of the brood whom was shown favour by his nephew King Henry VII later in his life when, in one particular instance in 1498, he was gifted the reasonably high sum of £2 by his brother’s son from the Royal Privy purse, recorded for posterity as “Owen Tudder”. When the monk Owen passed away not too long after this favour was shown, donations were also paid to Westminster Abbey to pray for his soul as well as the bell tolling to signify the end of this devout uncle to the King. Whilst Owen the Monk may not have been as great a figure to the religious consciousness of Henry Tudor in the way the King’s treasured half-uncle Henry VI would prove to be, he was nonetheless treated with respect by his illustrious nephew in life and death.

It was whilst heavily pregnant with yet another child that Katherine began to feel ill and she subsequently entered Bermondsey Abbey just south of the Thames, where she gave birth to another daughter Margaret on 1st January 1437. It is a possibility that Katherine was aware she was dying from a fatal disease hence why she felt the need to seek the sanctuary and help of the Abbey nuns in South East London. It may also be a likelihood that far from going willingly to the Benedictine Abbey, she was in fact banished to the Abbey after her marriage was finally uncovered by the King or the Regency Government. As there is a lack of documents from the period to study the circumstances of the marriage will always be shrouded in mystique and doubt, particularly on the issue of when the Council finally became aware of the marriage and whether or not she was in fact banished to the Abbey. Of course it is also plausible that the Council were in fact already aware of the marriage by this point and she merely retired to the Abbey to help ease her pain from the disease that was ravaging her body, possibly terminal cancer or a tumour. Katherine of Valois, mother, sister, wife and daughter of Kings, passed away a few days later on the 3rd January 1437 and her new born child following not long after. Regardless of her status at time of death and the possibility that she had scandalised the crown by marrying a commoner, the indisputable fact remained that Katherine was King Henry VI’s natural mother and therefore she was granted the royal prerogative of the right of burial at Westminster Abbey. She was interred and laid to rest next to her first husband Henry V in the Chantry Chapel, a sacred corner of the historic Abbey which had attained an esteemed reputation as the resting place of England’s revered warrior King.

Whilst Katherine was alive, Owen was safe from the Regency Council and any enemies he may have accumulated but as soon as she passed he found himself vulnerable and utterly exposed. His status as a commoner without any considerable estates or financial worth also proved to be a major disadvantage to his cause, a minor irritant easily crushed by those of a greater status. Clearly aware of the fate that befell him should he answer an urgent summons to court to answer charges relating to breaching the act regarding his marriage without the necessary and legal kingly consent, the wily Owen disregarded the promise of safe conduct and the Welsh adventurer instead sought sanctuary with some Monks in Westminster. Perhaps determining that no good could come from a life spent hiding like his namesake cousin Owain Glyndwr and courageously facing his noble adversaries, Owen managed to acquit himself of all the trumped up charges he faced and was subsequently set free as according to the law. Perhaps eager to escape any lingering hostility and to possibly mend a broken heart Owen began to make his way back to his native Wales, however he was tracked on the way, arrested by his pursuers and found himself officially charged once more by a council eager to punish him for deeds they clearly considered punishable. All of his possessions were seized and he was imprisoned in the notoriously dreary and tough Newgate Prison in the City of London to await punishment.

Robin Ddu again took to his craft to publicly admonish those whom he felt had wrongfully punished his beloved Owen. He loudly exclaimed that this Tudor was “neither a thief nor a robber, he is the victim of unrighteous wrath. His only fault was to have won the affection of a princess of France”. After briefly escaping from custody along with his chaplain and servant at the beginning of 1438 the group were returned to prison in March to continue their sentence before being transported to Windsor Castle. He would remain there until he was bailed in July 1439 with a notice to appear before the king on November 11th that year or at any time the King requested. On November 12th he was unexpectedly pardoned of all charges which suggests he had appeared in front of the king as requested to do so and received his royally sanctioned acquittal. The initial offence was still not mentioned at this point so there still remains a degree of doubt over what exactly Owen Tudor was being punished for although it is reasonable to expect that it was to do with his secret marriage, such was the determination of the council to punish him. Owen Tudor walked free from prison without a wife to begin the second period of his life as a chivalric gentleman, dutiful father and loyal step-father to his King.

The King granted Owen by “especial favour” an annual pension from his own privy purse and was certainly treated favourably by the monarch. Any past bitterness at Owen’s relations with the King’s Mother were certainly forgotten by the kind and personable Sovereign and the Welshman lived on the periphery of court life within the King’s Household. Owen himself was present with many other knights for the witnessing of a charter which was signed in the favour of the prominent Duke of Gloucester in 1440 and was even granted some further land in Surrey two years later in 1442, demonstrating his new, secure position at the court of his stepson. He was also given four further substantial grants by his generous stepson in the form of separate £40 gifts, the first in October 1442 followed by those afforded to him in February 1444, July 1444 and finally September 1444. Additionally an “Owen ap Maredudd” appears to have been included in the court party that journeyed to France in 1444 to bring back the young Margaret of Anjou, the King’s new Queen and although there is no resolute evidence that this was the same man the rarity of such a name around the court makes it almost a certainty this dutiful Welshman was the King’s dear and diligent stepfather. Over the next decade and a half Owen seems to have faded into obscurity for his whereabouts have not been recorded and it is probably that he was away from court tending to his estates, possibly in his native Wales. What is clear is that he would have been heartbroken in 1456 when his eldest son Edmund died at Carmarthen shortly after a skirmish with Yorkist soldiers after which he had been imprisoned. His son was only 26 when he died although he did leave behind Owen’s first grandchild, the young Henry, Earl of Richmond.

Father of a Dynasty

Returning to notice at the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses, Owen was present at a Lancastrian Council meeting in 1459 where he, along with his son Jasper, he stood at the King’s side and swore undying loyalty to his Sovereign Lord and stepson King Henry VI. Both were issued with new estates, Jasper with one of the Duke’s castles and Owen with various manor estates in the Home Counties. Owen himself had also been knighted and was at one point a Deputy Lord Lieutenant and Warden of the Forestries. He had also been granted a further annuity of the substantial figure of £100 from the Royal coffers as well for his service. A Welshman whom had a renowned charisma, he also had seemingly not lost his touch with the opposite sex for he also fathered an illegitimate son around this time whom was called David Owen, or possibly Dafydd ap Owen in the Welsh patronymic style. This half-uncle of King Henry VII was shown royal favour in 1485 and attained the rank of Knighthood primarily due to his kinship to the new king.

Although initially unnamed as being present at the various battles between Yorkist and Lancastrian troops during 1460 and 1461, Owen played an integral part in a battle that took place in the Welsh marches on February 2nd, 1461. In fact, it was to prove his final stand. Both armies came face to face at a small hamlet called Mortimer’s Cross in Herefordshire, roughly six miles north-west of Leominster and deep in the traditional heartland of the Mortimer-York family that the Tudor’s were fighting. Aware that victory was out of grasp after the early exchanges, the Lancastrian army broke ranks and Owen Tudor was eventually captured south of the battlefield whilst looking for a route to escape. An elderly gentleman of around 60-years-old at his time of capture, age may have played a part in Owen Tudor’s failure to escape and amongst the men he was detained by included the Tudor’s longstanding foe Sir Roger Vaughan, kinsman of William Herbert. Despite the joyous occasion of another Yorkist victory, a bitter and still grieving Edward no doubt felt this was an ideal chance to exact a measure of revenge for the death of his own father and brother at a previous battle and promptly ordered that Owen be executed in the nearby township of Hereford. Owen for his part didn’t believe that the execution would be carried out due to his close familial relationship with the Lancastrian royal family and accordingly was relying on his worth as a captive to win him a late reprieve.It was only as he was placed on the execution spot in Hereford’s High Town and his doublet torn from his neck that Owen grasped the realisation that he was to die imminently.

Rather than wailing or begging for mercy like many whom found themselves reduced to trembling wrecks at the moment of their enforced death, Owen Tudor was praised for taking his sentence meekly, obediently and humbly whilst unquestionably considering himself as adhering to the chivalric code he had always strove to honour. Regrettably for the aged and gallant Owen, chivalry was rapidly becoming a remnant of a bygone era, particularly during the height of this bitter dynastic quarrel, and he himself had become the latest victim of a bloody dispute rife with treachery and bereavement. Owen was reputed to have referred to his long-dead wife just before the axe came crashing down upon his neck when he proclaimed “that head shall lie on the stock that was wont to lie on Queen Katherine’s lap”. After the execution was completed a local madwoman recovered the head and spent a lengthy amount of time calmly brushing his hair and washing the blood away from the crimson-covered face, whilst surrounded the entire time by flickering candles in an almost ritualistic scene. The great adventurer and the swashbuckler whom had invigorated and resurrected his ancient Welsh family was no more. It was a sad end to a life that he had certainly fulfilled to its potential, from his obscure beginnings as the fatherless progeny of a failed North Welsh dynasty to the husband of a Queen. Perhaps intentionally due to the final resting place of his son Edmund, Owen was also buried in a Greyfriars Franciscan Church just outside the border town where he was put to death. Depressingly nothing exists today of his final resting place, the monastery closed under the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538 and falling into a steep decline shortly thereafter. Unlike his son Edmund, it seems the grave of this brave and courageous family patriarch was not considered worth saving by his prestigious descendent King Henry VIII and the remains are seemingly lost to us for posterity.

Owen Tudor lived his life as a soldier of fortune, a man born into a family which had lost everything and had no prospects. Through his own wit and character he had managed to claw himself up from this lowly beginning to become the husband of the Queen and reviver of his family’s destiny. Owen’s adventures from the hills of Snowdonia to the Royal Palaces of London are often remembered for initiating the start of the House of Tudor which would become a Royal House with the ascension of his grandson Henry Tudor to the throne of England in 1485. In under a century, this family had climbed from minor outlaws in the darkest parts of Wales to the throne of the Kingdom, an incredible and certainly unrivalled rise for which Owen Tudor was greatly responsible. As a Soldier he was tough, brave and believed in chivalrous behaviour. As a man he was handsome, romantic and courtly. Owen Tudor was a proud Welshman, descended from the most prestigious of his small nation’s great leaders, including Hywel Dda and Rhodri Mawr and epitomised the incredible rags to riches rise that has always made popular reading throughout the generations. Owen Tudor, son of Outlaws and Father of Kings, your name remains immortal.

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.

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Nathen Amin grew up in the heart of Carmarthenshire, West Wales, and has long had an interest in Welsh history, the Wars of the Roses and the early Tudor period. His first book Tudor Wales was released in 2014 and was well-received, followed by a second book called York Pubs in 2016. His third book, the first, full-length biography of the Beaufort family, the House of Beaufort,  is scheduled for release in the summer of 2017. He is the founder of the Henry Tudor Society and has featured discussing the Tudors on BBC radio and television, as well as in print and online media across the UK. He has a degree in Business and Journalism and now lives in York, where he works as a Technical Writer.

John Blanke, the Tudors ‘blacke trumpeter’

By Nathen Amin

When one considers the people of Tudor England, one aspect often not given much thought is the presence of a non-white community. It is often assumed that fifteenth and sixteenth century England and Wales was solely inhabited by a white, European race. It is certainly understood that London and other large settlements were frequented at various points by citizens of France, Spain, Flanders, Burgundy and other European states but again the assumption is that these were people of white colour.

The truth is that Tudor England did have a burgeoning black community which first became notable during the reign of Henry VII and continued under his successors. In particular a black community began to flourish during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and their presence can be found in official records of the era. What is important to consider is that this community were not slaves beholden to their white masters but generally free men with the same rights as any other Englishman. The earned honest wages, traded with other citizens and in some cases inter-married with the native population. They were often referred to as Blackmoores, Black-mores or some other variation, the designation applied to them deriving from the Moors of North Africa from whence they presumably originated. Shakespeare was also noted to include black characters in some of his plays, including the Prince of Morocco in The Merchant of Venice and Othello. It is probable that he enjoyed some level of personal interaction with the black community during his time in London and utilised first-hand knowledge in creating his characters.

The community must have been of a significant size towards the end of the Elizabethan period for concerns are known to have emanated from the government of the day. The recent conflict with Spain and capture of Spanish ships had seen an increasing influx of freed black slaves gratefully settling in England. One quote found amongst governmental papers exhibits the rising tensions in 1601. “The queen is discontented at the great numbers of ‘negars and blackamoores’ which are crept into the realm since the troubles between her Highness and the King of Spain, and are fostered here to the annoyance of her own people”. This came five years after the queen had written to the lord mayors of certain cities lamenting “blackmoores brought into this realm, of which kind of people there are already to manie” before ordering that such people should be “sent forth of the land”.

Plans were initiated for the repatriation of black people although whether this was carried out or whether it even applied to those who had previously integrated is not clear. The queen did after all employ musicians and dancers from the black community for her own entertainment. The 1590’s were a time of hardship for the English people with a drastic rise in poverty and hunger, culminating in the Elizabethan Poor Relief Act 1601 which legalised a degree of poor relief. The difficult period saw a rise in cultural friction and many sought to place blame at the door of the black community, which included attacking the presumably Muslim Moors for “having no understanding of Christ or his Gospel”. Whilst the plan to deport part of the black population doesn’t appear to have been successful what is clear is that as English and then British exploration expanded around the globe over the following centuries the influx of foreign nationals into the kingdom certainly increased, leading to the diverse, multicultural Britain of today.

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Arguably the most famous member of the black community during the Tudor period was one of the first known to record, namely John Blanke, who rose to prominence during the first decade of the sixteenth century. It is generally thought that Blanke arrived in England as one of the North African attendants of Catherine of Aragon when she arrived in England as the wife of Prince Arthur in 1501. The Spanish mainland neighboured Moorish Africa and had a long history of cooperation and conflict with both the region and the people. Islamic Iberia only ceased to be in 1492 after the Moors were expelled from Granada by Catherine of Aragon’s parents, Ferdinand and Isabella. His name Blanke is probably in reference to his skin colour, either a bastardisation of the word ‘black’ or derived from the French word ‘blanc’ or white.

Although little is recorded it is understood he was a trumpeter who must have been distinguished in his art to have received a degree of royal patronage. He was paid the not insubstantial amount of 8d a day by Henry VII and on one occasion in November 1507 received a payment of 20 shilings from the Treasurer. Blanke’s employment continued under the Henry VIII when he acceded to his father’s throne in 1509, the trumpeter present at the coronation in a professional capacity.

The sixty-foot Westminster Tournament Roll in the College of Arms also depicts a black person in two separate locations, often acknowledged to be John Blanke. The illuminated vellum manuscript was created to commemorate the events that occurred on 12 and 13 February 1511 when King Henry VIII held a tournament to celebrate the birth of his son Prince Henry which had occurred a fortnight previously. Naturally the ebullient king featured prominently in the roll, surrounded by his closest advisors and officials. Amongst this intimate royal retinue are six mounted trumpeters, bearing instruments decorated with the royal arms of England. One of the trumpeters is black, intriguingly depicted wearing a turban whilst his white counterparts remain bareheaded. The same figure complete with turban appears elsewhere in the roll as part of the procession. This was a position of prestige and honour and would surely have only been bestowed upon a man of great professional talent who the king personally enjoyed. Some secondary sources indicate that Blanke was married in 1512 and apparently received a wedding gift from his sovereign but I have not been able thus far to verify this. After his appearance at the great Westminster Tournament Blanke disappears from record and nothing is known of his later life.

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Nathen Amin grew up in the heart of Carmarthenshire, West Wales, and has long had an interest in Welsh history, the Wars of the Roses and the early Tudor period. His first book Tudor Wales was released in 2014 and was well-received, followed by a second book called York Pubs in 2016. His third book, the first, full-length biography of the Beaufort family, the House of Beaufort,  is scheduled for release in the summer of 2017. He is the founder of the Henry Tudor Society and has featured discussing the Tudors on BBC radio and television, as well as in print and online media across the UK. He has a degree in Business and Journalism and now lives in York, where he works as a Technical Writer.

The Lincoln Roll – the Princes’ Death Certificate?

By David Durose

The Lincoln Roll – the Princes’ Death Certificate?

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

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

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

Who was John de la Pole?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the John de la Pole genealogical roll?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does the Lincoln Roll say about the Princes?

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

Edward V’s medallion reads

Edward first-born son of King Edward and Elizabeth

“In iunie tute sine liberis decessit”

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

Richard, Duke of York’s medallion reads

Richard second son of King Edward and Elizabeth

“Etiam decessit sine liberis”

 Also deceased without issue in childhood

What is the significance of this information?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pretenders during Henry’s reign

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

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

Link to the Roll at John Ryelands Library

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

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

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

Sir Walter Herbert of Raglan

By Nathen Amin

Walter Herbert was born in the mid-15th century to William Herbert of Raglan and Anne Devereux of Weobley. He was the second son of the couple after his father’s namesake and one amongst around a dozen children that were bor n to the couple. Walter’s brother William, his father’s heir, was thought to have been born in March 1451 therefore it is reasonable, although admittedly not certain, that Walter was born during 1452. As a second son details regarding the birth are more difficult to ascertain, an issue for the modern historian that extends even to second sons of medieval royalty. Once again it is reasonable to assume Walter was born at Raglan Castle near to Monmouth, the Herbert family seat which had recently been inherited by Walter’s father William from his grandfather William ap Thomas.

Raglan Castle’s position in the Marcher lands of south east Wales warranted the fortress a degree of prestige as a good conduit between rural west Wales and the industrious citadel that London. Although a castle has long stood on the site, Raglan first gained wider prominence under the ownership of Walter’s grandfather William ap Thomas, a veteran of the battle of Agincourt in 1415. It was William ap Thomas who oversaw the construction of the French-styled Great Tower, a five story hexagonal keep known as the Tower of Gwent. William Herbert inherited this castle upon William ap Thomas’ death in 1445.

Walter’s mother Anne Devereux came from a prominent Herefordshire gentry family and was the daughter of Sir Walter Devereux and Elizabeth Merbury. Sir Walter served as Lord Chancellor of Ireland between 1449 and 1451 and was closely affiliated to the greatest landowner in the region and probably the kingdom in Richard, Duke of York. Elizabeth Merbury meanwhile was the daughter of Sir John Merbury who had served as Chief Justice of South Wales.

Walter Herbert’s childhood, and indeed his entire life, would be dominated by the internecine conflict now regarded as the Wars of the Roses. Walter’s father William Herbert was closely aligned with the Yorkist faction of Richard, Duke of York, a natural position considering their lands primarily lay within close proximity to the Duke’s own Marcher estates. This was further supported by Wlliam Herbert’s father-in-law Walter Devereux being a core part of the Yorkist court party and close to the Duke of York. Young Walter, who was almost certainly named after his esteemed Devereux grandfather, was raised in a household that was undeniably Yorkist in affection and affiliation.

After the brutally bloody victory of the House of York at the Battle of Towton in 1461, Walter’s father William Herbert became the first Welshman to enter the English peerage when he was ennobled by the new king Edward IV, the son of the deceased Richard of York, as Lord Raglan. William Lord Raglan maintained his preeminent position as one of Edward IV’s chief councillors throughout the decade, using this newfound wealth and power to dramatically renovate Raglan Castle. His most opulent addition was the Great Gatehouse, consisting of an entranceway dividing two half-hexagonal towers with elaborate machicolations. His rebuilding project was designed to demonstrate the Herberts new prestige, an image which was bolstered in 1466 when Herbert secured the betrothal and subsequent marriage of his eldest son William to Mary Wydeville, the queen’s younger sister. In 1468 Lord Raglan was bestowed with the quasi-royal title Earl of Pembroke, recently stripped from the exiled Lancastrian Jasper Tudor, further cementing his position alongside the king.

The Tudors and the Herberts had an acrimonious relationship, perhaps due in part to their respective ancestors’ roles in the Owain Glyndwr Welsh Wars of Independence in the early 15th century. Glyndwr was ably and loyally assisted during his uprising by his first cousins, the Tudur brothers of Penmynydd. Fighting against them as a commander of the English king Henry IV was Dafydd ap Llewelyn ap Hywel, better known as Dafydd Gam and a respected military veteran. One of the Tudur brothers, Maredudd ap Tudur, was the grandfather of Jasper and Edmund Tudor whilst Dafydd Gam was the grandfather of William Herbert. This mid-15th century generation of Herberts and Tudors would have been aware of this family rivalry at the turn of the century and it may have provided an added dimension of animosity during their battle for supremacy within Wales during the Wars of the Roses.

In 1456, whilst Walter Herbert would have been a young child, his father William led a siege on Carmarthen Castle on behalf of the Yorkist cause, capturing and imprisoning the resident constable Edmund Tudor, at that time Earl of Richmond and half-brother of the Lancastrian king Henry VI. Within a few months Edmund Tudor was dead and buried in the Grey Friars in Carmarthen. The cause of death is often considered to have been from an outbreak of the plague but could conceivably have been brought on by injuries suffered during the siege or imprisonment. Herbert’s actions were certainly a factor in the downfall and death of Richmond and would have incurred even greater animosity from the surviving Tudor brother, Jasper, the Earl of Richmond.

The Tudor/Herbert rivalry took an intriguing twist after the Yorkist ascendancy in 1461 when William Herbert purchased the wardship of Henry Tudor, the four-year-old son of the deceased Edmund Tudor. Henry was the new Earl of Richmond and despite his clear Lancastrian credentials was potentially a valuable asset to Herbert. Henry’s hitherto protector Jasper Tudor had been forced into exile and his mother Margaret Beaufort was in no position to retain control of her son. Henry was integrated into the Herbert household and conceivably treated on par with the Herberts own children. It would have been during this time that Walter Herbert, probably aged around eight or nine years old, would have first met Henry Tudor. What were his thoughts on this new intruder who was now expected to be his childhood companion? Perhaps he was joyful had gaining a new friend or possibly there was jealousy over another competitor for the affections of the adults. It is difficult if not impossible to state for sure but one must assume Henry’s time at Raglan was a relatively happy one; Scholars rating amongst the very best tutors were assigned to him in order to provide the child with a top education whilst it is also known he received military training as befitting his status as a noble youth. Henry’s histiographer when he became king, Bernard Andre, would later record ‘after he reached the age of understanding, he was handed over to the best and most upright instructors to be taught the first principles of literature’. Andre also wrote, perhaps with a degree of bias towards his royal patron, that Henry ‘surpassed his peers’.

Henry Tudor would remain with the Herberts until he was a teenager, with Walter Herbert concurrently emerging from adolescence into adulthood. The greatest hint that Henry appreciated his years at Raglan, if not the wider conflict that had enforced his situation, was a later statement recorded by Polydore Vergil that Henry considered himself ‘kept as a prisoner, but honourably brought up’. Henry also brought Lady Anne Devereux, Walter’s mother, to court once he was crowned king to show favour and deference to the woman who had played a part in his development. Nonetheless a frustratingly unanswered component to the childhood of Henry at Raglan is the spectre of his father’s death at Carmarthen Castle a mere three months before his birth. If any person was responsible for Edmund Tudor’s death it would have been William Herbert, who led the attack on the castle and the imprisonment of the Earl of Richmond. Was this subject ever discussed at Raglan, where Henry Tudor regularly dined with William Herbert and played with his son Walter?

Whatever Henry’s feelings toward William Herbert, his uncle’s successor as Earl of Pembroke after 1468, it seems Herbert had serious designs on fully integrating Henry into the Herbert family by marrying the boy to his daughter, and Walter’s sister, Maud. This marriage would have united the two most powerful 15th-century Welsh families and provided William with a respectable marriage for his daughter. Henry’s descent from King Edward III through his mother Margaret Beaufort would not have gone unheeded by the opportunist Herbert. We know this marriage was proposed due to its inclusion in Herbert’s will, rendered relevant after his execution after the Battle of Edgecote in 1469. Herbert was killed fighting for the House of York against the rebellious force of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, a man who regarded Herbert with enmity as a parvenu unnaturally close to the king. He was an ardent Yorkist until his last breath. His will commanded the betrothing of Maud to Henry but this arrangement was disrupted by the Readeption of Henry VI and the House of Lancaster to the throne after the Battle of Barnet in 1471. This restoration brought Jasper Tudor back to the kingdom for an extended duration for the first time since his hurried exile a decade earlier and it was his nephew Henry that he immediately sought out. Henry had been taken to Weobley, the Devereux family seat of Walter Herbert’s maternal relations where presumably the remainder of the Herbert children were also in attendance. It’s often thought that the twelve-year-old Henry had been present at the Battle of Edgecote, witnessing his first military engagement. If this is the case then it is probable that Herbert’s sons William and Walter were also present, particularly as they had reached adulthood. If this was the case it must have been a traumatic experience for all, as they may have seen their father William and uncle Richard brutally executed by Warwick’s army.

Raglan Castle

Raglan Castle

The ill-fated Readeption of Henry VI barely lasted a year and culminated in the deaths of the king and his only heir Edward, Prince of Wales. Jasper Tudor once again fled into exile but this time ensured he took with him his nephew Henry. Although the House of York had been restored to the throne, the Herberts did not succeed in regaining their hitherto powerful positions. William Herbert’s eldest son and heir William initially succeeded to the earldom of Pembroke after the Battle of Edgecote. The younger William’s marriage to Mary Wydeville, the queen’s sister, ensured he remained on favourable terms with the royal family but without the guiding hand of his father this relationship began to disintegrate. In 1479 William was forced into accepting the lesser earldom of Huntingdon in place of that of Pembroke, a demotion that brought with it a decline in prestige and wealth. The Pembroke title was bestowed upon the king’s son, Prince Edward.

Walter Herbert’s whereabouts during this period are unrecorded but it’s assumed he was involved in the continuing administration of the Herbert estates. The family did receive some notable attention in 1476 when Maud Herbert, who had once been proposed as a bride for Henry Tudor, was married to Henry Percy, the mighty 4th Earl of Northumberland and one of the premier nobles in the kingdom. The wedding must have been a spectacular event whilst the Herberts were undoubtedly grateful to have secured a prestigious marital alliance at a time their fortunes appeared to be on the wane. It’s intriguing to note that Henry Percy, just like Henry Tudor, spent part of his youth under the guidance of William Herbert at Raglan, a period where he would have encountered both Tudor and Walter Herbert. What bearing did this childhood association have on decisions each man took as adults?

After Edward IV regained the throne in 1471 there was a relative period of peace and prosperity until the king’s death twelve years later in 1483. The seizing of the crown by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, from his young nephew Edward V opened a fresh round of civil strife as members of the nobility loyal to Edward and his maternal Wydeville relations sought to depose the newly crowned Richard III. The apparent death of the young prince however paved the way for distant exile Henry Tudor to be adopted as an alternative king by disenfranchised Yorkists and lapsed Lancastrians. As with all members of the gentry, the Herberts would have viewed events with a sense of trepidation, calculating how to manipulate the situation to ensure they retained their status and estates. Supporting the loser in such a conflict could cost a man his lands and his life. The titular head of the family as Earl of Huntingdon, William Herbert had connections to each faction and therefore by extension did his younger brother Walter. William had been married to Mary Wydeville until her death in 1481 and of course had been an associate of Henry Tudor’s during his time at Raglan. His sole child with Mary, possibly named Elizabeth after her aunt the queen, was thus a first cousin of the deposed king Edward V. Interestingly however in 1483 William married Katherine Plantagenet, the recognised but illegitimate daughter of Richard III. This marriage would have undoubtedly brought Herbert closer to the king and must have ensured his loyalty at a time when Wales, in the sphere of Herbert influence, was being targeted as a potential landing place for Henry Tudor. It is possible that William had become acquainted with Richard on a personal level and was indeed appointed Justiciar of South Wales. This would be in keeping with the Herberts traditional stance as avowed Yorkists; Walter and William’s uncle Walter Devereux, Baron Ferrers, would be killed at Bosworth fighting for Richard.

Henry Tudor in exile would have been informed of developments in England and Wales as he plotted his tactics for invasion. It was apparent that his best chance of a successful invasion would be via Wales, parts of which had always remained sympathetic to the House of Lancaster and the Tudors in particular. Henry began to court potential allies in Wales and the Herbert family were focuses on account of their standing in the region. As son-in-law to Richard III it seems that William Herbert, Earl of Huntingdon, was not considered likely to flock to the banner of Henry Tudor. His younger brother Walter however, a man with no titles or major estates, was targeted as a prospective collaborator. Walter Herbert was an able military commander and possibly the most competent of the Herbert brothers. He was described as ‘a man of ancient authority among the Welsh’.

Henry’s need for alliance to the Herberts increased in desperation after rumours throughout the English court that King Richard III was considering marrying his niece Elizabeth of York reached Henry in exile. It had been planned for Henry to marry Elizabeth in the event of a successful invasion in order to boost his credentials as a unifying king, bringing together Lancaster and York and ending the Wars of the Roses. The loss of Elizabeth as a bride would have created unspeakable damage to his claim to the throne, probably resulting in the loss of the Wydeville affinity as supporters to his cause. Henry was persuaded to consider alternative options with one possibility being a sister of William and Walter Herbert. Although Maud had married the Earl of Northumberland, her younger sisters Jane, Cecily and Katherine remained unmarried and viable options. A marriage to a Herbert sister would give Henry a greater bargaining chip in securing the alliance of William Herbert whilst also opening up a dialogue with Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, as extended family. It appears that Henry sent his messenger Christopher Urswick to Percy to discuss the possibilities arising from such a union but the message appears to have never been received. Polydore Vergil recounted Henry’s marital issues in his later works, stating ‘it was thought to stand with their profit if by affinity they could draw into surety of that Walter Herbert, a man of ancient authority among the Welshmen, who had with him a sister marriageable; and to procure the same, messengers were sent to Henry Earl of Northumberland, who had in marriage Walter’s other sister, that he would deal in that cause’.

Henry Tudor landed at Mill Bay in West Wales on 7 August 1485, unsure of the welcome that would be awaiting him from the local populace. His army marched northwards into Wales, remaining close to the coast as the proceeded first towards Harverfordwest and then onto Cardigan. Henry’s actions in staying close to the coast as opposed to marching in land suggest he was wary of Walter Herbert and another great South Welsh magnate in Rhys ap Thomas, both of whom were outwardly loyal to King Richard III. His initial avoidance of direct conflict suggest Henry had yet to reach an agreement with either man and was attempting to circumvent their combined forces. It was whilst Henry was in the proximity of Cardigan that news allegedly reached his camp that Walter was rapidly approaching from Carmarthen with a large force, ostensibly to do battle against Henry in the name of the king. It was rumoured that Walter was ‘not far away with a band of armed men’. Henry anxiously sent out scouts to investigate but their reports were inconclusive. It may have been confusion as it was at this time a Welshman named Richard Griffith joined Henry’s army with some reinforcements along with John Morgan. It is unclear if these men defected from Herbert’s force or were permitted to leave. It is known that Henry finally came face to face with Rhys ap Thomas at a location known as Long Mountain in Powys, close to the English border where it is probably he was accompanied by other prominent Welshmen like Rhys ap Maredudd Fawr. It may be presumed that Walter Herbert was also present at this junction, a final rallying cry for the Welsh nobles before they left behind Wales and continued their march into England and towards Bosworth.

There is scant evidence for Walter’s participation at Bosworth but the limited information that we have about his career post-1485 suggest he was firmly allied to Henry. His brother William Herbert did not fight in the battle on either side, remaining outwardly neutral. Walter was knighted after the Bosworth campaign, a gesture of gratitude that Henry issued to his supporters. He was also made Steward of properties in South Wales, including Talgarth and Cantrecelly and appeared to have the lease and lordship to Caldicot Castle. On 19 August 1502 it was recorded that Queen Elizabeth of York stayed at her husband’s childhood home, the guest of Walter Herbert, the one-time brother-in-law of her aunt Mary Wydeville. During this stay Walter bought the queen a goshawk. Walter also succeeded in making a good marriage on 15 February 1500 when he was wed to Anne Stafford, the daughter of the Duke of Buckingham who was killed in 1483 for joining Henry Tudor’s rebellion. Anne was not only the daughter and sister of Dukes of Buckingham but was also the step-daughter of Jasper Tudor, who had married her widowed mother Katherine Wydeville. After the death of his brother in 1490 the Herbert estates were legally inherited by his niece Elizabeth although Walter oversaw the administration. Elizabeth also inherited the Barony but not the earldom, which could only be inherited in the male line. For reasons unfathomable the earldom did not pass to Walter Herbert. Sir Walter Herbert passed away on 16 September 1507. His lasting, if fictional, legacy may be the fact he was mentioned in Shakespeare’s infamous play Richard III when Henry of Richmond commands ‘And you, Sir Walter Herbert, stay with me’. It would appear that Walter Herbert did indeed stay with Henry Tudor, remaining loyal to the first Tudor monarch until his death ended a lifelong association.

Sources

Amin, N., (2014) Tudor Wales Amberley Publishing

Evans, H.T., (1995) Wales and the Wars of the Roses Sutton

Chrimes, S.B., (1972) Henry VII Yale University Press

Griffiths, R. & Thomas, R.S., (1985) The Making of the Tudor Dynasty Sutton

Rees, D., (1997) The Son of Prophecy John Jones

Skidmore, C., (2013) Bosworth; Birth of the Tudors W & N

Harris, B., (1986) Edward Stafford, Third Duke of Buckingham Stanford University Press

Weir, A., (2013) Elizabeth of York Jonathan Cape

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Nathen Amin grew up in the heart of Carmarthenshire, West Wales, and has long had an interest in Welsh history, the Wars of the Roses and the early Tudor period. His first book Tudor Wales was released in 2014 and was well-received, followed by a second book called York Pubs in 2016. His third book, the first, full-length biography of the Beaufort family, the House of Beaufort,  is scheduled for release in the summer of 2017. He is the founder of the Henry Tudor Society and has featured discussing the Tudors on BBC radio and television, as well as in print and online media across the UK. He has a degree in Business and Journalism and now lives in York, where he works as a Technical Writer.