It has become standard practice for history enthusiasts to be an unquestioning supporter of either Henry VII or Richard III, naming the other as the worst villain of their age. Is this a fair assessment? The fact that we cannot agree on which man is the evil one should be enough to make one wonder if they weren’t both something between demon and angel.
Historical fiction has been particularly unkind to Henry Tudor. He is expected by readers to be cold, calculating, and a little too much of a mama’s boy. One bestselling author even paints him as a rapist, while others simply have him treat his wife, Elizabeth of York, with contempt and disdain. Primary records demonstrate that this picture of Henry is almost completely false.
In Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England, Thomas Penn establishes that Henry was an intelligent ruler who unified England after decades of bloodshed in the Wars of the Roses. He was also devout, as is evinced by the fact that his few money-spending occasions were those that took place within the church and before God: coronations, weddings, and funerals. Known as a penny-pincher, Henry was willing to outlay cash when he felt it was worth it, but he also worked to correct the state of the royal coffers that he had taken over.
Even before his surprising success, Henry Tudor had looked to unite the kingdom he hoped to rule. On Christmas 1483, he pledged to marry the oldest daughter of the late king, Edward IV. Elizabeth was undoubtedly a prize, but one can see the thought for the future in Henry making this vow. It is also worth noting that the Plantagenet princess married him and supported Henry in his goals for improving and unifying England.
Henry was described by contemporaries as ‘spare’ with ‘high cheek bones’ and ‘dark hair faintly greying around the temples.’ Although they called him ‘grave,’ those presented to the first Tudor king also referred to him as ‘gracious’ and a ‘wonderful presence.’ This does not sound like the awful person we have been trained to believe Henry Tudor was.
However, Henry was also not the savior of England. In a cruel move as soon as his predecessor was dead, Henry had his reign dated beginning August 21, 1485. This was the day before his troops had killed Richard III in battle. Every man who had fought for their anointed king could then be named a traitor.
Henry’s reputation is also soiled by his execution of Edward of Warwick to appease Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain during negotiations for the marriage between Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon. Edward, nephew of Edward IV and Richard III, was almost certainly innocent of any charges against him and had spent the entirety of Henry’s reign within Tower walls based on no charges whatsoever.
What we can say of Henry is that he left England a better place than he had found it. Financial security, internal peace, and a plan for the succession are more than Edward IV and Richard III had managed. Despite his faults, Henry VII had a positive impact on the land he had taken by conquest.
This brings us to Richard III. Unlike Henry Tudor, Richard brings different visions to the minds of those who study his history. On one side is the Shakespearean character, almost ridiculous in his abundance of evil that leaves him twisted in spirit and physical form. Opposing this, we have the Richard of more recent authors’ creation that make him a romantic leading man, caught up in circumstances that were beyond him and underestimating the ambitions of others. What is difficult with Richard III is taking middle ground, where the truth likely lies.
We will probably never know the complete truth about when Richard decided to take his nephew’s throne or whether or not he had his brother’s children murdered. Unsolved mysteries do not constitute evidence, so let us consider what we do know. Documentation of Richard’s life and character takes a unique form. Centuries after the last change in dynasty, contemporary historians had to determine what was truth and what should be written to please the new Tudor king. Contemporary accounts vary almost as much as modern opinions.
Before Richard’s death, historian John Rous described him as, ‘a mighty prince’ known for ‘commendably punishing offenders of the laws’ and ‘cherishing those that were virtuous.’ Once Henry Tudor was in power, Rous painted a different picture of Richard, more suited to Tudor taste. Polydore Virgil, who believed that Richard had killed his nephews, nonetheless admitted, ‘he had a sharp wit’ and ‘his courage also high and fierce.’
Richard III attempted to rule in a more prudent way than his brother had. Edward IV was charismatic and an unbeatable soldier. He had also been impetuous and short-sighted, leading to division over his choice of wife and handling of foreign relations. Richard was an upright, serious presence next to his boisterous brother. Dependable enough to carry out a wide variety of duties as Duke of Gloucester, Constable of England, and an impressive list of other titles given to him by his brother, Richard proved himself reliable and loyal throughout Edward IV’s reign, but scandal and rebellion make it difficult to discern whether he could have ruled the kingdom as well as he had managed other responsibilities.
With a reign of just over two years, Richard gives us less evidence to judge him by than Henry Tudor does. He was pious and devout as his brother had been pleasure-seeking, supporting several religious houses, churches, and King’s College at Cambridge. For a man accused of many illegal acts, Richard’s actions show that he was ‘much concerned that justice should be done,’ according to biographer Charles Ross. Born and raised in a time of war, Richard was particularly driven to ensure peace and justice were available to all Englishmen, rich and poor. He had served as Constable of England under Edward IV and earned a reputation for fairness only challenged after Edward’s death.
Like Henry, Richard has marks against him. The executions of Anthony Woodville, Richard Grey, and William Hastings are often the first points brought up (after accusing Richard of ridding himself of his nephews). Was Richard acting legally as Constable of England and Protector of the Realm when he ordered these executions? Certainly. Was he acting prudently? The fact that we continue to discuss it today indicates that he was not. Even if one believes these acts were judicial murder, they are no different than Tudor’s actions against Edward of Warwick. In fact, I challenge any student of history to name a medieval monarch who did not execute at least one person on charges that would never stand up to modern standards. Each Plantagenet and Tudor ruler is certainly guilty of this. While this does not make Richard innocent, it fails to make him stand out as a villain.
Richard had managed an area of England that had been plagued by border wars for years. The ongoing battles with Scotland would continue even after Henry VII negotiated a treaty that made his own daughter the wife of Scotland’s King James IV. During this time, Richard was not accused of wrongdoing but was beloved in the north and especially in York. One wonders if it is true, as some biographers have suggested, that the responsibilities of kingship were simply too much for him and he was not given time to find his way. This characterization indicates that Richard was inept but not evil.
Dare I suggest that neither Henry VII nor Richard III was the devil incarnate, attempting to make England his domain on Earth? Both men made mistakes and purposely took actions that would be unacceptable for a 21st century ruler. They both attracted supporters and made positive changes in the lives of those under their authority. If we remove the lens of romanticism and the need to have a ‘bad guy’ to blame for occurrences in history, I believe we will find two men who believed they were doing what was right, boosted by personal ambition for gain and glory much like any other nobleman of their era.
Rather than joining Team Richard or Team Henry, we can gain much by learning about both of these dynamic kings and appreciating their history for what it is. This change of power ended a three century long dynasty and began one of the most well-known dynasties in English history. The fact that we are still talking about it 500 years later is proof in itself that there is more going on here than good versus evil.
Samantha Wilcoxson is a writer with a passion for history. Her most recent novel, Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen: The Story of Elizabeth of York, is a Kindle best seller in the US and UK. For more information, visit her blog at SamanthaWilcoxson.blogspot.com.
The Wars of the Roses: The Key Players in the Struggle for Supremacy by Matthew Lewis
Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England by Thomas Penn
Richard III by Charles Ross
The Last White Rose: The Secret Wars of the Tudors by Desmond Seward
The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones
Master goldsmith Jean Dassier was born in Geneva in 1676. He studied in Paris and became an assistant to his father, who was the official Mint Engraver for the Canton of Geneva. In 1720 he succeeded his father as the official engraver for Geneva and built a reputation as one of the most celebrated engravers of the eighteenth century.
Between 1731 and 1732 Dassier moved to London and engraved the dies for a series of the Kings and Queens of England, a continuous series of English sovereigns, from William I to George II. His work was sometimes criticised for being taken from unauthentic sources and some of the dates on the inscriptions being incorrect.
One set was presented to King George II, to whom the series was dedicated. He liked the medals and requested a special medal for his wife Queen Caroline to be added, so when the series sold in 1731 it consisted of thirty-four medals. Sir Edward Thomason of Birmingham issued copper medals from the dies around 1830.
The rendering of King Henry VII is considered one of the better portraits and one is displayed in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York:
Tony Riches was born in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, and spent part of his childhood in Kenya. He gained a BA degree in Psychology and an MBA from Cardiff University and worked as a Management Consultant, followed by senior roles in the Welsh NHS and Local Government.
After writing several successful non-fiction books, Tony decided to turn to novel writing and wrote ‘Queen Sacrifice’, set in 10th century Wales, followed by ‘The Shell’, a thriller set in present day Kenya. His real interest is in the history of the fifteenth century, and now his focus is on writing historical fiction about the lives of key figures of the period.
His novels ‘Warwick ~ The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses’ and ‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’ have both become Amazon best sellers. He is now working on The Tudor Trilogy, book one of which is about Owen Tudor, the Welsh servant who married Queen Catherine of Valois and founded the Tudor Dynasty.
A new campaign for a statue and visitor centre for Henry VII in Pembroke is underway, led by the town council in close conjunction with the Pembroke and Monckton Local History Society.
In November 2014 Pembroke Town Council agreed to commission a marquette and public consultation is now ongoing as to the details of the project. A site has been earmarked on the bridge which crosses the picturesque Mill Pond towards the rear of the castle. It is certain that should a statue be sited on this bridge, the backdrop of the castle would ensure this monument’s location would be one of the most spectacular in the country.
On 3 October 2015 the Pembroke and Monckton Local History Society hosted a coffee morning to invite discussion over the plans and to seek public opinion. A well-received talk on ‘Pembroke and the Tudors’ was given by prolific Welsh author Terry Breverton and also present was Tudor historical fiction author and Pembrokeshire native Tony Riches. A brief introduction was given by town Mayor Pauline Waters who stressed the importance of the statue to Pembroke and underlining the support of the town council for the project. A presentation was then given by Linda Asman of the local history society who has been responsible for the organisation of the campaign thus far.
It was announced that the town council had commissioned a small model of the proposed statue by local sculptor Harriet Addyman which was praised by those present. The model depicts Henry Tudor in his traditional full length robe and black cap whilst a greyhound stands loyally to his side, indicative of not only the earldom of Richmond but also the tradition of greyhounds in the local area. It was also further announced that Pembrokeshire County Council had agreed to match fund from their Town Centre Support Programme although the majority of the funds would still need to be raised.
In addition to the statue, those involved in the campaign also spoke passionately about their ultimate aim of opening a dedicated Henry Tudor Visitor Centre in Pembroke. A national appeal will be conducted to help fundraise and the hope is that the centre will serve as a must-visit location in the study of England’s Welsh king.
Why Does Pembroke need a Henry Tudor statue?
The Tudor Dynasty is without doubt one of the Europe’s most infamous families; their story has been told and retold across the centuries and remains today a massive, multi-million pound industry centred around the key figures who once ruled England – Henry VIII and Elizabeth I to name but two. ‘Tudor England’ in itself has become a well-known phrase that covers many aspects of the era, particularly architecture, arts and the lifestyle. What is often overlooked however is that the Tudors, whilst coming to encompass all that is considered great about England, were a Welsh dynasty with their roots firmly entrenched in the hills across Offa’s Dyke.
A descendant of Welsh royalty through his paternal family, Henry Tudor was born in Pembroke Castle on the night of 28 January 1457. It was alleged by a later chronicler that Henry’s birth took place in one of the outer gatehouse towers, marked today by a wonderful exhibition featuring his young mother Margaret Beaufort. Henry it appears stayed at Pembroke until he was around four years old when he became the ward of William Herbert and relocated to Raglan Castle in Monmouthshire.
Nonetheless, this precocious young child was a son of Pembroke and a son of Pembroke he remained. With this in mind it is somewhat disappointing to note the lack of celebration towards the birth and subsequent life of Henry Tudor in West Wales. This isn’t merely a location with a tenuous link to the Tudors, it’s an integral part of the Tudor story as the birthplace of Henry VII, Father of the Tudor Dynasty. With the plethora of Tudor related places in the region it is very surprising and almost unacceptable to learn that this wonderful historical occurrence hasn’t been capitalised upon. There is a large and lucrative Tudor market in England which has proved to be provide a consistent income from tourism and it is galling that Pembrokeshire has yet to adopt such measures.
If people are willing to travel hundreds of miles, sometimes thousands, to visit Tudor locations throughout England then surely Pembroke and indeed Pembrokeshire should be marketing itself as the “Birthplace of the Tudor Dynasty”. It is difficult to overstate the financial benefits the Tudors bring to the UK touristy industry, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Americans alone regularly visiting the many palaces and castles in England to place themselves in the very spot history happened. Hampton Court. Windsor. Kenilworth Castle. Ludlow Castle. Even Stratford-Upon-Avon with its Shakespeare links. York has built an entire tourism industry by capitalising on its, admittedly unique, heritage. The list is endless.
I have previously campaigned for a statue to be erected of Henry Tudor in Pembroke, supported by the castle and the town council. It would give an overt and obvious indication of the importance of the castle to the Tudor story and could prove to be a lucrative marketing aspect for Tudor addicts. It is all very well having exhibitions inside, but the key is attracting people to the area in the first place, and a statue would certainly do that. As a comparison, the small North Welsh village of Corwen has a magnificent statue of Owain Glyndwr and as a result has been able to attract scores of Welshmen from all over to view it. Imagine tapping into only a mere percentage of the gigantic Tudor Tourism Industry and persuading them to come to Pembroke for a similar pilgrimage to the one they already make to many different locales throughout England.
The castle itself, under the managerialship of Jon Williams, has certainly done all it can financially do to increase tourism although their ambitions are drastically reduced by the economic issues of running such an enterprise without any outside funding. Jon once stated to me “we are gradually adding to and modernising our interpretation here and although we don’t lack ambition and ideas unfortunately it takes money to make things happen on a major scale“. Indeed Pembroke Castle itself is a small independent charitable trust “that needs to spend a lot of resources to simply maintain the castle as a visitor attraction“. Jon further stated “it would make perfect sense to have a statue although my opinion is that it would benefit Pembroke more if it were at the opposite end of the main street to the Castle. Firstly this would encourage Castle visitors to wander the town and secondly it would act as a good welcome to people arriving at East End Square“.
A statue or visitor centre of Henry Tudor would certainly benefit Pembroke and it would benefit Wales. Pembrokeshire’s most famous son deserves more than a couple of mere plaques and in an age of austerity any attempt to bring in tourism to boost the stuttering economy must be seriously looked at. Pembroke is the home of the world famous Tudor Dynasty and deserves recognition that would certainly place it on the global scale alongside other famous Tudor locations in England.
It is often stated that King Henry VII is regarded as the overlooked Tudor, a king who has long loitered in the shadows of his infamous progeny. When one considers the Tudor dynasty their collective 118 year reign the names that are often put forward are monarchs such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth, events such as the Reformation and the Spanish Armada, and an added dash of scandal and romance from the likes of Anne Boleyn and Robert Dudley. This is without considering the enduring presence of Shakespeare.
By comparison, the original Tudor king is often considered tame at best by the causal observer, a dull accountant-type miser who just happened to be the father of the larger-than-life egotist that was ‘Bluff King Hal’. The more seasoned academic of the Tudor family know this is not an accurate depiction of a man who won his crown on the battlefield, united the kingdom through marriage and spent untold fortunes on jewels for his wife and palaces for his dynasty.
It may be a possible that the popular stereotype of the first Henry Tudor is the reason why his depiction is often difficult to come by when one thinks of pub signs, street names or other modern forms of tribute to personalities of the past. This is not a man who is often openly commemorated throughout the nation he once ruled over, although the enduring usage of insignia and symbols connected to him such as the Beaufort Portcullis and the Tudor Rose is perhaps a more subtler legacy.
I have previously campaigned for a statue of Henry Tudor to be erected in his birthplace of Pembroke and whilst such a venture has proven popular with local dignitaries, this request is as yet unfulfilled. Nonetheless it does lead to the question, just where exactly are there statues of King Henry VII in his erstwhile kingdom?
The South West town of Exeter played a crucial role in the reign of Henry VII as it was the location of the capture of the pretender Perkin Warbeck. Warbeck had long been attempting to land in England with an army and usurp the crown for himself, claiming to be one of the princely sons of Edward IV. His capture was a momentous moment for the king and Henry visited Exeter in 1497 to thank the city for its support. He presented the city with a sword and a cap of maintenance which is still held in the Guildhall.
The East Gate, a traditional entranceway to the city and through which Henry had passed in 1497, was rebuilt in 1511. A large stone statue of the recently deceased king was placed upon the gateway, depicting the king holding a sceptre and a globe. Accompanying the statue was the royal coat of arms, complete with dragon and greyhound supporters and a Beaufort portcullis.
The gateway was pulled down in 1784 and the statue was replace on the front of a new building in the town. It remained in place until it was redestroyed by bombing raids in during the Second World War. The 431-year-old statue was ruined.
A new fibreglass statue was created in the 1950s to replace the traditional sculpture which had been lost and was placed on the exterior of the modern Eastgate House. This building was pulled down around a decade ago and the statue has yet to be resited.
Canterbury Cathedral is the mother church of the Anglican communion and has been considered the premier holy seat of England for over a thousand years. It is fitting that the kings and queens of England are commemorated outside a cathedral most if not all would have visited during their reigns. Henry VII is no exception.
His statue is situated amongst other Tudor monarchs such as his son Henry VIII and granddaughter Elizabeth I and is placed about 10 feet from the ground. The statues are generally of Victorian origin.
City Hall, Cardiff
Cardiff serves as the capital city of Wales and the city hall in particular is known as the seat of its local government. The building was erected in 1906 and is a grand masterpiece of Edwardian Baroque style. The first floor landing of the hall is designated the Marble Hall and features 11 marble statues depicting famous figures from Welsh history. As well as statues of Owain Glyndwr, St David and Hywel Dda amongst others, stands Henry Tudor.
The statues were chosen via a newspaper poll in the Western Mail and were unveiled by future Prime Minster David Lloyd George in 1916. The statue of Henry Tudor depicts the king on the battlefield in a suit of armour with his fist defiantly clenched. Evident is a banner bearing his red Welsh dragon symbol which was present at the Battle of Bosworth. The second figure in the statue is considered to be his Welsh ally, Rhys ap Thomas.
Hay-on-Wye is renowned as the quaint ‘town of books’ and home to the Hay Book Festival, an annual soiree which draws visitors from around to globe to the small mid-Welsh border settlement. Due to its historically precarious position in the Welsh March, Hay-on-Wye both prospered and suffered during the medieval period as generation upon generation of Welsh and English battled for regional supremacy. That being said, the town played no major role during the Tudor period yet does possess one sixteenth century-related attraction of note.
In 1995 a large white statue of King Henry VII was unveiled on the end wall of the old market hall, affording this inanimate Tudor monarch commanding views across Castle Square in a place of utmost prominence. The six foot figure is looking to his left whilst adorned with a crown upon his head, an orb in his left hand and a sceptre in his right hand. It is a portrayal of Henry Tudor in all his majestic glory and currently the only of its kind in Wales. The plaque below the statue proudly boasts ‘Henry VII first Welsh king of the English’.
City Hall, Bradford
Bradford City Hall has a wonderful collection of Victorian statues adorning the exterior of the building, each one depicting the kings and queens of England and then Britain since the Norman Conquest in 1066. The statues were erected in 1873 after construction of the hall was completed.
The statue of Henry Tudor depicts the king as a peaceful monarch, wearing a similar long tunic and robe as shown in various contemporary portraits of the king. He holds a sceptre and an orb and is wearing a cap rather than a crown.
The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Bath is one of the most spectacular cathedrals standing in England and contains many features from the Tudor period.
On the magnificent west front stands a large statue of Henry VII in all his majestic glory, a crowned king holding his sceptre and orb. Beneath the king is the royal coat of arms of Henry, complete with dragon and greyhound supporters. On the same Western Front of the abbey is a ladder which reaches towards the top of the church, climbed by a collection of angels. The building of this front was overseen by Bishop Oliver King, appointed to the bishopric during the reign of King Henry VII in 1496. The statue is thought to be Victorian in origin.
If you are interested in reading more about my previous efforts to have a statue of Henry VII erected in Pembroke, you can read about it here – Statue Campaign
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 Waleswas 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.
Merevale Abbey is situated in the heart of England and located just a few miles away from where the Battle of Bosworth Field was fought on a hot summer’s day in August 1485. It was recorded that Henry Tudor and part of his army encamped on the abbey grounds the night before the battle.
The small abbey was founded on the site in 1148 by Robert de Ferrers, 2nd Earl of Derby. The early history of the Cistercian abbey was uneventful and it appears to have been only played a moderate role in the locality as opposed to some of the larger, wealthier abbeys of the period. It seems that the abbey rarely houses more than ten monks. Nonetheless Edward I stayed at the abbey in August 1275 whilst Edward III was recorded as being at Merevale in March 1322.
In August 1485 the abbey played a significant part in English history when the army of Henry Tudor approached the gatehouse. Henry had landed in Wales after a fourteen year exile abroad and had come with the intention to usurp the English crown from Richard III, who in turn had taken the crown from his young nephew Edward V. Henry’s army had travelled down Watling Street from Shrewsbury and with a requirement for refreshment and recuperation targeted Merevale’s Cistercian abbey as the ideal resting spot.
It is possible that it was at Merevale that Henry Tudor fatefully met with his stepfather Thomas Stanley. The Stanleys intervention the following day on the side of Tudor rather than Richard III is often seen as the decisive moment of the battle. Was a plan hatched by the men whilst they were in the abbey grounds? A later observer remarked ‘it was a goodly sight to see the meeting of them’ whilst Tudor’s biographer Polydore Vergil would later write that Tudor and Stanley took each other by the hand ‘and yielding mutual salutation’ entered into ‘counsel in what sort to arraigne battle with King Richard’.
Later evidence hasbeen used to support the theory that Henry’s army stayed at Merevale Abbey. As king Henry issued a warrant reimbursing the abbey with 100 marks having ‘sustained great hurts, charges and losses, by occasion of the great repair and resort that our people coming towards our late field made, as well unto the house of Merevale aforesaid as in going over his ground, to the destruction of his corns and pastures’. Payments were also made to other settlements in the region, including £24 20s 4d to Atherstone, £20 to Fenny Drayton and £13 to Witherley amongst other townships.
Furthermore in September 1503 the king returned to Merevale whilst on progress and visited the abbey. He commemorated his great victory by sanctioning a new stained glass window depicting his favoured saint, Armel. The decision to use a saint that was very personal to him as opposed to a national symbol like George suggests Henry felt a deep connection with Merevale and wanted to convey his appreciation for the role the abbey played in his victory. The small figure of Armel can still be viewed in the South Aisle of the Gate Chapel, a rare depiction of this saint in England. Another place the saint can be viewed is in the Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey where a statue of Armel is located close to the magnificent tomb of the king. On 30 October 1511 Henry Tudor’s son and successor Henry VIII paid a visit to the abbey with his wife Queen Katherine of Aragon.
Despite this close connection with the Tudor dynasty Merevale Abbey was nonetheless dissolved on 13 October 1538 on the orders of Henry VIII and gradually fell into ruin. The surrender of the house was signed by Abbot William Arnold who was compensated with a pension of £40. Sub-abbot John Ownsbe and four of the monks received £5 6s 8d with three other monks received £5 and one other monk receiving only 3s 4d. The monastery and the lands were put into the possession of the Lord Ferrers two days later.
Today the only remaining part of the Abbey still used for religious service is the former Gate Chapel, which is now utilised as the parish church. This church contains a sizable degree of stained glass of historical significance, including a Jesse window often considered to amongst the most important in Britain. The window has been dated to around 1330 and was presumably original positioned inside the abbey proper. It contains a tree linking ten kings and prophets. Elsewhere is the aforementioned stained glass window depicting St Armel, placed there by Henry Tudor after he had become king.
The remainder of the abbey ruins can be found on private land, namely grounds owned by the Abbey Farm Bed & Breakfast. The remains are thought to primarily be those connected to the north and south walls of the Refectory, including a full moulded doorway.
Kent is undeniably one of the most beautiful parts of England and is generally known as the ‘Garden of England’. Suitably located between London and the port of Calais, it is unsurprising to discover that Kent possesses substantial Tudor heritage. Throughout the county are an abundance of castles, abbeys and churches with sixteenth century connections and this article will document some of those.
Hever Castle is without a doubt the jewel in Kent’s Tudor crown and is notable for its connection to the Boleyn family. Although it contains thirteenth century origins the castle truly came into being when it was converted into a substantial manor house by Mayor of London Geoffrey Boleyn in 1462. Geoffrey’s grandson Thomas Boleyn inherited Hever in 1505 and lived there with his wife Elizabeth and children George, Mary and Anne.
Hever Castle was extensively restored by American magnate William Waldorf Astor during the early twentieth century and the result is a quintessential castle with very few equals in Europe. The crenellated keep has an abundance of arrow loops and complex chimneys with a moat that ensures Hever Castle creates an awe-striking impression upon the visitor. The wooden drawbridge and portcullis which leads to through the gatehouse and into the courtyard is considered to be as it was when the Boleyn’s journeyed through it during the sixteenth century.
On permanent display in the castle is Anne’s personal Book of Hours, complete with examples of her handwriting, whilst another temporary exhibition showcasing the marital bed of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York can be viewed in the Long Gallery, built by Thomas Boleyn in 1506 and which at various times hosted Henry VIII.
Although the castle’s association with Anne Boleyn is the primary reason Hever has remained so evocative it should be noted the premises was owned by Henry VIII’s fourth wife Anne of Cleves between 1540 and her death in 1557, bestowed upon her a part of her divorce settlement. Intriguing to note is the hidden catholic chapel that was built at Hever in 1584 by then-owners the Waldegrave family, recusant Roman Catholics worshipping in secret at a time when it was outlawed by Anne’s daughter Queen Elizabeth I. The castle was saved from possible ruin by Astor and his careful and delicate restoration has resulted in Hever’s heritage to be savoured 500 years after its most famous resident loitered amongst the confines.
St Peter’s Church, Hever
St Peter’s Church in Hever is notable as the final resting place of Sir Thomas Boleyn, resident of the nearby castle and controversial father of the Anne Boleyn. Sir Thomas’ tomb can be found in a place of honour near the altar and is a simple affair, perhaps indicative of the discreet way his life ended with shamed exile from court. Thomas Boleyn died on 12 March 1539 and his tomb is adorned with a brass plate depicting the one-time queen’s father in the robes of a Knight of the Garter which he was once accustomed to wearing. Noticeable above his shoulder is the Boleyn family emblem of a falcon. St Peter’s has been the parish church of Hever since at least the fourteenth century and during her childhood at Hever it is not fanciful to suggest that Anne, along with the wider Boleyn family, were well acquainted with the church.
Leeds Castle is a dramatic medieval fortress-turned-palatial home partially enclosed by a substantial moat and with its charming setting in the centre of a sprawling garden estate it can certainly rival Hever Castle in its fairy-tale appearance.
The castle has origins in the twelfth century and by the end of the thirteenth century was known to be a favoured residence of King Edward I. During the early fifteenth century the castle was owned by Katherine de Valois, widow of King Henry V. Katherine’s scandalous marriage to Welshman Owen Tudor introduced the Tudors into English society and their grandson Henry Tudor would secure the crown at Bosworth in 1485. It is tantalising to suggest that Katherine and Owen may have shared romantic trysts in Leeds enchanting surroundings. As part of the crown estate the castle passed into the control of the Tudors after their accession to the throne of England and in 1519 Henry VIII presented Leeds Castle to his first wife Katherine of Aragon. Still evident in the Queen’s Gallery are dynastic engravings relating to Katherine, including her heraldic badge of the pomegranate.
In 1520 Leeds Castle played host to the royal court when Henry, his queen, and a retinue numbering in the thousands stayed in the castle grounds prior to crossing the English Channel on the way to France for the fabled Field of the Cloth of Gold summit with French king Francis I. In 1552 the castle was granted to Sir Anthony St Leger, ending over 300 years of royal ownership. During Queen Elizabeth’s reign it appears four marble busts were commission of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth herself and these are still on display in the gallery.
Substantial investment and renovation has taken place at Leeds over the centuries, notably in the early twentieth century. The result is a palatial complex considered to be the ‘loveliest castle in the world’ and although genuine Tudor features are at a minimum, it is nonetheless a location worthy of exploration.
Rochester Castle’s Norman keep is a domineering stone structure that overlooks the River Medway with an authoritative confidence that was a trademark of the twelfth century. Whilst the majority of the castle lies in ruins the keep itself is generally intact, which is perhaps indicative of the quality of its workmanship when one considers the castle was sacked during the Peasants Revolt in 1381.
It was within the medieval fortress that Henry VIII first met his fourth wife Anne of Cleves, an encounter which has been told and retold with such embellishment in popular culture the truth has become somewhat obscured by myth. Anne begun her lengthy journey to England in the winter of 1539 and by New Years’ Eve had arrived at Rochester. The king could hardly contain his excitement and journeyed from London the following day with boyish enthusiasm to surprise his new wife, incognito. The disguised king burst into Anne’s room with five of his companions and begun to make romantic advances towards the startled duchess, unaware of this English custom. His attempts failed; Anne barely responded and the humiliated king stormed out of the room, the marriage doomed from the first day. Whilst the ‘flander’s mare’ comment is a seventeenth century invention, it was reported that Henry nonetheless declared that the Duchess was ‘nothing so well as she was spoken off’. By July the marriage had been annulled.
St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury
Christianity was brought to Canterbury and England by St Augustine, who established a Benedictine abbey in the city in 598. Augustine’s abbey was one of the largest and wealthiest in the kingdom for over nine hundred years until its dissolution in 1538 under the reign of Henry VIII. As part of Henry’s Reformation the abbey was surrendered to the king’s commissioners on 30 July that year and the property became part of the crown estate. The king set about transforming part of the erstwhile ecclesiastical building into a luxurious palatial retreat which was initially used by Henry’s fourth wife Anne of Cleves. Queen Elizabeth I was also known to have stayed at the new palace during one of her Kent progresses although the building gradually fell into disrepair during the seventeenth century. Although now a dramatic ruin the red bricks of the Tudor palace are still visible along with the original abbey walls. Furthermore two gatehouses mark the former entrances into the abbey ground’s and are reminiscent of similar gates at Hampton Court.
Christ Church Gate, Canterbury
The splendid gateway which stands in the city’s Butter Market area provides access into the Cathedral grounds but is a wonderful display of early sixteenth century architecture in itself. The gate was completed in 1517 and is a celebration of the reign of Henry Tudor, the father of then-king Henry VIII.
Prominent on the façade of the gatehouse are the collection of coats of arms with preferential placement afforded to the arms of Henry VII, his son Prince Arthur and daughter-in-law Katherine of Aragon. Also present is the crowned Tudor Rose and Beaufort portcullis, two traditional emblems of the first Tudor king. Another large Tudor Rose adornment can be viewed inside the gatehouse on the ceiling, capturing the attention of all who walk through the passageway and into the cathedral grounds.
Canterbury Cathedral is the mother church of the Anglican communion and has been considered the premier holy seat of England for over a thousand years. Although the cathedral is perhaps best known as the location of Thomas Becket’s brutal murder in 1170 it does also possess a substantial Tudor heritage. Upon the approach to the cathedral immediately striking is the 250 foot central tower, often referred to as the Bell Harry tower. This was erected in 1498 during the reign of Henry VII and was financed in part by Archbishop John Morton, whose tomb lies inside the cathedral’s crypt. Cardinal Morton was one of the king’s closest and most trusted advisors and assisted in ruling the country, in time becoming notorious for his harsh financial policies which helped bolster the royal treasury. He served as archbishop from 1486 until 1500 and became a cardinal in 1493. Morton died on 15 September 1500 and his tomb in the crypt is arguably the most extravagant in the cathedral, generously covered in Tudor imagery such as the red and white rose as well as angels and cardinal’s caps. Also featured are a collection of tun barrels inscribed with the word Mor, a pun on his name Mor-ton.
Although the killing of Becket occurred over 300 years before the Tudors came to power, by the late fifteenth century the beatified saint was revered throughout the kingdom, particularly by monarch’s seeking the goodwill of God. That being said, the Henrican Reformation of the late 1530s witnessed a dramatic change in how England began to view Christianity and amongst the many changes which Henry VIII brought in was the abolishing of shrines. A notable casualty of his policy was Becket’s shrine in Canterbury, which was routinely destroyed with great pleasure upon the orders of the authoritative king. It was recorded that the treasures found in Becket’s shrine were so substantial it took twenty-six carts to tow it all away. The location of Becket’s shrine is now marked with a solitary candle, a poignant reminder of the site of medieval England’s greatest such monument.
As well as Morton, located elsewhere in the cathedral are a number of other tombs related to the Tudors. Located close to where Thomas Becket met his end is the elaborate effigy of William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury between 1503 and 1532. Warham was initially employed by Henry VII as a diplomat and helped arrange the marriage of Prince Arthur to Katherine of Aragon in 1502. After becoming archbishop a year later he also served for a time as Lord Chancellor. In 1509 Warham crowned Henry VIII at Westminster Abbey and also married the young king to Katherine of Aragon. Two decades later he would play a role in the divorce crisis that threatened to tear apart the kingdom, initially taking a view that Henry should be granted his request although later clashing with the king over his attempts to break with Rome. His death in August 1532 saved him from the king’s wrath and Warham was interred in Canterbury on 10 September that year.
Another notable tomb located in the cathedral is that of Thomas Bourchier who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1454. Bourchier was notable for his role in the reigns of three kings towards the end of the Wars of the Roses. Bourchier crowned kings Edward IV, Richard III and Henry VII and also officiated at the wedding of the latter king to Elizabeth of York which symbolically united the houses of York and Lancaster. Unlike many clerics Bourchier had an impeccable aristocratic pedigree and was a great-grandson of Edward III as well as brother of Henry Bourchier, 1st Earl of Essex, and half-brother of Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham. Bourchier died on 30 March 1486 and was accorded a lavish burial fit for a high-ranking member of both the nobility and the church. His tomb is located close to where the shrine of Thomas Becket once stood, a position of honour.
Situated on the cathedral’s west front are a collection of Victorian statues which depict various monarchs throughout English history. Notable amongst these are Henry VII, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.
Dover Castle is often considered to be England’s oldest fort and is currently a vast complex of buildings which collectively represent every era of the nation’s history. There are Roman, Saxon, Medieval and Tudor remains at the castle as well as an array of buildings which played key roles in the two twentieth century World Wars. Dover Castle has been a fortress at the forefront of England’s defences for over a thousand years.
It is unsurprising to discover this was particularly true during the sixteenth century when Henry VIII regularly tussled with Spain and France for supremacy in this part of Europe. At various points it seemed that invasion was likely therefore Henry proceeded to bolster the defences at Dover, including the construction of a couple of Bulwark towers to support the great Norman keep that looms high above the acclaimed white cliffs. Henry held the title of Constable of Dover as a child and may have felt a degree of connection with the castle. He notably stayed at the castle for two weeks in June 1513, using the keep’s royal apartments to good effect. He was again based at Dover in May 1520 prior to departing for France for a summit with King Francis I, a meeting better known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Although the surrounding buildings are generally of a later period, the keep itself remains as it was during the Tudor period and offers incredible views across the English Channel, a view Henry may have taken in as he dreamt of winning great victories across the water.
Eltham Palace is perhaps the lesser known royal palace within the modern London boundaries, often overlooked in favour of Hampton Court, the Tower of London or Greenwich Palace. It may be because the vast majority of the palace is today an art-deco masterpiece which gained a new lease of life during the early twentieth century.
Nonetheless Eltham still has surviving architectural features which would have been recognisable to the Tudors, particularly the splendid Great Hall. Eltham’s hall was built in the 1470s by King Edward IV who used the palace as a peaceful country retreat in the Kent countryside. After Henry Tudor came to the throne in 1485 he inherited the palace as part of the crown estate and equally felt favourable towards the property. Ideally situated away from the bustling and polluted London but close enough to visit, Henry based his royal nursery at Eltham, positioning most of his young children within the palace walls. Amongst those who spent a sizable amount of time at Eltham was the future Henry VIII, who would have roamed around the grounds as an impressionable and enthusiastic young boy. His sisters Margaret and Mary also joined him for periods of time as did his younger siblings Edmund and Elizabeth, both of whom would tragically die in childhood. The Princess Elizabeth actually passed away at Eltham, succumbing from disease on 14 September 1495.
Four years later the royal nursery was visited by Thomas More and his friend Desiderius Erasmus, who came across a buoyant and expectant Prince Henry. The Dutch humanist would later comment that the young royal ‘had a vivid and active mind, above measure to execute whatever tasks he undertook’. Henry was also educated at Eltham by the poet John Skelton and it seems that it was whilst growing up at this palace he began to develop an intellect and outlook on life that would later become both charismatic and deadly as an adult.
The Great Hall went through periods of ruin during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but was rescued when the property came into the ownership of the wealthy Courtauld family in the 1930s. The hall was restored and the oak hammer-beam roof appears as spectacular on first viewing as it must have done to the Tudors five hundred years ago. It is fair to suggest that Henry cherished his time at Eltham for he later extended part of the palace in 1519 when he was king as well as spending reasonable amounts time visiting. No other monarch after Henry VIII considered Eltham Palace to be worthy of their time. Anne Boleyn is said to have visited Eltham at various times during her marriage and courtship to Henry.
A modern embellishment which is nonetheless worthy of attention is the stained glass window which depicts various royal coats of arms, including that of Henry VII erroneously credited to his son Henry VIII. Also noteworthy is the stone bridge which gives modern access to the grounds which is off fifteenth century provenance and which would have once been passed by various members of the Tudor dynasty.
Deal and Walmer Castles
Deal and Walmer Castles are a pair of remarkable coastal forts which were built under the orders of Henry VIII in 1539 to defend his kingdom against Spanish and French aggression following the Reformation. The two forts are situated under two miles apart and would have combined to provide a degree of protection against any ships which approached the coast of Kent. A third castle was also based at nearby Sandown but this has no surviving ruins.
What makes Deal and Walmer particularly unique is their layout – both appear from the air to resemble the Tudor rose, a result of their multiple semi-circular bastion towers. These towers contain a variety of rooms inside, such as guard quarters and gunpowder stores, whilst their roofs have stone platforms which were loaded with cannon guns directed out to sea. Both were once accessed via a wooden drawbridge built across a moat but today stone bridges offer a permanent crossing. It is thought that Henry personally inspected his sea forts although ultimately they were not utilised during his reign as the invasion threat from the continent never truly materialised.
During the Middle Ages good relationships between close relatives could not always be taken for granted. Especially during the Wars of the Roses, also known as the ‘Cousin’s War’, at times it seemed impossible to even trust your own brother. In marked contrast to this was the bond between one particular uncle and his nephew, Jasper and Henry Tudor.
It was in November 1456 that Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond and half-brother to King Henry VI, died under puzzling circumstances at Carmarthen Castle. He had been locked up there a few months prior to his death by William Herbert and his father-in-law Walter Devereux, supporters of the Duke of York, probably for the reason that Edmund, at the behest of the King, had finally been successful in taking control of South Wales and several strongholds, some of which belonged to the Duke. During his protectorate earlier that year, York had been less than triumphant in his effort to wrest control from the notorious, powerful Welshman Gruffydd ap Nicholas, whereas Edmund had not only won the same struggle but afterwards stayed on friendly terms with Nicholas. This may, at least partly, explain York’s actions.
Although plague has been suggested as the cause of Edmund’s death, it is quite likely that he died due to wounds inflicted during his arrest or imprisonment. His death was lamented by many. One of the bards, Dafydd Nanmor wrote:
For us it’s sad to see how happy his enemies are,
they obliterate us.
There was no sadness for even a moment
without joy and a leader.
As another Jasper of yore
came with the myrrh for wise Mary’s son,
so too Jasper (no less of a man)
for our sake brings healing for [for the loss of] a kinsman.
Edmund’s death left many people grieving, including his young teenaged wife, Margaret Beaufort, then seven months pregnant, and his younger brother Jasper. This must have been a particularly sad loss for Jasper as the brothers were close in age and had been raised together, and quite likely was the origin of the lifelong bond between uncle and nephew. (There was a younger brother, Owen, also known as Edward Bridgewater, a monk at Westminster Abbey.)
Edmund’s only son was born at Jasper’s castle of Pembroke, where Edmund’s pregnant widow had sought the protection of her brother-in-law. After a long and difficult labour, she gave birth on 28 January 1457 to a small and delicate but healthy baby boy, Henry Tudor. In his infant years Henry was known to the Welsh as ‘the younger Owen’ after his Tudor grandfather, which was possibly Jasper’s choice to honour his father. Although Margaret Beaufort remarried the year after Henry’s birth, her son spent the first four years of his life safely under his uncle Jasper’s wing at Pembroke Castle.
These peaceful years were harshly interrupted when, in 1460–61, a series of battles took place. Among them were the battle of Wakefield in December 1460, which caused the death of the Duke of York, and two months later one at Mortimer’s Cross following which Jasper’s father Owen was executed by the orders of the victorious Edward, Earl of March, son of the late Duke of York. Edward seized Henry VI’s crown and, now Edward IV, gave William Herbert control over the Lancastrian properties in Wales, including Pembroke Castle. That September Herbert took possession of the castle, together with four year-old Henry whom he found inside. As a result Herbert was granted the boy’s wardship and marriage.
During the next few years Jasper travelled constantly between England, France, Scotland and Wales, always trying to muster as much support for the Lancastrians as he could, while never giving up on his belief. Even though Herbert was killed by the Earl of Warwick in 1469 at the Battle of Edgecote, young Henry remained in the Herbert household until 1470, when the Lancastrians for a short period recovered the crown with the help of Edward’s former ally Warwick and brother Clarence. Jasper was then able to take his 13-year-old nephew, whom he had not seen in nine years, from the custody of, Anne Devereux, Herbert’s widow, and, after spending some time together, reunited Henry with his mother. Margaret Beaufort had been able to visit her son on several occasions while he was in the Herberts’ care, but now she was able to spend some weeks with him at her manor at Woking. These peaceful times were again all too short-lived, however, for in April 1471 Edward returned from his exile in Flanders and succeeded in killing Warwick at the Battle of Barnet and taking possession of King Henry and his crown.
At this stage Jasper was in the Severn Valley seeking to muster a force to join up with Queen Margaret’s, but Edward was aware of their plan to connect and made sure that it failed. As a result, the Queen’s forces, without Jasper, met with Edward at Tewkesbury, where they were completely defeated and the Lancastrian heir, Prince Edward, was killed. The Queen was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London, where her husband, King Henry VI, was murdered the same night as she arrived. It seemed that Edward IV had entirely defeated the Lancastrian cause and ‘crushed the seed’, as the Milanese Ambassador at the French Court put it.
All Edward had to do now was to destroy one final pocket of rebellion – and kill Jasper. For this he quickly sent Roger Vaughan of Tretower, William Herbert’s half-brother, to Chepstow. Jasper, however, was warned in time and turned the tables by killing Vaughan. Even so, he must have recognized that there for the time being there was no cause left to fight for and that the lives of both himself and his nephew were in grave danger – and in his hands alone. He therefore quickly took Henry from his mother and left for Pembroke. Edward IV was again on to Jasper’s plans and quickly ordered Morgan ap Thomas, Vaughan’s son-in-law, to carry out what his father-in-law had failed to do. While Jasper and Henry were at Pembroke Castle Morgan moved to surround the castle and dug deep ditches in order to starve them out of hiding. Luckily for the Tudors help was on its way in the shape of Morgan’s brother David, who successfully freed them from their dangerous situation and possibly brought them to Tenby. From there, after spending some days in the cellar of Mayor Thomas White (as tradition has it), they sailed on 2 June 1471 from the shore of Tenby towards the English Channel, heading for France.
King Louis XI of France, Jasper and Henry’s distant cousin, had earlier given Jasper his word to not only shelter him but also to protect Henry if ever necessary. That time had now come. But instead of sailing safely to France, the uncle and nephew were probably seized by the Bretons and arrived at the Breton coast at Le Conquet. They were then conveyed to the court of another distant cousin, Duke Francis II of Brittany. Jasper and Henry would spend 14 years between Brittany and France, living under conditions that varied from comfortable to restricted. The hardest part of this exile for both of them must have been between 1474 and 1476 when they were separated and each imprisoned in a remote castle, Jasper at the Chateau de Josselin and Henry at the Chateau de Largoët, deeply hidden in the woods. This was done for several reasons. Separating the two of them made it nearly impossible for them to plot against Duke Francis or Edward IV, or for them to be kidnapped (rumours concerning which were circulating during this time). But most of all, Duke Francis knew that, by keeping them apart, the likelihood of escape was nearly nil because it was highly unlikely that Jasper would leave without his nephew.
One can only imagine the anxiety of the 17-year-old Henry Tudor and his uncle when they heard that they were to be separated, for Jasper had been the boy’s constant advisor throughout most of his adolescence. In 1475 negotiations between Edward IV and Duke Francis to for Henry to be handed over led eventually to success for Edward. By the autumn of 1476 Henry was taken from Largoët and sent, in the company of Edward’s ambassadors, to St Malo where a ship was waiting to carry him to England. Powerless, Jasper could now only wait to see what would happen. Eventually Henry, allegedly by pretending to be sick, was able to escape to sanctuary in a nearby chapel. It was probably by October that Jasper was also released from Josselin and brought to the Breton court at Vannes where he was reunited with Henry. Even though living as prisoners under the supervision of different custodians, Jasper and Henry both stayed in Vannes and from then on were not parted again. They remained at the Breton court wherever it was residing and Duke Francis kept his promise – made to both Edward IV and the Tudors themselves – to guard them. Following Edward’s sudden death in 1483, Francis was free to release both men and he set Jasper and Henry at liberty again.
Jasper and Henry knew that their only chance to return to England was to assemble a strong enough force. Plots had been going on to usurp the crown of the usurper Richard III and so they decided to join with Buckingham. Whatever Jasper and Henry’s precise hopes may have been – and their relationship to Buckingham’s plans – the rising presented them with an opportunity to return home after 12 years of exile.
However, their homecoming was not as easy as they may have imagined; essentially, too much of it depended on sheer good luck whereby everything had to happen at the right place and the right time. In the end, Buckingham was caught and beheaded and the Tudors had to return to refuge in Brittany. Even though Jasper and Henry’s chances of a successful return to England now looked very dim they were able to reassemble a new force with a steady flow of English fugitives making their way across the Channel to join them. On Christmas Day 1484, in the Cathedral of Rennes and in the presence of his supporters, Henry pledged to marry the Yorkist princess Elizabeth and so to reunite both houses, as soon as he became king. This of course attracted previous supporters of Edward IV and Henry’s force swelled even further. Jasper continued to guide his nephew wherever necessary, negotiating with Duke Francis for further aid, and in September 1484, when the Duke finally gave in to Richard III’s demands to hand Henry over, Jasper made sure that Henry was able to escape safely to France. He did this by travelling ahead with a few of the exiled English noblemen, to give the impression they intended to visit Duke Francis Rennes not far from the French border. When Jasper and his companions came near to the border they made a run for it and successfully arrived in the province of Anjou. Henry was now also on his way but was closely followed by Pierre Landais, one of Duke Francis’s advisors, who intended to bring him back. Henry was lucky once again and by probably the end of September or the beginning of October he was able to join his uncle Jasper and the other English noblemen at the French court at the Chateau of Angers. There Jasper again negotiated with the French king for aid for his nephew’s cause.
From Angers the French court travelled to the ancient town of Montargis where both Jasper and Henry remained during the winter of 1484–85 and by the beginning of spring they joined King Charles VIII at Rouen to prepare their invasion of England. Although records of Jasper’s whereabouts are very scarce it is clear he would not leave sight of Henry.
Soon they were ready to disembark and on 1 August 1485 the Tudors and their forces left Harfleur to arrive at Mill Bay near Pembroke Castle on 7 August. Wales was chosen for their landing because of Jasper’s roots in that country and his past authority there, and many of Jasper’s Welsh supporters were expecting and keenly awaiting their hero’s arrival in the land of their fathers. In several poems Jasper is called upon to put an end to the Yorkist claim to the throne – for example, in these lines from a poem by the bard David Nanmor:
The stag’s head with an eagle’s action
ahead of a company, he shatters passionately.
I aimed towards their cries,
the moon in a heavy battle yonder.
The eagle’s black chick succeeds
in bearing the crown, his tone is just,
and although it’s borne, I wouldn’t cry,
for this man won’t have long to live.
It was clear that many supporters from Wales came to aid Henry’s cause because they ‘were ready to serve Jaspar ther erle’ and many joined his army in the course of the march to Bosworth. It was Jasper’s constant advice that had guided Henry for all the years in exile and it was now his advice that steered his course towards the decisive battle which on 22 August 1485 led to their victory at Bosworth.
Jasper was now around 54 years old and he had played a key role as his nephew’s closest advisor, confidant and mentor. It was now time for Henry to demonstrate his gratitude towards the man who had given up so much for him and his cause. Soon Jasper was granted many rewards, including the Dukedom of Bedford. The choice of title could hardly have been more significant. There had only been two previous Dukes of Bedford and one of them was Henry V’s brother John, a pillar of the royal house who had enjoyed great popularity, whom Henry must have had in mind when seeking an appropriate title for his beloved uncle. It shows Henry’s gratitude towards the uncle who had devoted his life to his nephew, and without whom Henry’s kingship, possibly even his very survival, would have been out of the question. From now on, whenever Henry referred to Jasper he spoke about ‘our dearest uncle’.
Great trust was placed in Jasper, and powers were granted to him immediately after 1485 that were greater than those enjoyed by anyone else. It is clear that Henry recognized that he owed an enormous part of his success to his uncle and continued to do so for the coming years. Jasper had a leading role at many of the happy occasions that followed, including the coronations of Henry and his wife Elizabeth of York. At Henry’s wishes, Jasper was married to Katherine Woodville, youngest sister of the dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville and aunt of the Queen, the wealthy Duchess of Buckingham.
When a Yorkist rebellion broke out in the Marches in the spring of 1486 it was Jasper who was sent with a strong force to suppress the uprisings. It was also Jasper who, after careful consideration during negotiations, proposed that a pardon would be provided to all who would lay down their weapons. This strategy seems to have worked; for Duke Jasper was highly respected and praised for the way he dealt with this problem.
A year later it was again Jasper, along with the Earl of Oxford and Rhys ap Thomas, who was given command of the King’s forces and defeated the Yorkist rebels at the Battle of Stoke.
No doubt Jasper must have enjoyed his position as one of the most important men in the kingdom and being granted the rewards he so abundantly deserved until the end of his life. One senses, however, that the satisfaction of his key role in bringing down the Yorkist dynasty and seeing the nephew he surely regarded as a son succeed to the throne was his greatest reward of all.
Chronicle of Six Ages, NLW Manuscript 3054D, Elis Gryffydd.
The Itinerary of John Leland, ed. L. Toulmin Smith, vol. 3, (London, 1964), p. 116.
‘Elegy for Edmund Tudor, earl of Richmond’ in The Poetical Works of Dafydd Nanmor, ed. T Roberts and I Williams (Cardiff and London, 1923), poem XV, translated into English by Eurig Salisbury for Debra Bayani, Jasper Tudor Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty (2014).
A Prognostic poem for Henry Tudor by Robin Ddu, in Ceinion Llenyddiaeth Gymreig, ed. Owen Jones (London, 1875), pp. 220–21; translated by Eurig Salisbury for Debra Bayani, Jasper Tudor, Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty (2014).
Jasper Tudor, Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty by Debra Bayani (2014)
Jasper Tudor, Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty is now available in colour and black & white editions on all the Amazon websites and Book Depository.
About the Author
Debra Bayani is a researcher and writer, living in the Netherlands with her husband and children. She previously studied Fashion History and History of Art. She has been interested in history as far as she can remember with real passion for the Middle Ages and the Wars of the Roses, and has spend many years researching this period. Currently she is working on a visitor’s guide to places connected to the Wars of the Roses. Debra’s debut non-fiction book, the first biography on the subject, ‘Jasper Tudor, Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty’, was published in 2014.
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.
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.
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
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 Waleswas 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.
This is a walk designed to cover most if not all of the locations in York associated with Henry VII and his reign. As king, Henry reigned England from 1485-1509 and visited York on two occasions – 1486 and 1487.
*start at the King’s Manor in Exhibition Square*
1. King’s Manor
King’s Manor was originally built to house the abbots of the adjacent St Mary’s Abbey. The current construction was built atop the original Norman building and many parts of the building date from the 15th century. After the Abbey’s dissolution by Henry VIII in 1539 it became the headquarters of the Council of the North for the next 100 years. Henry VIII was noted to have stayed here during a progress to the north.
*walk across Exhibition Square*
2. Queen Margaret’s Arch
Queen Margaret’s Arch is a small entranceway in the defensive walls which once provided protection to St Mary’s Abbey. The portion which remains today is the familiar arch through which scores of residents and tourists pass on a daily basis to traverse to and from the city centre. This opening was created in 1497 to provide easy access to and from the Minister from the Abbey; it was further utilised in the summer of 1503 when the convoy of the teenage Princess Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, passed through with her convoy on her journey north to Scotland for the commencement of her marriage to King James IV.
The visit of this Princess of England and Queen of Scotland to York was of great importance to the citizens of York as it offered an opportunity to display due reverence and loyalty to the King of England and to gain the favour of the Tudors in the aftermath of the turbulent Wars of the Roses. It is stated that the streets were lined with such large crowds it took her two hours to progress from the archway to the Minster. She had been met by the Mayor and the Aldermen dressed in their finest crimson robes and adorned with their chains of office. The following day Margaret attended High Mass at the Minster and witnessed another procession. She was ‘richly arrayed in a gown of cloth of gold with a rich collar of precious stones and a girdle reaching down to the ground made from spun gold’.
This occasion was commemorated in 1899 by a local historical society who commissioned a plaque which is presently positioned on the wall next to the arch.
*cross the road to Bootham Bar*
3. Bootham Bar
Bootham Bar has been a gateway into York for over 2000 years and was used as an entranceway by the Romans. The existing structure primarily dates from the 14th century, with the arch an 11th century Norman creation. In 1501 during the reign of Henry VII a door-knocker was installed with the requirement that any visiting Scots had to knock and obtain permission from the Lord Mayor to enter the city. A portcullis can still be viewed in the empty chamber. During the Lambert Simnel conspiracy Bootham came under attack from rebels, “the lords Scrope of Bolton and Upsall, constrained as it was said by their folk, came on horseback to Bootham Bar, and there cried ‘King Edward’ and made assault on the gates, but the commons who were watchmen there well and manfully defended them and put them to flight’. After another rebellion in 1489 over tax was more successful in breaching Bootham Bar, Henry VII criticised the city for not maintaining the walls in a good condition.
*walk through Bootham Bar and along High Petergate; at the Minster turn left and enter Dean’s Park*
4. Archbishop’s Palace
The Archbishop Palace is located a few yards from the Minster within the confines of the Dean’s Park. As its name suggests it was the one-time medieval residence of the Archbishops of York before their eventual relocation, firstly to Cawood Castle and then to Bishopthorpe Palace. On 9 September 1483 Edward of Middleham, only son and heir of King Richard III, was invested as Prince of Wales within the walls of the Archbishop’s Palace, an attempt at turning attention away from the exiled Henry Tudor and towards Richard’s own hopes for the future of the House of York. Today the remaining buildings of the Palace house the Minster Library.
*continue walking past the Archbishop’s Palace and along Minster Yard lane. When you reach the small junction turn left*
5. St William’s College
St William’s College has no direct link with Henry VII but is nonetheless another intriguing and important 15th Century building in York. The current incarnation of the building was built during the start of the reign of Edward IV, in the early 1460’s.
It was designed to accommodate 24 priests who were entrusted with praying for the souls of the deceased in exchange for payment, a common medieval activity. The building was named for Saint William Fitzherbert, Archbishop of York in the mid twelfth century and a nephew of King Stephen. Henry VI was responsible for the initial licensing for the chantry in 1457 before his successor Edward IV renewed the royal licence in 1461 shortly after coming to the throne, encouraged no doubt by his Neville cousins. Building commenced in 1465, the year George Neville became Archbishop of York, and would remain the abode of the Minster’s chantry priests until the reformation the following century.
*turn right and walk back towards the Minster*
6. York Minster and St Michael-Le-Belfry
York Minster is undoubtedly one of the greatest examples of medieval architecture in Europe, a true landmark renowned across the continent and a wonderful demonstration of the Gothic style.
The Rose Window in the Minster was believed to have been created during the early Sixteenth Century and is a celebration of the union of the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster in the marriage of Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor. During Henry’s progress to the city in 1486, when he would have heard Mass in the Minister, a pageant was put on in his honour in which was featured ‘a royal rich red rose, unto which rose shall appear another rich white rose, unto whom all flowers shall give sovereignty’. This was the birth of the Tudor Rose, the symbol of a new era.
Inside lies the tomb effigy of Thomas Savage, Archbishop of York between 1501 and 1508. Savage was a much-valued ecclesiastical figure during the reign of Henry VII. He was a kinsman of the Stanleys and his brother Sir John Savage had commanded part of the Tudor forces at the Battle of Bosworth. Archbishop Savage was said to lead a live more akin to that of a nobleman than a cleric, enjoying hunting and other secular pursuits. As archbishop he played a key role in the marriage of Prince Arthur to Katherine of Aragon and also in the ennoblement of Prince Henry as Duke of York. He also served as President of the Council for an extended period, a position of utmost importance as it was he who presided over the meetings whilst the chancellor was absent. By 1498 he was referred to by the Spanish envoy as being one of the most influential people in the kingdom.
Opposite York Minster stands the city’s only 16th Century church, and a wonderful place of worship in its own right. The current incarnation of St Michael-le-Belfry was built during the tumultuous Reformation period of 1525 and 1537. The Minster’s Master Mason John Forman was the architect and it’s an interesting fusion of the traditional Medieval Gothic Style evident in the Minster with flourishes of the new Renaissance period. Although it was built after the time of Henry VII it is nonetheless an intriguing Tudor construction, unique in York. It also served as the church in which the notorious Guy Fawkes was baptised in 1570.
*Opposite the Rose Window, walk a few yards down the small path until you reach Starbucks at the entrance of Stonegate*
Stonegate is one of York’s most important and historic streets; the current thoroughfare lies atop the Roman Via Praetoria, suggesting the integral part this street has played for thousands of years. The street also played a key role in the construction of the Minster; stone from Tadcaster was brought from the River Ouse up the street to the Minster. During Medieval times the street was home to goldsmiths, printers and glass painters amongst other craftsmen. Mulberry Hall, situated about half-way down Stonegate is a prominent medieval building built in the mid-15th Century. In April 1486 as part of his progress to York, Henry VII passed through Stonegate where he was greeted with a pageant. A lady dressed as the Virgin Mary blessed the new king in what was a joyous welcome to the centre of York for the new king.
*turn up the small alleyway underneath the ‘Ye Olde Starr Inn’ sign and enter Coffee Yard*
8. Barley Hall
Barley Hall is a reconstructed medieval townhouse in the centre of York situated just off Stonegate, an historic thoroughfare close to the towering Minster that would have been one of the most prestigious streets in England during the 15th century. Accessible through two small atmospheric alleyways, the townhouse portrays how the building appeared in the 1480’s. Rooms include the great hall, a buttery and pantry, a parlour and several bed chambers, each of which is fitted with furniture relevant to the era.
Originally built in 1360 by monks of a priory, by the reign of Henry VII it was a bustling residence playing an important role in the civic life of England’s second city. The property came into the ownership of successful goldsmith William Snawsell in 1466, who initially rented the townhouse for the relatively high price of 53 shillings and 5 pence. Snawsell was wealthy in comparison to his fellow townsfolk and owned a multitude of property throughout York and the neighbouring villages. As a prosperous gentleman he served the city in various capacities, earning a degree of regional prominence as Chamberlain in 1459, Sheriff in 1464, Lord Mayor in 1468 and alderman for twenty years thereafter until his retirement due to illness in 1492.
As a prominent civic officer Snawsell was a contemporary of Richard III when he was both Duke of Gloucester and King of England, As Alderman it would have fallen upon men like Snawsell to welcome Richard to the city on his various visits and to walk in procession during the subsequent celebrations. Adorned in his purple gown of state, this was a role Snawsell would have continued under Henry VII, only retiring from service in his seventies. Snawsell also played a prominent role in taking gifts to Richard’s son Edward of Middleham and honouring the newly invested Prince of Wales in September 1483. Further enhancing his credentials as a loyal member of Richard’s northern affinity was his relationship through marriage to Thomas Wytham, who was one of Richard’s councillors when Duke of Gloucester and a former Chancellor of the Exchequer under Henry VI and Edward IV.
In August 1485 Snawsell was amongst the city elders who had been informed of the invasion of Henry Tudor in an attempt to depose Richard from the throne and had to decide accordingly what course of action to take. He was present during an emergency meeting of the City Council which decided you dispatch around 80 troops to fight Richard’s cause at Bosworth although disastrously they failed to reach the battlefield in time. The following day William Snawsell’s name is listed first in the records of those York councillors present to hear a report of the battle, an account which stated “King Richard late mercifully reigning upon us was thrugh grete treason…piteously slane and murdred to the grete hevyness of this citie.”
Presented with the loss of a patron who had treated York, and in particular its civic gentlemen like William Snawsell well, the elderly alderman chose to make an immediate peace with the new monarch and accordingly swore allegiance. As alderman it is probable that Snawsell would have honoured Henry VII during the new King’s progress to York, forming a core part of the welcoming committee at Micklegate Bar. It is believed he died around 1495 although no will has survived to verify.
Snawsell’s townhouse at Barley Hall would have been amongst the most opulent in the city and would have been served by around twelve servants, including a cook, a steward and various scullions to ensure the smooth running of the household. Snawsell lived at the property with his wife Joan Thweng of Sheriff Hutton and their children Seth, Isobel and Alice. William remained in possession of the residence under 1489 when it was sold to William Carter, a wine merchant.
The reconstructed Barley Hall stands today almost as a testament to the importance these local civic officers played in shaping history’s most dramatic moments, a participation that is generally overlooked in favour of the kingdom’s elite nobles. William Snawsell succeeded in achieving what very few nobles managed to do in the 15th century, and that was to serve four kings and both the House of Lancaster and House of York.
*continue through Coffee Yard and turn left along Grape Lane. At the end of Grape Lane turn right onto High Petergate and just before the Poundland turn left up the small alleyway*
9. Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate
Church of Holy Trinity was founded in the early twelfth century and features thirteenth and fourteenth century architecture. The church received substantial restructuring during the 1470’s under the guardianship of Rector John Walker. The rector was responsible for the magnificent stained glass window on the east wall, which was added in 1471. The tower was added during the reign of Henry VII and was completed between 1495 and 1496.
*Follow the path until you enter Goodramgate opposite Tesco. Turn left and follow the road until you reach Monk Bar*
10. Monk Bar
Monk Bar is the site of the Richard III Experience. The Bar is a 14th Century construction that was heightened under the orders of Richard III. The section of Wall from here to Layerthorpe was probably repaired during the reign of Henry VII; the arches are late medieval and correspond to other late 15th Century walls in London and Tenby.
*Enter the York Walls on the right of Monk Bar. On the right just a short walk along you will see the timbered hall of the Merchant Taylor’s Guild*
11. Merchant Taylor’s Hall
The Merchant Taylor’s Hall is a 14th Century timber-framed building that has served as the base of the Taylors Guild in York for over 600 years. They were one of seven guilds in the medieval city and were a powerful entity. They received the patronage of Henry VII in 1503 when he officially recognised their name through charter as the Merchant Taylor’s Guild.
*Follow the wall until you come to the end of this section in Layerthorpe*
12. King’s Fishpool
The King’s Fishpool was a large shallow lake lying between Layerthorpe and Foss Bridge. It was created during on the orders of William the Conqueror in 1069 when he dammed the River Foss and added another level of defence on the eastern side of the city. The Fishpool would remain in situ for the next 700 years and its boundaries can be understood by the lack of walls between Layerthorpe and the Red Tower. Today the name for the area is Foss Island, derived from the 18th century when the Fishpool began to silt up creating a series of marshy islands. The fishpool provided a plentiful supply of fish to the nearby castle.
*walk along the main road for a few hundred meters until you reach the Red Tower and the resumption of the town walls*
13. Red Tower
The Red Tower in York, constructed during the reign of Henry VII. This watchtower once marked the end of the city walls before the commencement of a large swamp that was part of the King’s Fishpool. An agreement was made between King Richard III and York City Corporation to strengthen and repair the walls, an understanding that continued into the reign of Henry Tudor.
Construction began on the Red Tower in 1490. The Corporation did not wish to pay the higher rates to Stone Masons and therefore employed the cheaper Tilers Guild to build the tower using bricks. This decision angered the Stone Masons who had hitherto been responsible for all such construction work in the city and a feud erupted between the masons and the tilers, who complained that their tools were being routinely broken or stolen. The situation escalated until 1491 when a tiler named John Patrick was murdered. Two masons were charged with his murder. One man was Christopher Horner and the other was William Hindley, Master Mason at the Minster. Hindley escaped arrest as he stayed in the Minster area which fell under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop rather than the city authorities. Both men escaped conviction, an indication of the power masons held in the city. The tilers were permitted to finish the Red Tower but it would prove to be York’s only brick building of the period. It was first referred to as the Red Tower in 1511 when artillery was kept there.
*walk along the town walls until you reach Walmgate Bar*
14. Walmgate Bar
Walmgate Bar is the most complete of the city’s four bars as the only gateway that still retains its barbican. Similar to the other bars, the eldest part of Walmgate is the 12th century stone archway with the remainder generally being 14th century. Uniquely the inside of the Bar features a timber-framed Elizabethan house. The heavy wooden doors date from the 15th century. Henry VIII entered York through this bar in September 1541.
*walk along the town walls until you reach Fishergate Bar*
15. Fishergate Bar
Fishergate Bar was an alternative medieval entrance into the city. The arch was restored in 1487 by the Lord Mayor of York William Todd who is commemorated on the plaque above the archway. Mayor Todd was knighted that year by Henry VII for providing support against the forces of Lambert Simnel, Yorkist pretender to the throne and in celebration funded the restoration of 55 metres of the walls including Fishergate. Only two years later however an uprising occurred in York amongst some of the citizens angered at the raising of taxes by Henry VII. One of their acts of civil disobedience was the torching of Fishergate Bar on 15 May 1489, carried out by Sir John Egremont and John Chambers. After the attack Thomas Wrangwysh was reprimanded for not keeping the two bars in adequate repair. The damage was such that the Bar was bricked up and would remain as such until 1827. The king also ordered that the walls in the area be repaired and strengthened. In 1491 the king further ordered the walls and ditches to be repaired and guns to be obtained. The Mayor pleaded poverty in response so the king granted £98. The guns didn’t materialise until the reign of his son Henry VIII in 1511.
*walk along the walls until you reach Fishergate Postern*
16. Fishergate Postern
Fishergate Postern is a large, rectangular stone building built first erected in the early 16th century. It was a defensive tower used to keep guard over the nearby postern gateway. The original early 15th century tower was designed to be a secondary entrance to the larger, nearby Fishergate Bar.
The Postern saw increased usage during the reign of Henry VII after the destruction and subsequent bricking up of Fishergate Bar after the tax riot of 1489. In 1501/02 the Mayor and Corporation of York ordered that a new stone postern tower be built, and construction was between 1504 and 1507 which is the tower we see today. The stone gateway was probably rebuilt at the same time, complete with portcullis.
*cross the road and bridge and follow the pavement around until you reach Clifford’s Tower*
17. Clifford’s Tower
Clifford’s Tower is the only substantial remnant of the medieval York Castle, an unusual two-story quatrefoil keep built in the late 13th Century on the orders of Henry II. It served as a defensive base within York in addition to a medieval prison and place of execution. By the late 15th century the castle had fallen into a state of disrepair; Richard III was killed before his orders for renovation work had been carried out and it seems there was no urgency or need from Henry VII to continue with the plans. By the reign of Henry VIII the castle had fallen into further disrepair although it was still used for executions, for example Pilgrimage of the Grace leader Robert Aske was hanged from the tower in 1536.
*cross the road and pick up the York Walls trail by walking through the park next to the river. Walk up the steps to Skeldergate Bridge and walk across. On the right hand side looking up river you will see the Ouse Bridge*
18. Ouse Bridge (from Skeldergate Bridge)
Henry VII crossed the Ouse Bridge in 1486 during his northern progress to York. He was greeted on the bridge with a throne and ‘King Solomon’ who led six men who portrayed the six earlier King Henrys. Together the group offered Henry VII a sceptre to accompany a crown he had earlier been presented at Micklegate Bar. A shower of rose water and comfits completed the exuberant and merry scene.
*At the end of Skeldergate Bridge, enter the York Walls and follow through until Micklegate Bar*
19. Micklegate Bar
The location of the Henry Tudor Experience
Micklegate Bar was the most important gateway to York and traditionally was the place royalty was welcomed into the city. The base of the Bar dates from the 12th century, similar to the city’s other bars whilst the top two stories date from the 14th century.
For hundreds of years Micklegate Bar was used to display the severed heads of rebels and traitors, including that of Richard, Duke of York, in 1460. The last severed head was not removed until 1754.
Henry VII first visited York in 1486 and his entrance to the city was through Micklegate Bar. Court chronicler Polydore Vergil wrote ‘he set out for York, to keep in control the people of the north, wild and readier than others for rebellion’.
He was met by the city’s sheriffs, aldermen and Mayor at Bilborough Cross and was accompanied into the city. No expense was spared in paying tribute to this new gain and to seek his favour; it was said children lining the street cried out ‘King Henry’ and red and white roses were displayed to symbolise York and Lancaster’s union. Henry was presented with a crown and the keys to the city, symbolic of York’s submission to the king. He was greeted by a citizen dressed as Ebrauk, the legendary founder of York, who exclaimed in verse ‘To you, Henrie, I submit my citie, key and croune; To reuyll and redresse, your dew to defence; never to this citie to presume ne pretence; but holy I graunt it to your governaunce; As a principall parcel of your inheritaunce’.
Henry returned again in July 1487 but this time he arrived at Micklegate at the head of an army having just defeated a Yorkist threat to his throne. The Mayor and Corporation of York met him at the Bar, where the king was accompanied by a thousand noblemen dressed in armour. A Mystery Play was put on for Henry who watched from the Coney Street house of Thomas Scott.
*From here follow the remainder of the walls to cross Lendal Bridge. You will emerge by the King’s Manor and York Minster*