Book Review – The First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson

By Nathen Amin

First of the Tudors is the latest offering from best-selling author Joanna Hickson, and follows on somewhat from her previous books, The Agincourt Bride and The Tudor Bride, released to critical acclaim in recent years. Her latest offering recounts the story of Jasper Tudor, son of the aforementioned bride and half-brother of the unstable king, Henry VI. Jasper was the product of a lengthy liaison between Katherine de Valois and the Welshman Owen Tudor, and occupied a curious position in 1451, when the story commences, as one of the king’s closest relations, albeit without the English blood royal.

The narrative is interesting, as Hickson uses two characters to deliver the story – Jasper, and a young Welsh maid Jane, who gradually becomes the protagonist’s lover. Despite regularly switching back and forth between the two voices, with their own interpretation of events, the flow isn’t interrupted and it adds another facet to the story. Jasper is wise, determined and compassionate, whilst the beautiful Jane, albeit headstrong and impulsive, is kind and devoted to her man. Two more likable characters you could not find. You will root for them throughout the book, especially as danger rears its end on more than one occasion.

Hickson’s use of the English language is clever, and emotive; her account of Henry Tudor’s birth is particularly descriptive and gripping, and even accounting for prior knowledge of what happened, still leaves the reader with a sense of dread as to the outcome. The story shifts between London and Wales, the latter an oft-overlooked setting for such books, and provides a whole new level of places and people for Hickson to explore, much to the reader’s benefit. It is what sets the book apart from others in the genre. It is a readable tome that you will put down at the end of one episode, then find yourself quickly returning to pick up the story.

15542094_1279307785470154_3069932482731460548_nIt is always a concern with historical fiction that the author will bastardise the facts to such an extent, the real people and real events become an afterthought. Hickson avoids falling into this trip; her book IS fiction, with invented speech between characters and even the main relationship between Jasper and Jane having no historical basis, yet, as anyone who has studied the period in depth will attest, nothing she has put to paper is outlandish, or even unlikely. I read this book, and believed in what she had to say. It was how I imagined the life and times of Jasper Tudor, and his young nephew Henry, was during the tumultuous years of the 1460s.

Jasper has a strained relationship with his elder brother Edmund, for example, and again, whilst historical evidence for this is lacking, it’s hardly unbelievable for there to have been some degree of gentle animosity between a set of brothers, as has been the case throughout time. Jasper places Margaret Beaufort on a pedestal, which again could have been the case; this is not a book where Jasper has an affair with Margaret, or any other preposterous invention. Hickson hasn’t gone out of her way to make things up for entertainment, as, quite frankly, there isn’t a need to when it comes to the Wars of the Roses. Everything has an air of believability to it, even for those coming to the text with detailed knowledge of the real story.

Essentially, Hickson’s evocative book is a classic ‘Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Gets Girl Back’ production, but set in the tumultuous world of the Wars of the Roses. A classic theme set in a captivating period that works well. My only regret? The book ended.

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Book Review – Jasper, Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty by Debra Bayani

By Nathen Amin

Jasper Tudor, the greatest man you have never heard of, until now.

A hero of the Wars of the Roses, as the only noble to be present at the first and last battles of the thirty-years long internecine conflict, Jasper was, as the title of Debra Bayani’s insightful book, the ‘Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty’. Without him, there wouldnt be Henry VIII or Elizabeth I.

51ZX7+JqvgLA book on Jasper has long been overdue, and Bayani’s well-researched work serves to finally bring this forgotten hero of the fifteenth century out of the shadows. She covers all aspects of the earl’s life, from his secret birth in the 1430s to a former queen of England and her Welsh lover, through to the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses and his lengthy exile. Particularly pleasing is the final chapter, Jasper’s legacy, which perfectly captures just why the life of this man deserves a wider audience

From her words and her pictures, which are plentiful, it is clear Bayani has travelled extenisvely in the footsteps of Tudor, which manifests itself in her account of his life. The book is footnoted and contains a helpful appendix feature a wide collection of Welsh poems about Jasper which have been translated into English, as well as will. As both a leisurely-read and an academic-text, the book holds it ground. The cover, featuring a 19th century depiction of Jasper from Cardiff Castle, is amongst one of most beautiful covers created for the genre, and the book inside doesn’t let it down.

Book Launch – Jasper, Book Two of the Tudor Trilogy by Tony Riches

I’m pleased to announce the launching of Tony Riches’ second book in his historical fiction trilogy series, Jasper.

Following the best-selling historical fiction novel OWEN – Book One of The Tudor Trilogy, this is the story, based on actual events, of Owen’s son Jasper Tudor, who changes the history of England forever.

England 1461: The young King Edward of York takes the country by force from King Henry VI of Lancaster. Sir Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, flees the massacre of his Welsh army at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross and plans a rebellion to return his half-brother King Henry to the throne.

When King Henry is imprisoned by Edward in the Tower of London and murdered, Jasper escapes to Brittany with his young nephew, Henry Tudor. After the sudden death of King Edward and the mysterious disappearance of his sons, a new king, Edward’s brother Richard III takes the English Throne. With nothing but his wits and charm, Jasper sees his chance to make young Henry Tudor king with a daring and reckless invasion of England.

Set in the often brutal world of fifteenth century England, Wales, Scotland, France, Burgundy and Brittany, during the Wars of the Roses, this fast-paced story is one of courage and adventure, love and belief in the destiny of the Tudors.

“Without the heroic Jasper Tudor there could have been no Tudor dynasty.” Terry Breverton, author, historian and Television Presenter.

“Jasper Tudor was the greatest survivor of the Wars of the Roses. Whilst almost all his contemporaries suffered often brutal and bloody deaths, Jasper persevered against all the odds. That’s not to say it was easy, as you will discover.” Nathen Amin, Author of Tudor Wales

Book Two of The Tudor Trilogy

The book is available on Amazon UK, US and AU.

About the Author

Tony Riches is a full time author of best-selling fiction and non-fiction books. He lives by the sea in Pembrokeshire, West Wales with his wife and enjoys sea and river kayaking in his spare time.

For more information about Tony’s other books please visit his popular blog, The Writing Desk and his WordPress website and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches.

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

By Tony Riches

Following in the footsteps of Henry and Jasper Tudor – Author Tony Riches goes down the secret tunnels.

There is an often repeated legend that on June 2nd, 1471, the fourteen year old Henry and Jasper Tudor went into hiding below the streets of the seaside town of Tenby in Pembrokeshire before fleeing to Brittany.

It is certainly likely that they could have hidden in the cellars of Jasper’s good friend Thomas White’s house in the high street, where Boots the chemist now stands. It is also said that they later escaped to the harbour through underground tunnels which run towards the harbour, and sailed to Brittany on one of Thomas White’s boats.

Today I was lucky enough to be shown the cellars and tunnels by Fiona Bousie, the Manager of Boots in Tenby, as part of the research for my new novel ‘Henry ~ Book Three of The Tudor Trilogy’.

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Reassured to learn there are no rats living down there, we started in the extensive basement cellars, now used as store-rooms by Boots, and it is easy to see how Jasper and Henry could have remained there out of sight for as long as they needed to.

As we entered the tunnels we were plunged into darkness and had to rely on torches. I could see that the roof of the tunnel closest to the entrance had been rebuilt with bricks and the remains of a fireplace complete with chimney. This seemed a strange thing to have in a tunnel and could be further evidence for its use to hide people, who could need a fire for warmth.

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Further down the tunnel the roof was roughly hewn through bedrock, with several other exits bricked up. This looked to have been done centuries ago, as there was calcification of the surface, which takes a long time to form.

After emerging back into the winter sun of Tenby I went to pay my respects to Thomas White, who rests with his son in St Mary’s church across the road. We may never know if the story is true but I am now convinced it was at least possible.

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Tony Riches is a UK historical fiction author living in Pembrokeshire, Wales. You can find out more on Tony’s blog ‘The Writing Desk’ at http://www.tonyriches.co.uk and find him on Twitter @tonyriches. His best-selling book Owen ~ Book One of the Tudor Trilogy is available in eBook and paperback on Amazon. Jasper ~ Book Two of The Tudor Trilogy will be published at Easter and the final book in the trilogy in 2017.

Book Review – Jasper; The Tudor Kingmaker by Sara Elin Roberts

By Tony Riches

Welsh academic and author Dr Sara Elin Roberts has produced a fascinating and detailed account of the life of Sir Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, Duke of Bedford, who was second son of Owen Tudor and the widowed queen Catherine of Valois. It was with Jasper’s support that King Henry VII returned from exile to defeat Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, leading to the establishment of the Tudor dynasty, yet Jasper has become what Dr Roberts calls ‘the forgotten kingmaker:’

‘Jasper was central to the world of the Wars of the Roses. He was, at different times, a key player in the unfolding, political game: a warrior in battles; a rebel fighter; a threat to the crown and the powers running the country; a potential claimant to the throne; and an exile.’

Although this is an academic study of Jasper’s life, I found it highly readable with a strong narrative thread. Dr Roberts draws from a wealth of contemporary sources from England, Wales and France, several of which were new to me, referenced in twenty-seven pages of endnotes. The book also has thirty colour illustrations and an informative appendix on the Welsh poetry and contemporary law texts which still survive. As well as providing a documented account of the events of the key people and events, the Welsh poems allow an often colourful insight into the late medieval period.

Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in understanding the world of the early Tudors.

Jasper the Tudor KIngmaker

Exile (1471-1485)

By Nathen Amin

The Exile

The rise of Henry Tudor from relative obscurity to become king of England is a tale that although renowned probably deserves greater attention than it has been afforded. Having been pursued through south Wales in the late-spring of 1471 after the Lancastrian capitulation at Tewkesbury in May, Jasper Tudor once more succeeded in escaping his enemies and managed to reach Tenby Harbour, where a boat was awaiting him to take him back to France. This time he had with him his 14 year old nephew Henry. Together they set out for the open sea and for France where they would seek refuge with their Valois relations. Fortune had different plans for the pair however. The Tudors were blown of course and were forced to alight at Le Conquet in the extreme west of the independent Duchy of Brittany. Unsure what would greet them as they made their way inland from the scenic Breton Coast and towards the Breton court at Nantes, the Tudors had begun their twelve year exile in the Duchy of Brittany.

Refugees

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

Chateau de Suscinio

Although things had begun in this fashion it was not a situation that would last. Their increasing status as pawns in the great diplomatic three-way tussle between the squabbling Bretons, French and English would gradually see the Tudors situation become more restricted. The English demanded they were treated as monitored prisoners whilst the French commanded they were put under stricter control so as to stop them being captured by the English. King Edward clearly wanted to extinguish this distant but last remaining line of the House of Lancaster and to finally secure his own House of York beyond all doubt whereas King Louis wanted the Tudors to use as a bargaining chip against England. Louis XI was also the first cousin of Jasper Tudor as his father King Charles VII was the brother of Jasper’s mother Catherine of Valois, the dowager Queen of England whom had scandalously married her servant Owen Tudor after her husband Henry V’s death.

This, Louis believed, meant he had right to the guardianship of his kinsmen. Duke Francis, undoubtedly with some reluctance after initially extolling himself as a gracious and respectful host, was forced to accept such terms and the Tudors movements subsequently began to be more limited. Finally the access to the sea was seen as more of a curse than a blessing as it was seen to be too exposed to the possibility of English attack. The Tudors stay at this scenic chateau was abruptly cut short and they were urgently relocated and perhaps of more concern to the pair, separated. Jasper was sent to the Chateau de Josselin whilst young Henry was placed in the formidable confines of Chateau de Largoet in Elven.

Prisoners

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

Standing at the base of the fortress wall, the height of the three connected towers that compromise today’s modern Chateau is truly astonishing and would surely have been a behemoth of the Middle Ages. One can only imagine the effect it would have had on Jasper as he stood beneath the towers for the first time, particularly as the castle would still have had many of its other towers still intact. Jasper was moved here at some point between 1473 and 1474 and would have either entered through the opulent gate in the town square or perhaps through the smaller gate through which visitors today enter the Chateau in the centre of the town itself. The castle would have been intact at this period, with nine towers and complete walls merely reinforcing this formidable structure. After it was slighted at a later period only four of the towers remain today but from the courtyard one still gets a feeling how impressive this fortress would have been. On the right hand side is the modern day Chateau and still home of the Rohan-Chabot Dukes, a gothic creation built into the original walls which overlook the flowing River Oust.

Chateau de Josselin

Although built decades after Jasper’s enforced stay here, the early 16th century renaissance building still displays the intricate architecture that has become synonymous with the period and is worth witnessing. Particularly worth studying are the differing galleries that can be found on the front of the facade, each demonstrating the various allegiances of the Rohan family, from the motto A PLUS to the large A for the then-duchess of Brittany, Anne. On the left hand side and thus directly opposite the Chateau stands one of the original towers, isolated from the reminder of the compound yet still standing proud and majestic. From the walls, one gets incredible views across the Oust Valley and although not on the ocean front, the chateau certainly has charming views that rival Suscinio. The keep itself where Jasper may have been kept prisoner is now gone, replaced by a simple empty space from which the banner of Josselin flies proudly over the valley.

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

Chateau de Largoet

Two things would have instantly captured Henry’s eye as he entered the courtyard of Largoet. On the left hand side and down a small dip stands the Round tower, three stories high with a hexagonal construction atop the highest level. The most striking aspect of the Chateau however is the incredibly high Tour d’Elven, the Elven Tower that stands 6 stories high and 144 feet from the base. This octagonal dungeon tower possesses a tiring 177 steps in total, is the highest dungeon in France and also was built to include views out to sea around 15 miles away. This immense structure had only been constructed around a decade earlier and it was in here which Henry would be housed for the next few years.

Tour D’Elven

Entering through the ground floor entrance, one can make their way up the large staircase to the second floor to the small and narrow room in which he was put. It is also possible that Henry was kept on the sixth floor, arguably the most impenetrable part of the entire chateau and demonstrative of his importance to the Bretons. The Lord of Rieux was an ally of Henry and felt honoured to be guarding this ‘comte of Richemonte’ and was duty bound to ensure he didn’t escape or was kidnapped. The evolving foreign policy of continental Europe during this period however would ensure the status of the Tudors would periodically be reevaluated by the Bretons.

Entrance to Tour D’Elven

A Close Escape

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

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

It was a mixture of quick thinking and the tight, cobbled streets of St Malo which possibly saved the life of Henry Tudor on that winter’s day in 1476 when, shortly after entering the town, he seemingly feigned an illness that swiftly halted the envoys march towards the ship, and thus England. As this delay was taking place, Admiral Quelennec had returned and was dismayed at his Duke’s action in releasing Henry Tudor from protective custody. The chivalric admiral felt that Duke Francis had made a promise in good faith and should have kept his oath to protect the Welshman. Convinced he had made a mistake, Francis sent his treasurer and key political aide Pierre Landais to St Malo in order to stop the sailing.

Aided by the delay through illness, Landais arrived just in time to advise the English the deal was off and entered into lengthy dialogue with the exasperated envoys. It appears during these heated exchanges, the 19 year old Henry slipped away from his captors and escaped through the narrow streets whilst being pursued. Making his way to the church that stands in the centre of the old town, the Earl of Richmond claimed sanctuary within the confines of St Vincent’s Cathedral. With the local Bretons unwilling to allow the English to break the sanctuary tradition by entering the Cathedral armed, the envoys eventually admitted loss in their attempt to take Henry back to England and they left the shores of Brittany empty handed. They had him their possession for only three days. St Malo’s Cathedral still stands proud in the centre of the town and in fact the roads are so narrow and tight as befitting its history as a medieval town the building appears almost out of nowhere as you wander aimlessly through the many streets. Henry used these streets to his advantage and managed to evade all attempts at detection. It must have been a terrifying event for the young exile.

St Malo Cathedral

The Lancastrian Claimant

Henry made his way back to the Breton Court for an audience with the Duke, Francis apologising profusely for his blunder and reassuring the Earl of Richmond that he would not be handed over to the English after all. It was an emotional reprieve for Henry. The English envoys were naturally furious at coming so close to attaining their goal of returning the Lancastrian exile to their Yorkist king but Pierre Landais and the Duke could only appease them by promising to again ensure the Tudors were kept secure in custody. Although lack of evidence exists to suggest the timeframes and locations of Henry’s next temporary place of residence, by 1480 he was in captivity at the Chateau L’Hermine in the southern coastal town of Vannes where he was joined from Josselin by his devoted uncle Jasper.

As throughout the exile, envoys from both France and England continued to pressurise Duke Francis and at such a critical point in the Dukedom’s history it may have seemed at times he had no reason but to capitulate. In June 1482 King Edward reconfirmed his alleged desire to welcome Henry Tudor back into his kingdom as a treasured member of his inner court, particularly once married into a strong Yorkist family of which he may have had in mind his own daughter Elizabeth of York. Edward stated that should Henry acquiesce to this request then he would treated as a loyal and valued courtier and not only would he receive his Beaufort inheritance on his mother’s death he would receive a whole lot more. The flipside of this however, should Henry continue with his exile, was that he would lose everything if he did not return to English shores immediately.

It is thought that Margaret Beaufort herself, a Lancastrian by birth whom had found herself married into the wider Yorkist regime, supported such a move. It certainly seemed to be the best this exiled Welshman could hope for at this junction. Although the Yorkist Dynasty seemed secure on the throne of England hitherto the political scene dramatically changed in April 1483 when the obese King Edward IV died, leaving his child and namesake Edward the new king. The future of Henry Tudor and the deal to bring him back home was suddenly cast into doubt. This was further complicated when Richard, Duke of Gloucester and younger brother to Edward IV, captured his nephew and usurped the crown. Disenfranchised Yorkists unhappy at this turn of events looked abroad to Henry as a possible alternative and scores of knights and nobles began to flee to Brittany. Duke Francis acknowledged this dramatic change in status of his charge and Henry was afforded greater freedom. This exiled Earl of Richmond found himself transformed from a little-known Lancastrian exile to a potential king-in-waiting. With little other prospects other than continuing his exile it was a role he embraced.

With his force growing daily as previously loyal Yorkists seeked sanctuary away from London, Henry Tudor faced his large force at Vannes Cathedral later that year and swore an oath to each and every man. He promised to lead them to the throne of England as their rightful monarch, to which he would have been greeted with support and the pledging of loyalty from the men. Henry left Vannes cathedral as a man with an army that was willing to fight for him, or at least to fight against Richard III. Henry and his closest advisors probably acknowledged that claim to the throne was weak, particularly as it was through an illegitimate female line.

The decision was taken that uniting his claim with that of Edward IV’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, would bolster his acceptance as monarch and ensure the continuing loyalty of the Yorkist dissidents. To this effect Henry met with his faction at Rennes’ St Pierre Cathedral to pledge an oath to marry Elizabeth and unite the rival Houses. The Cathedral in Rennes sits in the centre of the city and constitutes an incredibly high front façade that certainly matches the similar structure at Westminster Abbey. As you enter and your eyes become accustomed to the darkness, you instantly become aware of the numerous marble pillars on each side that lead down the aisle to the altar.

Rennes Cathedral

Situated underneath a great basilica and in the presence of many Catholic shrines, it was here on Christmas Day 1483 that Henry made his oath to marry Elizabeth of York and unite the warring factions. Present on this day was the majority of his force, both Yorkist and Lancastrian, in addition to the Duchess of Brittany herself. As the premier minister in the land Pierre Landais was also present and through him Henry obtained Francis’ solemn promise to support and assist in the cause. The ceremony included a mass which was officiated over by the Duchess’ own priest. Henry had entered into a pledge which he could not turn his back on; if his invasion of England was successful and he became King, he would marry Elizabeth of York. It was in effect a betrothal, a marriage in proxy. It could be argued that it was within Rennes Cathedral that the end of the Wars of the Roses was conceived.

Altar in Rennes Cathedral

The End of the Exile

Francis had grown increasingly ill and by 1484, his treasurer Pierre Landais was effectively in control of the dukedom. Francis had, for the main part, always kept his promise to protect Henry whilst he was in his control and had certainly grown accustomed to his company. With Henry’s role changing from mere exiled noble to claimant to the throne of England, both needed each other for different reasons. Henry needed Francis in order to succeed. Francis needed Henry to be King in order to gain a powerful ally in his constant battles with France. However during Francis illness during the summer of 1484, Landais began to listen to Richard’s constant overtures and certainly seemed as though he was about to hand the Tudors over. Landais not only thought this was the best thing for Brittany, but it was also self-preservation for himself to create a personal relationship with the King of England.

The plans to hand over Henry Tudor to Richard III were almost set in motion when Henry’s ally, Bishop Morton, had found out through his sources about the plot to betray him behind Francis’ back. Henry in turn decided to hatch his plan whereby he would escape across the border into France where he would seek asylum in the court of the new French king Charles VIII. Henry had already made two incredible escapes during his lifetime; first as a 14 year old from Tenby Harbour and again as a 19 year old from English forces in St Malo. Leaving his base at Vannes at some point in September under the pretence of visiting a supposed friend, around 5 miles later Henry suddenly left the road and dipped into the woods where he changed into the clothes of a peasant. Disguised from detection, Henry then rode fiercely for the French border and asylum at Charles’ court. His uncle Jasper had equally crossed the border two days earlier in a similar manner.

Henry’s escape had scuppered Pierre Landais’ plans to transfer Henry to prison and into the hands of King Richard III and in fact they were only an hour behind Henry as he raced through the marches and into French territory. Deeply troubled and ashamed at what had transpired, Francis conveyed his regret to Henry and rather than punishing the English exiles that had been left behind in Brittany, Francis provided them not only with safe conduct to France but helped to finance the move to France. It was an honourable move borne out of the chivalric characteristics Duke Francis had on the whole shown his Welsh guest and Henry was deeply thankful for this gesture. Provided with extra funds from France, whom were finally eager to use the Tudors in their diplomatic squabble with England, the plans to launch an invasion from the coast of France began to gain pace as did Henry’s own appeals to other nobles in Wales and England to support his claim.

The forces that Henry had gathered, a combination of Lancastrians, dissident Yorkists and French mercenaries, were assembled at the Norman port of Honfleur where on 1 August 1485 they finally set sail for the coast of Henry’s native Wales. Henry’s ragtag force landed at Mill Bay, Pembrokeshire on 7 August and landing on Welsh soil for the first time since he was forced into exile 14 years earlier, the Welshman fell to his knees and kissed the soil. Henry was heard to cry “Judge me, Lord and fight my cause”. Two weeks later Henry Tudor was proclaimed King of England and of France, Lord of Ireland and Prince of Wales.

The Royal Tudors and Brittany

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

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

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

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

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Nathen Amin grew up in the heart of Carmarthenshire, West Wales, and has long had an interest in Welsh history, the Wars of the Roses and the early Tudor period. His first book Tudor Wales was released in 2014 and was well-received, followed by a second book called York Pubs in 2016. His third book, the first, full-length biography of the Beaufort family, the House of Beaufort,  was released in 2017 and became a #1 Wars of the Roses bestseller. He is the founder of the Henry Tudor Society and has featured discussing the Tudors on BBC radio and television, as well as in print and online media across the UK. He has a degree in Business and Journalism and now lives in York, where he works as a Technical Writer.

The Extraordinary Bond Between an Uncle and His Nephew

By Debra Bayani

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

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

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

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

they obliterate us.

There was no sadness for even a moment

without joy and a leader.

As another Jasper of yore

came with the myrrh for wise Mary’s son,

so too Jasper (no less of a man)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The stag’s head with an eagle’s action

ahead of a company, he shatters passionately.

I aimed towards their cries,

the moon in a heavy battle yonder.

The eagle’s black chick succeeds

in bearing the crown, his tone is just,

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

for this man won’t have long to live.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selected sources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 About the Author

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

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