Book Review – Owen Tudor by Terry Breverton

By Nathen Amin

Many will be aware of the work of Welsh historian Terry Breverton, particularly his recent forays into the world of the Tudors. Amongst his recent work has been biographies of Henry VII (2016) and Jasper Tudor (2014) which sandwiched the interesting Tudor Kitchen; What the Tudors Ate & Drank (2015). On the tails of his work on two previous Tudors come this interesting biography on arguably the most fascinating member of this Welsh dynasty that captured the English crown – Owen Tudor.

The book is subtitled Founding Father of the Tudor Dynasty and this aptly summarises the life and times of Owen Tudor. He was born around 1400 to a Welsh family torn apart by his uncle Owain Glyndwr’s Welsh Wars of Independence, and migrated to England at a young age to find his fortune. And find a fortune he did, in the form of a queen of England, no less. Owen met, fell in love, and married Katherine de Valois, widow of Henry V and mother of the incumbent king, Henry VI.

His life thereafter is one of the most remarkable tales in English or Welsh history. Through Breverton’s easy to follow, if often blunt, narrative, we learn how Owen survived persecution and imprisonment after his royal wife’s premature death, helping raise two sons who would become earls of the realm as half-brothers to Henry VI, and standing behind one of those sons, Jasper, as the Wars of the Roses erupted in the late 1450s. Owen’s life came to a brutal end during the aftermath of the battle of Mortimer’s Cross between his son’s Lancastrian army and a Yorkist force led by the future king Edward III, a skirmish in which the subject of this biography fought despite being around 60 years old. Owen was captured and led to Hereford where he was mercilessly beheaded on the market square.

Owen Tudor, Founding Father of the Tudor Dynasty, also covers the ancestry of Owen, along with that of the woman with whom he would become forever associated, Katherine of Valois. The book is particularly interesting in that it is often written from a Welsh perspective by a Welsh author, offering insight into the life and motivations of the subject often lacking in English accounts through the ages, ignorant of the importance of Welsh prophecies and legends in helping propel the Tudors towards the throne of these islands. A chapter on Owen’s legacy makes for interesting reading, and naturally leads onto Breverton’s other books on Jasper and Henry Tudor, whilst an appendix uncovering Owen’s appearances in literature discusses his place in numerous fiction works, from a 1600 play called Owen Tudor through to the recent 2016 release by author Tony Riches. Its intriguing to read how Owen has been immortalised having just read his actual life story.

Breverton’s book may at times deviate from its subject, as to be expected from a study of a life of which we don’t know a great deal, but that’s not to say this work doesn’t have worth. Owen Tudor has long been an enigma of the medieval period, a swashbuckling hero almost more suited to romantic fiction than serious academic study. Indeed, the author notes in his introduction that this wasn’t an easy book to research. That being said, Owen Tudor by Terry Breverton is a long-overdue work dedicated to one of the more captivating figures of the Tudor dynasty. It should be remembered that every English monarch post-Henry VII was descended from Owen, not to mention various foreign rulers including five kings of France, several German emperors, kings of Spain, Norway, Greece, Italy, Denmark, Bulgaria and Belgium and even Marie Antoinette. An accomplished effort to conclude Breverton’s Tudor biographical trilogy.

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Historian Terry Breverton is a former businessman, consultant and academic and is now a full-time writer, having received the Welsh Books Council’s Book of the Month Award five times. He is an expert in Welsh culture and history and has presented documentaries on the Discovery Channel, the History Channel etc. Terry has worked in over 20 countries and has written over 40 well-received books including Richard III: The King in the Carpark; Breverton’s First World War Curiosities; Owain Glyndŵr: The Story of the Last Prince of Wales; Wales: The Biography; Wales: A Historical Companion; Immortal Words; Immortal Last Words; Breverton’s Nautical Curiosities: A Book of the Sea; Breverton’s Phantasmagoria; Breverton’s Encyclopaedia of Inventions; Black Bart Roberts; The Journal of Penrose, Seaman and Breverton’s Complete Herbal.

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Henry VII and the House of York

By Nathen Amin

When the subject of Henry VII is often raised, attention inevitably turns to the allegedly draconian, even tyrannical, way he treated the Yorkist relations of his wife Elizabeth. The accusation goes that once Henry, the great Lancastrian hope, captured the throne from Richard III, he set about vanquishing the remnants of the House of York, securing the victory of the Red Rose.

The reality is, as with most things with the Wars of the Roses, far more complex. The Wars of the Roses cannot, and should not, ever been seen in binary – it was not ever as simple as Red Rose vs White Rose, or Good vs Bad. It has sometimes been referred to in recent years as the Cousins’ War, but even that doesn’t provide enough inside into just how intermarried the key figures in the Wars were. We all know that Warwick the Kingmaker, for example, was not only a cousin to the Yorks, but also the Beauforts against whom he waged such brutal war. But even the lesser nobles were often connected to the men who killed them.

So to return to Henry VII and the House of York. A key thing to consider is that Henry, although portrayed as the ‘Lancastrian’ heir, came to the throne on a tide of Yorkist support. After the death of Edward IV and the ascendancy of Richard III, what comprised the Edwardian Yorkist household effectively splintered. Some stayed loyal to Richard, and those who suspected he had killed the princes of their former master, fled to Brittany and France into the awaiting embrace of the unknown entity Henry Tudor. Their allegiance to the Tudor cause, rather than the Lancastrian cause, had as much to do with their opposition to Richard than their support for Henry. Therefore, at Bosworth and thereafter, the court and household of Henry VII had a distinctive Yorkist air to it. It was by no means a Lancastrian takeover.

With that in mind, from the outset, Henry did not, nor could he, simply vanquish the House of York as an entity, as a living, breathing, movement. He needed the allegiance of the remaining members, whether grudging or not, and more importantly required the assiduous service of their influential, and experienced, servants. Of those surviving children and grandchildren of Duke Richard of York, therefore, it becomes clear that Henry was far from heavy-handed, at least until given cause. Let’s take a look at what became of the House of York during the reign of Henry VII.

Children of Edward IV

We are unsure of the fate of the Princes in the Tower, although I am satisfied to believe they were disappeared in the summer of 1483 as seems the likeliest fate. Elizabeth obviously became queen of England through her marriage to Henry VII, and despite claims to the contrary, was treated well by a devoted husband, with both touchingly consoling one another after the death of Prince Arthur. But what of the other children of Edward IV that survived into Tudor rule? Were they wiped out by a vengeful Henry VII? Well, no.

Cecily of York had been contracted with marriage to Ralph Scrope, a member of Richard III’s northern affinity, but that union was annulled upon Henry’s accession. In 1487, she was married to the king’s half-uncle, John Welles, 1st Viscount Welles, a man of unquestionable loyalty to the king, and an astute choice in rendering any Yorkist-descended children from the union politically irrelevant. Any accusations that Cecily was harshly treated need to be discounted; Henry marrying his sister-in-law to a royal favourite of minor importance was the same tactic Richard had taken, and there is a suggestion Cecily enjoyed a happy marriage. The Viscount’s will in February 1499 makes reference to his ‘dere beloved lady and wife’, who he trusted ‘above all oder’.

Cecily of York remained around the royal court, and participated in the several Tudor royal ceremonies, even carrying Prince Arthur at his christening and then bearing the train of Catherine of Aragon at the prince’s wedding. She only found disfavour with the king when she impetuously married for a third time to an obscure squire named Kyme. This took place without the king’s permission, and Cecily was banished from court for a short time in disgrace, although the compassionate intervention of Lady Margaret Beaufort allowed her to eventually return. She passed away without surviving issue in 1507.

Like Cecily, Anne of York was also betrothed by Richard III to one of his supporters, in this case Thomas Howard, whose father and grandfather fought for Richard at Bosworth. Despite the potential threat of a Yorkist-Howard child eventually making a play for the throne, Henry VII allowed the married to go ahead in 1495. unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for the Tudors when you consider Howard’s later actions in the reign of Henry VIII as 3rd Duke of Norfolk, the couple had no children surviving to adulthood. Like Cecily, Anne was treated as befitted her status as a royal princess, albeit Yorkist. She carried the chrisom at the christening of Prince Arthur and Princess Margaret, and was a regular around court.

Katherine of York was put forward in 1487 as a potential bride to the duke of Ross, a second son of James III of Scotland, by Henry, using her Yorkist blood to try to procure an alliance, although the death of the Scottish king a year later ended discussions. She was later married to William Courtenay, a royal commander and heir of the Earl of Devon, a supporter of Tudor at Bosworth. William proved to be untrustworthy, however, and was attainted in 1504 by Henry VII for joining a conspiracy with Edmund de la Pole, the duke of Suffolk. He would eventually be restored to his estates after the king’s death.

Unlike Cecily or Anne, Katherine did have surviving issue with her husband; Henry Courtenay, possibly named for the king, was born in 1496 and eventually became Marquis of Exeter under Henry VIII. His Yorkist blood would, however, become an issue during the 1530s and he was accused of colluding with his Pole cousins to overthrow his other cousin, Henry VIII. He was beheaded in 1538. Nonetheless, events 30 years after the death of Henry VII hardly make him culpable in the destruction of Exeter. Henry VII may have forseen such issues when marrying a Yorkist princess to a peer of the realm, but he nonetheless didn’t forbid such a union. This seems hardly in keeping with his alleged desire to destroy the House of York. Why not just force her to marry a nobody?

The last legitimate child of Edward IV to survive into the Tudor reign was Bridget of York; she caused Henry far less issues, for Bridget was prepared for a religious life, becoming a nun at Dartford priory. She remained in contact with her royal kinfolk, and survived until 1517, leaving no issue due to her vow to God.

Edward IV was a notoriously promiscuous man, and had at least one acknowledged heir, named Arthur Plantagenet. Presumably protected by his illegitimately, although something which could be overturned with the cooperation of a friendly parliament, Arthur prospered under Tudor rule. By 1501 he was part of his half-sister Queen Elizabeth’s household, and part of Henry VII’s after her demise, suggesting he was trusted enough by the Tudor king to be in his inner circle. Arthur’s rise accelerated in his nephew Henry VIII’s reign, becoming Viscount Lisle and Constable of Calais before finally falling foul of an increasingly tyrannical king in 1540.

Children of George, Duke of Clarence

The children of George, Duke of Clarence, suffered a considerably different fate under the Tudors than their uncle Edward’s offspring, although Clarence’s eldest surviving child, Margaret, shared a similar path to her female cousins during the reign of Henry VII. Having been retrieved from Sheriff Hutton Castle after the king’s accession, where she had been placed by her uncle Richard III, in 1487, Margaret was married to a Welshman named Richard Pole, whose St John mother was a half-sister to Margaret Beaufort, the king’s beloved mother. It seems likely the match was intended to lessen the chances of her being used as a figurehead for a Yorkist rebellion, particularly so soon after one was crushed at Stoke Field that same year, but although Shakespeare’s Henry callously uttered that Clarence’s daughter ‘meanly have I match’d in marriage’, she was nonetheless wed to one of Henry’s closest, and most trusted relations.

Richard Pole was not a wealthy magnate, and certainly not someone who may have anticipated marrying a niece of a king and a daughter of a duke, but he did rise high in his cousin’s court, becoming a Knight of the Garter in 1499 and entrusted with the position of Great Chamberlain of Prince Arthur’s household at Ludlow, receiving significant power in north Wales in the process. Margaret’s prospects dimmed somewhat after the death of the prince in 1502, when her own role as a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon ended, followed by the demise of her husband in 1504, causing her to seek refuge with the nuns at Syon Abbey. She had five children with Richard, and although she and her sons would become bitterly opposed to the Tudor regime later in the sixteenth century, at the time of Henry VII’s death in 1509, there is little evidence of activity either way during the period in question.

Margaret’s brother Edward, Earl of Warwick, suffered a tragic fate under Henry VII, one which possibly marks the lowest point in the king’s reign from a moral standpoint, although conversely a demise which arguably secured the Tudor dynasty on the throne. Edward was ten years old when Henry won at Bosworth, but the child’s bloodline was unquestionably a threat to the king’s fledgling dynasty. Whilst true that his father Clarence’s attainder in 1478 technically barred Warwick from the crown, a technicality that cleared the way to Richard III to claim the throne in 1483, it was nevertheless very possibly he could become a focus for disaffected Ricardian Yorkists, prompting his imprisonment in the Tower of London. It wasn’t that the boy had done anything wrong himself, but rather that other’s may do wrong on his behalf, as ultimately happened.

It is unlikely Warwick’s imprisonment was a harsh one, and in 1490 he was even confirmed by the king as earl. It is unclear what his long-term prospects were, but Edward’s fate was sealed in 1499 during the negotiations for the king’s son Arthur’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon. It was claimed that a plot was uncovered which implicated the earl in planning to escape the Tower with Perkin Warbeck, and on 21 November 1499, Edward was found guilty by his peers and executed on Tower Hill a week later. It was an extrajudicial murder that left a stain on Henry VII’s reign, an undoubtedly ruthless act but one, unfortunately, which was probably done at the bidding of the Spanish monarchs before they entrust their daughter Katherine into the care of the Tudors. Edward had to die for the Tudors to survive. Perhaps through guilt, Henry paid for Edward’s head and body to be buried at Bisham Abbey.

Children of Richard III

Richard III’s son and heir Edward famously died whilst his father was on the throne, a bitter blow to a monarch struggling to maintain his grip on a crown he had wrested so controversially from his nephew. Richard did leave two illegitimate heirs, however, who are known to have lived in the reign of Henry VII. John of Gloucester was Captain of Calais during his father’s lifetime, but was removed after the Tudor accession, it presumably deemed unwise to have Richard’s son in charge of the largest royal garrison. John wasn’t completely ostracised, as there is evidence he was granted an annuity of £20 by Henry VII in March 1486. After this, however, John, contemptuously known as John of Pontefract, disappears somewhat from records. There is no evidence whatsoever what happened to him, and to suggest he was executed by Henry based on a dubious 17th century reference is an unqualified leap.

John’s half, possibly full, sister Katherine was another illegitimate child of Richard III, who married William Herbert, Earl of Huntingdon, during her father’s reign. She didn’t live long under Tudor rule, however, passing away before the end of 1487 when her husband was referred to as a widower. Neither John nor Katherine had any known children.

Other Yorkist Descendants

Anne of York was a daughter of Richard, duke of York and therefore a sister to king’s Edward IV and Richard III. She was married at a young age to Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter and an implacable Lancastrian who drowned in unclear circumstances in 1475, possibly even murdered on orders of Edward IV. Anne was divorced from Exeter in 1472 and remarried two years later to one of Edward’s followers, Thomas St Leger, later executed by Richard III as one of the Edwardian Yorkists who turned from Richard to support the Buckingham-Tudor conspiracy. Anne died in 1476, but her Yorkist blood endured in the daughter she had with her second husband, Anne St Leger.  The orphaned Anne was around nine years old at the time of the Tudor victory, and eventually married in her teenage years to George Manners, and another close companion of Henry VII and who became Baron de Ros in 1511. The Manners’ had numerous children together, including Thomas Manners, who rose to become 1st Earl of Rutland and a notable favourite of Henry VIII, dying peaceably in 1543. Other St Leger daughters made reasonably prosperous marriages into the English gentry during the sixteenth century, escaping any notable attention from the Tudor regime.

Margaret of York was another daughter of Richard of York, and her life took a different path to her siblings, married abroad in 1468 to the Duke of Burgundy, becoming duchess until her husband’s death in 1477. Although childless, with her stepdaughter becoming her father’s heir, Margaret remained in Burgundy, where she proved to be a thorn in Henry VII’s side until her death in 1503. Margaret’s sister Elizabeth succeeded where her sibling failed, giving birth to several York-blooded heirs with her husband John de la Pole, 2nd Duke of Suffolk. The duke fought for his brother-in-law Richard at Bosworth, but after the Tudor victory, submitted to the new king and became a loyal royal servant until his death in the early 1490s. Unlike the rest of the Yorkist affinity, his children proved difficult for the Tudors. The eldest, John de la Pole, created Earl of Lincoln by Richard III and probably intended to be his uncle’s eventual heir, initially submitted and served as part of Henry VII’s council. Lincoln’s sudden rebellion in 1487 however ended in his death at the Battle of Stoke Field, where it is probable he was using the pretender Lambert Simnel to mask his own attempt to seize the throne.

Lincoln’s position as potential Yorkist heir was assumed by his brother Edmund de la Pole, who eventually inherited his father’s dukedom of Suffolk. Edmund’s head was turned, however, particularly after his demotion to earl in 1493. In 1501, Suffolk fled the kingdom, seeking refuge with the Burgundians, arguably a treasonable act and unquestionably a malicious move. He was forcibly returned to England in 1506 as a result of a new treaty between Burgundy and Henry VII, and remained imprisoned in the Tower of London until the king’s death in 1509. Suffolk would be executed four years later.

Humphrey de la Pole did not follow his brothers, entering the church instead, although William de la Pole, whether willingly or otherwise, found himself dragged into the conspiracies of his brothers. Whilst Edmund escaped abroad, William was deemed untrustworthy and imprisoned in the Tower in 1501. He would remain there for the entirety of Henry VII’s reign, eventually dying, still a captive, in 1539. The youngest de la Pole brother, Richard, also proved troublesome for the Tudors, although still a minor throughout Henry VII’s lifetime. He joined his brother Edmund in exile around 1504, and remained abroad for the remainder of the king’s lifetime, eventually dying fighting for the French in 1525.

Conclusion

As can be clearly determined from the, admittedly simplified, biographical accounts given above, the House of York was not systematically or cruelly destroyed by Henry VII during his 24-year-reign. Of the females, most were married to men close to the Tudor regime, and whilst marriages to comparatively low-born men has been interpreted as an act of callousness, none were slaughtered, killed, imprisoned or ruined. All were taken care of, and some raised families of their own, spreading the York blood through English society.

The de la Poles suffered under Henry VII, yet much of that was self-inflicted. The Duke of Suffolk was welcomed into the king’s circle after Bosworth, and there is every chance his York-blooded sons would have followed suit. Lincoln’s defection in 1487 put paid to that, as did the questionable choices of his brothers. The hand of peace had been extended to them, as Edward IV had done to his enemies in a previous generation, but it was smacked away. That is not Henry VII’s fault.

As mentioned, the execution of Edward, earl of Warwick, is regrettable, although one must acknowledge these were tough times where often the ‘ends justified the means’. That end was the consolidation of the Tudor dynasty on the European stage through a Spanish alliance. It was a small price to pay for such a large reward. Henry VII would not be the first, nor the last, king to approve such a tactic.

So, in conclusion, during the reign of Henry VII – one Yorkist heir was killed, albeit in accordance with the law of the land, and another died during a battle, having rebelled against the crown and denounced a traitor in the process. The rest survived the reign, and whatever happened thereafter, was clearly not Henry VII’s responsibility. Henry Tudor – the butcherer of York? The reality differs considerably from the myth.

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

Henry (Book Three of the Tudor Trilogy) by Tony Riches

By Nathen Amin

‘Henry’ is the much-awaited third instalment of Tony Riches’ well-received and well-reviewed ‘Tudor Trilogy’ series, following up on ‘Owen’ (reviewed here) and ‘Jasper’, released in 2015 and 2016 respectively. As with its predecessors, ‘Henry’ follows a similar format with an easy-to-read narrative allowing you to become consumed by a fast-paced story covering the most fascinating aspects of the subject’s life. It doesn’t take long for you to feel part of the story, always a positive when it comes to a work of fiction you’re hoping will allow you an escape from the pressures of real life.

The book, twenty-five chapters long, begins in August 1485 with the attention-grabbing admission from the main character that he never in fact wanted to be king. Riches’ sombre Henry proves to be a reluctant hero, a man who stepped up to the plate because there was nobody else to challenge the tyranny of Richard III. As his uncle Jasper puts it to his nephew, “if you were king, you could bring peace to this country”. This serves as Henry’s motivation throughout the book, something I believe was true of the historical Henry;

“The archbishop blessed their union and declared them man and wife. Henry lifted Elizabeth’s gossamer veil and kissed her. As he did so, a weight lifted from his shoulders. He’d finally united Lancaster and York and would never have to face life alone again”.

As is Riches’ well-established style, the story doesn’t dawdle or stutter, and remains fast-paced throughout the work. There is little time wasted on irrelevant minute details, but rather the book is very much plot-driven, from Henry’s coronation to the birth of his children, whilst major story arcs include the various pretenders who threatened his throne and the heart-wrenching deaths of his wife and heir. This is not to suggest the work is rushed and incomplete; before you realise it, you will have read far more in one sitting than anticipated, such is the struggle to extradite yourself away from the Tudor court and put the book to one side.

A significant part of the book is spent exploring the relationship between Henry and his wife Elizabeth; unlike other fiction books featuring the pair, Riches’ follows known historical fact and puts forward a warm, even loving, relationship between the pair. They play cards together, hunt together, plan their family and even discuss policy in private, very much a united power-couple. I particularly felt touched by Henry’s gradual alienation from his children, and the realisation at one point that he barely knew his seven-year-old son Arthur, having become preoccupied with matters of state. At one point, the young prince, a serious character, refers to his father as ‘your grace’ and is gently admonished by the king.

‘Father’. He corrected his shy son. ‘You must call me father’. Henry studied his son’s thin, pale face and glimpsed an echo of his himself at the same age. ‘You are growing into a fine scholar, Arthur’, he grinned, ‘but we must make time for merrymaking. We shall spend more time together. I will teach you how to lose your money at cards!’

Henry is a likeable protagonist, portrayed at odds with the cold caricature often found in similar works that is at odds with the real Henry. He is backed up a charming Elizabeth for whom it is easy to fall for, her attractiveness leaping off the page. What I enjoyed most, however, was how Henry was shown to be a real man; not a superhero, not infallible, not perfect, but just a flawed man trying to navigate his way through a chaotic life using his considerable mental faculties, innate determination to do the best and natural inclination for caution. The book is an easy-to-read escape and a fitting conclusion to the Tudor Trilogy series. There are far worse historical fiction books on the market, and with ones featuring Henry VII, there are few better than Riches’ ‘Henry’. I strongly suggest you pick up your copy soon, or, even better, get hold of all three instalments in the trilogy.

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Tony Riches is a full time author from Pembrokeshire, West Wales, an area full of inspiration for his writing. After several successful non-fiction books, Tony turned 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. Best known for his Tudor Trilogy, Tony’s other international best sellers include ‘Warwick ~ The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses’ and ‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’. In his spare time Tony enjoys sailing and sea kayaking. Visit Tony online at http://www.tonyriches.co.uk, Tony Riches Author on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @tonyriches.

Book Review – The Seymours of Wolf Hall by David Loades

By Nathen Amin

The term ‘Wolf Hall’ has become widely recognised in recent years thanks to the title of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning tour de force, released to much acclaim in 2010. Whilst the protagonist of Mantel’s fictional work is a certain Thomas Cromwell, Wolf Hall itself refers to the family home of the Seymours, a provincially important dynasty based in the Wiltshire manor house.

David Loades book unquestionably intends to capitalise on the considerable attention given to Wolf Hall and its one-time inhabitants through Mantel’s award-winning words, but this isn’t to diminish the scope of Loades’ work; this is a long overdue assessment of the life and times of the foremost of the Seymours, briefly encompassing their beginnings to the apex of their influence during the reigns of Henry VIII and the Seymour-blooded Edward VI. As Loades notes at the outset; “The Seymour family was one of the most prominent at the Tudor court”. Their worth as subjects of such a work does not stem solely from Mantel’s influence.

The book is subtitled ‘A Tudor Family Story’, and with good reason, as the focus of the book is unquestionably Edward and Thomas Seymour, the brothers of Queen Jane who rose high in the Tudor court after their sister’s marriage to Henry VIII in 1537. Edward gradually replaced Thomas Cromwell as King Henry’s chief servant after 1540, becoming earl of Hertford, duke of Somerset and, after the accession of his nephew Edward VI, Lord Protector of England. Thomas was Lord High Admiral, and based at Sudeley Castle with his wife Katherine Parr, the final wife of King Henry, was briefly in custody of the young Princess Elizabeth. Queen Jane, meanwhile, was the focus of Loades’ previous work ‘Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s Favourite Wife’, which serves as a great companion piece to this particular work.

The author is an Emeritus Professor of the University of Wales, not to mention a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and as to be expected from such an accomplished academic figure, the book is a thorough, thought-provoking, masterpiece when it comes to the Seymour family in the sixteenth century. You won’t find irrational leaps of opinion or wild speculation in this book unlike many other similar productions, but rather hard fact and logical conclusions drawn directly from available primary source material. Loades’ book is about the real Seymours and how they lived, politicked and endured, not fictional conjecture with little basis in reality. I do feel the book glosses over the origins of the family, founded in the seventh century, and quickly advances to the life and times of Sir John Seymour, the queen’s father, but this is probably not an issue for an intended audience primarily concerned with learning about the Tudor Seymours. This criticism is quickly offset by the engaging introduction from Professor Loades where he effectively justifies the necessity of his work.

The Seymours of Wolf Hall’ is ultimately a much-recommended companion to the more mainstream works on Henry VIII and his extraordinary reign, whilst also serving as a splendid book in its own right. It serves as an ideal read for those looking to broaden their horizons on all things Tudor, and ultimately, whether on topic or off, Professor Loades is one of the most eminent authorities on the Tudor court. There is much to learn from this book.

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David Loades was Emeritus Professor of the University of Wales and an Honorary Member of the University of Oxford, History Faculty. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, Vice-President of the Navy Record Society and former President of the Ecclesiastical History Society. He is the author of over thirty books on the sixteenth century, specializing in the Tudors.

Top Ten Myths About Henry VIII

By Amy Licence

MadeGlobal’s “All About” series is the perfect choice for anyone who wants to know more about the key characters of history. The books are colourfully illustrated throughout, have a simple narrative to explain the key points in the character’s life and more detailed sections for the more- able reader or teacher. The book also contains a section of thought-provoking questions which can be used to further discussions about history.

Henry VIII is probably the most famous Tudor. He was a handsome, athletic young man; he never expected to become king and so was determined to enjoy his reign. Henry had six wives but could hate as passionately as he loved. He even had two wives executed. Henry surrounded himself with extraordinary men, including Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell, and, during his reign, he changed religion forever in England. His son and daughters went on to be famous monarchs too.

Why did Henry have so many wives? Why was his reign so important?

Here are ten myths often mentioned when discussing Henry VIII

  1. Henry had six wives.

Well, yes and no. It depends on who you ask. Today we accept all the six women- Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr- as Henry’s wives and queens. He went through a wedding ceremony with each of them willingly, save for Anne of Cleves, which he wanted to wriggle out of, but it was diplomatically difficult. Yet if you asked Henry himself, he would say he had two or three true wives. According to the king, his unions with Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves were all invalid because of precontracts or other circumstances, meaning that he had been mistaken at best, deceived at worst. Henry would claim Jane Seymour as his first wife and certainly Catherine Parr as his last. His fifth wife, Catherine Howard was executed, so there was no lengthy annulment, but her precontract with Francis Dereham would have made that match invalid in the king’s eyes too.

2. Henry was huge.

At the end of his life, in his late forties and early fifties, Henry did put on weight, so this is true of that time. By his death, he had a fifty-three inch chest and a fifty-two inch waist. However, for years before this, Henry was handsome, athletic and strong. His punishing physical routine of hunting and jousting kept him in shape and he was considered to be one of the most attractive men of his day, with his red-gold hair and angelic features, as Thomas More described them.

3. Henry had syphilis.

This is very unlikely. The theory didn’t actually emerge until the late nineteenth century, when a historian identified a “ridge” on the king’s nose, in a portrait, which was supposed to indicate the final stages of the disease. However, Henry showed no symptoms of it during his lifetime and was never subjected to the contemporary mercury treatments for syphilis that his French counterpart, Francis I, took regularly. Equally, none of Henry’s children displayed signs of congenital syphilis.

4. Henry was originally intended for the church.

No, he wasn’t. It’s certainly true that Henry wasn’t intended for the throne, as he had an elder brother Arthur, who was being trained up by their father as the next Tudor king. Arthur received a very different education at Ludlow Castle, while Henry was brought up with his sisters at Eltham Palace. Yet it would have been very unlikely that his parents had ever destined him for the church and his upbringing shows no signs of it. If he had been the fourth, fifth, or sixth son, this might have been the case but, although Arthur’s death was not expected, life was fragile and could swiftly end. Henry VII and Elizabeth of York had lost a couple of children in infancy and knew the dangers. Prince Henry was raised as the spare heir but, from the age of eleven, was in line to inherit. This misapprehension may arise from descriptions of him during his teens, in which an observer commented that he was kept closeted away.

5. Henry was a big eater.

Reputedly so, but then he would have needed to eat lots to replace the calories he burned off, spending days in the saddle. There would have been no throwing the bones into the fire though, as some popular films have suggested. Impeccable manners were an essential at court.

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6. Henry was something of a prude.

This one is difficult to know, as it’s all about what happened behind closed doors. While Henry was definitely not the celebrated Romeo that Francis I proved to be, he did have mistresses and fathered at least one illegitimate child that we know of. And that’s the key to this one: it’s about what we do know and what we don’t know. Henry wasn’t so much a prude, as very private and discreet. We only know about his affair with Bessie Blount because she fell pregnant and about Mary Boleyn because it raised potential problems when he wanted to marry her sister. Without those accidents, we would know nothing about Henry’s mistresses at all. So there may well have been others.

7. Henry nearly died twice.

He did indeed! In 1536, the king suffered a terrible fall during a joust, in which his horse fell on top of him, leaving him unconscious for two hours. Then, in 1538, the ulcer on his leg became infected and he writhed in pain for over a week, reputedly turning black in the face, so that his life was despaired of. Things would have been very different in England, had either of those occasions finished him off. He must have been very strong indeed to survive both.

8. Henry was a Protestant.

No! Henry broke with the Pope and established himself as the head of the church of England but, until the day he died, he considered himself to be a reformed Catholic. It was the abuses of the Catholic church he rejected and continued to persecute Protestants as heretics. Sometimes his reforms did seem to send mixed messages, and he drew back from some of them towards the end of his life.

9. Henry executed lots of people.

Henry did not shy away from inflicting “justice.” Especially towards the end of his life, he stepped up his campaign to rid himself of his enemies, even those who had formerly been his close friends, ministers or even his relatives. After the death of Anne Boleyn in 1536, he pursued any perceived treason very harshly, with another purge of his “enemies” in 1538 and, 1541, sending the elderly Margaret Pole to the block. He was ready to make an example of those who rose against him too, ordering mass executions of those protesting against religious reform following the Pilgrimage of Grace. Those who spoke out against his regime, him, or his wives, in the 1530s and 1540s, even through reported gossip, could expect the worst.

10. Henry’s palaces were dirty and smelly.

Well, they were, but only after several weeks of the court being in residence there. Henry himself was rather a clean freak, obsessed with avoiding the bad odours and airs that were thought to spread illness. He had baths installed in his palaces, either made of stone or of wood lined with linen, all supplied by pumped water. He gave detailed instructions for the regular cleaning of his son Edward’s apartments and moved regularly to allow cleaning to take place. His close-stools were regularly changed, his laundry washed and scented, and his rooms swept and perfumed. In later years, the ulcer on his leg did emit unpleasant smells, but that was the result of illness, not lack of hygiene.

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Amy Licence is an historian of women’s lives in the medieval and early modern period, from Queens to commoners. Her particular interest lies in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, in gender relations, Queenship and identity, rites of passage, pilgrimage, female orthodoxy and rebellion, superstition, magic, fertility and childbirth. She is also interested in Modernism, specifically Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, Picasso and Post-Impressionism.

Amy has written for The Guardian, The TLS, The New Statesman, BBC History, The English Review, The Huffington Post, The London Magazine and other places. She has been interviewed regularly for BBC radio, including Woman’s Hour, and made her TV debut in “The Real White Queen and her Rivals” documentary, for BBC2, in 2013. She also writes literary fiction and has been shortlisted twice for the Asham Award.

Her website can be found at amylicence.weebly.com and her new book can be found at the following Amazon link;

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.

William Brandon; Henry VII’s Standard Bearer

By Sarah Bryson

On the 22nd of August 1485 King Richard III met his death at the Battle of Bosworth field. With his death ended the rule of the Plantagenet Kings. Yet only a short time earlier in the battle anotherman had died by the very lance of Richard III. His name was Sir William Brandon and it would be his son, almost thirty years later that would become King Henry VIII’s most beloved and closest friend.

When Sir William Brandon died it is reported that he was close to Henry Tudor, proudly holding Henry standard high. Richard III charged at Henry’s standard bearer with his lance, the lance piercing through Brandon and breaking in half. History records that William Brandon ‘hevyd on high’ Henry Tudor’s standard, ‘and vamisyd it, tyll with deathe’s dent he was tryken downe’. William Brandon drew his last breath fighting for Henry Tudor to become King. Little would he know the great legacy that his death left his one-year- old son Charles Brandon the future Duke of Suffolk.

There appear to be very few facts related to William Brandon. His father was Sir William Brandon of Wangford and Southwark (b. approx. 1425 d. 1491). William Brandon Snr rose from relative security under the service of John de Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk. Before the Duke died in 1476 he granted Sir William a seat in the local Parliament and also the marriage to Elizabeth Wingfield (d. 28th April 1497). William had a long list of accomplishments including becoming Marshal of the King’s Bench, Burgess (M.P) for Shoreham, Knight for the Shire of Suffolk and Collector of Customs at Kings Lynn and Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. William Brandon was also present at the battle of Tewkesbury. The battle of Tewkesbury was one of the most decisive battles in English history where Prince Edward, Henry VI’s son, was killed and the Lancastrian forces, of which William was a part of, were decisively defeated. Despite their loss William Brandon was knighted for his efforts. William must have been able to come to terms with the Lancastrian loss as he was present at the coronation of Richard III, brother of Yorkist King Edward V.

Sir William and Elizabeth Wingfield had three sons, Robert Brandon, William and the youngest Thomas. It has also been proposed that the couple also had several daughters two of those being Anne and Elizabeth although there is contradictory evidence to support this claim. William Brandon Junior was born around 1456.

There appears to be some scandal surrounding William Brandon Junior. In 1478 Sir John Paston wrote that:

‘yonge William Brandon is in warde and arestyd ffor thatt he scholde have fforce ravysshyd and swyvyd an olde jentylwoman , and yitt was nott therwith easysd, butt swyvyd hyr oldest dowtr, and than wolde have swyvyd the other sustr bothe; wherforr men sey ffowle off hym, and that he wolde ete the henne and alle hyr chekynnys; and som seye that the Kynge ententdyth to sitte upon hym, and men seye he is lyke to be hangyd, ffor he hathe weddyd a wedowe’

John Paston’s letter suggests that sometime during or before 1478 William Brandon forced himself upon an older woman and also made an attempt to have some sort of relationship with the woman’s daughters. In addition to this great offence, the letter claim’s that the King, Edward IV was not pleased by this news and that the punishment for such horrible crimes was to be hanged. It is interesting to note that despite the required punishment there does not seem to be any record of William Brandon serving time in prison or being punished accordingly. It could be that they were mere gossip or hearsay or that those that were alleging these crimes did not have enough power behind them to see Brandon fully punished. Whatever the case Brandon was not punished and he managed to return to King Edward IV’s good graces.

William had strong Lancastrian ties and supported Henry VI during the Wars of the Roses. However when Henry VI was defeated and eventually murdered and Edward IV came to the throne, the Brandons changed sides. They pledged their support to the new Yorkist King Edward IV, however upon his death his brother Richard III came to the throne and the Brandon’s loyalty quickly began to fade. William Brandon and his brother Thomas soon became dissatisfied with the new King and the shock deposition of the future Edward V and decided to join The Duke of Buckingham’s rebellion in 1483. The rebellion was led by Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and aimed to have Richard III removed from the throne and replaced by his nephew Edward, oldest son of Edward IV. However, rumours abound that Edward was dead and the plan was changed to replace Richard III with Henry Tudor. It was at this time that Henry made his first attempt to lay claim to the throne. He sailed with a small army from Brittany. However due to poor weather Henry and his men had to return. Without Henry Tudor’s men, Buckingham’s own army floundered and a bounty was put upon his head. He was eventually captured, convicted of treason and beheaded in Salisbury on the 2nd of November 1483.

Despite supporting the Duke of Buckingham and his failed rebellion both William and Thomas Brandon managed to remain in England, however by 1484 both became dissatisfied with Richard III once more and left England. The brothers headed to Brittany to join with Henry Tudor and support his claim to the throne. In the spring of 1484, King Richard III issued a general pardon to several men that had rebelled against him, one of those being William Brandon. It is unclear if this pardon was issued before or after William Brandon left to join forces with Henry Tudor. If it was indeed before William may not have trusted the King’s words after the failed rebellion and the execution of the Duke of Buckingham. If the pardon had been issued after William had left for Europe it may be that he had no knowledge of the pardon or if he had then he might have felt it simply too late as he had already hedged his lot with Henry Tudor. Whatever the reason for not accepting this pardon it was believed at this time William’s wife Elizabeth was pregnant with their son Charles.

Elizabeth Bruyn of South Ockendon was the daughter and co-heiress of Sir Henry Bruyn. Elizabeth was first married to Thomas Tyrell Esquire who had died in 1473. Sir Bruyn died in 1466 leaving Elizabeth a portion of her father’s wealth. Elizabeth and William Brandon married sometime between 1473 and 1476. Elizabeth survived the death of her husband William in 1485 and lived on until March 1493/4.

To William and Elizabeth Brandon Henry Tudor must have signified hope and a future. The Wars of the Roses had brought a great deal of upheaval to England and now leaving the country they placed all their hope in Henry Tudor and his campaign. Laying claim to the English throne was one thing but obtaining it was another. Throughout 1483/84 Henry and his ever-growing group of supporters relied heavily upon Duke Francis of Brittany for support and received payments from the Duke to help pay for their day to day upkeep. In September 1484 Henry Tudor threw himself upon the mercy of King Charles VII of France and begged him for support for his campaign. The King agreed and helped Henry and his supporters purchase resources and mercenaries for the campaign ahead.

The 1st of August 1485 was to be the day that Henry Tudor would finally leave France after fourteen years of exile in Brittany and France aiming to lay claim to the English throne. He set sail from Harfleur, France accompanied by approximately 2000 soldiers. The exact number of men is hard to estimate as different reports record different numbers. What is known is that this would be Henry’s greatest push to date and by his side would be William Brandon.

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Landing on the 7th of August at Mill Bay six miles west of Milford Haven located along the Pembrokeshire coastline it is said that when he reached the coast Henry knelt down and kissed the sand reciting Psalm 43 ‘Judge me, O Lord and favour my cause’. He then made the sign of the cross.

At Mill Bay Henry was met by his half Uncle David Owen, the illegitimate son of Tudor Owen, Henry’s grandfather. Gathering his men Henry headed off to lay claim to the English throne. Their first stop was the village of Dale of which its castle surrendered easily. Henry and his men camped here and the future King made sure to remind his men not to get up to any trouble. The troops then moved on through Haverfordwest and Cardigan then northward to Llwyn Dafydd. After this, they claimed the garrison at Aberystwyth Castle and then turned to march inland. On August 13th, they reached Machynlleth and the next day they made a thirty-mile trek across rough terrain to Dolarddun. Following this the growing army headed to Long Mountain where Henry met with Rhys ap Thomas, an important man who carried a great deal of sway with the Welsh people. Rhys pledged his loyalty to Henry and brought approximately 2000 troops to Henry’s cause.

With his growing number of troops, Henry then headed to Shrewsbury. However the portcullises were closed and Henry and his men were not given permission to pass. The next day Henry sent a messenger to negotiate with those in charge at Shrewsbury and after a mysterious message from an outside source was sent to the head bailiff Henry and his men were allowed to pass through and a number of men from the town joined Henry’s forces.

From Shrewsbury Henry travelled through Shropshire and Staffordshire. It was here at Staffordshire that Sit Gilbert Talbot and a troop of about 500 men joined with Henry. The men marched to Stafford where Henry would meet Sir William Stanley, younger brother of Henry’s stepfather.

From Stafford Henry and his men marched through Lichfield arriving at Tamworth on the 20th of August. The next day his men marched over the River Anker to Atherstone where Henry is reported to have had a secret meeting with his father in law. It was at this meeting that allegedly Thomas Stanley pledged his formal support for his stepson.

However the next day, on the 22nd of August Henry Tudor sent a message to his stepfather asking him to send his men to join Henry’s troops. To this Stanley replied that he needed to prepare his men and for now it would appear he was keeping his distance. Also on this day Henry chose to knight several men who had shown great loyalty to him throughout his time in exile. These men included Sir Richard Guildford, Sir John Jastoy, Sir John Sisley, Sir John Trenzy, Sir William Tyler, Sir Thomas Milborn and now Sir William Brandon.

At the Battle of Bosworth, it is estimated that Henry Tudor had an army of approximately five to eight thousand soldiers to King Richard III’s twelve to twenty thousand men. Thomas and William Stanley had a combined force of approximately six thousand men however neither brother had made a definitive move as to which side of the battle they would join. Richard III held the higher ground upon Ambion Hill while Henry and his men were on the lower ground next to marshes.

Henry Tudor appointed the Earl of Oxford to command his troops and lead the Vanguard. Behind the vanguard was Henry, flanked by Gilbert Talbot and Sir John Savage and the rest of his men. Close to Henry was Sir William Brandon. Brandon had been chosen to be Henry’s standard bearer, a great honour for a man who continued to display his loyalty.

A standard bearer is ‘one who bears a standard or banner’. It was Brandon’s duty to carry the flag that represented Henry and his troops. The standard that Henry chose was white and green representing the Tudor colours. Upon this was the red cross of St George, patron saint of England and soldiers and the red Dragon of Wales. Henry Tudor had strong ties with Wales through his grandfather Owen Tudor as well as his uncle Jasper Tudor. This identification with Wales and its people helped Henry to recruit many Welsh men and soldiers along his campaign towards London.

Upon King Richard’s side he ordered the Duke of Norfolk and Sir Robert Brackenburry to lead his vanguard. The rear guard was commanded by Richard III and compromised of his personal bodyguard and other soldiers. Behind him was the Earl of Northumberland and his men.

When the battle cry was called arrows fired and then Oxford’s men clashed with the Duke of Norfolk’s. Both sides then paused, perhaps to regain their breath and positions. Oxford formed his men into a wedge and charged forward. At this second charge Henry’s French troops joined the battle and joined the attack on Norfolk’s men. Soon Norfolk’s men were in trouble and many were killed including the Duke himself, others fled while some defected to Henry Tudor’s side.

Northumberland and his men did not move into the fight and it is believed that at some point the Earl decided to leave the battle without employing any of his men into the fray. Amongst the chaos some of his loyal supporters begged Richard III to flee but the King would be no coward. Oxford’s men had pushed forward leaving a gap. Seeing his gap Richard III saw an opportunity to get to the man who caused such a great threat to his throne and he and his men charged forward aiming to strike Henry Tudor down.

It was here that William Brandon met his death at the end of Richard III’s lance. The Battle of Bosworth is remembered for the tragic death of King Richard III and the rise of the Tudors. Sir William Brandon, standard bearer seems almost insignificant amongst a battle that changed the course of English history yet one must not forget his story. While little is known about his life he was fiercely loyal to a man he believed was the true King. He gave his life for Henry Tudor and it was his son Charles Brandon that would continue the Brandon legacy.

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Graham’s Turner’s Painting of William Brandon’s Death

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Sarah Bryson is a researcher, writer and educator who has a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education with Honours. She currently works with children with disabilities. She is passionate about Tudor history and has a deep interest in Mary Boleyn, Charles Brandon, the reign of Henry VIII and the people of his court. She is the author of Mary Boleyn in a Nutshell and Charles Brandon: The King’s Man.

Visiting England in 2009 furthered her passion and when she returned home she started a website, queentohistory.com, and a Facebook page about Tudor history. Sarah lives in Australia, enjoys reading, writing and Tudor costume enactment.