Book Review – The Tudor Kitchen: What the Tudors Ate & Drank by Terry Breverton

By Nathen Amin

Did you ever wonder what the Tudors ate and drank?

This new book by historian Terry Breverton gives us an overview of the very fabric of Tudor life, for both rich and poor. The age saw an amazing variety of new dishes, many of which have been taken from contemporary sources for this cookbook. As well as giving us interesting and useful recipes, the book tells us to forget popcorn – when being entertained by Shakespeare’s plays, theatre-goers enjoyed vast quantities of oysters, crabs, cockles, mussels, periwinkles and whelks, as well as walnuts, hazelnuts, raisins, plums, cherries, dried figs, peaches, elderberry and blackberry pies and sturgeon steaks. Among the Tudor court food purchases in just one year we count 8,200 sheep, 2,330 deer and 53 wild boar, plus thousands of birds such as peacock, heron, capon, teal, gull, shoveler, quail, pheasant, swan and cygnet.

Part One of the book explains how the Tudors farmed, their animals and cereals, with the majority of the population having a monotonous diet with very little meat or fish. The first two chapters describe Tudor food and drink, and the differences between diets and the classes. The third chapter informs us about the great kitchens such as Hampton Court and Chapter 4 tells us of royal feasts, etiquette and helps understand why Henry VIII went from a 32-inch waist aged 30, to a 54-inch waist aged 55.

Part Two gives us around 500 recipes of the times, which can be tried by curious or enterprising readers. There are some astonishing combinations of flavours, and Tudor cuisine is something we are only now coming to appreciate.

Examples of such Tudor foods featured in the book include;

  • EGGES IN MONESHYNE – EGGS IN MOONLIGHT (The Proper Newe Booke of Cookerye c.1557), when the eggs are cooked by poaching in a syrup of rose water and sugar, so that they look like moons.
  •  BUBBLY BEER CHEESE BREAKFAST SOUPTO BOYLE A LEG OF MUTTON WITH LEMMONS – LEMONED LAMB (The Booke of Goode Cookry Very Necessary for all Such as Delight Therein 1584, 1591);
  • SALMON SALLET FOR FISH DAYS – SALMON AND ONION SALAD WITH VIOLETS – PANSY SALMON (Thomas Dawson’s The Good Huswifes Jewell 1585, 1594, 1596)
  •  CAPONS IN DORRE – CHICKEN IN GOLDEN ALMOND MILK (Gentyll manly Cokere MS Pepys 1047 c.1500)
  •  BOYLED CAPON IN WHITE BROTH – SWEET AND SOUR ALMOND CHICKEN (Sir Hugh Plat’s Delightes for Ladies 1602)
  • STEAMED ASPARAGUS SPEARS IN ORANGE SAUCE (Traditional Elizabethan recipe, originating in Granada, 1599)
  • WHITE GINGER BREAD (A.W., A Booke of Goode Cookry Very Necessary for all Such as Delight Therein 1584, 1591).

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Who knew that the Tudors ate ravioli, crackers, macaroni, rice, crisps, quiche, Jerusalem artichokes, couscous, puffins, badgers and favoured sweet and sour dishes? And that COMPOST is the more attractively renamed COLD SPICED VEGETABLES IN WINE AND HONEY SAUCE? And GARBAGE was a BROTH OF CHICKEN HEADS, FEET AND LIVERS? Or that CRESSEE was a GINGER PASTA CHEESE CHESSBOARD SANDWICH? Or that SWEET POTATOES IN ROSE AND ORANGE SYRUP (Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book 1605) was a popular dish for nobility?

Breverton’s research into Tudor meals has also enabled him to have some fun by attributing some of these sixteenth century dishes with modern namings. For example;

  •     RAPES IN POTAGE – BALDRICK’S TURNIP BROTH (The Master-Cook of Richard II, The Forme of Cury c.1390)
  •  CAPON BAKED WITH EGG YOLKS – FOWL PIE (John Partridge’s The Treasurie of Commodious Conceits & Hidden Secrets 1573)
  • A DISH OF PARTICULAR COLOURS – MULTICOLOURED CHICKENS (And Thus You Have a Lordly Dish: Fancy and Showpiece Cookery in an Augsberg Patrician Kitchen Sabina Welser 1553)
  • VENISON COFFINS – DEER PASTIES (A.W., A Book of Cookrye 1584, 1591)
  • HOW TO MAKE A FRIED MEAT OF TURNEPS – BALDRICK’S ERSATZ MEAT (Epulario, Or, The Italian Banquet, English translation of 1598)
  • BRAIN BALLS AND BRAIN CAKES – THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (English Housewifry, exemplified in above four hundred and fifty receipts, giving directions in most parts of cookery)
  • POMMES DORRES – FLY BALLS (The Master-Cook of Richard II, The Forme of Cury c.1390)
  • LET LARDES – MULTI-COLOURED CUSTARD FRY-UP (The Master-Cook of Richard II, The Forme of Cury c.1390)
  • PEARES SODDEN IN ALE, BASTARD AND HONNEY – PEARS IN BASTARD PIES (A.W., A Book of Cookrye 1584, 1591.)

 Indeed, of LAMPREY PIE Breverton writes: ‘It is a back-boneless, secretive, primitive, blood-sucking, worm-like parasite, and for these reasons I have renamed it Politicians’ Pie’.

Breverton’s final chapter is entitled THINGS YOU MAY NOT WANT TO COOK (OR EAT) (OR SEE). In this chapter is included such delicacies as

 LIVE BLACKBIRD, RABBIT, FROG, DOG OR DWARF PIE; ROAST CAT AS YOU WOULD WISH TO EAT IT; A GOOSE ROASTED ALIVE; ENTIRE LUNGS OF KID IN CAUL; PIES OF COCKS’ COMBS WITH WHOLE TESTICLES; POTATON TARTE THAT IS A COURAGE TO MAN OR WOMAN – APHRODISIAC SWEET POTATO PIE WITH COCK SPARROW BRAINS (Thomas Dawson’s The Good Housewife’s Jewell 1587)

PYES OF CALVES FEET (The Booke of Goode Cookry Very Necessary for all Such as Delight Therein 1584, 1591)

 SPARROWS IN MUTTON BROTH; BURSEU – A DISH OF MINCED PIG ENTRAILS; SEA-PIG – SEVERAL WAYS WITH A PORPOISE; LAMPREY IN BLOOD SAUCE WITH A DEEP-FRIED LAMPREY SPINAL CORD; AND TORTURED LAMPREY FRYED, BOYLD, AND ROSTED AT THE SAME TIME; RABBETES SOUKER ROST – ROAST FOETAL RABBITS (Coronation Menu of Richard III, 6 July 1483)

STUFFED SUFFOCATED CHICKS; HERON ROST – SPIT-ROASTED HERON; and CHAUDYNN FOR SWANNS – SWAN WITH BLOOD AND ENTRAIL SAUCE.

 And HART ROWS – PIG STOMACH LEGLESS HEDGEHOGS were pigs’ stomachs stuffed with pork, eggs and breadcrumbs, decorated with pastry spines to look like hedgehogs.

Breverton’s book is really informative and entertaining, useful for adding to both your historical knowledge and your cooking repertoire. You’ll have great fun learning, and perhaps trying out, these authentic Tudor recipes.

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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.

Breverton’s latest releases are ‘Jasper Tudor: Dynasty Maker’, ‘Everything You Have Ever Wanted to Know About The Tudors But Were Afraid To Ask’ and ‘The Tudor Kitchen’, all published by Amberley.

Statues of Henry VII

By Nathen Amin

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

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

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

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

 Exeter

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

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

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

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

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Canterbury Cathedral

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

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

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City Hall, Cardiff

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

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

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Hay-on-Wye

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

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

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City Hall, Bradford

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

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

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Bath Abbey

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

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

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

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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.

Book Review – Owen (Book One of the Tudor Trilogy) by Tony Riches

By Nathen Amin

As a matter of personal preference I do not often read historical fiction work. I find the focus on author creative licence over historical accuracy a distraction and as such I am therefore fairly unacquainted with works by writers such as Philippa Gregory. That being said, my interest was piqued when I came across Owen by Pembrokeshire author Tony Riches.

Owen Tudor was a fascinating character who led a remarkable life, a Welshman with a story that wouldn’t be out of place on the silver screen. Tudor was born in North Wales around 1400 to an ancient Welsh noble family from Anglesey. He was descended from the Princes of South Wales and his father was a cousin of the great Welsh warrior, Owain Glyndwr. After the collapse of the latter’s Welsh Wars of Independence the Tudor family were ruined and Owen found himself exiled to London. Although the specifics have become shrouded in myth it seems he worked his way into the household of Queen Katherine of Valois, Dowager Queen of Henry V, and eventually gain her trust to the extent they were secretly wed. Together it seems they had at least four children before her death in 1437, at which point Owen became imprisoned for his crime of marrying the king’s mother without the consent of the council. After his release he was intimately involved in the Wars of the Roses conflict, tied to the House of Lancaster through his sons, Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, and Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke. The earls were the half-brothers of Henry VI and Owen fought alongside his sons as the wars progressed. Aged around 60 Owen was captured during the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross in 1461 and led to Hereford where he was executed. His grandson became King Henry VII, the archetypal rags to riches tale.

indexThe story of Owen Tudor is always one worth recounting and in my opinion has been unfortunately underutilised in fiction and nonfiction alike. Therefore I was pleased to discover Riches has used Owen as the protagonist for the first install of his forthcoming Tudor trilogy. Riches’ story commences in 1422 with a dashing young Owen employed as a servant in the household of the recently widowed Dowager Queen of England, Katherine of Valois. The queen is beautiful but lonely and it isn’t long before Owen is enamoured with Katherine, although their affair is not an immediate plot device.

The story is told from the point of view of Owen and the narrative is short, sharp and to the point. Riches does not waste words and the result is a hard-hitting account of Owen’s life which moves a considerable pace. Some writers dwell on insignificant plotlines and often seem to be writing for writings’ sake at times, which makes Riches’ work a refreshing and captivating read. There are moments of humour, drama, tragedy and triumph and it seems Riches has captured the exhilarating life of Owen Tudor well. A passage at the beginning of the book, recalled by the adult Owen, certainly sets the tone for the enthralling read ahead.

 “‘Aim High, Boy’, my garrulous longbow tutor once advised me, his voice gruff from too much shouting. ‘It’s not the Welsh way to play safe and wait until you have a clean shot’”.

It’s fair to say Owen Tudor never played it safe and certainly Riches has aimed high like his protagonist. I look forward to following his Tudor trilogy as it progresses through Jasper Tudor and Henry Tudor’s lives.

You can buy the via Amazon – UK or US

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Tony Riches lives in West Wales UK, happily dividing his time between writing and sea kayaking. He has also penned Warwick – The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses and The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham.

Merevale Abbey

By Nathen Amin

Merevale Abbey is situated in the heart of England and located just a few miles away from where the Battle of Bosworth Field was fought on a hot summer’s day in August 1485. It was recorded that Henry Tudor and part of his army encamped on the abbey grounds the night before the battle.

The small abbey was founded on the site in 1148 by Robert de Ferrers, 2nd Earl of Derby. The early history of the Cistercian abbey was uneventful and it appears to have been only played a moderate role in the locality as opposed to some of the larger, wealthier abbeys of the period. It seems that the abbey rarely houses more than ten monks. Nonetheless Edward I stayed at the abbey in August 1275 whilst Edward III was recorded as being at Merevale in March 1322.

Merevale Abbey Gatehouse
Merevale Abbey Gatehouse

In August 1485 the abbey played a significant part in English history when the army of Henry Tudor approached the gatehouse. Henry had landed in Wales after a fourteen year exile abroad and had come with the intention to usurp the English crown from Richard III, who in turn had taken the crown from his young nephew Edward V. Henry’s army had travelled down Watling Street from Shrewsbury and with a requirement for refreshment and recuperation targeted Merevale’s Cistercian abbey as the ideal resting spot.

It is possible that it was at Merevale that Henry Tudor fatefully met with his stepfather Thomas Stanley. The Stanleys intervention the following day on the side of Tudor rather than Richard III is often seen as the decisive moment of the battle. Was a plan hatched by the men whilst they were in the abbey grounds? A later observer remarked ‘it was a goodly sight to see the meeting of them’ whilst Tudor’s biographer Polydore Vergil would later write that Tudor and Stanley took each other by the hand ‘and yielding mutual salutation’ entered into ‘counsel in what sort to arraigne battle with King Richard’.

The Parish Church, formely part of the Abbey
The Parish Church, formely part of the Abbey

Later evidence hasbeen used to support the theory that Henry’s army stayed at Merevale Abbey. As king Henry issued a warrant reimbursing the abbey with 100 marks having ‘sustained great hurts, charges and losses, by occasion of the great repair and resort that our people coming towards our late field made, as well unto the house of Merevale aforesaid as in going over his ground, to the destruction of his corns and pastures’. Payments were also made to other settlements in the region, including £24 20s 4d to Atherstone, £20 to Fenny Drayton and £13 to Witherley amongst other townships.

Furthermore in September 1503 the king returned to Merevale whilst on progress and visited the abbey. He commemorated his great victory by sanctioning a new stained glass window depicting his favoured saint, Armel. The decision to use a saint that was very personal to him as opposed to a national symbol like George suggests Henry felt a deep connection with Merevale and wanted to convey his appreciation for the role the abbey played in his victory. The small figure of Armel can still be viewed in the South Aisle of the Gate Chapel, a rare depiction of this saint in England. Another place the saint can be viewed is in the Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey where a statue of Armel is located close to the magnificent tomb of the king. On 30 October 1511 Henry Tudor’s son and successor Henry VIII paid a visit to the abbey with his wife Queen Katherine of Aragon.

Artistic Impression of Merevale Abbey
Artistic Impression of Merevale Abbey

Despite this close connection with the Tudor dynasty Merevale Abbey was nonetheless dissolved on 13 October 1538 on the orders of Henry VIII and gradually fell into ruin. The surrender of the house was signed by Abbot William Arnold who was compensated with a pension of £40. Sub-abbot John Ownsbe and four of the monks received £5 6s 8d with three other monks received £5 and one other monk receiving only 3s 4d. The monastery and the lands were put into the possession of the Lord Ferrers two days later.

Today the only remaining part of the Abbey still used for religious service is the former Gate Chapel, which is now utilised as the parish church. This church contains a sizable degree of stained glass of historical significance, including a Jesse window often considered to amongst the most important in Britain. The window has been dated to around 1330 and was presumably original positioned inside the abbey proper. It contains a tree linking ten kings and prophets. Elsewhere is the aforementioned stained glass window depicting St Armel, placed there by Henry Tudor after he had become king.

Abbey ruins (Part of the Abbey Farm B&B estate)
Abbey ruins (Part of the Abbey Farm B&B estate)

The remainder of the abbey ruins can be found on private land, namely grounds owned by the Abbey Farm Bed & Breakfast. The remains are thought to primarily be those connected to the north and south walls of the Refectory, including a full moulded doorway.

Abbey Farm
Abbey Farm

The Romance of Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York

By Samantha Wilcoxson

Romantic is not a word that is typically applied to Henry Tudor, but there is evidence that he and his Plantagenet bride, Elizabeth of York, had a happy marriage. If you have only envisioned a Henry VII who is miserly, withdrawn, and admittedly determined, I challenge you to open your mind and picture him in private with his beautiful wife.

Elizabeth of York was the oldest child of Edward IV and his scandalous bride, Elizabeth Woodville. Though people do not agree on the extent to which Elizabeth Woodville influenced Edward’s rule, few would say that their marriage wasn’t passionate. Growing up in a large family, Elizabeth of York would have always known that she was loved, even as rebellions against her father sent them into sanctuary.

Henry, on the other hand, had spent much of this time in exile. His few drops of royal blood were enough to make him a Lancastrian focal point, and Edward would not allow him to step foot in England, despite Henry’s mother’s pleading. Without any family besides his uncle Jasper to support him, Henry grew up in an ill-defined, precarious position.

Though their lives before 1485 could not have been more different, Henry and Elizabeth would be tossed together after Henry’s surprising victory at Bosworth made him King Henry VII. A betrothal had been arranged previously, but one must wonder how much hope Elizabeth had placed in Henry ever being capable of claiming his bride.

He did. On January 18, 1486, the couple was married in a stunning ceremony that was carefully designed to draw together any remnant of Lancaster or York rebels. The peace that the couple hoped to instill in England was undoubtedly one of the things that drew them together.

Evidence of their happiness appeared a short 8 months after their marriage when their greatest hope for the future was born. Prince Arthur was likely born prematurely, possibly even conceived on Henry and Elizabeth’s wedding night. The royal couple praised God and asked his blessings on their future as they welcomed this sure signal from God that their union had His favor.

Their faith is another element of Henry and Elizabeth’s relationship that would have drawn them close together. When Henry landed at Mill Bay to begin his conquest of England, he is recorded to have dropped to his knees and quoted Psalm 43, pleading “Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause.” Upon meeting and quickly marrying Henry, Elizabeth would have done so because she saw it as God’s plan for her life and the best hope for her dwindling family.

Henry is one of the few English monarchs noted for their apparent faithfulness. Though some rumors swirl around about Catherine Gordon, the wife of Perkin Warbeck, Henry did not marry her when he had the chance after Elizabeth died. In fact, he never married again, though two of his three sons had predeceased Elizabeth. In the turbulent early sixteenth century, that is a strong sign of devotion and love.

When Henry and Elizabeth had experienced deaths of their children, Elizabeth and Edmund in infancy and Arthur heartbreakingly later, they are known to have found comfort in each other and their faith in God. Arthur’s death is particularly documented. Fifteen years old, heir to the throne, and recently married, his parents had legendary hopes for the future good King Arthur. If his birth had been a sign that their marriage was blessed, what did his untimely death portend?

While Henry and Elizabeth surely experienced the ups and downs of any marriage, the historical evidence suggests that a true love grew between them. When Elizabeth died in childbirth on her 37th birthday in 1503, Henry was crushed and ordered a lavish funeral. It is one of the few public displays that demonstrated the romantic side of Henry VII.

I greatly enjoyed delving into the personalities and relationship of this intriguing couple as I performed research for my book, Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen: The Story of Elizabeth of York. Elizabeth may have been a quiet and devoted presence, but she skillfully bridged the gap between the Plantagenet and Tudor dynasties, a feat that Henry may not have been capable of successfully handling on his own. With devotion to her husband, her family, and her faith as a driving force, Elizabeth set aside any future she may have been expecting and took on her role as the first Tudor queen and mother of a new dynasty.

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Samantha Wilcoxson is an American writer and history enthusiast. Besides three novels, Samantha has written on a variety of topics as freelance work for global websites. Living with her husband on a small lake in Michigan with three kids, two cats, and two dogs, Samantha has plenty of writing inspiration.Her book ‘Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen’ is available now.

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A Tour of Tudor Kent

By Nathen Amin

Kent is undeniably one of the most beautiful parts of England and is generally known as the ‘Garden of England’. Suitably located between London and the port of Calais, it is unsurprising to discover that Kent possesses substantial Tudor heritage. Throughout the county are an abundance of castles, abbeys and churches with sixteenth century connections and this article will document some of those.

Hever Castle

Hever Castle is without a doubt the jewel in Kent’s Tudor crown and is notable for its connection to the Boleyn family. Although it contains thirteenth century origins the castle truly came into being when it was converted into a substantial manor house by Mayor of London Geoffrey Boleyn in 1462. Geoffrey’s grandson Thomas Boleyn inherited Hever in 1505 and lived there with his wife Elizabeth and children George, Mary and Anne.

Hever Castle was extensively restored by American magnate William Waldorf Astor during the early twentieth century and the result is a quintessential castle with very few equals in Europe. The crenellated keep has an abundance of arrow loops and complex chimneys with a moat that ensures Hever Castle creates an awe-striking impression upon the visitor. The wooden drawbridge and portcullis which leads to through the gatehouse and into the courtyard is considered to be as it was when the Boleyn’s journeyed through it during the sixteenth century.

Hever Castle
Hever Castle

On permanent display in the castle is Anne’s personal Book of Hours, complete with examples of her handwriting, whilst another temporary exhibition showcasing the marital bed of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York can be viewed in the Long Gallery, built by Thomas Boleyn in 1506 and which at various times hosted Henry VIII.

Although the castle’s association with Anne Boleyn is the primary reason Hever has remained so evocative it should be noted the premises was owned by Henry VIII’s fourth wife Anne of Cleves between 1540 and her death in 1557, bestowed upon her a part of her divorce settlement. Intriguing to note is the hidden catholic chapel that was built at Hever in 1584 by then-owners the Waldegrave family, recusant Roman Catholics worshipping in secret at a time when it was outlawed by Anne’s daughter Queen Elizabeth I. The castle was saved from possible ruin by Astor and his careful and delicate restoration has resulted in Hever’s heritage to be savoured 500 years after its most famous resident loitered amongst the confines.

St Peter’s Church, Hever

St Peter’s Church in Hever is notable as the final resting place of Sir Thomas Boleyn, resident of the nearby castle and controversial father of the Anne Boleyn. Sir Thomas’ tomb can be found in a place of honour near the altar and is a simple affair, perhaps indicative of the discreet way his life ended with shamed exile from court. Thomas Boleyn died on 12 March 1539 and his tomb is adorned with a brass plate depicting the one-time queen’s father in the robes of a Knight of the Garter which he was once accustomed to wearing. Noticeable above his shoulder is the Boleyn family emblem of a falcon. St Peter’s has been the parish church of Hever since at least the fourteenth century and during her childhood at Hever it is not fanciful to suggest that Anne, along with the wider Boleyn family, were well acquainted with the church.

The Tomb of Thomas Boleyn
The Tomb of Thomas Boleyn

Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle is a dramatic medieval fortress-turned-palatial home partially enclosed by a substantial moat and with its charming setting in the centre of a sprawling garden estate it can certainly rival Hever Castle in its fairy-tale appearance.

The castle has origins in the twelfth century and by the end of the thirteenth century was known to be a favoured residence of King Edward I. During the early fifteenth century the castle was owned by Katherine de Valois, widow of King Henry V. Katherine’s scandalous marriage to Welshman Owen Tudor introduced the Tudors into English society and their grandson Henry Tudor would secure the crown at Bosworth in 1485. It is tantalising to suggest that Katherine and Owen may have shared romantic trysts in Leeds enchanting surroundings. As part of the crown estate the castle passed into the control of the Tudors after their accession to the throne of England and in 1519 Henry VIII presented Leeds Castle to his first wife Katherine of Aragon. Still evident in the Queen’s Gallery are dynastic engravings relating to Katherine, including her heraldic badge of the pomegranate.

Leeds Castle
Leeds Castle

In 1520 Leeds Castle played host to the royal court when Henry, his queen, and a retinue numbering in the thousands stayed in the castle grounds prior to crossing the English Channel on the way to France for the fabled Field of the Cloth of Gold summit with French king Francis I. In 1552 the castle was granted to Sir Anthony St Leger, ending over 300 years of royal ownership. During Queen Elizabeth’s reign it appears four marble busts were commission of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth herself and these are still on display in the gallery.

Henry VIII
Henry VIII

Substantial investment and renovation has taken place at Leeds over the centuries, notably in the early twentieth century. The result is a palatial complex considered to be the ‘loveliest castle in the world’ and although genuine Tudor features are at a minimum, it is nonetheless a location worthy of exploration.

Rochester Castle

Rochester Castle’s Norman keep is a domineering stone structure that overlooks the River Medway with an authoritative confidence that was a trademark of the twelfth century. Whilst the majority of the castle lies in ruins the keep itself is generally intact, which is perhaps indicative of the quality of its workmanship when one considers the castle was sacked during the Peasants Revolt in 1381.

Rochester Castle
Rochester Castle

It was within the medieval fortress that Henry VIII first met his fourth wife Anne of Cleves, an encounter which has been told and retold with such embellishment in popular culture the truth has become somewhat obscured by myth. Anne begun her lengthy journey to England in the winter of 1539 and by New Years’ Eve had arrived at Rochester. The king could hardly contain his excitement and journeyed from London the following day with boyish enthusiasm to surprise his new wife, incognito. The disguised king burst into Anne’s room with five of his companions and begun to make romantic advances towards the startled duchess, unaware of this English custom. His attempts failed; Anne barely responded and the humiliated king stormed out of the room, the marriage doomed from the first day. Whilst the ‘flander’s mare’ comment is a seventeenth century invention, it was reported that Henry nonetheless declared that the Duchess was ‘nothing so well as she was spoken off’. By July the marriage had been annulled.

St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury

Christianity was brought to Canterbury and England by St Augustine, who established a Benedictine abbey in the city in 598. Augustine’s abbey was one of the largest and wealthiest in the kingdom for over nine hundred years until its dissolution in 1538 under the reign of Henry VIII. As part of Henry’s Reformation the abbey was surrendered to the king’s commissioners on 30 July that year and the property became part of the crown estate. The king set about transforming part of the erstwhile ecclesiastical building into a luxurious palatial retreat which was initially used by Henry’s fourth wife Anne of Cleves. Queen Elizabeth I was also known to have stayed at the new palace during one of her Kent progresses although the building gradually fell into disrepair during the seventeenth century. Although now a dramatic ruin the red bricks of the Tudor palace are still visible along with the original abbey walls. Furthermore two gatehouses mark the former entrances into the abbey ground’s and are reminiscent of similar gates at Hampton Court.

St Augustine's Abbey ruins
St Augustine’s Abbey ruins

Christ Church Gate, Canterbury

The splendid gateway which stands in the city’s Butter Market area provides access into the Cathedral grounds but is a wonderful display of early sixteenth century architecture in itself. The gate was completed in 1517 and is a celebration of the reign of Henry Tudor, the father of then-king Henry VIII.

Christ Church Gate
Christ Church Gate
Henry VII's Coat of Arms
Henry VII’s Coat of Arms

Prominent on the façade of the gatehouse are the collection of coats of arms with preferential placement afforded to the arms of Henry VII, his son Prince Arthur and daughter-in-law Katherine of Aragon. Also present is the crowned Tudor Rose and Beaufort portcullis, two traditional emblems of the first Tudor king. Another large Tudor Rose adornment can be viewed inside the gatehouse on the ceiling, capturing the attention of all who walk through the passageway and into the cathedral grounds.

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral is the mother church of the Anglican communion and has been considered the premier holy seat of England for over a thousand years. Although the cathedral is perhaps best known as the location of Thomas Becket’s brutal murder in 1170 it does also possess a substantial Tudor heritage. Upon the approach to the cathedral immediately striking is the 250 foot central tower, often referred to as the Bell Harry tower. This was erected in 1498 during the reign of Henry VII and was financed in part by Archbishop John Morton, whose tomb lies inside the cathedral’s crypt. Cardinal Morton was one of the king’s closest and most trusted advisors and assisted in ruling the country, in time becoming notorious for his harsh financial policies which helped bolster the royal treasury. He served as archbishop from 1486 until 1500 and became a cardinal in 1493.  Morton died on 15 September 1500 and his tomb in the crypt is arguably the most extravagant in the cathedral, generously covered in Tudor imagery such as the red and white rose as well as angels and cardinal’s caps. Also featured are a collection of tun barrels inscribed with the word Mor, a pun on his name Mor-ton.

William Warham's Tomb
William Warham’s Tomb

Although the killing of Becket occurred over 300 years before the Tudors came to power, by the late fifteenth century the beatified saint was revered throughout the kingdom, particularly by monarch’s seeking the goodwill of God. That being said, the Henrican Reformation of the late 1530s witnessed a dramatic change in how England began to view Christianity and amongst the many changes which Henry VIII brought in was the abolishing of shrines. A notable casualty of his policy was Becket’s shrine in Canterbury, which was routinely destroyed with great pleasure upon the orders of the authoritative king. It was recorded that the treasures found in Becket’s shrine were so substantial it took twenty-six carts to tow it all away. The location of Becket’s shrine is now marked with a solitary candle, a poignant reminder of the site of medieval England’s greatest such monument.

As well as Morton, located elsewhere in the cathedral are a number of other tombs related to the Tudors. Located close to where Thomas Becket met his end is the elaborate effigy of William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury between 1503 and 1532. Warham was initially employed by Henry VII as a diplomat and helped arrange the marriage of Prince Arthur to Katherine of Aragon in 1502. After becoming archbishop a year later he also served for a time as Lord Chancellor. In 1509 Warham crowned Henry VIII at Westminster Abbey and also married the young king to Katherine of Aragon. Two decades later he would play a role in the divorce crisis that threatened to tear apart the kingdom, initially taking a view that Henry should be granted his request although later clashing with the king over his attempts to break with Rome. His death in August 1532 saved him from the king’s wrath and Warham was interred in Canterbury on 10 September that year.

Thomas Bourchier's Tomb
Thomas Bourchier’s Tomb

Another notable tomb located in the cathedral is that of Thomas Bourchier who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1454. Bourchier was notable for his role in the reigns of three kings towards the end of the Wars of the Roses. Bourchier crowned kings Edward IV, Richard III and Henry VII and also officiated at the wedding of the latter king to Elizabeth of York which symbolically united the houses of York and Lancaster. Unlike many clerics Bourchier had an impeccable aristocratic pedigree and was a great-grandson of Edward III as well as brother of Henry Bourchier, 1st Earl of Essex, and half-brother of Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham. Bourchier died on 30 March 1486 and was accorded a lavish burial fit for a high-ranking member of both the nobility and the church. His tomb is located close to where the shrine of Thomas Becket once stood, a position of honour.

Situated on the cathedral’s west front are a collection of Victorian statues which depict various monarchs throughout English history. Notable amongst these are Henry VII, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

Henry VII Statue
Henry VII Statue

Dover Castle

Dover Castle is often considered to be England’s oldest fort and is currently a vast complex of buildings which collectively represent every era of the nation’s history. There are Roman, Saxon, Medieval and Tudor remains at the castle as well as an array of buildings which played key roles in the two twentieth century World Wars. Dover Castle has been a fortress at the forefront of England’s defences for over a thousand years.

Dover Castle Keep
Dover Castle Keep

It is unsurprising to discover this was particularly true during the sixteenth century when Henry VIII regularly tussled with Spain and France for supremacy in this part of Europe. At various points it seemed that invasion was likely therefore Henry proceeded to bolster the defences at Dover, including the construction of a couple of Bulwark towers to support the great Norman keep that looms high above the acclaimed white cliffs. Henry held the title of Constable of Dover as a child and may have felt a degree of connection with the castle. He notably stayed at the castle for two weeks in June 1513, using the keep’s royal apartments to good effect. He was again based at Dover in May 1520 prior to departing for France for a summit with King Francis I, a meeting better known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Although the surrounding buildings are generally of a later period, the keep itself remains as it was during the Tudor period and offers incredible views across the English Channel, a view Henry may have taken in as he dreamt of winning great victories across the water.

Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace is perhaps the lesser known royal palace within the modern London boundaries, often overlooked in favour of Hampton Court, the Tower of London or Greenwich Palace. It may be because the vast majority of the palace is today an art-deco masterpiece which gained a new lease of life during the early twentieth century.

Nonetheless Eltham still has surviving architectural features which would have been recognisable to the Tudors, particularly the splendid Great Hall. Eltham’s hall was built in the 1470s by King Edward IV who used the palace as a peaceful country retreat in the Kent countryside. After Henry Tudor came to the throne in 1485 he inherited the palace as part of the crown estate and equally felt favourable towards the property. Ideally situated away from the bustling and polluted London but close enough to visit, Henry based his royal nursery at Eltham, positioning most of his young children within the palace walls. Amongst those who spent a sizable amount of time at Eltham was the future Henry VIII, who would have roamed around the grounds as an impressionable and enthusiastic young boy. His sisters Margaret and Mary also joined him for periods of time as did his younger siblings Edmund and Elizabeth, both of whom would tragically die in childhood. The Princess Elizabeth actually passed away at Eltham, succumbing from disease on 14 September 1495.

Eltham's Great Hall roof
Eltham’s Great Hall roof

Four years later the royal nursery was visited by Thomas More and his friend Desiderius Erasmus, who came across a buoyant and expectant Prince Henry. The Dutch humanist would later comment that the young royal ‘had a vivid and active mind, above measure to execute whatever tasks he undertook’. Henry was also educated at Eltham by the poet John Skelton and it seems that it was whilst growing up at this palace he began to develop an intellect and outlook on life that would later become both charismatic and deadly as an adult.

The Great Hall
The Great Hall

The Great Hall went through periods of ruin during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but was rescued when the property came into the ownership of the wealthy Courtauld family in the 1930s. The hall was restored and the oak hammer-beam roof appears as spectacular on first viewing as it must have done to the Tudors five hundred years ago. It is fair to suggest that Henry cherished his time at Eltham for he later extended part of the palace in 1519 when he was king as well as spending reasonable amounts time visiting. No other monarch after Henry VIII considered Eltham Palace to be worthy of their time. Anne Boleyn is said to have visited Eltham at various times during her marriage and courtship to Henry.

A modern embellishment which is nonetheless worthy of attention is the stained glass window which depicts various royal coats of arms, including that of Henry VII erroneously credited to his son Henry VIII. Also noteworthy is the stone bridge which gives modern access to the grounds which is off fifteenth century provenance and which would have once been passed by various members of the Tudor dynasty.

The Tudor Coat of Arms
The Tudor Coat of Arms

Deal and Walmer Castles

Deal and Walmer Castles are a pair of remarkable coastal forts which were built under the orders of Henry VIII in 1539 to defend his kingdom against Spanish and French aggression following the Reformation. The two forts are situated under two miles apart and would have combined to provide a degree of protection against any ships which approached the coast of Kent. A third castle was also based at nearby Sandown but this has no surviving ruins.

Deal Castle
Deal Castle
Walmer Castle
Walmer Castle

What makes Deal and Walmer particularly unique is their layout – both appear from the air to resemble the Tudor rose, a result of their multiple semi-circular bastion towers. These towers contain a variety of rooms inside, such as guard quarters and gunpowder stores, whilst their roofs have stone platforms which were loaded with cannon guns directed out to sea. Both were once accessed via a wooden drawbridge built across a moat but today stone bridges offer a permanent crossing. It is thought that Henry personally inspected his sea forts although ultimately they were not utilised during his reign as the invasion threat from the continent never truly materialised.

Henry VII – The Merchant King

By Matthew Lewis

Henry VII, the first of a mighty, famous and infamous dynasty is oft forgotten and easily overlooked. Everyone knows the first Norman king, the Conqueror. The first Plantagenet, Henry II, is famed, not least for his troubles with his wife and children. James VI and I is a famous founder of the Stuart dynasty in England and the Hanovers had George I. Henry VII, though, remains a more shadowy figure, loomed over by the Wars of the Roses that gave him his crown and his larger than life son, Henry VIII. This is perhaps because he played his part so completely perfectly.

Born into a stormy Welsh night in 1457 to a thirteen year old mother at the outbreak of a civil war that would define his life, his childhood was a mess not of his own making. Born without a father on the wrong side of a war in which his only offence was to have the wrong name and the wrong blood in his veins, his fortunes were those of the House of Lancaster until he defined his own. In my novel, Honour, I describe Henry as the Merchant King and I think it is a fitting title.

When the tide of the Wars of the Roses turned against his house, Henry was taken into custody as a child, comfortably contained within the household of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, a committed Yorkist who had been given Henry’s uncle Jasper’s title. Although he would later concede that Herbert had been kind to him and ensured that he was well educated and amply provided for, Henry was nevertheless a prisoner. Separated from his mother as a boy, it was the kind of painful detachment that he would have to get used to.

During the brief Lancastrian revival of 1470-1, Henry was suddenly on the right side. As a thirteen year old, he was presented to his father’s half-brother, the venerable but unstable King Henry VI. If his mother, Margaret Beaufort, hoped that her son’s fortunes had changed, it was a short lived delusion. With the thunderous return of the Yorkist King Edward IV in 1471, Henry was bustled into exile with his uncle Jasper aged fourteen. He would spend another fourteen years with little hope of return to a country that did not want him.

Taken into the care of Duke Francis of Brittany, Henry’s comfortable imprisonment did not begin badly. Secluded within the duke’s own summer residence at Suscinio with Jasper, Henry was surrounded by woods and parkland and permitted to ride, hunt and train with his uncle. As a messy squabble erupted between Edward IV and Louis XI of France it became obvious to Francis that he had something valuable in his possession. Henry was, for the moment at least, a commodity and that would give the future merchant king a unique perspective.

Francis split his assets, separating uncle and nephew. He courted the overtures from both England and France, waiting until his prize possessions could bring him the richest reward possible. These years must have been comfortable but miserable for Henry. He was well provided for, educated and clothed, frequently in black. Francis sent gifts to his ward, but he remained isolated. The parting from his uncle was surely the most painful, probably even more distressing than the separation from his mother. Jasper was a father figure, a mentor, a protector and Henry’s only comfort in his teenage exile.

Henry would remain in a kind of comfortable isolation until 1483. Negotiations were progressing well to see Henry returned to England safely and perhaps even married to a daughter of Edward IV. Henry’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, was by now married to her third (or fourth, depending on whether John de la Pole is included – which he never was by Margaret herself, who called Edmund Tudor her first husband in a will drawn up in 1472) husband Thomas Stanley and the couple were at the centre of Yorkist power. Margaret was trying to arrange her son’s return home and surviving records suggest that she was close to reaching a deal with the Yorkist king. I think it is unlikely that Henry’s intended bride was Elizabeth of York, simply because Edward would have had bigger plans for his oldest daughter.

The veracity of this arrangement is unclear. Edward may have been laying a trap for the last, straggling remnants of Lancastrian resistance in exile. Once back on home soil, his fate might have been less than certain. Alternatively, Lord Stanley’s influence might have convinced Edward that Henry could be reconciled safely and the final threat to Yorkist dominance brought within the fold. Either way, Henry’s fate was out of his hands and he was once more a commodity for others to weigh, value and barter over.

The death of Edward IV on 9 April 1483 brought these negotiations to an abrupt halt. If Edward IV had been willing to entertain the idea of a return for the Earl of Richmond because of his own established security, Richard III did not share that luxury and Henry’s future was once more that of a perishable good for the purveyance of others. This seems to have been the point at which Henry took the first step of any successful merchant – a risky venture.

Buckingham’s Rebellion was always, in truth, Henry Tudor’s rebellion. Quite how he sprung to the forefront and why the rebellion doesn’t bear his name, is a mystery open to interpretation, but Henry arrived at the south coast with one of the merchant’s necessities – a cautious eye. The story that he was beckoned ashore by men telling him Buckingham had been successful, only for Henry to narrow his shrewd, businessman’s eyes and decide something wasn’t right is entirely believable. The market was not yet ready and the order of business now was patience.

Henry became once more a desirable commodity. France still wanted him as a weapon against England, particularly now Richard III seemed far more likely than his brother to seek war across the Channel. Richard needed control of the last Lancastrian hope to help secure his own position. Duke Francis had sworn to protect Henry and was not particularly keen to hand him over to anyone, enjoying the influence his prisoner brought, but Francis was not a well man. Pierre Landlais, his chief minister, took control of Brittany, and Pierre was very interested in Richard III’s financial inducements. Agreement was reached and Henry was parcelled up and sent to the coast.

Fortunately for the anti-Ricardian cause, Henry had friends with ears to the ground. It was probably Bishop John Morton who warned Henry of what was happening and the fugitive slipped his guards and fled over the French border. It was here that Henry was to learn some of his most valuable lessons. It was the last piece of an unlikely apprenticeship that gave the merchant precisely what he needed.

In Paris, Henry was disingenuously welcomed as the true son of King Henry VI, the younger brother of Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales. The display was utterly magnificent. French kingship had always been wrapped in a royal majesty melded with a religious spirituality that had not reached the English crown. Henry learned, as he rode into Paris in splendour, that the truth could stand some adaptation if the need was real and that display could accomplish more than a sword, more than a threat. Give the impression that you are an unassailable monarch sent by God and the people will believe it.

When Henry landed at Milford Haven on 7 August 1485, it was as King of England. He summoned men to his cause as their ruler. He took the field of battle at Bosworth on 22 August as a reigning monarch seeking to drive out an imposter. This was what the merchant king had learned in France. The best way to create wealth is the illusion of wealth. The surest way to become king was to convince everyone that you already are king. Henry landed as a merchant with fabulous wares to offer – stability, certainty, salvation.

The first Tudor monarch ruled like a merchant king too. His control over his kingdom was based on money and the illusion of an inevitable, inexorable right to the throne that he had won. Henry VII did his own books. He knew every penny that came into and went out of his coffers. He developed a reputation as a miser, but that isn’t really the whole story. Henry’s accounts, which he diligently audited and signed personally, show an astounding willingness to spend money on his family and on the promotion of his image as king. He would initiate financial relationships with kingdoms all over Europe, selling them security in the form of his money and ensuring that they remained indebted to him. Trade was always a central plank of Henry’s efforts to increase his wealth, influence and security.

When Perkin Warbeck loomed large over the fledgling Tudor regime, Henry had his second son created Duke of York for no reason other than to demonstrate that he was in control. The old House of York was gone, absorbed into the bodies of his offspring and the new House of York was the future. The old one was dead. Warbeck could not be the heir to something that no longer existed.

Edmund de la Pole proved a serious thorn in Henry’s side when he claimed to be the heir of York and rightful king. Ever the pragmatic merchant, Henry made trade agreements to the detriment of English merchants in order to deprive the White Rose of support. He always had an eye for the bigger picture, the main deal. He could give with one hand if the other was taking far more in the long run. When Archduke Philip, son of Maximillian, the Holy Roman Emperor, was shipwrecked on the south coast in January 1506, Henry sprang into his finest bargaining mode. Philip was treated with the utmost respect, but Henry negotiated from a position of power now and he did so with ruthless brilliance. Edmund de la Pole was living under Maximillian’s protection and Henry made it clear that not only would the Emperor have to settle some outstanding trade disputes in England’s favour but he would also have to hand over Edmund before he would see his son again. It worked, and another threat was neutralised.

Henry VII built a hugely successful enterprise from nothing. He served a long apprenticeship and perhaps struck out on his own a little too early. He was wise enough to write off the early setback. What he learned in France showed that providence was on his side and he would apply all that he knew to the commencement of his greatest enterprise; the establishment of the family business. In 1509 he would hand over this business to his son, who lacked his father’s hard-earned experience but knew how to project magnificence even better than his mentor.

I think Henry VII was England’s first merchant king. He grew wealth from the illusion of wealth and power from the illusion on power. Why do we believe that the Wars of the Roses ended in 1485? We believe it because Henry VII told us it was so. In truth, it was nowhere near its end when Richard III was swiftly buried within the Grey Friars at Leicester. The period was neatly packaged and placed on a shelf for display like a family trophy, a memento that could not be bought but defined the origins of the family business. No-one really knows what is inside and the shopkeeper would swat the hands of nosy children who looked too closely because although it was on display, it was not to be opened. Ever.

The Wars of the Roses: The Key Players in the Struggle for Supremacy unwraps this mysterious box and lays out the contents to examine the real beginnings and obscure endings of a civil war that broke a nation and made a dynasty. Fortunes waxed and waned, but Henry Tudor was, eventually, the biggest winner from the manoeuvres of the second half of the fifteenth century because he played the game so well, finally making the rules himself. His security was hard won but in many ways it remained an illusion, an elusive ambition. The extent of his achievement can be found in the fact that at his death, he was the first king in eighty-seven years not to lose his throne.

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Matthew Lewis is the author of two histories, A Glimpse of King Richard III and A Glimpse of the Wars of the Roses, and two historical fiction novels, Loyalty and Honour. Matthew was born in the West Midlands and has a degree in Law. He blogs regularly about the Wars of the Roses and operates two history podcasts. He lives in Shropshire.

His latest book is The Wars of the Roses: The Key Players in the Struggle for Supremacy, published by Amberley. The Wars of the Roses were not a coherent period of continual warfare. There were distinct episodes of conflict, interspersed with long periods of peace. But the struggles never really ceased. Motives change, fortunes waxed and waned, the nature of kingship was weighed and measured and the mettle of some of England’s greatest families was put to the test. Matthew Lewis examines the people behind these events, exploring the personalities of the main players, their motives, successes and failures. He uncovers some of the lesser-known tales and personal stories often lost in the broad sweep of the Wars of the Roses, in a period of famously complex loyalties and shifting fortunes.

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Henry VII and the Potassium Alum Trade

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

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

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

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

Book Review – Henry VIII’s Last Love: The Extraordinary Life of Katherine Willoughby, Lady-in-Waiting to the Tudors by David Baldwin

By Nathen Amin

David Baldwin’s latest release is a fascinating portrayal of a woman who almost became the seventh wife of Henry VIII; as it was the king died before any plans came to fruition and the name of Katherine Willoughby was somewhat lost to history. Baldwin attempts, and will succeed, bringing the erstwhile Duchess of Suffolk back into the spotlight with this in-depth account of her life at the most famous royal court in English history.

Somewhat fittingly for a future Duchess of Suffolk, Katherine was born in March 1519 in Parham Old Hall in Suffolk as the daughter of Baron Willoughby de Eresby and Spaniard Maria de Salinas. Her father was one of the greatest landowners in the region whilst her mother was a close friend and lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine of Aragon. The wedding of Baron Willoughby and Maria de Salinas incurred the support of King Henry and he attended the wedding where he bestowed a cash gift on the couple along with Grimsthorpe Castle. Henry even named one of his ships after Maria, the Mary Willoughby. Considering the closeness of Maria to Katherine of Aragon it seems probable that young Katherine Willoughby was named for the queen.

The child inherited her father’s barony at the age of seven on the death of her father in 1526 and this made her one of the greatest heiresses in the country and by proxy an eligible marital prospect. Her wardship reverted to the crown but was sold by the king to his close friend Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Suffolk married his ward in 1533 only ten weeks after the death of his wife, the king’s sister Mary. Rather scandalously the Duke was 49 years old whilst his young bride was only 14. Nonetheless they appear to have had a happy marriage that included two young sons, Henry and Charles.

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Although she had remained an ardent Roman Catholic, after the death of her Spanish mother in 1539 it seems Katherine embraced Protestantism. Whilst discussing the Duchess’ conversion from Catholic to Protestant, Baldwin helpfully attempts to summarise the divide between the two strands of Christianity for the modern reader. This is helpful in that the topic is often taken for granted by an author and helps add context to the importance of Katherine’s conversion and the impact it had on her life during this period of religious turmoil. Baldwin points out that disagreements between the two faiths was often a matter of life and death and into this void bravely stepped the Duchess during this period. The author takes the step of stating that “this daughter of a Roman Catholic mother became on of the most fervent Protestants of her day”. This was furthered by her friendship to King Henry VIII’s sixth wife Katherine Parr, a noted reformer and devotee to learning.

At the time of her elderly husband’s death in 1545, the Dowager Duchess of Suffolk was still only 26 years old, fertile and attractive with a wealthy portfolio of property. She was as attractive a marital proposition as she had been prior to her marriage to Charles Brandon. In spite of her close friendship to the king’s current queen, Katherine Parr, rumours spread across royal courts that the King was about to take another wife, namely Katherine Willoughby, widow of his best friend Brandon. In February 1546 Imperial Ambassador Van der Delft wrote: “I hesitate to report there are rumours of a new queen. Some attribute it to the sterility of the present Queen, while others say that there will be no change during the present war. Madame Suffolk is much talked about and is in great favour”.

Baldwin theorises “It is possible that by 1546 he had grown impatient with Queen Catherine’s failure to give him a second son, and more than ever saw this younger, perhaps more attractive, woman who was now a widow and the mother of two healthy boys as the solution to his problem. He would not have been the first man to think that a new, more exciting, relationship would somehow restore his lost youth”. As it was, Katherine never married Henry and the king died in 1547 still wed to her friend and intellectual companion, Katherine Parr.

Katherine Willoughby’s later life would be spent as a leading participant in the Protestant Reformation and Baldwin recounts her actions and movements during this period with alacrity and insightful analysis, including her grief at the deaths of her two sons from the Sweating Sickness in 1551. She spent a period in exile during the reign of Queen Mary due to her committed protestant beliefs before returning after the accession of Elizabeth. She remained a protestant figurehead until her death as an elderly woman in 1580, by which point she was close to irreconcilably falling out with the queen. Each moment is documented in detail by Baldwin who has used a wide range of sources to formulate his biography.

Baldwin’s book is opened with a quote by Muriel St Clare Bryne who stated in 1981 that “Katherine Willoughby is one of the most interesting women of the Tudor Period” and Baldwin’s book serves to underline this notion. The author summarises her life as one ‘of privilege mixed with tragedy and danger, but she kept her head on her shoulders when many of her contemporaries lost theirs for less cause’. The book is concise and detailed; it focuses on events and their impact on his subject as opposed to other books on the era which often delve off on irrelevant tangents. All in all, Katherine Willoughby is a woman who was actively involved in some of the most important events of the Tudor age and was a contemporary of four Tudor monarchs; Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. Her life was astounding and Baldwin chronicles it with an absorbing attention to detail that ensures his work is a captivating read.

David

Henry VIII’s Last Love by David Baldwin is published by Amberley, 2015. The book is available to buy at all good bookstores, as well as online at the Amberley website, Amazon and The Book Depository.

Owen Tudor; Father of a Dynasty

By Nathen Amin

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

Son of an Outlaw

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

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

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

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

Husband to a Queen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Father of a Dynasty

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

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

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

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