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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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.

Book Review – The Hollow Crown/The Wars of the Roses by Dan Jones

By Nathen Amin

The Wars of the Roses is a period of English history that is very much in vogue at the moment, a situation undoubtedly bolstered by the Wars’ inclusion in a plethora of recent historical fiction releases by various preeminent authors. Their entertaining, if often disturbingly inaccurate, portrayal of the epic fifteenth century tussle for the crown has satisfyingly been equalled by a variety of releases by academic historians putting forward the ‘true’ story. Dan Jones’ new release ‘The Hollow Crown’ (published as ‘The Wars of the Roses’ in the US) is the latest welcome addition to this field.

As the best-selling author of the critically-acclaimed ‘The Plantagenets’, Dan Jones’ latest effort can be considered a natural sequel to his previous work. The Wars of the Roses were a complex and confusing period in English history and Jones succeeds in simplifying the conflict without omitting any detail detrimental to the understanding of the story. It is a trait not unlike the style employed by Dr David Starkey, that elder statesman of the Tudor period under who Jones studied at Cambridge. The book is divided into four parts, namely ‘Beginnings (1420-1437)’, ‘What is a King? (1437-1455)’, ‘The Hollow Crown (1455-1471)’ and ‘The Rise of the Tudors’ (1471-1525)’. It is to Jones writing ability that this form of splitting up his work doesn’t disrupt the flow of the storytelling process.

Whilst most books about the period helpfully provide detailed family trees, a notable feature of Jones’ book is the additional inclusion of maps highlighting key locations of not only fifteenth century England and Wales but also of France and the Low Countries. Any student of the Wars, new or old, will be grateful for this quick reference. Furthermore his work is well-littered with quotes from contemporary chronicles and other sources, a satisfying method that allows the reader to become engrossed in the story without having to periodically flick to the notes to chase the quote.

Jones considers the origin of the Wars of the Roses to be Henry V’s death in 1422 and the subsequent accession of his infant son Henry VI, for which he makes a compelling and sensible claim. That the infant grew up to be unsuited to ruling either England or France is resolutely clear to all students of the period. Jones however takes this conclusion a step further by essentially declaring the pious and fragile Henry to be main culprit responsible for the outbreak of hostilities, a unusual standpoint. Jones’ concludes “in a system in which law, order, justice and peace flowed so heavily from the person of the king and the office of the Crown, Henry VI’s reign (and his afterlife between deposition in 1461 and his death ten years later) was a disaster”. Jones considers the tragic monarch an “adult king who simply would not perform his role”. He is not wrong.

If the Wars have their roots in 1422, the Jones theorises the dynastic conflict didn’t truly end until deep in the sixteenth century, many decades after the generally accepted end date of 1485/87 when the last pitched battles were fought on a large scale. His acceptable justification for this is the targeting and eradication of the Yorkist bloodline by Henry VIII which included the barbaric execution of Margaret Pole, an elderly scion with an impeccable Yorkist pedigree.

With an impartiality that is refreshing in literature covering the Wars of the Roses, the book documents, in varying detail, all the battles of the Wars and satisfyingly includes a roll call of anybody who was anyone during the conflict, from the kings and dukes down to officials like Sir William Oldhall and the much demonised Empson and Dudley. Jones doesn’t favour a side or a faction, coming to the genre with an neutrality from which no-one emerges blameless. He both criticises and praises Richard III and Henry VII for example.

It is narrative history that certain to attract academic students and historical fiction fans alike, not necessarily an easy accomplishment but one that Jones succeeds in providing. Vivid storytelling and descriptive terms easily paint a picture for the reader of the ruthlessness of the period.
Jones aims in his introduction to tell the story of the Wars in a way that is “scholarly, informative and entertaining”. In this he succeeds.

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The Lincoln Roll – the Princes’ Death Certificate?

By David Durose

The Lincoln Roll – the Princes’ Death Certificate?

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

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

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

Who was John de la Pole?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the John de la Pole genealogical roll?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does the Lincoln Roll say about the Princes?

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

Edward V’s medallion reads

Edward first-born son of King Edward and Elizabeth

“In iunie tute sine liberis decessit”

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

Richard, Duke of York’s medallion reads

Richard second son of King Edward and Elizabeth

“Etiam decessit sine liberis”

 Also deceased without issue in childhood

What is the significance of this information?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pretenders during Henry’s reign

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

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

Link to the Roll at John Ryelands Library

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

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

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

The Extraordinary Bond Between an Uncle and His Nephew

By Debra Bayani

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

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

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

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

they obliterate us.

There was no sadness for even a moment

without joy and a leader.

As another Jasper of yore

came with the myrrh for wise Mary’s son,

so too Jasper (no less of a man)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The stag’s head with an eagle’s action

ahead of a company, he shatters passionately.

I aimed towards their cries,

the moon in a heavy battle yonder.

The eagle’s black chick succeeds

in bearing the crown, his tone is just,

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

for this man won’t have long to live.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selected sources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 About the Author

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

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

Sir Walter Herbert of Raglan

By Nathen Amin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raglan Castle
Raglan Castle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Henry Tudor Walking Tour of York

By Nathen Amin

This is a walk designed to cover most if not all of the locations in York associated with Henry VII and his reign. As king, Henry reigned England from 1485-1509 and visited York on two occasions – 1486 and 1487.

*start at the King’s Manor in Exhibition Square*

1. King’s Manor

King’s Manor was originally built to house the abbots of the adjacent St Mary’s Abbey. The current construction was built atop the original Norman building and many parts of the building date from the 15th century. After the Abbey’s dissolution by Henry VIII in 1539 it became the headquarters of the Council of the North for the next 100 years. Henry VIII was noted to have stayed here during a progress to the north.

King's Manor
King’s Manor

*walk across Exhibition Square*

2. Queen Margaret’s Arch

Queen Margaret’s Arch is a small entranceway in the defensive walls which once provided protection to St Mary’s Abbey. The portion which remains today is the familiar arch through which scores of residents and tourists pass on a daily basis to traverse to and from the city centre. This opening was created in 1497 to provide easy access to and from the Minister from the Abbey; it was further utilised in the summer of 1503 when the convoy of the teenage Princess Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, passed through with her convoy on her journey north to Scotland for the commencement of her marriage to King James IV.

The visit of this Princess of England and Queen of Scotland to York was of great importance to the citizens of York as it offered an opportunity to display due reverence and loyalty to the King of England and to gain the favour of the Tudors in the aftermath of the turbulent Wars of the Roses. It is stated that the streets were lined with such large crowds it took her two hours to progress from the archway to the Minster. She had been met by the Mayor and the Aldermen dressed in their finest crimson robes and adorned with their chains of office. The following day Margaret attended High Mass at the Minster and witnessed another procession. She was ‘richly arrayed in a gown of cloth of gold with a rich collar of precious stones and a girdle reaching down to the ground made from spun gold’.

This occasion was commemorated in 1899 by a local historical society who commissioned a plaque which is presently positioned on the wall next to the arch.

Queen Margaret's Arch
Queen Margaret’s Arch

*cross the road to Bootham Bar*

3. Bootham Bar

Bootham Bar has been a gateway into York for over 2000 years and was used as an entranceway by the Romans. The existing structure primarily dates from the 14th century, with the arch an 11th century Norman creation. In 1501 during the reign of Henry VII a door-knocker was installed with the requirement that any visiting Scots had to knock and obtain permission from the Lord Mayor to enter the city. A portcullis can still be viewed in the empty chamber. During the Lambert Simnel conspiracy Bootham came under attack from rebels, “the lords Scrope of Bolton and Upsall, constrained as it was said by their folk, came on horseback to Bootham Bar, and there cried ‘King Edward’ and made assault on the gates, but the commons who were watchmen there well and manfully defended them and put them to flight’. After another rebellion in 1489 over tax was more successful in breaching Bootham Bar, Henry VII criticised the city for not maintaining the walls in a good condition.

Bootham Bar
Bootham Bar

*walk through Bootham Bar and along High Petergate; at the Minster turn left and enter Dean’s Park*

4. Archbishop’s Palace

The Archbishop Palace is located a few yards from the Minster within the confines of the Dean’s Park. As its name suggests it was the one-time medieval residence of the Archbishops of York before their eventual relocation, firstly to Cawood Castle and then to Bishopthorpe Palace. On 9 September 1483 Edward of Middleham, only son and heir of King Richard III, was invested as Prince of Wales within the walls of the Archbishop’s Palace, an attempt at turning attention away from the exiled Henry Tudor and towards Richard’s own hopes for the future of the House of York. Today the remaining buildings of the Palace house the Minster Library.

Archbishop's Palace
Archbishop’s Palace

*continue walking past the Archbishop’s Palace and along Minster Yard lane. When you reach the small junction turn left*

5. St William’s College

St William’s College has no direct link with Henry VII but is nonetheless another intriguing and important 15th Century building in York. The current incarnation of the building was built during the start of the reign of Edward IV, in the early 1460’s.

It was designed to accommodate 24 priests who were entrusted with praying for the souls of the deceased in exchange for payment, a common medieval activity. The building was named for Saint William Fitzherbert, Archbishop of York in the mid twelfth century and a nephew of King Stephen. Henry VI was responsible for the initial licensing for the chantry in 1457 before his successor Edward IV renewed the royal licence in 1461 shortly after coming to the throne, encouraged no doubt by his Neville cousins. Building commenced in 1465, the year George Neville became Archbishop of York, and would remain the abode of the Minster’s chantry priests until the reformation the following century.

St William's College
St William’s College

*turn right and walk back towards the Minster*

6. York Minster and St Michael-Le-Belfry

 York Minster is undoubtedly one of the greatest examples of medieval architecture in Europe, a true landmark renowned across the continent and a wonderful demonstration of the Gothic style.

The Rose Window in the Minster was believed to have been created during the early Sixteenth Century and is a celebration of the union of the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster in the marriage of Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor. During Henry’s progress to the city in 1486, when he would have heard Mass in the Minister, a pageant was put on in his honour in which was featured ‘a royal rich red rose, unto which rose shall appear another rich white rose, unto whom all flowers shall give sovereignty’. This was the birth of the Tudor Rose, the symbol of a new era.

Inside lies the tomb effigy of Thomas Savage, Archbishop of York between 1501 and 1508. Savage was a much-valued ecclesiastical figure during the reign of Henry VII. He was a kinsman of the Stanleys and his brother Sir John Savage had commanded part of the Tudor forces at the Battle of Bosworth. Archbishop Savage was said to lead a live more akin to that of a nobleman than a cleric, enjoying hunting and other secular pursuits. As archbishop he played a key role in the marriage of Prince Arthur to Katherine of Aragon and also in the ennoblement of Prince Henry as Duke of York. He also served as President of the Council for an extended period, a position of utmost importance as it was he who presided over the meetings whilst the chancellor was absent. By 1498 he was referred to by the Spanish envoy as being one of the most influential people in the kingdom.

Opposite York Minster stands the city’s only 16th Century church, and a wonderful place of worship in its own right. The current incarnation of St Michael-le-Belfry was built during the tumultuous Reformation period of 1525 and 1537. The Minster’s Master Mason John Forman was the architect and it’s an interesting fusion of the traditional Medieval Gothic Style evident in the Minster with flourishes of the new Renaissance period. Although it was built after the time of Henry VII it is nonetheless an intriguing Tudor construction, unique in York. It also served as the church in which the notorious Guy Fawkes was baptised in 1570.

York Minster
York Minster

*Opposite the Rose Window, walk a few yards down the small path until you reach Starbucks at the entrance of Stonegate*

7. Stonegate

Stonegate is one of York’s most important and historic streets; the current thoroughfare lies atop the Roman Via Praetoria, suggesting the integral part this street has played for thousands of years. The street also played a key role in the construction of the Minster; stone from Tadcaster was brought from the River Ouse up the street to the Minster. During Medieval times the street was home to goldsmiths, printers and glass painters amongst other craftsmen. Mulberry Hall, situated about half-way down Stonegate is a prominent medieval building built in the mid-15th Century. In April 1486 as part of his progress to York, Henry VII passed through Stonegate where he was greeted with a pageant. A lady dressed as the Virgin Mary blessed the new king in what was a joyous welcome to the centre of York for the new king.

Mulberry Hall on Stonegate
Mulberry Hall on Stonegate

*turn up the small alleyway underneath the ‘Ye Olde Starr Inn’ sign and enter Coffee Yard*

8. Barley Hall

Barley Hall is a reconstructed medieval townhouse in the centre of York situated just off Stonegate, an historic thoroughfare close to the towering Minster that would have been one of the most prestigious streets in England during the 15th century. Accessible through two small atmospheric alleyways, the townhouse portrays how the building appeared in the 1480’s. Rooms include the great hall, a buttery and pantry, a parlour and several bed chambers, each of which is fitted with furniture relevant to the era.

Originally built in 1360 by monks of a priory, by the reign of Henry VII it was a bustling residence playing an important role in the civic life of England’s second city. The property came into the ownership of successful goldsmith William Snawsell in 1466, who initially rented the townhouse for the relatively high price of 53 shillings and 5 pence. Snawsell was wealthy in comparison to his fellow townsfolk and owned a multitude of property throughout York and the neighbouring villages. As a prosperous gentleman he served the city in various capacities, earning a degree of regional prominence as Chamberlain in 1459, Sheriff in 1464, Lord Mayor in 1468 and alderman for twenty years thereafter until his retirement due to illness in 1492.

As a prominent civic officer Snawsell was a contemporary of Richard III when he was both Duke of Gloucester and King of England, As Alderman it would have fallen upon men like Snawsell to welcome Richard to the city on his various visits and to walk in procession during the subsequent celebrations. Adorned in his purple gown of state, this was a role Snawsell would have continued under Henry VII, only retiring from service in his seventies. Snawsell also played a prominent role in taking gifts to Richard’s son Edward of Middleham and honouring the newly invested Prince of Wales in September 1483. Further enhancing his credentials as a loyal member of Richard’s northern affinity was his relationship through marriage to Thomas Wytham, who was one of Richard’s councillors when Duke of Gloucester and a former Chancellor of the Exchequer under Henry VI and Edward IV.

In August 1485 Snawsell was amongst the city elders who had been informed of the invasion of Henry Tudor in an attempt to depose Richard from the throne and had to decide accordingly what course of action to take. He was present during an emergency meeting of the City Council which decided you dispatch around 80 troops to fight Richard’s cause at Bosworth although disastrously they failed to reach the battlefield in time. The following day William Snawsell’s name is listed first in the records of those York councillors present to hear a report of the battle, an account which stated “King Richard late mercifully reigning upon us was thrugh grete treason…piteously slane and murdred to the grete hevyness of this citie.”

Presented with the loss of a patron who had treated York, and in particular its civic gentlemen like William Snawsell well, the elderly alderman chose to make an immediate peace with the new monarch and accordingly swore allegiance. As alderman it is probable that Snawsell would have honoured Henry VII during the new King’s progress to York, forming a core part of the welcoming committee at Micklegate Bar. It is believed he died around 1495 although no will has survived to verify.

Snawsell’s townhouse at Barley Hall would have been amongst the most opulent in the city and would have been served by around twelve servants, including a cook, a steward and various scullions to ensure the smooth running of the household. Snawsell lived at the property with his wife Joan Thweng of Sheriff Hutton and their children Seth, Isobel and Alice. William remained in possession of the residence under 1489 when it was sold to William Carter, a wine merchant.

The reconstructed Barley Hall stands today almost as a testament to the importance these local civic officers played in shaping history’s most dramatic moments, a participation that is generally overlooked in favour of the kingdom’s elite nobles. William Snawsell succeeded in achieving what very few nobles managed to do in the 15th century, and that was to serve four kings and both the House of Lancaster and House of York.

Barley Hall
Barley Hall

*continue through Coffee Yard and turn left along Grape Lane. At the end of Grape Lane turn right onto High Petergate and just before the Poundland turn left up the small alleyway*

9. Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate

Church of Holy Trinity was founded in the early twelfth century and features thirteenth and fourteenth century architecture. The church received substantial restructuring during the 1470’s under the guardianship of Rector John Walker. The rector was responsible for the magnificent stained glass window on the east wall, which was added in 1471. The tower was added during the reign of Henry VII and was completed between 1495 and 1496.

Holy Trinity Church
Holy Trinity Church

*Follow the path until you enter Goodramgate opposite Tesco. Turn left and follow the road until you reach Monk Bar*

10. Monk Bar

Monk Bar is the site of the Richard III Experience. The Bar is a 14th Century construction that was heightened under the orders of Richard III. The section of Wall from here to Layerthorpe was probably repaired during the reign of Henry VII; the arches are late medieval and correspond to other late 15th Century walls in London and Tenby.

Monk Bar
Monk Bar

 

*Enter the York Walls on the right of Monk Bar. On the right just a short walk along you will see the timbered hall of the Merchant Taylor’s Guild*

11. Merchant Taylor’s Hall

The Merchant Taylor’s Hall is a 14th Century timber-framed building that has served as the base of the Taylors Guild in York for over 600 years. They were one of seven guilds in the medieval city and were a powerful entity. They received the patronage of Henry VII in 1503 when he officially recognised their name through charter as the Merchant Taylor’s Guild.

*Follow the wall until you come to the end of this section in Layerthorpe*

12. King’s Fishpool

The King’s Fishpool was a large shallow lake lying between Layerthorpe and Foss Bridge. It was created during on the orders of William the Conqueror in 1069 when he dammed the River Foss and added another level of defence on the eastern side of the city. The Fishpool would remain in situ for the next 700 years and its boundaries can be understood by the lack of walls between Layerthorpe and the Red Tower. Today the name for the area is Foss Island, derived from the 18th century when the Fishpool began to silt up creating a series of marshy islands. The fishpool provided a plentiful supply of fish to the nearby castle.

*walk along the main road for a few hundred meters until you reach the Red Tower and the resumption of the town walls*

13. Red Tower

The Red Tower in York, constructed during the reign of Henry VII. This watchtower once marked the end of the city walls before the commencement of a large swamp that was part of the King’s Fishpool. An agreement was made between King Richard III and York City Corporation to strengthen and repair the walls, an understanding that continued into the reign of Henry Tudor.

Construction began on the Red Tower in 1490. The Corporation did not wish to pay the higher rates to Stone Masons and therefore employed the cheaper Tilers Guild to build the tower using bricks. This decision angered the Stone Masons who had hitherto been responsible for all such construction work in the city and a feud erupted between the masons and the tilers, who complained that their tools were being routinely broken or stolen. The situation escalated until 1491 when a tiler named John Patrick was murdered. Two masons were charged with his murder. One man was Christopher Horner and the other was William Hindley, Master Mason at the Minster. Hindley escaped arrest as he stayed in the Minster area which fell under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop rather than the city authorities. Both men escaped conviction, an indication of the power masons held in the city. The tilers were permitted to finish the Red Tower but it would prove to be York’s only brick building of the period. It was first referred to as the Red Tower in 1511 when artillery was kept there.

The Red Tower
The Red Tower

*walk along the town walls until you reach Walmgate Bar*

14. Walmgate Bar

Walmgate Bar is the most complete of the city’s four bars as the only gateway that still retains its barbican. Similar to the other bars, the eldest part of Walmgate is the 12th century stone archway with the remainder generally being 14th century. Uniquely the inside of the Bar features a timber-framed Elizabethan house. The heavy wooden doors date from the 15th century. Henry VIII entered York through this bar in September 1541.

*walk along the town walls until you reach Fishergate Bar*

15. Fishergate Bar

Fishergate Bar was an alternative medieval entrance into the city. The arch was restored in 1487 by the Lord Mayor of York William Todd who is commemorated on the plaque above the archway. Mayor Todd was knighted that year by Henry VII for providing support against the forces of Lambert Simnel, Yorkist pretender to the throne and in celebration funded the restoration of 55 metres of the walls including Fishergate. Only two years later however an uprising occurred in York amongst some of the citizens angered at the raising of taxes by Henry VII. One of their acts of civil disobedience was the torching of Fishergate Bar on 15 May 1489, carried out by Sir John Egremont and John Chambers. After the attack Thomas Wrangwysh was reprimanded for not keeping the two bars in adequate repair. The damage was such that the Bar was bricked up and would remain as such until 1827. The king also ordered that the walls in the area be repaired and strengthened. In 1491 the king further ordered the walls and ditches to be repaired and guns to be obtained. The Mayor pleaded poverty in response so the king granted £98. The guns didn’t materialise until the reign of his son Henry VIII in 1511.

Fishergate Bar
Fishergate Bar

*walk along the walls until you reach Fishergate Postern*

16. Fishergate Postern

Fishergate Postern is a large, rectangular stone building built first erected in the early 16th century. It was a defensive tower used to keep guard over the nearby postern gateway. The original early 15th century tower was designed to be a secondary entrance to the larger, nearby Fishergate Bar.

The Postern saw increased usage during the reign of Henry VII after the destruction and subsequent bricking up of Fishergate Bar after the tax riot of 1489. In 1501/02 the Mayor and Corporation of York ordered that a new stone postern tower be built, and construction was between 1504 and 1507 which is the tower we see today. The stone gateway was probably rebuilt at the same time, complete with portcullis.

Fishergate Postern
Fishergate Postern

*cross the road and bridge and follow the pavement around until you reach Clifford’s Tower*

17. Clifford’s Tower

Clifford’s Tower is the only substantial remnant of the medieval York Castle, an unusual two-story quatrefoil keep built in the late 13th Century on the orders of Henry II. It served as a defensive base within York in addition to a medieval prison and place of execution. By the late 15th century the castle had fallen into a state of disrepair; Richard III was killed before his orders for renovation work had been carried out and it seems there was no urgency or need from Henry VII to continue with the plans. By the reign of Henry VIII the castle had fallen into further disrepair although it was still used for executions, for example Pilgrimage of the Grace leader Robert Aske was hanged from the tower in 1536.

Clifford's Tower
Clifford’s Tower

*cross the road and pick up the York Walls trail by walking through the park next to the river. Walk up the steps to Skeldergate Bridge and walk across. On the right hand side looking up river you will see the Ouse Bridge*

18. Ouse Bridge (from Skeldergate Bridge)

Henry VII crossed the Ouse Bridge in 1486 during his northern progress to York. He was greeted on the bridge with a throne and ‘King Solomon’ who led six men who portrayed the six earlier King Henrys. Together the group offered Henry VII a sceptre to accompany a crown he had earlier been presented at Micklegate Bar. A shower of rose water and comfits completed the exuberant and merry scene.

*At the end of Skeldergate Bridge, enter the York Walls and follow through until Micklegate Bar*

19. Micklegate Bar

The location of the Henry Tudor Experience

Micklegate Bar was the most important gateway to York and traditionally was the place royalty was welcomed into the city. The base of the Bar dates from the 12th century, similar to the city’s other bars whilst the top two stories date from the 14th century.

For hundreds of years Micklegate Bar was used to display the severed heads of rebels and traitors, including that of Richard, Duke of York, in 1460. The last severed head was not removed until 1754.

Henry VII first visited York in 1486 and his entrance to the city was through Micklegate Bar. Court chronicler Polydore Vergil wrote ‘he set out for York, to keep in control the people of the north, wild and readier than others for rebellion’.

He was met by the city’s sheriffs, aldermen and Mayor at Bilborough Cross and was accompanied into the city. No expense was spared in paying tribute to this new gain and to seek his favour; it was said children lining the street cried out ‘King Henry’ and red and white roses were displayed to symbolise York and Lancaster’s union. Henry was presented with a crown and the keys to the city, symbolic of York’s submission to the king. He was greeted by a citizen dressed as Ebrauk, the legendary founder of York, who exclaimed in verse ‘To you, Henrie, I submit my citie, key and croune; To reuyll and redresse, your dew to defence; never to this citie to presume ne pretence; but holy I graunt it to your governaunce; As a principall parcel of your inheritaunce’.

Henry returned again in July 1487 but this time he arrived at Micklegate at the head of an army having just defeated a Yorkist threat to his throne. The Mayor and Corporation of York met him at the Bar, where the king was accompanied by a thousand noblemen dressed in armour. A Mystery Play was put on for Henry who watched from the Coney Street house of Thomas Scott.

Micklegate Bar
Micklegate Bar

*From here follow the remainder of the walls to cross Lendal Bridge. You will emerge by the King’s Manor and York Minster*