Tudors

A Review of ‘The Daughter of Time’

Anyone with a passing interest in the study of the fifteenth century has heard of Josephine Tey’s book ‘A Daughter of Time’, a mystery novel from 1951 often mentioned in heated discussions regarding the guilt, or otherwise, of Richard III in the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower. We are often told, in a most-determined manner, that Richard could not have committed the deed, with the facts outlined in Tey’s book providing the basis of any argument. It is not unlike the recent phenomenon we see with the work of Philippa Gregory, where some use the work of fiction to bolster their verdict, a case in point being the recent belief that Margaret Beaufort plotted her entire life to place her son on the throne, against any known historical evidence. Fictional accounts are, it seems, heavily influential in forming the opinions of some people in how history unravelled.

I have always been mildly amused by how much influence this particular fiction book has had on Ricardians. Many of these subscribers to the belief that Richard III was a good man undone by Tudor treachery and propaganda proudly note that their views originated with Tey’s book. By its very nature, however, a fictional book surely can’t be used as supporting evidence in an historical debate. It is not ‘real history’, after all, but make-believe fashioned in the mind of an author able to manipulate known-fact to put forward their opinion.

The premise of ‘A Daughter of Time’ is simple. Inspector Grant of Scotland Yard is hospitalised, and understandably bored, is brought several portraits by a friend to muse over, being an acknowledged expert in the study of faces through his profession. Upon being presented with an image of Richard III, whose identity is not instantly apparent to the policeman, Grant’s assessment of the man is that he was conscientious, a perfectionist, a worrier, presumably a man of great responsibility such as a judge or a soldier. The inspector is astonished when he discovers the man he made this positive judgement of was in fact Richard III, ‘the monster of nursery rhymes’ and the ‘destroyer of innocence’. Grant, however, fails to see any ‘villainy’ in the face of history’s most notorious royal criminal, and sets out to seek the ‘real Richard’ with the help of a young American research assistant. The result is a gradual realisation that Richard was, in fact, a good and kind king, unfairly maligned by the Tudors, in particular Sir Thomas More, who becomes something of a villain during the piece.

Now, the book is a fantastic read, an impressively gripping work that I finished in little over two days. I couldn’t put the book down. Nonetheless, for a book that has come to be regarded as the ‘bible’ of modern Ricardianism, it must be assessed for the quality of its argument, which I sadly feel is lacking, and one-dimensional at best.

As mentioned, Grant’s initial belief of Richard’s innocence stems from the portrait itself, bolstered oddly by a fictional account in a book he reads called the Rose of Raby. The inspector simply doesn’t believe the man in the portrait, a mere painting remember, was capable of the crimes he was accused of, which seems a worryingly generous, and simplistic, deducted by an apparently celebrated police inspector. At one point, the face is even considered to be saintly! I somehow fail to see a real-life inspector acting in such a manner.

By chapter 6, Grant encounter’s Thomas More and his exaggerated and embellished work on Richard III, much of which provided the basis for Shakespeare’s ridiculous caricature of the king. Here, Grant reacts with particular distaste to the discovery that More was only a boy during Richard’s life and therefore his work was based on second-hand gossip. Yes, More’s work was reliant on the testimony of other men, not least John Morton, but it seems churlish that this fact alone renders the entire work a fraud, and as a consequence redeems Richard. Basically, a nice face in the portrait and the fact that More was a child during the reign of Richard III turn Grant into a rabid Ricardian. From here on in, the inspector is determined to absolve Richard of any wrongdoing, something which, as the book is a fictional account and NOT academic, feels inevitable.

The more Grant learns about Richard, the more the case builds. It is not possible, the inspector muses, for such a popular duke to have become such a rash king, as the historical accounts state. They must all be wrong. How can this man, who was a good administrator and excellent military general, also be capable of such unscrupulous and villainous behaviour. Again, this apparently highly capable police inspector is being very generous to his subject. Humans are not inflexible; they are not one or the other. They are no binary. Humans are complex, and react to the world they live in. There is nothing to suggest that Richard III could have been a good administrator, a loyal brother, an excellent military man whilst also committing disastrous mistakes as king as the pressure of rule affected his decision-making.

Of course, to restore Richard’s attention, attention soon finds its way to Henry VII. The Henry portrayed in the book doesn’t have a single, redeeming quality. The financial policy known as ‘Morton’s Fork’ is brought up at length, ignoring the fact that Yorkist England had a similar policy under Edward IV, whilst the conclusion is reached that the Princes in the Tower must have survived into Henry’s reign simply because the Tudor king made no political capital from the disappearance. Furthermore, Richard couldn’t have done it because he had many other Yorkist nieces and nephews still living, and would therefore have had to kill them all to take the throne, again conveniently overlooking the reality of the situation in favour of genealogical theorising.

We also see it noted that as Elizabeth Woodville came out of sanctuary and reconciled somewhat with Richard III, then he couldn’t have killed her sons. This theory, of course, overlooks the fact that Richard had already, in fact, killed one of her sons from her first marriage, Richard Grey, in usurping the throne. Was his life irrelevant because he wasn’t a prince? All things considered, the evidence for Richard’s innocence in the book is flimsy, and doesn’t stand up to any in-depth analysis. There is a delicious irony in Inspector Grant bemoaning the two-dimensional thinking of historians when that’s basically what this very book is.

Other evidence is easily dismissed, or even fabricated. The Croyland Chronicler’s rumour of the princes’ deaths in 1483, during Richard’s reign, is dismissed off-hand as being because Morton was lurking in the vicinity at the time and was therefore clearly the source, whilst Henry VII is accused of murdering Richard’s illegitimate son John, something for which there is no contemporary evidence.

In summary, Grant’s (or should that be Tey’s?) argument for Richard’s innocence, with no alternative theories put forward, can be summed up as follows;

  • Richard’s face in a portrait doesn’t fit the face of a killer.
  • Richard had nothing to gain from the princes’ death.
  • Thomas More was only a boy during Richard’s reign, therefore everything he wrote must be discounted as nothing more than gossip
  • Henry VII never made any political capital from their disappearance, therefore he must have killed them
  • Elizabeth Woodville forgave Richard and therefore couldn’t have killed her sons
  • There was no contemporary reports of the princes’ death during Richard’s reign.

Each of the above points can be directly counter-argued, and in some cases completely dispelled. The portrait is just that, a portrait, and not particularly contemporary either therefore it’s irrelevant. Richard DID have something to benefit from the princes’ death, as they would have become the source of later disaffection and were hardly likely to roll over and allow their inheritance to be taken. More’s account was written many decades after Richard’s death, and certainly embellished, but that doesn’t alone render the entire work a lie. Henry VII may not have made political capital because he quite simply did not know what became of the princes when he finally secured the realm. And, of course, Elizabeth Woodville did forgive Richard, even though he had already killed one of her sons from her first marriage.

Of course, as this book isn’t a true work of history, it doesn’t take such counter-arguments into account. We only receive a selective, one-sided version, albeit dressed up as a policeman applying logic and reasoning, with results which any respectable historian would question. There is great merit in how the protagonists pull apart the work of Thomas More, and question the veracity of later sources like Hall and Holinshed, something all respectable historians must do, but the deductions the book comes too are based on circumstantial evidence. There is nothing solid that suggests Richard’s innocence, and the book doesn’t stand up to any real scrutiny.

That all being said, I did enjoy the book but the reader must always be careful in being suckered by the content of a fictional book. This isn’t an unbiased, impartial account, irregardless of how well-researched the book may be; its heavily prejudiced, with facts bended or even omitted to ensure the story reaches a conclusion the author undoubtedly endorses. A fantastic novel, but very questionable as a genuine historical account.

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The Battle of Towton (Extract from ‘House of Beaufort’ Book)

The following is an edited extract from ‘House of Beaufort; the Bastard Line that Captured the Throne’ by Nathen Amin, released by Amberley in August 2017. You can order the book HERE)

The Lancastrians had scouted an ideal location on an exposed plateau between the villages of Towton and Saxton, a few miles south of Tadcaster, and once it became clear the Yorkists were making their final advance, orders were given to assume battle formation. The duke of Somerset’s army was slightly uphill facing south, with a deep ravine to their right in which the swollen River Cock flowed before meandering behind their lines. To prevent an attack from the rear, the bridge crossing the Wharfe in Tadcaster was demolished, in theory safeguarding their position. As it transpired, this order merely hemmed Somerset’s men into a death trap.

Once the Yorkist army, fresh from the Ferrybridge engagement, had organised their lines, cries were heard from both sides in support of their respective kings. It had started to snow heavily, with swirling winds obscuring vision and leaving the ground icy white, hardly ideal conditions for a life or death confrontation. It was tacitly acknowledged by all this was to be a decisive battle, with any traditional rules of engagement suspended. Somerset himself probably recognised that should he be captured alive, it was unlikely he would survive the day if previous encounters were any indication. Of course, the same was true in reverse, and Henry Beaufort still retained hope of getting his hands on Warwick. Nervous tension must have pervaded through his body as he stared across the terrain, his battle standard of blue and white with the Beaufort Portcullis fluttering in the cold air.

The fighting commenced with the archers loosing their arrows into the cold sky, although unbeknownst to them, Lancastrian efforts fell woefully short, losing range in the tempestuous wind. The Yorkist archers simply gathered up the arrows and shot them straight back whence they came, finding their targets with devastating accuracy. Somerset had probably hoped to encourage the enemy to attack him uphill, where he could pick them off from his advantageous position, but the unforeseen slaughter of his own archers prompted the duke to order his infantry to advance. Leading by example, and protected by a full harness of armour with his Beaufort arms prominently sewn onto his tabard, Somerset charged into battle. Hours of claustrophobic, hand-to-hand combat followed, leaving hundreds of men dying by the hour amidst the incessant clanging of steel upon steel.

The fighting was furious, but generally even-handed, until the arrival of the duke of Norfolk’s forces in the early afternoon. Norfolk smashed into the Lancastrian left-flank, gradually causing Somerset’s men to pivot until, disastrously, they had their backs towards the ravine and the flooded Cock Beck. As Edward’s forces started to overwhelm Somerset’s, the Lancastrian line disintegrated, with soldiers choosing to flee for their lives rather than standing their ground. What followed was slaughter on an unfathomable scale, for the Lancastrians were, in George Neville, Bishop of Exeter’s words, ‘routed and broken in pieces’. The panicked soldiers generally headed in two directions; some fled down the ravine towards the Cock but, finding it tough to scramble back up the opposite bank in the icy conditions, were butchered en masse. Others headed north, but finding the bridge across the Wharfe destroyed by their own hand, drowned in considerable numbers attempting to cross the freezing water whilst evading their bloodthirsty pursuers.

 

No quarter was given and no mercy granted, prompting Bishop George Neville to report ‘so many dead bodies were seen as to cover an area six miles long by three broad and about four furlongs’. Thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands, of Englishmen lay dead in blood-splattered snow, ‘a number unheard of in our realm for almost a thousand years’. Amongst those butchered at the hands of their fellow countrymen were Northumberland and Trollope, including forty-two knights executed after the battle on Edward’s orders. It is unsurprising the Milanese ambassador described the battle as ‘great and cruel’ on 18 April 1461, wryly adding ‘as happens when men fight for kingdom and life’.

 

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Henry VII; the King Maligned as a Miser

History has not been kind to Henry VII of England. The first Tudor king has often suffered from long-held accusations that he was a dark and greedy monarch, a man of such a suspicious disposition that his reign was a tyrannical period for England centred on the King’s grasping nature.

It could be argued that the one adjective used more than any other when describing Henry Tudor is ‘miser’. One needs to only witness the character assassination that accompanied the recent documentary ‘The Winter King’ by historian Tom Penn to understand this phenomenon. Amongst a plethora of speculative descriptions of the king in this overwhelmingly negative portrayal was “terrifying”. Penn further stated that Henry utilised ruthless methods to control England, whilst ‘money was dearest to his heart’. Are such accusations justified? It would appear by referring to the sources that the prevailing attitude of many historians, both professional and amateur, that Henry VII was a ‘miser’ king are wide of the mark and constitute an unfair description of both the man and his reign.

Henry Tudor was born into nobility as the son of the wealthy heiress Margaret Beaufort, only child of the Duke of Somerset, and Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond and half-brother to King Henry VI of England. Royal patronage of the Beauforts and Tudors by their regal relative should have ensured a comfortable upbringing for Henry but the internecine conflict known as the Wars of the Roses transformed the young boy’s prospects before he had even been born. His father Edmund, a loyal Lancastrian, was captured and imprisoned in Carmarthen Castle by Yorkist commanders and died shortly afterwards, whilst his uncle Henry VI was deposed by the House of York when the young Earl of Richmond was only four years old.

Henry’s wardship was purchased by his father’s foe Sir William Herbert and Henry found himself integrated into the Herbert household at Raglan. Henry’s destiny was out of his hands, completely dependent on the protection and will of Lord Herbert, who at least appeared to be a good guardian. Henry would remain with the Herberts until he was a teenager, later referring to this period as one of being a prisoner although he was admittedly honourably brought up. From 1471 until his triumphant landing in Wales in 1485 Henry was a penniless, land-deprived exile existing in the continued good will and generosity of firstly the Duke of Brittany and secondly the King of France, both of whom utilised the attainted Earl of Richmond as a political pawn in European affairs.

This uncertain upbringing ensured Henry grew up without any estates or money to call his own, a feather in the wind without stability or roots. This situation undoubtedly helped shape Henry’s outlook on life when he finally encountered great wealth and land for the first time at the age of 28 when he acceded to the throne of England. It was the archetypal rags to riches story. Did such an impoverished background ferment itself in adulthood miserliness however? Let us consider evidence to the contrary;
The sources leave an indication that Henry VII was not the miser some would believe. His patronage of renaissance artists and writers, his lively court and his extensive building campaign alone suggest that Henry was a man who enjoyed spending money on things he deemed beneficial to his family and his kingdom.

Henry was a man who surprisingly was recorded spending money on his controversial predecessor Richard III; on 1 March 1486 Henry granted John Plantagenet, the natural if illegitimate son of Richard III, an annual income of £20 whilst in 1495 Henry paid the not insubstantial fee of £50 for a marble and alabaster monument to mark Richard’s grave in Leicester.

Henry was also noted to lavish expensive gifts on his family. In May 1491 he paid the colossal sum of £3800 for cloth of gold, pearls and precious stones designed to adorn his family, whilst another record states the king paid 13s 4d for a lute for Princess Mary. A generous payment of £31 10s is also commanded to be ‘delivered to the Quene’s grace for juels’. Indeed from 1491 to 1505 the king was stated to have spent between £200,000 to £300,000 in jewels and plates, an incredible investment designed to secure the family’s financial future. In 1497 the Milanese ambassador was shown into the king’s presence and reported home that Henry was standing behind a chair of cloth of gold in a ‘most rich’ collar of rows of pearls and gems.

Entertainment was important to the king, in its various disguises. On Christmas Eve 1491 the king paid £5 to a certain Ringley for his participation as the ‘Lord of Misrewle’. Furthermore a payment of 6s 8d was made in 1501 to a person for eating coals whilst other records show payments of £1 to a child that played recorder and another pound to minstrels. In January 1494 Henry paid four actors from Essex £1 and the day made a further payment of £2 to morris dancers. He was also noted as making a payment of £2 to a certain Dick the Fool for new clothes. In 1492 the king was recorded as paying out the enormous sum of £132 to jousters who competed at a grand tournament held in his honour. Further entertainment-related payments can be viewed in the king’s expense records; there is a payment to ‘an Italian, a poete’ for £20 whilst another payment of 6s 8d is made to ‘a Walshe man, that maketh rhymes’. An intriguing payment of £20 is also made to ‘a maiden that danceth’.

Further examples of Henry’s expenditure include him losing £13 4s shooting at the butts, paying £3 6s 8d in 1497 for a blind poet and a payment of 6s 8d to ‘Grifhith Aprice, a man with a berde’. Henry’s general generosity can also be understood from seemingly spontaneous payments to a variety of people. Minor payments to persons for services rendered include ‘one who brought the king a fresh sturgeon’, ‘the woman that presented the king with cherries and strawberries’ and ‘to a poor man that had his corn eaten by the king’s deer’. A payment of £2 13s 4d was also made ‘to the one that brought the king a lyon’.

Henry VII certainly engaged in some extreme measures in order to enrich the royal treasury. Bishop Morton’s infamous rationale, recently known as ‘Morton’s Fork’, has been considered an unfair method of ensuring all subjects were taxed without exception whilst the relentless activities of councillors Empson and Dudley earned the pair an enmity capable of hurtling them towards their demise once their royal protector passed away. Of course, it is not often acknowledged that this method of taxation was not Henry’s invention, nor even Morton, adapted as it was from the reign of Edward IV. Should Morton’s Fork be more properly known as the Yorkist Fork? Henry’s actions were taken for the benefit of his fledgling dynasty and by extension for that of England. The country had been ruined by civil war and the crown was in a perilous financial situation prior to Henry’s accession, a legacy of the wars with France. Henry’s financial policies and decisions were taken with the aim of securing a peaceful succession for his son, the first such in almost a century, and to ensure a prosperous future for England and her people.

Henry has attracted a large degree of criticism from historians, both contemporary and modern, but it must be argued that such a difficult transition period from war to peace must encounter tough, unpopular decisions. It is absurd to denigrate this political ideology of careful and considered financial management of the kingdom and the crown to be the actions of a tyrannical despot. Henry Tudor is as much responsible for the rise of England’s ‘Golden Age’ under his granddaughter Elizabeth I as any other personage of the medieval period. Henry Tudor has in time been vilified and maligned as greatly as that other monarch he is forever and irrevocably linked to, Richard III. Henry VII was a king of his time and circumstances, acting with only the interest of his dynasty and the kingdom they ruled. The legacy of this great king is England’s growth from a provincial civil-war ravaged island into a major European power able to compete with its continental rivals. The Milanese ambassador during Henry’s reign wisely observed ‘this kingdom is perfectly stable, by reason first of the king’s wisdom, whereof everyone stands in awe, and secondly on account of the king’s wealth’. History, if not those who often interpret it and only see what they wish to see, has justified Henry’s actions. Henry a miser? Don’t you believe it.

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Brittany and the Tudors

The Exile

2014 signals the 500th anniversary of the death of Anne de Bretagne or Anna Vreizh, the last independent sovereign of Brittany before its annexation to the Kingdom of France. As the only child of Duke Francis II, the last male member of the ruling Breton House of Montfort, Anne was destined to become a key figure in the story of Brittany, an independent duchy that had long been coveted by various Kings of France. On the 6th December 1492 she was married to Charles VIII of France although when he died six years later she was legally obliged to marry his successor, his cousin Louis XII. She died at the Chateau de Blois on the 9th January 1514 and was buried in St Denis. Her attempts to preserve Breton autonomy and independence against intense French pressure have ensured her reputation as a Breton heroine in the modern period. Her successor was her daughter with Louis XII, Claude. Four years later Claude married the new king of France, her cousin Francis I of France, and the Duchy of Brittany was forever lost to the French monarchy.

The latter years of the independent Duchy of Brittany were closely aligned with the rise of the Tudor Dynasty, the ruling family of England from 1485. For two decades Brittany offered the Tudors support in their darkest moments, and vice versa. It was a relationship built on luck, necessity and international politics. The Welsh and the Bretons have a shared history stretching back thousands of years, both peoples descended from Brythonic Celtic tribes. It seems natural that the Tudors, with their Welsh roots, would find a lot in common with the people and culture of Brittany.

The rise of Henry Tudor from relative obscurity to become king of England is a tale that although renowned probably deserves greater attention than it has been afforded. It is a tale in which Brittany features prominently. Henry Tudor was the son of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, and Margaret Beaufort and was born in Pembroke, West Wales, in 1457. His father had died a few months before his birth and Henry was thus seen as the Earl of Richmond from birth. Edmund Tudor was descended from Welsh and French royalty; he was descended through his father Owen from the great Welsh princes of the early medieval period whilst his mother Katherine of Valois was the daughter of Charles VI of France. Margaret Beaufort meanwhile was a great-granddaughter of Edward III of England, providing young Henry Tudor with an intriguing fusion of English, Welsh and French royal blood.

Edmund Tudor and his brother Jasper Tudor were the half-brothers of King Henry VI of England due to their mutual mother Katherine of Valois. They were loyal to the king’s House of Lancaster; when a rival faction lead by Richard, Duke of York, attempted to dethrone the king and take the crown the Tudors remained loyal to their half-brother. This was the start of the Wars of the Roses and the rise of the Tudors. After Edmund’s death in Carmarthen Castle in 1456 the young Henry was taken into the custody of his devoted uncle Jasper, the Earl of Pembroke and an unrepentant Lancastrian. Jasper was driven into exile in 1461 after losing the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross and witnessing his brother’s crown taken by Edward IV, the son of the now deceased Richard of York. Henry was taken into the custody of the Yorkist military leader William Herbert whilst his Uncle Jasper was forced to escape to France and Scotland to seek a desperate alliance. Henry would remain in the care of the Herberts until England once again descended into civil war a decade later. The House of Lancaster, with Henry Tudor’s half-uncle Henry VI reinstated as king, was resurgent and Jasper Tudor returned to reclaim his nephew. It was a resurgence which would last under two years. Edward IV returned and decimated the Lancastrians at the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury in 1471; the King Henry VI was killed and so too was his son and heir Edward of Westminster.

Jasper Tudor once more succeeded in escaping his enemies and journeyed deep into West Wales where a boat was awaiting him in Tenby Harbour to take him back to France. This time he had with him his 14 year old nephew Henry. Together they set out for the open sea and for France where they would seek refuge with their Valois relations. Fortune had different plans for the pair however. The Tudors were blown of course and were forced to alight at Le Conquet in the extreme west of the independent Duchy of Brittany. Unsure what would greet them as they made their way inland from the scenic Breton Coast and towards the Breton court at Nantes, the Tudors had begun their twelve year exile in the Duchy of Brittany.

Refugees

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

Although things had begun in this fashion it was not a situation that would last. Their increasing status as pawns in the great diplomatic three-way tussle between the squabbling Bretons, French and English would gradually see the Tudors situation become more restricted. The English demanded they were treated as monitored prisoners whilst the French commanded they were put under stricter control so as to stop them being captured by the English. King Edward clearly wanted to extinguish this distant but last remaining line of the House of Lancaster and to finally secure his own House of York beyond all doubt whereas King Louis wanted the Tudors to use as a bargaining chip against England. Louis XI was also the first cousin of Jasper Tudor as his father King Charles VII was the brother of Jasper’s mother Catherine of Valois, the dowager Queen of England whom had scandalously married her servant Owen Tudor after her husband Henry V’s death. This, Louis believed, meant he had right to the guardianship of his kinsmen. Duke Francis, undoubtedly with some reluctance after initially extolling himself as a gracious and respectful host, was forced to accept such terms and the Tudors movements subsequently began to be more limited. Finally the access to the sea was seen as more of a curse than a blessing as it was seen to be too exposed to the possibility of English attack. The Tudors stay at this scenic chateau was abruptly cut short and they were urgently relocated and perhaps of more concern to the pair, separated. Jasper was sent to the Chateau de Josselin whilst young Henry was placed in the formidable confines of Chateau de Largoet in Elven.

Prisoners

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

Standing at the base of the fortress wall, the height of the three connected towers that compromise today’s modern Chateau is truly astonishing and would surely have been a behemoth of the Middle Ages. One can only imagine the effect it would have had on Jasper as he stood beneath the towers for the first time, particularly as the castle would still have had many of its other towers still intact. Jasper was moved here at some point between 1473 and 1474 and would have either entered through the opulent gate in the town square or perhaps through the smaller gate through which visitors today enter the Chateau in the centre of the town itself. The castle would have been intact at this period, with nine towers and complete walls merely reinforcing this formidable structure. After it was slighted at a later period only four of the towers remain today but from the courtyard one still gets a feeling how impressive this fortress would have been. On the right hand side is the modern day Chateau and still home of the Rohan-Chabot Dukes, a gothic creation built into the original walls which overlook the flowing River Oust. Although built decades after Jasper’s enforced stay here, the early 16th century renaissance building still displays the intricate architecture that has become synonymous with the period and is worth witnessing. Particularly worth studying are the differing galleries that can be found on the front of the facade, each demonstrating the various allegiances of the Rohan family, from the motto A PLUS to the large A for the then-duchess of Brittany, Anne. On the left hand side and thus directly opposite the Chateau stands one of the original towers, isolated from the reminder of the compound yet still standing proud and majestic. From the walls, one gets incredible views across the Oust Valley and although not on the ocean front, the chateau certainly has charming views that rival Suscinio. The keep itself where Jasper may have been kept prisoner is now gone, replaced by a simple empty space from which the banner of Josselin flies proudly over the valley.

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

Two things would have instantly captured Henry’s eye as he entered the courtyard of Largoet. On the left hand side and down a small dip stands the Round tower, three stories high with a hexagonal construction atop the highest level. The most striking aspect of the Chateau however is the incredibly high Tour d’Elven, the Elven Tower that stands 6 stories high and 144 feet from the base. This octagonal dungeon tower possesses a tiring 177 steps in total, is the highest dungeon in France and also was built to include views out to sea around 15 miles away. This immense structure had only been constructed around a decade earlier and it was in here which Henry would be housed for the next few years. Entering through the ground floor entrance, one can make their way up the large staircase to the second floor to the small and narrow room in which he was put. It is also possible that Henry was kept on the sixth floor, arguably the most impenetrable part of the entire chateau and demonstrative of his importance to the Bretons. The Lord of Rieux was an ally of Henry and felt honoured to be guarding this ‘comte of Richemonte’ and was duty bound to ensure he didn’t escape or was kidnapped. The evolving foreign policy of continental Europe during this period however would ensure the status of the Tudors would periodically be reevaluated by the Bretons.

A Close Escape

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

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

It was a mixture of quick thinking and the tight, cobbled streets of St Malo which possibly saved the life of Henry Tudor on that winter’s day in 1476 when, shortly after entering the town, he seemingly feigned an illness that swiftly halted the envoys march towards the ship, and thus England. As this delay was taking place, Admiral Quelennec had returned and was dismayed at his Duke’s action in releasing Henry Tudor from protective custody. The chivalric admiral felt that Duke Francis had made a promise in good faith and should have kept his oath to protect the Welshman. Convinced he had made a mistake, Francis sent his treasurer and key political aide Pierre Landais to St Malo in order to stop the sailing. Aided by the delay through illness, Landais arrived just in time to advise the English the deal was off and entered into lengthy dialogue with the exasperated envoys. It appears during these heated exchanges, the 19 year old Henry slipped away from his captors and escaped through the narrow streets whilst being pursued. Making his way to the church that stands in the centre of the old town, the Earl of Richmond claimed sanctuary within the confines of St Vincent’s Cathedral. With the local Bretons unwilling to allow the English to break the sanctuary tradition by entering the Cathedral armed, the envoys eventually admitted loss in their attempt to take Henry back to England and they left the shores of Brittany empty handed. They had him their possession for only three days. St Malo’s Cathedral still stands proud in the centre of the town and in fact the roads are so narrow and tight as befitting its history as a medieval town the building appears almost out of nowhere as you wander aimlessly through the many streets. Henry used these streets to his advantage and managed to evade all attempts at detection. It must have been a terrifying event for the young exile.

 The Lancastrian Claimant

Henry made his way back to the Breton Court for an audience with the Duke, Francis apologising profusely for his blunder and reassuring the Earl of Richmond that he would not be handed over to the English after all. It was an emotional reprieve for Henry. The English envoys were naturally furious at coming so close to attaining their goal of returning the Lancastrian exile to their Yorkist king but Pierre Landais and the Duke could only appease them by promising to again ensure the Tudors were kept secure in custody. Although lack of evidence exists to suggest the timeframes and locations of Henry’s next temporary place of residence, by 1480 he was in captivity at the Chateau L’Hermine in the southern coastal town of Vannes where he was joined from Josselin by his devoted uncle Jasper. As throughout the exile, envoys from both France and England continued to pressurise Duke Francis and at such a critical point in the Dukedom’s history it may have seemed at times he had no reason but to capitulate. In June 1482 King Edward reconfirmed his alleged desire to welcome Henry Tudor back into his kingdom as a treasured member of his inner court, particularly once married into a strong Yorkist family of which he may have had in mind his own daughter Elizabeth of York. Edward stated that should Henry acquiesce to this request then he would treated as a loyal and valued courtier and not only would he receive his Beaufort inheritance on his mother’s death he would receive a whole lot more. The flipside of this however, should Henry continue with his exile, was that he would lose everything if he did not return to English shores immediately. It is thought that Margaret Beaufort herself, a Lancastrian by birth whom had found herself married into the wider Yorkist regime, supported such a move. It certainly seemed to be the best this exiled Welshman could hope for at this junction. Although the Yorkist Dynasty seemed secure on the throne of England hitherto the political scene dramatically changed in April 1483 when the obese King Edward IV died, leaving his child and namesake Edward the new king. The future of Henry Tudor and the deal to bring him back home was suddenly cast into doubt. This was further complicated when Richard, Duke of Gloucester and younger brother to Edward IV, captured his nephew and usurped the crown. Disenfranchised Yorkists unhappy at this turn of events looked abroad to Henry as a possible alternative and scores of knights and nobles began to flee to Brittany. Duke Francis acknowledged this dramatic change in status of his charge and Henry was afforded greater freedom. This exiled Earl of Richmond found himself transformed from a little-known Lancastrian exile to a potential king-in-waiting. With little other prospects other than continuing his exile it was a role he embraced.

With his force growing daily as previously loyal Yorkists seeked sanctuary away from London, Henry Tudor faced his large force at Vannes Cathedral later that year and swore an oath to each and every man. He promised to lead them to the throne of England as their rightful monarch, to which he would have been greeted with support and the pledging of loyalty from the men. Henry left Vannes cathedral as a man with an army that was willing to fight for him, or at least to fight against Richard III. Henry and his closest advisors probably acknowledged that claim to the throne was weak, particularly as it was through an illegitimate female line. The decision was taken that uniting his claim with that of Edward IV’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, would bolster his acceptance as monarch and ensure the continuing loyalty of the Yorkist dissidents. To this effect Henry met with his faction at Rennes’ St Pierre Cathedral to pledge an oath to marry Elizabeth and unite the rival Houses. The Cathedral in Rennes sits in the centre of the city and constitutes an incredibly high front façade that certainly matches the similar structure at Westminster Abbey. As you enter and your eyes become accustomed to the darkness, you instantly become aware of the numerous marble pillars on each side that lead down the aisle to the altar. Situated underneath a great basilica and in the presence of many Catholic shrines, it was here on Christmas Day 1483 that Henry made his oath to marry Elizabeth of York and unite the warring factions. Present on this day was the majority of his force, both Yorkist and Lancastrian, in addition to the Duchess of Brittany herself. As the premier minister in the land Pierre Landais was also present and through him Henry obtained Francis’ solemn promise to support and assist in the cause. The ceremony included a mass which was officiated over by the Duchess’ own priest. Henry had entered into a pledge which he could not turn his back on; if his invasion of England was successful and he became King, he would marry Elizabeth of York. It was in effect a betrothal, a marriage in proxy. It could be argued that it was within Rennes Cathedral that the end of the Wars of the Roses was conceived.

The End of the Exile

Francis had grown increasingly ill and by 1484, his treasurer Pierre Landais was effectively in control of the dukedom. Francis had, for the main part, always kept his promise to protect Henry whilst he was in his control and had certainly grown accustomed to his company. With Henry’s role changing from mere exiled noble to claimant to the throne of England, both needed each other for different reasons. Henry needed Francis in order to succeed. Francis needed Henry to be King in order to gain a powerful ally in his constant battles with France. However during Francis illness during the summer of 1484, Landais began to listen to Richard’s constant overtures and certainly seemed as though he was about to hand the Tudors over. Landais not only thought this was the best thing for Brittany, but it was also self-preservation for himself to create a personal relationship with the King of England. The plans to hand over Henry Tudor to Richard III were almost set in motion when Henry’s ally, Bishop Morton, had found out through his sources about the plot to betray him behind Francis’ back. Henry in turn decided to hatch his plan whereby he would escape across the border into France where he would seek asylum in the court of the new French king Charles VIII. Henry had already made two incredible escapes during his lifetime; first as a 14 year old from Tenby Harbour and again as a 19 year old from English forces in St Malo. Leaving his base at Vannes at some point in September under the pretence of visiting a supposed friend, around 5 miles later Henry suddenly left the road and dipped into the woods where he changed into the clothes of a peasant. Disguised from detection, Henry then rode fiercely for the French border and asylum at Charles’ court. His uncle Jasper had equally crossed the border two days earlier in a similar manner.

Henry’s escape had scuppered Pierre Landais’ plans to transfer Henry to prison and into the hands of King Richard III and in fact they were only an hour behind Henry as he raced through the marches and into French territory. Deeply troubled and ashamed at what had transpired, Francis conveyed his regret to Henry and rather than punishing the English exiles that had been left behind in Brittany, Francis provided them not only with safe conduct to France but helped to finance the move to France. It was an honourable move borne out of the chivalric characteristics Duke Francis had on the whole shown his Welsh guest and Henry was deeply thankful for this gesture. Provided with extra funds from France, whom were finally eager to use the Tudors in their diplomatic squabble with England, the plans to launch an invasion from the coast of France began to gain pace as did Henry’s own appeals to other nobles in Wales and England to support his claim. The forces that Henry had gathered, a combination of Lancastrians, dissident Yorkists and French mercenaries, were assembled at the Norman port of Honfleur where on 1 August 1485 they finally set sail for the coast of Henry’s native Wales. Henry’s ragtag force landed at Mill Bay, Pembrokeshire on 7 August and landing on Welsh soil for the first time since he was forced into exile 14 years earlier, the Welshman fell to his knees and kissed the soil. Henry was heard to cry “Judge me, Lord and fight my cause”. Two weeks later Henry Tudor was proclaimed King of England and of France, Lord of Ireland and Prince of Wales.

The Royal Tudors and Brittany

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

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

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

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

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Henry Tudor or Beaufort? A Question of Paternity

When Henry Tudor won the crown of England at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, he acceded to the throne as the first sovereign of the House of Tudor, a cadet branch of the House of Lancaster.

Henry had wrested the crown from Richard III and claimed kingship through right of conquest – God had granted him victory through battle. Nonetheless it was prudent to put forward a blood claim to the throne which Henry duly did, emphasising his descent from Edward III through his mother Margaret Beaufort. For good measure Henry also ensured the people were aware of his descent from the ancient Welsh princes who had ruled the island before the arrival of the Norman Plantagenets and his close-kin to his uncle Henry VI (although he shared no blood ties to English royalty through this connection).

Traditionally it has been understood and accepted that Henry’s direct lineage was as the son of Margaret Beaufort, herself the daughter of John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset and Margaret Beauchamp, and Edmund Tudor, the son of Owen Tudor and Katherine de Valois. Lately however a theory has been put forward that Henry’s father Edmund was in fact the son of Edmund Beaufort and not Owen Tudor, thus casting the entire Tudor ‘myth’ into disarray.

So should Henry Tudor, first king of the Tudor Dynasty…have in fact been Henry Beaufort?

Edmund Beaufort and the Queen

So who was Edmund Beaufort? Edmund was born in 1406 and was the son of John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset and an illegitimate son of John of Gaunt. Although dynastically very powerful through his Lancastrian connection, Edmund was not blessed with a great inheritance and was often given many well-paid offices by his cousin Henry VI. This method of overt favouritism did not sit well with Richard, Duke of York, who not unfairly viewed Beaufort as a rival for power. This quarrel turned deadly rivalry would form the foundation of what eventually became known as the Wars of the Roses.

In 1422 Henry V died of dysentery in France and left a young, beautiful widow, Katherine de Valois. The council which governed in the name of her new-born son Henry VI were presented with the unusual scenario of a dowager queen still young enough to remarry – a potential situation which was a political issue. This was compounded by rumours that she already had an admirer – the brash and ambitious young Edmund Beaufort.

It is often alleged that an affair was already in commencement by 1427 between the roughly 21-year-old Edmund and 26-year-old Katherine. This was possibly the catalyst for an unusual parliamentary statue passed that year which expressly forbid the remarriage of any dowager queen without the consent of the king. Although evidence of the act no longer exists it was referenced by later historians, including mention by the seventeenth century writer Edward Coke who stated the act stipulated ‘no man should contract with, or marry himself to any Queen of England, without special licence or assent of the King, on pain to lose all his goods and lands’. In 1427 the king was only six years old, with the expectation he would not be able to grant his assent for another decade. It is assumed this act persuaded Edmund Beaufort to cease his relationship, real or otherwise, with Katherine de Valois, who would shortly become involved with Owen Tudor, a Welshman of no lands and no goods.

From around 1430 until her death in 1437 it has commonly been accepted that Katherine de Valois and Owen Tudor were secretly cohabiting and together had four children – Edmund, Jasper, Owen and a daughter. If their marriage was not known to the Council before her death, it certainly became so after she passed away in January 1437. Owen was rapidly arrested by the council and accused of breaching the aforementioned act. He eventually won his pardon from the king, his step-son, in November 1439; his sons Edmund and Jasper were taken into the care of their half-brother Henry VI whilst Owen was embraced by the monks of Westminster Abbey.

Edmund Beaufort became an English army commander in 1431 and named Earl of Dorset in 1442 and promoted to Marquess a year later. He was Lieutenant of France for five years and in 1448 inherited his brother’s dukedom of Somerset. By 1451 Edmund Beaufort was arguably the most powerful man in England, entirely created by his cousin Henry VI. After the king’s gradual ceasing of rule following various catatonic breakdowns, a rival powerbase began to be developed by Richard of York, a mortal enemy of Beaufort. In May 1455 hostilities erupted into war and the Duke of York, together with his kinsmen and allies the Neville earls of Warwick and Salisbury permanently removed Beaufort from power by targeting and killing him in St Albans.

Father of the Tudors?

The Tudor ‘myth’ is a recent phenomenon that has caught the imagination of a group of revisionists of late who are eager to destroy the reputation of the Tudor dynasty in a misguided attempt to ‘redeem’ the maligned Richard III. The paternity of the Tudors is a key tactic in this cause and it centres on the paternity of Edmund Tudor, thought to have been born around 1430.

There are a few circumstantial reasons which have led rise to this theory, which I will attempt to refute below. As always with the fifteenth century, and particularly around ‘hot topics’ like Richard III and the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, we cannot know the answers for certain, we can only deliberate and discuss based on the small amount of information present.

Coat of Arms

A major part of the theory that Edmund Beaufort fathered Edmund Tudor centres on the coats of arms that both men bore; they are allegedly of such similarity that one must have derived from the other, that is, the son’s from the father’s.

The coat of arms of Owen Tudor have never been uncovered but he is often credited with those of his ancestors of North Wales, a red background with three helmets and a Hermine chevron. Quite frankly this looks nothing like the coats of arms which were accorded to his sons, Edmund and Jasper.

Edmund Tudor was made an Earl of Richmond by King Henry VI in 1452 and together with his brother Jasper, the new Earl of Pembroke, was granted the right to bear arms. The centre of Edmund’s shield featured the coat of arms of the King of England whilst the bordure was blue and gold littered with the Fleur de Lis of France (and Katherine de Valois) and martlets. Comparatively the coat of arms of Edmund Beaufort also featured the coat of arms of England, bordered by the Beaufort livery colours of blue and white. The allegation is that the bordure of Tudor is clearly designed to reflect his descent from Beaufort. This doesn’t seem to be the case.

It seems more likely the reason Edmund Tudor received a coat of arms that included the insignia of the Kings of England, to which he had no ancestral right to unless he was the son of say, a Beaufort, is that he was granted the right to do so by his half-brother, King Henry VI. We must put this into the context of the time – Henry VI had little to no close family members and the House of Lancaster had been severely depleted through the deaths of Henry’s uncles and the lack of any heirs. Henry had adopted his young half-brothers and was determined to integrate them into his family unit. The granting to them of coat of arms that featured his own royal insignia is undoubtedly a public indicator of this desire. The Tudor boys are no longer merely the sons of Owen Tudor and Katherine de Valois…they are the brothers of the King of England. There was a precedent for this – Richard II issued his older Holland half-brothers coats of arms that had his own royal arms as the centrepiece with differentiated borders. It is clear to anybody who casts their eye upon the coats of arms of Edmunds Tudor and Beaufort that the borders share no similarity and it is disingenuous to suggest they are connected.

Edmund Tudor

Edmund Tudor

Edmund Beaufort

Edmund Beaufort

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Act of Parliament in 1452 which announced Edmund’s ascension to the earldom was effusive in its praise of his qualities, both of character and of kinship to the king as his ‘uterine brother’ through Katherine de Valois. It also accords Edmund with the right to bear ‘emblems of illustrious dignity’. Part of the text is as follows;

“…our sincerely beloved Edmund de Hadham, our uterine brother, to be distinguished, and among other things [considering] the nobility of birth and proximity in blood by which he is related to us as someone who is descended by right line from the illustrious royal house; and, moved by his foregoing merits, honouring him with singular grace, favour and benevolence, and thinking it right that, as he every day produces better examples of virtue and probity, our affection towards him should at the same time expand and grow according to the increase of his virtues, and that we also should adorn him, whom the nature of virtue and the royal blood have ennobled, with a title of civil nobility, the sign of a special honour, and the emblems of illustrious dignity”

Tombs and the Dissolution

The Dissolution of the Monasteries in the late 1530s was an upheaval in English society arguably unseen since the Norman Conquest 500 years earlier. Initiated at the command of Henry VIII, the grandson of Edmund Tudor, it was a wide-scale destruction of church property and reallocation of lands and wealth. A natural if wretched by-product of such a movement was the ruin or discarding of a hundreds of years’ worth of tombs and memorials that had been interned in the abbeys and monasteries. Some were salvaged and relocated; many were lost.

A further allegation aimed at the paternity of Edmund Tudor can be connected with events that would happen over eighty years after his death. Of Henry VIII’s paternal ancestors, it appears only one tomb was salvaged from destruction – that of Edmund Tudor. The tomb had been placed in the Grey Friars Monastery of Carmarthen after his death in 1456 but after the dissolution was moved to St David’s Cathedral, where it still stands next to the altar. The tomb of Owen Tudor, also interned in a Grey Friars in Hereford, was not saved and was lost. This must therefore suggest that Henry accepted Edmund as his grandfather but not Owen as his great-grandfather? Not really.

There is no evidence to suggest that it was Henry VIII himself who commanded the tomb of Edmund Tudor to be salvaged. It could be just as likely it was removed and saved by local Welsh gentry, who paid great reverence to the Tudors who had risen from amongst their stock.

If Henry VIII did not command the tomb of his grandfather Edmund Tudor to be saved, then why would he salvage the tomb of his great-grandfather Owen Tudor? If he did save Edmund’s tomb, perhaps there were logistical reasons for not saving Owen’s. Perhaps it was merely a generation too far back for him to care? Is it prudent to salvage all ancestors’ tombs? Where does one draw the line?

Edmund Tudor's tomb

Edmund Tudor’s tomb

It should be noted that one tomb not saved, which perhaps had cause more than most to be safely guarded, was that of Jasper Tudor. He died in 1495 and his tomb and body was interned at Keynsham Abbey near Bath. Jasper was arguably the single foremost reason the Tudor dynasty came to the throne and he died during Henry VIII’s childhood. This great-uncle of the king must have been a figure of some considerable standing in Henry’s mind yet he was not saved. Astonishingly, considering Henry’s apparent closeness to his illegitimate son, Henry himself it seems did not actually intervene to save the tomb of Henry Fitzroy. This was left to the Dukes of Norfolk who handled the movement from Thetford Priory. Nevertheless, the remains of Edmund Beaufort, deposited in St Albans Abbey after his death at the Battle of St Albans in 1455, never received preferential treatment from either Henry VII or Henry VIII therefore no credence can be given to this theory.

No Contemporary Recognition of Edmund Beaufort

There was no contemporary recognition of Edmund Beaufort as the father of Edmund Tudor. This is a modern invention, or discovery based on your viewpoint, not based on any sourced material. Arguably the best source to counter any claim of Beaufort parentage of Edmund Tudor comes from an unlikely source – Richard III.

During the preparation for invasion in 1484, both Richard and Henry Tudor engaged in a war of propaganda designed to secure support and influence from England’s population. There were elements of mistruths from both parties, eager to stain the reputation of the other. That being said, at no point did Richard, who had lambasted Henry’s maternal Beaufort line as bastards, level the same accusation at his paternal line. Richard used the Beaufort connection that Henry Tudor had through his mother Margaret to belittle his enemy but surely if he had any suspicion or information that Edmund Tudor’s father was possibly Edmund Beaufort, surely this would have increased Richard’s attack ten-fold.

Richard himself referred to the Tudor lineage as ‘one Henry Tydder, son of Edmund Tydder, son of Owen Tydder’. The thought of even lying about his Beaufort ancestry, in the interests of propaganda, did not cross the mind of Richard III. To castigate Henry Tudor’s parents as close cousins who married without any dispensation could have been a crippling blow to Henry’s cause. Furthermore Richard referred to Henry’s ancestry as ‘bastard blood both of father and of mother side, for the said Owen the grandfather was bastard born, and his mother was daughter unto John, Duke of Somerset, son unto John, Earl of Somerset, son unto Dame Katherine Swynford’. There is no evidence Owen Tudor was bastard born, but nonetheless no reference to Edmund Beaufort. The fact is Richard III had no doubts over the father of Edmund Tudor – it was Owen.

Name

The name Edmund for Katherine de Valois’ son has always been a curious one and ostensibly helps confirm the theory that he was named for his true father, Edmund Beaufort. This overlooks another possibility – that Edmund, although son of Owen Tudor, was named for Edmund Beaufort as he was his godfather. Perhaps Katherine truly did love Edmund Beaufort and although the son was Owen’s, she named him in honour of her previous love. A difficult pill to swallow for Owen perhaps, but a possibility. Perhaps the child was named for Edmund the Martyr or St Edmund; we do not have Edmund Tudor’s date of birth but if he was born on a date related to a saint, then it is not unheard of for the child to be named in honour of that saint. Edmund Tudor was born in Much Hadham Palace, in the ownership of the Bishop of London, and possibly his birth had a high level of clerical involvement. St Edmund was also considered a Patron Saint of England during the Middle Ages, based around Bury St Edmunds where the saint’s remains were sited. This was under 50miles away from Much Hadham. Personally it does likely that there is some connection between Edmund Beaufort and the naming of Katherine’s son, but this does not automatically extend to parentage.

Conclusion

As explained elsewhere, based on the limited information we have, very little of it informal or personal, it is difficult to make any concrete claims on historical persons. Consider yourself – if we take the facts about your life as we know them, dates of birth, marriage dates, where you have lived and your shopping receipts, we could build up a basic picture of you and what you purchase but nonetheless that will only be a percentage of who you are as a person. The same principle needs to be remembered when considering historical figures.

We do not know when Edmund Tudor was born for exact, and we also do not know who his father was for definite. We do not know why he was named Edmund. To put forward a definitive theory based on a coat of arms, a name or the salvaging of tombs and claiming it as fact is unfair and does not necessarily mean the answer has been discovered. I have refuted each point of this theory with plausible explanations even though I must also acknowledge they are not definitive answers as we quite simply do not possess the full picture of a bygone era. I can confidently state however I have yet to be presented with an acceptable case that they Tudor Dynasty are not the Tudors. It suggests to me that this is modern propaganda designed to inflict damage on a family who ruled 500 years ago.

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Sir Walter Herbert of Raglan

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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Pembroke Castle – Extract from Tudor Wales

The following is an extract from Tudor Wales which was released by Amberley Publishing in 2014.

Tudor Wales is a guide which will take you on a journey throughout the beautiful country of Wales and expose the reader to the hidden gems of the Tudor era, from Harlech Castle in the north to Pembroke Castle in the west, and from the holy Bishop’s Palace at Lamphey to the sacred Cathedral at St David’s. From Dale, Carew and Penmynydd to Raglan, Conwy and Denbigh, every part of Wales has Tudor links, both to the royal Tudors and their more obscure Welsh ancestors.

If you like what you read, why not buy the book and take a look at the other 40 plus sites featured in the book. To view reviews or to purchase the book click here – Tudor Wales

Pembroke Castle

When one considers the plethora of Tudor locations within Wales, arguably none enjoy the strength of connection to the great royal dynasty which Pembroke Castle proudly boasts. It was in this mighty regional fortress that Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond from birth and future King of England, was born during one winter night in the mid-fifteenth century as the country around him descended into the brutal civil war known to posterity as the Wars of the Roses. No one at the time could have foreseen that this small new-born would benefit from the escalating tensions between the houses of York and Lancaster to become the first monarch of England’s greatest family in what has to be one of the most unlikeliest outcomes in British history.

A castle has been at Pembroke since before the Norman Conquest although, in a situation replicated throughout the area from the eleventh century, it was the Marcher lords empowered by William the Conqueror who truly began to fortify the location. Standing on a rocky promontory beside the Cleddau Estuary with convenient maritime access to the Celtic Sea and Ireland, Pembroke Castle enjoyed a status as an invaluable stronghold from which successive generations of magnates conducted their political and military activities. Perhaps the greatest noble to possess Pembroke was Sir William Marshal, the first Earl of Pembroke who became one of the most powerful men in England and beyond during the early thirteenth century. It was Marshal above all who is perhaps most responsible for Pembroke’s transformation into a domineering and impenetrable fortress. One of the peculiar claims that those who held Pembroke would regularly boast about is the curious fact that it had never been captured by the native Welsh in battle and had even remained secure during the Glyndŵr uprising in 1400, a testament to the security and safety the castle offered to its lord.

Tudor involvement in Pembroke Castle began when the fortress was presented to Jasper Tudor in 1452 as a core part of his new earldom of Pembroke, a title which had been bestowed upon him by his compassionate if politically and mentally unstable half-brother King Henry VI. After his brother Edmund’s death at Carmarthen Castle in November 1456, Jasper endeavoured to offer protection for his pregnant widow Margaret Beaufort, a vulnerable young teenager of only thirteen years old. Placing her in his care at Pembroke, it was in one of the outer wards to the west of the gatehouse on 28 January 1457 that Margaret gave birth to her son, a child without a father but in the devoted care of his mother and uncle within the safe confines of Pembroke’s impenetrable walls.

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In addition to her young age Margaret was noted to be slender and had a small frame not suited to the rigour of child birth; by all accounts it was a difficult pregnancy and probably rendered her infertile for the remainder of her life as there were no other instances of her baring child in spite of two further marriages. The birth is traditionally stated to have taken place in one of the outer guard chambers which flank the great gatehouse. Consisting of three stories, a fireplace and a garderobe it is an unusually subdued location for the birth of a noble child and there has not been a sufficient explanation as to why the birth allegedly took place here. Today this momentous occasion is commemorated by a waxwork exhibition of the nativity scene depicting Margaret Beaufort, the newborn Henry and two ladies-in-waiting shortly after the birth whilst the guard chamber itself has been proudly named the Henry VII Tower.

The child was sickly soon after his birth and good care by both his mother and the attendant nurses seem to be the core reason for the newborn not becoming yet another statistic for the alarmingly high infant mortality rates of the period. Although the baby was christened Henry, a regal English name and probably in tribute to the child’s half-uncle Henry VI, a later tradition suggested the original name was in fact Owain. Although no contemporary evidence exists to corroborate this account, it is interesting to note nevertheless that Welsh poetic prophecies suggested an Owain would come to lead the Welsh to freedom from the English as their Mab Darogan, or son of prophecy. Whilst it is a possibility the legend could contain a shred of truth, particularly as the child’s still-living paternal grandfather was named Owain, the likelihood is that it was an apocryphal tale from later generations of the Welsh gentry attempting to further increase the acceptance of the later Tudors in Wales through the circulation of such an emotive myth. By blood Henry of Richmond was one quarter French, one quarter Welsh and half English but with his birthplace and paternal grandfather’s pedigree it was always expected that the Welsh people would proudly claim Harri Tudur as their own, an acceptance which would remain consistent until the advent of modern Welsh twentieth century nationalism.

Henry would spend his first few years living comfortably at the castle until national politics would have an adverse effect on his peaceful existence. The increasingly hostile battle for supremacy between the House of Lancaster, to which he and his uncle Jasper belonged, and the aspiring Yorkist faction had descended into open warfare during 1459 and two years later the conflict was brought to Pembroke. In February 1461 Henry’s grandfather Owen Tudor had been killed at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross in Herefordshire and by September Jasper’s castle at Pembroke was besieged by Yorkist forces led by Sir William Herbert. With Jasper forced to flee in order to escape execution at the hands of his enemies, the constable of the castle peacefully surrendered the fortress to the Yorkists and the four-year-old Earl of Richmond fell into the hands of Herbert. Henry would remain in the guardianship of Herbert for the next decade, finding himself relocated from Pembroke to Raglan Castle until Sir William’s violent death in 1469. Pembroke would briefly feature once more in Henry Tudor’s early life when its fortifications provided respite to him and Jasper in 1471 on their way to Tenby during their incredible flight into exile.

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Once he became King Henry VII, Pembroke Castle did not feature highly amongst his immediate concerns although his son would temporarily draw attention to the Tudor connection with this West Walian fortress when Anne Boleyn was invested as the Marquess of Pembroke on 1 September 1532 in anticipation of her eventual progression to queen. The ceremony was presided over by Henry VIII himself at Windsor Castle and was attended by the highest ranking magnates in the realm eager to be seen acquiescing to the king’s desire to take a new wife. The association of Pembroke with Anne was designed by Henry to be a typical example of Tudor propaganda to integrate Anne into the family and the ceremony itself was effectively a coronation before the coronation.

The area that Pembroke Castle covers is vast and possibly unrivalled in South Wales such is the scope it covers. The outer ward is largely empty as previous buildings have long crumbled although excavations in the early twentieth century unearthed Jasper Tudor’s private house which he had built during his tenure as Earl of Pembroke in the late fifteenth century. In the inner ward stands a heavily weathered oriel window on the west wall of the Solar, a private room for the benefit of the lord, which Jasper was also responsible for adding although its one-time splendour is now unable to be appreciated.

Unquestionably the premier attraction of Pembroke Castle is Sir William Marshal’s Great Keep, construction of which was begun in 1204 and a behemoth of a structure which still stands proudly defiant as one of the largest of its kind still standing anywhere in the UK. The keep is seventy-five feet tall with a sturdy base twenty feet thick. The tower contains five stories with a single spiral staircase which was initially reached by an external timber staircase to the first floor. The view from the domed summit is breathtaking with commanding views of the surrounding landscape reducing the observer to an awestruck silence. The tower would have been the greatest structure many generations of the local community would have encountered and certainly would have been viewed with a degree of wonder by the young Henry Tudor during his brief childhood stay at Pembroke.

Pembroke can legitimately claim to be the birthplace of the Tudor Dynasty yet sadly lacks the reputation and promotion that other Tudor locations in England enjoy. Whilst it can be expected that this medieval stronghold will never rival a Hampton Court or Hever Castle for tourists, it certainly deserves to be included on the itinerary of any Tudor enthusiast. There has been a concerted effort of late to promote Pembroke with greater assertiveness to the title ‘Birthplace of the Tudor Dynasty’ and a recent development has been the announcement of a paved Tudor Rose in the town centre.

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A History of Thornbury Castle

Thornbury Castle is a magnificent retreat located in South Gloucestershire that is proudly proclaimed to be the only Tudor castle to presently operate as a hotel, a unique novelty that serves as a powerful selling point. As someone who recently stayed at the castle I can personally endorse Thornbury as an incredible place to visit and should be added to the bucket list of all who read this.

Thornbury Castle from the Tudor Gardens

Thornbury Castle from the Tudor Gardens

 

The History

In July 1510 Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, obtained a royal licence to undertake work at his manor of Thornbury, located on the edge of the Cotswolds. The manor had been in the Stafford family for generations and the ambitious duke sought to transform his pleasant retreat into a palatial home without rival anywhere else in the kingdom.

The proud and arrogant Buckingham was a descendant of the Plantagenet kings of England and had an impeccable bloodline through which he was not only well-connected, but also exceptionally wealthy. Nonetheless he had effectively been exiled from holding any power at court due to the pre-eminence of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and the king’s favourites such as Charles Brandon and William Compton. With an egotistical desire to attract attention and with money to burn, Buckingham set about a building campaign that would ensure his castle would be the grandest noble home in the kingdom.

The reasons for Buckingham’s desire to base himself at Thornbury, as opposed to one of his many other estates throughout England, are unclear but may be connected in part to his childhood. The duke’s father, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, had been an ally of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, in 1483 and helped Gloucester claim the throne as Richard III. Within months the 2nd Duke turned against his king and launched a farcical rebellion to unseat Richard. After the collapse of his uprising the duke was captured and summarily executed in Salisbury.

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The young Edward Stafford’s uncertain future was somewhat secured when the seven-year-old’s wardship was given to Margaret Beaufort in 1486, the mother of the new king Henry VII and the esteemed matriarch of the Tudor Dynasty. It is a possibility Margaret placed the young boy at Thornbury Manor, a claim lent credence when taken into consideration the marriage of the duke’s mother Katherine Wydeville to Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford and uncle to the king. It is known that Jasper based himself at Thornbury and would die there on 21 December 1495. His ghost is stated to roam the property.

After a childhood spent in close companionship with the royal family, Edward Stafford emerged into adulthood as a strong-headed and ostentatious character fully aware of his noble grandeur. It was such a boastful disposition that would inspire Thornbury Castle which was designed to rival the king’s own Hampton Court Palace as the greatest home in the kingdom.

Attempting to upstage the king however was not a recommended tactic. Work was still ongoing in 1521, more than a decade after it had commenced, when the arrest of the duke suddenly caused tools to be downed and construction halted. The duke’s crime had been to rouse suspicion of treason in the mind of the increasingly paranoid king he had attempted to upstage – Henry VIII.

By 1521 the king was entering his 30’s and had yet to produce a legitimate male heir. Thoughts were slowly beginning to form about the event of a succession crisis and many were allegedly turning their heads towards the Duke of Buckingham, who it may be argued had a greater claim to the throne than Henry VIII. A foreign ambassador stated admiringly ‘my lord of Buckingham, a noble man and would be a royal ruler’.

The Thornbury Tower

The Thornbury Tower

Furthermore the duke possessed substantial wealth, evident from his transformation of Thornbury into a palatial home. The king’s finances meanwhile were in disarray and the treasury empty. The combination of these factors left Buckingham exposed to the king’s ruthless nature, which erupted in April 1521 when the duke was summoned to court and placed in the Tower of London. His downfall was swift; he was charged with intending to kill the king and executed on Tower Hill on 17 May. His wealth and property, including Thornbury Castle, was seized by the crown and became King Henry VIII’s.

After this period the castle was occasionally used by the king’s daughter Mary, who would regularly stay in Thornbury during her teenage years whilst she was a student of the Bishop of Exeter. It was during the summer of 1535 however that the castle received notoriety when Thornbury played host to King Henry VIII and his new queen Anne Boleyn for 10 days. The pair arrived on 14 August and departed to Acton Court on 22 August, the 50th anniversary of the Tudors accession to the throne at Bosworth Field. Whilst at Thornbury Henry was visited by a delegation from nearby Bristol who brought him 10 oxen and 40 sheep whilst Anne was presented with a gilt cup containing 100 marks of gold.

Thereafter the premises gradually fell out of favour, even after it was restored to the Stafford family who nonetheless never regained their former position. By the 19th century the ruined estate was in the hands of the Howard family, ironically kin to Anne Boleyn, and renovated as a home for a minor branch of the family. It was further restored in the 20th century by various owners and eventually reopened to the public as a hotel.

 

The Castle Today

The castle today still possesses many features which would have been recognisable to King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn during their progress in 1535. The main surviving wing of the castle is what would have been the southern range, which would have been the heart of Buckingham’s project.

The rooms that today constitute the Lounge, Library and Dining Rooms were a core part of the Duchess’ Bedchamber and Drawing Rooms. The Lounge possesses wonderfully wooden panelling and a giant fireplace which would have played a crucial role in warming the rooms. The intricate five-bay window in the middle of the room floods the room with light during the day and would have done the same five centuries ago. The octagonal dining room, replete with arrow slit windows and another fire place, would have been a bedchamber and occupy the ground floor of the castle’s great tower. These rooms as a whole would have hosted Anne Boleyn in August 1535, now utilised by the hotel as an atmospheric area to enjoy wining and dining.

The Lounge, formerly part of the Duchess' Apartments

The Lounge, formerly part of the Duchess’ Apartments

The Duke's Bedchamber

The Duke’s Bedchamber

 

The second floor of the great tower contains a room christened the Duke’s Bedchamber and it is within here Henry VIII slept during the same stay. The room is accessible via a spiral staircase and is also an octagonal chamber with fireplace and impressive views of the gardens. Elsewhere the castle is a myriad of corridors and doorways to wander through and explore, each room respectfully furnished in the Tudor style.

Outside the castle the Tudor gardens are stated to be the earliest extant example of 16th century gardens in the UK, and offer a great view of southern range’s rear. Particularly noticeable is the five-bay oriel window in its glory, the tower along with the ruined gallery which had previously connected the bedchambers to the nearby church, and the chimneys atop the range. These chimneys are a particularly noteworthy feature of Thornbury Castle, replicated only at Hampton Court.

Early Tudor Chimneys

Early Tudor Chimneys

Thornbury Castle is a truly a Tudor masterpiece that offers an unrivalled experience to the visitor. In total there are 26 luxurious chambers to stay in, many with four-poster beds, plus an award-winning chef and extensive wine cellar to enjoy. With its impressive array of heavy oak doors, breathtaking architecture and picturesque gardens, Thornbury and its captivating history is certainly worthy of a visit from any 16th century aficionado.

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John Blanke, the Tudors ‘blacke trumpeter’

When one considers the people of Tudor England, one aspect often not given much thought is the presence of a non-white community. It is often assumed that fifteenth and sixteenth century England and Wales was solely inhabited by a white, European race. It is certainly understood that London and other large settlements were frequented at various points by citizens of France, Spain, Flanders, Burgundy and other European states but again the assumption is that these were people of white colour.

The truth is that Tudor England did have a burgeoning black community which first became notable during the reign of Henry VII and continued under his successors. In particular a black community began to flourish during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and their presence can be found in official records of the era. What is important to consider is that this community were not slaves beholden to their white masters but generally free men with the same rights as any other Englishman. The earned honest wages, traded with other citizens and in some cases inter-married with the native population. They were often referred to as Blackmoores, Black-mores or some other variation, the designation applied to them deriving from the Moors of North Africa from whence they presumably originated. Shakespeare was also noted to include black characters in some of his plays, including the Prince of Morocco in The Merchant of Venice and Othello. It is probable that he enjoyed some level of personal interaction with the black community during his time in London and utilised first-hand knowledge in creating his characters.

The community must have been of a significant size towards the end of the Elizabethan period for concerns are known to have emanated from the government of the day. The recent conflict with Spain and capture of Spanish ships had seen an increasing influx of freed black slaves gratefully settling in England. One quote found amongst governmental papers exhibits the rising tensions in 1601. “The queen is discontented at the great numbers of ‘negars and blackamoores’ which are crept into the realm since the troubles between her Highness and the King of Spain, and are fostered here to the annoyance of her own people”. This came five years after the queen had written to the lord mayors of certain cities lamenting “blackmoores brought into this realm, of which kind of people there are already to manie” before ordering that such people should be “sent forth of the land”.

Plans were initiated for the repatriation of black people although whether this was carried out or whether it even applied to those who had previously integrated is not clear. The queen did after all employ musicians and dancers from the black community for her own entertainment. The 1590’s were a time of hardship for the English people with a drastic rise in poverty and hunger, culminating in the Elizabethan Poor Relief Act 1601 which legalised a degree of poor relief. The difficult period saw a rise in cultural friction and many sought to place blame at the door of the black community, which included attacking the presumably Muslim Moors for “having no understanding of Christ or his Gospel”. Whilst the plan to deport part of the black population doesn’t appear to have been successful what is clear is that as English and then British exploration expanded around the globe over the following centuries the influx of foreign nationals into the kingdom certainly increased, leading to the diverse, multicultural Britain of today.

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Arguably the most famous member of the black community during the Tudor period was one of the first known to record, namely John Blanke, who rose to prominence during the first decade of the sixteenth century. It is generally thought that Blanke arrived in England as one of the North African attendants of Catherine of Aragon when she arrived in England as the wife of Prince Arthur in 1501. The Spanish mainland neighboured Moorish Africa and had a long history of cooperation and conflict with both the region and the people. Islamic Iberia only ceased to be in 1492 after the Moors were expelled from Granada by Catherine of Aragon’s parents, Ferdinand and Isabella. His name Blanke is probably in reference to his skin colour, either a bastardisation of the word ‘black’ or derived from the French word ‘blanc’ or white.

Although little is recorded it is understood he was a trumpeter who must have been distinguished in his art to have received a degree of royal patronage. He was paid the not insubstantial amount of 8d a day by Henry VII and on one occasion in November 1507 received a payment of 20 shilings from the Treasurer. Blanke’s employment continued under the Henry VIII when he acceded to his father’s throne in 1509, the trumpeter present at the coronation in a professional capacity.
The sixty-foot Westminster Tournament Roll in the College of Arms also depicts a black person in two separate locations, often acknowledged to be John Blanke. The illuminated vellum manuscript was created to commemorate the events that occurred on 12 and 13 February 1511 when King Henry VIII held a tournament to celebrate the birth of his son Prince Henry which had occurred a fortnight previously. Naturally the ebullient king featured prominently in the roll, surrounded by his closest advisors and officials. Amongst this intimate royal retinue are six mounted trumpeters, bearing instruments decorated with the royal arms of England. One of the trumpeters is black, intriguingly depicted wearing a turban whilst his white counterparts remain bareheaded. The same figure complete with turban appears elsewhere in the roll as part of the procession. This was a position of prestige and honour and would surely have only been bestowed upon a man of great professional talent who the king personally enjoyed. Some secondary sources indicate that Blanke was married in 1512 and apparently received a wedding gift from his sovereign but I have not been able thus far to verify this. After his appearance at the great Westminster Tournament Blanke disappears from record and nothing is known of his later life.

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The Lancastrian Succession after 1471

A consequence of the first half of the Wars of the Roses, or Wars of the Cousins to give its contemporary term, is that Henry Tudor was recognised as an heir of the House of Lancaster after 1471 and was able to use such an acknowledgement to help propel himself onto the throne in 1485. It is often recorded that his hereditary claim was so weak that he astutely claimed his crown through an act of conquest, ensuring he was crowned in Westminster Abbey before parliament convened and before his marriage to Elizabeth of York who was considered to hold a greater claim on behalf of her father Edward IV. The process through which Henry Tudor attained this mantle of Lancastrian heir is fascinating particularly in light of other potential claimants during the late 15th century. It is commonly believed that Henry was the only viable alternative for those of a Lancastrian persuasion whom wished to see the House of York removed from the throne but is this truly the case? It is understood that when the Tudors came to the throne there were a legion of nobles whom were able to demonstrate a stronger general claim to the throne through blood but what about those specifically with Lancastrian blood?

The House of Lancaster was a cadet branch of the Royal House of Plantagenet, founded by King Edward III’s third son John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. In 1399 John’s son Henry Bolingbroke usurped the crown of the controversial Richard II and elevated the Lancaster’s to the throne in the process becoming King Henry IV. His son and grandson became Henry’s V and VI respectively before this direct line died out in 1471 with the killing of Henry VI and his son Prince Edward during the aftermath of the Battle of Tewkesbury which confirmed the rival House of York on the throne, descendants of Edward III’s second and fourth sons. Henry V’s brothers Thomas, Duke of Clarence, John, Duke of Bedford and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester had no heirs whilst his sisters Blanche and Philippa also died childless. Henry VI meanwhile had been an only child who in turn only had one child. This line of Henry IV was thus considered literally to be a dead end. Supporters of the Lancastrians turned to other descendants of John of Gaunt in order to combat the Yorkists and it was thus that the previously unheralded fourteen year old Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, came to prominence. There were others with the blood of the Red Rose in their veins however, in spite of how unrealistic their intentions to seize the crown would have been in reality from 1471.

House of Aviz

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John of Gaunt’s first child by his first wife Blanche of Lancaster, from whom he initially derived his Lancaster title, was Philippa whom became Queen Consort of Portugal through her marriage to John of Portugal. This instilled the Lancastrian blood into the Royal family of Portugal and their descendants. Philippa’s eldest son and heir was Edward whom became King of Portugal between 1433-38 and was ostensibly named in honour of his great grandfather Edward III. Edward’s son was Afonso V who lived until 1481 and therefore could have been considered a Lancastrian heir during the 1470’s whilst his son John II was ruling at the time of Bosworth. King John of Portugal was thus a great-great-grandson of John of Gaunt. Another notable scion of the House of Aziz through which this Lancastrian blood passed to was the Tudors great rival and ally Maximilian, Holy Roman Emperor who was the grandson of King Edward through his mother Eleanor. Maxmilian was thus also a great-great-grandson of John of Gaunt. Another inheritor of the Portuguese-Lancastrian claim was Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, maternal nephew of King Edward of Portugal and thus great-grandson of John of Gaunt. Duke Charles was maritally tied to the House of York during the 1470’s through his marriage to Margaret of York, a woman whom would become a thorn in the side of Henry Tudor with her attempts to remove them from the throne in favour of any pretender willing to put themselves forward. He would marry his heir Mary to Emperor Maximilian thus merging their respective claims in the personage of later Tudor allies and rivals Phillip of Castile and his son Charles V. One final descendant of John of Gaunt through his daugher Philippa was Queen Isabella of Castile who was the daughter of Isabella of Portugal, who in turn was the daughter of a younger son of Philippa, Prince John.

House of Holland

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John of Gaunt’s second daughter with his first wife Blanche was Elizabeth of Lancaster who married three times and had seven children. Her eldest child with her second husband John Holland, Duke of Exeter, was Constance Holland. Constance married Sir John Grey and their eldest child was Edmund Grey who was thus a great-grandson of John of Gaunt. During the Wars of the Roses Grey turned on his Lancastrian cousin by switching allegiance to the Yorkists, rewarded for his treachery by briefly becoming Treasurer of England in 1463 and Earl of Kent in 1465. He carried a sword at the coronation of Richard III but became reconciled with Henry Tudor, dying in 1490. Elizabeth of Lancaster’s fourth survivng child with her husband the Duke of Exeter was their heir John Holland, 2nd Duke of Exeter. John was a nephew of Henry IV and cousin to Henry V and although his father had been executed for treason John served the Lancastrians throughout his life, given precedence above all nobles in the kingdom with the exception of Richard, Duke of York. His only son was Henry Holland who suceeded him to the Dukedom of Exeter in 1447. Henry Holland would become an ardent Lancastrian during the conflict and as an English great-grandson of John of Gaunt and a prestigious noble had as strong a claim as any Lancastrian, not to mention he also enjoyed a seperate descent from Edward III through his maternal grandmother Anne of Gloucester. Holland was a key Lancastrian commander alongside Jasper Tudor and won great victories at St Albans and Wakefield although he suffered defeat at Towton in 1461 and was forced into exile. After the defeat of the Lancastrians in 1471 he apparently became reconciled with his Yorkist brother-in-law King Edward IV although he mysteriously drowned returning from an expedition to France with the King in 1475. It is a possibility he was killed at the King’s command due to his Lancastrian bloodline. Holland’s sister Anne had one child with her husband Sir John Neville who also inherited a claim, Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmoreland. Neville’s father was slain fighting for the Lancastrians at Towton and it wasnt until 1472 that Ralph was able to inherit his lands from the Yorkists, eventually becoming Earl of Westmoreland under Richard III in 1484. He was a great-great-grandson of John of Gaunt.

House of Trastamara

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John of Gaunt also had one surviving daughter by his second wife, Constance of Castile. Catherine of Lancaster married King Henry III of Castile in 1393 and had three children, the first two of which died without issue. Their only son was John II of Castile who similarly seemed incapable of rule much like his cousin Henry VI of England. He was suceeded to the throne by his son Henry IV who ruled from 1454-74. Henry had no heirs and was suceeded by his half-sister Isabella of Castile. With Lancastrian blood through her Aviz ancestors, Isabella was thus great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt. It is stated that her daughter Catherine of Aragon, future Queen Consort of England, was named for Catherine of Lancaster.

House of Beaufort

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John of Gaunt’s long term mistress Katherine Swynford finally became his wife after the death of Constance of Castile and from this union was the Beauforts, an illegitimately born clan whom would play an integral part of the Wars of the Roses. Together they had four children, two of which, Cardinal Henry Beaufort and Thomas Beaufort of Exeter, died without issue. The eldest son John Beaufort was created Earl of Somerset and had six children who inherited his Lancastrian bloodline. After the death of his eldest son Henry, his second son and namesake John Beaufort inherited the Earldom which subsequently was raised into a Dukedom. John Beaufort had only one daughter, Margaret Beaufort who was born in 1443 and was therefore a great-grandaughter of John of Gaunt. She would marry Edmund Tudor and pass on her claim to her son Henry Tudor who realise this claim in 1485 with victory at Bosworth in lieu of his mother. The patriarch of the Beaufort family after the death of her father was her uncle Edmund Beaufort who became 2nd Duke of Somerset and was one of the principal characters of the Wars of the Roses as an ardent Lancastrian. His personal feud with the Duke of York helped fuel the descent into war and he was killed at St Albans in 1455. His heir Henry Beaufort was killed in 1464 after the battle of Hexham and his brothers Edmund and John Beaufort were killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. It was this battle, which saw the deaths of senior Lancastrian members Henry VI, Prince Edward and the Beaufort brothers which put the spotlight on their young cousin Henry Tudor. All three Beaufort brothers died childless. Their sister Margaret Beaufort married Henry Stafford, Earl of Stafford and their son was Henry, Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham enjoyed descent from Edward III through three of his four grandparents and this may have played a part in his allying with his cousin Henry Tudor in 1483 to attempt to overthrow Richard III. It would seem that Buckingham was attempting to put Henry on the throne but with such an illustrious pedigree it may be that he was using Tudor as a pawn to achieve his own ends.

House of Stewart

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John of Gaunt’s grandaughter Joan Beaufort became Queen Consort of Scotland in 1424 due to her marriage to King James I. Together they had eight children of which many had their own issue which would have held a Lancastrian-Beaufort claim during the later fifteenth century. Princess Isabella Stewart became Duchess of Brittany upon her marriage to Francis I, having two daughters Margaret and Marie of Brittany. Princess Joan Stewart’s son John Douglas was a great-great-grandson of John of Gaunt and would die at the Battle of Flodden fighting against the army of his distant cousin Henry VIII whilst Joan was also the mother of James II of Scotland and grandmother of James III. The Stewarts would later claim the throne of England through their Beaufort descent through the Tudors but they had their own claim through Joan Beaufort.

House of Neville

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The Neville’s are often considered to be loyal Yorkists after the role they played in defeating the Lancastrians during the first phase of the Wars of the Roses from 1455-1471 yet they were descended from John of Gaunt through his daughter Joan Beaufort who married Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmoreland. Their first daughter Katherine Neville married into the Mowbray family and her grandson was John de Mowbray, 4th Duke of Norfolk, the great-great-grandson of John of Gaunt. The second daughter Eleanor Neville was married to the Percy Earl of Northumberland who curiously became involved in a deadly rivalry with the Neville’s during the Cousins’ War. Eleanor’s children were decimated during the war, with four of her sons dying during the various battles. Her brother Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury and his son Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick were leaders of the Neville faction and were Yorkists crucial to the cause of Richard of York. Not for nothing was Warwick known as the Kingmaker. The Earl of Salisbury had many children to pass on his Lancastrian blood as well as Warwick, including John Neville, Marquess of Montagu and Montagu’s son George Neville, Duke of Bedford. Salisbury’s younger brother was Edward Neville, Baron Abergavenny, who, together with his son George Neville, fought for the Yorkists at Tewkesbury.

House of Stanley

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Eleanor Neville, daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, was a granddaughter of Joan Beaufort who was the first wife of Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby. Their sons, George Stanley and Edward Stanley, therefore inherited a Lancastrian claim as great-great-grandchildren of John of Gaunt. They would instead become stepbrothers to another Lancastrian heir, Henry Tudor, after their father’s marriage to Margaret Beaufort.

House of York

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Perhaps the most surprising inheritor of the Lancastrian claim was the House of York itself, which had shunted aside the Lancastrians to snatch the throne. The claim came from Cicely Neville, daughter of Joan Beaufort and therefore grandaughter of John of Gaunt. Married to Richard, Duke of York, she therefore united her Lancastrian claim with his Yorkist and Mortimer claims which passed onto their children whom included Kings Edward IV and Richard III.

Conclusion

It’s just as well Henry Tudor won a great military victory at Bosworth!

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