Monthly Archives: November 2013

Jasper Tudor and Edward IV- No Love Lost Between Enemies

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Katherine Woodville and Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke and Duke of Bedford

I have been re-reading the section on Jasper Tudor’s life prior to 1485 in Ralph A. Griffiths’ and Roger S. Thomas’ book, The Making of the Tudor Dynasty. I felt compelled to share some of their conclusions, because Jasper has been misrepresented in the fictional world recently.

Jasper is one of the possibly four children born to Katherine of Valois and Owen Tudor (Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudur), and generally believed to be the youngest boy. He and his brother Edmund spent their youth at Barking Abbey, where they were raised as the noblemen they were. Their half-brother, King Henry VI, ennobled them with the titles Earl of Richmond and Earl of Pembroke, which made them the highest ranking earls in the country, second only to dukes.

Thomas and Griffiths have hypothesized that Henry VI was grooming his half-brothers to become his heirs if his marriage remained childless, which is an interesting idea (p. 33). Could two men who were half-Welsh and half-French claim the throne of England? It wouldn’t be the first time someone of non-Anglo blood would take the throne. However, this idea may have been pushed forward when Henry VII was king, since if his father was the heir of Henry VI after his son Edward died, that would mean that Henry was taking his father’s place as the heir to the king.

Jasper’s relationship with Richard, the 3rd Duke of York and father of Edward IV, is a stark contrast to his later relationship with the son. When Henry VI first slipped into his “waking sleep,” Richard of York wanted to be made into Regent instead of Queen Margaret of Anjou. Richard was of royal blood and a descendant of King Edward III, as was his wife. He did not want the French queen to have control of the country in her husband’s absence, and Jasper Tudor supported him in this effort, presumably because he knew that his sister-in-law was not popular with the people, nor truly capable of ruling the country by herself. Her lack of English blood only made Richard’s case stronger.

Richard and Jasper served on the King ’s Counsel together, and there are no reasons to think that their relationship was anything but pleasant. The later fissure started when Richard took up arms against Henry VI, and demanded to be made into Henry’s heir instead of Prince Edward of Lancaster. This was not a position Jasper could support, and he took up arms to support his brother. The duke was killed in battle at Wakefield in 1460. Richard’s head was put on a pike with a paper crown on him, as he was a traitor who wanted to be king. His son Edward, then the Earl of March, took up the cause of his father and was crowned in 1461.

Griffiths and Thomas make an interesting comparison between the death of Duke Richard and the execution of Owen Tudor. Edward took Owen as prisoner in 1461 after the battle of Mortimer’s Cross. Instead of being ransomed or forced to support Edward’s side, as was customary, Owen was executed. Griffiths and Thomas say that this act was revenge for the death of Duke Richard a year earlier (p. 52-53). We do know that Owen did not believe that he would be executed, and it’s said that it wasn’t until the axman moved his collar out of the way that he finally realized that he would die, saying, “That head shall lie on the stock that was wont to lie on Queen Katherine’s lap.”

Through the deaths of both of their fathers, the enmity between Edward IV and Jasper Tudor was solidified. Jasper was attainted for treason in 1461 and had his title and property confiscated by the crown. He spent the next eight years in exile, until Henry VI was restored in 1470. He went into exile again in 1471 when Edward came back to the throne and Henry VI died, but this time he took his 14-year-old nephew with him, the future Henry VII.

Jasper had a large amount of influence on the young boy. Edward IV promised that if Henry returned to Wales, he would have his title and property returned to him. The king later sweetened this deal by promising him one of Edward’s princesses as a bride. Henry’s mother , Margaret Beaufort, was involved in this exchange, and is recalled as giving her support to Edward so that her son could come back home. Henry did not accept this bargain, and until 1483 he did not leave Brittany.

I believe that Henry’s refusal to accept Edward’s terms was influenced by Jasper. Given their encounters in 1460-62, it is not a surprise that Jasper was not keen to give Edward his trust. Jasper’s attainder meant that he could never return to England, unless Edward or his successors gave him a pardon. All of the temptations given to Henry did not extend to his uncle, so Jasper would have been in exile alone if Henry had returned to Wales. I also think that Jasper would not tolerate the idea of his nephew having a place in the court of the man who killed both his grandfather and his uncle. After Edward’s death it would have been easier to accept Henry’s inclusion into the royal family, but while Edward was still alive I think that Jasper would have seen that as a betrayal of everything he had fought for and lost.

We may never know how much of Henry’s reluctance to return to Wales was due to Jasper’s influence. But the Earl of Pembroke and the York king could never have become friends. As Jasper had his nephew in his care, he could not have been eager to send the boy to a place of possible danger. If Jasper and Edward had been friends, the shape of the next 118-years would have been very different.

References:

Griffiths, Ralph A. & Roger S. Thomas. The Making of the Tudor Dynasty. 1985. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

For more information on Jasper Tudor, you can check out Debra Bayani’s blog, War of the Roses Catalogue. She is currently working on a well awaited biography of Jasper.

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Noblewomen in the Wars of the Roses: Turning Fortune’s Wheel

An excellent discussion of the part that women played in the Wars.

Lauren Johnson

Much has been written about the violence of the Wars of the Roses. Civil conflicts inevitably leave a deeper scar than international ones, and this fifteenth century combat has lived on in collective memory. However, until recently, one group whose fortunes were  closely affected by the Wars has been overlooked: the noblewomen involved. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of medieval history will know why this is. Chroniclers write about the public deeds of noblemen, surviving records document the actions and decisions of that group because they were the ones who attended Parliament and fought in battles. Finding information about women – even the richest, most influential women – is hard work. And it is only with the increasing interest in social and gender history in the late twentieth century that the difficult sleuthing necessary to unravel the lives of women was undertaken in earnest.

However, for every man directly…

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The Princes in the Tower; The Defence Case for Henry VII

An excellent piece which shows how improbable it is that Henry VII could have been the one who killed the Princes in the Tower.
I once watched a TV show that said that he was the guilty one, and that he had killed them in the Rebellion of 1483. Here’s how they explained it: Henry sailed into London right to the Tower, went in, murdered them, came back out, got back on his ship and sailed away. I wrote an angry letter to the production company, saying that they needed better fact checkers and consulting historians.

Nathen Amin

The Princes in the Tower is one of British history’s greatest tragedies and has long been a spectre looming large over the English Middle Ages in particular. Two young brothers, one 12-years-old and the other just 10, were forcibly removed from public view shortly after their father’s death and were never seen again. The reason this story has resonated through history is for the fact that these two children happened to be Royal Princes; in fact, in the case of the elder child, Edward, he was no longer a Prince but a King. As the only male children of King Edward IV, upon their father’s death at Westminster in 1483 they became the highest ranking nobles in the realm, Edward ascending to the throne as King Edward V whilst his brother becoming the Heir presumptive and maintaining his status as the dual Duke of York and Norfolk. Although still children…

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The marriages of Henry VII and Henry I, a Comparison

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King Henry I

 

It is no secret that I am obsessed with King Henry VII. I have a copy of one of his portraits up on the wall in my office. I collect books about him. I watched “The White Queen” in part because he was a character. My book is about his time in exile. This is a major obsession, and I believe that he was one of the best kings England has had.

But my affection does not mean that I am blind to the fact that he had a very weak blood claim to the throne, and therefore should be considered a “conquering” king instead of a dynastic one. His reign was good for the country; he was able to leave the throne to his son, Henry VIII, with a fortune saved in the royal treasury due primarily to proper management and cutting out of waste.

Henry’s marriage to Elizabeth of York was very important for the stability of the realm. With her two brothers, the “Princes in the Tower,” gone and presumed dead, Elizabeth was the heir to her father, Edward IV. Because Henry and Elizabeth’s children would have the blood of both sides, Lancaster and York, the country would unite under them. The “Tudor Rose” children were one of the motivations behind their political union, though the marriage grew into love over the years. This was not the first time a king married a queen to make the claim of his children stronger.

In 1100 Henry I married Edith, a Scottish princess, and she changed her name to Matilda to sound more “Norman.” Henry came to the throne of England under questionable circumstances. A younger son of William I, or “The Conqueror,” he had been out hunting with his older brother, King William II, or “Rufus” as he was called, when Rufus suddenly died. We do not know if Rufus was murdered or if his death was an accident, but Henry rode straight to Westminster to be crowned king as soon as Rufus was dead. Henry was not his brother’s heir; their brother Robert, the Duke of Normandy, was Rufus’ heir. Later, Henry and Robert would go to war against each other, but for now Robert let Henry be king of England.

Henry was the son of a conquering king, and had taken the throne when it wasn’t his. How could he make sure that his heir would be secure on the throne when he died? By giving his children a blood connection to the old Saxon kings, his children would be secure. This was why he married Edith/Matilda. She was the daughter of King Malcolm III of Scotland, and was the descendant of King Ethelred II of England. Their children would become the unity of Saxon and Norman blood. The whole country would unite under them, and they would be secure and powerful.

This is the exact same logic that Henry VII used when he married Elizabeth of York, and they had their “Tudor Rose” children. When Henry VII died in 1509, he left his throne to his son, Henry VIII. His daughter Margaret was the queen of Scotland, and his daughter Mary was the queen of France for a short period, before marrying her love, Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk.

Henry I’s story was sadder. Only one of his children outlived him, his daughter Matilda. She had been married to Henry V, the German Emperor, which is why she is called “Empress Matilda.” Henry’s male next of kin was now his nephew Stephan, but because Stephan did not have the Saxon blood that Matilda did, Henry did not want Stephan to be his heir. When Henry lay dying, he had the English barons promise their support to Matilda, that she would be the next ruler of England. They did not live up to their promises, and Stephan was crowned king. He and Matilda entered into battle against each other, sieging castles and taking the other as prisoner but then releasing them. This game of cat and mouse continued for years, until they made an agreement. Matilda would accept Stephan as the king if he agreed to have her son from her second marriage as his heir. Matilda’s son became Henry II, the first Plantagenet king and he became one of the best kings that England has had. His sons are another story…

Of course, the Tudors would be plagued by Henry VIII’s tumultuous person life and struggle to produce a healthy and legitimate male heir. The dynasty ended after 118 years, when Queen Elizabeth I passed away in 1603. But the descendants of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York continue to sit on the throne to this day, and they have many, many other non-royal descendants as well.

This is why I can compare the two marriages to each other, and they are a valid comparison. Both married their spouse to give credibility to their reign and to make the reigns of their children smoother than their own had been. They knew that by having children that had both blood lines in them, there could be no question of their legitimacy and security on the throne.

Can you think of any other royal marriages that compare? Let me know what you think!

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The White Queen, episode 10

This blog has the most hysterical “scripts” for the episodes of “White Queen.” Enjoy, and then check out the other ones they have done.

A Nevill Feast

Elizabeth: I’ve gone home. I expect I shall get lots of visitors!
Margaret Beaufort: My son. Rightful throne.
Stanley: Ever thought you might be wrong?
Margaret Beaufort: Me?
Stanley: I don’t think God likes you anymore.
Anne: My son is sick!
Richard: Stop fussing, woman! Henry Tudor is to marry Princess Lizzie. That means I’ll have to move quickly to satisfy my metaphorical sword-drawing lust while pretending to my wife that nothing’s going on. Hang on, wait… My brother’s daughter? Oh, God! Really?
Anne: Best not to think about it too much. I mean, I’m turning into an insufferable middle class snob. No wonder I never get invited to parties.
Prince Teddy: Bleurgh!
Anne: Just give me a moment to be a passive-aggressive bitch to the Witch Queen’s daughters and I’ll be right with you. Lizzie, Cecily. I’m Queen and you’re not. Kindly suck on that, please.
Richard: *looms ominously*

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The Origin of the Wars of the Roses

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Henry IV

 

When did the Wars of the Roses start?

Now that “The White Queen” has ended, there are many viewers who would like to learn more of the history of the period. Historians typically have two distinct points which they say were the beginning of the Wars of the Roses. The first is in the usurpation of Richard II’s throne by Henry IV, and the second was when Richard, Duke of York, rose up against Henry VI. This post explains how the events of 1399 set up 1455.

By removing his cousin, King Richard II, and taking his throne, Henry IV creates a precedent that a king may be removed if he is unpopular or not seen to be fit to rule. The usurpation was a sad end to Richard II, a boy who turned into a tyrant. He was the son of Edward, the “Black Prince,” and his wife Joan, “The Maid,” of Kent, and grandson of Edward III. His reign was seen as a new beginning, a fresh start for a monarchy that be been deteriorating under an elderly king. Richard was a boy-king, and the issue of his minority came to a head with the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Those rebels swore that they loved Richard, and that they only wanted to serve him and help to protect him from “evil counsel.” They turned most of their anger and violence against Richard’s uncle John of Gaunt, father of Henry IV, because he seemed to have too much personal power. The rebels’ path of destruction landed at John’s castle The Savoy, which was burned to the ground.

At first it seemed as though Richard was listening to the rebels, but the end of the revolt was cemented into history with one sentence: “Serfs ye are, and serfs ye shall remain!” which the boy-king allegedly yelled at the rebels. The promises he had made to them, namely their freedom from serfdom, proved to be fraudulent, and the opinion of the people turned against Richard. Ironically it was John of Gaunt, the focus of the rebels’ enmity, who proved to be one of Richard’s most true advisors and supporters. Despite having the wealth and manpower to steal the throne from Richard, John never seems to have actually contemplated it. This may have been because John of was too busy attempting to gain the throne of Castile to try to take England from a nephew he had sworn to protect. John seems to have taken his promise of loyalty to Richard very seriously. John was a fascinating person, who will forever be attached in our minds as the romantic man from Anya Seton’s Katherine. That novel also gives us a wonderful depiction of the Peasants’ Revolt. John turned out not to be a threat to Richard; John’s oldest son Henry proved to be the real threat.

Henry of Bolingbroke was the son and heir of John of Gaunt, the third surviving son of King Edward III, from John’s first wife, Blanche of Lancaster. She was the wealthy daughter of Henry, the first Duke of Lancaster. His titles, wealth and property passed to John, as Henry of Lancaster had no male heir. John owned more castles and land, and was wealthier, than the king. He also had a larger number of retainers, or private soldiers than the king. Henry was named for this grandfather, who was the grandson of Edmund Crouchback, and great-grandson of King Henry III. This made Henry of Bolingbroke of royal descent from both of his parents, which he later used as evidence that he should be king. Richard was of royal descent from both of his parents as well, since his mother, Joan, was the daughter of Edmund of Woodstock, a son of King Edward I. Henry would later say that his ancestor, Edmund Crouchback, was the true heir but had been overlooked in favor of Edward I, but there is no actual proof to this story, which may have just been an attempt to legitimate his claim after he deposed Richard.

In 1398, following a dispute with the first Duke of Norfolk Thomas Mowbray, Richard sent Henry into exile. Showing how supportive John was to the king, he agreed with the punishment of his son and heir. John died the following yea, but Richard blocked Henry from gaining his inheritance. This was the fuel that prompted Henry to invade England, presumably to gain his lands and titles, but once there he imprisoned Richard, and had himself crowned King Henry IV on October 13, 1399. Richard was imprisoned in Pontefract Castle, where he died, possibly from starvation. Richard’s jailor was Henry’s step-brother and companion Thomas Swynford, son of John of Gaunt’s third wife and former mistress Katherine Swynford, by her first husband, Sir Hugh.

This single action made the position of king unstable. This was an expansion of the same reasoning used to depose Edward II, who was unpopular and not a very good king, but it is not identical. In that case, the throne passed to his son, Edward III, when he abdicated. But Edward III would have inherited the throne eventually anyway, just not as soon. He also wasn’t fighting to gain the throne for himself. His mother, Isabella “The She-Wolf” of France and her lover, Roger Mortimer, deposed Edward II on his behalf. Richard II had no children, so the question of who his heir would be followed his abdication. Technically, Richard’s heir was Edmund Mortimer, the Earl of March, who was a descendent of Edward III’s second son Lionel, Duke of Clarence, through his daughter Philippa. This descent becomes questionable, as Mortimer was descended through a female line, while Henry was descended from a male line.

The rules of English succession have not been as clear and a woman could be an heir, though I do not personally believe that at the time this would have been accepted. Because she was not male, the nobles would have rather seen a man with less of a claim get the throne. This has been much debated, because if we follow a male-from-male line from Edward III, Henry IV would have been Richard II’s heir. If we allow for female descent, then Edmund Mortimer was his heir and Henry IV usurped two crowns instead of one. And yes, the Earl of March was a descendent of Roger Mortimer, lover of Isabella of France.

Richard could have still had children, since there was no way to know if he had been infertile. If he had a son, Henry of Bolingbroke would have been further from the crown. Edward III would have always been his father’s heir, unless he predeceased him. The comparison is still valid, but messy.

This should serve as a warning to us today. Precedent can become a nightmare. The roots of the Wars of the Roses come from the centuries before, repeated in the 15th Century. Taking a cue from the mistakes of the past, we can make mistakes in the future.

Further reading:

Spartacus Educational- “Punishment of the Peasants”

Luminarium- “King Henry IV”

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