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.
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.