I am delighted to be hosting day 2 of the virtual book tour for Jasper Tudor, Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty by Debra Bayani and excited to share with you an excerpt from Debra’s book.
Be sure to leave a comment after the extract, for your chance to win a copy of ‘Jasper Tudor, Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty‘, kindly donated by the author.
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Book Extract – Jasper Tudor by Debra Bayani
Soon after Katherine’s death Owen [Tudor] found himself in trouble with the King’s Council and was, as he might have expected, summoned to appear before the Privy Council. Understandably wary of the council’s probable reaction to his secret marriage with a queen of England and the family they had produced, and the likelihood that he would be punished by imprisonment at the very least, Owen thought it best to flee back to north Wales. He could be sure that his children, as half-siblings of the King, would be well looked after. And so he hurriedly packed all his best goods: chalices, gilt cups, silver ewers, enamelled salts, candlesticks and flagons – most of them gifts from the Queen. But as Owen rode west Humphrey Duke of Gloucester sent in pursuit a servant, Myles Sculle, who caught up with him at Daventry in Northamptonshire. There Owen was handed a summons to the royal palace of Westminster to appear before the council, together with the assurance that he should ‘freely come and freely goo’. Gloucester clearly considered Owen’s descendants a threat, especially to his own position, as he reminded the King that Owen had committed a felony – ‘to mix his own blood with the royal blood of kings’. Owen subsequently went into sanctuary at Westminster for several days, ‘eschewing to come out thereof’ and to face the Council, but after he was accused of disloyalty he was eventually persuaded by ‘divers persons [who] stirred him of friendship and fellowship to … come out’ and to show his face at court. He appeared before the King at the Privy Council sitting in the Chapel Chamber in Kennington Palace, central London, on 15 July 1437. Also present were the Duke of Gloucester; John Stafford Bishop of Bath; John Kemp Archbishop of York; William Alnwick Bishop of Lincoln; Henry Percy, 2nd Earl of Northumberland; William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk; Lord Walter Hungerford; Sir John Lord Tiptoft, Treasurer of England and Keeper of the Privy Seal; and Sir William Philip, Privy Councillor and the Kings Chamberlain. The record of this meeting opens with:
The King not longe agoo, that is to say soon after ye deeth of (noble memoir) Quene Katherine his moder whom God assoille desired, willed that on Oweyn Tidr the which dwelled with the saide Quene sholde come to his presence …
In the face of this assembly of elevated gentlemen Owen defended himself boldly:
Affermyng he hadde no thing doon that sholde yeve the King occasion of matier of offense or displaisure ayenst himself, offryng himself in large wyse as the Kings trewe liege man shold to all thing ant man cowed or wolde surmitte upon him.
From their perspective Owen had broken a strict social code by marrying the Queen dowager without the King’s approval. The kind-hearted King fully pardoned his stepfather on condition that Owen would appear before the King whenever summoned and after Owen had pledged to do so, he was promised a safe conduct to return to Wales. Despite this, Gloucester went after Owen on his return journey. According to the original but separate document relating to The preceding Minute respecting Owen Tudor:
Furst reherse how he was send afr, at what tyme the King né my Lord of Glouceter were not lerned of this malicious purpose and ymaginacion of the which he enformed sithe.
Als of if any lord or other be called to plemet bi the Kings auncle wher bi him owed to rejouse wich privilege that he shuld have fre goying and fre coming zit for manes of less wysthm than ben thes that the King is enformed as for surete of pees the moche more greter.’
The document goes on to give unclear justifications for Owen’s arrest by Gloucester, who was obviously not sent by the King but had the power to do so if he considered it justified. According to this account, Owen did not respect the rules imposed on him at the Privy Council meeting. On his way back to Wales Owen was arrested, together with his priest and servant, and his possessions, worth more than £138, were taken. All three men were sent to Katherine’s former royal castle at Wallingford under custody of the Earl of Suffolk, possibly a place that Owen knew well. By July it was found convenient to commission them to Newgate Prison.
Eventually, before 29 July 1438, all three men made their escape, apparently after ‘wounding fouly their goaler’. Once again Owen and his faithful adherents were captured and recommissioned to Newgate and probably very quickly brought to Windsor Castle where Edmund Beaufort was the newly appointed constable. He remained there until July 1439. If Owen had angered another king this might have been the end of him, but Henry VI, now an adult, showed mercy and decided that Owen should be released at a bail of £2,000 on condition that he would appear before the King on 11 November and at any other time he might be summoned. On 12 November, Owen was fully pardoned for all of his offences committed and, on New Year’s Day 1440, all processes against him were annulled and withdrawn including his substantial bail, possibly as a New Year’s gift from the King. It is said that King Henry later felt sorry for the treatment his stepfather had suffered and that he blamed Gloucester for it. By 1444 Henry regarded his stepfather as ‘our well beloved squire’. Owen then led the life of a gentleman, kindly treated by the King, and was probably part of his stepson’s household until at least the late 1450s.
In the meantime, Owen and Katherine’s two older sons, Edmund and Jasper, had been placed in the care of the Duke of Suffolk’s sister Katherine de la Pole, the abbess of Abbey, where both boys would stay for roughly five years. There is no reason to think the boys were anything but well treated during their stay at the Abbey. According to John Blacman, Henry VI’s biographer and chaplain, who wrote somewhere around 1485:
and like pains did he apply in the case of his half-brothers, the Lords Jasper and Edmund, in their boyhood and youth; providing for them most strict and safe guardianship, putting them under the care of virtuous and worthy priests, both for teaching and for right living and conversation, lest the untamed practices of youth should grow rank if they lacked any to prune them.
As the Tudor brothers approached adolescence the Abbess took them to court to bring them to King Henry’s attention. It has been said this was because no money was given to meet the boy’s expenses at the Abbey.
When the boys grew up Henry kept them close to him at court and, again according to Blacman, the King personally protected his half-brothers from any sexual temptation by keeping ‘careful watch through hidden windows of his chamber.’ On 25 August 1442, their father Owen was given lands in Surrey and on four occasions in the following two years he was also given a sum of £40 from the King’s own Privy Purse. Owen was undeniably Henry’s stepfather, but above and beyond that he was a true servant of the King and crown. Very few accounts survive of these early years of Edmund and Jasper’s life or of their father’s at this time. Owen was possibly part of the delegation that went to France in November 1444 to bring the King’s bride, Margaret of Anjou, to England.
England’s political life had now been in chaos for at least a decade. The King was constantly struggling with the magnates and nobility whose chief priority was to enrich themselves, and this inevitably had a major impact on Henry’s own finances. This in turn affected badly the quality of the governance of the realm, mainly because those who were supposed to govern on behalf of the King neglected his subjects. The perceived weakness of the King made the house of Lancaster tremendously insecure and in 1450, after five years of marriage, Henry still lacked the promise of future stability in the shape of an heir. Under these circumstances, and his only remaining close relative, his uncle Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, having died in 1447, it without doubt seemed a wise decision to elevate his half-brothers Edmund and Jasper. Partly for political reasons, and no doubt also partly out of charity and the affection Henry felt for his younger brothers, Edmund and Jasper were about to be recognized as the King’s ‘uterine brothers’ and to be created earls of England, with a rank above all except dukes, granted a rich patrimony and destined to live life at the centre of English and Welsh politics during the tumultuous period of the Wars of the Roses.
Debra Bayani is a researcher and writer, living in the Netherlands with her husband and children. She previously studied Fashion History and History of Art. She has been interested in history as far as she can remember with real passion for the Middle Ages and the Wars of the Roses, and has spend many years researching this period. Currently she is working on a visitor’s guide to places connected to the Wars of the Roses. Debra’s debut non-fiction book, the first biography on the subject, ‘Jasper Tudor, Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty’, was published in 2014.