Jasper Tudor: Life Story

Chapter 16 : European Politics

Initially Jasper and Henry were kept together, first at the Chateau de l’Hermine near Vannes, and then at Suscinio, a location further from the coast. Both Edward IV and Louis XI demanded that François keep the Tudors less as guests and more as prisoners. The former because he was concerned lest they foment further Lancastrian rebellions and the latter nervous that Edward IV might find means to capture or kill them. So, in order to maximise his negotiating power, François decided to separate Jasper and his nephew. Jasper was sent to the fortress of Josselin and Henry to Largoet.

Jasper’s personal attendants were dismissed and replaced with Bretons. It is interesting to speculate on how well Jasper may have been able to communicate with the Bretons whose language was (and is) very similar to Welsh. It is unlikely that Jasper spoke Welsh as a first language, having been brought up at Barking Abbey where he would have learnt English and French, however it is likely that he knew some Welsh. He had spent significant amounts of time in that country and that would certainly have been the language of his father. It is therefore probable that Jasper would have been able to communicate with his Breton retinue.

Henry too, although we do not know for certain his linguistic abilities, had spent the first 14 years of his life in Wales – first at Pembroke and then at Raglan where Herbert kept a traditional Welsh court. It is extremely likely that he understood Welsh and probably spoke it to a greater or lesser degree. In later life, Henry showed a marked preference for speaking French.

Meanwhile, that other committed Lancastrian, the Earl of Oxford, was still causing trouble for Edward IV. Funded by Louis XI, he collected a fleet of about a dozen ships and undertook raids on Calais and St Osyth in Essex. In late 1473 he captured St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall which he held for some eight months. Eventually captured, he was not executed but sent to perpetual imprisonment at the Castle of Hammes near Calais together with the other Lancastrian leader, Lord Beaumont.

Whilst Jasper and Henry were confined in their separate keeps, the political landscape outside was changing. Edward IV raised an enormous army, at great cost, with a view to reconquering France, in which he was to be aided by his brother-in-law, Charles of Burgundy. The strategy was exactly that which Henry V had had sixty years earlier, but, instead of an insane king and a nobility riven by strife, France was now led by the exceptionally astute Louis. It is not for nothing that he gained the epithet the ‘ spider’ King – a reference to his ability to patiently weave webs of intrigue.

Louis undermined the Anglo-Burgundian alliance by financing a large Swiss mercenary army to distract Charles on his eastern borders. Edward’s troops were permitted to pass through Burgundy, but not to enter any of the towns as Charles, not surprisingly, was worried about the depredations that foreign troops might impose on his people. Louis had carefully refrained from giving battle and Edward was now in a position where he was running short of supplies, winter was approaching and it was difficult for him to realistically achieve his objectives.

It also been suggested, initially by Louis’s own minister, Philip de Commynes, that Edward, having won his throne, had lost interest in military prowess, preferring to spend his time indulging in the pleasures of the flesh. Louis made an offer to Edward that the latter found he could not refuse. A one-off payment of 75,000 crowns and an annual pension of 50,000. This was agreed at the Treaty of Picquiny, signed on 29 th August. Louis, knowing he had more than one man to persuade, gave plump presents to the vast majority of Edward’s Council.

This agreement somewhat tarnished Edward’s prestige abroad as military commander – it was seen as a dishonourable outcome. Back in England, Parliament was displeased that it had raised money and men for no apparent gain – obviously, Edward was not going to pay back the taxes raised. Those lords who were beneath the notice of the King of France and had not received bribes, were disgruntled because they had no opportunity of gathering plunder or ransoms.

Charles of Burgundy was still fighting the Swiss and he was killed on 5 th January 1477 at the Battle of Nancy. He was succeeded in those parts of his territories which would accept female rule, by his daughter Mary, now Duchess of Burgundy. However a large part of Burgundy, the hereditary lands of the French crown, reverted to Louis. The King of France was now stronger than any of his ancestors had been.