Jasper Tudor: Life Story

Chapter 9 : Exile

Jasper retreated to West Wales and sent letters to his supporters, urging them to be faithful to the cause of Lancaster and to help him avenge the death of his father, Owain. He was bitter against his former councillor, Sir William Herbert, and Sir Roger Vaughan, whom he saw as the murderer of his father.

The new King, Edward IV, was determined to extirpate all remnants of Lancastrian support. He marched north with all possible speed securing victory, first at Ferrybridge, and then on 29 th March 1461 presided over the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil when the Lancastrians were decimated at Towton. It is alleged that some 75,000 men fought and around 28,000 were killed. King Henry, Queen Marguerite and Prince Edward fled for Scotland. Jasper seems not to have fought at Towton but stayed in Wales maintaining his affinity, and holding Pembroke, Denbigh and Harlech castles for Henry VI.

Edward was crowned on 29 th June and immediately proceeded to re-grant such of Jasper’s estates as he could control to Sir William Herbert, now Lord Herbert of Raglan. In September, Herbert was granted custody of the states of the late Duke of Buckingham – the first Duke been killed at Northampton and the second at Towton whilst the latter’s heir was still only a child.

A number of commissions were issued to Herbert and other Yorkist in South Wales to raise forces to capture Jasper. Pembroke was surrendered by Sir John Scudamore (son-in-law of Gruffydd ap Nicolas) who was eventually pardoned by Edward IV. The surrender of the castle brought Henry Tudor into Edward IV’s hands and he was given in wardship to William Herbert, who paid £1000 for the privilege. Young Henry was still referred to as the Earl of Richmond, but his lands were confiscated and granted to the King’s brother, George, Duke of Clarence.

The Lancastrian exiles in Scotland requested aid from Charles VI of France, Queen Marguerite’s uncle (and Jasper’s). She had asked him to send money and men to Jasper but before the embassy could reach the French court, King Charles died to be replaced by Louis XI who at this point was inclined to favour the Yorkists and arrested Marguerite’s messengers.

Jasper, from having been the King’s dearly beloved half-brother and an important member of the government, was now a fugitive. His whereabouts are unknown but his castles of Denbigh, Carreg Cennen and Harlech held out as long as they could. Denbigh surrendered in January 1462 and Carreg Cennen in May 1462 whilst Harlech remained defiantly in Lancastrian hands under Dafydd ab Ieuan until 1468 – giving rise to that much loved Welsh song ‘ Men of Harlech’.

Jasper and the Duke of Exeter (Edward IV’s brother-in-law) met Herbert in another skirmish at Twt Hill on the outskirts of Caernarfon in north-west Wales in October 1461. The Yorkists were again victorious but Jasper and Exeter escaped, heading for the Lancastrian court in exile in Scotland. On 4 th November 1461 Jasper was attainted by Parliament as was his nephew, the four-year-old Henry Tudor.

Jasper’s pre-eminence in Wales was now taken by Sir William Herbert (known as Gwilym Ddu, or Black Will, in Welsh). In due course, as well as receiving a number of new grants of land and titles from Edward IV, he was granted Jasper’s earldom of Pembroke. Although Jasper and his brother Edmund had been the first Welshmen to receive the title of earl, Sir William was the first man of full Welsh descent to be so ennobled.

The continued resistance of Harlech remained a thorn in the side of Edward IV, offering the opportunity for Lancastrians to enter the country by sea, which in the 1460s lapped at its towers, to carry out raids.