Jasper Tudor: Life Story

Chapter 11 : Fugitive

During the period 1463 to 1470, Jasper’s exact whereabouts are difficult to pin down. He seems to have travelled between France, Bar, Brittany and Scotland, drumming up support for his half-brother and nephew. This activity led Edward IV to put pressure on Louis XI to extradite him. Louis would not go that far, but gave Jasper 500 livres tournois to depart his kingdom for Scotland in 1463.

The following May, Louis furnished Jasper with a letter of recommendation for Duke François II of Brittany, requesting the Duke to help Jasper with troops and supplies to effect an invasion of Wales. François complied with Louis’s request, but was then astonished to receive news from the French King that Louis was displeased about the aid granted to Jasper.

The position of France’s neighbours, Brittany and Burgundy, is key to understanding the dynamics of the aid that was given at different times to both Lancaster and York. Henry VI was widely accepted as the legitimate King, and he initially had support from France, as the marriage alliance between Henry and Marguerite had been intended to end the Hundred Years’ War. The Lancastrians had also been closely allied to Burgundy during the first half of the century. Charles of Burgundy, like Henry VI, was a great-grandson of John of Gaunt, and his aunt, Anne, had been married to Henry V’s brother, John, Duke of Bedford. Brittany had been allied to the Lancastrian house through the marriage of Joanna of Navarre, grandmother of the current duke, to Henry IV.

However, France was looking to annex both Burgundy and Brittany. Charles of Burgundy had only a daughter, and, in the early 1460s, Francois of Brittany had no children at all. Thus, both Burgundy and Brittany sought allies to protect them from French incursions, whilst not wishing to provoke France into attack.

There are no definite records of where Jasper went in March 1464 with the money that Duke Francois had given him. It is possible that he landed in Wales, probably at Harlech, and he may have stayed at a place called Mostyn Hall.

Despite the apparent victory of Edward IV, all was not well in the Yorkist camp. Edward himself was a talented general, popular both with the public and with most of the nobility, once they had resigned themselves to the change of regime, which most did, following Towton. But he was becoming increasingly unpopular with the Earl of Warwick and his own brother, George, Duke of Clarence.

Warwick and Clarence felt they had not been sufficiently rewarded by Edward and Warwick was particularly displeased when his negotiations for Edward’s marriage to Louis XI sister-in-law, Bona of Savoy, collapsed on the news that Edward had already married in secret. Warwick felt himself to be a laughingstock – not an experience that such a proud man welcomed.

By 1468 Edward was facing dissatisfaction at home from his former supporters and had also provoked Louis XI through his alliances with Brittany and Burgundy. In 1468, Charles of Burgundy had married Margaret of York, Edward IV’s sister. This did not immediately put Charles into the Yorkist camp, but it kept his options open, and gave him a potential ally against Louis XI.

In retaliation, on 1st June 1468, Louis furnished Jasper with three ships and nearly 300 livres tournois for an expedition to Wales. Obviously this was not sufficient for a full-scale invasion but was probably intended as reconnaissance trip. It’s likely that Jasper landed somewhere near Harlech Castle. There were still plenty of Lancastrians in Wales and Jasper soon formed an army of around 2,000 men which he led to Denbigh. He did not attempt, on this occasion, to retake the castle but instead burned the town. He followed this up by holding several legal sessions in the name of King Henry – hoping to demonstrate that Henry was the legitimate King.

These actions of Jasper’s stirred Edward IV to even greater efforts to reduce Harlech. Herbert and his kinsman, Ferrers, as Sir Walter Devereux was now known, raised as many as 10,000 men in the Marches and ravaged the whole of Nantconwy, an area of North Wales still largely Lancastrian. A number of Jasper’s men were captured and Herbert’s men settled down in front of Harlech to besiege it with Jasper perhaps inside.

The castle eventually fell. The majority of the garrison was spared. Jasper himself escaped again allegedly disguising himself as a peasant carrying a bale of straw (Ed. The man seems to have been a close relative of Houdini!). Herbert was rewarded on 8th September 1468 by the grant of Jasper’s title of Earl of Pembroke.