Jasper Tudor: Life Story

Chapter 15 : The End of Lancaster?

For Marguerite the war was now over. Her son was dead and within a few days she heard that her husband too was dead, almost certainly killed in the Tower on the orders of Edward IV. The Queen was gathered up with the other women and sent to London, following which she spent four bitter years of humiliation in captivity, before being ransomed by Louis XI. For Jasper, however, all was not lost. He was still at large in Chepstow.

Edward sent Sir Roger Vaughan, Jasper’s old enemy, to capture him. Getting wind of Vaughan’s approach, Jasper’s men captured him and he was executed on Jasper’s orders, apparently saying he would show Vaughan as much mercy as Vaughan had shown to Owain Tudor after Mortimer’s Cross.

Jasper still had in his hands his nephew, Henry Tudor, who was now a possible heir of the Lancastrian claim to the throne although it seems unlikely that, with Edward now firmly seated on the throne anyone believed there was any realistic prospect of Henry Tudor taking up the Lancastrian mantle. Nevertheless, Jasper allegedly received urgent messages from Henry’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, to keep her son out of Edward’s hands. A more likely Lancastrian heir was Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter, who, badly wounded at Barnet, had been captured by Edward IV.

Exeter was Edward’s brother-in-law, which may have inclined Edward to spare his life, although he and Anne of York hated each other, and the marriage was annulled the following year. Exeter himself died in somewhat mysterious circumstances in 1475, apparently reconciled to Edward but unaccountably falling overboard when returning from France with Edward’s army after a military expedition. Another possible heir was Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, although as his claim derived from the last of Edward III’s sons, it was inferior to that of both York and Lancaster.

By early May 1471 Jasper and Henry were at Pembroke Castle, obviously intending to escape by sea. The castle was quickly surrounded by Edward’s men, led by Morgan ap Thomas, a grandson of Gruffydd ap Nicolas. Morgan’s brother, Dafydd ap Thomas, continuing his father’s and grandfather’s tradition of loyalty to Jasper, approached Morgan’s army from the rear to raise the siege and ferry Jasper and Henry to Tenby. It is, of course, perfectly possible that Morgan had not been terribly enthusiastic in his activities and that the brothers had concocted the scheme together to keep the family in favour with both sides.

Jasper and Henry, now 14, remained in hiding in Tenby for a few days until a ship could be found to take them to France.

It had been Jasper’s intention to return to the court of Louis XI, who would almost certainly have given him support in the face of Edward IV’s belligerent attitude toward France. However the ship was blown off-course and the two men arrived instead in Brittany. Duke François II, who is one of the few men who comes out of the Wars of the Roses with any honour, permitted them to remain in Brittany.

He treated them well, and kept the promises he made that, so long as they remained in his territories, they would be ‘far from injury’. Nevertheless the men were political prisoners. François still had no heir (he would eventually have a daughter, Anne, in 1477, but that was not much better than no heir at all, in the face of French aggression) and he need every bargaining tool he could find.

Edward IV, as soon as he became aware of the whereabouts of the two Tudors, requested that Duke François extradite them. François refused. He stated that he had given his word to the Tudors that they would be safe and he could not break his vow. He would however, ensure that they could not do Edward IV any harm.