Jasper Tudor: Life Story

Chapter 8 : Triumph of York

Yet another Parliament was held in Coventry in November and December 1459, which became known as the ' Parliament of Devils'. Jasper attended, although he arrived somewhat late. Once again, all of the nobles present swore allegiance to Henry VI and Edward, Prince of Wales. York, Salisbury, Warwick, March, Rutland and their key followers were attainted of treason and had all of their estates forfeited.

Jasper himself and his father Owain, of whom nothing had been heard for some time, were rewarded with new estates. Owain was knighted and granted a number of manners in Kent, Sussex and Warwickshire. The following April (1459) Jasper also received the accolade of being elected as a Knight of the Garter and was also granted, for life, a tower in the Palace of Westminster for his Council meetings and archive storage (Ed – I wish someone would give me a tower in a palace!)

Despite the apparent resurgence of the Lancastrians, the underlying problems of a weak King, an unpopular Queen and quarrelsome nobles had not been overcome and the fighting continued.

In early 1460 Jasper was appointed for life to the position of Constable, Steward and Master Forrester of the Lordship of Denbigh in North Wales, close to the coast. Denbigh had previously been one of York’s castles, so needed to be held by the Lancastrians to prevent York entering the country by sea from Ireland. The castle garrison resisted, remaining loyal to its former constable and Jasper was obliged to besiege it.

In order to subdue the castle Jasper requested consent from Henry VI to issue a commission to raise troops, to pardon any members of the Denbigh garrison who were prepared to submit and to execute those who would not submit. He also requested permission to distribute any of the contents of the castle, once captured, to pay his followers.

These permissions were granted by Letters Patent on 22 nd February and Jasper proceeded to raise forces, led by a number of Welshmen from South Wales. Jasper also received a grant of 1,000 marks to cover the costs of the campaign, to be derived from York’s former holdings in the marches. By the end of May, the castle had fallen – the first time in its history that it fell to external attack.

Meanwhile forces were being raised by both Lancastrians and Yorkists, which met at Northampton on 10 th July 1460. The Yorkists, led by Warwick, gained the victory, helped by the treachery of Lord Grey of Ruthin who, despite being in the Lancastrian army (having been pardoned after Ludford Bridge) gave orders to his men not to fight.

Three of the most senior Lancastrian captains were killed – the Duke of Buckingham, Lord Egremont (brother of the Earl of Northumberland) and Viscount Beaumont. The Yorkists captured King Henry. Queen Marguerite, hearing the news of the King’s capture, was unable to raise further troops and crossed speedily into Wales with her son.

Now in control, the Yorkist Lords marched into London. York declared to Parliament that he was the rightful King of England as he was descended from the second son of Edward III, rather than from the third son, Henry VI’s ancestor. The Duke was met by stunned silence. Controlling a weak King was one thing – overthrowing him entirely, was completely different.

Parliament however recognised York’s superior genealogical claim and declared that whilst King Henry would continue to rule for the remainder of his life he would be succeeded by York, rather than by his son Edward, Prince of Wales. Henry had little choice but to accept this act, which was passed on 24 th October 1460. It was also agreed that York would immediately act as Protector of the kingdom.

Nevertheless there were many, including Queen Marguerite, who were quite unprepared to accept this disinheritance of Prince Edward. Henry was obliged to sign an order summoning the Queen and Prince to London, but they avoided capture, eventually arriving at Harlech Castle on the west coast of Wales, probably in company with Jasper.

Sir William Herbert, who had now returned to the Yorkist party, together with his brother-in-law, Sir Walter Devereux the Younger, his half-brother Roger Vaughan and a number of others, were sent to capture Jasper. Marguerite had left Harlech for the north of England, where she succeed in raising another army which York now left London to try to defeat.

Simultaneously, York’s son, Edward, Earl of March, was heading for Wales in pursuit of Jasper. York was heavily defeated and killed at the Battle of Wakefield on 30 th December 1460, together with Salisbury and York’s second son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland (killed after the battle by Lord Clifford in revenge for his own father’s death).

Following this, it was imperative for York’s son, Edward of March, to prevent Marguerite’s victorious Lancastrians from meeting up with Jasper’s men.

Jasper was joined by James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire, a loyal Lancastrian although his personal courage was doubted as he had swiftly run away from the battlefield of St Albans. Jasper was also accompanied by his father, Owain, as well as by Thomas and Owain ap Gruffydd ap Nicolas. The two armies met at Mortimer’s Cross just outside Hereford on 2 nd (or possibly 3 rd ) February. Edward of March, who was victorious on every battlefield he commanded, won resoundingly.

Jasper escaped from battlefield but his father was not so lucky and he was executed in the market cross in Hereford. Apparently his last words expressed his amazement that the head which had once lain in Queen Katherine’s lap was now to be placed on the block. Sir Roger Vaughan, in charge of the executions, ignored his pleas.

Edward turned back for London in an effort to reach the capital before Marguerite entered from the North. She had demolished another Yorkist army at St Albans on 16 th February, reuniting with Henry VI who had been present, in Yorkist control, and was heading for the capital.

The Londoners, fearing what they had heard of the unruliness of the Lancastrian army had closed the gates to the Queen. In one of the few moments when Queen Marguerite’s determination and ruthlessness failed her, she remained outside of the city to negotiate, rather than advancing. In the meantime Edward entered from the west and was proclaimed King.