Chapter 4 : 1st Battle of St Albans
York was still not aiming for the Crown itself, he merely wanted to control the King’s government. He was summoned, together with Salisbury and Warwick, to appear before a Great Council of the other nobles to explain his actions. He wrote to the King, protesting his loyalty, but headed towards London with a small army. It is unclear whether his letters of explanation ever reached the King, who had left London.
It is unlikely that the King’s party were expecting an armed confrontation and most of his supporters were accompanied only by their usual household retinues, but on 22 nd May 1455 when the King’s party reached the town of St Albans, they were greeted with the news that York and his supporters were in the vicinity with an armed force.
Discussions between the two groups broke down – even the gentle Henry VI was moved to anger by York’s attempts to run his government. The town was barricaded by the Lancastrians but in a surprise move led by the Earl of Warwick – a talented and ruthless soldier – the Yorkists broke into the town through an unguarded route. The Duke of Somerset, the Earl of Northumberland and Northumberland’s nephew, Lord Clifford, were killed and most of the other Lancastrian lords injured to a greater or lesser degree.
It is not known whether Jasper fought in the battle but, according to his biographer, Dr. Sara Elin Roberts, he was captured after the battle, along with Buckingham and the Earls of Devon and Dorset – the latter was Somerset’s son, Henry, and now became 3 rd Duke of Somerset. The King himself was slightly injured and carried back to London under the control of York.
With Somerset now dead, York became Constable of England and Salisbury and Warwick were confirmed as Guardians of the West Marches of Scotland. This was a move that was likely to anger the new Earl of Northumberland (who was Salisbury’s nephew – his mother, Eleanor, being Salisbury’s eldest sister). The rivalry between the Nevilles and the Percys for power in the north had been a significant factor in the unrest of the 1440s and 50s.
Both Jasper and Edmund were summoned to Parliament for July 1455. In the months between St Albans and the July Parliament, Jasper had remained in London, despite the withdrawal of Henry and Marguerite to Hertford, just north of the capital, and had continued to negotiate with York.
The Parliament of 1455 again attempted to claw back some of the money lost to the Crown over the previous years with another Act of Resumption. Fortunately for them, the lands granted to both Tudor brothers were exempt. On 24th July 1455 Jasper again swore allegiance to his half-brother.
The extent of the lands that Jasper had been granted, together with his joint responsibility for the wardship of Lady Margaret Beaufort, made him the equivalent in modern terms of the Chief Executive Officer of a large, multi-million pound business at around the age of 24. He had a Council to manage his lands and receive his rents, and was also allowed to have a personal household within the King’s court consisting of a chaplain, two squires, two yeomen and two chamberlains.
Jasper’s Council included a number of men who were later involved in the Wars of the Roses – some as Lancastrians but others as Yorkists. His Councillors, the majority of whom were Welshmen, or from the Marches of Wales, included Thomas Vaughan, Geoffrey Pole and William Herbert. Vaughan was also a Squire of the King’s household and was the administrator of Edmund Tudor’s estate following the latter’s death in 1456. Vaughan and Herbert were members of York’s affinity – holding lands in York’s vast Mortimer estates in the Welsh Marches, but at this point, no conflict of loyalties seemed likely.
When Parliament met again in November 1455, Jasper, although summoned, did not appear and nor did Edmund. Stern letters were sent out to both of them, and the other peers who had failed to put in an appearance, and they were commanded to attend the next session, which opened on opened on 14th January 1456, by which time Parliament had again appointed York as Protector, although he was dismissed in February 1456, even though, in an attempt a conciliation, a number of his allies remained in Henry’s government.