Jasper Tudor: Life Story

Chapter 17 : The Long Exile

This resurgence of France gave François of Brittany something of a headache. His Burgundian ally was now weak and France was freed from the threat of invasion from England for at least seven years. As part of the treaty Edward had extracted a promise from Louis that François would be left in peace. In return for this, Edward suggested that François might like to hand over the Tudors as evidence of his gratitude.

In order to sweeten any smell of betrayal, Edward added that his main reason for wanting Henry Tudor to be sent back to England was for him to be married to one of Edward’s daughters. The young man would receive not just a bride but would also be confirmed in his Beaufort inheritance.

Persuaded by this mixture of conciliation and advice from his Council, many of whom had received ' presents' from Edward, François decided that he would send the young Earl of Richmond to England. Henry had previously refused to return with Edward’s envoys.

In November 1476 Henry, dragging his feet, was taken to Vannes where he was handed over to Edward’s messengers who planned to take ship at St Malo. Whilst the party were waiting for a favourable tide, one of Duke François’ most important councillors, who had been absent from the earlier discussions, raced to the Duke’s court and pleaded with him to change his mind, assuring François that if Henry were handed over he would be ‘torn in pieces by bloodied butchers…miserably tormented and finally… slain.’

François, persuaded that he should not have gone back on his word sent his minister, Pierre Landais, to St Malo to fetch Henry back. Henry, meanwhile was suffering from a severe fever either genuine, feigned or brought on by fear and stress. Whilst Landais was demanding that Henry be returned to François, Henry slipped from his sick bed and took refuge in the Cathedral of Saint Vincent.

The populace prevented the angry English messengers from breaking sanctuary and they were forced to return home empty-handed. There is no record of whether Jasper was with Henry although it seems reasonable to suppose that Edward would have wanted to lay his hands on both of them. They are next found together back at the court of François, before again being separated and kept in somewhat stricter confinement than previously, as a sop to Edward IV.

Louis XI to was still trying to get hold of the Tudors and sent money to Duke François in both 1477 and 1482 in a bid to persuade him to release them to the French court, but François refused. By 1482 the two men had been reunited and were in the care of François’ chief councillor, Jean de Robihan.

Further temptation to hand over uncle and nephew was placed in François’ way in 1482 when Edward promised him a contingent of archers to defend Brittany’s borders if the Tudors were extradited. Negotiations were interrupted by Edward’s sudden death in April 1483.

François had promised Edward that Jasper and Henry would not be able to do him any harm but once the King was dead, he was released from that promise and could give the men more freedom. Astonishing events now unfolded in England, which took Henry Tudor from being a minor irritation under the Yorkist saddle to being a serious contender for the throne, not just as a Lancastrian, but as a focal point for Yorkists who were horrified at the usurpation of the throne by Richard III from Edward’s sons.