Edmund Tudor was born on June 11, 1430, to Owen Tudor and Catherine of Valois. Catherine had formerly been King Henry V‘s wife before his death on August 31, 1422, during the Hundred Years’ War. However, the king left behind an infant son, Henry VI, to continue the English Lancastrian dynasty. Although the former queen initially looked after her son, the government eventually took custody. To better control Catherine, parliament passed a law forbidding her to marry again without the king’s consent.
Despite the government’s efforts to control her personal life, the dowager queen fell in love with one of her servants, a Welshman named Owen Tudor. Appointed by Henry V, Owen served as Catherine’s wardrobe keeper. It is unknown when their relationship began but the two secretly married without Henry VI’s approval. Edmund Tudor was either the first or second of the couple’s children. In turn, he would be followed by several other siblings, including his younger brother, Jasper.
Arrival at Court
In 1436, Catherine retired to the Abbey of Bermondsey, where she died the following year. Upon her death, the government arrested Owen for violating the marriage law. As a result, Edmund Tudor and his brother Jasper were sent to live with Katherine de la Pole, Abbess of Barking. However, the brother’s fortunes changed in 1442 when Katherine brought them to Henry VI’s court. Although the king’s half-brothers from an unlawful marriage, Henry happily accepted Edmund and Jasper. The king ensured that his brothers received a good education and had opportunities to advance at court.
On December 15, 1449, Henry VI knighted Edmund Tudor. He went on to become the Earl of Richmond, while Jasper became the Earl of Pembroke. During the early 1450s, the king also ensured his brother’s questionable legitimacy. In 1453, parliament passed an act declaring the Tudor brother’s legitimate. To further show his favor, Henry granted Edmund and Jasper several large land grants.
The King’s Madness
As Edmund Tudor’s fortunes rose at court, England’s began to decline. The Hundred Years’ War had started to turn in France’s favor. As King Charles VII and the French army reclaimed English-held lands, Henry VI suffered from mental instability. In response to the news that the French had taken all but Calais, the king fell into a catatonic state in the summer of 1453. Unable to rule, a power vacuum occurred. Out of the chaos, Richard, Duke of York, became Protector of the Realm against Queen Margaret‘s protests.
In early 1454, Henry VI regained his senses and dismissed Richard. With his efforts ruined and being excluded from the government, the duke raised an army. As the civil war between Henry VI and the Lancastrians and Richard and the Yorkists developed, the nobility started taking sides. As a result of their brother’s generosity, Edmund Tudor and Jasper chose to stay loyal to the king. Their Lancastrian allegiance would be important during the ensuing War of the Roses.
On March 24, 1453, Henry VI appointed Edmund Tudor and Jasper the guardians of Margaret Beaufort. The young noblewoman was of royal descent and the king’s second cousin. She also stood to inherit the Beaufort’s vast wealth. Interested in gaining access to Margaret’s money, Edmund married her on November 1, 1455. The groom was 25-years-old, while the bride was only 12. Despite the common practice of waiting to consummate the marriage until 14, Margaret became pregnant in early 1456.
The War of the Roses
In 1456, the Yorkist William Herbert captured Edmund Tudor. Herbert transferred the earl to Carmarthen Castle in South Wales, where he was imprisoned for several months. During his captivity, the bubonic plague swept through Wales, infecting many people in the process. Edmund was no exception. On November 3, 1456, the 26-year-old earl succumbed to the disease. Three months later, his only child, Henry Tudor, was born on January 28, 1457.
Edmund Tudor lived a short yet essential life. Although he died early in the War of the Roses, the earl left behind a son who would eventually end the civil war. Through Henry, the Lancastrians would defeat the Yorkists at the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485. After being crowned Henry VII, the king established the Tudor’s as England’s new royal dynasty. Although the Tudors only ruled for 118 years, Edmund remains an ancestor of the British royal family.
Cawthorne, N. (2012). Kings & Queens of England: From the Saxon Kings to the House of Windsor. London: Arcturus.
Ridgway, C. (2018, July 16). Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond. The Tudor Society. https://www.tudorsociety.com/edmund-tudor-1st-earl-of-richmond/.
Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond. (n.d.). https://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/tudor_26.html.