Jasper Tudor: Henry VI’s Champion Pt. 2

Jasper Tudor
c. November 1431 – December 21, 1495

After the death of his brother, Edmund, on November 2, 1456, Jasper Tudor, the Earl of Pembroke, fully devoted himself to the Lancastrian cause. Although he initially sympathized with the Yorkists, Jasper became a strong supporter of the Lancastrian King, Henry VI. Before he began rallying support for his half-brother, Jasper ensured that his sister-in-law and newborn nephew were cared for. On January 28, 1457, Edmund’s young widow, Margaret Beaufort, had given birth to Henry Tudor. To protect mother and child, Jasper arranged a marriage between Margaret and a fellow Lancastrian, Henry Stafford, in March.

As the Wars of the Roses unfolded, Jasper Tudor began a tour of South Wales to gain support for Henry VI. Due to his Welsh ancestry, many Welshmen readily rallied behind him. During the late 1450s, Jasper secured his territories in West and South Wales by improving his town’s defenses. The earl strengthened his bonds with local Welsh noblemen to gain support. Through these methods, Jasper successfully established Wales as a Lancastrian stronghold.

The Wars of the Roses

1460s

During the early 1460s, fighting between the Lancastrians and Yorkists became more frequent. After the Lancastrian government stripped the Yorkists of their lands, loyalists, such as Jasper Tudor and his father, Owen, benefited handsomely. Although the Yorkist leader, Richard, Duke of York, and his followers had retreated to Ireland, England remained vulnerable. In February 1461, Yorkist forces engaged the Lancastrian army at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross.

Jasper and Owen Tudor fought in the battle, but the Lancastrians ultimately suffered defeat. Jasper managed to escape to Ireland, but Owen wasn’t as fortunate. Captured by the Yorkists, Owen expected to be held captive. Bitter at his father’s death at the hands of the Lancastrians in December 1460, Edward, Duke of York, instead had Owen executed. The earl remained on the run, traveling from Ireland to Scotland before arriving in France in 1462.

Louis XI of France
Louis XI of France

In Brittany, Jasper reunited with Henry VI’s wife, Queen Margaret of Anjou. Together, they met with King Louis XI to gain French support for the Lancastrian cause. A crafty king, Louis agreed to help the Lancastrians to undermine Yorkist rule. Unable to safely return to Wales, Jasper remained in France for the next six years as an exile.

In 1468, Jasper Tudor returned to Wales to repel Yorkist invaders. Although he captured Denligh Castle, the earl suffered defeat at the hands of William Herbert, a prominent Yorkist supporter. As a reward for his success, William gained Jasper’s earldom of Pembroke. Once again, Jasper escaped capture by fleeing to France, where he waited for another opportunity to return.

1470s

At the beginning of the decade, the Lancastrian cause gained a new supporter. Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, had formerly been a close advisor of Edward IV. However, the two men’s relationship soured after the king started to ignore Richard’s advice. Seeing his control of Edward slip away, Richard began plotting against the king. To this end, the earl created a secret alliance with Edward’s ambitious younger brother, George, Duke of Clarence.

Edward IV of England
Edward IV of England

Raising a rebel army, Richard Neville briefly overthrew Edward IV. However, the earl was soon forced to release the king in March 1470 after facing pressure from parliament. Fleeing to France, Neville and George met with Louis XI to gain support. Instead, the French king directed them to the exiled Lancastrians, led by Neville’s hated enemy, Margaret of Anjou. Despite their previous animosity, Neville and Margaret formed an uneasy alliance to restore Henry VI to the English throne.

In September 1470, Richard Neville launched another invasion of England. Jasper Tudor accompanied Neville and landed in Wales. Once again, Neville overthrew Edward IV, causing the king to flee to Burgundy. After restoring Henry VI to the throne, Jasper regained his earldom. However, the Lancastrian restoration proved short-lived.

In April 1471, Edward IV returned to England with a Yorkist army. After killing Richard Neville at the Battle of Barnet, the Yorkists met the Lancastrian army at Tewkesbury. Jasper Tudor attempted to meet up with the Lancastrians before the Battle of Tewkesbury but arrived too late. The Lancastrian’s crushing defeat led to the deaths of both Henry VI and his only heir, Prince Edward. Escaping from England with his nephew, Henry, the Tudors returned to exile in France.

1480s

For 12 years, Jasper and Henry resided in Brittany under Duke Francis II’s protection. Edward IV continually pressured Francis to hand over the Tudors, but the duke stubbornly refused. During this time, Jasper acted as a surrogate father to Henry. In April 1483, the king died, and Jasper began planning another invasion. In October, the Tudors invaded but failed to land.

Henry VII of England
Henry Tudor

By this time, Henry was seen as the Lancastrian’s last hope. Despite his claim to the English throne being weak, the Lancastrians rallied behind Henry. Jasper Tudor was a strong supporter of his nephew and sought to make Henry king. To this end, another invasion was planned for August 1485. Landing in South Wales, the Lancastrian army marched towards Bosworth.

Intercepted near the town, Henry and the Lancastrians met the Yorkists under the command of King Richard III. On August 22, both armies clashed during the Battle of Bosworth Field. Although outnumbered, the Lancastrians defeated the Yorkists, culminating in Richard III’s death. With Richard dead, Henry claimed the English throne, establishing the Tudors as England’s new ruling dynasty. Upon his accession as Henry VII, the king restored Jasper Tudor’s lands and titles, including granting him the dukedom of Bedford.

1490s

Jasper Tudor spent the last several years of his life assisting Henry VII. After decades of being a fugitive, the earl regained some stability in his life by becoming the lord lieutenant of Ireland from 1486 – 1494. Jasper also played a role in suppressing revolts against his nephew during the early years of his reign. Although the duke married in 1485, he never had any children with his wife, Catherine Woodville. On December 21, 1495, Jasper died from old age, and his dukedom became extinct.

Conclusion

Jasper Tudor spent the majority of his life championing the Lancastrian cause. For over twenty-five years, Jasper worked tirelessly to support Henry VI, and after his death, his nephew, Henry Tudor. Despite the setbacks he experienced, Jasper never lost hope in the Lancastrians. Upon Henry’s victory against Richard III in August 1485, Jasper witnessed the establishment of the Tudor dynasty. He spent his remaining years advising his nephew and enjoying the fruits of his labor. Without his continual support, Henry VII might’ve never become king, and the Tudor dynasty wouldn’t exist.

Sources

Cawthorne, N. (2012). Kings & Queens of England: From the Saxon Kings to the House of Windsor. London: Arcturus.

Griffiths, R. A., & Thomas, R. S. (2005). The Making of the Tudor Dynasty. The History Press.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Andy Tree

I'm a European history enthusiast who seeks to share his passion with others. I hope to inform and inspire readers with my posts!

Leave a Comment