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THE TUDORS IN THE WARS OF THE ROSES - PART ONE

 

The atmosphere of the early 1450s was one of instability an uncertainty. The King had no heirs after eight years of marriage and most of his close family members were dead. Henry VI's policies and military defeats had many turning to his cousin Richard, Duke of York, as a possible source of stability.

To make matters worse, Henry VI suffered a mental and physical breakdown in 1453 and for about a year and a half, he recognized no one and actually had to be carried around. The timing could not have been worse. Charles VIII of France was continuing to win battles against the English in Aquitaine and at home in England, feuds were breaking out among the nobility. Strong leadership was needed in England.

Both the Queen, Margaret of Anjou, and the Duke of York made their respective cases before Parliament and the nobles for why each should be allowed to exercise the King's powers during his incapacitation.

Margaret was demanding to be made Regent and was not willing to compromise on the matter. It appears that Jasper Tudor was prepared to side with the Duke of York, which is who Parliament chose as Protector in April 1454. Edmund's role at the time was not as visible as his brother's.

In November 1454, the Council began to reform the King's household, which affected the Tudor brothers since they were part of this household. Now they were allowed a chaplain, two esquires, two yeomen and two chamberlains. The brothers' support of the Duke of York at this time was not seen to be in conflict with their ties to the Lancastrian family.

At Christmas 1454, Henry VI suddenly became well again. The Duke of York was no longer needed and shortly after his recovery, the King restored his friends and advisors to power. Leading this group was Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, who was also uncle of Margaret Beaufort, Edmund Tudor's young wife.

The Tudor brothers had to decide whom to support -- the Duke of York or the previously discredited advisors to their half-brother, Henry VI.

On the 1st of May 1455, Henry VI left London (along with Jasper Tudor) and the next morning encountered the encampment of York, Warwick and Salisbury at St. Albans. It was here that the first 'battle' in the Wars of the Roses was fought. The Duke of Somerset was killed in the fighting and Henry VI was injured. The forces of the Duke of York were victorious and brought the King back to London.

It seems that Jasper Tudor was one of the people who tried to bring the factions together to iron out their differences, possibly foreseeing the further bloodshed the conflicts could bring. The Parliament met and measures were brought to shore up the King's finances, which involved canceling most of the grants Henry VI had made since becoming King. There were a few grants spared, including those of Edmund and Jasper Tudor. While the brothers were seen as potential allies of the Duke of York, they remained loyal to the King. Jasper was recorded as swearing an oath of allegiance to the King along with other lords. Edmund does not appear to be as involved in all of these proceedings as his brother. It is possible that he was ill or on business in Wales. Regardless, both brothers were now definitely seen as being on the Lancastrian side of the matter.

In 1455, Edmund Tudor was sent to Wales to act as the King's representative. During this time, the Duke of York was acting as Protector for a second time. By June 1456, he had become involved in a conflict with one of the Welsh lords for a time over control of parts of the principality.

By August 1456, the Duke of York was no longer in power as Protector (again) so Edmund's actions in Wales were seen as an enhancement of the King's authority. Some of the Duke of York's supporters moved to take back their master's control of the area. They marched straight to Carmarthen Castle and seized it, imprisoning Edmund Tudor as well. Then they took Aberystwyth, successfully re-asserting York's power in western Wales. Edmund was released from prison, but apparently contracted an illness which he died of on November 1, 1456 at Carmarthen. He was buried in a fine tomb at Greyfriar's Church. His tomb was moved about 100 years later after the dissolution, to St. David's Cathedral.

Meanwhile, Jasper Tudor remained with the King. But, after Edmund's death, Jasper went to Wales to take his place and care for Edmund's young window and unborn son. The events of 1456 had only strengthened Jasper Tudor's loyalty to the House of Lancaster.

On January 28, 1457, Margaret Beaufort gave birth to Henry Tudor at Jasper's property, Pembroke Castle. In March, Jasper visited the Duke of Buckingham and it was agreed that Margaret would marry the Duke's second son, Henry Stafford, thus helping to consolidate all the parties interests.

At this time attempts were made to bring the Duke of York's lieutenants to trial for their actions against Edmund Tudor and their continuing lawlessness in South Wales. Some were offered amnesty, other were jailed. Jasper was given the title of constable of Aberystwyth, Carmarthen and Carreg Cennen Castles, instead of the Duke of York. Jasper took the opportunity to shore up the area's defenses as well.

Jasper's work in governing his regions of Wales earned him further recognition. In 1458, he was elected to replace the King of Aragon and Naples (who had died) as a Knight of the Garter. In May 1459, he was assigned a tower at Westminster Palace to do business when he was in London.

In 1459, it once again appeared that the Lancastrians and the Duke of York were headed for another conflict. In September, the Duke and his sons had gone into exile in Ireland and the Yorkist lords were stripped of their estates by Parliament.

Jasper was given control of Denbigh Castle to help block York's avenue of communication between England and Ireland. However, the castle was still controlled by Yorkist supporters, so it would have to be taken by force, which it was.

In mid-1460, the Yorkist nobles, led by Edward, Earl of March (the Duke of York's eldest son) and the Earl of Warwick launched an attack from Calais, on the Continent. They reached London on July 2nd and secured victory over the King's forces at Northampton. The King was captured, the Queen fled to Wales; the Duke of Buckingham and the Earl of Shrewsbury were killed. Jasper was ordered to surrender Denbigh, but it would take a Yorkist army to force the issue.

Queen Margaret eventually reached Scotland. The Duke of York himself led forces north towards the border, but he was killed in skirmishes at Wakefield. Upon hearing this news, Margaret raised an army of Scots and Englishmen in the north and began to move south. They met and defeated Warwick and the main Yorkist army at St. Albans on February 17, 1461.

Jasper Tudor and the Earl of Wiltshire had also been gathering forces in Wales from where they moved northeast towards Herefordshire at the border with England. Included in this army was Jasper's father, Owen Tudor. Edward, Earl of March, gathered his own forces and the two forces met in early February 1461 at Mortimer's Cross. The Yorkist forces prevailed. Owen Tudor was captured and executed at Hereford. He was buried at a church in the town, nothing of which remains today. Excavations in 1894 and 1933 did uncover three skeletons, one of which was a tall man, but there can be no certainty that any were those of Owen Tudor.

Jasper Tudor escaped and was to spend the next nine years on the run or in exile. Edward, Earl of March, now ruled England as Edward IV.