Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford, Earl of Pembroke, KG (Welsh: Siasbar ab Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudur ap Goronwy) (c. November 1431 – 21/26 December 1495) was the uncle of King Henry VII of England and a leading architect of his nephew's successful conquest of England and Wales in 1485. He was from the noble Tudor family of Penmynydd in North Wales.
Jasper Tudor's coat of arm, granted to him by his maternal half-brother, King Henry VI, quarters the three lilies of France with the three lions of England, with the addition of a bordure azure with martlets or (that is, a blue border featuring golden martlets).
Jasper was the second son of Owen Tudor and the former Queen Catherine of Valois, the widow of Henry V of England. He was the half-brother to Henry VI, who, on attaining his majority in 1452, named Jasper Earl of Pembroke. Through his father, Jasper was a direct descendant of Ednyfed Fychan, Llywelyn the Great's renowned Chancellor. This connection added greatly to his status in Wales. Through his mother, a daughter of Charles VI of France, he was descended from the Valois Kings of France.
Jasper was born at the Bishop of Ely's manor at Hatfield in Hertfordshire in 1431, his parents' second child. His older brother, Edmund, was born at Much Hadham Palace in 1430. His younger brother, Owen, was born in 1432 at Westminster Abbey, when the Dowager Queen was visiting her eldest son and her water broke prematurely, forcing her to seek the help of the Abbey's monks. According to Henry VII's personal historian Polydore Vergil, Owen was taken and raised by the monks to become a member of the order, living under the name Edward Bridgewater until his death in 1502. Vergil also mentions a daughter who became a nun, but little is known of her. Catherine's last child would be born in 1437, mere days before her own untimely death on 3 January.
After Catherine's death, Owen Tudor was arrested and sent to Newgate prison. Jasper, Edmund, and possibly their sister were put into the care of Katherine de la Pole, a nun at Barking Abbey, in Essex, from July 1437 to March 1442. She was the sister of William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, a great favorite of Henry VI, and was able to provide Jasper and his siblings with food, clothing, and lodging. They were also permitted servants to wait upon them as the King's half-siblings.
In 1442, their half-brother the King began to take an interest in their upbringing. Sometime after March 1442, Jasper and his brother were brought to live at court. Henry arranged for the best priest to educate them intellectually and morally. The brothers also received military training; when they grew up they were given military positions. Jasper was recognised as Henry VI’s uterine brother when he was created Earl of Pembroke.
Owen Tudor was released from prison, most likely thanks to his stepson Henry VI, who after providing for his stepfather, also provided for his two half-brothers. It is not clear whether Henry VI had known of the existence of his half-brothers until his mother told him while she was dying in Bermondsey Abbey. It was after her death that Henry would begin to care for them and eventually raise them to the peerage by giving both brothers earldoms. Jasper became Earl of Pembroke on 23 November 1452. In turn, Edmund and Jasper swore unwavering loyalty to Henry and fought and promoted him and his Lancastrian family’s interests persistently throughout their lives.
Owen and Catherine's marriage was not recognised by the authorities, in large part due to the secrecy under which it was accomplished, and so the legitimacy of Jasper and his two (or three) siblings was questionable. However, Jasper enjoyed all the privileges appropriate to his birth, including being invested as a Knight of the Garter. After 1485, he would describe himself as the “high and mighty Prince Jasper, brother and uncle of Kings, Duke of Bedford and Earl of Pembroke”. During his time at court, Jasper constantly tried to work with the Duke of York and other nobles in order to try to stop the infighting between the two houses. It was after the death of his elder brother, Edmund, that Jasper took over the responsibility of maintaining the Lancastrian ties within Wales. Along with this, he took into his care his sister-in-law and infant nephew.
On the accession of the Yorkist King Edward IV in 1461, he was subject to an attainder for supporting his Lancastrian half-brother, the deposed King Henry, to whom Jasper was loyal. He strove to place his half-nephew Prince Edward of Lancaster on the throne and provided absolute loyalty to his royal half-brother and Margaret of Anjou, his half-brother's wife. Jasper would also help his other sister-in-law Lady Margaret Beaufort assist her son Henry Tudor to win the throne in 1485 as King Henry VII, father of King Henry VIII.
Jasper Tudor was an adventurer whose military expertise, some of it gained in the early stages of the Wars of the Roses, was considerable. Nevertheless, the only major battle he had taken part in before the Battle of Bosworth was the Battle of Mortimer's Cross in February 1461, where he lost the battle to the future king, Edward IV of England. His father, Owen Tudor, was then captured and beheaded at Hereford, where his head was placed on the market cross. Jasper occupied the castles of Carmarthen and Aberystwyth in 1456 until he lost them to William Herbert of Raglan. Consequently, he remained in touch with his sister-in-law, Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England, as she struggled to regain her son's inheritance, and he held Denbigh Castle for the House of Lancaster in 1460.
Jasper Tudor also brought up his nephew, Henry Tudor, whose father had died before his birth. After being welcomed by King Louis XI of France in 1462, Jasper stayed in France for 6 years before returning to North Wales in 1468. On his return, Jasper lost Pembroke Castle to William Herbert, when Herbert was given the title of Earl of Pembroke by King Edward IV.
Jasper Tudor briefly regained the earldom of Pembroke a couple of years later when his half-brother, King Henry VI, was restored to the throne, but following the return of King Edward IV from temporary exile in 1471, Jasper fled again to the continent. During his time on the continent, he travelled and attempted to gather support for the Lancastrian cause. While escaping from Tenby with his nephew Henry, storms in the English Channel forced them to land at Le Conquet in Brittany, where they sought refuge with Francis II, Duke of Brittany. Duke Francis II housed Jasper, his nephew, and the core of their group of exiled Lancastrians at the Château de Suscinio in Sarzeau. And although King Edward IV placed diplomatic pressure on the Duke of Brittany, the uncle and nephew remained safe from the clutches of the Yorkist king, who died later in April 1483. For 11 years, the Château de Suscinio became an armed camp, alert against any attempt to kidnap Jasper and Henry and return them to England, where they were under attainder and would have been promptly executed as threats to the Yorkist rule.
In October 1483, the Tudors launched an invasion of England from Brittany. However, the invasion failed and Jasper Tudor and his nephew Henry returned back to Brittany. In mid-1484, when the Duke of Brittany was incapacitated with illness, his treasurer, Pierre Landais, who took over the reins of government, reached an agreement with the new Yorkist king, Richard III of England, to send Jasper and his nephew back to England in exchange for a pledge of 3,000 English archers to defend Brittany against a threatened French attack. John Morton, a bishop of Flanders, learned of the scheme and warned the Tudors in time. Jasper and Henry then managed to escape separately, hours ahead of Landais' soldiers, across the nearby border into France. They were received at the court of King Charles VIII of France who allowed them to stay and provided them with resources. Shortly afterwards, when Duke Francis II had recovered, he offered the 400 remaining Lancastrians, still at and around the Château de Suscinio, safe-conduct into France and even paid for their expenses.
On Henry Tudor's subsequent accession to the throne as King Henry VII of England in 1485, Jasper Tudor had all previous attainders annulled, and was thus restored to all his former titles, including Knight of the Garter, and was created Duke of Bedford. In 1488, he took possession of Cardiff Castle.
Catherine was the daughter of Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers and Jacquetta of Luxembourg, and was sister to King Edward IV's queen Elizabeth Woodville and to Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers and Richard Woodville, 3rd Earl Rivers. She was the widow of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham. There were no children of her marriage with Jasper Tudor.
Jasper Tudor acknowledged paternity of no illegitimate children during his lifetime and none are mentioned in his will.
The earliest source for any illegitimate child of Jasper Tudor appears to be the Heraldic Visitation of the northern counties in 1530 by Thomas Tonge, Norroy King of Arms (d. 1534). The records of Tonge's Heraldic Visitation were first published in 1836, by the Surtees Society. They contain a claim by Prior Gardener, of Tynmouth Monastery in Northumberland, to be the son of Ellen, a bastard daughter of Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford, and her husband William Gardener. The heraldic arms claimed by Prior Gardener include a shield impaling the arms of Jasper Tudor, 'debruised by a bend sinister'.
The next source dates from the late 17th Century - nearly two hundred years after Jasper Tudor's death. William Dugdale's Baronage of England (1675-6) states that Jasper Tudor "departed this Life ... leaving no other Issue than one Illegitimate Daughter, called Ellen, who became the Wife of William Gardner, Citizen of London". Dugdale (1605-1686), an eminent antiquarian and scholar, was Norroy King of Arms (1660-1679) and Garter King of Arms (1679-1686). The records of Tonge's 1530 Visitation held by the College of Arms would have been available to Dugdale.
In the 19th Century the account was embroidered, to make Ellen (or Helen) the mother of Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor. The account that Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, was a descendant of Jasper Tudor is now discredited : it appears that this assertion arose from confusing Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop, with Thomas Gardiner, Prior of Tynmouth.
Subsequent accounts added the identity of the mother of the supposed illegitimate daughter, Ellen or Helen - as Myfanwy verch Dafydd (1436-1485). Also added was a second illegitimate daughter by Myfanwy verch Dafydd : Joan, (b. Snowdon, Wales c. 1453, d. 1469), wife of William ap Yevan, and mother of twins Sir John Williams and Morgan Williams (born Llanishen, Glamorganshire, Wales, 1469). It was further claimed that Jasper Tudor, through Joan and her son Morgan, was an ancestor of Oliver Cromwell. No reliable sources appear to support these assertions.
|Ancestors of Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford|
|Peerage of England|
|New creation||Duke of Bedford
|Earl of Pembroke