Sir Owen Tudor (Welsh: Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudur,[nb 1] c. 1400 – 2 February 1461) was a Welsh courtier and the second husband of Catherine of Valois (1401–1437), Henry V's widow. He was the grandfather of Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty. Owen was a descendant of a prominent family from Penmynydd on the Isle of Anglesey, which traces its lineage back to Ednyfed Fychan (d. 1246), a Welsh official and seneschal to the Kingdom of Gwynedd. Tudor's grandfather, Tudur ap Goronwy, married Margaret, daughter of Thomas ap Llywelyn ab Owain of Cardiganshire, the last male of the princely house of Deheubarth. Margaret's elder sister married Gruffudd Fychan of Glyndyfrdwy, whose son was Owain Glyndŵr. Owen's father, Maredudd ap Tudur, and his uncles were prominent in Owain Glyndŵr's revolt against English rule, the Glyndŵr Rising.
Historians consider the descendants of Ednyfed Fychan, including Owen Tudor, the most powerful family in 13th to 14th-century Wales. Fychan married Gwenllian, daughter of Madog ap Maredydd. This enabled his family to act as leading servants to the princes of Gwynedd, and play a key role in the attempts to create a single Welsh principality. This privilege endured after the Conquest of Wales by Edward I with the family continuing to exercise power in the name of the king of England, within Wales. However, there remained an awareness of the family's Welsh heritage and the accompanying loyalties led them to take part in the suppressed Glyndŵr Rising.
The fact that little is known about Tudor's early life and that it has instead become largely mythologized is attributed to his family's part in the Glyndŵr Rising. At various times it has been said that he was the bastard son of an alehouse keeper, that his father was a fugitive murderer, that he fought at Agincourt, that he was keeper of Queen Catherine's household or wardrobe, that he was an esquire of Henry V, and that his relationship with Catherine began when he fell into the queen's lap while dancing or caught the queen's eye when swimming. The sixteenth-century Welsh chronicler Elis Gruffydd did note that he was her sewer (someone who places dishes on the table and tastes them ) and servant. However, it is known that after the Glyndŵr Rising several Welshmen secured positions at court, and in May 1421 an ‘Owen Meredith’ joined the retinue of Sir Walter Hungerford, 1st Baron Hungerford, the steward of the king's household from 1415 until 1421.
Henry V of England died on 31 August 1422, leaving his wife, Queen Catherine of Valois, widowed. The Queen initially lived with her infant son, King Henry VI, before moving to Wallingford Castle early in his reign. In 1427, it is believed that Catherine began an affair with Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset. The evidence of this affair is questionable; however the liaison prompted a parliamentary statute regulating the remarriage of queens of England. The historian G. L. Harriss suggested that it was possible that the affair resulted in the birth of Edmund Tudor. Harriss wrote: "By its very nature the evidence for Edmund ‘Tudor's’ parentage is less than conclusive, but such facts as can be assembled permit the agreeable possibility that Edmund ‘Tudor’ and Margaret Beaufort were first cousins and that the royal house of ‘Tudor’ sprang in fact from Beauforts on both sides." Despite the statute it is accepted that Catherine married Owen at some unknown later date.
An ancient pedigree chart of the English royal family dated c.1500 states Owen Tudor and Queen Katherine had three sons, Edmund, Jasper, and Edward: “Owyn tedder marrydd wt queen Kateryn yt was wyffe un to kyng henry ye vth & had by har Edmunde yerle of rychemond Jaspar & Edward the sayd Edmund maryed wt Margarete yt was dawter & eyer un to John duke of Somersett.” [see Cheetham, Life & Times of Richard III (1992): frontispiece]. The 15th cent. Chron. of London sounds a similar note. It states that “... Oweyn [Tudor] hadde prevyly wedded the quene Katerine, and hadde iij or iiijor children be here.” [see Nicolas & Tyrrell, Chron. of, London from 1089 to 1483 (1823): 123].
Owen Tudor had at least one illegitimate child, by an unknown mistress:
Following Queen Catherine's death, Owen Tudor lost the protection from the statute on dowager queens' remarriage and was imprisoned in Newgate Prison. In 1438 he escaped but was later recaptured and held in the custody of the constable of Windsor Castle. In 1439 Henry VI of England granted him a general pardon, restoring his goods and lands. In addition, Henry VI granted him a pension of £40 per annum, provided him with a position in court, and appointed him the Keeper of the King's Parks in Denbigh. In 1442 Henry VI welcomed his two half-brothers, Edmund and Jasper, to court. In November 1452, Owen's sons Edmund and Jasper were created earls of Richmond and Pembroke with the acknowledgement to be the king's uterine brothers. In 1459 Tudor's pension was increased to £100 per annum. Owen and Jasper were commissioned to arrest a servant of John Dwnn of Kidwelly, a Yorkist, and later that year, Tudor acquired an interest in the forfeited estates of another Yorkist, John, Lord Clinton. On 5 February 1460 Tudor and Jasper were granted life offices in the duke of York's lordship of Denbigh, a prelude to them later seizing lordship.
Owen Tudor was an early casualty of the Wars of the Roses (1455–1487) between the House of Lancaster and the House of York. He joined his son Jasper's army in Wales in January 1461, a force which was defeated at the Battle of Mortimer's Cross by Edward of York. Tudor was captured and beheaded at Hereford, where his head was placed on the market cross, "and a madde woman kembyd hys here and wysche a way the blode of hys face" and set 100 candles about him. However Tudor expected to be imprisoned rather than executed. Moments before his execution he realized that he was to die and murmured "that hede shalle ly on the stocke that wass wonte to ly on Quene Katheryns lappe." His body was buried in a chapel on the north side of the Greyfriars' Church in Hereford. He had no memorial until his illegitimate son, David, paid for a tomb before the friary was dissolved.
Ednyfed Fychan and Gwenllian ferch Rhys were the parents of Goronwy ab Ednyfed, Lord of Tref-gastell (d. 1268). Goronwy was married to Morfydd ferch Meurig, daughter of Meurig of Gwent. Meurig was the son of Ithel, grandson of Rhydd and great-grandson of Iestyn ap Gwrgant, the last king of Morgannwg (reigned 1081–1091) before its conquest by the Normans.
Goronwy and Morfydd were parents of Tudur Hen, Lord of Penmynydd (d. 1311). Tudur Hen married Angharad ferch Ithel Fychan, daughter of Ithel Fychan ap Ithel Gan, Lord of Englefield. They were the parents of Goronwy ap Tudur Hen, Lord of Penmynydd (d. 1331).
Goronwy ap Tudur was married to Gwerfyl ferch Madog, daughter of Madog ap Dafydd, Baron of Hendwr. They were the parents of Tudur ap Goronwy, also known as Tudur Fychan ("Tudur the Little") to distinguish him from his grandfather Tudur Hen ("Tudur the Old"), Lord of Penmynydd (d. 1367).
Tudur Fychan married Margaret ferch Thomas of Is Coeod, of the native and Ancient Royal Houses of Wales. Margaret and her sisters, Ellen and Eleanor, were descended from Angharad ferch Llywelyn, daughter of Llywelyn the Great.
Maredudd ap Tudur and Margaret ferch Dafydd were the parents of Owen Tudor.
There is little doubt that Owen was of gentle birth. Queen Catherine, upon being denied permission by her son's regents to wed Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, allegedly said upon leaving court, "I shall marry a man so basely, yet gently born, that my lord regents may not object." The objection to Somerset was that he was a second cousin of Henry V through the legitimised Beaufort line sired by John of Gaunt.
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