Jasper Tudor

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Jasper Tudor

Jasper Tudor and his wife Catherine Woodville
Bornc. November 1431
Hatfield, Hertfordshire
Died21 December 1495 (age 64)
Thornbury Castle, Gloucestershire
BuriedKeynsham Abbey, Somerset, England
Noble familyTudor
Spouse(s)Catherine Woodville (m. 1485)
IssueHelen Tudor (illegitimate)
ParentsOwen Tudor
Catherine of Valois
Coat of arms of Jasper Tudor

Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford (c. November 1431 – 21 December 1495), was an Anglo-Welsh nobleman. He was the uncle of King Henry VII of England and a leading architect of his nephew's successful accession to the throne in 1485. He was from the noble Tudor family of Penmynydd in North Wales.

Jasper Tudor's coat of arms, 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).[1]

Family and early life[edit]

Jasper was the second son of Sir Owen Tudor and the former queen Catherine of Valois, the widow of King Henry V of England. He was thus half-brother to Henry VI. Through his father, Jasper was a descendant of Ednyfed Fychan, Llywelyn the Great's renowned chancellor. This connection added greatly to his status in Wales. His mother was a daughter of King Charles VI of France.

Jasper was born at the bishop of Ely's manor at Hatfield, Hertfordshire, in 1431, his parents' second child. After the death of Jasper's mother in 1437,[2] Owen Tudor was arrested and sent to Newgate prison. Jasper, his brother Edmund, and possibly a sister were put into the care of Katherine de la Pole, a nun at Barking Abbey, in Essex, from July 1437 to March 1442.[3] She was the sister of William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, a great favourite 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.[4]

In 1442, their half-brother the King began to take an interest in their upbringing.[5] 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.[6] Jasper was recognised as Henry VI's uterine half-brother when, on 23 November 1452,[7] he was created Earl of Pembroke.[8]


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, the seventh creation.[9] 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".[10] 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.[11] 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.[12]

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.

In 1485,[13] Jasper financed the rebuilding of the north-west tower of Llandaff Cathedral, near Cardiff.[14] It now holds the Cathedral bells, and is named the Jasper Tower in his honour.[15][16]

Wars of the Roses[edit]

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.[17] Jasper occupied the castles of Carmarthen and Aberystwyth in 1456 until he lost them to William Herbert of Raglan.[18] Subsequently, he remained in touch with his sister-in-law, Margaret of Anjou, wife of his half-brother Henry VI and he held Denbigh Castle for the House of Lancaster in 1460.

Jasper Tudor also brought up his nephew, Henry Tudor, whose father, Edmund Tudor 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.[19] 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. Francis 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 him, 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 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, the Bishop of Ely who was then in exile in 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.[20] They were received at the court of King Charles VIII of France who allowed them to stay and provided them with resources.[21] 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 in 1485, Jasper Tudor had all previous attainders annulled,[22] 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.

Marriage and children[edit]

Jasper was married on 7 November 1485 to Catherine Woodville (c. 1458–1509).[23] She 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, who had been executed for treason in 1483. There were no children of her marriage with Jasper Tudor.

Illegitimate issue[edit]

Jasper Tudor acknowledged paternity of no illegitimate children during his lifetime and none are recognised in his will.

The earliest formal 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).[24] The records of Tonge's Heraldic Visitation were first published in 1836, by the Surtees Society.[25] They contain a claim by Prior Gardener, of Tynmouth Monastery in Northumberland, to be the son of Ellen/Helen, 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'.[26]

Thomas Gardyner was appointed prior of Tynmouth in 1528. He was then a monk of Westminster Abbey, and 'familiar to followers of the Tudor household as a grandson of the King's great-uncle, Jasper'. His appointment as prior was actively supported by Mary Boleyn, and it is most likely that Thomas Wolsey also approved, as the priory was a dependency of St Alban's Abbey, where Wolsey was abbot.[27]

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/Helen, who became the Wife of William Gardner, Citizen of London".[28] Dugdale (1605–1686), an eminent antiquarian and scholar,[29] 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.[30]

In the 19th century the account was embroidered, to make Ellen (or Helen) the mother of Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor.[31] The account that Gardiner 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.[32]

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.

Death and burial[edit]

Jasper Tudor died at Thornbury Castle on 21 December 1495, and was buried at Keynsham Abbey in Somerset, which Lady Agnes Cheyne, the incumbent of Chenies Manor House, bequeathed to him in 1494.


  1. ^ Marks of Cadency in the British Royal Family. The French Royal Arms quartered with those of England were first adopted by King Edward III to represent his claim to the French throne, a practice followed by subsequent English Kings until 1801. These arms were also borne by some cadet branches of the English Royal House of Plantagenet, with an added border ('bordure') or superimposed 'label' to serve as 'marks of difference'. The differenced versions of the Plantagenet arms granted by Henry VI to his maternal half-brothers Jasper and Edmund Tudor were extraordinary grants since they were not descended from the English royal family. See the main articles Coats of arms of the House of Plantagenet and the Royal Arms of England.
  2. ^ Weir 1995, p. 81.
  3. ^ Griffiths & Thomas 1985, p. 32.
  4. ^ Weir 1995, p. 88.
  5. ^ Griffiths & Thomas 1985, p. 32.
  6. ^ Weir 1995, p. 100.
  7. ^ Thomas, R. S. "Tudor, Jasper [Jasper of Hatfield], duke of Bedford", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 23 September 2004. Accessed 2 February 2019.
  8. ^ Griffiths & Thomas 1985, p. 19.
  9. ^ Griffiths & Thomas 1985, p. 33.
  10. ^ Griffiths & Thomas 1985, p. 20.
  11. ^ Griffiths & Thomas 1985, p. 43.
  12. ^ Griffiths & Thomas 1985, pp. 46–47.
  13. ^ "The history of the suburb of Llandaff – Cardiffians.co.uk". www.cardiffians.co.uk. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  14. ^ "Llandaff Cathedral, History & Visiting Information | Historic Wales Guide". Britain Express. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  15. ^ Abernethy, Susan (9 January 2013). "Llandaff Cathedral". The Freelance History Writer. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  16. ^ "Llandaff Cathedral - Bell Tower - Cardiff, Wales. - Bell Towers on Waymarking.com". www.waymarking.com. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  17. ^ Griffiths & Thomas 1985, p. 1.
  18. ^ Loades, D.M. Politics and the Nation 1450–1660: Obedience, resistance and Public Order (Sussex: The Harvester Press, 1974), 60.
  19. ^ Griffiths & Thomas 1985, pp. 60–64.
  20. ^ Lander, Jack (1981) [1980]. "Richard III". Government and Community: England, 1450–1509. Massachusetts, United States: Harvard University Press. p. 324. ISBN 0-674-35794-9.
  21. ^ Kendall, Paul Murray (1973). Richard the Third. Sphere Books. p. 297. ISBN 0-351-17095-2.
  22. ^ "Rotuli Parliamentorum A.D. 1485 1 Henry VII". Archived from the original on 2 September 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  23. ^ Marius, R. (1999). Thomas More: A Biography. Harvard University Press. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-674-88525-7. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  24. ^ The 1530 Heraldic Visitations were carried out by the Kings of Arms under warrants granted by King Henry VIII.
  25. ^ Edited by the antiquarian W. Hylton Dyer Longstaffe FSA. At the time of publication in 1836, there were two copies of the records of this Visitation: one, presumed to be Tonge's original notes, was held in the College of Arms; the other, a more polished copy, was included with the Harleian MSS in the British Museum (now in the British Library). The 1836 publication publishes the copy in the Harleian MSS without collation to the College of Arms copy: see the preface to the 1836 publication.
  26. ^ Heraldic Visitation of the Northern Counties in 1530 by Thomas Tonge, Norroy King of Arms (1836); online at [1]; section on 'The Monasterie of Tynmouth' (pp 35–6 in the 1836 publication). This states that the Prior "whose name ys GARDENER ... ys descended of the noble Queen Kateryn, wyfe of Kyng Henry the vith ... For the said Quene Kateryne was after maryed to Owayn Teddur, by whom he had yssue ... Jasper Duc of Bedford. Whiche Jasper begat a bastard doughter called Ellen, maryed Willyam Gardener, who was father to my said Lord Priour". The record adds: "Be it noted that the said PRIOUR OF TYNMOUTH, hath given unto me, Norrey King of Arms of the North parties, this pedigre and armes of his awne reporte, which he woll offerme at all tymes to verefy and approve before the Kynge and his Counsaill, that this pedigre is true and the armes also."
  27. ^ The Dissolution of the Monasteries (2021) James G Clark at pages 149–150, 157, 550 note 85, citing Pearce E.H. The Monks of Westminster (1916) at p 175, and Smith D.M. Heads of Religious Houses III 1377–1540 (2008) at p 154.
  28. ^ "Iasper of Hatfeild Earl of Pembroke and Duke of Bedford", in William Dugdale's Baronage of England (1675–6) vol iii p. 241 at 242, online at [2] retrieved 15 February 2018.
  29. ^ College of Arms, 'Some Past Heralds' retrieved 15 February 2018.
  30. ^ See College of Arms, 'Records and Collections' (retrieved 15 February 2018); and the preface to the 1836 Surtees Society publication of Tonge's 1530 Visitation. As Norroy King of Arms, Dugdale, like Tonge, was the member of the College of Arms with heraldic jurisdiction for the counties of England north of the River Trent.
  31. ^ See, for example: Burke, Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerages of England, Ireland and Scotland (1831) at pp 524–5; W. A. J. Archbold's entry on "Jasper Tudor" in the Dictionary of National Biography, 1885–1900, Vol. 57: "[Jasper Tudor] ... left an illegitimate daughter, Helen, who is said to have married William Gardiner, and to have been the mother of Stephen Gardiner [q.v.]"; G.E.Cokayne's The Complete Peerage, First edition (1887–1898), 2nd revised edition ed by V. Gibbs, vol ii (1912) at p. 73 n. (d): "Helen, his illegit. da. m. William Gardiner, citizen of London, and was mother of Stephen, the celebrated Bishop of Winchester".
  32. ^ Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study in Colonial And Medieval Families, Douglas Richardson (2nd edn, 2011) at pp. 368–371.

Works cited[edit]