Jasper Tudor: The Legacy of King Henry VII’s Uncle

Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford, was a crucial figure in the Tudor dynasty and played a pivotal role in securing the accession of his nephew, Henry VII, to the English throne in 1485.

This article will delve into the life and times of Jasper Tudor, tracing his family history, early life, and his contribution to the Wars of the Roses.

We will also explore his marriage and children, and the controversy surrounding his supposed illegitimate offspring.

Family and Early Life

Jasper Tudor was born in 1431 in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, the second son of Sir Owen Tudor and Catherine of Valois, the widow of King Henry V.

As the half-brother of Henry VI, Jasper’s noble lineage was further bolstered by his descent from Ednyfed Fychan, Llywelyn the Great’s renowned chancellor. His mother was the daughter of King Charles VI of France, which added greatly to his prestige.

After his mother’s death in 1437, Jasper and his siblings were put in the care of Katherine de la Pole, a nun at Barking Abbey, who was able to provide them with the necessary food, clothing, and lodging.

In 1442, the King began to take an interest in their upbringing, and Jasper and his brother were brought to live at court. Under the King’s patronage, Jasper received an excellent education, which included military training.

In 1452, Jasper was created Earl of Pembroke, which recognised him as Henry VI’s uterine half-brother. He was given military positions and constantly tried to reconcile the Duke of York and other nobles to put an end to the infighting between the two houses.

Adulthood and Wars of the Roses

Jasper Tudor’s military expertise was considerable, and he fought tirelessly for his half-brother’s cause during the Wars of the Roses.

His only significant defeat was at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross in 1461, where he lost to Edward IV. After Edward’s accession to the throne, Jasper fled to the continent and travelled extensively in a bid to gather support for the Lancastrian cause.

In 1485, Jasper financed the rebuilding of the northwest tower of Llandaff Cathedral near Cardiff, and he played a crucial role in helping his nephew, Henry Tudor, win the throne as Henry VII.

Upon Henry‘s accession, Jasper was created Duke of Bedford and was restored to his former titles.

Marriage and Children

In 1485, Jasper Tudor married Catherine Woodville, the widow of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, who had been executed for treason in 1483.

Catherine was the daughter of Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers, and Jacquetta of Luxembourg. There were no children from Jasper and Catherine’s marriage.

Illegitimate Issue

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

However, there are some accounts of a supposed illegitimate daughter, Ellen or Helen, who was said to have married William Gardner, a citizen of London.

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.

However, this claim is not substantiated by reliable sources, and subsequent accounts have been discredited.

Jasper Tudor: The Legacy of King Henry VII's Uncle
Image: User: Xenophon, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Death and Burial

Jasper Tudor died at Thornbury Castle on 21 December 1495 and was buried at Keynsham Abbey in Somerset.

He left behind a rich legacy, having played a pivotal role in securing the Tudor dynasty’s accession.

Jasper Tudor’s tireless efforts to support his nephew, Henry Tudor, and promote the Lancastrian cause were instrumental in the overthrow of the Yorkist regime and the subsequent ascension of King Henry VII to the throne.

Through his noble birth and connections, Jasper enjoyed immense privileges and was recognised as a uterine half-brother of the King, which greatly enhanced his status and influence at court.

Despite being subject to attainder and exile during the Wars of the Roses, Jasper never wavered in his loyalty to his Lancastrian family and remained committed to the restoration of the House of Lancaster.

In addition to his political and military achievements, Jasper Tudor was also a patron of the arts and a benefactor of the church.

He financed the reconstruction of the northwest tower of Llandaff Cathedral, which now bears his name, and was known for his generosity towards religious institutions.

Jasper Tudor’s personal life was also marked by notable events, including his marriage to Catherine Woodville, the widow of Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, and sister to King Edward IV’s queen Elizabeth Woodville.

Although the marriage produced no children, Jasper’s legacy lives on through his contribution to the Tudor dynasty’s rise to power.

Overall, Jasper Tudor’s story is a testament to the enduring power of determination and perseverance in the face of adversity.

His unwavering commitment to his family and cause helped shape the course of English history, and his impact on the Tudor dynasty’s success cannot be overstated.

*Feature Image: Wolfgang Sauber, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons