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Jasper Tudor

1431 - 1495

Henry Tudor’s uncle and great advisor Jasper Tudor was the son of Owen Tudor and Catherine of Valois, the widow of King Henry V and mother of Henry VI. Owen was a squire at the court of Henry V and was a keeper of the queen’s wardrobe. When her son’s regents John of Bedford and Humphrey of Gloucester (brothers of Henry V) denied her permission to marry John Beaufort Duke of Somerset, she married Owen in secret.

A resolution was passed in 1428 which forbade dowager queens to marry without permission which brought the validity of Catherine and Owen’s marriage into question but later Henry VI recognised their ranks and legitimised their line. 

Edmund and Jasper were cared for by Catherine de la Pole after their mother retired to the abbey of Bermondsey in 1436 where she died soon after. The boys stayed in the care of Catherine de la Pole until 1442 when their half-brother King Henry VI took over the care and education of the boys.

When Edmund died, Jasper undertook to protect the young widow Margaret Beaufort and son Henry. But when Edward IV became King in 1461, Jasper Tudor, a Lancastrian, was forced into exile abroad.

Their lands, Pembroke Castle, and later the Earldom of Pembroke, were granted to the Yorkist William Herbert, who also assumed the guardianship of Margaret Beaufort and her son.

Jasper fought to put his half-nephew Prince Edward of Lancaster on the throne, loyal to his Lancastrian roots and his half-brother’s wife Margaret of Anjou.  And then fought to have his nephew, Henry Tudor, crowned. 

Jasper supported Henry during their exile in Brittany, teaching him the tactical awareness, political skills and battle tactics necessary to finally defeat the Yorks, killing the more experienced Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

With Henry on the throne, Jasper was restored to all his former titles, including Knight of the Garter, and made the Duke of Bedford. After Bosworth, he married Katherine Woodville who was Elizabeth Woodville’s sister, and they may have had a stillborn son.  Katherine survived Jasper and later married Sir Richard Wingfield of Kimbolton Castle. Jasper allegedly fathered two illegitimate girls, Helen and Joan Tudor. 

From The Lady of the Rivers

King Henry has decided to acknowledge his half-brothers, deny his mother’s shame, and count them as royal kinsmen. What this will do to the expectations of the several men who are in line to inherit the throne is beyond understanding. These Tudors will just add to the confusion around the throne.

From The Red Queen

Jasper writes that he has maintained Henry’s education; the young man still follows the offices of the church, as I ordered. He jousts, he hunts, he rides, he practices archery, tennis, swimming, all the sports that will keep his body healthy and strong and ready for battle. Jasper has him study accounts of wars and no veteran soldier visits them but Jasper has him talk to Henry about the battle he saw, and how it could have been won, or done differently. He has masters to teach him the geography of England, so that he may know the country where his ships will land, he studies the law and the traditions of his home, so that he may be a just king when his day comes.

From The White Princess

The next barge carries Jasper Tudor, the king’s uncle, who will carry the crown at the coronation. My Aunt Katherine, the prize for his victory, stands beside him, her hand resting lightly on his arm. She does not look up at our windows though she will guess we are watching. She looks straight ahead, steady as an archer, as she goes to witness the crowning of our enemy, her beautiful face quite impassive.

Image: Stained glass at Cardiff Castle depicting Jasper Tudor, 19th century. Detail of photograph by Wolfgang Sauber [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

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