War in the West

The Welshness of the Tudors

Without their Welsh connections, the Tudors could never have made good their rags-to-riches ascent to the English throne, argues Peter R. Roberts.

The fortunes of the Tudor dynasty were laid by the most romantic mésalliance in English history, the secret betrothal of a Welsh attendant at the Court of Henry VI to the dowager queen. How Owain ap Maredydd ap Tudur, member of a family implicated in the revolt of Owain Glyndwr, and perhaps named after the rebel himself, came to be employed in the royal household is one of the unsolved riddles of fifteenth-century history. Henry V, the hammer of the Welsh, had continued his father's proscription of the whole nation in punishment for the rebellion.

Owain's marriage to Katherine of Valois, although hubristic, was not annulled when discovered, and the fruit of its consummation, the two sons, Edmund and Jasper, were not declared illegitimate. Owain and his offspring were not, however, recognised as members of the royal family, and he was not granted denizenship to exempt him from the penal laws against his race until 1432. The children were treated as pawns in the dynastic power game from an early age. In 1436 the Regent Gloucester took them into custody and imprisoned their father in Newgate. After the death of Gloucester, and after several mishaps, they recovered favour under the indulgent protection of the young Henry VI. It was this King who really consolidated the family fortune in the second generation, when he created his half-brothers Edmund and Jasper Earls of Richmond and Pembroke respectively.

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