Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford

Jasper Tudor
Duke of Bedford
Earl of Pembroke

Coat of Arms of Jasper Tudor
Spouse Catherine Woodville


Helen or Ellen illegitimate
Noble family Tudor
Father Owen Tudor
Mother Catherine of Valois
Born November 1431
Hatfield, Hertfordshire
Died 21 December 1495 (age 64)
Thornbury Castle, Gloucestershire
Buried Keynsham Abbey, Somerset

Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford, Earl of Pembroke, KG (Welsh: Siasbar ab Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudur ap Goronwy) (c. November 1431 – 21/26 December 1495) was the uncle of King Henry VII of England and the architect of his successful conquest of England and Wales in 1485.[1] He was from the noble Tudor family of Penmynydd in North Wales.

Jasper Tudor bore the King's arms, with the addition of a bordure azure with martlets or (that is, a blue border featuring golden martlets).[2]

Family and early life

Jasper was the second son of Owen Tudor and the former Queen Catherine of Valois, the widow of Henry V of England. He was the half-brother to Henry VI, who, on attaining his majority in 1452, named Jasper Earl of Pembroke. Through his father, Jasper was a direct descendant of Ednyfed Fychan, Llywelyn the Great's renowned Chancellor. This connection added greatly to his status in Wales.

Jasper was born at the Bishop of Ely's manor at Hatfield in Hertfordshire in 1431, his parents' second child. His older brother, Edmund, was born at Much Hadham Palace in 1430. His younger brother, Owen, was born in 1432 at Westminster Abbey, when the Dowager Queen was visiting her eldest son and her water broke prematurely, forcing her to seek the help of the Abbey's monks. According to Henry VII's personal historian Polydore Vergil, Owen was taken and raised by the monks to become a member of the order, living under the name Edward Bridgewater until his death in 1502. Vergil also mentions a daughter who became a nun, but little is known of her. Catherine's last child would be born in 1437, mere days before her own untimely death on 3 January.[3]

After Catherine's death, Owen Tudor was arrested and sent to Newgate prison. Jasper, Edmund, and possibly their sister were put into the care of Katherine de la Pole, a nun at Barking Abbey, in Essex, from July 1437 to March 1442.[4] She was the sister of William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, a great favorite 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.[5]

In 1442, their half-brother the King began to take an interest in their upbringing.[6] 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.[7] Jasper was recognized as Henry VI’s uterine brother when 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.[9] In turn, Edmund and Jasper gave Henry unwavering loyalty and fought and promoted his and his Lancastrian family’s interests unwaveringly throughout their lives.

Owen and Catherine's marriage was not recognized 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 in 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, of whom Jasper was a loyal supporter. 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.

Wars of the Roses

Jasper 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 Bosworth was Mortimer's Cross in February 1461, where he lost the battle to the future Edward IV. His father, Owen, was executed as a traitor.[13] Jasper occupied the castles of Carmarthen and Aberystwyth in 1456 until he lost them to William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke.[14] He remained in touch with Margaret of Anjou, queen of Henry VI, as she struggled to regain her son's inheritance, and he held Denbigh Castle for the House of Lancaster in 1460.

Jasper also brought up his nephew, Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII, whose father had died before his birth. After being welcomed by Louis XI of France in 1462, Jasper mostly stayed in France for 6 years before returning to North Wales in 1468, only to be defeated by William Herbert. In 1468, Jasper lost Pembroke Castle to William Herbert, when Herbert was given the title of Earl of Pembroke by Edward IV.

He briefly regained the earldom of Pembroke a couple of years later when Henry VI was restored to the throne, but following the return of the Yorkist king Edward IV from temporary exile in 1471, Jasper fled again to the continent. During his time on the continent, Jasper travelled and attempted to gather support for the Lancastrian cause.[15] While escaping from Tenby with Henry, storms in the English Channel forced them to land at Le Conquet in Brittany where they sought refuge from Duke Francis II. Although Edward placed diplomatic pressure on the Duke of Brittany, the uncle and nephew remained safe from the clutches of the English king, who died in April 1483.

It was thanks to Jasper that Henry Tudor acquired the tactical awareness that made it possible for him to defeat the far more experienced Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. On Henry's subsequent accession to the throne as Henry VII, Jasper had all previous attainders annulled,[16] was restored to all his former titles, including Knight of the Garter, and was made Duke of Bedford. In 1488, he took possession of Cardiff Castle.

Marriage and children

Jasper was married on 7 November 1485 to Catherine Woodville (c. 1458–1509).

Catherine was the daughter of Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers and Jacquetta of Luxembourg, and thus was sister to (among others) Edward IV's queen Elizabeth Woodville, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers and Richard Woodville, 3rd Earl Rivers. She was also the widow of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham.

Illegitimate issue

Jasper reportedly had at least one, but possibly two, illegitimate daughters by Mevanvy Verch Daffydd (1436-1485):[17]

Death and burial

He died 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. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry: R. S. Thomas, "Tudor, Jasper was a duke of Bedford (c.1431–1495)", first published 2004
  2. Marks of Cadency in the British Royal Family
  3. Weir, Alison., Lancaster and York, the war of the roses (london, 1995) pg. 81.
  4. Griffith, Ralph A. and Roger Thomas. The Making of the Tudor Dynasty (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985), pg. 32.
  5. Weir, Alison., Lancaster and York, the war of the roses (London, 1995) Pg. 88.
  6. Griffith, Ralph A. and Roger Thomas . The Making of the Tudor Dynasty (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985), 32.
  7. Weir, Alison, Lancaster and York, the war of the roses (London, 1995) Pg. 100.
  8. Griffiths, Ralph A. and James Sherborwe, ed. Kings and Nobles in the Later Middle Ages. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986) 19.
  9. Griffith, Ralph A. and Roger Thomas . The Making of the Tudor Dynasty (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985) , 33.
  10. Griffiths, Ralph A. and James Sherburne, ed. Kings and Nobles in the Later Middle Ages. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986) 20.
  11. Griffith, Ralph A. and Roger Thomas . The Making of the Tudor Dynasty (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985) , 43.
  12. Griffith, Ralph A. and Roger Thomas . The Making of the Tudor Dynasty (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985), 46-47.
  13. Griffith, Ralph A. and Roger Thomas . The Making of the Tudor Dynasty (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985), 1.
  14. Loades, D.M. Politics and the Nation 1450-1660: Obedience, resistance and Public Order (Sussex: The Harvester Press, 1974), 60.
  15. Griffith, Ralph A. and Roger Thomas . The Making of the Tudor Dynasty (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985) , 60-64.
  16. "Rotuli Parliamentorum A.D. 1485 1 Henry VII".
  17. Note that William Dugdale's Baronage of England page 242 only lists Helen as an illegitimate daughter and fails to mention Joan. http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A36794.0001.001/1:14.21?rgn=div2;view=fulltext
  18. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=82421844
  19. Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study In Colonial And Medieval Families, Genealogical Publishing, 2011, p.370.
Peerage of England
New creation Duke of Bedford
Earl of Pembroke


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