War of the Roses III
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Rick Archer's Note:

If you would like to read the story of how a Lowly Servant Bedded a Queen and started a Dynasty, there are two places to begin.

The place I recommend you start is with 'The Madness of King Charles'.

Or you can go straight to the juicy stuff and visit 'How a Lowly Welshman Bedded a Queen and Sired A Dynasty'.

However, I don't recommend the shortcut.  This story is so complicated that you really do need the background information in order to follow the bouncing ball. 





The War of the Roses



The star of Third Act in the War of the Roses is none other than Richard III.  And who might be Richard the Third?  We know Richard better as Edward IV's younger brother Richard, the Duke of Gloucester. 

Richard the Third made a lot of enemies, but his worst enemy was William Shakespeare.  William Shakespeare had a field day at Richard's expense with Richard III, considered one of The Bard's ten best plays.  

Before Shakespeare was finished, Richard had murdered Henry VI, his brother George, his nephews, and even his own wife during his well-plotted ascent to the throne.  In case these heinous murders were insufficient clues, Shakespeare dressed Richard in black and accentuated his a hunchback to emphasize who the villain was. 


Anne Neville

Following Prince Edward's death at Tewkesbury, his wife Anne Neville became the grand prize.  Anne Neville was born into the wealthiest and most politically powerful family in the kingdom. Youngest daughter of the Earl of Warwick, Anne watched her father make a king out of Edward of the House of York, and then change his alliance to the House of Lancaster.  Anne, raised a York, was expected to change her loyalties as well.

In 1470, Anne had been the trophy dangled by her father Warwick to secure the backing of Margaret of Anjou in the newest attempt to overthrow King Edward IV.  During the desperate race to reach Wales, Anne chose to stay with the army.  She marched with them for more than a hundred miles, from Weymouth to Tewkesbury where Edward’s pursuing army caught them, killing Prince Edward and capturing Margaret of Anjou.

Anne was a widow at 15, far too wealthy and powerful to be left to chance. Her sister Isabel, now a loyal supporter of the House of York thanks her side-switching husband George, scooped up the girl and took her into their keeping.  Isabel swore she was protecting Anne, but in reality this was more likely a form of house arrest.

Anne became the subject of dispute between George, Duke of Clarence, and his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who had stated to George his desire to marry her.  Anne and her sister Isabel, George's wife, were heiresses to their parents' vast estates.  George was anxious to secure the combined inheritance of both sisters!  George thereby treated Anne as his ward and opposed her getting married.  Strange stories ensued.  One wild tale had George hiding Anne in a London diner, disguised as a servant, so that his brother would not know where she was.

Nonetheless, Richard Gloucester tracked her down and escorted her for safekeeping at the Church of St Martin le Grand out of George's reach.  In order to win the final consent of his brother George to the marriage, Richard renounced most of Warwick’s land and property, including the earldoms of Warwick (which the earl had held in his wife’s right) and Salisbury and surrendered to George the office of Great Chamberlain of England.  It was a high price to pay. 


In this passage from The Kingmaker's Daughter, Anne Neville is talking to herself shortly after the fall of Tewkesbury:

One of the guards has stumbled while mounting his horse.  Frightened, his horse shies away, knocking the horseman to the ground.  Seeing the horse rear, King Edward puts his arm around his wife in an unconscious gesture to protect her.  Everyone is looking that way.

I snatch off my glove and, in one swift gesture, I throw it towards Richard.  He catches it out of the air and tucks it in the breast of his jacket.  Nobody has seen it.  Nobody knows.

The guardsman steadies his horse, mounts it, and nods his apology to his captain.  The royal family turns and waves to us.  Richard looks at me, buttoning the front of his jacket, and smiles at me warmly, assuredly, to denote he understands the meaning of my gesture.

Richard has my glove, my favor. It is a pledge that I have given in the full knowledge of what I am doing.  Because I never want to be anybody’s pawn again.

Philippa Gregory, The Kingmaker's Daughter


The Strange Saga of George

So what exactly did Shakespeare mean by the immortal line 'false, fleeting, perjur'd Clarence, that stabbed me in the field by Tewksbury!'

Shakespeare was referring to the ghost of Edward, Prince of Wales, stabbed to death in cold blood following the Battle of Tewkesbury.  George, better known as 'Clarence', is dreaming of the evils he has done during his fitful sleep preceding his imminent execution.


Following Warwick's death in the 1471 Battle of Barnet, George, Duke of Clarence, was consumed by a serious overdose of greed.  Married to Isabel, one of Warwick's two daughters, George went ahead and confiscated the vast estates of the earl.  George had been be a very bad boy.  He had betrayed his brother Edward.  Later he betrayed Warwick, his father-in-law.  In George's case, cheating had been profitable.  In March 1472 by right of his wife Isabel, George became the Earl of Warwick and Salisbury.  

George was now rich beyond his wildest imagination.  Nevertheless, he was greatly disturbed when he heard that his younger brother Richard was seeking to marry Warwick's younger daughter Anne, Isabel's sister.  George was upset because Richard was also claiming some part of Warwick's lands as part of the wedding package.  George refused to part with a single nickle, so a violent quarrel between the brothers ensued.  After George failed to prevent Richard from marrying Anne, the quarrel grew worse.  Finally, in 1474 King Edward had to step in to settle the dispute, dividing the estates between his brothers.  [It must be tough being rich, but then I wouldn't know.]

In December 1476, George's wife Isabel died two months after giving birth to a short-lived son named Richard.  Though Isabel's death was likely the result of either consumption or childbed fever, George was convinced she had been poisoned by Ankarette, one of her ladies-in-waiting, operating in cahoots with his enemy Elizabeth Woodville.  George alleged that King Edward’s wife was guilty of witchcraft in this matter.  Try to imagine how well that sat with King Edward.

George bullied a jury into convicting Ankarette of murder by poisoning, then had her hanged immediately after trial.  Clarence's mental state, never stable to begin with, deteriorated from that point on. 


Long Live the King... or maybe not

Following Tewkesbury, there were twelve years of peace in the land.  With the Lancastrian line virtually extinguished, Edward faced no more rebellions after his restoration Edward and his wife Elizabeth had been through a lot.  Amazingly, Elizabeth had kept the children safe while Edward was constantly fighting to keep his throne or regain his throne.  Three of his children would figure prominently in Act Three. 

 Elizabeth of York (1406-1503)
 Mary of York (1467-1482)
 Cecily of York (1469 – 1507)
 Edward V of England (1470 – 1483)
 Margaret of York (10 April 1472 – 11 December 1472).
 Richard of Shrewsbury (1473 – 1483)
 Anne of York (1475 – 1511)
 George Plantagenet (1477 – 1479).
 Catherine of York (1479 – 1527)
 Bridget of York (1480 – 1517)

Tragically, Edward died
unexpectedly after a short illness on 9 April 1483.  Everyone was in shock.   There would never have been an Act III to the War of the Roses if Edward had reigned just a bit longer.  Unfortunately, Edward's untimely death in 1483 would reignite the War of the Roses.   In the picture, dark-haired Richard stands at King Edward's side.  How fitting that Richard III would become the villain of Act III. 


Richard's Treachery

When King Edward's health began to fail, at least he had sufficient time to put his affairs in order.  Edward was comforted by the knowledge that the ever-present issue of succession was not a problem.  Elizabeth had given birth to two healthy, handsome, well-educated boys, Edward, 12, and Richard, 10. 

Edward smartly named Richard, his trusted brother, as protector of his two sons.  On second thought, maybe not so smart. 

On the death of Edward IV, on 9 April 1483, his twelve-year-old son, Edward V, succeeded him while Richard, the current Duke of Gloucester, was named Lord Protector of the Realm.  Richard moved swiftly and secretly to prevent the Dowager Queen Elizabeth from exercising power.

Richard left his base in Yorkshire for London.  On 29 April, as previously agreed, Richard was joined on the route by his cousin the Duke of Buckingham.  They met Anthony Woodville, the Dowager Queen Elizabeth's brother at Northampton.

Anthony Woodville was escorting young Edward at the Queen's request to London with an armed escort of 2000 men.  Richard and Buckingham's joint escort was of 600 men.  The young king was not there.  He had been sent further south to Stony Stratford. 

Richard politely invited Anthony Woodville, his nephew Richard Grey (son of Elizabeth by a prior marriage), and Thomas Vaughan to dinner.  After the meal, they were suddenly arrested on the charge of treason against the Lord Protector.  On June 25, they faced a tribunal led by Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland.  The three men were found guilty and executed. 

After having Lord Rivers (Woodville) arrested, the two dukes moved to Stony Stratford where Richard falsely informed the young king of a plot aimed at denying him his role as Protector, adding that the 'perpetrators' had been dealt with.  Richard proceeded to escort the young king to London on 4 May.

Richard suggested to the boy that he would be the safest and most comfortable in the Royal Apartments of the Tower of London where kings customarily awaited their coronation.  The young Prince thought he was a guest, but in reality he was a prisoner. 


Queen Elizabeth and Lord Hastings


After the unexpected death of Edward IV on 9 April 1483, the dowager queen knew there could be trouble.  She sought to monopolize political power for her family by appointing family members to key positions.  She also tried to circumvent Richard, 31, Edward's younger brother, by rushing the coronation of her young son Edward V, 12, as king.

Lord Hastings was probably the most loyal friend Edward IV ever had.  By all accounts, Hastings had also been friendly with Richard.  Conversely, Lord Hastings was hostile to the Woodville family.  The Woodville family was not popular with many due to their quest for wealth and power.  Desiring to frustrate the ambitions of the Woodvilles, Lord Hastings turned to the new king's uncle - Richard, Duke of Gloucester, brother of Edward IV.

Hastings checked Elizabeth's maneuvers and kept Richard informed of her actions.  Alerted by Hastings, Richard intercepted the young king and his Woodville relatives as they made their way to London i April 1483. 

Hastings now supported Richard's formal installation as Lord Protector and collaborated with him in the royal council.  In other words, Hastings had been instrumental in helping Richard try to grab the throne for himself.  On the other hand, no one knows how he felt about Edward V being held captive.

Affairs changed dramatically on 13 June 1483.  During a council meeting at the Tower of London, Richard, supported by the Duke of Buckingham, suddenly accused Hastings and two other council members of having committed treason by conspiring against his life with the Woodvilles.  While the other alleged conspirators were imprisoned, Lord Hastings was immediately beheaded on Richard's orders over a log in the courtyard of the Tower.  There was no trial.

The execution of the popular Hastings remains controversial to this day.  No strong evidence of a 'Hastings conspiracy' has ever surfaced. 


Rick Archer's Note:  Susan Higginbotham (source) is the author of five historical novels about medieval England.  I have taken excerpts from her excellent article on Lord Hastings. 

As with so much involving Richard III, there are conflicting theories as to why William Hastings met his death at the hands of Richard, Edward IV’s supposedly devoted brother.  Richard himself claimed that Hastings had been plotting against him, though he never produced any proof to substantiate his claims.

Those defenders of Richard who have taken him at his word suggest that Hastings was driven into conspiracy by concerns that under the protectorate, he would lose the power and prestige he had enjoyed during Edward IV’s reign or by his suspicion that Richard meant to take the throne for himself.

The alternative explanation is that there was no plot at all and that Richard, having planned to seize the crown, ruthlessly eliminated Lord Hastings as the man most likely to stand in his way.

It is probably not a big surprise to readers of this blog that I lean toward the second theory: that of there being no plot by Hastings at all.  Richard had recently had three of the men closest to Edward V—his uncle Anthony Woodville, his half-brother Richard Grey, and his chamberlain, Thomas Vaughan—arrested on equally vague charges of conspiracy, which would never be proven.  They too would be executed without trial.

Soon came the lies about the legitimacy of the Woodville children.  Richard and his followers preached the story that Edward IV had been pre-contracted to a woman named Eleanor Butler before his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville.  This, in their opinion, made the latter marriage invalid and the resulting children bastards.  Therefore Richard was the rightful king, not Edward V (sitting in the Tower of London) or his brother Richard (also sitting in the Tower).   The English Council agreed and Richard was crowned King.

These trumped-up allegations would never see the inside of an ecclesiastical court, where they belonged.  In each case—Hastings, Woodville, Grey, Vaughan, and the precontract—Richard would accuse, but never prove.  None of those involved were allowed to defend themselves against Richard’s allegations.

Woodville, Grey, and Vaughan were languishing in prison at Pontrefact Castle when Hastings was beheaded on 13 June.  Their execution would come 12 days later.  Therefore, Hastings was the first head to roll.  If Hastings could be assassinated in cold blood, then anyone could be assassinated.  Given the immediate danger to the life of anyone who spoke up, no one dared to press the point. 

During Richard's coup d'état, the list was long and quite intimidating:

 The sudden, shocking execution of Hastings
 The trumped-up allegations concerning the illegitimacy of Edward's children
 The arrests of others on June 13 and on June 14 (including the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Ely, Oliver King, secretary to Edward V, and John Forster, an official of the queen)
 The previous arrests of Edward V’s associates Woodville, Grey, and Vaughan and their executions on June 25
 The large number of armed men sent to Westminster Abbey to 'persuade' Elizabeth Woodville to give up the Duke of York to Richard on June 16
 The rumors of massive numbers of troops headed from the north, Richard's power base, to London

These were powerful incentives for those who valued their heads to be docile, for the time being at least.  What must have made Hastings’ execution all the more terrifying was that he was no unpopular royal favorite, but rather a well liked, competent, and respected man who had been associated with the Yorkist cause for decades.  If Hastings could be assassinated in cold blood, then anyone could be assassinated.  Given the immediate danger to the life of anyone who spoke up, no one was safe.  Consequently there was little protest.  Richard had everyone cowered.

   Susan Higginbotham 
(original source)

Two associated comments:

Laura says:
June 13, 2011 at 5:28 am

I find it heart-rending that Hastings' death came at the hands of a man that he had eaten and drank with, fought and bled beside. Richard wanted Hastings out of the way because he knew Hastings was the one person who had the power and the strength of character to stand up to his ambition. There is no excuse for cold-blooded murder, yet that is what Richard committed that day by refusing Hastings the opportunity to exonerate himself of those charges. Despite the fact that Richard had other redeeming features, that unjustified act stands out in my mind as a defining moment for him. He preferred the death of a loyal and trusted friend and ally to his own greed and ambition.

Susan Higginbotham says:
June 13, 2011 at 7:43 am

Thanks, Laura! I quite agree. Even if Hastings were actually plotting against Richard, he could have been sent to the Tower and given a trial. His hasty execution suggests to me that Richard not only regarded him as a threat to his ambitions, but that he also knew that Hastings could and would give evidence against the existence of a precontract if left alive to do so.


The Princes in the Tower


Upon hearing the news of her brother Anthony's arrest, the Dowager Queen knew Richard had betrayed her.  Sensing she was in great danger, Elizabeth fled to sanctuary in Westminster Abbey together with her son by her first marriage, her five daughters, and her other son Richard, Duke of York. 

On 16 June s large number of armed men were sent to 'persuade' Elizabeth Woodville to give up the Duke of York to Richard.

Elizabeth Woodville was told to hand over the younger prince Richard to the Archbishop of Canterbury so that the boy might attend his brother Edward's coronation.  She should have never trusted these men.  Richard was immediately placed with his older brother Edward in the Tower of London.  After that, things went from very bad to much worse. 


One day before the scheduled coronation of young Edward, Bishop Stillington of Bath and Wells announced that the children of King Edward and his Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, were illegitimate.  Stillington charged that before Edward IV married Elizabeth, Edward had entered into a precontract for marriage with another woman, Eleanor Butler. 

This action rendered the King’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville invalid.  Thus, Prince Edward would have been a bastard and ineligible to ascend to the throne (and his brother as well).

On 22 June 1483, a sermon was preached outside Old St. Paul's Cathedral declaring Edward's children bastards and Richard the rightful king.  Shortly after, the citizens of London, both nobles and commons, convened and drew up a petition asking Richard to assume the throne. 

This is what Richard had hoped for.  He was now legally able to assume the crown.   On 25 June, an assembly of Lords and Commons declared Richard to be the legitimate king. 

Meanwhile, the two princes remained in the royal apartments in the Tower of London. Sometime in late summer or early fall of 1483, the boys disappeared from view; there is no record of their having been seen again. At the time the Princes vanished, Richard and his new Queen were on “progress” in the north of England, hundreds of miles from London.


A Footnote to History

Richard was crowned as the new King of England on July 6.  The reign of King Richard the Third had begun.

Long live the King!!  Or maybe not.  Two years later he would be dead.

Had Richard not betrayed his nephews, there is every possibility the York dynasty would have survived.  However, Richard’s own future would have been quite difficult.  Richard was despised by Elizabeth Woodville and all of her relatives at court.  He would surely become the focus of Woodville discontent.  Edward V, the boy king, would have followed his mother’s wishes when he came of age.  The boy had, after all, been raised and tutored by his Woodville relations and hardly knew Richard.  No doubt Richard would have become a footnote to history just like his brother George, the Duke of Clarence.  Richard was too ambitious to let that happen.  The boys had to go.


Indeed, the two boys were never seen in public again.  The fate of Edward and his brother Richard remains unknown to this day.  The most widely accepted theory is they were murdered on the orders of their uncle, King Richard.  Thomas More wrote the princes were smothered to death with their pillows.  His account forms the basis of William Shakespeare's Richard III, in which Richard orders Tyrrell to murder the princes.

Since there is no proof of what really happened, many different theories have surfaced over the years.  However, these competing theories are nowhere near as plausible as the straightforward one pointing to Richard.  Richard controlled access to the boys, Richard was responsible for their welfare, and Richard is the one who stood to gain the most by their murder.  Furthermore, if someone else was responsible for their deaths, why didn't Richard cry foul at the top of his lungs and conduct a public investigation? 

Guilty?  Most people think so, especially after seeing Shakespeare's Richard III.

Bones belonging to two children were discovered in 1674 by workmen rebuilding a stairway in the Tower. On the orders of King Charles II, these were subsequently placed in Westminster Abbey, in an urn bearing the names of Edward and Richard.  The bones were reexamined in 1933 at which time it was discovered the skeletons were incomplete and had been interred with animal bones. It has never been proven that the bones belonged to the princes, and it is possible that they were buried before the reconstruction of that part of the Tower of London.  Permission for a subsequent examination has been refused.

In 1789, workmen carrying out repairs in St George's Chapel, Windsor, rediscovered and accidentally broke into the vault of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Adjoining this was another vault, which was found to contain the coffins of two children. This tomb was inscribed with the names of two of Edward IV's children: George, 1st Duke of Bedford, who had died at the age of 2; and Mary of York who had died at the age of 14. Both had died before the King. However, the remains of these two children were later found elsewhere in the chapel, leaving the occupants of the children's coffins within the tomb unknown.   



Transitions were always perilous times in Medieval England.  Power-hungry people viewed transitions as opportunities to exploit the leadership vacuum to advance their own ambitions. 

Keep in mind that the War of the Roses spanned over thirty years.  Following the 1471 Battle of Tewkesbury, King Edward IV ruled unopposed for twelve years.

During that time, an entire new generation of faces moved into position.  So let us detour from the treachery of Richard and learn more about the background stories that make Act III: Richard III so compelling. 


The Madness of King Charles

Charles VI was better known as Mad King Charles. 

The best known story about Charles took place in 1392.  Charles was 24.  In April, Charles suffered from a mysterious illness which caused his hair and nails to fall out.  That summer, Charles was hardly recovered.  He still suffered from occasional bouts of fever and behaved incoherently at times.  One day Charles and his men set out on an expedition.  One of his advisors had barely survived an assassination attempt.  Now Charles went looking for the fugitive assassin.

On a hot day in August, Charles was riding through the forest at the head of a group of knights when a wild-looking man ran up to his horse and spoke some words of doom and betrayal.

The soldiers chased the man away, but Charles' nerves were clearly disturbed.  Charles absolutely freaked out.


Leaving the man behind, the group continued their journey.  Soon after, a page accidentally dropped a lance.  Charles flipped out.  Without warning, he rushed forward with a drawn sword and killed four of his men. The astonished victims did not even defend themselves, assuming the king had the right to kill them if he wanted to. 

Finally the others overcame their shock and overpowered the king.  Lifted from his horse, Charles lay flat and speechless on the ground, his eyes rolling wildly from side to side.  His attendants found an ox-cart to carry him.  For two days Charles was in a coma.  When Charles heard that he had killed four of his own men, he wept.

From then on his mental health was seriously undermined.  Charles would go through episodes of forgetting people's names, including his own, and the fact that he was king. Occasionally he would run through his castle howling at people; he was pretending to be a wolf.  When his spells were upon him, he would sit in a room, motionless, for hours. If he did move, he did so with extreme caution.  Questioned about this, he claimed that he was made of glass, and one wrong move would shatter him.

Charles suffered from severe schizophrenia.  Mental illness ran rampant in the family. Desperately ill, he was delusional. At times he believed his enemies were upon him and would be thrashing and fighting off the invisible foes. But King Charles was not the only one in the family who was mad.  His mother, Joan of Bourbon was unbalanced.  She became totally deranged after giving birth to her seventh child. Her father, uncles, and grandfather also suffered mental maladies.


The problem with having a Mad King is the fact that the Kingdom of France depended on him.  Charles became king of France in 1380 when he was 12.  He ruled for 42 years till his death in 1422.  All 42 years took place during the worst part of the Hundred Years' War with England.  Yes, the same hundred years when England plundered and humiliated France time and time again.  Was Charles was part of the problem?  Well, what do you think?

When your country is fighting something called the 'Hundred Years' War', it's really unfortunate if the man sitting on the throne is nicknamed 'Mad King Charles'... unless of course it means he's really angry at someone.  No, he was just nuts.

The question the reader might be asking is why I am discussing a French King who died 60 years before Richard the Third became king of England.  There are two things the English people are very squeamish about in regards to their kings... illegitimacy and madness. 

There have definitely been English kings who were crazy.  Mad King George III comes to mind.  His madness led directly to a certain well-known war known as the American Revolution.  This madness stuff in a king can be incredibly costly to a nation.

So now I have question.  This has been a very long and quite complicated story, but can you remember WHO was most responsible for creating the War of the Roses? 

Let's see if you get it right.  Scroll down.






Keep scrolling.










A Very Naughty Girl


Did you answer Richard, Duke of York?  Close, but he's not the best answer.

Did you answer Margaret of Anjou?  Closer, but she's not the answer either.

Did you answer French King Charles the Sixth?   You're getting warmer.

The madness of Charles VI let England have its way with France for half a century.  Thanks in large part to the cruelty of England's Black Prince, countless men were murdered, women were raped, fields were burned, and townships were pillaged and leveled. 

Did you answer Catherine of Valois?  Considering her picture is hard to miss, that would be a good guess, but we are still not quite there yet. 

The best answer is Henry the Sixth. 

Mad King Henry the Sixth was the direct descendant of Mad King Charles the Sixth.  The humiliating defeat of Agincourt took place during the reign of Charles VI.  With Charles incapacitated at the time of Agincourt, his wife Isabelle allowed King Henry V, the enemy, to marry beautiful daughter Catherine Valois (who just happened to be a little nutty herself). 

This marriage inadvertently linked Catherine to one of the greatest ironies in history.  Catherine would inadvertently carry out the revenge of French King Charles VI on England.  As we know, Catherine passed on the seed of madness to her son, the sad, bewildered King Henry VI.  It seems almost karmic that by marrying his daughter Catherine to Henry V, hero of Agincourt, Charles made sure his family's hereditary madness crossed the English Channel.  


Here is a sad reality... England was absurdly dominant over France during the reign of Charles VI.

With the Hundred Years War lasting from 1337 to 1453, out of those 116 years, France did not gain the upper hand until the final days of the conflict.  What can explain the change in momentum?  Henry VI.  

The historians will say Charles VI died in 1422 and Charles VII, better known as 'Charles the Victorious', took over.  The historians will also point out that Henry V, a fierce warrior, died the exact same year.

And who took his place?  Henry VI. 

England's king had gone from a stud to a simpleton. 

The course of the war changed instantly.  But Henry VI wasn't done yet.  When the Hundred Years War ended in 1453, a new war took its place.  1453 was the start date of a new conflict.  Henry's madness created the War of the Roses.  Surely in the French equivalent of Valhalla, Charles VI was laughing.


Illegitimacy and the Throne


A major scourge of the 21st Century are computer viruses.  Charles VI had planted a time bomb virus of another sort in the English bloodline.  The mental illness of Catherine's son King Henry VI was more responsible for the War of the Roses than any other factor because it encouraged the subsequent free for all power grab.  When a King goes mad, the country goes to hell.  And when the country goes to hell, it is usually because there is a power vacuum at the top.  The madness of Charles had led to the devastation of France during the Hundred Years War.  Now that same madness gave England its equally destructive War of the Roses by encouraging the power hungry nobles and relatives to seize power for themselves.

Let us review the damage caused by Henry VI. 

 His incompetence led to England's humiliating collapse at the end of the Hundred Years War.
 His weakness led to the enormous social and political problems in England which led to the War of the Roses.
 His inability to reproduce led his wife to have the affair with Edmund Beaufort which led to Edward of Westminster.

If not for Edward's miracle victory at the Battle of Barnet, England would have had its next illegitimate king.

'Next' illegitimate king?  Uh oh.

Let's be clear on something... there is current DNA evidence that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that illegitimacy occurred somewhere in the English line of kings, perhaps even several times.  For example, we might recall the story where King Edward the Fourth's own mother, Duchess Cecily Neville, claimed her son Edward was the illegitimate spawn of her fling with an obscure archer.  It is said that Edward was very good with a bow and better looking than his mother's husband.  Surely that is all the proof we need.

England may have dodged the illegitimacy problem with Henry VI, but his mother Catherine went out and made things much worse.  Yes, indeed, as it turned out, Catherine of Valois was not through wreaking her reproductive damage upon England.  Catherine was the gift that kept on giving.  England mistreated her, so she mistreated England right back.  Not only did she give England her father's madness, there is a strong possibility that Catherine gave England its next illegitimate king. 

Personally, I have never understood why people make such a big case out of illegitimate birth.  I hate the way people look down on a bastard child.  Why punish the child for the sins of the parents?  To me, the child should be judged on the quality of his or her actions, not the parentage.  For example, England's William the Conqueror was born a bastard and look what he accomplished. 

However, I also understand that various religions contend that children born out of wedlock must carry a stigma.  This consideration may not be important to me, but it is to some people.  I guess illegitimacy is one of those issues where one has to make up their own mind.

One of the interesting things about illegitimate kings is the possibility that the bastard child may be a much-needed 'upgrade'.   For example, Russia's Catherine the Great was married to an idiot named Peter the Third.  Her son Paul was the likely product of Catherine's affair with Sergei Saltykov, a talented Russian officer.  Paul very easily could have been one of Russia's great rulers.  Unfortunately he was assassinated five years into his reign.  And why was that?  Paul did something unforgivable.  Paul had the nerve to help the miserable serfs.  In fact, he was Russia's version of Robin Hood - steal from the rich and give to the poor.  That got him killed.

Ah, but I digress.  Back to England.  Margaret of Anjou had spent seven years waiting for Henry VI to impregnate her.  Without an heir, Richard of York threatened to claim the throne.  So what is a girl to do? 

This offers the perfect opportunity to tell a dirty joke.

So Mrs. Smith, pregnant with her first child after such a long wait, visits her neighbor's barn to buy some eggs. 

Mrs. Smith, "Oh, Farmer John, look at all the hens you have!  Last time I was here, you had only half as many.  Where did you get so many hens?"

Farmer John, "It wasn't that hard.  The previous rooster wasn't getting the job done, so I switched cocks."

Mrs. Smith, "Interesting how that works."

More than likely, Margaret of Anjou's enduring love affair with her favorite advisor produced Edward of Westminster, the boy who died at Tewkesbury.  So was this child an upgrade?  Tough question.  As the product of two ruthless, ambitious parents, it is debatable how their reportedly cruel son would have turned out as king.  As it was, England narrowly missed placing another illegitimate ruler on throne.  Oh, by the way, Joffrey on Game of Thrones, Edward's Doppelgänger, was also illegitimate. 

When looking for the break in the royal lineage, one place the scholars always point to is Catherine of Valois.  Catherine's son Edmund Tudor was born in 1431, nine years after the death of her husband Henry V.  Catherine was a widow at the time.

There are two kinds of illegitimate children.  There are children born out of wedlock and there are children born of adulterous affairs.  To me, the allegation that Edward IV was the product of his mother's liaison with a lowly archer as opposed to his brilliant father is far more serious than Catherine giving birth to a child while she was single and forbidden to marry.

'Forbidden to marry'??  Surely there is a story here and indeed there is. 


As historic figures go, I would imagine very few people today have the slightest clue who Catherine of Valois is.  Although she was immortalized by Shakespeare as Henry V's 'Fair Catherine', she has nevertheless remained an enigma with little written about her.  Long ago Catherine was dismissed by historians as nothing more than a perpetual footnote in the history of this period.  Through the centuries the story of Catherine of Valois has largely been forgotten.  I find this surprising because my research shows that Catherine unwittingly had a dramatic and lasting impact on English history. 

Perhaps the key word here is 'unwitting'.  By reading between the lines of the narratives, I gather that Catherine was pushed around her entire life.  Given the fact that she gave birth to a simpleton (Henry VI) and showed no ambition for politics suggests that Catherine herself may not have been the sharpest knife in the drawer.  That said, her story dominated the 15th century tabloids.  Catherine's life was touched by a cruel childhood, mental illness, political mistreatment, a clandestine marriage, and secret illegitimate children

Catherine was the youngest of eight children born to King Charles VI of France and Isabelle of Bavaria. We already know that Catherine's father was a basket case, but now we discover her mother was just as bad in a different way.  Her mother, Isabelle, was haughty, callous, and shamelessly adulterous to Catherine's poor ailing father.  Isabelle took advantage of the king’s frailties and seized control of the kingdom from usurpers.  Isabelle was so busy with politics, poor Catherine and her siblings were neglected.  As opposed to the pampered life of a princess one would expect, Catherine and her siblings would live like paupers in miserable surroundings. 


As King Charles continued his descent to madness, Isabelle decided to hide the King from the public.  When Catherine was 3, her mother moved Charles from the palace and placed him in a royal Paris residence known as Hotel de Saint Pol along with his children.  Catherine was nowhere near the corridors of power as a child... and that's the way her mother wanted it.  Out of sight, out of mind.  

Isabelle's mission completed, the wildly unpopular Queen devoted her time to the pursuit of pleasure, pilfering the treasury, and showering her favorites with riches. In contrast, contemporary chroniclers noted the 'piteous state' of the young Princess Catherine and her siblings, 'nearly starved and loathsome with dirt, having no change of clothes, nor even of linen'. The Queen was so negligent that she made no provision for her husband and children. Content that they remain locked away far from sight, she neglected to ensure that the servants at Saint Pol were being paid for their labor.  Consequently, as time went on, many were forced to find work elsewhere, leaving the royal children and their ailing father wholly dependent on the few faithful servants who remained.

There is much more intrigue I could add about Catherine's childhood, but let's just say that Isabelle invested little energy in her child's welfare.  Isabelle was an ambitious woman with a cruel and ruthless determination to advance her own affairs.  It was Isabelle who decided to use her young daughter Catherine as a bargaining chip with Henry V, the powerful king of England.

As we know, the marriage ended in the tragic death of Henry V to dysentery.  Catherine had the briefest of reigns as the queen consort of England from 1420 until 1422.  She gave birth to crown heir Henry VI in December 1421.  With her husband over in France conducting yet another war, it is said that Henry V died without once seeing his son.  Catherine's grief was reported to be most violent.

Time passed.  Seemingly content to remain somewhat aloof, Catherine made no strong alliances one way or the other while in mourning.  Some say the Queen Dowager was in an incredibly powerful position.  Catherine was young, attractive and wealthy as well as the mother of the King of France and England.  Unfortunately, she didn't act very powerful.  Thanks in large part to her sad, pathetic childhood, Catherine had little ambition of her own and virtually no instincts for playing politics.  In a sense, she was a shy weakling just as her royal son would turn out to be.  Her English was poor and she had few friends in high places on the English council.  But she was still Fair Catherine... men came to visit.

The Council did not know what to do with Catherine.  Another marriage involving Catherine could spell disaster for internal English politics as well as complicate their current standing with France.  Worried that Catherine would raise her child to have French sympathies, in 1425 Catherine's regent Humphrey decided that young King Henry VI, 4, should be removed from his mother’s care and placed into a separate household.  Catherine's new role became more like that of a favored aunt.  She could see the child from time to time, but was removed on a daily basis.  Reports say that Catherine appeared to accept this and be content with her role.  If so, her passivity gives us a major clue.  What normal mother would accept this arrangement?  We certainly could never imagine Margaret of Anjou letting a similar thing happen to her beloved Joffrey, er, Edward.

With her husband dead, once her child was taken away, it seems like Catherine's remaining purpose in life had been badly damaged. 
Catherine of Valois was now a 25-year old widow with no children, living in the wrong country, and nothing to do.  Rich and beautiful, it is no surprise that Catherine fell in with the younger set at court.  At this time, Catherine was said to have difficulty “curbing her carnal passions.  Don't we all?  Some handle it better than others, but Catherine apparently let her Scorpio nature get the better of her.

It was only a matter of time before a girl looking for a good time ran into a very bad boy. 


A Very Bad Boy

If nothing else, the War of the Roses is the story of ambition gone mad.  In particular, Catherine became infatuated with the highly ambitious Edmund Beaufort, an emerging political figure. 

Edmund Beaufort... where have we heard that name before?  This is the same Edmund Beaufort who was the major political rival of Richard, Duke of York, back in Act One of our narrative. 

Edmund Beaufort was not just the main advisor to Margaret of Anjou, he was also her boyfriend.  Edmund Beaufort was likely responsible for impregnating Margaret with her son Edward.

Sad to say, Edmund Beaufort's ambition would cost him dearly.  His decision to back Margaret of Anjou throughout the War of Roses would doom two generations of his Lancaster-based family to death.

Thanks in large part to Edmund Beaufort, the entire male side of his Beaufort family was obliterated.  Can you even imagine?  Six men died fighting!!

However, perhaps Edmund Beaufort got the last laugh.  Back in his younger days, it is very likely Edmund was the true father of Edmund Tudor, the man who would in turn sire Henry VII, the future king of England. 

So was it love or lust between Fair Catherine and Edmund Beaufort?  Or was it her untold wealth?  For that matter, the next boy to emerge from her womb would have a claim to be the future King of France. 

In very simple terms, Catherine was a good catch.  Maybe too good a catch... her Regents were very alarmed at this romance, especially when Edmund, 22, asked permission to marry Catherine, 27. 

Enter Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, to the stage.  Humphrey was not only the current Regent of England, but as the uncle of the child Henry VI, he was also the child's Lord Protector. 

When Humphrey heard the rumor in 1428 that Edmund Beaufort sought to marry Henry's mother, Humphrey put his foot down and said no. 

With Cardinal Henry Beaufort as his main political rival, the last thing Humphrey wanted to do was to muddy the waters by giving more power to yet another Über-ambitious Beaufort.  

Humphrey feared that if this highly desirable young widow decided to marry, her Beaufort husband might gain undue influence over his young stepson (Henry VI) and upset the balance of power. Catherine's French nationality was never far from the minds of the Council.  If she should decide to ally herself with a member of the French nobility, the situation would be even more fraught with difficulties.

Such was the fear of remarriage that Parliament was persuaded to pass a 1428 law prohibiting any person from marrying the dowager queen without the consent of the King and Council.  They played a dirty trick on Catherine... there was no king at the time to give permission!!  The country was being ruled by Humphrey who was 'not a king'.  If Catherine wanted to marry Edmund, she would have to wait nine years until her son Henry, 6, came of age in 1437.  So much for Catherine's hopes to remarry. 

No doubt Edmund gave up all hope of marrying Catherine.  A deeply ambitious man, Edmund wasn't about to jeopardize his career by risking marriage to a Forbidden Woman.  On the other hand, there was no law that prevented Edmund from continuing to see Catherine under the radar and under the blankets.  England is a very chilly place and what better place to seek warmth than the arms of a beautiful woman?

No doubt the Council thought itself clever to disempower the Dowager Queen, but there is a real chance their decision backfired in a very remarkable way.  One can easily imagine the intense bitterness Catherine felt at having her love life so blatantly interfered with.  No one likes being unfairly pushed around.  Therefore it comes as no surprise that Catherine may have rebelled in a very unusual way. 

In 2013 historian John Ashdown-Hill published a book called Royal Marriage Secrets.  In his book Ashdown-Hill said he had uncovered evidence that Edmund Tudor, father of Henry VII, was not the son of Owen Tudor but rather that of Edmund Beaufort.

Needless to say, this ignited considerable controversy.  Many erudite people wrote long rebuttals to deny Ashdown-Hill's claims.  Other people said this proved what they had believed for a long time.  Still others read the book and decided they had a better claim to be King or Queen of England than the current royal family.  Lord knows, we might just have another War of the Roses right here in the 21st Century.  


In the meantime, I have one word of wisdom.  Since the English take these matters very seriously, if you ever visit England, don't make any jokes about the legitimacy of various kings.  After all, due to King Edward III siring dozens upon dozens of children, 99% of all English citizens have at least a few drops of royal blood in them. 

For that matter, maybe I am related to that Archer who got Cicely Neville pregnant with future king Edward the Fourth.  I think I will start a rebellion when I visit England.  What a shame it is that Shakespeare isn't still around to write 'Richard the Fourth'.



Owen Tudor is the man who allegedly fathered Edmund Tudor by Catherine of Valois, the former Queen of England. 

Edmund Tudor would later father Henry Tudor who went to become Henry VII, the first Tudor king of England. 

Henry VII could point to his paternal grandmother Catherine of Valois as the source of his Royal Blood. 

However, there was problem after problem with Henry's family tree. 

One problem was that Edmund Tudor was mostly likely a bastard. 

Another problem was that Owen Tudor probably wasn't Edmund Tudor's father to begin with.

Embarrassing as this sounds, Edmund Tudor's mother was a Beaufort and Edmund Tudor's father was a Beaufort.    If this is true, then it means the royal house of 'Tudor' sprang from Beauforts on both sides.  In other words, his parents were first cousins!!

Except that History doesn't see it that way.  History tells us Owen Tudor, a very unremarkable man, was a servant who allegedly seduced the former Queen of England.  So how did he do it?  How did a lowly servant persuade a woman with the highest prestige into his bed?  

In other words, if the truth had been known, there would have been great scandal.   So a whopper of a tale was created to keep the true parentage of Henry VII a complete secret.



It is said that Queen Catherine of Valois found Owen to be so irresistible that she gave her heart, soul... and yes, body... to this handsome young man.  

No big deal until we realize that Owen was not an estate owner with a pedigree and vast lands under his control.  No, not hardly.  Owen Tudor was not exactly high-born.  In fact, he was the lowly son of a Welsh rebel who became a servant in Catherine's wardrobe department

This is one of the most curious stories of parentage imaginable.  By favoring this particular servant with her charms, some of England's most famous kings.... Henry the Seventh, Henry the Eighth and Elizabeth the First could point to a lowly chamber boy as their forefather.  Impressive, yes? 

Or maybe not.  Considering my own roots include a Welsh undertaker gracing the family tree, finally I have a story I can relate to!  Oh, the shame of it all.

Since Owen Tudor is the newest member of our narrative, let us introduce him properly.  Born in 1400, Owen was a nobody who worked in the household of the Dowager Queen and somehow ended up in the Queen's bed.  It is said that their lovemaking produced a boy named Edmund Tudor, the eventual father of Henry VII, the king who would begin the Tudor dynasty of England. 

This is a very curious story.  We hear rumors of powerful men who inveigle or coerce susceptible chambermaids into their bed and then discard them quickly.  What we don't hear very often are stories of a beautiful Queen, a woman coveted by extraordinary men in high places, who chooses instead to seduce the keeper of her wardrobe and linen.  But no, the story doesn't stop there.  The chamber boy impregnates the Queen.  Oh, darn, well, these things happen.  Just ask Cecily Neville, victim of that handsome Archer boy. 

Big deal.  So, all Catherine has to do is find some noble and ask him to be noble and cover it up.  Or have the child on the sly and hand it to some peasant to raise.  But no, the Queen keeps the child!!  And why?  Because she has fallen in love with Chamber Boy!  She leaves the palace with chamber boy and they live happily ever after out in the countryside, having four more children along the way.  What a remarkable story!

In 1421 Owen is said to have gone to war in France.  However, he was not a warrior.  Instead Owen assisted Sir Walter Hungerford, a steward in the service of Henry V (Agincourt).  Following Henry's death, Owen somehow ended up as a keeper of the Queen's household or wardrobe back in England.

Virtually nothing is known about how the liaison between Catherine and Owen took place.  Consequently there are all sorts of 'Legends' about their meeting, which is another way of saying that someone decided to make up stories. 

For example, one writer said that Owen came to the queen's attention when she spied him bathing naked.  Another chronicler dwelt upon Owen's good looks which the Queen Mother noticed, causing her to give the handsome squire a post in her household.  And then there was the legend that Owen either deliberately or accidentally fell onto the queen's lap during a drunken dance.

My favorite was the lap story.  While on guard at Windsor Castle during some festivities, Owen was required to dance before the court.  Queen Catherine sat on a low seat surrounded by her ladies. While making an elaborate pirouette, the unfortunate man lost his balance and fell headfirst into the Queen's lap.  The Queen's manner of excusing this was so awkward that her ladies in waiting grew suspicious that the Queen had a thing for this handsome Welshman.

Whatever the true story, there can be no doubt that Catherine and Owen were taking a huge risk.  Catherine lived in the king's household, presumably so she could care for her young son when called upon, but mostly so the councilors could watch over the Queen herself.  Knowing full well there were spies everywhere, Owen and Catherine's mad love affair was sheer madness. 

Seriously, this story is so far-fetched it absolutely stretches the imagination.  We are supposed to believe the man who won Catherine body and soul, the man for whom she risked everything, was her handsome Clerk of the Wardrobe! A trumpet for the strumpet, please!  If this were fiction, I'd toss the book in the trash as rubbish.  But that is apparently more or less what happened. 

(Or at least that is what they would have us believe!!)

Despite all the risks, the Queen and the servant began their affair right under the noses of people who were paid to watch her.  The queen was under suspicion.  She was a foreigner with few friends.  Many suspected Catherine of secretly supporting her brother Louis VII's claim to the French crown over her that of own son little Henry VI.

Personally, I think there has to be a more likely explanation for this unlikely pairing.  One explanation would be rebellion.  The assholes, oops, I meant the dignitaries who ruled England in the name of Catherine's son expected the queen to be content to sleep with her fond memories of the great Henry the Fifth.  One can assume Catherine felt considerable resentment.  

One might even conclude her affair with Owen was her way of thumbing her nose at these men.  Perhaps this good-looking servant was the only option available to a desperately lonely woman trapped in a cold, unfriendly castle.

Thus began the mad love affair between the widow of the revered King Henry and her studly Clerk of the Wardrobe.  I say 'mad' because the two risked a charge of treason.  Based on that crazy statute, one or both of them could easily end up in jail... or worse.  We've heard of men who lose their head over a woman, but in this case, it could really happen!    

Then one day Catherine realized she was pregnant.  Uh oh. 

All the history books point to Owen Tudor as the father.  Maybe the thing to do here is to read between the Lies.  First Owen risks his neck to impregnate the Forbidden Queen and then Catherine turns around and names her son 'Edmund'. 

Huh?  'Edmund'.  Such a curious choice of names.  Edmund was the name of Catherine's former boyfriend.  Are we missing something here???





The 11 December 2016 episode of the TV show The Royals revolved around the legendary story of Owen and Catherine.  As one can see, their tale was an "epic, earth-shattering love affair!"

Forgive me, Father, for I am about to be catty.

As I read further, I realized the writer of the 'earth-shattering love affair' blog had basically accepted the Owen-Catherine Fairy Tale hook, line, and sinker.  I doubt very seriously the writer dug very deeply into the story.  This is not necessarily a good thing.  After all, it is my understanding that the motto of most TV shows is 'Why let the truth get in the way of a good story?'

It is scary to realize most of our history lessons these days come from movies and television.  Currently our world is awash in a phenomenon known as 'Fake News'.  There has probably never been a time when ignorance and superficial thinking has been more prevalent.  We base our decisions on the words of people we don't know personally.  This may not be a very good idea.  Rumor has it our leaders deliberately tell fibs from time to time. 

I suppose I am just as guilty as the rest of superficial thought.  I have based this entire story about the War of the Roses on the ten listings that appear on the First page of Google.  I pick a few a random and take a peek.  If it sounds intelligent, I borrow a few ideas.  But that doesn't mean they are correct.  Most of the time, I don't even know the name of the author. 

Research these days is little more than cut and paste.  It is shocking in a way how many websites simply repeat what another website says VERBATIM.  For example, Wikipedia, the source for many of my explanations, makes it effortless to cut and paste passages into my stories.  I love Wikipedia, but I don't always trust it. 

Every now and then, I stop and think about it... I am repeating the words of Wikipedia contributors who I know nothing about.  Here's another old saying... you get what you pay for.  Wikipedia is free.  The entire site was created by volunteers.  Who vets the Wikipedia writers? 

I am about to challenge the 'Owen-Catherine Fairy Tale'.  I believe this particular legend may not be what it seems.  In a sense, I will attempt to rewrite history.  If you find yourself agreeing with my line of thinking, before you make up your mind, please remember to ask yourself this question: 

Do you really want to form your opinion based on the words of a retired dance teacher who gets his information from the Internet?

It all boils down to Credibility.  Question everything, my friend. 


Scandal in the Castle: Who's Your Daddy???


I contend that the weird circumstances surrounding Catherine's pregnancy suggests an alternative explanation for Catherine's risky behavior... Edmund Beaufort

No one is quite sure when Catherine's affair with Owen Tudor began. 

 One website suggested 'somewhere between 1427 and 1429'.
website reported 'About 1428 or 1429'. 
Another website reported, 'Despite all of this, Catherine did remarry in secret, sometime in 1431 or 1432'. 
 A third website said, 'It is accepted that Catherine and Owen were married sometime around 1429/30'. 

I am not making this up.  In fact, I'm not making any of this up.  I just drift from website to website compiling the information, then I try to sort it out.  Do you know what the words 'Somewhere', 'About', 'Sometime', and 'Around' mean to me? 

These words mean someone is guessing.  It means no one knows the truth about these dates because both the affair between Catherine and Edmund and the affair between Catherine and Owen were conducted in secret.  I would place a bet that there are no existing written accounts of what took place in the castle.

The passage above is another good example of the general fuzziness surrounding Owen and Catherine's supposed Love Story.  I am starting to believe we have a genuine mystery on our hands. 

 'many tales, unsupported... In other words, no one knows the true story of how Owen and Catherine hooked up.

 'We don't know for sure what position Owen held.This suggests that no one ever wrote any history of this liaison.

 'Despite all the romantic embellishments by later writers.Someone makes stuff up like the 'Lap Story' and the next person buys it.

 'It seems that Owen and Catherine were attracted to one another.'   Gee, can we possibly be less certain about this?

I believe the words above are the words of an ethical writer.  This person has taken a good look at the existing data and realized this very well could be a fable of some sort.  Embarrassed at being forced to regurgitate literary diatribe based on quicksand, the writer has hedged his or her bet by qualifying every single phrase for the simple reason that no one has a clue what really happened. 

So I suggest we read between the lines... maybe there is a cover-up going on here.  Maybe this entire love story is nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig. 

We started this chapter by asking a question:  How did a lowly Welshman bed a Queen? 

Six centuries have passed since the Owen-Catherine Love Story took place.  Someone compared it to a 'Remarkable Fairy Tale'.  Every single writer focuses on how incredible it was that a highly desirable Queen could allow herself to be seduced by a lowly servant, a young man who actually risked death to take this woman to bed. 






Yes, indeed, it all sounds very romantic, but at heart the idea is preposterous when you stop and think about.  It is hard to believe the 'epic, earth-shattering love affair' between Owen and Catherine actually took place because it challenges our reality-testing equipment to the extreme.  This story is absolutely begging for a better explanation!! 

I don't deny something unusual took place between Owen and Catherine.  After all, while she was still pregnant, Catherine left the comfort of the castle with Owen and had four or five children by him over the next few years while living out in the country.  The Queen definitely built the final part of her life around this man.  That part is not in question.


What I am suggesting is that the Edmund Beaufort Rumor invites us to reinterpret the initial stages of the Love Story in a different light.  Since clearly no one really knows what took place here, I have decided to offer my own theory. 

What would Catherine do if Edmund Beaufort really was the father?

The truth is that a lowly Welshman does NOT bed a Queen... but a Queen might bed a lowly Welshman if she had a good reason.

Given the general fuzziness regarding the time line, Catherine's two affairs could very easily have overlapped in some way. 

Keep in mind that Edmund Beaufort was the leader of the formidable House of Beaufort.  He had his entire career ahead of him.  He had possession of the vast lands known as 'Somerset' in southwest England.  Beaufort stood to lose everything.

Let us return to that law forbidding Catherine to marry.  Some highly vindictive men had made it a grave offense to marry the Queen Dowager without their consent.  That law was passed in direct retaliation for Edmund Beaufort's interest in Queen Catherine.  Quite likely, after the law was passed, extra scrutiny was placed around the Queen just to be on the safe side. 

Catherine began to look over her shoulder in case spies lurked behind the curtains and under her bed.  Catherine had to do something to hide her pregnancy before the spies figured it out. 

If Edmund was responsible for Catherine's pregnancy, is it possible that Catherine would turn to Owen in order to protect Edmund? 


Gerald Harriss (1925-2014) was one of the most distinguished English medievalists of his generation.  Harriss was an eloquent interpreter of the workings of English late-medieval political society, illuminating not only its institutional aspects but also the characters of its leading actors, notably Cardinal Beaufort (Edmund Beaufort's uncle).

As it turns out, I am not the only one with a suspicious mind.  In his book Cardinal Beaufort. A Study in Lancastrian Ascendency and Decline, Harriss made a strong case (pp.144,177-8) for Edmund having fathered one of Catherine's later children.

Harriss had this to say about Edmund, Owen, and Catherine: 

Catherine may have secretly married Owen Tudor to avoid the penalties of breaking the statute of 1427–28.  By its very nature the evidence for Edmund 'Tudor's' parentage is less than conclusive, but such facts as can be assembled permit the disagreeable possibility that Edmund 'Tudor' and Margaret Beaufort were first cousins and that the royal house of 'Tudor' sprang in fact from Beauforts on both sides. (Harriss, 178 n.34)


Take note that the findings of Gerald Harriss concur with that of John Ashdown-Hill.  This means the only two recent historians to analyze this story have come to the same likely conclusion.  To date, no one else with similar qualifications has stepped forward to challenge them. 

One can imagine after that nasty law was passed, Catherine had the right to retain her boyfriend Edmund.  She just couldn't marry him.  Quite likely this roughshod treatment aroused a sense of defiance in the two young lovers.  Perhaps they rebelled and continued to conduct their relationship in a private manner.  If so, who can guess how long they continued to see one another?  One year? Two years? 

Various website's suggest Catherine's romance with Edmund Beaufort had started in 1928.  She became pregnant with her son Edmund Tudor in October 1930.   So what was the punishment for getting her knocked up??  No doubt the ensuing scandal would bring holy hell down upon the head of the sperm donor.  And there very well could be danger too. 

Do you know what kings don't like?  They don't like babies being born with potential claims to the throne.  Just watch the rate babies get executed on Game of Thrones in an attempt to eliminate heirs.  Babies being born the former Queen of England were exactly the kind of babies that made people nervous.  So if you don't believe the father of Edmund Tudor wasn't in danger, guess again. 

Now let's pretend to enter the mind of some vindictive asshole on the English Council.  

Oh my God, a baby is about to be born to the former Queen of England!  If it is a boy, thanks to Catherine's lineage, the child will have a legitimate claim to the crown of France.  The Frenchies will absolutely flip out!  Furthermore, this kid could cause a lot of trouble when he gets older.  Edmund Beaufort is a leading member of the House of Lancaster and the House of Beaufort, two prominent families with money and powerful political friends.  Whoever is king at the time will have his hands full.  Something needs to done. 

On the other hand, what if the child belonged to Owen Tudor?

Oh my God, a baby is about to be born to the former Queen of England!  If it is a boy, the child will have a legitimate claim to the crown of France. The Frenchies will absolutely flip out!  What was this idiot woman thinking?  However, we caught a break.  This Owen Tudor fellow is a lowly Welshman.  By law, the Welsh do not have the right to ascend to the throne.  No child born to this man has any birthright, so we dodged a real bullet here.  Whew!  That was a close call. 


Rick Archer's Note: 

Before we continue, let me review the mythology, er, rather the written history.

It has been reported that Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, sought to marry the Dowager Queen and it may very well have been that Katherine returned these feelings.  In response, Parliament set out a statue which stated that no man was allowed to marry a former queen of England without a special licence and permission from the King.

If a man dared to marry a former queen then not only would he forfeit his lands and tenements, he would also forfeit his life.

Edmund Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset, paid heed to this statue and reined back his intentions.

However, Owen Tudor was a completely different story.  Reported to be a squire in the service of the dowager queen, Owen Tudor soon caught the queen's attention. There are various stories as to how this happened, one being that while dancing Owen fell into the queen's lap, another being that she spied him while he was swimming naked.  Whatever the true story is, the pair married in secret, going against the statute of parliament.  Soon Owen Tudor impregnated Queen Catherine with a boy to be named Edmund Tudor.


But what happens if Edmund Beaufort was the true father?  That would give Catherine a legitimate reason to deliberately wrap her baby boy up in sheep's clothing.  By disguising the true identity of the father, she could avoid having Beaufort incur the wrath of the English Council.

So is John Ashdown-Hill correct about Edmund Beaufort fathering Catherine's child?  Or was he just making a fortune by spreading some ancient gossip around?   Your guess is as good as mine, but I will say Dr. Ashdown-Hill does appear to have more a bit more knowledge on the subject than your average person (and maybe even more than me!)  Consequently, for the sake of argument, let's go out on a limb and assume Dr. Ashdown-Hill is correct.

I don't know about you, but I just can't seem to get past the odd coincidence of the matching names.  Considering I am taking someone else's word for every single thing that I write in this article, I am hardly in any position to suggest I know what the truth is here.  Nevertheless, I will be bold and risk muddying the waters a bit further.

I have a question... Why on earth would Catherine name her son 'Edmund' if her lover Edmund Beaufort was not the father?  Why would she give nosey people the slightest reason to draw undue attention to whom the father might be, especially at a time when the father could be imprisoned or executed for breaking the ridiculous law?

Before I start answering this curious question myself, the history books say that Catherine and Owen left the castle while Catherine was still pregnant.  Catherine had her son at some estate out in the country far beyond prying eyes.  It was there that she named her baby boy 'Edmund'. 

1. Out in country, Catherine might have felt safer about taking a chance with the name.

2. Presumably her champion Owen was at her side when she named the child.

So I ask again:  Why on earth would Catherine name her son 'Edmund' if her lover Owen Tudor was the father?

BA in History and French from University of East Anglia

MA in Linguistics from University of Essex

PhD in medieval history from University of Essex


My theory is that Catherine used Owen Tudor to protect Edmund Beaufort.

Edmund Beaufort had a considerable amount to lose.  If Catherine was pregnant and it was discovered that Edmund Beaufort was the father, the ensuing scandal would have cost Beaufort his political career at the minimum, conceivably even his life or his estates.  It definitely would have guaranteed him a visit to the Tower of London for violating that statute in some way or another.  So, if Edmund Beaufort was indeed the father, surely he pleaded with Catherine to protect his identity. 

If so, did this mean that Catherine needed to find another suitor ASAP to give her pregnancy a cover story?  Given that Catherine didn't have a wide selection of potential lovers given the tight security surrounding her, perhaps Owen Tudor was her only choice.  Or quite possibly, she did have other men around, but they all had money.  Owen, on the other hand, was poverty-stricken.  Maybe that worked in his favor. 


As it turned out, by the time Catherine gave birth to Edmund Tudor on 11 June 1431 (a date some contest), she was heavily involved with her new boyfriend Owen Tudor.  Catherine likely became pregnant in October 1930.  Was there a chance Catherine was still seeing Edmund Beaufort at that time?  Maybe.  So let's pretend we can read the mind of Catherine.  Call it Scenario One.

I, Catherine, am 30 years old.  Recently I broke up with my long-time boyfriend Edmund.  Been feeling kinda lonely lately and I met this new guy Owen.  He works here at the palace keeping my wardrobe in order.   Owen is this really good-looking Welsh guy, you know, a medieval hunk if I ever saw one. Lately I have been distracting him from his job.  One day Owen caught me in one of those moods.  There was a spark and I lost it.  Something happened.  Now I want it to happen again and again. 

But I have a big problem.  I'm pregnant!!!  There is no way it could be Owen's child.  It has to be Edmund's child.  I am sure of it.  In fact, I know when it happened.  Back in October, Edmund and I had been drifting apart, but one night he came over for my birthday party.  Too much wine, not that awful English stuff, but good French wine.  You know how it goes, he looked at me, I looked at him and we had one more fling for old times sake. 

Now look at me. I am going to have to tell Owen about this.  If the child is a boy, I wonder if Owen would mind very much if I go ahead and name my baby after Edmund.  Are Welsh guys touchy about this sort of thing?

But you know, if I really and truly want to name my son after my ex-boyfriend, surely Owen won't doubt my love for him...


Catherine claimed the baby belonged to Owen Tudor.  Let's do another scenario and assume she is telling the truth.  Call it Scenario Two. 

This thing with Owen is so special.  I am wild about the guy.  Unfortunately he is taking a real chance by sneaking into my room at night.  People watch me all the time and I know they are suspicious.  My ladies in waiting are already onto me, I am sure of it.  This is very dangerous.  Owen is breaking the law by sleeping with me.  If the wrong people discover our relationship, Owen could be put in prison. I am surrounded with people like that.  Sometimes I really hate my life. 

Now I have another problem.  I'm pregnant.  It is Owen's child, no doubt about it, but I want to name my baby 'Edmund'.  As the former Queen, that's my right, isn't it?  I'm sure it's a boy and I so much want to name him in the memory of my old boyfriend.  I wonder if Owen would mind?   Are guys sensitive about these things like this? 

Owen said something about wanting to name the child after him.  You know, I get it.  I really do see his point.  Every dude in France and England names his first son after himself.   So when Owen brings up 'Owen Junior' or 'Owen the Second', I guess I can see where he is coming from.  But you know what?  I get so tired of all these Louies and Edwards and Henrys I could just scream sometimes!  How does a girl tell them all apart?  Stamp a Roman numeral on their forehead, that's what I say. 

The way I look at it, if I really and truly want to name my son after my ex-boyfriend, surely Owen won't doubt my love for him.  I will make a deal with him.  The next boy will get his name  (Note: their third son was named Owen).

For the record, I was named 'Richard' because my uncle Richard was my mother's favorite brother.  Most women name their sons after someone they like, someone special.  In Catherine's case, there was only one Edmund in her life.  Because Catherine was French, there were no 'Edmunds' in Catherine's family.  So I ask again... why would she name her son 'Edmund'?

Since I am a guy, I feel at least somewhat qualified to offer the male perspective here.  If I found out my wife or my hot and heavy lover was going to name her child of suspect parentage after her old boyfriend, I would absolutely raise the castle roof.  This is why I suspect there could be a third scenario... one that no website that I have come across has suggested. 

We started this chapter by asking a question:  How did a lowly Welshman bed a Queen and start a dynasty? 

The official Henry VII propaganda story is that Henry's grandfather was the product of a magic love affair between a servant and a Queen.  Oh, how wonderfully romantic!!   But what if that is complete hogwash?

What if Catherine decided that taking Owen as her lover was her only way to protect Edmund Beaufort? 


Think about it.  If Catherine still cared for Edmund Beaufort, she would have to disguise the nature of her pregnancy.  Edmund Beaufort had a lot to lose, but what did a nobody like Owen Tudor have to lose besides his head? 

The only question at this point is how would Catherine approach the situation.  Would she sit down and strike up a bargain with Owen in a business-like way?  Would she have the guts to openly discuss the problem and ask Owen what he thought about giving Edmund Beaufort a cover story? 

You know, I have to say I doubt it.  I find it very difficult to imagine a Queen would humble herself by politely asking a servant to get involved in a very dangerous affair.  I think any legitimate femme fatale would do it the easy way.  There is a great movie called Body Heat.  That movie makes it very clear what a good-looking woman can get a guy to do after she has had sex with him a few times.

All Catherine had to do was undress and knock the poor boy's lights out.   After all, no self-respecting Welshman could possibly resist hitting on a naked Queen who looks like Catherine.  That's where I would place my bet.  So let us try to read the mind of Owen Tudor.  Call it Scenario Three.

Good grief, the Queen must be out of her mind!  I was trying to hang up some of her dresses in the royal closet last night.  The Queen snuck up from behind.  First she put her arms around me, then she turned me around and kissed me.  I was pretty fearful, but she dragged me into her bed.  I tried to resist, but you know how it is.  Once the Cat Lady dropped her cloak and told me she wanted me, I was helpless to the heat.  That is one beautiful woman.  Not only that, the Queen is insatiable.  Every time we finished, she stroked me until I was ready to start anew.  Over and over and over again. 

On the spirits of my dead ancestors, I cannot imagine what I did to deserve this.  That woman wore me out.  I can barely move today!  Catherine said she had something she wanted to talk to me about.  I wonder what it could be...

That led to Scenario Four.  I imagine that once Owen became Catherine's lover, at some point Catherine came to him with a distraught look on her face.

"Owen, oh no, I am in so much trouble.  I have just discovered I am pregnant!  I am so sorry, but that it can't possibly be your child.  I wish it was your child, I love you so much, but it has be Edmund's child.  Owen, I need your help...

So was 'Love' involved or not?  Not at first.  I think this Love Story started out as deception on Catherine's part.  While Owen thought he was part of a magic romance, Catherine was setting up her alibi.  I think once Catherine had Owen wrapped around her finger, maybe she offered some candor about her problem, maybe not.  Drawing upon Owen's likely infatuation, I think Catherine persuaded him to move out of the castle with her, move to the country and claim her child as his.  This would give Edmund Beaufort the protection he needed.  Once Owen agreed to the scheme, maybe he quietly resigned his job and disappeared. A couple weeks later, Catherine told the officials she had decided to live away from court.  They reunited at her palace in Hertfordshire 30 miles north of London.  Probably no one even noticed the two events were connected. 

Catherine had her baby out in the countryside away from prying eyes.  She said the child belonged to Owen Tudor and no one bothered to dig deeper since Catherine stayed out of politics from that point on.  The reports say that Catherine stayed off the radar for several years.   She came to visit her son Henry VI from time to time, but always kept it low-key. 

What about Owen?  Look at it from Owen's point of view.  If he saw things in a practical way, he had much to gain here... a relationship with a beautiful woman, the status of marrying the former Queen, the very real possibility their son could be a royal someday (French royal blood), and the considerable estate that Catherine possessed.  In other words, Owen was in the right place at the right time to luck into something very good.  His station in life was dramatically elevated.  All Owen had to do was swallow his pride a little.

The evidence suggests that Owen and Catherine did develop something special once removed from public scrutiny.  The two of the lived in the country away from the limelight, always doing their best to keep a low profile.  During this time, they had five children.  Edmund, Jasper and Owen, the three sons born to the couple, were all born away from court.  Out of sight, out of mind.


If my fanciful 'alternative story' is correct, we have a very plausible answer to the question of how a lowly Welshman bedded a Queen and started a dynasty.  It was Catherine's idea all along! 

Personally, I believe that Edmund Beaufort is the likely father of Edmund Tudor.  I say this simply because no woman in her right mind would insult her new lover without a damn good reason.  Since he failed to object, I contend Owen had to know exactly what was going on!!  

My opinion contradicts the history books.  Catherine publicly stated that Edmund was the son of Owen Tudor, so maybe Owen Tudor was the father just like Catherine said he was.

But I doubt it.  So does historian John Ashdown-Hill, a man with a formidable reputation. 

In addition to his doctorate in history, John Ashdown-Hill is a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, a Fellow of The Society of Antiquaries, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and a member of the Society of Genealogists, the Richard III Society, and the Centre Europeen d'Etudes Bourguignonnes.  I would guess that this gentleman is eminently qualified to comment on this story.

As for my own credentials, they are non-existent in the field of history.  I fully admit I have no credibility which explains why I have chosen to ride the coattails of this esteemed scholar. 

The bottom line is that neither Dr. Ashdown-Hill nor I believe the Owen Tudor-Fair Catherine Fairy Tale took place as reported.


Whatever the truth, ultimately it doesn't make much difference who the father was.  Edmund Beaufort or Owen Tudor, either way Edmund Tudor was illegitimate.  Harsh words, but let's get one thing straight... there has never been any direct evidence for the lawful marriage of Owen and Catherine.  No witness stepped forward nor did any written record of their marriage exist.  Centuries have passed, but no one has yet to find a time or a place of Owen's marriage to Catherine.  They were 'married' simply because Henry VI said so when he legitimized the Catherine/Owen children in 1452.

Ordinarily I wouldn't make such a fuss about something as absurd as Edmund Tudor's parentage except for the fact that we are talking about the start of a royal dynasty here.  Unsurprisingly, Henry the Seventh was said to be extremely touchy about this particular subject.  There is a saying that history is written by the winners.  I suspect that once Henry VII finished rewriting the 15th century history books, the English people were expected to believe that his origins lie in a curious romance that defied all common sense.

Faced with accounts that are sprinkled with the words 'legend' and 'about', we will never know the truth.  Catherine was an isolated, lovelorn widow who died without ambition or accomplishment.  She left us no diaries, no recorded personal thoughts, and no interesting speeches.  Her only deeds of note were to give birth to a crazy king, Henry VI, and an illegitimate son named Edmund. 

And that’s all history would have known of her if not for the fact that Henry VII's propaganda machine worked so hard to make us believe an astonishing tale that a Queen would somehow stoop so low as to share her bed with a servant based on 'love'.  Yeah, nice try, Henry.


Final Thoughts on Owen and Catherine's Story

After I finished writing my story about Owen and Catherine, I found myself curious to know if there was a different Edmund in Catherine's life that might explain her choice of the name.   I decided to poke around a few websites and look for another reason to explain the Edmund/Edmund name coincidence.  After a considerable amount of time, I did find something interesting:

The name Edmund is believed to have been chosen for Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, whom recent unproven theories suggest was actually his father.  But a more likely explanation is that Beaufort stood as the child's godfather at his christening.  It was a common practice at the time to name a child after a godparent.  (source)

I was not at all satisfied with this explanation.  The explanation seemed unbearably convenient.  Edmund Beaufort would have been between 22 and 24 at the time of Edmund Tudor's birth.  Isn't that a bit 'young' to be named as a godfather?  Would not the former queen of England be able to find someone a bit older and more respectable to be the child's godfather than her former boyfriend?  And how would Owen feel about her former boyfriend being named as godfather?  (Yes, we are back to that again).

Nevertheless, I decided the explore the 'godfather' explanation a bit further.  So I went to Google and typed in: edmund tudor godfather

Lo and behold, I discovered a scholarly attempt to settle the same question:  Why would Catherine name her son 'Edmund'?

The following is an excerpt.  You can read the entire thread yourself here.

From: "Tony Hoskins" 
Subject: Edmund Tudor a (Beaufort-) Plantagenet?
Date: Sat, 11 Aug 2007 10:54:28 -0700

I raise this matter again.

"Around 1424, rumours about her [Catherine of France, Queen of England] connection with Owen Tudor were heard."

The naming of their first child, Edmund Tudor, has also led to serious speculation on whether Henry VII, Edmund Tudor's son, descended from Beauforts on both sides of his pedigree."

Edmund Tudor's birth date seems vague.

Since arguably Edmund Tudor might just have easily have been born from say about 1427-1432, his father might well have been Edmund Beaufort, known to have been a suitor for Queen Catherine at least in 1427/8.

Jones also says:

"[Queen Catherine] may have taken Tudor as her husband to prevent her true love, Edmund Beaufort, suffering the penalties of the statute of 1428, since Owen had so few possessions to forfeit."

That the widowed Queen Catherine's eldest son should be named Edmund - a name appearing in neither the families of Owen Tudor nor the Valois - taken in conjunction with the chronology, the vague dates, and the known attraction c.1427/8 (at least) between Queen Catherine and Edmund Beaufort is striking.

Does anyone have any thoughts or comments on this?

            Tony Hoskins

Anthony Hoskins
History, Genealogy and Archives Librarian
History and Genealogy Library
Santa Rosa, California 95404


Here are excerpts of what Tony Hoskins' colleague Brad Verity wrote in reply:

 And who else in the royal family should stand as godfather to a son borne by the queen as a result of a marriage to a man of lesser social standing that was not known to the public, or even to the royal council?  Conceivably a number of others could be godfather. But why Edmund Beaufort?

 The alternative explanation is that Queen Catherine named her bastard son Edmund because that was his father's name, which seems the best way of any of trumpeting the child's true paternity - a stupid decision if the point was to hide the fact.

 The Queen secretly marries a low-level chump instead in order to prevent the real man she loves from losing his lands? 

 There is supposed to be evidence of the "hot and heavy" relationship with Owen.  I know of none, save the abundant mythology surrounding Catherine and Owen. There *is* on the other hand documentation of the Queen's passion for Edmund Beaufort.

 The fact is that Catherine kept it well hidden.  Perhaps the "secret marriage" to Owen Tudor was kept purposely murky as to specifics because it covered up the fact that her son Edmund was born illegitimately to the Queen and Edmund Beaufort, and that the clandestine nature of her subsequent marriage to Owen - after the fact of Edmund "Tudor's" birth - allowed for cover.

 The case for Edmund Tudor being Edmund Beaufort's son is plausible on many levels.

From: "D. Spencer Hines"
Subject: Re: Edmund Tudor a (Beaufort-) Plantagenet?
Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2007 09:40:01 +1000

Desperate, Rampant Speculation.


Rick Archer's Note: 

I have mentioned this thread to show that I am not the only one who finds the matching Edmund names to be disturbing.  The thread makes it clear that the Edmund Tudor-Edmund Beaufort parentage question is considered a very real possibility in scholarly circles.  And yet at the same time, D. Spencer Hines readily dismissed the entire thought.  Hines later added that 'Tony [Hoskins] is living in Fantasy Land'.

Whatever the truth here, something remarkable did appear to take place between Catherine and Owen after they left the castle. 

As a poignant footnote to this story, Owen and Catherine had six happy years together (1430-1436).  Unfortunately, their quiet life came to an end in 1436.  Catherine was pregnant with her fifth child by Owen Tudor when rumors of the Queen's secret marriage reached the ear of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the ever-present villain in this story. 

Humphrey immediately had Owen imprisoned on a charge of treason.  Deeply distressed and traumatized at the forced separation from her husband and children, Catherine went to Bermondsey Abbey to have her child.  Shortly after giving birth to their daughter Margaret, Catherine fell gravely ill and died quickly.  She was 35.  There are reports that she died in disgrace.  No mention of her marriage to Owen Tudor was made on her gravestone. 

Upon Owen's arrest, the queen believed there was no chance of reuniting.  Without hope, some say Catherine died because she wanted to. 

As it turned out, the Queen was wrong.  Several years later, Owen Tudor was released.  Sad to say, he became an early casualty in the Wars of the Roses.  Owen joined his son Jasper's army in Wales in January 1461, a force which was defeated at the Battle of Mortimer's Cross by Edward of York (Edward IV).  Owen Tudor was captured and beheaded following the battle.

Moments before his execution, Owen murmured, "my head shalle ly on the stocke that was wonte to ly on Quene Katheryns lappe."

I have suggested that Catherine may have exploited Owen in the beginning to provide cover for Edmund Beaufort.  Whether this is true or not is anyone's guess.  What I am touched by is the evidence that these two people went to their death loving each other intensely. 

The expression 'epic, earth-shattering love affair' may not have missed the mark after all.


Margaret Beaufort, the Red Queen

Margaret Beaufort was the Red Queen of Lancaster to Elizabeth Woodville's White Queen of York during the War of the Roses.  During Act One and Act Two, the two women were on opposite sides, but would become allies late in the game to help bring down Richard III, the villain of Act Three.

Margaret would marry Edmund Tudor, the much-discussed illegitimate son of Owen and Catherine.  Together they produced Henry Tudor, the man who would one day become King Henry VII, the first ruler in the Tudor Dynasty.  In many ways, Margaret Beaufort's passion to advance her son Henry Tudor to the throne matched that of her predecessor Margaret of Anjou in regards to her son Edward.  Margaret B. would stop at nothing.

Margaret Beaufort was a direct descendant of King Edward III through his son John of Gaunt.  There is a chart below to help follow my narrative.

John of Gaunt had a wife, Blanche, and a mistress, Katherine Swynford

Through Blanche, John was the forefather of three kings: Henry IV (Bolingsbroke), Henry V of Agincourt fame, and Henry VI whose madness caused the War of the Roses.  When Edward, son of Margaret of Anjou, died at Tewkesbury, this line died out.

John of Gaunt produced a second line through Katherine Swynford, his mistress whom he married late in life.  Her three children were illegitimate, but later legitimized by King Richard II in 1390.  

John Beaufort, the First Earl of Somerset, had two sons.  His oldest son, John Beaufort, the First Duke of Somerset, had only one child... Margaret Beaufort.  His second son, Edmund Beaufort, the Second Duke of Somerset, is the one who caused all the trouble.  Edmund had three sons, all of whom died fighting in the War of the Roses.  Edmund Beaufort also had two illegitimate sons.  One, Edward by Margaret of Anjou, died fighting at Tewkesbury. 


The other illegitimate son, Edmund Tudor, married Edmund Beaufort's niece Margaret Beaufort to produce Henry Tudor.  If one believes that Edmund Beaufort was Edmund Tudor's father, then Edmund Tudor was Margaret's first cousin, in which case the royal house of ‘Tudor’ sprang in fact from Beauforts on both sides. 

This would be very ironic.  Edmund Beaufort, the leader of the House of Lancaster, was the big loser during the War of the Roses.  In addition to getting himself killed, his three sons were killed, his son-in-law was killed, his grandson was killed, and one of his illegitimate sons was killed.  Through his family's pursuit of the throne, the entire male line of the Beauforts was extinguished. 

Now only Edmund's niece Margaret Beaufort was left, which explains how she became the head of the House of Lancaster.  Thanks to Margaret, Edmund Beaufort's bastard son Edmund Tudor found the Tudor Line.  In order words, Edmund Beaufort's ambition eradicated the House of Beaufort, but he also secretly started the House of Tudor.  Very curious.

As one can see, the future Henry VII was born with a claim to the English crown which was threadbare and ridiculously complicated.  So let me simplify things... his mother Margaret Beaufort would supply enough royal Plantagenet blood to allow her son Henry to become king in 1485. 

In my opinion, Margaret Beaufort was the most remarkable woman of her era.  She was blessed with talent and tremendous wealth, yet had to overcome unbelievable hardship to finally take control of her life.  Despite being one of the wealthiest women in England, Margaret Beaufort (1443-1509) went from a position of complete powerlessness to one of almost total power.  

We already know that Margaret was a direct descendant from the wealthy family of John of Gaunt.  As the first son of her grandfather John Beaufort, Margaret's father John Beaufort inherited vast estates as the Duke of Somerset

John Beaufort had endured 17 years as a prisoner of war, the longest imprisonment of any English aristocrat during the Hundred Years War.  By the time of his release, John was an embittered man, broken in both body and spirit, heavily in debt.  Beaufort returned to England long enough to sire Margaret, his only child, but then was immediately ordered to return to France for more fighting. 


Margaret never knew her father.  At the moment of her birth, her father was preparing to go to France to lead an important military expedition for King Henry VI.  Beaufort negotiated with the king to ensure that in case of his death the rights to Margaret's wardship and marriage would be granted only to his wife Margaret Beauchamp.  (Under English law, as a tenant-in-chief of the crown the wardship of Beaufort's heir fell to the crown under the feudal system.)


Alas, Margaret's father was a notable failure as a military commander just about the time Margaret was born.  His blunders in France contributed directly to the loss of many French territories towards the end of the Hundred Year's War.  John Beaufort fell out with the king after coming back from France and was banished from the royal court pending a charge of treason against him.  He committed suicide shortly afterwards in 1444. 

John Beaufort was not the only failure.  His brother Edmund Beaufort had failed even worse.  The lasting effect of the two Beaufort failures was burning resentment between the House of York and remaining members of the Beaufort family.  This would create the intense rivalry between Edmund Beaufort and Richard of York that led to the War of the Roses in 1453. 

Margaret, as an only child, was heiress to her father's fortune.  Upon her first birthday, King Henry VI broke the arrangement with Margaret's father and granted the wardship of her extensive lands to William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, although Margaret herself remained in the custody of her mother Margaret Beauchamp.  Margaret knew happiness in her mother's home for three years, but then she was yanked away.

Apparently Margaret's mother Margaret Beauchamp did not have much say-so in the matter of her own daughter.  Incredibly, at age 4, Margaret was taken away to live with William de la Pole and his wife.  Two years later, Margaret was married.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Before his death, William de la Pole managed to arrange the marriage of his young ward Margaret to his son, John de la Pole.  Margaret was six years old!!  Her groom was an older man, seven.  The reason for the marriage?  De la Pole had been arrested and was looking to secure his son's future.  Imagine being six and married. 

In 1449, Henry VI dissolved this sham marriage and granted Margaret's wardship to his own half-brothers, Jasper and Edmund Tudor.  Margaret was 8.  Her two new 'parents' Edmund and Jasper were teenagers only about 10-12 years older than she was.



Edmund and Jasper Tudor

Edmund and Jasper Tudor were born five months apart in 1431.  Or so Wikipedia says.  Wikipedia lists Edmund's birthday as June 1431 and lists Jasper's birthday as November 1431.  The truth is that all these birthdays are guesses.  If indeed Edmund Beaufort was really Edmund Tudor's father, Edmund could have been born anywhere from three to four years earlier.  No one really knows.

Thanks to their mother Catherine, Edmund and Jasper were half-brothers to King Henry VI who was approximately ten years older.  Henry had no idea of their existence until 1436.  There was a good reason for that... Catherine kept the existence of her family a secret to avoid persecution.  It didn't work.  In 1436, someone informed Humphrey, the Regent, about Catherine's family.  Owen Tudor was arrested and sent to Newgate prison.  Catherine died at Bermondsey Abbey a few months later as a consequence of giving birth to her daughter.  On her death bed, Catherine told Henry the whole story. 

Owen Tudor was released from prison in 1439 thanks to Henry VI.  Henry granted him a general pardon, restoring his goods and lands

At his mother's dying request, Henry would also begin to care for the children.  Jasper, Edmund, and possibly their sister were put into the care of Katherine de la Pole, a nun at Barking Abbey, in Essex, from 1437 to 1442.  The de la Pole family was a great favorite of Henry VI.  Katherine was the sister of William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, the family that was caring for Margaret Beaufort.  As one can see, the de la Poles were the connection that bound the fortunes of the Tudor boys and the Beaufort girl together.

In 1442, Henry VI, now 21, began to take a greater interest in the boy's upbringing.  Jasper and Edmund 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.  During this time, Henry grew very fond of the two boys and trusted them.    

In 1445, Henry VI married Margaret of Anjou.  Margaret was more or less the same age as the two boys.  The three of them got along just fine.  Margaret could see they had her husband's best interests at heart.  In addition, they had no blood ties to the English throne, so they were not a threat. 

In 1452, incredibly, Henry VI interfered with Margaret Beaufort's life again.  William de la Pole had come into great disfavor with Henry, so Henry decided to grant custody of Margaret to his two half-brothers, Edmund, 21, and Jasper Tudor, 20.  Now that Henry VI had come of age, he had the power to give earldoms to both brothers. Jasper became Earl of Pembroke 1n 1452 and Edmund became the First Earl of Richmond.  In turn, Edmund, 23, and Jasper, 21, gave Henry unwavering loyalty.  They fought for the Lancasters and promoted Henry's interests unwaveringly throughout their lives.


1453 was the year all hell would break loose in England.  England lost the Hundred Year's War, Margaret of Anjou was pregnant with Edmund Beaufort's illegitimate child, Henry VI collapsed into a catatonic state, and Richard of York was pushing hard to be named the heir presumptive of England.  

In 1453 William de la Pole fell into disfavor.  Shortly before his 1453 descent into madness, Henry VI dissolved Margaret Beaufort's first marriage and made her a ward of Edmund and Jasper with the understanding that Margaret, 9, would marry his half-brother Edmund went she grew old enough at age 12.  In March 1453, Edmund and Jasper were given joint custody of Margaret Beaufort, heiress of the Duke of Somerset. 

Two years later England was now embroiled in civil war.  Margaret was 12 when she married the 24-year-old Edmund Tudor on 1 November 1455.  The Wars of the Roses would cast a dark cloud over their marriage.  About four months after the wedding, Edmund was sent to uphold the authority of the King in South Wales. While he was there, Richard of York was overthrown by the re-awakened King Henry.  In retaliation, Yorkist forces were sent to engage those of Edmund Tudor in South Wales.  Edmund was captured at Carmarthen Castle.  He would die in captivity of bubonic plague on 3 November 1456. 

Margaret was seven months pregnant with their child when Edmund died.  Taken into the care of her brother-in-law Jasper at Pembroke Castle, the Countess gave birth on 28 January 1457 to her only child, Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII of England.  The birth was particularly difficult due to her young age and small size.  At one point, both the Countess and her child were close to death

Margaret would never give birth again.  In fact, sex was so painful that Margaret could barely stand the thought.  At 13, an age when some girls were still playing with dolls, Margaret was widowed with a baby boy and living in Wales, a rough and tumble world akin to living in the Wild, Wild West.  


Henry Stafford

Keep these three dates in mind:  3 November 1456.  28 January 1457.  6 April 1457.  Unless my math is wrong, each date is about two months apart, yes?   Husband dies, child is born, next husband begins.

Margaret was forced to marry at age 6, a thought our modern minds find inconceivable.  Her next experience was marriage at 12 to a man twice her age and twice her size.  That marriage was a nightmare.  First her new husband practically ruptured her having sex at too young an age.  Then she discovered Edmund was dead one year after the wedding.  Two months later she gave birth, an act that left her physically damaged in child birth and psychologically scarred. 

Margaret was understandably terrified of being stuck with another husband against her will.  So Margaret took matters into her own hands.  Before her child was even born, Margaret was already searching for her next husband.  Margaret set her eyes on Henry Stafford, 32, the younger son of the Duke of Buckingham.  It was a shrewd choice, a political transaction, not a personal one.  It was also a really gutsy move.


To request this marriage, Margaret was supposed to get permission from Humphrey Stafford, Henry Stafford's father.  This meant a 13 year old girl went to see a 54 year old man to ask if she could marry a 32 year old man.  One can only wonder if she waited till her child was born to go ask.  Does anyone besides me see the humor in this??

Humphrey Stafford was not just the powerful Duke of Buckingham, he was the most important member of the Lancastrian court.  This meant Margaret, age 13, 5 feet tall, 90 pounds, was meeting a 54 year-old peer of the realm to propose a marriage.  Mind you, these were the days when men ran the show. Yet frail Margaret, a remarkable teenager to say the least, was going toe to toe with one of England's big shots.  No doubt Margaret's confidence was assisted by the fact that she was a wealthy heiress of royal blood. 

The Duke of Buckingham approved her offer.  However, there was one problem... they were second cousins, so they needed a special dispensation in order to be married.  The approval came through on 6 April 1457.  This date took place just two months after Margaret gave birth on 28 January 1457.  The Countess had endured a rough childbirth, being close to death after childbirth.  Nevertheless, Margaret bounced back quickly.  She got off her death bed and immediately landed her next husband.  Impressive.

Incidentally, before I take this story any further, let me warn the reader of an impending deluge of identical names.  It took me an hour just to figure out there were two different Margaret Beauforts existing side by side.  Both Margarets had Beauchamps for mothers and both Margarets married Staffords.  Talk about confusing!


There was quite a bit of irony in Margaret's marriage to Henry Stafford... a special dispensation was required for the marriage of Margaret Beaufort and Henry Stafford because they were second cousins.  What was funny here is that previously Margaret Beaufort had unknowingly married her first cousin Edmund Tudor.

Let us not forget that Edmund Tudor potentially carried the madness of French king Charles VI.  With all this inbreeding, no wonder there is so much madness in the English line.  Thank goodness for all the illegitimate children.  Otherwise there would never be any fresh blood.

After the dispensation was granted, Margaret and Henry were free to marry.   On 3 January 1458, Margaret married Sir Henry Stafford (1425–1471), son of Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham. 

However, her new marriage caused Margaret great heartache.  Margaret was forced to leave her baby son Henry behind at Pembroke Castle to go live with her new husband.  Jasper stayed behind to care for the baby boy not quite one yet. 


At the time Margaret married in 1458, the War of the Roses was at its most bitter stage.  The eventual York triumph in 1461 would bring changes to baby Henry's life. 

Control of Pembroke Castle passed to Lord William Herbert which meant Henry's Lancaster uncle Jasper was forced into exile while baby Henry stayed behind.  Since the wardship of Henry Tudor had been given to Lord Herbert, by law Henry was now living with a new family at Pembroke Castle in Wales. 


No doubt the little boy was bewildered... no father, no mother, no uncle, raised by strangers.  Fortunately Henry was treated well by his new family.  In addition, Margaret was allowed to see him occasionally.  Still, it broke her heart to know her son was growing up without her care.

The War of the Roses would cost the Stafford family immensely.

Margaret's husband Henry lost his brother Humphrey to Richard of York in the 1458 Battle of St. Albans.  His father Humphrey died in the pivotal 1460 Battle of Northampton to Warwick. 

In 1483, Henry's namesake nephew would die in a lost cause known as Buckingham's Rebellion.  Henry himself and his other brother John would both die in 1471 in battles trying to help Edward IV regain his throne. 

As one can see, in a manner similar to America's Civil War, the War of the Roses took an enormous toll of it own. 


Edward IV, a York, was the new king, so Margaret, a Lancaster, had to adjust.  Margaret had shown that she was a pragmatic woman.  In order to safeguard her fortunes, she and her husband Henry Stafford sought a rapprochement with Edward who fortunately was in a forgiving mood.  There are mixed accounts of Margaret's 13-year marriage to Henry Stafford.  On the one hand, Margaret and Henry were said to spend a great deal of time together.  The evidence of the Stafford household books shows that the couple rarely left each other's company, touring their estates and attending parliament together.

Thanks to Margaret's estate, money was not a problem, but in a way it was.  Henry Stafford had no title, but he did have some land.  Henry was given 400 marks' worth of land by the Duke of Buckingham.  This paled in comparison to Margaret's vast estates.  Strange as it must seem, this 13 year old girl dominated her 32 year old husband from the very start.  Stafford was a passive, gentle man.  Margaret got her way in virtually every dispute. 

Three years after they were married, the Yorks came into power.  Margaret was a Lancaster by birth.  So was Henry Stafford.  The couple did their best to come to terms with the new Yorkist dynasty.  Henry enjoyed close access to Edward IV, frequently hunting with him in Windsor park.  Henry and Margaret took advantage of the proximity of the King to entertain him at their hunting lodge at Brookwood.  Margaret had risen high enough in the King’s favor that they even entertained him at their home, always a huge undertaking.  What must have been going through Margaret’s head as she wined and dined the man who was responsible for so many deaths in her family?

Henry Stafford seemed exasperated with Margaret much of the time.   To begin with, Margaret was extremely pious.  Her religious tendencies made it difficult for Henry to deal with her sense of righteousness.  Every time he turned around, Margaret was explaining why he had to do something because it was 'God's Will'. 

The real strain in their marriage came when Margaret began to talk fervently about the day her son would become king.  Margaret claimed to have had a vision that her son would one day become king.  With no other children a possibility due to Margaret's earlier childbirth injuries, Margaret began to obsess about Henry.  Margaret, with her deep faith, believed that it was always God’s plan that Henry should be king. 

Unfortunately, this kind of talk was treasonous in a time when mercy was in short supply.  Stafford was torn between his obvious concern for his wife's well-being and his annoyance at her fanatical nature, given that he supported the Yorkists despite his wife's strong (and hidden) loyalty to the Lancasters.  Fortunately, Margaret had the sense to keep her radical talk inside the family walls.  She wisely kept a low political profile during her 13-year marriage to Henry Stafford. 

In 1470, Warwick and Margaret of Anjou had made their deal with the Devil.  Warwick's surprise rebellion caught King Edward totally flat-footed.  Edward barely escaped to Flanders while his wife Elizabeth Woodville took their children and fled to Westminster Abbey for sanctuary.  The Lancasters were back in charge.

One year later, in 1471 Edward staged his counter-attack.  Margaret's husband Henry Stafford suffered serious wounds at the Battle of Barnet while fighting for the victorious Yorkist side.  Henry died of his wounds shortly after.  Margaret could not decide whether she was sad or glad.  Henry Stafford had always been good to her, but she what she really wanted to do was focus on her son's destiny. 


There was a strange consequence emanating from the 1471 Battle of Barnet and subsequent Battle of Tewkesbury... the leading Lancaster men were dead!! 

The secret pillow-smother execution of Lancaster King Henry VI shortly thereafter left Margaret Beaufort and her son Henry Tudor as the senior representatives of the House of Lancaster. 

With the male line of the House of Lancaster extinct, Henry Tudor claimed to be the Lancastrian heir through his mother Margaret Beaufort.  In addition, Margaret reminded everyone that her son's father Edmund was the maternal half-brother of Henry VI.

However, at this point (1471), Yorkist Edward IV was securely established on the throne.  Henry Tudor, now 14, and Jasper Tudor were Lancasters, so they wisely went to Brittany, France, in exile. 

Meanwhile, back in England, Margaret prayed for her son Henry.  Someday Henry might have an outside shot at the throne!



Henry Tudor

The White Queen was a ten-part British television drama which told the War of the Roses from the female perspective.  The series was based on Philippa Gregory's historical novels The White Queen, The Red Queen, and The Kingmaker's Daughter.  It explained how three relentless women - Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort, and Anne Neville - vied to put their sons on the throne in 15th Century England.

Margaret Beaufort left Pembroke Castle when she married Henry Stafford in 1458.  Her departure came just 28 days after giving birth toher baby boy.  This picture shows a scene in the TV series when young Henry barely knew his own mother when Margaret came to visit.  Margaret was beside herself with misery at being separated from Henry, but there was little she could do about it. 

I have to say that the White Queen series brought things to life in ways that are far superior to reading the dry Wikipedia accounts of the same events. 

The TV series was fascinating, but it was also ridiculously confusing.  There were so many characters I could not keep track of them all... sort of like my story, right?  

I will say, however, I always knew who Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale) was.  Margaret dominated every scene thanks to her religious zeal and fanatic determination to promote her son to the throne.

Young Henry had to struggle his entire childhood.  Like his mother, Henry Tudor never knew his father.  In 1456, Henry's father Edmund Tudor was captured while fighting for Henry VI in South Wales against the Yorkists.  He died in Carmarthen Castle, three months before Henry was born.  Edmund's brother Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, undertook to protect the young widow Margaret, who was 13 years old when she gave birth to Henry in 1457.  

The second picture is amusing because it reveals that Margaret, 42, a child bride, was young enough for her son, 28, to date.  But let's not go there. 

Henry spent his youth negotiating danger caused by the nightmare politics of the unending Wars of the Roses.  Fortunately, Henry always seemed to have Jasper, his loyal uncle, at his side for protection.  Jasper was a godsend. 

When the Lancasters were in power, Henry and Jasper were safe because King Henry VI was Jasper's half-brother.  But when the Yorks were in charge, Jasper was in danger.  Therefore when Edward IV overthrew Henry VI in 1461, Jasper Tudor went into exile abroad, but Henry stayed behind at Pembroke Castle.   The Earldom of Pembroke was granted to the Yorkist William Herbert, who now assumed the guardianship of the young Henry, 4. 

Talk about feeling orphaned!  Young Henry had never known a father and had been parted from his uncle and mother as well. Fortunately, the Herberts seem to have treated the boy kindly and had given him gentleman's education

Henry lived in the Herbert household for 8 years.  In 1469 Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, the Kingmaker, double-crossed and went over to the Lancaster side.  Lord Herbert was captured fighting for the Yorkists and executed by Warwick.  There was a terrible scene where young Henry had to watch his guardian Herbert beheaded.  Fortunately the boy himself was safe because Warwick was fighting for the Lancasters.

When Warwick restored Henry VI to the throne a year later in 1470, Jasper Tudor returned from exile and brought Henry Tudor to royal court.  However, Henry VI's reinstatement lasted only a year until Edward IV's comeback.

During Edward's comeback, following the Battle of Barnet, Henry had returned with his Uncle Jasper to Pembroke Castle.  It was Jasper that Margaret of Anjou had been so desperately trying to reach when Edward chased her down at Tewkesbury.  This battle affected Henry Tudor in a strange way. 

John Beaufort died in the fighting at the 1471 Battle of Tewkesbury.  John's older brother Edmund Beaufort II took refuge in Tewkesbury Abbey.  He was soon forced from sanctuary and executed.  Since the Beaufort brothers died unmarried, "the house of Beaufort and all the honors to which they were entitled became extinct". 

In other words, Tewkesbury was the 'end of the line' for the House of Beaufort, at least on the legitimate male side.  Margaret Beaufort and her son Henry were now the senior representatives of the House of Lancaster. 

The secret execution of King Henry VI came a week later in the Tower of London.  His death left Henry as the main threat to Edward IV.  Henry did not have much of a claim to the throne, but his pedigree... son of a woman who descended from royalty, son of a man who descended from the former queen... was upsetting to the Yorkists.  

This explains why Henry, 14, was forced to begin living in exile in France for his own safety.  Sensing Edward would come after them, Jasper and Henry narrowly escaped a forming siege by the Yorkist army at Pembroke Castle. They managed to sail to Brittany in 1471

With Yorkist King Edward IV back on the throne, Henry Tudor was now a marked man.  Since it was not safe for him to return to England, Henry would not see his mother again for 14 years.  During this period, the relationship between mother and her only son was sustained by letters.

Brittany had become something of a Lancastrian refuge.  Henry, Jasper, and a band of Lancaster loyalists spent the next 14 years under the protection of Francis II, Duke of Brittany, while Henry waited for an opening.

Duke Francis protected Henry from England's Yorkist king, Edward IV, who wanted him in his own hands. Louis XI of France also tried to get Henry into his clutches.  It was such a desperately insecure situation that Henry developed sharp instincts to survive.  The young Tudor grew to manhood cautious, prudent and deeply reserved.  This was good because Henry would need his wits to save him from danger three times in the coming years. 

The first escape came in November 1476.  When Francis, Henry's protector, fell ill, his principal advisers negotiated with the English king.  Henry was handed over and escorted to the Breton port of Saint-Malo. 

While there, Henry feigned stomach cramps.  In the confusion, Henry fled into a monastery.  Edward IV ordered his extraction with the intention of executing the lad, 19.  However, the townspeople took exception to this strong-arm behavior and alerted Duke Francis.  He recovered from his illness long enough to send a small band of scouts to rescue Henry. 

This had been a close call.  There would be others.



Lord Thomas Stanley

Following Henry Stafford's death, Margaret, 28, was a widow again, but not for long.  One year later she remarried.  Margaret wanted to begin playing politics, but she needed a ticket to enter the rarified circles of the Royal Court.  She set her sights on Lord Thomas Stanley.  Stanley, 36, was a landed magnate of immense power, particularly across the northwest of England where his authority went almost unchallenged, even by the Crown. 

Stanley was one of the most successful power-brokers of his age.  As testament to his gift for negotiating the treacherous climate, Stanley managed to remain in favor with successive kings throughout the Wars of the Roses.  That in itself speaks to Stanley's considerable wisdom. 

Stanley's first wife was Eleanor Neville, sister of Richard Neville, the Kingmaker.  This marriage in the late 1450s constituted a powerful alliance with the House of York.  Then tragedy struck.  Eleanor died of natural causes in 1471, the same year Margaret lost her husband. 

Margaret made a shrewd political move when she decided to chase Lord Stanley.  Margaret had just targeted the most powerful and trusted supporter of the ruling Yorks to be Husband number three.  She wanted a man who was clever enough to see that her son might have a chance at the throne one day and duplicitous enough to serve two sides at once. 

She found her perfect partner in Thomas Lord Stanley.  But why would he be interested in her??

As it turned out, Thomas Stanley, 36, was a businessman who loved to explore opportunities.  Stanley was very intrigued by this small, intense woman from the opposing side of the fence. 


Stanley, a man of considerable acumen, was a game player of sorts.  He had a theory that the only way to win all the time was to place a bet on both sides.  In this case, Stanley, a Yorkist through and through, had just been offered the chance to team up with a wealthy, well-connected member of the Lancaster family.  In a country where political change took place with mercurial speed, no doubt Margaret would come in handy because she would provide protection from any Lancaster developments.  In addition, she had this kid of hers as a Wild Card.  The birthright of her fugitive son might just prove useful as well. 


Stanley lacked for nothing... he had three male heirs, plenty of land, and a strong relationship with the crown.  What Stanley lacked was a challenge.  When Margaret pointed out her son had a shot at becoming king, Stanley just laughed. 

"Margaret, there are five men between your son and the crown - Edward, George, Richard, and Edward's two sons.  More heirs could be born.  The chances of your Henry getting a chance are very remote."

"Yes, Lord Stanley, but I have been given a vision.  Don't ask me to explain it, but I have a strong belief in my heart that Henry is meant to be king.  I want you to help me."

Stanley was amused.  A marriage to this unusual woman might prove interesting.  Stanley was not interested in a wife for romantic reasons, but rather for political reasons.    The marriage settlement, drawn up in June 1472, was a careful business arrangement of mutual benefit. The risk was low and the potential benefits were high.  Two of England's wealthiest figures had just teamed up. 

Stanley got to work immediately.  With Stanley's assistance, Margaret was able to consolidate her landed estates.  In addition, Stanley introduced Margaret to the enemy.  Lord Stanley's influence enabled her to enter the royal court of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville.  To Stanley's surprise and further amusement, Margaret blended in and became very well liked.  Margaret was so liked in fact that Queen Elizabeth chose her as a godmother for Bridget of York, one of the princesses. 

The War of Roses had taken its toll.  After the death of so many leading Lancaster men, Margaret was now the most powerful Lancaster woman in England.  Her new Yorkist connections might seem to contradict Margaret as a committed Lancastrian, but Margaret was deliberately courting favor on both sides.  Margaret was building a power base.

Warwick the Kingmaker had once been Lord Stanley's brother-in-law.  Margaret wanted to be the next Kingmaker.  Her first step had been to gain this alliance with a powerful man.  To her delight, Lord Stanley got a kick out of watching her go to town. 


During the twelve year lull in fighting between Edward IV's 1471 victories and his death in 1483, Margaret used this time to learn how to negotiate the world of political affairs.  Her dominant characteristic was her political astuteness rather than blindly partisan allegiance. Margaret's way was to make friends and gain consensus through contacts and favors.  If the day ever came for her son Henry to make his move, these alliances would come in handy.  Stanley approved.  As he had guessed, watching this tiny, absurdly pious woman in action was like looking at himself in a mirror in oh so many ways.  Margaret was a woman after his own heart. 


When King Henry VI briefly returned to the throne in 1470, Margaret was there to welcome him.  When Edward IV regained the throne in 1471, Margaret changed stripes and was there to welcome him. 

Margaret deliberately avoided controversy.  In fact, Margaret went out of her way to make peace with the Yorks.  She struck up a cordial relationship with none other than Queen Elizabeth.  Considering the Queen had a considerable number of enemies, to see Elizabeth let down her guard a bit spoke well of Margaret.  Elizabeth seemed to appreciate Margaret's sharp eye and humility.

By 1480, Margaret was cozy enough with Queen Elizabeth to be named god mother to Bridget of York.  Margaret had gained enough trust that she felt safe negotiating with Edward for a pardon for her son so that he could return from exile.   However, Edward died suddenly in April of 1483.  So much for the pardon.  The Wheel of Fortune had turned again. 


Following Edward IV's untimely death and the subsequent seizure of the throne by Richard III, both Stanley and Margaret changed their spots brilliantly.  Lord Stanley, a cynical man, made sure to be one of the first to shake Richard's hand.  Later Lord Stanley bore the great mace at Richard's coronation. 

In turn, Margaret played her part to perfection.  She too was full of smiles and congratulations.  Indeed, Margaret played a leading part in the coronation of Richard III by being the first to offer to serve Anne Neville.  Smart move.  Margaret was given the honor of carrying Anne's train at Richard's coronation. 

However this time Margaret's friendship was two-faced.  She knew her moment had come.  Stanley did too. 

"Well, Margaret, I never should have doubted you about your son.  Indeed, the game is afoot.  Let's see what happens."

Sure enough, while appearing to loyally serve Richard and Anne, the new king and queen, Margaret was secretly plotting with the dowager queen, Elizabeth Woodville.


Mainstream Versus Creativity


Rick Archer's Note:  Few subjects hold more interest to the English people than the question of what happened to the Princes in the Tower.   For American citizens, the question of who assassinated President Kennedy is a close approximation to the amount of mystery surrounding this event. 

Keep in mind that we don't know if the princes were murdered or simply whisked away to Transylvania and never heard of again.  It is also important to note that few documents exist to offer clear-cut clues as to the fate of these two boys.  Therefore the historians have worked overtime trying to come up the answer.

The Mainstream theory is that Richard disposed of the boys.  I have found an excellent author named Matthew Lewis to defend this point of view.  The Creative theory is that Margaret Beaufort did it, a point of view best defended by an excellent author named Philippa Gregory espouses this point of view. 

Please understand that I respect the thoughts of both.  I present the ideas of both authors simply to allow the reader to join the interesting debate. 


Matthew Lewis

The importance of the vanished Princes in the Tower cannot be emphasized enough.  Back in the 15th century, in the court of public opinion, it was judged to be an unusually cruel move for Richard III to usurp the throne by murdering his dead brother's innocent and quite helpless sons. 

But did Richard really murder those boys?  The question has been heavily debated for six centuries.  In fact, I am surprised that an English version of a the board game Clue has not been invented with a Princes in the Tower theme. 

In addition to Richard, other murder suspects include a low-life agent hired by Margaret Beaufort, Lord Stanley himself, the Duke of Buckingham, a low-life agent hired by Anne Neville, and even Henry Tudor after he took the throne. 


What we do know is that the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower was seemingly a glaring political mistake on Richard's part because it was an unforgivable act.  History shows that the disappearance of these boys was the break of a lifetime for Margaret.  She was able to muster considerable support for the overthrow of Richard III based on what people believed was the blatant cold-blooded murder of the two boys. 

What is interesting, however, is just how much Margaret stood to gain from Richard's blunder.  In fact, Margaret stood to gain so much that people have long wondered if Margaret did the deed herself, then turned around and pointed her finger at Richard. 

Was it even possible?

Yes, according to author Matthew Lewis, it was. 

In his book Wars of the Roses, Mr. Lewis supports the mainstream idea that Richard was the likely culprit.  However, in his blog, Mr. Lewis also agrees the possibility that Margaret did the crime is not entirely implausible.  Those who automatically eliminate Margaret from suspicion are being ridiculous.  I have synthesized Mr. Lewis' ideas below, but you are welcome to read for yourself what Mr. Lewis has to say online: 

Matt's History Blog
~ Hopefully interesting snippets and thoughts regarding Margaret Beaufort and the Princes in the Tower

"The White Queen series (based on books by Philippa Gregory) stirred up the latent and under-examined but long-standing theory linking Margaret Beaufort to the disappearance and murder of the Princes in the Tower.  In short order, the increased attention drew an onslaught of opinion denouncing the theory as impossible, implausible nonsense.

My point here is that all of those who sneer at the notion that Margaret Beaufort could have been involved are, in my opinion, wrong.

Margaret had motive, means and opportunity, and that makes her a suspect."


Here is my summary of what Mr. Lewis proceed to say about Margaret's possible involvement. 

In the summer of 1483 Lord and Lady Stanley were riding high in royal favor.  Since they had done nothing to attract suspicion, they had easy access to the Tower.  We think of the Tower of London as a prison, but it was more like a royal office building back in those days.  The boys were not in some dungeon, but rather a comfortable royal suite (with locked doors).   Since the Tower was a very busy place, regular comings and goings for people of such influence as Lady Stanley or Lord Stanley would not necessarily be noticed.  Therefore, 'Opportunity' was surely within their reach. 

Considering Margaret had the reputation as the most pious woman in England, a cold-blooded assassination would certainly be considered a major departure from character.  That said, Margaret had Motive (her son's advancement), Means (Lord Stanley), and Opportunity. 

This doesn't mean Margaret committed the crime, but it does mean that Margaret was a viable suspect.  Therefore Ms. Gregory's alternative scenario with Margaret as the villain to Richard as the villain is not as far-fetched as people believe. 

There is a clear evidence that Margaret Beaufort immediately went to work plotting Richard's downfall shortly after his coronation.  The moment people began to openly wonder why the boys had not been seen in a while, it seems likely that Margaret opened up a clandestine line of communication to Elizabeth Woodville holed up in sanctuary at Westminster Abbey.

Margaret used her physician Lewis Caerleon, who posed as Elizabeth’s physician, to pass messages between the two women.

Most historians agree that at this time Margaret proposed that her son, Henry Tudor, be betrothed to Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of Queen Elizabeth and Edward IV.  On the surface, this was brilliant politics because it had to potential to create a marriage alliance which would attract both Yorkist and Lancastrian support. 

Where is Sherlock Holmes when we need him??


While Mr. Lewis agrees with Ms. Gregory that Margaret may indeed have been far more complicit in the crime than most historians believe, in his book War of the Roses, he accepts the Mainstream Scenario that Richard was the culprit. 

Mr. Lewis makes the following points:

   The idea that Margaret spent her whole life dreaming of putting Henry on the throne was far-fetched.  More likely her ambition took hold thanks to the curious events of Edward the King dying young and his unscrupulous brother Richard taking over. 

   Elizabeth would never have agreed to marry her daughter to Henry Tudor unless she was convinced her two boys had been murdered.  The likelihood that her sons were indeed dead is what persuaded Elizabeth to agree to marry her daughter Elizabeth of York to Henry Tudor. 

   Therefore, Margaret must have somehow convinced Elizabeth that the boys were gone.   If this is the case, then how did Margaret know the boys were dead? 

   Mr. Lewis answered his own question by saying that Margaret did not know, but had the sense to gamble and lie to Elizabeth about it. 

Please read the excerpt below written by Matthew Lewis. 


The Creativity of Philippa Gregory


The White Queen mini-series was adapted from a trilogy titled The Cousin's War.  In Episode 9, author Philippa Gregory made it clear she believed Margaret, not Richard, was responsible for the death of Elizabeth Woodville's two princes in the Tower.

In an early scene, Lord Stanley confronts Margaret Beaufort, his wife.  Stanley gets right to the point.

“What do you want to do about the two boys?  Save or slaughter?”

When Margaret gets a pained, doubtful look on her face, Stanley is not delicate about it.  He points out the necessity of their deaths.  However he also leaves the final decision up to his wife.  

When Margaret continues to hesitate, Lord Stanley demands of her harshly. “As I said, save or slaughter?”

With a nod, Margaret finally agrees the two boys have to go. 

Soon we see a hooded figure creep into the boy's room in the Tower and smother them to death with a pillow.  This was not Richard's idea after all, but rather an idea shared by Margaret, Stanley, and Buckingham as part of their rebellion plot. 


First Margaret sends her doctor to explain to Elizabeth that the two boys are in great danger.  Elizabeth, fearing for the boys' safety, accepts an offer of help to rescue them by Margaret, whose son Henry is now betrothed to Elizabeth's daughter Lizzie.

However something goes badly awry with the rescue/murder attempt.  Somehow the boys end up dead on a further try.  Margaret sends the doctor back over with the bad news.  Learning that her boys are dead, Elizabeth believes that she was double-crossed by Margaret in the Red Queen's ambition to see Henry crowned king.

When Elizabeth hears the news of her sons' death, she is overcome with grief.  And not just ordinary grief, but rather the profound grief of a mother who truly cares about her children.  Suspecting that Margaret is behind this, Elizabeth vows to get even. 

A week or so passes when Elizabeth hears there is rebellion about to take place against Richard.  This entire operation is being planned and funded by Margaret.  Elizabeth also learns that a major part of the plan involves Henry's return to England by crossing the English Channel.  Margaret's son Henry is supposed to sail with seven ships from France over to England to participate in the wide-spread uprising.  If the plot succeeds, Henry will take the throne.  Elizabeth is determined to foil this rebellion, but she has a problem... she is still stuck inside the sanctuary at Westminster Abbey with her twenty daughters (or maybe it was just seven; I lost count). 

So here is the question:  How does a mother tyically foil a rebellion while stuck in a virtual prison of sorts?

C'mon, now, I know a lot of you out there are mothers.  Surely this qualifies you to know exactly what the average mother would do to seek vengeance in a situation like this.  Well, just in case you come up empty, I will share with you what author Philippa Gregory suggested Elizabeth did.

Ms. Gregory had previously told us that Elizabeth inherited the power of sorcery from her mother Jacquetta.  Furthermore, while trapped in the Abbey, Elizabeth had just viewed Walt Disney's Fantasia.  Think about it... what does a mother with twenty daughters do when everyone is cooped up at home?  She gets out a video and the family watches the telly, of course. 

Fantasia gave Elizabeth an idea.  The next thing we see is that Margaret and her kinsman Buckingham have instigated a large-scale rebellion against Richard, but rebellion fails miserably.  And why does the Rebellion fail?

There is a storm.  And not a natural storm either, but rather the storm of all storms.


It is almost as if 'Fate' or God has intervened to foil the rebellion.  The storm completely ruined the rebellion, but then we discover this is Elizabeth's doing.

Using the magic words 'Mickey Mouse', Elizabeth has created the biggest, baddest damn storm in human history.

Birmingham was unable to cross rivers because the bridges are washed out.  Henry was unable to leave France because the storm is too great.  The rebellion collapsed.


Indeed, Elizabeth's sorcery ruined Margaret's grandiose scheme.  Elizabeth had her vengeance.   

So did it really happen this way?  Uh, maybe not.  I have a confession to make... I did some fibbing involved in the retelling of Episode Nine.  That part about Mickey Mouse was just some nonsense I made up.   But you already guessed that, didn't you?

And what about that big storm?  No, I didn't make that one up.  That was Ms. Gregory's idea.  She had Elizabeth Woodville wrinkle her nose a couple times and magically create the mother of all storms to frustrate Buckingham's rebellion and foil Margaret's dreams. 


One reviewer of the White Queen had this to say about White Queen Episode Nine:

"Philippa Gregory’s project - and so that of her White Queen series - was to tell a ripping yarn whilst refocusing history’s lens on the women whose political and emotional lives were buried beneath their official portraits and lists of issue."

Ripping yarn??  That may be a bit of an understatemnt.  I do not know Ms. Gregory personally, but I suspect she has used her imagination a bit in this retelling.  My hunch is this prolific, best-selling author did not achieve her phenomenal success by playing it safe.  In fact, I believe when given the choice, Ms. Gregory has made a habit of deliberately choosing the most entertaining option over the more mundane possibilities.   And why not?  No one really knows what happened six hundred years ago. 

As we know, England has an impressive legacy of stretching things a bit.  Witness the King Arthur mythology... Camelot, Holy Grail, Sword in the Stone, Guinevere, Lancelot, Galahad, Merlin... you name it.   But guess what?   (WARNING- SPOILER ALERT!!)

(Did you know some people believe all that King Arthur stuff was made up?  Have you ever heard anything more ridiculous?

And then there was that nonsense about what a great king Richard the Lionheart was...  And then there was that crazy story about Robin Hood and Maid Maiden, etc, etc, etc.

And... get this... some people have the nerve to say that William Shakespeare made some things up.  Yes, it's true!  In a manner similar to William Shakespeare, I think there are moments when a master yarn-teller such as Ms. Gregory would not dream of letting the truth get in the way of a good story.    If perchance Ms. Gregory used her imagination from time to time in telling the White Queen story, then who am I to quibble?  I daresay Ms. Gregory did not become a best-selling author by accident. 


For example, Ms. Gregory makes frequent use of Elizabeth's knack for sorcery.  The fact of the matter is that I would be perfectly happy to let the sorcery of the White Queen explain all sorts of weird phenomena such as the Bermuda Triangle and the Lost Continent of Atlantis.  I can be very open-minded.  In fact, maybe this would be a good time to confess I have written two books explaining why I believe in Fate.  (A Simple Act of Kindness, Destiny)

Unfortunately, despite my unapologetic embrace of all things Occult, the story of Hurricane Elizabeth was too implausible for even me to accept.  My built-in bullshit detector was having fits. 

On the other hand, I would prefer not to cross literary swords with the brilliant Philippa Gregory.  Since Ms. Gregory clearly knows more about this story than I can ever hope to know, I hope she doesn't take umbrage at my temerity to suggest a potential over-reach.

Let's put the debate over the big storm aside and concentrate instead on Ms. Gregory's claim that Margaret was responsible for the death of the two boys. 

According to Philippa Gregory, Margaret Beaufort had the strongest motive to eliminate the two boys.  Ms. Gregory pointed out that the death of the two boys allowed her son Henry Tudor to advance Two Steps closer to the throne Two steps, eh??  Aha, now this is a subject I am qualified to comment on! 

Being a dance teacher from Texas, I happen to be an expert at the Texas Two Step.  I say that gives me the right to offer my opinion on the Tower Two Step as well.  Personally, considering how religious Margaret was, my gut feeling is a murder of this nature would go too far against her conscience. 

When it came to religion, Margaret was on par with the Pope for intensity.  Although it is true that Margaret was at times fanatical in her support of Henry, based on the woman I saw portrayed on the White Queen and in the journals, I think Margaret deserves the benefit of the doubt on this one. 

I am with Gareth Streeter of Royal History Geeks on this one:  Margaret was not a sinister child killer.  I am not saying Margaret was perfect, but she was more likely to pray for something to happen than to sanction a hit.  To me, Richard III makes a heck of a lot more sense.  Shakespeare thought so too.



Richard was the one with the reputation for ruthlessness, not Margaret.  He had ordered several battlefield executions such as the beheading of Edward of Westminster at Tewkesbury.  He was likely present in the Tower to help his brother Edward suffocate old King Henry VI.  Richard had persuaded his brother Edward to put George to death.  Richard had sanctioned the cold-blooded murder of Elizabeth Woodville's beloved brother Anthony Woodville and her son Richard Grey.  Richard had assassinated Lord Hastings, the man who had been the most loyal supporter of the York cause imaginable.  Richard had blatantly kidnapped two boys and held them against their will. 

How much more evidence of Richard's cold-blooded nature do we need?  Richard was past the point of rescue.  Since Richard had already murdered several innocent men to eliminate threats to his rule, what difference would it make to murder two boys if it would clear the way for his crown??  After all, Richard's place in Hell was already assured. 

Yes, the history is very murky here.  How did Margaret manage to persuade Elizabeth to the union of Henry Tudor to Elizabeth of York?  My guess is that both women independently reached the same conclusion as the other.  So when Margaret's doctor brought up the possibility of foul pay, Elizabeth was already in agreement.  If Elizabeth did have a gift of sorts, no doubt her sixth sense had told her to brace for the worst. 

Here is the bottom line:  Elizabeth agreed to collaborate with Margaret and let her daughter marry Henry Tudor.   Give this cooperation, it makes little sense that Elizabeth would create a storm designed to destroy Henry Tudor, then turn around and agree to let him marry her daughter.  It makes much more sense that Elizabeth agreed with Margaret that Richard was guilty of foul play in the first place. 

Richard had kidnapped Edward and Richard to begin with and refused to allow them to be freed or be visited.  That put the blame squarely on Richard.  Therefore it makes complete sense for the two women to team up against a common enemy.  Unless the boys made a miraculous reappearance, the women would work together to promote Henry Tudor’s prospects of taking the throne.  The two women had made an unbelievable bargain. 


  After giving it some more thought, no, I still don't think Margaret did it.  But I wouldn't put it past Lord Stanley to do it behind Margaret's back.  That said, I have yet to find a credible source that points the finger at him. 

In addition, Mr. Streeter had this to say about Lord Stanley: 

"The Croyland Chronicle (c. 1486) and the account of Dominic Mancini (the only contemporary account) are important.  Collectively these documents give us a fair bit of information about how the Princes were drawn further deeper into the tower.  They make the case that all but Richard's closest and most trusted servants were dismissed and denied access to them.

It is this knowledge that is at the heart of the compelling - although circumstantial - evidence that the poor lads could only have been killed on Richard's orders or at the very least, he would soon have found out about it.

To me, it seems strange that if Stanley had done the deed, that Richard would not have been able to trace it back to him. Exposing the killer would have done Richard a favour - he could make it clear that the boys were dead but also that he was blameless. Such a scenario would probably have meant the Tudors never came to power."

Concerning the mystery of the Princes in the Tower, I also found a remarkable web site that helps clarify the murder case.  A man by the name of Mick Baker has synthesized an incredible amount of research into a remarkably comprehensible flow chart.  I am in awe of Mr. Baker's work.   (Source: History Files)



Buckingham's Rebellion


Henry Stafford, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, led a rebellion in mid October 1483, just four months after Richard's coronation.   Stafford had been Richard’s closest ally over the last few months, so no one is quite sure why Stafford turned against his partner in crime.

Stafford was one of the primary suspects in the disappearance (and presumed murder) of the Princes in the Tower.  Most people assume that Buckingham and Richard acted together in the death of the boys. 

Considering Buckingham was basically the 'Vice-President', or 'president of vice' if you prefer, it is surprising that he turned around and led a rebellion.  Perhaps the death of the two boys triggered Stafford's rebellion.  In the same manner as all the male Lancasters had been eliminated, now that the two princes were gone, Stafford (Buckingham), Richard III and Henry Tudor were the only surviving male heirs to the House of Plantagenet. 

The reasons why Buckingham led a rebellion against Richard are not clear but several possibilities can be considered.  First, Buckingham had just as legitimate a claim to the throne as Richard.  Gauging by popular dissatisfaction with the new king, Buckingham might feel he should take his chances and set himself up as the rival claimant (particularly since Edward V and Richard of York were supposedly murdered).  Second, as a rival claimant, Buckingham undoubtedly felt uneasy about his own safety.  Knowing Richard's penchant for murder and that he was a potential rival, it was possible he would decide to murder Buckingham as well.  As in all the gangster movies, the thug who hits first usually comes out on top. 

Assuming that Buckingham suspected his own life was forfeit with Richard III, he decided to team up with Henry Tudor to eliminate Richard.  He and Tudor could sort out things once Richard was defeated. 

This particular explanation is explained well in William Shakespeare's Richard III


Synopsis of Shakespeare's Richard III: Act IV, scene 2

Back in the palace, the gloating Richard, the recently crowned king of England, enters in triumph with Buckingham and Catesby.  Richard announces that he does not yet feel secure in his position of power. He tells Buckingham that he wants the two young princes, the rightful heirs to the throne, to be murdered in the tower.

To murder innocent children is a serious crime.  For the first time, Buckingham does not obey Richard immediately.  He hesitates and says he needs more time to think about the request.

Disgusted, Richard murmurs to himself that Buckingham is too weak to continue to be his right-hand man.  Instead he summons a lowlife named Tyrrell who is more than willing to accept the mission. 

In almost the same breath, Richard instructs Catesby to begin spreading the rumor that Queen Anne Neville is sick.  Tell everyone she is likely to die.  Then Richard gives orders to keep the queen confined.  That accomplished, Richard turns to the audience and announces his intention to marry the fetching Elizabeth of York, daughter of the late King Edward.  The implication is that Richard plans to murder Queen Anne at the first convenient moment.

Buckingham, uneasy about his future, suggests it is time for Richard to give him earldom of Hereford as Richard has promised earlier.  Richard angrily rejects Buckingham’s demands and walks out on him.

Buckingham, left alone, realizes he has fallen out of Richard’s favor.  He decides to flee to his family home in Wales before he meets the same ill fate of Richard’s other enemies...


If we can believe Shakespeare's explanation (and many do), after leaving London, the Duke of Buckingham paid Margaret Beaufort a visit.  Keep in mind there were two 'Henry Staffords' in Margaret's life.  One was her deceased husband Henry Stafford who died in 1471 of injuries suffered at Tewkesbury.  The other was her nephew Henry Stafford, the son of Humphrey Stafford, brother to her deceased husband.  This is who came to visit.

Margaret's sense of opportunism led her to support Buckingham's daring autumn rebellion of 1483.  Here she plotted to unite York and Lancaster factions in a risky scheme to bring her son to the throne.  One part of the plan had the exiled Henry Tudor bring seven ships over from Brittany carrying 500 well-armed Breton soldiers and Lancastrian followers. 

In retrospect, the timing was probably premature.  Although Richard was unpopular, the rumors of his treacherous deeds had not quite spread to the population at large.  Consequently this rebellion did not have strong support.  Nor did it have good luck. 

Right from the start there was trouble.  Buckingham was not exactly a charmer.  His Welsh army decided they liked him less than Richard III.  Loyalty was an immediate problem.

Then a ten-day gale ended their dream completely.  Due to a tremendous storm which battered England, the Severn River became swollen and ferocious, bursting its banks at many points.  With bridges unusable, Buckingham could find no crossing. 

Seeing this fight had no chance of working, Buckingham's men men deserted him.

Meanwhile, out in the English, Channel, Henry Tudor’s fleet had been scattered by the same storm.  However Henry's ship managed to get close enough to land. 

Henry decided to risk coming ashore alone and have a look around.  As he rowed to shore, Henry was hailed by a group of soldiers on the beach as a victorious conqueror.  Henry stopped rowing so he could discuss his 'Victory'.  The men on shore assured Henry that Buckingham had succeeded. 

Henry sensed a trap.  In the driving rain, it was too difficult for Henry to believe this attack had any chance of success.  Henry turned his boat around and went back to the ship, then went back to Brittany.  His caution doubtless saved his life.

Henry Stafford did not fare as well.  A reward was posted and someone turned him in.  Stafford was beheaded in a well-attended public execution.  The rebellion was over.

Margaret Beaufort was cornered.  Always the schemer, Margaret had stayed above board till now.  This time her fingerprints were all over this plot.  It was clear she had bankrolled this rebellion using her vast wealth.  Richard strongly considered executing her for treason.

Lord Stanley's odd role in the rebellion is probably what saved his wife's life.  Curiously, when Richard learned of the rebellion, Lord Stanley and his brother William answered the call immediately and remained at the King's side throughout. 

The brothers were richly rewarded from the forfeited estates of the rebels.  Lord Stanley was appointed to Buckingham’s former position as Lord High Constable of England and William Stanley was made Chief Justice of North Wales. 

No one is quite sure why Stanley remained loyal to Richard in these circumstances.  After all, months earlier Richard had killed Stanley's friend Lord Hastings and threatened to do the same to Stanley.  Considering Stanley's wife had planned this uprising, why did Stanley's loyalty lie with his king over his own wife? 

In the end, Thomas Stanley's loyalty was a huge break for Margaret.  It was only by Stanley giving a solemn vow to Richard to keep his wife in custody and put an end to her intrigues that saved her from attainder, disgrace, and quite possibly imprisonment... or worse.  Although Richard did confiscate her holdings, he turned around and gave them to her husband Stanley instead.  In other words, the money was still in the family.

Richard’s lenient response was surprising.  Considering Richard was said to be a merciless, ruthless tyrant, Margaret was in effect let off with a wrist slap.  Yes, her lands were forfeited, but as long they remained in the household, big deal.  Margaret was placed under house arrest in her husband’s care.  Stanley promised to make sure that she made no contact with her son, but this arrangement, of course, was sheer nonsense. 

Richard counted on Stanley being more loyal to him than to his own determined wife.  If he knew just how passionate Margaret was about putting her son on the throne, he should have executed her just like he did Henry Stafford.  Richard’s mercy, and perhaps naivety, would come back to haunt him.  Beheading women would have to wait for the Tudor era.


Death in the Royal Family

This was an age when there was great interest in the occult.  Witches were real and women were often accused of sorcery.  Anything out of the ordinary was instantly assumed to be an omen of some sort.

As omens go, Richard III had pointed to his successful suppression of the Buckingham Rebellion as clear evidence that God really did want him to be King.  But then something happened that shook Richard to his core.

Edward of Middleham was born to King Richard and Anne Neville in 1474.   Edward was created Prince of Wales in September 1483, then was formally declared heir apparent in February 1484.  Two months later the boy was dead.  Edward had been a sickly boy his entire life.  Nevertheless, the swiftness of his death was very upsetting.  There was no obvious reason. 

It was a bad omen to be sure.  Richard's enemies spread rumors saying that Edward's sudden death was divine retribution.  This was surely God's payback for Richard's alleged involvement in the evil disappearance of the sons of Edward IV, the erstwhile Princes in the Tower.  If Richard was feeling guilty about their death, this incident with his own son did not help. 


Anne Neville, the boy's mother, fell gravely ill only a few months after her son's death.  She died on 16 March 1485, 11 months after her child.  The official reason is listed as tuberculosis.  Others say it was a broken heart at the loss of her child.

And then of course there were the rumors.  On the day Anne died, there was a solar eclipse.  This was taken to be an omen of her husband's fall from heavenly grace.  Another rumor circulated that Richard III had poisoned his wife in order to marry his beautiful niece Elizabeth of York.  Shakespeare particularly liked this rumor.  If anyone has ever seen Richard III, Shakespeare did not waste a single chance to paint the darkest picture of Richard possible. 

The death of Richard's sad little boy put an exclamation point on a strange coincidence.  The War of the Roses had been complicated by the death of King Edward.  During his reign, three unhappy princes named Edward had died.  All three had been the Prince of Wales, all three were called Edward and all three died young before becoming King. 

The first Edward to die was Edward of Westminster, 'Joffrey' so to speak.  This Edward had died by execution following the bitter defeat at Tewkesbury in 1471.  He was 17.

The second Edward to die was Edward V, oldest son of King Edward IV.  This Edward was one of the Princes in the Tower.  He disappeared at age 12 never to be seen again.  Most historians assume Edward was murdered by his uncle Richard in pursuit of Edward V's birthright.

And now Edward of Middleham, 10, was the third Prince to die.  Upon hearing the news, Richard and Anne were seen convulsed in grief so powerful it bordered on madness. 

Not that it matters, but one hundred years earlier the Black Prince became the first Prince of Wales not to become King of England.  The Black Prince died of a mysterious lingering disease that was said to be his punishment for murdering countless French victims during the Hundred Year's War. 

Upon his death, the throne passed to his son Richard II, considered to be one of the worst kings in English history.  The reign of Richard II was so inept that he was easily overthrown in the 1399 rebellion led by Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV).  It was this 'Crown by right of might, not law' that was said to have set the stage for the subsequent War of the Roses.  From this point on, an ounce of royal blood and a ton of cannons was all it took to be English King, a scenario played out time and again during the War of the Roses.  

By the way, does anyone remember the first name of the Black Prince? 

If memory serves, it might have been Edward. 

By the way, the Black Prince had a son named Edward.  Whatever happened to him?  Edward should have been the next king but he died at the age of five, leaving his three-year-old brother Richard II to take his place.  Weird.


The Failed Invasion

Edward IV had died of natural causes after a short illness in 1483.  His brother Richard was supposed to guard the throne till his nephew Edward V was old enough to take over.  Instead Richard took the throne for himself.  There was great anger in the land at Richard over his likely murder of two innocent, helpless boys.  This was seen as a heinous crime.

Margaret Beaufort knew this foul deed was the opening she had prayed for.  She actively promoted her son as an alternative to Richard III, despite being married to a Yorkist, Lord Stanley.  Unfortunately, her first attempt at overthrowing Richard, Buckingham's Rebellion in late 1483, had failed miserably.  Richard III claimed this was proof that God wanted him to reign supreme.  Perhaps this belief made him over-confident because he failed to execute Margaret when he had every right do do so.  That was a mistake that would come back to haunt Richard. 

Following the accession of Richard III, English privateers were continually attacking Breton ships.  With Duke Francis of Brittany fighting a prolonged illness, in his place stood Prime Minister and treasurer Pierre Landais.  Irritated by the loss of shipping, Pierre Landais initially attempted to appease Richard III, but that didn't work.

So Landais switched his support to Henry Tudor in the hope that he would overthrow Richard.  With money and supplies borrowed from his host, Francis II, Duke of Brittany, Henry had tried to land in England, but the great storm caused his rebellion to unravel.  This resulted in the 1483 execution of the Duke of Buckingham, nephew of his mother and co-conspirator of Henry. 

The Coming Storm

Two years had passed since Henry had escaped back to Brittany.  It was now 1485.  Unbeknownst to Henry Tudor, Richard III had agreed to some skullduggery with Pierre Landais.  Still fuming over the aborted Buckingham Rebellion, Landais strove to defend the independence of Brittany against the machinations of Louis XI, the King of France.  He opened secret negotiations with Richard III of England.  As the main threat to the rule of Richard, Henry Tudor was a powerful bargaining chip. 

Richard III offered to send 4,000 English and Welsh archers to help secure the power of Landais against the rebel Breton nobility.  In return, Landais would arrange the capture and extradition of Henry, Jasper Tudor, and the other exiled Lancastrians.  Landais readily agreed to sell them out. 


Landais assembled an armed force in Rennes to march to Vannes and capture all of the Lancastrians, 300 experienced soldiers in all.  At the last minute, someone leaked news of the plot to Henry... quite possibly a message from Lord Stanley.  Facing arrest and extradition to England, Henry and Jasper found two horses and fled across the nearby border into Anjou.  They crossed only hours ahead of Landais' troops.  The men left behind were captured. 

Henry had escaped his third trap.  As Henry rode towards the French Royal Court, little did he know the treachery of Pierre Landais would backfire in his favor.  Henry was welcomed by the French who viewed both Richard III and Pierre Landais as their enemy.  The French were more than happy to supply Henry with troops and equipment for a second invasion of England.  Better to have un ami, a friend, on the English throne!

Where have we heard this story before?  Indeed, back in 1471 Warwick and Margaret of Anjou had teamed up to send Edward IV into exile and place Henry VI back on the throne.  Just when Margaret of Anjou thought everything was secure, the Wheel of Fortune swung back in the York's favor when the Earl of Warwick made a serious blunder.  Warwick was pressured by the King of France to wage war against France’s enemy the Duke of Burgundy, in exchange for Marguerite of Anjou and her forces to be allowed to journey to England.  Once Warwick declared war on the Duke of Burgundy, two bad things happened. 

First, in retaliation, Burgundy decided to supply his brother-in-law Edward IV with ships, men, and money to jump-start his comeback.   Second, Margaret's delay prevented her from reinforcing Warwick at Barnet.  After Warwick's death at Barnet, Margaret was vulnerable at Tewkesbury.  Had Warwick and Margaret of Anjou been together, Edward would have never stood a chance. 

United we stand, divided we fall.

Too bad Edward had to die young.  C'est la vie.  It was now 1485 and the French were ready to meddle again. 

During his two-year reign, Richard III had made many enemies.  That included the French who were dying to strike back.  Henry was the lucky recipient.  His close call with Pierre Landais was a different kind of omen.  It suggested his mother's dream was coming to pass.  Henry was gaining support from many other corners as well.   Henry knew he had solid Lancastrian backing at home.  Indeed, the remnants of the Lancaster court were more than ready to support Henry.  Previously he had been a relatively unknown scion of the Beaufort family, but given a second chance after Buckingham's Rebellion, the Lancasters knew Henry was a bold outlaw who deserved their backing against Richard.

In addition to the much-needed backing of the French, Henry enjoyed another wonderful gift when he was reunited with John de Vere.  John de Vere, also known as the Lord of Oxford, had almost been the Lancaster hero of the 1471 Battle of Barnet, but became the goat instead.  After losing control of his men who stopped fighting to pillage the town of Barnet after routing the men of Lord Hastings, Oxford had the misfortune of being mistaken for the enemy when he and 800 men returned to the battlefront. 

Imagine how Oxford felt.  The mistaken identity was not really his fault, but many blamed him nevertheless.  His mistake had been costly.  Warwick was dead.  Margaret of Anjou was gone and her nasty son Edward was dead.  All the Lancaster men were dead and the cause had been in suspended animation for the past fourteen years.  

Life had not gone well for Oxford since.  In the years following, his lands had been confiscated.  As an outlaw, Oxford had gone to France.  He had spent over ten years fighting as a mercenary in France and studying French military tactics.  Making matters worse, Oxford had gotten himself caught.  Imprisoned at Hammes Castle near Calais, Richard had just sent the order to bring Oxford back to England for execution. 

However, before the transfer could be effected, Oxford was able to persuade Sir James Blount, captain of the prison, to change sides and oppose Richard instead.  Oxford escaped along with Blount to join Henry Tudor in Paris.  Understandably, this upset Richard no end.  The Oxford episode was indicative of the growing lack of loyalty to his regime.

Lost in the shuffle were the footprints of Lord Stanley.  A writer named Jean Molinet claims Lord Stanley worked behind the scenes to engineer the defection of the Hammes captain. 


Blount and Oxford immediately left Calais to reunite with Henry Tudor.  Henry was said to be "ravished with joy incredible" at this surprise.  Oxford immediately returned to Hammes Castle to liberate the garrison there.  A hundred imprisoned Lancastrians were freed to come join Henry's fight. 

Blount's defection was a good sign indeed.  It suggested Henry had a great deal of support came from the Yorkists themselves.  Richard III was a York, but he was the wrong York.  Everyone preferred the Old York over the New York.  Legions of disgruntled supporters of dead King Edward were still furious about Richard's unlawful seizure of the throne. 

Here is where Margaret's master stroke had paid off.  Thanks to the secret negotiations between Margaret and Elizabeth Woodville, the two mothers had made the deal of a lifetime.  Elizabeth's daughter, Elizabeth of York, was quite the prize.  She was not only beautiful, Elizabeth had royal blood in her. 

Indeed, at Rennes Cathedral in France on Christmas Day 1483, Henry publicly pledged to marry Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter of Edward IV. 

Elizabeth of York was the heir of King Edward IV due to the presumed death of her brothers in the Tower.  Elizabeth served as a powerful reminder of the good old days of her father to many people.

By pledging Elizabeth, dowager queen Elizabeth Woodville's lovely daughter, to Margaret Beaufort's strapping Henry Tudor, this unusual alliance of a York Princess to a Lancaster Prince held great promise for peace. 

Now all they had to do was get rid of their unpopular king.


In 1399, Henry Bolingbroke had returned from exile to depose unpopular King Richard II. 

In 1471, Edward IV had returned from exile to reclaim his throne from the usurper Warwick. 

In 1485, it was up to Henry Tudor.  The day had come for Henry's return from exile to claim the English throne.

On August 1, Henry left Honfleur, France.  He sailed with a contingent of French mercenaries and English exiles.  The last time Henry had left France, the Wheel of Fortune had frowned.  What would happen this time?? 

Henry landed in Mill Bay, Pembrokeshire, a spot in Wales close to his birthplace.  It was the first time in 14 years since he had been on English soil.  Upon landing, Henry knelt down and whispered, ‘Judge me, Lord, and fight my cause.’


Jasper suggested Wales was the perfect place for invasion since it was always hostile to the English monarchy.  Indeed, Henry's Welsh parentage stood him in good stead.  Through his father Edmund Tudor, Henry was a direct descendant from Lord Rhys, a famous Welsh ruler. 

Henry's firm relationship with the popular Jasper Tudor helped as well.  Jasper was a national hero – a Welshman who had succeeded at the English court and could be counted upon to support their rights.  The Welsh were understandably sympathetic to any cause which involved this high-ranking Welshman.  Henry Tudor amassed an army of around 5,000 soldiers

Henry marched towards England accompanied by his uncle Jasper and John de Vere, the Earl of Oxford.  Richard was waiting for them in the center of the country.  Reports came to Henry that Richard was very well prepared.   Things did not look good for Henry Tudor.  Not only was he outnumbered 2 to 1, his opponent was a very experienced commander.  Henry?  He had never fought a battle.  Fortunately, he had Jasper and Lord Oxford at his side. 

The Wheel of Fortune was spinning. 


Chapter Five: 
Battle of Bosworth


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