Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Henry Tudor at Raglan Castle

by Judith Arnopp

Raglan Castle

At the start of the wars of the roses Margaret Beaufort was a relatively insignificant member of the house of Lancaster but after years of struggle she and her son, Henry became the ultimate victors. During her years of struggle for her son’s rights she can have had no inkling that he would one day become King of England.

Margaret was a wealthy heiress, heir to the Duke of Somerset. Her great grandfather was the eldest son of John of Gaunt and his then mistress, Katherine Swynford. Although the Beauforts were later legitimised they were excluded from the succession and never to inherit the throne.

Edmund Tudor
She was married to the king’s half-brother, Edmund Tudor and travelled with him to Wales where he upheld the authority of the king. Shortly after impregnating his teenage bride, he died, either of wounds sustained in a skirmish with the adherents of York, or from plague, or possibly a combination of both. Margaret, widowed and pregnant, was left vulnerable and turned to her brother in law, Jasper Tudor, for support. He offered her shelter at his stronghold in Pembroke where her son was born a few months later. She named him Henry, after her cousin the king.

To avoid another marriage arranged by the king, Margaret quickly married Henry Stafford, a younger son of the Duke of Buckingham. While she moved with her husband to Bourne in Lincolnshire and later Woking, her son remained at Pembroke in the care of his uncle, Jasper, Earl of Pembroke.

Margaret would have seen nothing unusual in her son being brought up in the household of a powerful lord. The couple visited and wrote to young Henry regularly until the trouble between York and Lancaster flared again. Jasper did not take part in the battle of Towton but remained at Pembroke defending the castle against Yorkist forces. After a few weeks of siege, Pembroke and its inhabitants were eventually surrendered into the hands of William Herbert. Jasper managed to escape but he left behind a valuable prize - the four year old Earl of Richmond, Henry Tudor.

Pembroke Castle

Sir William Herbert took Henry into his custody at Raglan and in 1462 paid the king an enormous sum for his wardship. It is not documented how Margaret or Henry felt about this but there was long standing rivalry between the Herbert and Tudor families and, together with the high probability that William Herbert was responsible in some degree for the death of Edmund Tudor, it is quite likely she did not see it as pleasing.

Henry’s time at Raglan is often viewed as one of imprisonment but there is no doubt he was well treated: chronicler Polydore Vergil recorded that Henry was “kept as prisoner, but honourably brought up with the wife of William Herbert”.  As I mentioned earlier, it was not unusual for the sons of noblemen to be sent from home to be raised in the household of a great lord, to learn warfare and sword skill. The Herberts treated Henry with great civility but even so his movements were restricted and although he kept his title Richmond, his properties were in the hands of the Yorkists. He was, you might say, a lucrative guest. Henry and Herbert’s son were the offspring of opposing houses – Henry was from the House of Lancaster, Walter and William Herbert (the younger) were loyal to their father and to York. But ties of friendship formed at this time in the nursery at Raglan proved beneficial to Henry in the years to come.

Raglan Castle

It is interesting to consider that the ruins we see today at Raglan were once the rooms frequented by the young Henry Tudor. When Herbert inherited the castle from his father it was already a magnificent fortress with an impressive tower but William transformed it into a palace with huge glazed windows, a magnificent Fountain Court, the Pitched Stone Court and Great Gatehouse.

Henry spent the next seven years at Raglan, treated as a member of the Herbert family, educated by ‘the best and most upright instructors’ and mingling with the Herbert children. It seems he was happy there and developed strong connections to the family. Testimony of his affection or gratitude to the family, after he became king Henry invited Herbert’s widow, Lady Anne Devereux, to court. Herbert harboured plans to unite his family with the Tudors by marrying his daughter, Maud, to Henry. He left orders for the betrothal in his will but the arrangements were prevented by the readeption of Henry VI. Maud later married another of Herbert’s wards, Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland. Margaret Beaufort and Henry Stafford continued to visit and correspond with Henry until 1469, when Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick betrayed King Edward IV and joined the Lancastrians.

Raglan Castle

Taking Henry and probably his two sons, William and Walter, with him, Herbert rode off to battle at Edgecote Moor; not to fight but to observe and learn. It may seem incredible to us that an eleven year old should be exposed to the dangers of battle but things were different then. Young boys had to be educated in warfare, exposed to the violence of the battlefield to ensure that when their time came to fight, they’d be prepared. Possibly Herbert saw it as an opportunity for education. Possibly he desired to keep his valuable asset close to hand. Unfortunately for Herbert the battle did not go well for York.
Herbert was captured during fighting and executed by Warwick. It is often recorded that Henry was abandoned on the side lines and later rescued from the field and taken to safety at Weobley, the family seat of Herbert’s wife, Anne Deveraux.

Raglan Castle

For a while, Lancaster was in ascendance in England. The former king, Henry VI, was placed once more on the throne, to be ruled like a puppet by Warwick. At last, Jasper Tudor was able to return from exile, at which time he presented Henry to the Henry VI. 

The supporters of Lancaster emerged once more and everything seemed settled in Lancaster’s favour; King Edward was beaten and Margaret and Jasper would have been confident that the Richmond holdings would now be restored to Henry. Margaret attended court, bringing her son to the attention of the king and queen but it was not to last. In 1471, Edward IV came back with a vengeance and regained the throne with a decisive battle at Tewkesbury which saw the death of the Lancastrian heir, Edward of Lancaster and the fall of his mother, Margaret of Anjou. Edward IV crushed the Lancastrian hopes by the murder of the mentally unstable king, Henry VI, leaving just one possible claimant to the Lancastrian crown - Henry Tudor.

Henry Tudor

Jasper, taking the boy with him, fled to Brittany where Henry spent most of the next fourteen years until August 1485 when he returned with his mother’s financial support, with a mercenary army to face Richard III on the field at Bosworth. During the battle several Welshman ostensibly loyal to Richard, turned their coats and fought for Henry instead; Rhys ap Thomas is believed to have dealt the Yorkist King’s killing blow and Walter Herbert of Raglan is believed to have fought alongside his old friend of the schoolroom.


Margaret's battle for her son's rights and Henry's time at Raglan is featured in the trilogy The Beaufort Chronicles.

Judith Arnopp is the author of nine historical fiction novels set in the medieval and Tudor period. You can find more information by following the links below:

Picture credits
Edmund Tudor https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9c/Edmund_Tudor%2C_1st_Earl_of_Richmond.jpg
Henry Tudor - https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/da/Henry7England.jpg
Castle Photographs - Judith Arnopp

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