Book Review: “Owen Tudor: Founding Father of the Tudor Dynasty” by Terry Breverton

51qnw6zqydL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_Henry VII  winning at the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485, is viewed as the beginning of the Tudor Dynasty. However, the story of the Tudor family goes back centuries in Wales. What we consider the story of the Tudors tends to start with a man named Owen Tudor, a servant, who fell in love and married the dowager Queen of England, Catherine of Valois. Quite a romantic tale, but how much of it is true? Were the Tudors simple folk or did they have a bigger role to play in their native Wales? What roles did Owen and his sons play in the Wars of the Roses? These questions and more are explored in Terry Breverton’s latest biography, “Owen Tudor: Founding Father of the Tudor Dynasty”.

I would like to thank Amberley Publishing for sending me a copy of this fascinating biography. Owen Tudor is someone that has always interested me, so I was quite delighted to find out that Breverton had written the first biography about this extraordinary man and his life. 

Breverton begins by exploring the origins of the Tudors and how the Welsh bards were the ones who helped preserve the history and prophecies of Wales for future generations. One such prophecy was the prophecy of Cadwaladr, which speaks of the red dragon of Cadwaladr defeating the white dragons of those who the Welsh considered barbarians. It was also the Welsh who believed that a mab darogan (“the son of prophecy”) would conquer England. Breverton must discuss these ideas because they would help the Tudors gather support that was necessary for future victories. Breverton also discusses the history of Wales and England and the Glyndwr War. He explores the Tudor family tree and how Owen Tudor’s ancestors were very influential in the decisions that Wales made in these critical years. I found this part extremely fascinating to read because casual readers of the Wars of the Roses do not read about Welsh history and the Tudor ancestors, which is vital to understand how they were able to come out victorious in the end.

Breverton also explores the family history of Catherine of Valois and how she came to marry  King Henry V and her relationship with her first son, King Henry VI. However, the center of Breverton’s book is centered around the relationship between Owen Tudor and Catherine of Valois. He describes it as the “strangest marriage in English history”, but unlike other scholars, Breverton believes that an actual marriage did happen between Owen and Catherine. Their sons, Edmund and Jasper Tudor, would prove extremely important men during the Wars of the Roses, and tried to bridge the gap between the Yorks and the Lancasters. Breverton was able to track down where Owen was during his service during the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of the Roses through his sons and through government records of the time, until his death shortly after the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross, on February 4, 1461. The one thing I wish Breverton would have included were maps of Wales, England, and France so it would be easier to understand which towns fell and where battles were fought.

Breverton does a superb job shedding light on Owen Tudor’s fascinating life and legacy. It was an absolute joy to read, I didn’t want it to end. This was my first time reading a book by Terry Breverton and now I want to read more of his books. Breverton blends an easy to understand writing style while maintaining scrupulous attention to details. You can tell that Breverton meticulously researched Owen Tudor and the events that shaped him. This may be the first biography about Owen Tudor, but I don’t think it will be the last. If you want to read a fabulous biography about Owen Tudor and the origins of the Tudor Dynasty, I highly encourage you to read “Owen Tudor: Founding Father of the Tudor Dynasty” by Terry Breverton. 

“Owen Tudor: Founding Father of the Tudor Dynasty” by Terry Breverton will be published in the US on November 1, 2019. If you would like to pre-order a copy of this book, please follow the link: https://www.amazon.com/Owen-Tudor-Founding-Father-Dynasty/dp/1445694379/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Owen+Tudor+Founding+Father+of+the+Tudor+Dynasty&qid=1566589023&s=books&sr=1-1

Biography: Jasper Tudor

410px-Arms_of_Jasper_Tudor,_Duke_of_Bedford.svg(Born November 1431- Died December 21, 1495). Son of Owen Tudor and Catherine of Valois. Married to Catherine Woodville. Jasper was really one of the unsung heroes of the Wars of the Roses. He never gave up on fighting for the cause he believed in and he did his best to keep his nephew Henry Tudor safe.

Jasper Tudor was the second son born to Owen Tudor and Catherine of Valois born in 1431. He was the brother of Edmund Tudor and half- brother of King Henry VI. After his mother’s death on January 3, 1437, Jasper and Edmund were sent to Barking Abbey where they were raised and educated by Katherine de la Pole from July 1437 until March 1442. Around that time, their half-brother Henry VI allowed for Edmund and Jasper to live at court, where they received the military training that would be essential for their survival later in life. In 1449, Jasper was knighted and in 1452, he was created the earl of Pembroke.

Jasper worked hard to stop the fighting between the Yorks and the Lancasters while he was still living in the courts. Jasper’s brother Edmund took in a young Margaret Beaufort as his ward and he later married her on November 1, 1455. The following year, on November 3, 1456, Edmund died of the plague, leaving his young and pregnant widow in Jasper’s custody. Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond was born on January 28, 1457.  Jasper was also responsible for maintaining the Lancastrian ties in Western Wales between 1456 and 1459. In 1460, Jasper was able to capture the Duke of York’s North Welsh stronghold of Denbigh Castle.

Jasper and his father Owen Tudor raised an army in Wales for Henry VI and met against the Yorkist forces at the battle of  Mortimer’s Cross on February 2, 1461. It was an utter defeat for the Lancastrians. Owen Tudor was taken into custody and executed while Jasper escaped first into Ireland and then into Scotland.  Jasper then went to France where he was welcomed by King Louis XI in 1462. He stayed in France for 6 years, until he returned to Wales in 1468, when he lost his title of earl of Pembroke and Pembroke Castle to William Herbert.

Jasper did regain the earldom of Pembroke when Henry VI was restored to the throne, but in 1471, he fled to the continent yet again once Edward IV was crowned king. Jasper  and Henry tried to gather more support for the Lancastrian cause but they got caught in a bad storm in the English Channel while escaping from Tenby. They landed in Brittany where they sought the protection of Francis II, Duke of Brittany, which he did give to them.The Lancastrians along with Jasper and Henry, were housed at  the Château de Suscinio in Sarzeau. Edward IV tried his best to apprehend Jasper and Henry but he failed to do so.

In October 1483, Jasper and Henry tried to go back to England, but it failed and they were forced to return to Brittany. When the Duke of Brittany got very ill in 1484, his treasurer Pierre Landais made a deal with Richard III to give over Jasper and Henry in exchange for 3,000 English archers to defend a French attack. A bishop in Flanders John Morton heard about the deal and warned Jasper and Henry just before Landais could reach them. Jasper and Henry fled into France where King Charles VIII allowed them to stay until Duke Francis II felt better.

Jasper and Henry made their way back to England in August 1485, where they faced off against Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485. Richard III was defeated and Henry became Henry VII. Jasper’s titles and properties were all returned to him and he was made a Knight of the Garter as well as Duke of Bedford. On November 7, 1485, Jasper married Catherine Woodville, the sister of Queen Elizabeth Woodville. They had no children. Jasper would die on December 21, 1495 at Thornbury Castle at the age of 64.