Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond, Father of King Henry VII of England

by Susan Flantzer
© Unofficial Royalty 2023

Tomb effigy of Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond; Credit – Wikipedia

The father of Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch of England and the ancestor of the British royal family and most other European royal families, Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond was born circa 1430, at Much Hadham Palace in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, England. He was the son of Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudor, better known as Owen Tudor, and Catherine of Valois, Dowager Queen of England, the widow of King Henry V of England. Edmund’s paternal grandparents were Maredudd ap Tudur and Margaret ferch Dafydd. Edmund’s maternal grandparents were  King Charles VI of France and Isabeau of Bavaria.

Edmund’s paternal grandfather Maredudd ap Tudur, a Welsh soldier and nobleman, was a descendant of the great Welsh prince, Llywelyn Fawr (Llywelyn the Great), Prince of Gwynedd and Prince of Powys Wenwynwyn. Llywelyn Fawr was the longest-reigning ruler of Welsh principalities, maintaining control for 45 years. In 1216, Llewelyn Fawr received the fealty of the other Welsh lords and although he never used the title, he was the de facto Prince of Wales.

Edmund’s mother Catherine of Valois, Dowager Queen of England; Credit – Wikipedia

Through his mother, the French princess, Catherine of Valois, Edmund was a descendant of the Kings of France. Most notable of his mother’s siblings are Edmund’s uncle King Charles VII of France who was helped by Joan of Arc during the Hundred Years War while he was Dauphin of France (heir to the French throne), and Edmund’s aunt Isabella of Valois who was the second wife and widow of King Richard II of England.

16th-century portrait of King Henry VI of England, Edmund’s half-brother; Credit – Wikipedia

Edmund had one half-brother through his mother’s marriage to King Henry V of England:

King Henry V of England, the husband of Edmund’s mother Catherine of Valois, died on August 31, 1422, of dysentery, nine days before his 36th birthday. His only child King Henry VI, at the age of nine months, started his 40 years on the throne and Henry V’s wife Catherine was left a widow at the age of 21. Because Catherine was still quite marriageable, a bill was passed in Parliament setting the rules for the remarriage of a queen dowager. The bill stated that if a queen dowager married without the king’s consent, her husband would lose his lands and possessions, but that any children of the marriage would not suffer any consequences. Permission to marry could only be granted once the king had reached his majority. As King Henry VI was only nine months old, Catherine of Valois had years before she could legally marry.

With Catherine being a young widow and with apparently no chance of remarriage, it should not seem unusual that an amorous relationship would be likely. Owen Tudor was a Welsh soldier and courtier who served in Catherine’s household and their relationship began when Catherine was living at Windsor Castle. There is much debate as to whether Catherine and Owen married. No documentation of marriage exists and even if they did marry, their marriage would not have been legal due to the act regarding the remarriage of a queen dowager. From the relationship between Owen Tudor and Catherine of Valois descended King Henry VII of England and the Tudor dynasty. Through Henry VII’s daughter Margaret Tudor descended the British royal family and many other European royal families.

Edmund’s brother Jasper Tudor and his wife, stained glass window at Cardiff Castle in Wales; Credit – By Wolfgang Sauber – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16924086

It is uncertain how many children Edmund’s parents had. The following three siblings of Edmund can be verified:

When Edmund was about seven-years-old, his mother Catherine of Valois died at the Abbey of St. Saviour in Bermondsey, London, England on January 3, 1437, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. After her death, her two sons Edmund and Jasper went to live with Katherine de la Pole, Abbess of Barking, sister of William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk. Katherine de la Pole persuaded King Henry VI to take an interest in his half-brothers. King Henry VI gave his half-brother Edmund numerous estates, appointed him to the Privy Council, and created him Earl of Richmond.

In February 1453, Margaret Beauchamp, widow of John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset, brought her ten-year-old daughter Lady Margaret Beaufort to the royal court. Through her father, Margaret Beaufort was a descendant of King Edward III of England. Her grandfather John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset was the eldest child of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster (King Edward III’s son), and his mistress Katherine Swynford, whom he married in 1396. At the time of Margaret’s birth, her father had negotiated with King Henry VI that in the event of his death, the rights of Margaret’s wardship and marriage would be granted to her mother but the king reneged and instead granted her rights that came with her extensive land holdings to William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, a favorite of King Henry VI. In early 1450, the Duke of Suffolk married six-year-old Margaret to his seven-year-old son John de la Pole, later 2nd Duke of Suffolk. Three years later, the marriage was annulled and King Henry VI granted Margaret’s wardship to his half-brothers Edmund Tudor and Jaspar Tudor.

Even before the annulment of her first marriage, Lady Margaret Beaufort was chosen by King Henry VI as the bride for his half-brother Edmund Tudor. On November 1, 1455, at Bletsoe Castle in Bletsoe, Bedfordshire, England, 25-year-old Edmund married twelve-year-old Margaret. The Wars of the Roses, the fight for the English throne between the House of Lancaster and the House of York, had just started and Edmund, a Lancastrian, was taken prisoner by the Yorkists less than a year later. He died of the plague in captivity at Carmarthen Castle in Wales on November 3, 1456, leaving a 13-year-old widow who was seven months pregnant with their child, the future King Henry VII.

Tomb of Edmund Tudor at St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, Wales; Credit – Wikipedia

Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond was initially buried in a prominent tomb in the center of the choir of the Grey Friars Church in Carmarthen, Wales. In 1539, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under the reign of his grandson King Henry VIII, before the Grey Friars Church in Carmarthen was deconsecrated and repurposed, the tomb and the remains of Edmund Tudor were moved to St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, Wales and placed in front of the high altar.

Pembroke Castle where Lady Margaret Beaufort gave birth to Edmund Tudor’s posthumous son, King Henry VII; Credit – By Aled Evans – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53306498

At the time of Henry Tudor’s birth, the Wars of the Roses was two years old, and his mother, a descendant of the House of Lancaster, was living at Pembroke Castle in Pembroke, Pembrokeshire, Wales under the protection of her brother-in-law Jasper Tudor. Henry Tudor, the future King Henry VII, the founder of the Tudor dynasty, was born on January 28, 1457, at Pembroke Castle. At birth, Henry succeeded to his father’s title Earl of Richmond. The birth was a difficult one and apparently, it left Margaret unable to have any more children. Jasper Tudor brought up his nephew Henry in Wales, and from 1461 – 1485, when the House of York held the English throne, Henry lived in exile in France under the protection of François II, Duke of Brittany.

Lady Margaret Beaufort, wife of Edmund Tudor and mother of King Henry VII; Credit – Wikipedia

Although her husband Edmund Tudor was long-dead, Lady Margaret Beaufort lived to see their son Henry Tudor defeat the Yorkist King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, and become King of England. Edmund and Margaret’s son married Elizabeth of York, daughter of the Yorkist King Edward IV, melding the House of Lancaster and the House of York into the new House of Tudor which reigned in England until 1603. As the second lady in the land, Margaret was referred to as “My Lady the King’s Mother.” Margaret was alive for the birth of all seven of her grandchildren but only three survived into adulthood, her namesake Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots, King Henry VIII of England, and Mary Tudor, Queen of France, Duchess of Suffolk.

The health of Edmund and Margaret’s son King Henry VII’s health began to fail in 1507, and he died at Richmond Palace on April 21, 1509, at the age of 52. His mother Margaret was the executor of his will and arranged her son’s funeral and her grandson’s coronation. On June 23, 1509, Margaret watched the coronation procession of her grandson King Henry VIII from a window. Six days later, the day after King Henry VIII’s eighteenth birthday, Lady Margaret Beaufort died in the Deanery of Westminster Abbey at the age of 66. She was buried at Westminster Abbey near the tombs of her son and daughter-in-law King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.

Tomb of Lady Margaret Beaufort, wife of Edmund Tudor and mother of King Henry VII; Credit – Wikipedia

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Works Cited

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