Owen Tudor

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For other people named Owen Tudor, see Owen Tudor (disambiguation).
Sir Owen Tudor
Spouse Catherine of Valois
Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond
Jasper Tudor, 1st Duke of Bedford
Margaret Tudor
Owen or Thomas or Edward
Sir David Owen(illegitimate)
Full name
Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudur
Family House of Tudor
Father Maredudd ap Tudur
Mother Margaret ferch Dafydd
Born c. 1400 (1400)
Anglesey, Principality of Wales
Died 4 February 1461 (1461-02-05) (aged 60)
Buried Hereford, Herefordshire

Owen Tudor Welsh: Owain ap Maredudd ap Tewdwr (c.1400–1461) was a Welsh courtier and the second husband of Catherine of Valois (1401–1437)—Henry V's widow. He was the grandfather of Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty. Owen was the scion a prominent family from Penmynydd in Anglesey that were descended from Ednyfed Fychan (d. 1246). His grandfather Tudur ap Goronwy married Margaret, daughter of Thomas ap Llywelyn ab Owain of Cardiganshire, the last male of the princely house of Deheubarth; her elder sister married Gruffudd Fychan of Glyndyfrdwy, whose son was Owain Glyndŵr. Owen's father Maredudd ap Tudur and his uncles were prominent in the rebellion of their kinsmen's—Glyn Dŵr—revolt.[1]


Historians consider the descendants of Ednyfed Fychan the most powerful family in 13th to 14th-century Wales. He married Gwenllian—daughter of Rhys ap Gruffydd— enabling the family to act as leading servants of the princes of Gwynedd and play a key role in the attempts to create a single Welsh principality. This power was maintained after the Conquest of Wales by Edward I with the family continuing to enjoy significant roles in exercising effective power in the name of the king of England at a local level in Wales. However, there remained an awareness of their Welshness and its concomitant loyalties which led them to take part in the suppressed Glyndŵr Rising and to the end of that predominance.[2]

Early life[edit]

Owen Tudor's and his family's rebellion explain why there is little documented evidence of his early life and instead his background became the subject of myth and storytelling. At various times he was said to be the bastard son of an alehouse keeper, that his father was a fugitive murderer, that he fought at Agincourt, that he was keeper of Queen Catherine's household (or of her wardrobe), that he was an esquire of Henry V, that relationship with Catherine began when he fell into the queen's lap while dancing or he caught the queen's eye when swimming. The sixteenth-century Welsh chronicler Elis Gruffydd did note that he was her sewer and servant. What is known that after the rebellion several Welshmen secured a positions at court and in May 1421 an ‘Owen Meredith’ joined the retinue of Sir Walter Hungerford, 1st Baron Hungerford who was steward of the king's household from 1415 until 1421 to serve in France.[1]

Catherine of Valois[edit]

Henry V of England died on 31 August 1422 leaving Queen Catherine of Valois a widow.[3] The Queen initially lived with her infant son, King Henry VI, before moving to Wallingford Castle early in his reign. In 1427 it is believed that Catherine embarked on an affair with with Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset. Evidence is sketchy, however the liaison prompted a parliamentary statute regulating the remarriage of queens of England. The historian G. L. Harriss surmised that it was possible that another of its consequences was the birth of Edmund Tudor and that Catherine, to avoid the penalties of breaking the statute of 1427–8, quickly and secretly married Owen. He wrote By its very nature the evidence for Edmund ‘Tudor's’ parentage is less than conclusive, but such facts as can be assembled permit the agreeable 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.[4]


Documentation indicates that Owen and Catherine had three to possibly five children:[5]

  • Edmund (1430 – 1 November 1456)—born at Much Hadham, Herts or Hadham, Beds. Created Earl of Richmond in 1452 before marrying Margaret Beaufort. He died in 1456 of the plague at Carmarthen before the birth of the couple's son at Pembroke Castle. The son, Henry, later became king of England and founded the Tudor royal dynasty.[6]
  • Jasper (1431-26 December 1495)—born at Hatfield, he was created Earl of Pembroke in 1452 but attainted as a traitor in 1461. However he was later created 1st Duke of Bedford in 1485. He became the second husband of Catherine Woodville, widow of the Duke of Buckingham and sister of Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV. He had one illegitimate daughter by a Welshwoman called Mevanvy named Ellen or Helen who married William Gardiner of London and had issue.
  • Owen or Thomas or Edward (1432-1501)—born on the 6 November at the Palace of Westminster and possibly identified as a monk called Edward Bridgewater who was at Westmister Abbey from 1468-1472.[7]
  • Polydore Virgil says the couple had a daughter who became a nun but no other source corroborates this.
  • Margaret or Katherine— born in 1437 at the Abby of Saint Saviour, Bermondsey died shortley after birth.

Owen Tudor had at least one illegitimate child, by an unknown mistress,

  • Sir David Owen—born in 1459 at Pembroke Castle, the son married an heiress and settled in Sussex. He is buried in the priory church of Easebourne near Midhurst.[8]

Life after Catherine's death[edit]

Following Queen Catherine's death Owen Tudor lost the protection from the statute on dowager queen's remarriage and was imprisoned at Newgate Prison. In 1438 he escaped but was recaptured and held in custody by the constable of Windsor Castle.[9] In 1439 the king granted him a general pardon and restored his goods and lands.[10] In addition the king granted him a pension of £40 per annum, provided him with a position in court, appointed him the Keeper of the King's Parks in Denbigh and in 1442 Henry VI welcomed his two half-brothers to court and in November 1452 Edmund and Jasper were created earls of Richmond and Pembroke with the acknowledgement to be the king's uterine brothers.[1] In 1459 the pension was increased to £100. [11] Owen and Jasper were commissioned to arrest a servant of John Dwnn of Kidwelly, a Yorkist, and later in the year Owen Tudor acquired an interest in the forfeited estates of another Yorkist, John, Lord Clinton. On 5 February 1460 he and Jasper were granted for life offices in the duke of York's lordship of Denbigh, as a prelude to seizing the lordship.[1]

Participation in the Wars of the Roses[edit]

Owen Tudor was an early casualty of the Wars of the Roses (1455–1487) between the House of Lancaster and the House of York. He joined Jasper's army in Wales in January 1461 which was defeated at the Battle of Mortimer's Cross by Edward of York. Owen Tudor was captured and beheaded at Hereford, where his head was placed on the market cross, and a madde woman kembyd hys here and wysche a way the blode of hys face and set 100 candles about him. He expected to be imprisoned rather than executed.[12] Moments before his execution he realized that he was to die and murmured that hede shalle ly on the stocke that wass wonte to ly on Quene Katheryns lappe. His body was buried in a chapel on the north side of the Greyfriars' Church, Hereford. He had no memorial until his illegitimte son, David, paid for a tomb before the friary was dissolved.[1]


Coat of arms of Owen Tudor

Owen was a descendant of Rhys ap Gruffydd (1132–1197) via the lineages that follow:

Rhys had a daughter, Gwenllian ferch (daughter of) Rhys, who was married to Ednyfed Fychan, Seneschal of the Kingdom of Gwynedd (d. 1246).

Ednyfed Fychan and Gwenllian ferch Rhys were the parents of Goronwy, Lord of Tref-gastell (d. 1268). Goronwy was married to Morfydd ferch Meurig, daughter of Meurig of Gwent. (Meurig was the son of Ithel, grandson of Rhydd and great-grandson of Iestyn ap Gwrgant. Iestyn had been the last King of Gwent (reigned 1081–1091) before its conquest by the Normans.)

Goronwy and Morfydd were parents of Tudur Hen, Lord of Penmynydd (d. 1311). Tudur Hen later married Angharad ferch Ithel Fychan, daughter of Ithel Fychan ap Ithel Gan, Lord of Englefield. They were the parents of Goronwy ap Tudur, Lord of Penmynydd (d. 1331).

Goronwy ap Tudur was married to Gwerfyl ferch Madog, daughter of Madog ap Dafydd, Baron of Hendwr. They were the parents of Tudur Fychan, Lord of Penmynydd (d. 1367).

Tudur Fychan married Margaret ferch Thomas of Is Coeod,of the native and Ancient Royal Houses of Wales, Margaret and her sister Ellen and Eleanor were descended from Angharad ferch Llywelyn, daughter of Llewellyn the Great. (Margaret was the daughter of Thomas ap Llewelyn, Lord of Is Coed, South Wales, and his wife Eleanor ferch Philip. Margaret was descended independently from King John and his legitimised daughter Princess Joan, King John and his son Henry III and grandson Edward I. Margaret's sister Ellen ferch Thomas was the mother of Owain Glyndŵr (the last native "Prince of Wales"). Her sister Eleanor ferch Thomas was the ancestor of the Newport family and the Earl of Bradford and the Lingen family and Baron Lingen of Lingen. Margaret's paternal grandfather was Llewelyn ab Owain, Lord of Gwynnionydd. Her maternal grandfather was Philip ab Ifor, Lord of Is Coed.)(ref Visitation of Shropshire 1623,R Tresswell. Somerset Herald)

Tudur and Margaret were parents to:

Maredudd ap Tudur (died 1406); Maredudd married Margaret ferch Dafydd. (Margaret was the daughter of Dafydd Fychan, Lord of Anglesey, and his wife, Nest ferch Ieuan.)

Maredudd ap Tudur and Margaret ferch Dafydd were the parents of Owen Tudor.

There is little doubt that Owen was of gentle birth. Queen Catherine, upon being denied permission by her son's regents to wed John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, allegedly said upon leaving court, "I shall marry a man so basely, yet gently born, that my lord regents may not object." (The objection to Somerset was that he was a second cousin of Henry V through the legitimised Beaufort line sired by John of Gaunt).

Ednyfed Fychan
d. 1246
Goronwy ab Ednyfed
d. 1268
Tudur Hen
(also known as Tudur ap Goronwy)
d. 1311
Goronwy ap Tudur Hen
d. 1331
Elen ferch Tomos
(mother of Owain Glyndŵr)
Marged ferch Tomos
Tudur ap Goronwy
d. 1367
Maredudd ap Tudur
Rhys ap Tudur
d. 1409
Gwilym ap Tudur
d. 1413
Owen Tudor
(Owain Tudur)
Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond
d. 1456
Jasper Tudor
Henry VII of England
d. 1509



  1. ^ a b c d e Griffiths 2004, p. 1
  2. ^ Carr 2004, p. 1
  3. ^ Weir 2008, p. 130
  4. ^ Richmond 2004, p. 1
  5. ^ Weir 2008, pp. 130-132
  6. ^ Weir 2008, p. 150
  7. ^ Weir 1998, pp. 81
  8. ^ Weir 1998, pp. 100
  9. ^ Weir 1998, pp. 100
  10. ^ Loades 2012, p. 2
  11. ^ Weir 1998, pp. 100
  12. ^ Ross 1974, p. 31


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