In the first part of this series, I followed Jasper Tudor and his young nephew Henry's escape from Tenby in West Wales. There are tales of storms and of them being forced to shelter in the lee of the island of Jersey before they were able to make landfall at the Breton fishing port of Le Conquet in September 1471.
Jasper and Henry sought sanctuary from Duke Francis of Brittany and became his guests at the ducal palace, the Château de l'Hermine in Vannes. Duke Francis was a skilled politician, so would have appreciated the political value of the exiled Tudors to King Edward IV of England, as well as to his rival King Louis of France, to whom they were related through the Valois family of Jasper's mother, Henry's grandmother, Queen Catherine.
King Edward of York's spies in Brittany must have soon reported their arrival, for the duke was visited by York's envoys, who tried, unsuccessfully, to negotiate their return. Duke Francis promised the Tudors he would ensure their safety while they remained ‘within his dominion’, which meant they effectively became his prisoners. The records show that Duke Francis treated the Tudors as his own brothers, with ‘honour, courtesy and favour.’ It is recorded, however, that he had their servants sent home and replaced them with his own.
I knew the original 14th century palace had been replaced by the Hotel Lagorce, which was built on the site in 1785, although it is still referred to as Château de l'Hermine. I decided it was worth a visit as the original city walls remain and it is easy to get a sense of what Vannes might have been like in the late fifteenth century. I also found a contemporary illustration of the marriage of Duke Francis to his first wife, Marguerite of Brittany in the Château de l'Hermine in November 1455, which gives some idea of how the interior might have looked when the Tudors were in residence.
There is a free car park near the port of Vannes, a short walk from the old city and the Château de l'Hermine, which has well maintained public gardens fronting the main road to the port. Although there was little point in entering the château, it was interesting to explore the ancient walls, and I almost became lost in the narrow maze of streets.
To the rear of the present building, there are ancient medieval houses which may date from the fifteenth century, as well as a narrow lane leading to the cathedral. Jasper and Henry would have almost certainly attended services at the original granite building, which dated from 1020, and may have even witnessed the rebuilding of the present gothic cathedral which began around the time they were there.
The Tudors spent a comfortable year in Vannes as the duke's guests and would have had plenty of opportunities to learn about the politics of Brittany, France and Burgundy. It seems that King Edward IV still recognised Henry as a threat and offered a generous reward for his capture and return. It was probably this which led to Duke Francis deciding to move the Tudors from the city to his remote ‘hunting lodge’ in Suscinio south of Vannes – the next stop on my own journey.
Tony Riches is a full-time author of best-selling fiction and non-fiction books. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the fifteenth century, with a particular interest in the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors.
Here are the blurbs for Tony's first two books of his "Tudor Trilogy":
Owen: Book 1 of the Tudor Trilogy
England 1422: Owen Tudor, a Welsh servant, waits in Windsor Castle to meet his new mistress, the beautiful and lonely Queen Catherine of Valois, widow of the warrior king, Henry V. Her infant son is crowned King of England and France, and while the country simmers on the brink of civil war, Owen becomes her protector.
They fall in love, risking Owen’s life and Queen Catherine’s reputation—but how do they found the dynasty which changes British history – the Tudors?
This is the first historical novel to fully explore the amazing life of Owen Tudor, grandfather of King Henry VII and the great-grandfather of King Henry VIII. Set against a background of the conflict between the Houses of Lancaster and York, which develops into what have become known as the Wars of the Roses, Owen’s story deserves to be told.
Owen - Book One of the Tudor Trilogy from Tony Riches is a new addition to the story of the Tudors and the great historical fiction tradition of C J Sansom, Conn Iggulden, Philippa Gregory and Hilary Mantel.
Jasper: Book 2 of the Tudor Trilogy
Following the best-selling historical fiction novel OWEN – Book One of The Tudor Trilogy, this is the story, based on actual events, of Owen’s son Jasper Tudor, who changes the history of England forever.
England 1461: The young King Edward of York takes the country by force from King Henry VI of Lancaster. Sir Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, flees the massacre of his Welsh army at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross and plans a rebellion to return his half-brother King Henry to the throne.
When King Henry is imprisoned by Edward in the Tower of London and murdered, Jasper escapes to Brittany with his young nephew, Henry Tudor. After the sudden death of King Edward and the mysterious disappearance of his sons, a new king, Edward’s brother Richard III takes the English Throne. With nothing but his wits and charm, Jasper sees his chance to make young Henry Tudor king with a daring and reckless invasion of England.
Set in the often brutal world of fifteenth century England, Wales, Scotland, France, Burgundy and Brittany, during the Wars of the Roses, this fast-paced story is one of courage and adventure, love and belief in the destiny of the Tudors.