In the first two parts of this series, I followed Jasper Tudor and his fourteen-year-old nephew Henry's escape from Tenby in Wales and their arrival in Brittany. The Tudors are recorded as spending a year in Vannes as guests of Duke Francis of Brittany but, in October 1472, the duke became concerned they might be abducted by York's agents. They were moved to his remote ‘hunting lodge’ by the sea, south of Vannes, the Château de Suscinio.
The Tudors' new home had been fortified in the fourteenth century by Breton knight Bertrand du Guesclin, nicknamed ‘The Eagle of Brittany’, a military commander during the Hundred Years' War. As well as building the seigniorial residence block and a corner tower known as the Tour Neuve, the moat was deepened and a raising drawbridge added, together with casemates to house artillery. By the time the Tudors arrived, the original thirteenth century château resembled a castle of generous proportions.
The duke was known to have been a regular visitor and it is likely both Jasper and Henry would have been invited to take part in hunts for boars in the surrounding forests stocked with game. It is also probable that they were treated as noble guests, allowed a great degree of freedom, and it is recorded that they later chose to return to Suscinio, which became one of the main bases for Lancastrian refugees from England, with over five hundred Lancastrians living in Suscinio by 1483.
There were no wild boar in the forest when I visited Château de Suscinio on a gloriously hot afternoon. Instead, I found a large car park full of coaches and soon discovered why. The Département of Morbihan has spent the last fifty years restoring the once ruined castle to how it might have looked when Jasper and Henry stayed there in the fifteenth century. (There is a collection of photographs of the château before reconstruction at http://www.culture.gouv.fr/public/mistral/memoire_fr?ACTION=CHERCHER&FIELD_5=LBASE&VALUE_5=IA00127658.) Most of the visitors were French school children, excitedly learning about their own history, and I wondered if any of them knew the significance of the Tudors. Crossing the green moat over the long drawbridge, I was handed a useful audio guide by the staff, which had explanations in English for each of the numbered rooms.
There are no records of where in the château Henry and Jasper were accommodated but one candidate is the first floor, which was used by the captain of the guard, as the second floor contained the duke's private apartments and third floor those of the duchess.
Another intriguing possibility is the West range, on the opposite side of the spacious walled courtyard. I couldn't explore the rooms in this building as it is still being restored, although the extensive accommodation was claimed to have once been used as a prison, which seems unusual for a château used as a hunting lodge. If the Tudors had been housed there, the men guarding them would have been likely to think of them as ‘prisoners’. I also visited the nearby beach a short walk from the château, where a wide sweeping bay of the Atlantic stretched far into the distance. I could imagine how Jasper and Henry would have made the same walk, followed by their ever-present guards. The long expanse of sand, with small boats moored offshore, must have reminded them of their home in Tenby far away across the Atlantic.
It was easy to see how York could land a flotilla of ships there if he wished. It is thought this is why Duke Francis soon decided to reduce the risk of their abduction to England by moving them to different locations inland. These would be the next stops on my own journey, although I couldn’t resist a last look at the magnificent château and wondered if the Tudors realised they would not meet again for many years.
- The Tudors’ Journey to Bosworth: Part 1 by Tony Riches
- The Tudors’ Journey to Bosworth: Part 2 – Exiled at Château de l’Hermine, Brittany, by Tony Riches
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.