In this series, I have followed Jasper Tudor and his nephew Henry’s escape from Tenby in Wales to their long exile in Brittany. Young Henry Tudor found himself deep in the forest at the remote Forteresse de Largoët, outside of the Breton town of Elven. He would have missed the company of his uncle Jasper, who was now in a far grander place, the Château de Josselin.
Originating from the year 1008, the château overlooking the River Oust has changed many times over the centuries. Olivier de Clisson, Constable of France, became Lord of Josselin in 1370 and rebuilt the fortress with eight high towers and married his daughter Beatrice to Viscount Alain de Rohan. During the religious wars of the seventeenth century, Duke Henri de Rohan commanded the Calvinists and his château was sacked by Cardinal de Richelieu. Only four of the original towers remain today, but the château is still home to the fourteenth Duke Josselin de Rohan.
When Jasper Tudor arrived in 1473, his main concern would have been for the welfare and safety of his nephew. Duke Francis of Brittany gave his word to protect the Tudors but also promised King Edward’s ambassadors he would treat them more like prisoners than honoured guests.
As a consequence, it seems Jasper began what must have been a frustrating three years in Josselin, with no visitors and no communication with Henry. Duke Francis might have sent messages reassuring him of Henry’s welfare, but the Tudors lived under the threat of abduction to England by Yorkist agents of King Edward.
It is likely that Jasper, a fluent Breton speaker, would have become close to the men guarding him and used the last of the money he’d brought to Brittany to pay for information on Henry. I’m sure Jasper would also have worried about the situation in England, where Edward IV was raising a formidable army to reconquer France in an alliance with Duke Charles of Burgundy. I imagine he tried sending letters to Henry, as well as Lady Margaret Beaufort, although there is no record of any correspondence at that time.
I stayed in a gite by what is now the Nantes-Brest canal, with a view of the château from the window. On the opposite bank was a small public park with impressive arches, the remains of a house from the fifteenth century and in the walled town are narrow streets of traditional half-timbered buildings, offering a good impression of what Josselin might have been like in Jasper Tudor’s time.
The present day château is still an impressive fortress towering high over the valley and dominating the sleepy town. There are guided tours several times each day, but the de Rohan family don’t allow any photography of the interior. There was little to see inside from the fourteenth century, as most of the decoration dated from nineteenth century restorations, although there is an amazing life-sized statue, created in 1892, of Olivier de Clisson mounted on his horse.
It is possible Jasper might have been held in the original keep, now replaced by an open courtyard overlooking the deep Oust Valley. I stood looking out over the forested countryside and realised the scene has changed little since Jasper’s time. He could have had a view from his window of a narrow bridge, close to the château, which still provides the main crossing point for anyone entering or leaving Josselin from the south.
At some point in 1476 Duke Francis, whose health was failing, decided to reunite Jasper and Henry. For the next six years, they lived at the Breton court until the unexpected death of King Edward IV, (either by poisoning or excess) and the rise of his ambitious younger brother Richard. The Tudors had made an unsuccessful attempt to invade England in 1483 but learned from the experience, and in 1485 sailed with their mercenary army for Mill Bay in West Wales – the next stop on my own journey.
- 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
- The Tudors’ Journey to Bosworth: Part 3 – Exiled at Château de Suscinio, Brittany, by Tony Riches
- The Tudors' Journey to Bosworth: Part 4 - Henry Tudor at Forteresse de Largoët 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.