Without encountering any obstacle at sea, the 28-year old penniless exile, Henry Tudor and his approximately 4000 followers had sailed from the port of Harfleur and safely arrived after a 6-day’s journey at Mill Bay, along the rocky Pembrokeshire coastline, on 7 August 1485.
Henry owed a lot to his cousin Charles VIII who had given his support to Henry’s enterprise by grants and loans. Henry also borrowed heavily from one of Charles’ main councillors, Philippe Lullier. Further loans were given by local French Merchants. As a guarantee for these loans Henry had given up his personal belongings but also had to leave behind John Bourchier and Thomas Grey, Marques of Dorset as a security for his repayments. Henry’s army, commanded by the young Phillibert de Chandee (who was likely a distant kinsman of Henry) consisted of mostly French and Breton men, who were provided by the French King Charles VIII, including the vise-admiral Guillaume de Casenove and the marshal of France Philippe de Crevecoeur. Additionally, four hundred English exiles, including his uncle Jasper Tudor, John de Vere, Earl of Oxford and some prominent Woodvilles, under the command of Richard Guildford and a thousand Scots, under the leadership of Alexander Bruce of Earlshall, were present on the flotilla of around thirty ships.
Preparations had been going on for their arrival and amongst those waiting on the shore was Jasper’s half-brother and Henry’s uncle, the 26-year-old David Owen, the illegitimate son of Owen Tudor who had spent the first years of his life with Henry at Pembroke Castle.
Henry’s mixed sense of relief and anxiety was obvious. He then ‘kissed the ground meekly, and reverently made the sign of the cross upon him’. Soon after their landing Henry also decided to knight eight of his foremost followers – his uncles David Owen and John, Lord Welles, Philibert de Chandée, James Blount, Edward Courtenay, John Cheyne, Edward Poynings and John Fort.
Their first task was to climb up the steep sea cliff, followed by the decision to go the village of Dale and its castle and set up camp in the village. According to Henry’s biographer Bernard André, Henry, perhaps especially mindful of his French troops, reprimanded his men not to do anything to others, ‘either by word or by deed, which you not wish to have done to yourselves’. Rules of war were crucial if authority was to be maintained and order kept.
Both Jasper and John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford inspected the French troops in order to determine what gear and weaponry they were short of. It was probably, the constable of Pembroke, Richard Williams, who hastened 200 miles over 4 days to King Richard at Nottingham to bring him the news about their landing.
Their ultimately successful Bosworth campaign had begun.
Several days of ceremonies and festivities were planned for the days ahead. The coronation of Henry VII was set for 30 October. But even before that Henry had thought about the rewards he was to bestow upon those who had served him and had made his victory at Bosworth a fact. His uncle Jasper Tudor was on top of the list. On the feast day of St. Simon and St. Jude, Jasper was presented before his nephew the King in the ‘habit of estate of a duke’ in the Presence Chamber in the Tower of London. Duke Jasper was led by the Duke of Suffolk and his son the Earl of Lincoln, the Earl of Nottingham carried his cap of state and the Earl of Shrewsbury bore Jasper’s sword, pommel upwards and officers of arms walking before him. Others who attended were John de Vere, Earl of Oxford and the King’s stepfather Lord Thomas Stanley. While entering the room Jasper did his first bow, halfway through the room his second and standing in front of the King his third. The King then placed Jasper’s ‘girdle about his neck, and hanged the sweard before him’, styling Jasper ‘The high and mighty prince, Jasper brother and uncle of kings, Duke of Bedford and Earl of Pembroke’.
There had only been two earlier Dukes of Bedford, the most notable Henry V’s younger brother John, the mainstay of the house of Lancaster who had enjoyed great popularity and it must have been him who Henry had in mind when seeking an appropriate title for his beloved uncle. It too demonstrated the link between the houses of Lancaster and Tudor. But most of all it showed Henry’s gratitude towards the uncle who had devoted his life to his nephew and without whom kingship or probably even his very survival would have been impossible.
That same day Henry’s stepfather Lord Stanley was created Earl of Derby and Edward Courtenay received the earldom of Devon. After the ceremonies were completed the newly styled nobles took their seat at the dining table at the King’s Great Chamber.
29 October 1485: The day before Henry’s own coronation the dubbing of six knights of the Bath took place at the Tower, in which Jasper was to take part in.
After hearing mass together and in preparation of the coronation, Henry, bare-headed on a horse fully dressed with cloth of gold and trimmed with ermine with on his right hand Jasper, almost as splendidly dressed as the King himself, rode in a most impressive procession from the Tower of London to Westminster Hall. In the midst of this magnificent setting Jasper, now as Duke of Bedford, had the honour to play the leading role in the coronation ceremony of his nephew the following day.
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