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.
On 10 March 1513 John de Vere, Earl of Oxford died at nine in the evening at his ancestral home of Castle Hedingham at the age of 71. He was buried at Colne Priory on 24 April. Oxford was one of the principal Lancastrian commanders during the Wars of the Roses and as well as during the reign of Henry VII. He had joined Henry Tudor and his uncle Jasper after he himself had escaped prison from Hammes Castle near Calais and the Tudors at the same time were in exile in France in the 1480’s. John’s support, which eventually led to Henry’s victory at Bosworth, was of great significance.
John was the second son of another John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford, and Elizabeth Howard. He married firstly, Margaret Neville, the daughter of Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, and Alice, the daughter of Thomas Montagu, 4th Earl of Salisbury. Oxford's first wife was the sister of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, ‘’the Kingmaker’’. Margaret Neville died between 20 November 1506 and 14 January 1507, and Oxford married secondly Elizabeth Scrope, the widow of his colleague William, 2nd Viscount Beaumont, and daughter and coheir of Sir Richard Scrope, the second son of Henry, 4th Baron Scrope of Bolton, by Eleanor, the daughter of Norman Washbourne. He is said to have had an illegitimate daughter, Katherine de Vere (d. after 20-06-1504) whose husband Sir Robert Broughton appointed the 13th Earl as his executor. Apart from this possible illegitimate daughter there were no children from these marriages. John de Vere was succeeded by his nephew, (the 2nd and only surviving son of his younger brother Sir George de Vere)another John de Vere, as 14th Earl of Oxford.
To read about recent excavations at Earl's Colne and the remains of the Earls of Oxford and their tombs there, this article from Time Team could be of great interest. Click HERE.
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