Owen Tudor: Founding Father of the Tudor Dynasty by Terry Breverton

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Owen Tudor: Founding Father of the Tudor Dynasty by Terry Breverton

Category: Biography
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Van der Kiste
Reviewed by John Van der Kiste
Summary: Although a shadowy figure in medieval history, Owen Tudor was the husband of a widowed Queen of England, and the man without whom there would have been no Tudor dynasty. The author admits it was not an easy book to research, but has done an excellent job in gathering the available facts together and producing such a full life and times, with enough scholarship for the specialist and with a lightness of touch suitable for the general reader.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: July 2017
Publisher: Amberley
ISBN: 978-1445654188

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Owen Tudor was one of those shadowy yet very important characters in medieval history. While we may know little about him, or at least did not until this biography appeared, his historical importance can hardly be overestimated. Without him, there would have been no Tudor dynasty.

Breverton points out in his introduction that this was not an easy book to research. Much detail about his life has been obscured, and there appears to be little knowledge about his wife, the French Princess Catherine of Valois, widow of Henry V. Yet his lineage can be traced back to the pre-Norman conquest days, and the opening chapter devotes nearly forty pages to what is known of his forefathers, be they Tudur, Tidder or even Theodore at various stages, before we reach Owen himself. His ancestors had fought the Romans, Irish Picts, Vikings, Saxons, Mercians and Normans, and during his early years his uncles had been executed in the Welsh War of Independence.

Despite his Welsh blood he became a loyal servant of the English crown, and he joined the forces led by Henry V in France. Entering the service of Henry’s Queen, he secretly married her soon after the King’s death, thus becoming the stepfather of the eight-month-old Henry VI. Owen and Catherine had two sons, but her sudden death, probably from some form of cancer, left him in a precarious position. At that time the most powerful man in the kingdom was the Lord Protector, the boy King Henry VI’s uncle Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. The King would not wish to move against his stepfather and place a stigma on his stepbrothers, who were almost the only close family he had, but Owen was regarded as a threat by the Duke and accordingly imprisoned after his wife passed away.

It is telling that, as far as the author can discover, Owen was not charged with or accused of any particular offences, unless a secret marriage to the late King’s widow could be regarded as any form of treason; it seems that his presence alone was enough of a threat. He escaped from captivity, was restored to favour by his stepson and his own sons were ennobled, becoming Earls of Richmond and Pembroke respectively. The Hundred Years’ War against France was slowly but surely coming to its ragged conclusion with one humiliation after another for the English forces, ministers and crown. Fighting on behalf of the King, he became involved in the Wars of the Roses and paid the customary penalty after the forces he led were defeated in one of the early campaigns. Nevertheless, within quarter of a century his grandson Henry would ascend the throne after victory in the final battle at Bosworth Field.

As the sources on Owen’s life are so slender, the author has done an excellent job in gathering them together and producing such a full life and times of the man who might be called the first of the Tudors – the family, if not the monarchs. Like so many major nobles of the time, he led an insecure existence, constantly under threat from the high and mighty of the opposing faction, and was lucky to survive as long as he did. This is a very readable book, with enough scholarship to appeal to the specialist but with a lightness of touch that makes it suitable for the general reader, that focuses well on the troubled era which saw the end of one protracted series of conflicts and the start of another.

If you enjoyed this and want to read more about the background, we also recommend a biography of the first husband of Owen Tudor’s wife, Henry V: The Life of the Warrior King & the Battle of Agincourt by Teresa Cole, and for a concise overview of the subsequent military conflicts which brought about his downfall and death, The Wars of the Roses by John Ashdown-Hill.

Buy Owen Tudor: Founding Father of the Tudor Dynasty by Terry Breverton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Owen Tudor: Founding Father of the Tudor Dynasty by Terry Breverton at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Owen Tudor: Founding Father of the Tudor Dynasty by Terry Breverton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Owen Tudor: Founding Father of the Tudor Dynasty by Terry Breverton at Amazon.com.


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