Sir Owen Tudor (Welsh: Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudur, c. 1400–1461) was a Welsh courtier and the second husband of Catherine of Valois (1401–1437), Henry V's widow. He was the grandfather of Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty. Owen was a descendant of a prominent family from Penmynydd on the Isle of Anglesey, which traces its lineage back to Ednyfed Fychan (d. 1246), a Welsh official and seneschal to the Kingdom of Gwynedd. Tudor's grandfather, Tudur ap Goronwy, married Margaret, daughter of Thomas ap Llywelyn ab Owain of Cardiganshire, the last male of the princely house of Deheubarth. Margaret's elder sister married Gruffudd Fychan of Glyndyfrdwy, whose son was Owain Glyndŵr. Owen's father, Maredudd ap Tudur, and his uncles were prominent in Owain Glyndŵr's revolt against English rule, the Glyndŵr Rising.
Historians consider the descendants of Ednyfed Fychan, including Owen Tudor, the most powerful family in 13th to 14th-century Wales. Fychan married Gwenllian, daughter of Madog ap Maredydd. This enabled his family to act as leading servants to the princes of Gwynedd, and play a key role in the attempts to create a single Welsh principality. This privilege endured after the Conquest of Wales by Edward I with the family continuing to exercise power in the name of the king of England, within Wales. However, there remained an awareness of the family's Welsh heritage and the accompanying loyalties led them to take part in the suppressed Glyndŵr Rising.
The fact that little is known about Tudor's early life and that it has instead become largely mythologized is attributed to his family's part in the Glyndŵr Rising. At various times it has been said that he was the bastard son of an alehouse keeper, that his father was a fugitive murderer, that he fought at Agincourt, that he was keeper of Queen Catherine's household or wardrobe, that he was an esquire of Henry V, and that his relationship with Catherine began when he fell into the queen's lap while dancing or caught the queen's eye when swimming. The sixteenth-century Welsh chronicler Elis Gruffydd did note that he was her sewer (someone who places dishes on the table and tastes them ) and servant. However, it is known that after the Glyndŵr Rising several Welshmen secured positions at court, and in May 1421 an ‘Owen Meredith’ joined the retinue of Sir Walter Hungerford, 1st Baron Hungerford, the steward of the king's household from 1415 until 1421.
Catherine of Valois
Henry V of England died on 31 August 1422, leaving his wife, Queen Catherine of Valois, widowed. The Queen initially lived with her infant son, King Henry VI, before moving to Wallingford Castle early in his reign. In 1427, it is believed that Catherine began an affair with Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset. The evidence of this affair is questionable; however the liaison prompted a parliamentary statute regulating the remarriage of queens of England. The historian G. L. Harriss suggested that it was possible that the affair resulted in the birth of Edmund Tudor. Harriss wrote: "By its very nature the evidence for Edmund ‘Tudor's’ parentage is less than conclusive, but such facts as can be assembled permit the agreeable possibility that Edmund ‘Tudor’ and Margaret Beaufort were first cousins and that the royal house of ‘Tudor’ sprang in fact from Beauforts on both sides." Despite the statute it is accepted that Catherine married Owen at some unknown later date.
Documentation indicates that Owen and Catherine had between three and five children:
- Edmund (1430–1 November 1456) was born at either Much Hadham Palace in Hertfordshire or at Hadham in Bedfordshire. Edmund became the 1st Earl of Richmond in 1452 and later married Margaret Beaufort. In 1456 he died of plague in Carmarthen, just three months before the birth of the couple's son at Pembroke Castle. That son, Henry, later became king of England and founded the Tudor dynasty.
- Jasper (1431–26 December 1495) was born at Hatfield. He became the 1st Earl of Pembroke in 1452 but was branded as a traitor in 1461. However he became the 1st Duke of Bedford in 1485. He was the second husband of Catherine Woodville, widow of the Duke of Buckingham and sister of Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV. Jasper had one illegitimate daughter, with a Welshwoman by the name of Mevanvy, named Ellen or Helen. The daughter later married William Gardiner of London, with whom she had offspring.
- Owen or Thomas or Edward (1432–1501) was born on 6 November at the Palace of Westminster. He possibly identified as a monk known as Edward Bridgewater, who was at Westmister Abbey from 1468-1472.
- Polydore Virgil says the couple had a daughter who became a nun, though no other source corroborates this.
- Margaret or Katherine was born in 1437 at the Abbey of Saint Saviour in Bermondsey and died shortly after birth.
Owen Tudor had at least one illegitimate child, by an unknown mistress:
- Sir David Owen was born in 1459 at Pembroke Castle. The son married an heiress and settled in Sussex. He is buried in the priory church of Easebourne, near Midhurst.
Life after Catherine's death
Following Queen Catherine's death, Owen Tudor lost the protection from the statute on dowager queens' remarriage and was imprisoned in Newgate Prison. In 1438 he escaped but was later recaptured and held in the custody of the constable of Windsor Castle. In 1439 Henry VI of England granted him a general pardon, restoring his goods and lands. In addition, Henry VI granted him a pension of £40 per annum, provided him with a position in court, and appointed him the Keeper of the King's Parks in Denbigh. In 1442 Henry VI welcomed his two half-brothers, Edmund and Jasper, to court. In November 1452, Owen's sons Edmund and Jasper were created earls of Richmond and Pembroke with the acknowledgement to be the king's uterine brothers. In 1459 Tudor's pension was increased to £100 per annum. Owen and Jasper were commissioned to arrest a servant of John Dwnn of Kidwelly, a Yorkist, and later that year, Tudor acquired an interest in the forfeited estates of another Yorkist, John, Lord Clinton. On 5 February 1460 Tudor and Jasper were granted life offices in the duke of York's lordship of Denbigh, a prelude to them later seizing lordship.
Owen Tudor was an early casualty of the Wars of the Roses (1455–1487) between the House of Lancaster and the House of York. He joined his son Jasper's army in Wales in January 1461, a force which was defeated at the Battle of Mortimer's Cross by Edward of York. Tudor was captured and beheaded at Hereford, where his head was placed on the market cross, "and a madde woman kembyd hys here and wysche a way the blode of hys face" and set 100 candles about him. However Tudor expected to be imprisoned rather than executed. Moments before his execution he realized that he was to die and murmured "that hede shalle ly on the stocke that wass wonte to ly on Quene Katheryns lappe." His body was buried in a chapel on the north side of the Greyfriars' Church in Hereford. He had no memorial until his illegitimate son, David, paid for a tomb before the friary was dissolved.
Owen was a descendant of Rhys ap Gruffydd (1132–1197), ruler of the kingdom of Deheubarth, via the lineages that follow:
Rhys had a daughter, Gwenllian ferch (daughter of) Rhys, who married Ednyfed Fychan, Seneschal of the Kingdom of Gwynedd (d. 1246).
Ednyfed Fychan and Gwenllian ferch Rhys were the parents of Goronwy ab Ednyfed, Lord of Tref-gastell (d. 1268). Goronwy was married to Morfydd ferch Meurig, daughter of Meurig of Gwent. Meurig was the son of Ithel, grandson of Rhydd and great-grandson of Iestyn ap Gwrgant. Iestyn had been the last King of Gwent (reigned 1081–1091) before its conquest by the Normans.
Goronwy and Morfydd were parents of Tudur Hen, Lord of Penmynydd (d. 1311). Tudur Hen married Angharad ferch Ithel Fychan, daughter of Ithel Fychan ap Ithel Gan, Lord of Englefield. They were the parents of Goronwy ap Tudur Hen, Lord of Penmynydd (d. 1331).
Goronwy ap Tudur was married to Gwerfyl ferch Madog, daughter of Madog ap Dafydd, Baron of Hendwr. They were the parents of Tudur ap Goronwy, also known as Tudur Fychan ("Tudur the Little") to distinguish him from his grandfather Tudur Hen ("Tudur the Old"), Lord of Penmynydd (d. 1367).
Tudur Fychan married Margaret ferch Thomas of Is Coeod, of the native and Ancient Royal Houses of Wales. Margaret and her sisters, Ellen and Eleanor, were descended from Angharad ferch Llywelyn, daughter of Llywelyn the Great.
Tudur and Margaret were parents to Maredudd ap Tudur (died 1406). Maredudd married Margaret ferch Dafydd, the daughter of Dafydd Fychan, Lord of Anglesey, and his wife, Nest ferch Ieuan.
Maredudd ap Tudur and Margaret ferch Dafydd were the parents of Owen Tudor.
There is little doubt that Owen was of gentle birth. Queen Catherine, upon being denied permission by her son's regents to wed John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, allegedly said upon leaving court, "I shall marry a man so basely, yet gently born, that my lord regents may not object." The objection to Somerset was that he was a second cousin of Henry V through the legitimised Beaufort line sired by John of Gaunt.