The War of the Roses and the Tudor Ascendancy

During the Wars of the Roses, town and castle wavered in support of warring Lancastrian and Yorkist factions. In 1447 Jasper Tudor (half brother to Henry IV) was appointed Earl of Pembroke (and resided in Pembroke Castle) and into his care was sent the young Margaret Beaufort, wife of his brother Edmund. In 1457, aged 13, Margaret gave birth to a son by Edmund, named Henry, 2nd Earl of Richmond, who was destined to become Henry VII and founder of the Tudor dynasty. Edmund had died two months before the birth of Henry.

Young Henry’s claim to the throne was flimsy. After the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471, which resulted in the death of Henry VI’s son and heir, Edward Prince of Wales, all eyes turned to Henry as the next best Lancastrian candidate: his life henceforth was in danger.

In 1471 Pembroke Castle was besieged by Yorkist forces and Henry, his mother and his uncle Jasper were forced to flee. They escaped first to Tenby, where they were welcomed by the Mayor, Thomas White, and then to Brittany. From Brittany, 14 years later, they launched the invasion which culminated in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

 

A NEW AGE – BUT WHAT DID THE TUDORS DO FOR US?

Henry Tudor, who many Welshmen felt was the reincarnation of Owain Glyndwr, believed he would lead Wales to independence again.

He never returned to Wales once he became king but he did appoint his son Henry (later Henry VIII) Earl of Pembroke.

Henry VII by Daniel Holloway

Prince Henry was made Earl of Pembroke and he was later, as Henry VIII, to make his second wife Anne Boleyn Marquis of Pembroke.

But it was Henry VIII who really set back Pembroke’s fortunes.

The Act of Union in 1536 took away the privileges which Pembroke had gained under previous charters granted to it. Henceforth the County of Pembroke was created, which brought Pembroke under crown control. Pembroke was no longer an administrative centre: Haverfordwest effectively became the County town.

The castle remained the property of the crown for many years until King James I made a gift of Pembroke Castle to a Welsh gentry family, the Pryses of Gogerddan in Cardiganshire.

No longer important as an administrative centre and also militarily obsolete, it appeared that Pembroke was no longer of any strategic use - how wrong this turned out to be when, in the Stuart era, Britain was once more engulfed by Civil War.