Mastodon The Writing Desk: The Tudors' Road to Bosworth Part 3: Exiled at Château de Suscinio, Brittany

16 July 2016

The Tudors' Road to Bosworth Part 3: Exiled at Château de Suscinio, Brittany

In the first two parts of this series I followed Jasper Tudor and his fourteen-year-old nephew Henry’s escape from Tenby in Wales and their arrival in Brittany. The Tudors are recorded as spending a year in Vannes as guests of Duke Francis of Brittany, but in October, 1472, the duke became concerned they might be abducted by York’s agents.

They were moved to his remote ‘hunting lodge’ by the sea, south of Vannes, the Château de Suscinio. Their new home had been fortified in the fourteenth century and now resembled a castle of grand proportions, surrounded by forests stocked with game. 

A wide moat with a drawbridge meant few soldiers were needed to guard the Tudors. In my novel Jasper - Book Two of The Tudor Trilogy I decided they were not prisoners at Suscinio but still guests of the duke, under his protection. In this short extract, Jasper Tudor accompanies Duke Francis on a wild boar hunt:

  The woods came alive to the excited baying and barking of the duke’s hounds as they raced through the undergrowth in pursuit of the unseen boar. Jasper rode at the duke’s side as his guest, with Henry following behind with a dozen minor nobles. These ambitious young men, eager to win the duke’s approval, formed teams of flanking riders, ready to head off the boar if it tried to escape.
Riding dangerously fast, Jasper ducked, narrowly avoiding a low branch, his heart pounding with the thrill of the chase. He glanced back to check Henry had seen the branch and noticed he was falling well behind. Although Henry rode well, he had never hunted anything as challenging as a wild boar.
  They were deep in the forest and Jasper lost all sense of direction, as the sun was directly overhead and the trees grew so thickly it was impossible to see. His horse nearly stumbled on uneven ground and he struggled to stay in the saddle when he leapt a fallen tree, galloping onwards to catch up with the duke.
  As he drew alongside, Duke Francis glanced across at him as if reading his mind. He looked more like a soldier again, dressed in his hunting clothes, and had a glint in his eyes as he urged his horse even faster through the undergrowth.
  The baying of the dogs sounded closer and changed to the frantic yelping that told Jasper their quarry was close at hand. Spurring his horse in pursuit he found himself in an open clearing where the duke’s trained catch dogs had taken the loudly protesting boar by its ears and held it down. The animal was a fully grown male, with powerful curved white tusks and angry red eyes. He stayed in the saddle, aware the dangerous boar could break free at any moment.

There were no wild boar in the forest when I visited the Château de Suscinio on a gloriously hot afternoon. Instead, I found a car park full of coaches and soon discovered why. The Département of Morbihan has spent a fortune over the last fifty years restoring the once ruined castle to how it might have looked when Jasper and Henry stayed there in the fifteenth century. (There is a collection of photographs of the château before reconstruction here.)

Château de Suscinio before reconstruction
Most of the visitors were French school children, excitedly learning about their own history, and I wondered if any of them knew the significance of the Tudors. Crossing the green moat over the long drawbridge, I was handed a useful audio guide by the staff, which had explanations in English for each of the numbered rooms. 

There are no records of where in the château Henry and Jasper were accommodated but one candidate is the first floor, which was used by the captain of the guard, as the second floor contained the duke’s private apartments and third floor those of the duchess.

Another intriguing possibility is the West range, on the opposite side of the spacious walled courtyard. I couldn’t explore the rooms in this building as it is still being restored, although the extensive accommodation was claimed to have once been used as a prison, which seems unusual for a château used as a hunting lodge. If the Tudors had been housed there, the men guarding them would have been likely to think of them as ‘prisoners’.

The West range of Château de Suscinio
I also visited the nearby beach a short walk from the château, where a wide sweeping bay of the Atlantic stretched far into the distance. I could imagine how Jasper and Henry would have made the same walk, followed by their ever-present guards. The long expanse of sand, with small boats moored offshore, must have reminded them of their home in Tenby far away across the Atlantic.

It was easy to see how York could land a flotilla of ships there if he wished. It is thought this is why Duke Francis soon decided to reduce the risk of their abduction to England by moving them to different locations inland. These would be the next stops on my own journey, although I couldn’t resist a last look at the magnificent château and wonder if the Tudors realised they would not be able to see each other again for almost nine years.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Tony Riches is a full time author of best-selling fiction and non-fiction books. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the fifteenth century, with a particular interest in the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors. For more information about Tony’s other books please visit his website and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches.

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