26 February 2017

Visiting the tomb of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, father of Henry VII


Having recently visited the tomb of King Henry VII in Westminster Abbey, I decided to revisit the tomb of his father, Edmund Tudor, in the cathedral at St David’s, Pembrokeshire.  As I live close by I’d seen the tomb before but never looked into its history.

Edmund Tudor was the first son of Welsh servant Owen Tudor and the widow of King Henry V, the dowager Queen Catherine of Valois. Thought to have been born in 1430 in the Bishop of London’s palace of Much Hadham in Hertfordshire, Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, was his younger brother.

When his father Owen Tudor was arrested in 1436 Edmund’s mother retired to Bermondsey Abbey, where she died. Edmund and his brother Jasper were taken into the care of Catherine de la Pole, Abbess of Barking. They lived at the abbey for six years until their father brought them to the court of their step brother, King Henry VI.

Edmund was knighted by King Henry on the 15th of December, 1449, and created Earl of Richmond and premier earl on the 6th of March 1452, being formally declared legitimate in the parliament of 1453. The king granted him lands and a generous income, and in 1455 Edmund married his thirteen-year-old ward, the wealthy heiress Lady Margaret Beaufort.

Arms of Sir Edmund Tudor
Fighting for Lancaster in what have become known as the Wars of the Roses, he was captured in 1456 by the Yorkist William Herbert and imprisoned in Carmarthen Castle. There were rumours Edmund might have been poisoned and a trial was held several months later with several people accused of his murder but no one was found guilty. It is generally thought Edmund died from wounds or from a form of bubonic plague while in prison on the 3rd of November 1456. Two months later Margaret Beaufort gave birth in nearby Pembroke Caste to Edmund’s son, who would become King Henry VII.

Edmund was buried at the Franciscan monastery of Grey Friars in Carmarthen. On the 30th March 1538 the Carmarthen priory was surrendered to the crown during the dissolution of the monasteries. In 1539, eighty-three years after his death, Edmund's remains were moved to the choir of St David's Cathedral, Pembrokeshire on the orders of his grandson, King Henry VIII. Edmund Tudor's tomb of Purbeck marble was placed in the choir, in front of the high altar. The inscription reads ‘Under this marble stone here inclosed resteth the bones of that most noble lord Edmund Earl of Richmond father and brother to kings, the which departed out of this world in our lord God MCCCCLVI the third of the month of November: on whose soul Almighty Jesu have mercy.’

Originally covered with a pall of silk embroidered with his arms and badges, the presence of the prominent Tudor tomb is thought to have thwarted anti-catholic reformer Bishop William Barlow’s plan to move the cathedral from St David’s to Carmarthen in the 1540’s.

Stripped of its finery by Oliver Cromwell's army in the seventeenth century, the cathedral and Edmund’s tomb were restored by gothic revival architect, Sir George Gilbert Scott between 1864 and 1876. The restoration included an engraved brass representing Edmund Tudor by Thomas Waller (1873) and a copy of the original brass edge inscription.


Tony Riches
St David's Cathedral, Pembrokeshire Wales
See also:  Visiting King Henry VII in London

No comments:

Post a Comment

AddToAny