Guest Post by Debra Bayani: The Supposed Daughters of an Earl

I’m pleased to be part of a blog tour for Debra Bayani, author of a new biography: Jasper Tudor: Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty! Jasper Tudor has always intrigued me, and I’m eager to learn more about him. Here’s Debra!

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Very often I receive messages and comments on my posts from people, mostly women, saying they are descended from Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke and later Duke of Bedford, through his daughters Helen/Ellen or Joan. They claim to be his 17th great-great-grand daughter or his 18th great-grand niece, sometimes even a few times removed – something which would be lovely if only it were true. It is entirely understandable that someone would be pleased and proud to think themselves to be related to such an heroic person, but it does, however, surprise me that, when I try to explain that the chance of being an actual ‘relative’ of Jasper is very slight, people react as if I’m deliberately offending them or trying to undermine their castles in the air. I need hardly say that this is certainly not the case at all. I hope that the following explanation will make the position clear.

It is alleged that, sometime in the 1450s, Jasper had a love affair with a certain Welshwoman named Mevanvy ferch Daffydd from Gwynedd and by her had two illegitimate daughters, Helen or Ellen and Joan, both said to have been born in Snowdonia. Joan, supposed to have been born in 1453, is said to have married William ap Yevan (son of Yevan ap William and Margaret Kemoys) by whom she had twin sons called Morgan and John ap William(s) born in Lanishen, Wales, in 1479. It is believed that Joan herself died while giving birth, but Morgan, in 1499, married Thomas Cromwell’s sister Katherine Cromwell in Putney Church, Norwell, Nottinghamshire, and so became fourth-generation ancestor to Oliver Cromwell. Jasper’s alleged second daughter, Helen or Ellen, is said to have been born in 1459 and married, after 1485, to William Gardiner (son to Thomas Gardiner and Anna de la Grove), a cloth merchant who became a spearman for the Lancastrians at the Battle of Bosworth. As a blood relation of the winning side Sir William’s trade as a clothier was much enhanced by the custom of aristocratic and even royal buyers. Helen/Ellen and William Gardiner had at least one son, Stephen Gardiner, who became a well-known figure under the Tudor monarchy during Henry VIII’s reign, and four daughters. Lately it has been questioned whether or not this Stephen Gardiner was in fact their son and another individual, Thomas Gardiner, has also been suggested.

In spite of this, there is no actual proof whatsoever that Jasper’s relationship with Mevanvy ever took place. There is, of course, a possibility that she was his mistress until around the early 1460s; but there is no mention of any other children he had with her. In fact, there is no official or contemporary mention at all of his daughters – not even Jasper’s will refers to the girls or Mevanvy – and there is no evidence for their existence in any remaining contemporary source. The earliest known reference is in William Dugdale’s Baronage of England dating to 1676, but this gives only Ellen as Jasper’s illegitimate daughter and again does not mention Mevanvy. Dugdale simply reports Jasper as ‘leaving no other issue than one illegitimate Daughter, called Ellen, who became the Wife of William Gardner, Citizen of London’, a statement based on a book of a contemporary of Dugdale’s. I have been unsuccessful in finding out where this Mevanvy was first mentioned. There is, however, a novel by Betty King called The Lord Jasper, first published in the 1970s, where the relationship of Jasper and Mevanvy was given clear field (as well as that with Margaret Beaufort).

It appears probable that this relationship and Mevanvy were invented by a novelist trying to romanticise the life of the man who seems to have lived a life of service to others rather than indulging in his own pleasures.

Selected Sources:

William Dugdale, The Baronage of England, vol.3 (London, 1676)

Betty King, The Lord Jasper (Leicester: Ulverscroft, 2001)

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Jasper Tudor, Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty is now available in colour and black & white editions on all the Amazon websites and Book Depository.

Click here for Amazon.com

Click here for Amazon.co.uk

Click here for Book Depository

Debra Bayani is a researcher and writer, living in the Netherlands with her husband and children. She previously studied Fashion History and History of Art. She has been interested in history as far as she can remember with real passion for the Middle Ages and the Wars of the Roses, and has spend many years researching this period. Currently she is working on a visitor’s guide to places connected to the Wars of the Roses. Debra’s debut non-fiction book, the first biography on the subject, ‘Jasper Tudor, Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty’, was published in 2014.

Her website can be found at: www.thewarsoftherosescatalogue.com and she is the admin of the coordinating Facebook page The Wars of the Roses Catalogue and her author page on Facebook.

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14 Responses to Guest Post by Debra Bayani: The Supposed Daughters of an Earl

  1. Stelva Webb says:

    Enjoyed reading your post just now about Jasper Tudor. Have you done any research on the Tunstall family of England? This is my maternal family and I’ve only recently begun researching. It has been said the first Tunstall in the colonies was Edmond “Tonsil” who arrived in Virginia in 1638. Thank you for responding if you have the time.

    • Debra Bayani says:

      Hi Stelva,
      Thank you for replying. Glad you liked the post.
      Sorry, no I have not done any research on the Tunstall Family.
      All the best and good luck with your research!

      • Debra Bayani says:

        Hi Stelva, just realized that there are infact two Tunstall’s that I know of who played a part in Henry’s road to Bosworth and posibly also in the preparations to it. If you could tell me who you’re looking for I’ll see if I can find anything.

  2. Banditqueen says:

    Interesting post. While proof of Jasper Tudor having illegitimate kids may be lacking, this does not mean they are a myth. Perhaps given Jasper`s status as the King’s uncle when he made his will, he was not willing to compromise his name by admitting to bastard daughters. Jasper may have had children by a mistress but the evidence has been lost or did not record them. He may not have recognized them. Or maybe you are correct and they have been invented. It’s just that the case cannot be proven but it is still possible. However when people claim to be descendents I wish they would provide proof or have DNA done. Family trees can be researched and many truths tested, but family history is not always how it appears.

  3. Sarah Perry-Correia says:

    No idea until now that Thomas Cromwell & Oliver Cromwell were connected. Great post. Thanks!

  4. Paul says:

    I’m intrigued as to how such notable and public figures as the Cromwells could have got away with linking themselves to Joan Tudor had there not been at least a grain of truth. Any false linking must have been made before or during the time of Oliver Cromwell, as it is only then that the family might have felt a need to justify themselves by having “noble” ancestry. Even so, it’s also likely that any fake links would have been disproved after the restoration, when the Cromwells fell out of favour with the public for a while. The motive for any fraudulent claims is very intriguing anyway; would Thomas Cromwell really have dared to pull the wool over Henry VIII’s eyes, since this would have made them de facto cousins? And wouldn’t Oliver Cromwell have preferred to downplay any royal links? Interested in your thoughts about this.

  5. David Rhys says:

    It clearly states A history of Northumberland By Northumberland county history committee lists Thomas Gardner Prior of Tynemouth and lists his connection to the royal family through his father and mother William Gardner and Ellen Tudor..
    The executor of William Gardners will was his brother Sir Richard Gardner Lord Mayor, Sheriff, Alderman and President of the London Mercers Guild.. Thomas was removed for his safety after Bosworth and his father death and educated at Crown expense at Westminster Abby.. Where he became Henry VIII personal Chaplin..
    You can read accounts in Thomas Gardner own hand complaining he wasn’t sure if his decadence through Queen Catherin Valois was a help or a hindrance..

  6. David Rhys says:

    Thomas Gardiners appointment to Tynemouth was made by Henry VIII after Mary Carey Urged Henry for the appointment as Thomas Gardiner would pay Mary Carey a monthly stipend to help support her family.. Marys probate shows Thomas Gardiner paid her a stipend until her death.. It’s now my opinion this was a way for Henry to provide material support to Mary Boylen Carey without arousing suspicion at court.. As Henry & Thomas Gardiner were already acquainted..

  7. Kenneth Williams says:

    I saw your post I am a direct descendent of the male linage of William ap Yevan . Now a lot of people think that the royal link comes from Jasper Tudor but that is not the way it works , the Williams royal linage is Welsh and thew a marrige at the time of Edward the first English .and if you look far back on the linage of Jasper and William ap Yevan they are distant cousins. In order to understand how Oliver Crowmwell ,s biography was written by Burke,s peerage . I have done extensive research on Williams lineage if you understand who William ap Yevan was and his importance to the fragile alliance that Henry had with the Welsh . And latter how important his sons and grandsons became to the English Crown during the Tudor dynasty . As for Joan she was a real and the daughter of Jaser Tudor and the wife of William that is confirmed by Welsh and English Last Will and Testaments and also in a written log of the royal court of Henry that stated this that Joan Tudor was giving bibles to all who wanted them . Sometimes English and Welsh history is hard to follow but if you follow the and find the old Last Wills you can confirm a lot of myths. As for today the Williams line can be traced by Last Wills and DNA all Williams males look alike we are all over 6 foot and have a mole on the right side of our face under our eye . I look like Baron John Williams effigy on his casket. The Williams family moved to America at about the time that Oliver Crowmwell died . I am in Oklahoma .

    • Shirley S says:

      Hi Kenneth, i do wish you could scan or record documents you have found regarding Joan from wills & testaments or list actual documentation into Ancestry.com to put these doubts to rest. I, too, have lineage from Williams via Joan T and Jasper showing up on Family Search.org site and would like it confirmed. Not so much for being descended from ‘royalty’ but to have an honest family tree…and I did have my DNA done but how would anyone match that. .with whom? What confirmed Tudor person has a sample to match with???

    • Bruce W. Cobb says:

      Kenneth, I am your distant cousin. I am also descended from William ap Yevan. My Williams ancestors came to America through
      Virginia where my ancestor Roger Mackerness Williams 1760-1836 was born. This ancestor served in the Virginia Continental Line during the Revolutionary War. I live in Texas. My email is bwcobb11554@yahoo.com You may contact me anytime.

    • Ken:

      I am a male descendant of that same line as yours through my great-great grandmother. My cousins are direct descendants of
      that line: Royce and Frank Williams from SC. I live in Texas.

  8. Michael Todd says:

    Is there any possibility of a claimed lineage to Jasper being verified through DNA testing?