Jasper Tudor’s Will

A while back, to satisfy a question I had, I had someone transcribe Jasper Tudor’s will for me. (There’s an abstract of it in Testamenta Vetusta, but I wanted the whole thing.) Jasper died on December 21, 1495, at around age sixty-four.

Jasper starts his will, dated December 15, 1495, and given at his manor of Thornbury, by bequeathing his “soul to almighty God to our blessed lady his mother the Virgin Mary and to all saints.” Most of the rest is concerned with monetary bequests to religious houses and provisions for the welfare of his own soul, those of his parents, and that of his brother Edmund. (The transcriber supplied me both transcriptions in the original spelling and in modern English. In the modern English version, Jasper asks that land be amortised “for the finding of 4 priests to sin perpetually.” I was disappointed to find out that this was a typo by the transcriber and that the priests were to sing perpetually. The former request sounds like a lot more fun, and lends itself to considerable creativity.)

A number of religious houses received rich garments from Jasper. His chosen burial place, Keynsham Abbey, received his best gown of cloth of gold, which was to be made into vestments “to the honour of God and his blessed mother.” The monastery of St. Kenelme of Winchcombe received a gown of crimson velvet for a cope. The church of Thornbury got a black velvet gown for the same purpose. A second gown of cloth of gold was given to the Grey Friars of Haverford, where Owen Tudor was buried, for a cope or vestments. Another black velvet gown went to the church of Pembroke for a cope. Jasper left the Blessed Trinity of Crichurch (the Priory of Holy Trinity in London) a jacket of cloth of gold, which was to be used to make two jackets. (Did Jasper’s jacket contain a lot of excess fabric, or had Jasper grown a trifle plump following his return from his long exile?)

Jasper left his household servants a year’s wages and asked that his household be kept from the day of his death until the following Easter. The land that Jasper held in fee simple was to be retained for 20 years for the payment of his debts and the satisfaction of his will, after which it was to go to Jasper’s nephew, King Henry VII, “and to his heirs kings of England forever.” Jasper also asked that Henry see the will executed “for my old since devotion to his Grace.” He appointed the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, Giles, Lord Dawbeny, Dr. Owen Poole, Richard Newton, John Browne, and Morgan Kydwelly as his executors. When the will was probated on July 2, 1496, Dawbeny and Kydwelly were appointed the executors.

The reason I requested a transcript of the will was to determine whether the online Oxford Dictionary of National Biography was correct in saying that Jasper failed to mention his wife, Katherine, in his will. (Katherine, for those of you don’t follow this blog breathlessly, was the former Katherine Woodville, sister to Queen Elizabeth Woodville and widow of the executed Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. She married Jasper after the Battle of Bosworth.) To my delight, Katherine, who had wealth of her own thanks to her jointure from Buckingham, did indeed get a mention in Jasper’s will, albeit of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety. Jasper placed the residue of his goods in the hands of his executors and asked that “my Lady my wife and all other persons have such dues as shall be thought to them appertaining by right law and conscience.”

It’s interesting, though, to note that Katherine was not made one of husband’s executors. Perhaps she was a bit of a ditz regarding business affairs, for Carol Rawcliffe, noting her son Edward’s meticulous record-keeping, described her as “rather negligent over the care and custody of her muniments.” In any event, Jasper was probably wise in omitting his widow from the list of executors, for just two months after Jasper’s death, Katherine showed that she had other things on her mind: she married, without royal license, Richard Wingfield, a young man probably about twelve years Katherine’s junior.

25 thoughts on “Jasper Tudor’s Will”

  1. Susan Higginbotham

    Thanks, all!

    Jasper is an interesting character–a shame no one seems to have attempted a biography of him that I know of. (There are a couple of novels about him, though–one as I recall has him hopelessly in love with Margaret Beaufort.)

  2. I love the details in this will – he certainly had quite a wardrobe, didn’t he? And it sounds like Katherine was a bit of a medieval bimbo 😉

  3. Perhaps he isn’t famous enough to attract a publisher for a biography?
    I wonder if he expected Katherine to marry again (perhaps she even showed inclinations in that direction beforehand) and that influenced his decision not to name her as an executor. Was it unusual for the wife not to be an executor?

  4. Susan Higginbotham

    Now, now, Lady D! Katherine is my heroine in my WIP, although I do admit that her husband has had occasion to scold her for her lack of attention to details. 🙂

    Carla, I’d have to look, but I recall that just before Jasper’s death, Parliament passed an act that strengthened Katherine’s hold on her jointure, which suggests to me that Jasper didn’t think that she was going to remarry, or perhaps didn’t mind if she did. He was well into his fifties when he married her as his first wife, and I wonder sometimes if he quite knew what to do with a wife at that point (except perhaps for the most obvious pastime).

    It was fairly common for men to name their wives as executrix as a last expression of their fondness for them and/or their confidence in their abilities, though often the testator would name multiple executors, especially if the estate was a complex one and/or the testator wanted to have highly placed people looking after his last affairs. Edward IV, for instance, named Elizabeth Woodville as one of his executors in his 1475 will, and Ricardians who are eager to show that he had grown apart from her by 1483 have tried their best to prove that she was left out of the 1483 will. Unfortunately, it no longer survives.

    Back to Katherine, though, it’s notable that Margaret Beaufort, Jasper’s sister-in-law, whose reputation for efficiency would have made her an ideal executrix, wasn’t named as one either, and wasn’t named in the will. Perhaps Jasper simply considered that administering a will was a man’s job.

  5. Good point about Margaret Beaufort! She would have made an efficient executrix, so missing out Katherine isn’t necessarily a comment on Katherine’s ability.

  6. An interesting aspect of Jasper’s life that tends to get overlooked is his raid on Wales in 1468. Although it led to the fall of Harlech Castle and was ultimately a failure, it was a very bold action and did a lot of damage in North Wales.

  7. I have only just “met” Jasper today and was interested in his will. There is speculation that he had a couple of illegitimate daughters, one of whom was the several gt grandmother of Oliver Cromwell – I dont suppose there was any mention of illegitimate daughters and their families (Williams) in there too?

    He does seem like a fascinating character.

  8. Susan Higginbotham

    Hi, Angela! No, sorry, no mention of any daughters. If you or anyone else is interested, I’d be happy to send you a Word document of the transcribed will.

  9. I’m VERY interessted in that word document (my email is mink@goldmail.de…I’m not registrated here 🙁 )! Jasper tudor is one of my favourite historical characters. do anybody know any books (fictonal) with him?

  10. Susan Higginbotham

    Fey, I’ll send you a copy. Betty King wrote a novel about Jasper Tudor called The Lord Jasper, which features his (unconsummated) love affair with Margaret Beaufort. That’s the only one I know of offhand.

  11. Thank you so very, very much! I just studied the whole will and it’s so interessting. Do you know something about this book? Is it good? I first “meet” Jasper in a very good german novel called “Das Spiel der Könige” by Rebecca Gable (there is unfornatually no english transcription). After this first contact with him I began to collect and study all about the Wars of the roses and the historical personalities. For me the most fascinating characters are Jasper (of course), John Neville (Lord Montague and Earl of Northumberland for a short time) and John de Vere, the 13th Earl of Oxford.
    The only other english novel I know about Jasper (and edmund) is The boy’s tale by Margaret Frazer.
    I’m sorry for my not so good english..reading english is much easier than writing. Hope you don’t mind!


  12. Susan Higginbotham

    Don’t apologize for your English–I wish I could write and read another language even passably! All I can do is pick out the stray phrase here or there.

    I don’t remember much about the Betty King book, I’m afraid. I don’t think it captured my interest much, but it didn’t irritate me either.

    Thanks for the tip about the Margaret Frazer one! I put it on hold at the library here.

    I’ve heard wonderful things about Rebecca Gable’s novels. I really wish they would be translated into English.

  13. Hello!
    I’m so sorry that I needed so much time to answer! Christmas- new year- a lots of family and stress (I think there is no difference between diffrent countries XD)
    Thank you for your commendation :-)! My english is..well..I can read without bigger problems ( literature, fanfics, science papers for my work, etc.) but it’s so difficult to speak it. and to understand people when they are talking. I have the possibility to go and work in Great Britain for a while, but I’m to much afraid that I couldn’t talk there to anybody. But that’s not the issue, isn’t it? We were talking about Rebecca Gable. I wish her novels were translateted into English because she wrotes so wonderful about english history and nowbody in Englang can read it. and by the way I think the books would be even better to read the charaters in their “original” language.
    Ah, back to the very first topic. about Jasper. When he wrote his will at december,15th then it seems that he knew that he was dying. Did you know what was the cause of death. He wasn’t so young and it seems to be an illniss, but do you now more facts?

  14. Susan Higginbotham

    Fey, sorry it’s taken so long to get back to you. I’m sending you an e-mail with an attachment.

  15. I did read the Betty King novel about Jasper and Margaret Beaufort, and found that it’s otherwise fascinating theme of their love ‘affair’ had so few supporting actual facts. For whatever reason, I didn’t find that the novel ‘rang true’. I’d like to read a really well-written and well-documented biography of Margaret Beaufort, if any of you know of one.



  16. Susan Higginbotham

    Michael Jones and Malcolm Underwood have an excellent biography of Margaret Beaufort called The King’s Mother. There are earlier ones about her, but not of the same caliber.

    I wish there was a good biography of Jasper Tudor. There’s an unpublished dissertation about him, but I haven’t been able to obtain a copy of it.

  17. I have recently become acquainted with Jasper Tudor and am fascinated by the Tudor genealogy. I think its safe to say the Tudors were never boring!

  18. Karen Sue Jameson Beaty

    Thank you all for having such great interest in my 15th great Grandfather.He was a very brave man that i really admire and am proud to be descended from 🙂

  19. Susan,

    Would you mind e-mailing me a copy of his will, in any/all forms that you have it.
    I am slightly addicted to jasper so any material that you have will also be greatly appreciated 🙂

    I am off to look through the rest of your blog as this page came up in a search i have been doing

    Thank you



  20. I am from Newport in Gwent where Jasper helped to rebuild/renovate St. Woolos Cathedral.
    There is a statue at the top of the bell tower that may be him. Unfortunately the weather and pollution plus a little vandalism during the civil war has made it difficult to establish.
    I know that he was buried at Keynsham Abbey but does anyone actually know where in the abbey?


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