Pertaining to the royal House of Tudor; a name of Welsh origin as explained below.

The Origins of the Tudor name

'Theodorus' was a Roman name of Greek origin meaning 'divine gift' , which gives us the modern English personal name of Theodore. In old Welsh 'Theodorus' became 'Tewdos' or 'Tewdwr', and was a personal name particularly associated with the ruling dynasties of Dyfed and Deheubarth in south-west Wales. (It is also incidentally, a name that appears in the form Teudebur amongst the names of the Kings of Strathclyde.)

In more modern Welsh 'Tewdwr' became 'Tudur' , which was rendered into English as 'Tudor'.

Ednyfed the Small

The story begins with Ednyfed Fychan, 'Ednyfed the Small' who was the seneschal or chief minister for Llywelyn ap Iorwerth between the years 1216 and 1246. As a result of his service to Llywelyn Ednyfed Fychan became a substantial landowner across north Wales particularly in Anglesey where he established his base at Penmynydd.

His descendants however appear to have been sufficiently astute to have seen which way the wind was blowing, and were conspicuous in their lack of enthusiasm for the cause of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth's grandson Llywellyn ap Gruffudd in his various conflicts with Edward I. They made their peace with Edward I and therefore retained their lands and influence; one of Ednyfed's grandsons, one Gruffudd Llwyd became one of the leading recruiters in Wales for Edward's armies.

Now Ednyfed's second marriage was to Gwenllian, daughter of Rhys ap Gruffudd the ruler of Deheubarth who was a himself a grandson of Rhys ap Tewdwr. From this marriage came a son 'Gronw' 1 who named his son 'Tudur', in honour of his illustrious ancestor Rhys ap Tewdwr; who had a son named 'Gronw' who displaying a strict adherence to tradition named his son 'Tudur' in turn.

Hence Tudur ap Gronw, the great-great-grandson of Ednyfed Fychan was in the late fourteenth century a significant and powerful landowner in Anglesey. Two of his sons were to join Owain Glyn Dwr in his revolt of in the early ears of the fifteenth century. One of the sons, Rhys ap Tudur was executed in 1412 for his part in the revolt, but the other son Maredudd ap Tudur made himself scare and went into exile.

It was his son Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudur who became a pageboy in the service of the English king Henry V, later served with Henry's army and gained a position at court.

Owain and Catherine

The story is that sometime after the death of Henry V on the 31st August 1422, that our Owain, or 'Owen' as the English called him, was bathing one day when Henry's widow Catherine of Valois caught sight of his naked body and took a fancy to him.

This tale may or may not be true; but Owain was at the time the clerk of the queen's wardrobe, and was therefore in close contact with Catherine. She being French, was regarded with suspicion by the English and specifically excluded from court and any role in the upbringing of her son Henry VI, and therefore in need of comfort and support etc.

Owain and Catherine were duly 'married' and one writes 'married' because no one is quite certain whether they bothered with any formal marriage ceremony. In 1428 Humphrey, the duke of Gloucester, secured the passing of an act of Parliament that specifically prohibited Catherine from marrying without the consent of the king and council 2. They may well have been secretly married before that date, but by strict application of English Law, the marriage, if there was indeed a marriage, was unsanctioned by the proper authorities and therefore considered invalid.3

Irrespective of the 'irregular' nature of the liaison no one made a fuss about it until 1436 Catherine was forced to retire to Bermondsey Abbey and Owain was briefly imprisoned, only to be released following Catherine's death on the 3rd of January 1437.

Despite his imprisonment Owain took no offence at his treatment and fought on the side of his stepson Henry VI in the Wars of the Roses. He supported the Lancastrians at the Battle of Mortimer's Cross, after which he was captured and taken to Hereford where he was duly executed in the market square on the 2nd February 1461.

His last words, as he laid his head on the executioners block, were said to have been a remark that his head that was once "wont to lie in Catherine's lap, would now lie in the executioner's basket".

The Sons of Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudur

In any event Owain and Catherine had five children, amongst which were two sons Edmund and Jasper. Henry VI the son of Henry V and Catherine did not it seems take offence to his mother's new marital arrangements and remained on good terms with his half brothers, making Edmund the earl of Richmond and Jasper the earl of Pembroke.

Edmund went on to marry Margaret Beaufort, herself a great-granddaughter of Edward III and they had a son named Henry, who as we can see could therefore claim descent from Edward III of England, as well as Charles VI of France as well as innumerable Welsh kings such as Rhys ap Tewdwr and Gruffudd ap Cynan.

It was this Henry Tudor who was to spend much of his life in exile with his uncle Jasper before returning to Britain in 1486, winning victory at the battle of Bosworth, becoming Henry VII and founding a new dynasty of Tudor kings and queens.

The House of Meredith

One more thing; our Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudur decided to adopt an English style surname. The obvious choice would have been for him to have anglicised his patronymic and become 'Owain Maredudd' or 'Meredith', as indeed did many subsequent 'ap Maredudds'. But for reasons only known to himself, Owain rejected this option and selected his grandfather's name 'Tudur' and therefore became 'Owen Tudor'.

Thus his grandson, Henry was Henry Tudor and in due course became king of England and so established the House of Tudor. If Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudur had been of a different inclination it would have been the 'House of Meredith'.


NOTES

1 'Gronw' in Old Welsh often rendered into the modern Welsh variant 'Goronwy'

2 Which since Humphrey was effectively the ruler of England during Henry VI's minority; this meant his consent.

2 Welsh Law which wasn't entirely disregarded at that time within Wales would have considered them 'married' in any event, which may well have coloured Owain's own take on matters.


SOURCES

John Davies A History of Wales (Allen Lane, 1993)
Gwyn Williams When Was Wales? (Penguin, 1991)
The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica entry on Catherine of Valois at www.1911encyclopedia.org/

Tu"dor (?), a.

Of or pertaining to a royal line of England, descended from Owen Tudor of Wales, who married the widowed queen of Henry V. The first reigning Tudor was Henry VII.; the last, Elizabeth.

Tudor style Arch., the latest development of Gothic architecture in England, under the Tudors, characterized by flat four-centered arches, shallow moldings, and a profusion of paneling on the walls.

 

© Webster 1913.

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