On the 25th of October 1460, the Act of Accord acknowledged Richard, Duke of York, as the heir to Henry VI and effectively disinherited Henry VI’s son Edward. It was hoped that this agreement would put an end to the political tension that had caused so much trouble in previous years, but it was not to be. The Act of Accord naturally left the Lancastrian's foaming at the mouth, many were angry that the act had swept the rules of primogeniture under the carpet, a rule that had protected the rights of the noble family for decades, without which there would be chaos.
Many Lancastrian's rallied to the cause resulting in a number of revolts occurring in the country with Henry's queen, Margaret of Anjou, at its helm. The first serious clash happened in Yorkshire, just over two months after the Act of Accord was signed, as Margaret had headed to Wales, Richard, Duke of York, now heir apparent made his way towards Sandal Castle to meet the forces of the opposing army, even though York's force outnumber the Lancastian's by two to one the battle went the the way of Lancaster. Richard, Duke of York died in battle that day at Wakefield. David Hume in his History of England writes of York's death
"The Duke himself was killed and beheaded, and when his body was found among the slain, the head was cut off by Margaret's orders and fixed on the gates of York, with a paper crown upon it, in derision of his pretended title.'
York died among his men, a noble death you could say, his second son, Edmund Earl of Rutland died that day too but his death was a cruel one at the hands of John Clifford. Clifford, had a reputation for brutality on the battle field, John Leland, wrote in 1540 that Clifford was
'for killing of men at the bataill was caullid the boucher.'
"sight of any of the House of York was fury to torment his soul"
It is John Leland, the 16th century antiquary, who first mentions that it was Clifford who murdered the seventeen year old Edmund, William of Worcester in his Annales Rerum Anglicarum writes "and in the flight after the battle, Lord Clifford killed Edmund Earl of Rutland, son of the Duke of York, on the bridge at Wakefield." but its Shakespeare who puts the following words into Clifford's mouth.
"Thy father slew mine; and so will I do thee and all thy kin"
Thus the seeds were set for bloody revenge, it was Owen Tudor who was the next to die on the order of another angry and grieving young man.
Edward had celebrated the Christmas of 1460 in Gloucester with John Tuchet, Walter Devereux, William and Richard Herbert and Roger Vaughan. These five Welsh men were, not only linked to one another by blood and marriage but were an important part of the Yorkist political connection, it was Roger Vaughan of Tretower, who in 1461, would be Edward's henchman.
Tudor, along with his son Jasper, had been recruiting men from Wales previous to the Battle of Mortimer's Cross and had made their way to into Herefordshire by the beginning of February of 1461. After the battle the elderly Welsh leader was captured along with Henry Scudamore and John Throckmorton. On the news of Tudors capture, Edward ordered Roger Vaughan to Usk Castle, where it is said Owen Tudor was held captive. Scudamore and Throckmorton may have escaped death but Tudor was summarily executed, beheaded in Hereford market square, the axe swung by Roger Vaughan.
The story of how Tudor met his death is much written about as are his final words
"That hede shalle ly on the stroke that was wonte to ly on Quene Kateryns lappe'
Tudor was executed not because he, along with his son Jasper, were making some attempt to free Henry VI from his captor, or that he had recruited troops in Wales or taken up Margaret of Anjou's cause or because of any treasonous act. Owen Tudor met his death because Edward was determined avenge the death of his father and brother just as Clifford had. The Earl of March, as Edward IV, did not require that his men love him, but he certainly expected them obey him.
Twenty three days after the Battle of Mortimer' s Cross and the death of Owen Tudor, Jasper Tudor wrote to Roger Puleston, Governor of Denbigh Castle, of the defeat at Mortimer's Cross and how he would avenge the death of his father.
"Right trusty and well beloved cousins, and friends, we grete you well. And suppose that yee have well in yo remembrance the great dishonour ahd rebuke that we and yee late have by traitor Marche, Harbert and Dunne, with their affinityes, as well in letting us fo our journey to the Kinge, as in putting my father your kinsman to the death, and their trayterously demeaning, we purpose with the might of our lord, and assistance of you and other our kinsman, men and friends, within a short time to avenge. Written at our towne of Tenbye the xxvth of ffeur. J Penmroke"
Jasper Tudor would spend the next twenty five years as a man on the run, in those years he remained bitter, bitter about the Lancastrian's final defeat, bitter about the loss of land and power in Wales, but he never forgot the name of the man who decapitated his father, but it was ten long years before he would be face to face with him. During Tudor's exile, the Lancastrians made some attempt to drum up support Brittany, France and Scotland, invasion plans were made and thwarted but eventuality Jasper Tudor along with Richard Neville, and Edward's brother the Duke of Clarence arrived in England landed in Dartmouth and headed for Wales picking up Henry, the future Henry VII on the way. Henry VI was restored to the throne of England on the 30th October 1470, it is Jasper Tudor who had played a significant role in the restored Lancastrian regime but it was, as we have seen, at a personal loss to himself. Is it any wonder then that he seized the opportunity, when it did arrive, of unleashing all his pent up anger on one man, Roger Vaughan.
The Vaughan's were a rich and influential Welsh family, who received the lands and castle of Tretower in the historical county of Brecknockshire via marriage to the daughter of John Bluet of Raglan. Roger Vaughan was active in the service of the Yorkist and as we know he was with Edward, Earl of March at Mortimer Cross. Whilst Jasper Tudor was effectively in exile, his Lancastrian supporters had not been inactive, Roger Puleston, Philip Mansel and Hopkin ap Rhys had been causing problems and it was Roger Vaughan who quashed an insurrection at Carmarthen. Vaughan did his job and captured all three men, but Edward decided to pardon all three, and Rhys and Mansel's land were forfeited and given to Roger Vaughan.
It was at Tewkesbury, in the May of 1471, that all the hopes of the Lancastrian's were dashed, Edward, son and heir to Henry VI was dead. Roger Vaughan, it seems, did not fight at Tewkesbury, neither did Jasper Tudor, he was holed up at Chepstow Castle. Edward, as Edward Hall, the 16th century chronicler pointed out was
"not beynge out of feare for the Earl of Pembroke"
Edward ordered Vaughan and William Herbert to Chepstow to take Jasper Tudor, but unfortunately for Vaughan, Tudor knew he was coming, and his thoughts quickly turned to revenge. Vaughan, Hall continues was
"stronge of people and frendes, to the entendt of some gyle or sodaynly to trap and surprise the erle"
but it seems, Jasper Tudor wasn't without friends himself
"having intelligence of certayne frendes how that watche was privilie leyed for him, sodainly in the town took Roger Vaughan"
His father's executioner was captured. According to John Leland, who was writing during the time of Henry VIII, Roger Vaughan pleaded for his life, the words he received in reply were
"that he should have such favour as he shewid to Owene his Father'
Roger Vaughan, executioner of Owen Tudor, went to the block within the town walls of Chepstow, his death was the last in this chain of retaliatory acts. No one avenged his death, although one Guto'r Glyn, Welsh bard and poet and an adherent to the Yorkist's did call for vengeance on his behalf.
Vengeance, in what ever time period, is one of the worst of human traits, but it is an intriguing one none the less.
So, what is vengeance?
It is a word often used to explain and justify violence, and the violent actions of Jasper Tudor, Edward IV and John Clifford, were an act of personal vengeance. The actions of these three men was allowed to happen because medieval law permitted vengeance, and as long as this kind of action is sanctioned by the king and carried out by one of his nominated officers it was not murder.
Let me end with the words of Martin Luther King Jr
"The old law of 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind."