Henry VII was twenty-eight when he returned to England from Brittany in 1485 after an exile of fourteen years. Griffiths makes the point that ‘Illicit relationships may have flourished,’ which is a very polite way of saying that penniless male Lancastrian exiles may have looked for a little local female company on occasion.
It turns out that Henry Tudor may have been one of the exiles who sought some company because he had, if we’re going to be accurate – may have had, an illegitimate son called Roland de Veleville. Of course, being Henry Tudor he didn’t announce to the world at large ‘here is my son’ no title ‘Fitzroy’ was given the boy and there was certainly no flashing of the cash. So there is an academic argument about exactly who fathered Roland and sadly there isn’t a birth certificate stating the father or even a diary entry in Henry Tudor’s handwriting that would clear up the mystery. It’s a question of looking at the circumstantial evidence and deciding from there. Alison Weir lists him as Henry VII’s natural son but other academics are less certain. De Lisle makes no mention of him, and neither does Penn, both these authors are telling the story of Tudor’s rise to power not what was happening on the sidelines.
Henry VII’s key twentieth century biographer Chrimes discounts the possibility that the boy was his as does Griffiths who wrote after Chrimes and was undoubtedly influenced by Chrimes’ writing. Chrimes, writing in 1967, stated that de Veleville was knighted following Bosworth and was just another of the Lancastrian victors who got his share of the spoils. de Veleville definitely came to England with Henry Tudor, so was undoubtedly at Bosworth – it’s just that he was somewhere between eleven and fourteen years old at the time which would have made him a very talented youth indeed if he was being rewarded with a knighthood and 40 marks per annum! He was actually knighted twelve years after Bosworth in 1497 following the Battle of Blackheath.
We know that Henry VII did have an illegitimate son. The Calendar of Salusbury Correspondence, 1553-c. 1700, ed. W. J. Smith (1954). p. 265, mentions an ‘illeg. Son,’ though the letter is a secondary source written some hundred years after de Veleville’s death. Nor do we know that the son is Roland – which is frustrating.
So what do we know? Henry VII kept the boy with him after he became king. He lived at the Palace of Westminster but doesn’t appear to have been a servant. He went hunting and hawking and spent time jousting. He handled the royal falcons – these were expensive birds and were symbols of royalty…plebs were not permitted to handle them. Whoever he was, Roland was favoured by Henry Tudor.
In 1509 following a role as mourner at Henry VII’s funeral de Veleville became Constable of Beaumaris Castle. Parliament tried to block the pension that went with it but failed. Henry VII had granted Roland lands in Penmynydd – which were part of the lands which had belonged to the Tudors prior to Owen Glyndower’s rebellion of 1400. When Roland died he was buried in Llanfaes Priory.
In between being sent to North Wales and dying in 1535 he turns up on more than one occasion at the court of Henry VIII including to mourn the death of Henry’s infant son. According to the antiwhitequeenblog https://antiwhitequeen.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/a-tudor-enigma-roland-de-veleville/
“De Veleville was imprisoned for several months in 1517 for “slandering the king’s Council.” He was released when he wrote an apology (though it seems to have taken him some time to agree to do so), but his release was contingent upon him “attending upon the king and not departing without license.” De Veleville having been ordered to stay in the household of the king until given permission to leave means that he had to stay with the king, at court, until the king released him so he could return home to Wales. It is a weird way to punish a criminal, but the crime itself is one that shows how close he was to the king. Keep in mind that he is not a peer of the realm, but his speaking out against the members of the king’s council was enough of a threat to their positions at court to warrant an arrest and imprisonment. This means that he had a close enough connection to the king to be able to influence him and damage other courtiers. This is not the kind of influence you would expect from a random knight in Wales, and shows that he had a connection to the king beyond his position as Constable.”
Roland was indeed imprisoned in The Fleet for slandering the King’s Council – something not to be done lightly. However, whether Roland was Henry Tudor’s illegitimate son is not a certainty. He could, for example, just as easily have been the illegitimate son of Jasper Tudor who is known to have had an illegitimate daughter – more of her in another post; though why Jasper’s illegitimate son should have been shrouded in mystery by the Tudors is beyond me. If Roland was Henry Tudor’s son then perhaps it was sensible for Henry not to advertise the fact given the unstable nature of the realm in 1485 when he had legitimate sons to beget with Elizabeth of York. There is also a theory that Roland wasn’t illegitimate that Henry Tudor might have married whilst he was an exile, Roland’s mother wasn’t a serving wench- if this was the case it would have been difficult to broker a peace deal between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians with a legal son already on the scene – though you’d think Richard III would have been quick to advertise that fact unless the marriage was also shrouded in secrecy: which makes for rather a lot of skeletons rattling in various cupboards. But it’s all speculation. This last paragraph has moved away from history into supposition, as tends to happen with figures on the margins of history text books. Without dna testing there is no way of knowing who Roland was or, indeed, wasn’t.
Chrimes, S.B. (1973) Henry VII (Yale English Monarchs Seres)
Griffiths, R.A. (1985). The Making of a Tudor Dynasty
It is common in the rich and powerful to have many mistresses and like Richard who undoubtedly had bastard sons so Henry also did.Even today in powerful circles it goes on like rabbits. Sex is the drug and mans thoughts are not just for procreation it must be said. Henry had no right to be King and he suffered badly in fear all his life.That passed on to his very insecure son and women instead of being adored lost heads in Henry V111s misery as fatherless of heirs.A shaky throne in deed as so many nobles had more right to rule. Since that day not one of the Royals we keep have Royal blood as far as real kingship is concerned they are puppets not worthy of the highest throne in Europe. The cost of keeping such is beyond sense when poor England is sink9ing on all stock markets and the currency now in debt on loans to keep it a float. The Euro racing to meet it is not a happy situation and yet 10 pound in tax from every tax payer goes to pamper the expanded Civil List. Being titled myself I have denied my rights to claim a single penny. Britain must look to survival and save expense for better days.
Saying Henry had a bastard because Richard had a bastard is just plain silly. Richard and Henry were two very different men who were raised way differently. Is it possible that Henry had bastards? Yes. Would Jasper or Margaret allow Henry to marry just anyone? No. His entire life was spent becoming king, so marrying just anyone would be unthinkable. I think you’re a bit off on other things as well. England was not the most powerful country in Europe. Spain, France, The Holy Roman Empire, The Ottoman Empire, China, the list goes on. And sex was not even close to making his list of important things. If it did we would have heard about mistresses-which we don’t. Closest thing to a rumor of mistresses was Cathy Gordon and considering her close relationship with Elizabeth of York, and Cathy’s role in Elizabeth’s funeral makes it unlikely. This rumor only came after a historian found a few entries in his ledger of him purchasing clothing for her. But considering that she was married to Perkin Warbeck the pretender Henry executed, and her being cousin of King James it’s not a shock he’d buy her a few clothing items. She did become one of Elizabeth’s ladies after all. His obvious grief after Elizabeth’s death, the expensive funeral and him never remarrying shows alot about him. Comparing him to his monster son Henry Viii is very unfair and clearly shows how little you know of this monarch. Was he at times a tyrant? Yes. Fear does that to a man who witnessed the political nightmare during the wars of the roses and the former King get betrayed and beaten to death by his closest allies, so yeah, he would be a fool not to worry. If you’d like to learn about Henry Vii you should really check out Henry Vii Winter King.
The Winter King is an excellent book – probably the best on Henry VII.
Hello Sir Kevin–I am a bit late coming to the HJ—-but have attended Julia’s classes for the past few years and enjoy them immensely. My subject is Robin Hood of Yorkshire–this might sound very silly =due to all the silly films, but having Robin’s grave on my doorstep started up my local research and especially Kirklees Priory–not to mention the end of the Armytage dynasty recently–however, re RH of Yorkshire which frankly the Powers that Be—whoever they are! don’t want to know! Why? I have my own ideas! I am very very interested in the Tudors–that means–unlike that dreadful tv programme The Tudors——-going back to the start! Honestly you would think Henry V!!! came out of nowhere as the one and only Tudor. Since then, as you have pointed out, the whole line has gone in a very complicated direction, anyhow thats for now, this is a very interesting site but half the time I don’t know what I am doing on these modern gadgets! and I am sure we will hopefully have many interesting discussions–though if you would so kind, I would like to hear of your connection to Catherine the Survivor—apart from RH K-C atherine and her sad history at the end of the day—what happened to the baby? With best wishes
from Barbara Yorkshire Robin Hood Society
Roland was definitely not Henry’s son. There is no evidence for his birth date. The usually quoted date 1474 is a circular creation based on what date would fit in with Henry’s exile in Brittany. The confusion was caused by the Breton habit of translating their names into a French form when away from Breton speaking areas. When the expert in Heraldry sought a Velville in Brittany, none was found. But under the Breton translation of Cozkaer or Cosquer, a perfect match is shown on the arms granted to Roland in England – gold with a black sanglier. Coz = Old, Kaer = castle / manor / village.
Also, Roland was named as a commander in Henry’s army sent to relieve Brittany in 1488 – by the proposed birth date, that would make him 14. The Cosquer family is of old Breton nobility and its descendants still hold the castle of Rosanbo with just one change of name.
The families indicated in the quarterings are also identified with the ascent of the family in Brittany.
The family claimed descent from the Viscounts of Leon, whose power base was Brest – familes descended from them described themselves thus, “descendant of the Counts of Leon and the ancient Kings of Brittany”. This is a paraphrase of the eulogy given for him at his death.
A Roland du Cosquer was present at a montre of the nobility in 1481 near Treguier, at which time he must have been of military age. So Roland was about 10 years older than previously believed.
Hello I’m sorry to add to this site years later. One thing we’re all forgetting is history during the reign of Henry Vii was dictated either by Henry or his mother. So we will only know what they wanted us to.
Very true – History, is as they say, the winners version.
I am a descendant of Roland.. couldn’t a living relative have dna testing done?