Sir Roland Velville, of Beaumaris

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Sir Roland Velville, of Beaumaris

Birthdate: (61)
Birthplace: England
Death: June 25, 1535 (61)
Immediate Family:

Son of Henry VII of England and NN NN, Unknown Breton Woman
Husband of Agnes Velville
Father of Jane de Velville; David Owen Tudor and Grace Glynn
Half brother of Margaret Tudor, Queen Consort of Scots; Henry VIII, King of England; Elizabeth Tudor; Mary Tudor, Queen of France; Edmund Tudor, Duke of Somerset and 2 others

Occupation: Constable Of Beaumaris Castle
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Sir Roland Velville, of Beaumaris

Sir Roland de Vielville - Biography and Claims to being Edward's Son

Sir Roland de Velville (1474-1535) 'A man of kingly line and of earl's blood' "...gwr o lin brenhinoedd ag o waed ieirll i gyd oedd,"

Extract from an elegy to Sir Roland de Velville by Daffyd Alaw (1535)

The home of Sir Roland de Velville's maternal family? The Chateau of Durtal, near Angers, from an old postcard.

Catherine of Berain - Sir Roland de Velville's grand-daughter. A slight resemblance to her contemporary, Elizabeth I?


Sir Roland de Velville (also spelt Vielleville, Veleville or, probably more correctly, Vieilleville), Constable of Beaumaris Castle from 1509 to 1535 is reputed to have been a natural son of Henry VII, born to a Breton lady while Henry was in exile in Brittany between 1471 and 1485. In the past those historians or writers who have mentioned Velville have, as far as I can see, either accepted him as such or have referred to him as a 'reputed natural son' of Henry VII. I have found no indication that Velville was believed not to be a natural son of Henry VII prior to 1967, over 400 years after his death. Even today he continues to be accepted as a natural son of Henry VII, the most recent example being Alison Weir in her book 'Britain's Royal Families' (Pimlico, 1996). Even such an authoritative source as the Dictionary of Welsh Biography refers to Velville as 'a natural son of Henry VII' (under the entry for Katheryn of Berain).

In 1967 the late Professor S. B. Chrimes of Cardiff University, author of a major biography of Henry VII ('Henry VII', Eyre Methuen, 1972), published a short paper in Welsh Historical Review in which he put forward the opinion that Velville was not a natural son of Henry VII. This view was echoed in 1985 by Professor R. A. Griffiths of University College, Swansea, in his book 'The Making of the Tudor Dynasty'. In 1991 a further, much longer paper on the subject, by W. R. B. Robinson, was published in Welsh Historical Review. While Robinson identifies a number of significant errors and omissions in Chrimes earlier paper he nonetheless states that 'the review of available evidence tends to support Professor Chrimes scepticism about Velville's supposed Tudor origins'. This statement means, of course, that Robinson agrees that the available evidence is insufficient to establish de Velville's paternity beyond doubt, which is a very different thing from saying that the available evidence establishes beyond doubt that de Velville was not a son of Henry VII, which, of course, it does not do - as you will see.

A number of interesting questions about Velville still remain to be addressed, as follows:-

Why has Velville been attributed with a quartered coat of arms, which would seem to indicate that both his father and mother were known? Can his arms be traced in French sources and what link is there, if any, between Velville and the de Vieilleville family, Counts of Durtal? (Durtal is near Angers in France.) Was Velville's mother a daughter of this family? What was Velville's date of birth? My family tree says 1474 but I don't know where this information came from. Is it possible that Henry VII was actually married to Velville's mother (who may have died shortly after the marriage or in childbirth)? After all, Henry VII was 28 in 1485 and it was very unusual at that period for a man of that age to remain unmarried. In addition, prior to 1483 Henry had, on the face of it, virtually no prospect of succeeding to the throne of England, since there were several legitimate heirs living at that time, and even very little prospect of ever returning to that country - at least alive. He therefore had almost no incentive to remain unmarried and could have considered himself, as a penniless and untitled exile (he was plain 'Henry Tudor' at that stage) with a price on his head, quite lucky to marry into a good French family. The possibility should not be excluded. For what it is worth, I am reasonably certain, on the basis of the evidence outlined below, that Roland de Velville was Henry VII's son. If you read the article by Professor Chrimes and the extracts from' The Making of the Tudor Dynasty' by Professor Griffiths, both Professors of Welsh History, you will be struck not only by the appalling standards of scholarship (the rudimentary errors of fact, the fundamental errors of logic, the assertions made without any evidence) but also by the manner in which one historian is clearly quite happy to follow blindly the obviously flawed arguments of another. In such a manner are errors and misconceptions perpetuated.

More than this, you will be struck by the tone of their arguments, which are dismissive to a degree which must make the fair-minded reader question their motives. Did Professor Chrimes seriously believe that Henry VII would have recognised a bastard son when the country had just emerged from a protracted, ruinous and bloody civil war (The Wars of the Roses), which were caused by the recognition of the bastard children of John of Gaunt? Did he think really think that Henry VII, notorious as the most cautious, crafty and secretive person ever to occupy the throne, would simply (and immediately) repeat the same mistake? Has Professor Griffiths (a Professor of Welsh history and an expert in the period) really never heard of the most powerful family in North Wales at the time, the Griffiths of Penrhyn?

If anyone manages to find out any more about these matters I will be very grateful to hear from them.

Graham Milne July 1997


'Sir Roland de Veleville' (1967) by the late Professor S. B. Chrimes. 'Sir Roland de Veleville and the Tudor dynasty: A re-assessment' (1991) by W. R. B. Robinson. Velville's coat of arms from 'The Development of Welsh Heraldry' (1993) by Dr. M. P. Siddons. Extracts from 'The Making of the Tudor Dynasty' (1985) by Professor R. A. Griffiths. Sir Roland de Velville - A Summary. My comments are in blue.

SIR ROLAND DE VELEVILLE (1) by Professor S. B. Chrimes (1967).

The allegation made by several Welsh historians (2) that Henry VII whilst he was in Brittany begot a bastard son, later known as Sir Roland de Vielleville, alias Velville, Veleville, etc., does not appear to be supported by any valid evidence.

It seems to be clear that this allegation is derived entirely from mis-statements made as long ago as 1833 by that enthusiastic but frequently inaccurate amateur historian of Anglesey, Angharad Llwyd. She, in her pioneering prize-essay, A History of the Island of Mona or Anglesey, made the following assertions (pp. 131-2):

Incorrect. As Robinson points out (see following article) there is contemporary documentary evidence relating to Velville's paternity, namely an elegy composed in 1535, the year of Velville's death, by the bard Daffyd Alaw, which refers to Velville as being 'a man of kingly line' and 'of earl's blood' (Henry VII was Earl of Richmond at birth). This information was available to Chrimes when he wrote his paper in 1967, since it was published in a paper by D. C. Jones in 1961 ('The Bulkeleys of Beaumaris. 1440-1547', Anglesey Antiquarian Society and Field Club Transactions). Chrimes even quotes an earlier, 1951, paper from the same source (3). The origins of the 'allegation' are therefore at least 300 years earlier than Chrimes acknowledges. It is worth bearing in mind that the Welsh bards were the recognized genealogical authorities of the time in that country (equivalent to the Heralds of the College of Arms today, in so far as it was their function to maintain, and pass on, the genealogies of the Welsh royal or princely families) and that the elegy therefore amounts to a statement by an authoritative contemporary source that Velville was of royal blood. A simple process of elimination indicates which 'kingly line' is being referred to. I think it is not unfair to say that while elegies may often exaggerate the good and gloss over the bad but they do not, on the whole, make important assertions of fact that are either unknown or likely to be regarded as false by the intended audience. The elegy allows us, therefore, to conclude with reasonable certainty that Velville was believed to be an illegitimate son of Henry VII in his own lifetime, at least by his immediate circle. This circle included many members of the extended Tudor family, into which Velville had married, the very people who would have been least likely to accept such a statement as true had it actually been false. It is also worth considering, in this context, that if the source of the 'allegation' was Velville himself, what possible benefit he might have been hoping to gain from spreading a false allegation that he was Henry's son (bearing in mind that he had already married into the most powerful family in North Wales) and, much more importantly, the risks he was running by making such a statement (whether true or not). We only need to consider the fate of the Earl of Surrey, who was executed (in spite of the fact that he was one of Henry VIII's closest friends) primarily for quartering his own and the royal coat of arms, to realize the risks that Velville would have been taking. In these circumstances, it is understandable that knowledge of the 'allegation' was apparently restricted to a small circle and that the 'allegation' did not come to light until towards the end of Velville's life. 'Henry [VIII] was not going to let his heir have any rivals for the throne. He struck at every surviving Plantagenet on whom he could lay his hands - Courtenay and the Poles, including the aged and harmless Countess of Salisbury who was beheaded in circumstances of quite peculiar horror and indignity.' - 'The Tudors' by Christopher Morris (1955). 'I find by the Lleweny Papers that, in the 1st of Henry VII, he appointed his illegitimate son, Sir Roland Velville, alias Britany, constable and captain of this place (Beaumaris), but the conduct of the garrison, was so offensive to the neighbourhood, that the king gave orders for its removal. Lord Combermere, of Combermere Abbey, is in possession of the original grant of the constableship to his maternal ancestor, Syr R. Velville, dated 'apud Caernarvon, Julii 3, 1st Henry VII', he died in 1533, describing himself in his will, made in that year, as 'constable of Beaumaris Castell'.' (3)

But the Lleweni Papers do not appear to give any support for this statement regarding Roland's parentage, and there are several other incorrect assertions in this passage. The only known Lleweni paper that could have led Angharad Llwyd into this assertion is now calendared in the Salusbury Correspondence, item 186 (Lleweni Paper no. 124). This is a private letter dated 1636-37 from John Salusbury of Bachegraig, the elder, to Sir Thomas Salusbury, alluding to their family history, in which the writer says he 'thinks the aforesaid Tuder was he that married Sir Rowland Velevell's daughter, and whose reputed son Velevell was, doubts not he has heard'.

As Robinson points out, Angharad Llwyd is not referring to the Lleweni papers as a source of evidence relating to Velville's paternity but as a source of evidence relating to his appointment as Constable of Beaumaris castle and the conduct of the garrison there. Llwyd appears to have considered Velville's paternity to be an established fact not requiring any proof. Chrimes is simply barking up the wrong tree. There is nothing here to justify the assertion that Veleville's father was Henry VII, and the reference in the Index to the latter's illegitimate son is without foundation. (4)

Robinson disagrees with this saying 'It indicates that a century after Veleville's death, a tradition regarding the identity of his father was still current.' Interestingly, Velville's great-grandson, Sir John Salusbury (d. 1612), named his illegitimate son Velivel Salusbury. This fact indicates that Velville was believed to be an illegitimate child (though not, on it's own, of any particular person) by his immediate descendants. It also indicates that Velville's descendants were not only aware of his illegitimacy but were, at the very least, not ashamed of the fact. Sir Roland's daughter married Tudur ap Robert Fychan of Berain, and their daughter was the well-known character Catherine of Berain, the first of whose four husbands was Sir Thomas Salusbury of Lleweni (5).

Incorrect. Katherine of Berain's first husband was John Salusbury. As Robinson points out 'no knight of that name [i.e. Sir Thomas Salusbury] was living in her lifetime'. John Salusbury's great-grandfather, Sir Thomas Salusbury of Lleweni, died in 1505, nineteen years before Katherine of Berain was born. Catherine of Berain doubtless received some small favours from Queen Elizabeth, but this fact does not support the suggestion that she was a 'cousin' of the queen, nor did it prevent Catherine's son, Thomas Salusbury, from being executed for treason in 1586.

Incorrect. Apart from any connection via de Velville, Katherine of Berain was a cousin of Elizabeth I via her grandmother, Velville's wife, Agnes Griffith. The Griffiths of Penrhyn were the most powerful family in North Wales at the time and were a branch of the Tudor family descended from Ednyfed Fychan and the royal and princely houses of Wales. Several generations of this family held the office of Chamberlain of North Wales. Chrimes has evidently not verified whether Katherine of Berain actually did receive favours from Queen Elizabeth, what such favours were or the reasons for which such favours might have been granted. He is, therefore, completely unjustified in making this statement. Thomas Salusbury's execution is not relevant. A close connection to the throne at that time didn't 'prevent' people being executed - rather the opposite in fact. Almost anyone with royal blood who had a potential, even if remote, claim to the throne was remorselessly hunted down and executed. Chrimes implication that had Katherine of Berain been a cousin of the queen then her son would not have been executed for treason is ridiculous. In addition, Chrimes does not mention (presumably because he didn't bother to find out) that Katherine of Berain did manage to prevent her son's estates and property being seized, the normal procedure in cases of treason. Nor does he mention that Thomas Salusbury's brother and successor, Sir John Salusbury, was subsequently knighted by Queen Elizabeth and that he was appointed by her as an esquire to the body, a position of great trust and one only granted to the sovereign's favourites. Whilst it is certain that Sir Roland came from Brittany, consideration of the possible chronology of the case might have corrected the chain of errors springing from Angharad Llwyd's misconceptions. Henry VII arrived in Brittany in 1471 at the age of fourteen, in the care of his uncle Jasper Tudor. He is hardly likely to have begotten a bastard there for a year or two, but even if he had, the boy could not have been more than twelve or thirteen years old in 1485, and could not have been a suitable candidate for the constableship of so important a castle as Beaumaris in the first year of Henry VII. The fact is that no less a person than Sir William Stanley, together with his son, was appointed to it for life, and Sir Roland received his grant in the first year of Henry VIII (not Henry VII). (6)

As Chrimes makes clear, Velville was not appointed to the office of Constable of Beaumaris Castle until the first year of Henry VIII, that is 1509. What is perhaps less clear is why Chrimes goes to such lengths, for a short article, to point out this error, since even if Velville had been appointed to the office by Henry VII it would presumably not have made any difference to the argument that he puts forward in the following paragraph - namely that the appointment was too insignificant for an illegitimate child of the king, whether made by Henry VII or Henry VIII. It would appear, on this basis, that Chrimes main reason for mentioning this error was to cast further doubt (as he saw it) on Angharad Llwyd's reliability. Since we have already established that Llwyd was not the source of 'allegations' concerning Velville's paternity this is, as it turns out, a fairly pointless excercise. Henry VII died on 21 April 1509. Henry VIII was crowned on 24th June 1509 and letters patent appointing Velville to the office of Constable of Beaumaris Castle were issued, by the Chancery of North Wales, on 3rd July 1509, some 9 days later. As Robinson points out, taking account of the time that it must have taken for the warrant to reach Wales from London, that warrant must have been issued very shortly after Henry VII's death. It seems odd to me that neither Chrimes nor Robinson seem to have considered the possibility that the warrant was actually drawn up prior to Henry VII's death but signed afterwards. Did Chrimes consider the possibility that Angharad Llywd actually quoted the grant correctly and that the reference to 'Julii 3, 1st Henry VII' in the grant was, in fact, a clerical error on the part of the person who drafted the grant? Did he think that Angharad Llywd couldn't read? Chrimes bold assumption that Velville came from Brittany is unwise, since he has evidently made no attempt to establish that this was the case. Dr. M. P. Siddons, Welsh Herald Extraordinary, author of 'The Development of Welsh Heraldry', has confirmed to me that he was 'unable to find Velville or his arms in Breton sources'. In fact, there was a family called 'de Vieilleville' (Counts of Durtal, near Angers) living in Maine (not Brittany) at that time, although I have not yet established a link to Sir Roland. The most famous member of this family was Francois de Scepeaux, Seigneur de Vieilleville, Comte de Durtal, Marechal de France (1510-1571), who, I believe was the first Comte de Durtal. This would mean that his father's title was plain 'Seigneur de Vieilleville'. Marechal de Vieilleville's 'Memoires' were published in 1757. In my view, there is a possibility that de Velville's mother was a daughter of this family. Roland Veleville figures insignificantly in the records of the reign of Henry VII, whose servant he was. He was given 'by way of reward' ten marks in 1488. (7) He figured honourably, even if not with any great distinction, among the esquires who took part in the prolonged tournaments held at the creation of Henry VII's son, Henry, as Duke of York in 1494. (8) He was given, as 'king's servant', a grant for life of an annuity of 40 marks out of the issues of the county of Wiltshire, (9) but a further writ to the sheriff was needed nearly a year later as nothing had been paid. (10) After the battle of Blackheath, Roland was knighted, 17 June 1497, (11) and as Sir Roland he was summoned to attend upon the king during the prolonged reception of the Archduke Philip in 1500. (12)

It was not until the reign of Henry VIII that Sir Roland obtained any further advancement. He was appointed to be constable of Beaumaris castle, 3 July 1509, (13) and was given during pleasure an annuity of twenty pounds, and at the interment of Prince Henry, a livery of clothes. (14) Not until 1512, however, was he, 'a native of Brittany', granted letters of denization for himself and the heir of his body. (15) He was summoned to attend on the king during his meeting with Charles V at Gravelines in 1520. (16) He is said to have been the last constable actually to have been resident in Beaumaris castle, (17) and he certainly seems, from his occasional appearances in the records, to have tried to make as much financial profit from his privileges in Beaumaris as he could. He was probably a somewhat troublesome constable. (18) On his death (before 25 June) in 1535, Henry Norris, esquire, was, on 13 December, appointed to succeed him. (19) His Breton origins seem to have made an impression upon some of his contemporaries, for an elegy (in Welsh) was composed (20) to 'Sr rolant brytaen', without, however, any allusion to his parentage (One wonders how Chrimes would have explained away the elegy by Daffyd Alaw referring to Velville as a 'man of kingly line' and as being 'of earl's blood' - see above.). In the absence of any specific evidence, we can only conclude that all Henry Tudor had to do with him was perhaps to have brought him over among his Breton followers in 1485, to have employed him at court, and to have shown him some slight favour.

Chrimes's implicit assumption that Velville would have been treated with greater distinction if he had been Henry VII's son is untenable. It should be obvious that giving any form of recognition or legitimization to a bastard son was the very last thing that Henry VII would have done in the circumstances of the time. We know that Henry was an intensely secretive and cautious man, we know that his claim to the throne was tenuous and that the dynasty's hold on power was to remain doubtful for some time, we know that his marriage to Elizabeth of York was critical in gaining the loyalty of the Yorkist cause and that he was therefore unlikely to take any steps that might be seen as threatening the claim to the throne of any children of that marriage and we know, above all, that the country had just emerged from a ruinous and bloody civil war that had been caused largely by the legitimization of the bastard children of John of Gaunt. Henry was hardly likely to risk his throne and to create a potential future threat to his own legitimate children by recognizing an illegitmate child. Velville's treatment was therefore precisely what we would have expected it to be if he had been Henry's illegitimate child. This paragraph also plays on a common misconception that royal bastards were invariably showered with honours. This was not the case. It is relevant to consider, in this context, the treatment of Henry VIII's natural son, Henry Fitzroy (1519-1536), who was only created Duke of Richmond in 1525 when it became apparent that he might well be the only possible, even if illegitimate, male heir to the throne. We can also consider Richard III's natural son, John of Gloucester, who was Captain of Calais, Edward III's natural son, John de Southray (or Surrey), a knight, King John's natural sons, Richard, Constable of Wallingford Castle, and John FitzJohn, a knight or perhaps a clerk at Lincoln and others. See 'Britain's Royal Families' by Alison Weir (1996). In addition, Henry VII's legitimate Welsh relatives were not treated with any special favour. See the comments by Professor R. A. Griffiths in 'The Making of the Tudor Dynasty' (1985). An annuity of 40 marks (a little over £26) does not sound a great deal but it is necessary to put this amount in context. Edmund and Jasper Tudor, Henry VII's father and uncle, were created earls of Richmond and Pembroke respectively and given precedence over all other nobles below the rank of duke. The honour of Pembroke was not, however, available at the time so 'Jasper had to rest content with an annuity of £20'. As Robinson points out in the following article, Velville's annual income was actually in the region of £350, making him 'one of the richest men in North Wales'. A slightly different picture to that painted by Chrimes. 'Henry Norris, esquire' was in fact Sir Henry Norris (executed 1536), one of Henry VIII's closest friends and a gentlemen-in-waiting - another of Chrimes's small errors of fact. His standing with the King was such that 'he became the senior esquire of the Body and the one household official allowed in the King's bedchamber'. See 'Henry VIII and his court' by N. Williams (1971). Chrimes does not cite any evidence that Velville was employed in any specific position in Henry VII's household and he cannot therefore legitimately be referred to as a 'servant', except in the broad sense that all subjects of the King were his servants. If Velville was Henry VII's (unrecognised) son, what did Chrimes expect him to be referred to as? The 'king's bastard'? It doesn't seem to have struck Chrimes as odd that Velville, apparently, spent almost 25 years at Court without being given any official position, a situation which is, as far as I am aware, without parallel. The reference to de Velville in a grant as 'king's servant' does not confirm that he was actually a servant in the common meaning of the word since many grants of the period refer to the grantee as 'king's servant', even where the grantee was a courtier of some standing. As a professor of history, Chrimes must have been aware of this fact. As Chrimes points out, Velville was certainly 'troublesome'. He appears, in fact, to have been remarkably arrogant and was, as Robinson states in the following article, imprisoned in Fleet for some months in July 1517 for slandering the king's Council. There is an interesting parallel here with Henry VIII's favourite, the Earl of Surrey (who was probably even more arrogant than Velville), who was also imprisoned in Fleet by the king's Council for his behaviour and only released when he had submitted a written apology. Velville's behaviour in North Wales was such that 'in January 1517 he appeared before the king's Council, where he was bound under heavy penalties to keep the peace, ordered to attend on the king and not depart without licence and to give Beaumaris castle to a deputy appointed by the king'. 'Attendance on the king' seems to be an unusual sort of punishment for an obscure and unimportant knight from a remote part of the country, but then again I may be wrong, I am not, after all, a Professor of History. S. B. CHRIMES.


1. I am obliged to Mr. G. O. Pierce and Mr. J. Gwynfor Jones of the Department of the History of Wales, Cardiff for assistance in the preparation of this article.

2. D. Williams. 'The Family of Henry VII', in History To-Day. IV (1954). 77-84. 'Henry, we are told, fathered a son by a Breton woman. His name was Roland Velville, knighted by Henry VII, and made constable of Beaumaris castle, and died, 1527.' Cf. J. Ballinger, 'Katherine of Berain', in Y Cymmrodor, XL (1929), 1-2: 'During his years in exile in Brittany, before he came to the throne, Henry VII had, by a Breton lady, a natural son, Roland Velville, whom he knighted after coming to the throne. He made him constable of Beaumaris Castle....' Cf. J. Williams, 'Penmynydd and the Tudors', in Arch. Camb., 3rd ser., XV (1869), 402, and Pedigrees of Anglesey and Caernarvonshire Families. ed. J. E. Griffths (1914), 26. The Calendar of Salusbury Correspondence, 1553-c. 1700, ed. W. J. Smith (1954), p. 265, Index. sub. tit. Henry VII, lists 'his illeg. son', item 186, which in fact offers no evidence on the point.

3. There is likewise no evidence forthcoming to support her statement (pp. 333-4) that Henry VII granted him 486 acres of land in Penmynydd, which may have formed part of the estate of Maredudd ap Tudur. This somewhat improbable assertion was followed by J. Ballinger, loc. cit., p. 2 and J. Williams, loc. cit., p. 402, but was not accepted by Glyn Roberts, 'Wyrion Eden', Trans. Anglesey Antiquarian Society (1951), p. 64. Mr. E. Gwynne Jones, Librarian of University College of North Wales, Bangor, assures me that no relevant manuscript evidence is known there.

It is interesting to note that although Velville was not, according to both Chrimes and Robinson, granted lands in the ancient Tudor estates at Penmynydd by Henry VII, he was granted land (on 4 separate occasions) in those estates during the reign of Henry VIII by Owen ap John ab Owen ap Tudor Fychan, a member of the 'senior branch of the Tudor family'.

4. The corresponding entry in the genealogical table at the end of the volume is likewise unwarranted.

5. Ballinger, loc. cit.

6. Kalendars of Gwynedd, ed. Edward Breese (1873), 122.

7. Materials for the reign of Henry VII, ed. W. Campbell (Rolls Ser., 1877), II, 394.

8. Letters and Papers, Richard III and Henry VII, ed. J. Gairdner (Rolls Ser., 1861), I, 395, 397-400.

9. C.P.R., 11 Henry VII, part I, 47 (28 May 1496).

10. C.C.R., 12 Henry VII (20 April 1497).

11. W. A. Shaw, The Knights of England (1906), II, 30.

12. Letters and Papers, loc. cit., II, 88.

13. Kalendars of Gwynedd, loc. cit.

14. L.& P., Foreign & Domestic, Henry Vlll, I, part I (1920), 158 (9), 707.

15. Ibid., 1524 (7) (23 March 1512).

16. Ibid., III, part I, 906.

17. Calendar of Wynn (of Gwydir) Papers, 1515-1690 (1926), p. 259.

18. V. generally. E. A. Lewis. The Mediaeval Boroughs of Snowdonia (1912), pp. 111, 215, 217, and L. & P. Henry VIII. II, part 2, 3741 (ii); III, part I, 1000, 1025; IV, 3087.

19. Ibid., VIII, 475, 925 (25 June 1535): 'Sir Roland late deceased'. Cf. 'Extracts from Old Wills relating to Wales', in Arch. Camb., IX, 4th ser. (1878), 149.

20. By William Cynwal in Christ Church, Oxford, MS. 184, and National Library of Wales MS. 6495 (facsimile). I am indebted to Mr. B. G. Owens and Mr. R. W. McDonald of the Department of Manuscripts and Records. National Library of Wales, for calling my attention to this manuscript and for help in connection with the Lleweni Papers and other points.


In a short article published in 1967, the late Professor S. B. Chrimes rejected the tradition, accepted by several Welsh historians, that Sir Roland Veleville, who held the office of constable of Beaumaris castle for many years in Henry VIII's reign, was an illegitimate son of Henry VII, born in Brittany in the years before the founder of the Tudor dynasty came to the throne (22). Professor Chrimes went on to give a brief outline of Veleville's career as recorded in published sources, concluding with the comment: 'In the absence of any specific evidence, we can only conclude that all Henry Tudor had to do with him was perhaps to have brought him over among his Breton followers in 1485, to have employed him at court, and to have shown him some slight favour'. He attributed the origin of claims concerning Veleville's royal parentage entirely to the following passage, quoted in his article, in Angharad Llwyd's history of Anglesey, published in 1833 (23).

"I find by the Lleweny Papers that, in the 1st of Henry VII, he appointed his illegitimate son, Sir Roland Velville, alias Britany, constable and captain of this place (Beaumaris) but the conduct of the garrison, was so offensive to the neighbourhood, that the king gave orders for its removal. Lord Combermere of Combermere Abbey, is in possession of the original grant of the constableship to his maternal ancestor, Syr R. Velville, dated "apud Caernarvon, Julii 3, 1st Henry VII", he died in 1533, describing himself in his will, made in that year, as "constable of Beaumaris Castell".

Professor Chrimes's view that this passage was the sole source of later claims concerning Veleville's Tudor parentage was not well founded. Fifty years before the publication of Angharad Llwyd's book, Veleville was described as the 'reputed base son of Henry VII' in Thomas Pennant's well known account of north Wales, and her description of Veleville may have been derived from this source (24). In the passage quoted, she was not, as Professor Chrimes implied, citing the Lleweni papers as evidence for her description of Veleville as Henry VII's illegitimate son, but as the source of her reference to Veleville's grant of appointment as constable of Beaumaris castle. Although this document (which, as Professor Chrimes showed, was in fact issued in 1 Henry VIII) is regrettably now lost, its terms are recorded in the accounts of the chamberlain of north Wales and, in conformity with normal practice, these make no reference to the grantee's parentage (25). Veleville's parentage is, however, alluded to in another document among the Lleweni papers which Angharad Llwyd and Professor Chrimes also discussed. This is a letter written in 1636 or 1637 by John Salusbury (d. 1685) of Bachegraig; in it he referred to the father of his aunt, Katheryn of Berain (d. 1591), as having married Veleville's daughter 'and whose reputed sone Veleville was, I doupt not you have heard' (26). Angharad Llwyd noted that in this extract Salusbury 'could only hint at Sir Roland's demi-royal birth' (27), whereas Professor Chrimes noted that there is nothing here to justify the assertion that Veleville's father was Henry VII. This comment is understandable in view of Professor Chrimes's assumption that Angharad Llwyd's work was the source of the claims concerning Veleville's Tudor parentage; but John Salusbury's remark is of greater interest than Professor Chrimes acknowledged. It indicates that a century after Veleville's death, a tradition regarding the identity of his father was still current, and such a tradition was unlikely to have been kept alive unless the importance of Veleville's putative father had been readily recognized by his descendants (28). Both Salusbury's comment and Pennant's description may be attributable to a tradition regarding Veleville's parentage that had survived among some north Wales gentry since his lifetime, for he was referred to as a 'man of a kingly line' in an elegy composed on his death in 1535 by the Anglesey bard, Dafydd Alaw (29), and was mentioned in later bardic poetry.

Although the claim that Veleville was an illegitimate son of Henry VII was clearly of earlier origin than Professor Chrimes supposed, it seems unlikely that any authoritative contemporary reference will come to light alluding to Veleville's parentage in specific terms. The review of the available evidence that follows tends to support Professor Chrimes's scepticism about Veleville's supposed Tudor origins. But whatever view is taken of the tradition concerning Veleville's royal parentage, the evidence relating to Veleville's career, including a considerable body of record material which Professor Chrimes did not have the opportunity of examining, shows that he underestimated the favour which Veleville enjoyed under Henry VII and was unaware that the terms of Veleville's tenure of the constableship of Beaumaris castle suggest that Henry VIII was closely interested in his appointment to that office. In his summary of Veleville's career during Henry VII's reign, Professor Chrimes noted that he took part in the tournament held in November 1494 to celebrate the creation of Prince Henry as duke of York (30), but the implications of Veleville's participation in this and later tournaments of the reign were not reflected in his comments on Veleville's social status and position at court. Besides the 1494 tournament, Veleville is recorded as participating in tournaments in April 1501 (31); in November 1501 (32) (to welcome Katherine of Aragon); in January 1502 (to mark the proxy marriage of Princess Margaret to James IV of Scotland) (33); in February 1506 (in honour of Archduke Philip) (34); and in May and June 1507 (in honour of the Queen of May) (35). Participation in royal tournaments was carefully restricted to noblemen and gentlemen entitled to bear coats of arms, whose insistence on this restriction was shown by their unwillingness to allow Hugh Vaughan, one of the king's gentlemen-ushers, to take part in a tournament at Richmond in 1492 until the king overruled their objections that Vaughan was not a gentleman entitled to bear arms and authorized his participation (36). The noblemen, knights and esquires who participated in tournaments in Henry VII's reign were unlikely to have been prepared to take part in a tournament with Veleville, a Breton of unacknowledged parentage, unless it was widely known that the king favoured his participation, and the appearance of a nobleman as jealous of his honour as Edward, Duke of Buckingham, as a fellow challenger with Veleville in the tournament of November 1501 suggests that Veleville was securely in the king's favour (37). In a paper on Henry VII's courtiers, Dr. Steven Gunn comments that Veleville was an 'almost obsessive' jouster and notes that he was closely involved with the king's falconry, presumably accompanying the king when he went hunting and hawking (38). Participation in these courtly pursuits was expensive and Veleville maintained his life-style by living in the royal household, receiving occasional gifts from the king and drawing an income from the royal revenues. In 1493 the king granted him an annuity of £20 during pleasure and in 1496 a further annuity of forty marks (£26 13s. 4d.) for life (39). As a member of the royal Household, Veleville's martial skills were not only deployed in tournaments. He served in Sir John Cheyne's retinue in the expedition to Brittany in 1489, commanded by Sir Robert Willoughby, and is probably to be identified with the 'Roland de Bella Vill' who served as an esquire in the army which Henry VII took to France in the autumn of 1492 (40). He gained his knighthood by his service at the battle of Blackheath in June 1497 and was one of a small group of knights individually rewarded by the king in the course of the military operations in the West Country which led to the capture of Perkin Warbeck in September (41). In view of the favour which Henry VII extended to him throughout his reign, it was wholly appropriate that Veleville was one of the knights of the royal Household appointed to attend the king's funeral in May 1509 (42).

Veleville's participation in the jousts celebrating Henry VIII's coronation on 24 June 1509 might suggest that his life at Court was to continue unaffected by the young king's accession (43), but about this time developments occurred which marked a fundamental change in his career. The earliest evidence for this is provided by royal letters patent dated 3 July 1509 and issued by the chancery of the principality of north Wales at Caernarfon. Taking account of the time required to send a royal warrant authorising their issue from the Court to Caernarfon (44), it seems probable that the decision to grant the letters patent was taken about the middle of June 1509, less than two months after Henry VIII's accession. The letters patent recorded the grant to Veleville, during pleasure, of the offices of constable of Beaumaris castle and captain of Beaumaris castle and town, with all fees, rewards and profits as amply as Sir William Stanley, Sir Robert Chamberlain or any other had received them (45). Full payment of all sums due under this grant was ensured by a warrant issued at Greenwich on 29 October 1509 instructing the chamberlain of north Wales to pay Veleville the first half- yearly instalment due at Michaelmas 1509 of his annual fee of £40 as constable, his wages of 8d. a day as captain, and the wages of twenty-four soldiers at 4d. a day, these being the rates allowed to Stanley as shown in the chamberlain's account for 4 Henry VII (1488). On 6 December 1509, a further warrant was issued at Greenwich ordering the chamberlain to pay Velville wages for himself and his soldiers at the rate allowed to Sir William Hastings or Sir Richard Huddlestone (46), and Veleville consequently received a half-year's instalment of the wages of a further twenty-four soldiers at 4d. a day and of a priest at £3 1s. 8d., as allowed to William Hastings, the lord chamberlain, in 5 Edward IV (1465). Veleville's total emoluments by virtue of these grants amounted to £350 5s. 0d. a year, comprising £40 for his fee as constable, £12 3s. 4d. for his wages as captain, and £298 1s. 8d. for the wages of his forty-eight soldiers and priest. Besides these grants relating to his offices in Beaumaris, royal letters patent under the great seal were issued on 1 August 1509 making Veleville a fresh grant, during pleasure, of the annuity of £20 first granted in 1493 (47), while the life annuity of forty marks (£26 13s. 4d.) granted in 1496 continued to be paid (48). The significance of these grants will be discussed after Veleville's later career has been outlined.

There is no record of when Veleville first visited Beaumaris, but from the early years of Henry VIII's reign he clearly spent a good deal of time there. Much of the evidence for his activities as constable of Beaumaris is provided by legal records concerning his conflicts with the Bulkeleys, the leading local family, one of whom, Roland Bulkeley, he had replaced as constable of the castle. These conflicts have been described by Mr. D. C. Jones (49), and more recently by Dr. Steven Gunn in his article on the regime of Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk, in north Wales (50), and it is not proposed to discuss them here. Veleville's duties at Beaumaris did not, however, preclude his continuing to frequent London and Westminster. In February 1511 he took part in the Westminster tournament to celebrate the birth of the infant Prince Henry, and later that month he attended the prince's interment (51). On 2 January 1512 he was one of the mourners at the funeral in London of the French ambassador, Anthoine de Pierrepont dit d'Arizoles (52). He took part in the French campaign of 1513 and in November of that year conducted his retinue of three demi-lances, a mounted archer and seven foot-soldiers from Dover to Anglesey (53). His involvement in legal proceedings also entailed attendance at Westminster. In January 1517 he appeared before the king's Council, where he was bound under heavy penalties to keep the peace, ordered to attend on the king and not depart without licence and to give Beaumaris castle to a deputy appointed by the king (54). He evidently spent much time in 1517 in and around London, as in July he was sent to the Fleet for slandering the Council and in October a recognizance was drawn up, presumably on the Council's orders, for his good behaviour towards the king's tenants of Beaumaris (55). Despite his unruly behaviour at this time, he was one of the knights included in the great retinue summoned to attend the king and queen at Canterbury in May 1520 and to accompany the royal party to Calais for the meeting with Francis I at the Field of the Cloth of Gold (56). In the 1520s he continued to spend much time at Westminster. On 10 July 1522 he attended requiem masses in St Margaret's, Westminster, and in the Abbey, following the burial of Lady Anne Hungerford, the wife of Sir Hugh Vaughan (57), and a pardon granted to him in 1527 or 1528 described him as 'of Westminster' as well as 'of Beaumaris' (58). The offences for which he was pardoned may have included those making false allegations against the Bulkeleys, for which he had again been imprisoned in the Fleet in 1522 (59). In a long list of the king's sworn servants compiled between July 1522 and April 1526, he was included under Middlesex, and not among the knights of north Wales (60). Presumably during these years he divided his time between Westminster and Beaumaris. Later he probably stayed mainly in Beaumaris, where he died in 1535.

In the early years of Henry VIII's reign, the fees and allowances granted to Veleville in 1509 in respect of his Beaumaris offices were duly paid to him by the chamberlain of north Wales, William Griffith of Penrhyn. However, after Easter 1515 the portion of his fees and allowances due for the latter part of the accounting year ending at Michaelmas was disallowed by virtue of the act of Resumption passed early in April 1515 (61). The purpose of the act was to reduce royal expenditure by annulling certain categories of grants made since the beginning of Henry VIII's reign, including all grants of constableships in north Wales with their fees, with effect from Easter 1515. In the event, Veleville apparently received the sum of £175 2s. 6d. due to him for the half-year ending at Michaelmas 1515, but the sum was placed 'in respite' in the chamberlain's account, indicating that Griffith had not discharged his liability to the Crown in respect of the payment (62). This was an unsatisfactory situation for both parties, and it was resolved when new letters patent, dated 6 March 1516, were issued by the chancery at Caernarfon (63). These first recorded the grant to Veleville of the offices of constable of Beaumaris castle and captain of the town for life and forty marks a year (£26 13s. 4d.), only just over half the combined fees of £52 3s. 4d. which he had previously received for those offices (64). This was stated to be in full satisfaction of all his fees and of the wages of the soldiers in his retinue for the safe keeping of the castle and town, Veleville keeping them at his peril and dwelling there from time to time. The letters patent went on to authorize the payment to Veleville of the sum of £175 2s. 6d. for the half-year ending Michaelmas 1515 that had previously been placed 'in respite'. This was the last payment to Veleville for soldiers' wages, but the substantial loss of income which that represented was offset by a further provision in the letters patent of 6 March 1516 granting Veleville a life annuity of £173 6s. 8d. This latter provision confirms the exceptionally favourable terms of Veleville's tenure of his Beaumaris offices. While the generous financial remuneration granted to him in 1509 might possibly be seen as reflecting the imprudent generosity of the young king at the beginning of his reign, the large annuity granted to him in 1516, less than a year after the enactment of the act of Resumption which was specifically intended to annul grants of this kind unrelated to duties, must be seen as a deliberate departure from the newly-adopted general policy. This is further shown by the fact that as a result of the act of Resumption, Charles Brandon, though recently created duke of Suffolk, lost his position as joint constable of Caernarfon castle and his related allowance for soldiers' wages without receiving any compensation (65). By the time of his death in 1535, Veleville had received payments totalling £6,176 13s. 4d. from the chamberlain of north Wales by virtue of his grants of 1509 and 1516 (66), and the significance of these grants calls for further discussion.

The main problem arising from the record of Veleville's career after Henry VIII's accession is to account for his appointment as constable of Beaumaris in July 1509 and his taking up residence there. There is nothing to indicate that he had any previous connection with Anglesey, and the suggestion that Henry VII had granted him some of the ancestral Tudor lands at Penmynydd is unsupported by evidence and is inherently improbable because Veleville, as a Breton, could not lawfully have acquired lands in England or Wales before 4 December 1512, when he received a grant of denization (67). Nor does it seem probable that Veleville was appointed to the constableship because he was an ally and associate of William Griffith of Penrhyn, the chamberlain of north Wales at the time of Henry VIII's accession, as Mr. Cyril Jones suggested (68). The possibility that Veleville decided on his own initiative to undertake his duties at Beaumaris in person also seems unlikely. Having lived at Court, so far as the evidence goes, throughout his years in England, it is difficult to imagine why he should decide to abandon his privileged way of life to take up residence in a small and distant provincial town. If Veleville had wished to become a garrison commander, a suitable appointment could have been found in a much less distant location. It is relevant to compare Veleville's appointment with that of a much more important courtier, namely Charles Brandon, later duke of Suffolk, who on 30 July 1509 was appointed joint constable of Caernarfon castle with John Puleston, previously the sole occupant of that office (69). Through family connections, Brandon had begun his career in the royal service at an early age, and after Henry VIII's accession he was one of the new king's closest companions. His appointment as joint constable of Caernarfon castle was one of a series of royal grants which he received in the early years of Henry VIII's reign, and as Puleston was available to undertake the duties of the constableship, Brandon's interest in the appointment was primarily financial. Like Veleville, Brandon and Puleston obtained a royal warrant in their favour authorizing the allocation of funds for a retinue, this warrant, dated 7 February 1510, providing wages for thirty-six soldiers. These allowances might prima facie be thought to reflect concern for the safe keeping of north Wales, but no provision for retinues for the constables of Beaumaris and Caernarfon castles had been made in the last year of Henry VII's reign and there is nothing to indicate any anxiety in government circles early in the new reign about the security of north Wales. Several years later, Brandon referred to the allowance for soldiers' wages appertaining to the constableship of Caernarfon castle as an 'augmentation of the fee', which suggests, as Dr. Gunn has pointed out, that most of the money for wages ended up in his pocket. No doubt it was realized when these allowances were initially authorized that much of the money would probably be diverted to other uses; they should not be seen as evidence that concern for the safe keeping of north Wales was thought to require the establishment of large garrisons there. Throughout the early Tudor period, the constables of the principal castles there would have needed to hire some men on a permanent basis in order to meet their responsibilities, including the keeping of prisoners, but whether they received a special allowance for wages in addition to their large fees depended on personal and political considerations. In appointing Brandon as joint constable of Caernarfon castle, Henry VIII cannot have intended him to take an active part in performing the constable's duties, and even after Brandon's appointment as chief justice of north Wales in 1512 there is no evidence that he ever visited the principality shires (70). In contrast, although like most grants of office Veleville's grants empowered him to appoint deputies, there seems little doubt, from the evidence of his activities after 1509, that he was expected to take personal responsibility for the duties of the office. This entailed long periods of residence in Beaumaris and hiring a sufficient retinue to maintain his authority in an area where he had no family or affinity to support him.

If the purpose of Veleville's appointment was to give him personal responsibility as commander of a major castle, the constableship of any of the principal castles of north Wales would have been suitable for that purpose. The reason why that of Beaumaris was chosen may be that those concerned with those appointment judged that Roland Bulkeley, the constable there on Henry VIII's accession, would be easier to remove from office than any of the others, since he held the office during the king's pleasure and did not hold a position at Court which would have given him good opportunities for defending his interests (71). Information about the occupants of the principal royal offices in Wales and the terms of their appointments was readily available at Westminster. Like the constableships of the other major castles of north Wales, the constableship of Beaumaris castle had in earlier years been held on occasion by men of high rank, the most recent such occupant being Sir William Stanley, the king's chamberlain executed in 1495 (72). The appointment was accordingly not inappropriate for someone of Veleville's status, but it is not possible to ascertain how the proposal for appointing him to the constableship of a castle in north Wales originated. William Griffith of Penrhyn, the chamberlain of north Wales, was an esquire for the body when he was appointed to that office in June 1508 (73), but there is no means of knowing whether he was involved when the proposal first arose.

After his appointment, Veleville appears to have spent much of his time in Beaumaris, and the reference in his grant of 1516 to his dwelling there suggests that despite periodic absences he was supposed normally to reside there. This prompts further speculation about Henry VIII's motives in authorizing the appointment and the question of Veleville's paternity. If rumours about his reputed royal parentage were current in Court circles in Henry VII's reign, Henry VIII, or his new queen and her advisers (74), may have had a strong motive for wishing to remove him from constant attendance at Court, as his presence there might encourage speculation that in the event of the new king's death without issue, Veleville could have some contingent claim to be regarded as Henry VII's heir. Any concern on that account would not have been allayed if, as seems likely, the unruly temperament which Veleville displayed was already well known. There is, however, no evidence that rumours regarding Veleville's paternity were current during Henry VII's reign or in the early years of Henry VIII's. If they had been, it seems unlikely that he would have been appointed to a post which gave him the comparative freedom of action that the constableship of Beaumaris castle provided. As to the claims concerning Veleville's Tudor ancestry preserved in Welsh tradition, the considerations of chronology discussed by Professor Chrimes raise serious doubts about their validity. We do not know Veleville's date of birth, but his participation in the Brittany expedition of 1489 shows him capable by that date, if not earlier, of performing military service. If he were in his late 'teens in 1489, this would be just compatible with his having been born after the arrival in Brittany of Henry Tudor, then fourteen years old, in the late summer of 1471, but only if his birth took place within a few years of Henry's arrival, On this basis, Tudor paternity remains a possibility, but one dependent on the assumption that Veleville was still in his early 'teens at the beginning of Henry VII's reign. The reference in Dafydd Alaw's elegy to Veleville's royal ancestry shows that claims regarding his Tudor paternity were current in Anglesey at the time of his death, but we do not know how they originated or how long they had been circulating. They may only have gained currency during Veleville's later years in Beaumaris. Pending further evidence, it is doubtful whether his paternity was relevant to his appointment as constable. An alternative possibility is that Veleville's appointment in July 1509 was an act of royal patronage similar to many extended at that time to other courtiers, and that his removal to Beaumaris was a consequence of developments not immediately foreseen when the grant was made. The new reign brought many changes at Court and the young men, such as Charles Brandon, whom Henry VIII favoured as his jousting companions were many years younger than Veleville. If he were no longer welcome as a leading participant in royal pastimes, his continued presence at Court may have become an embarrassment. Consequential pressure to discontinue his regular attendance there may have prompted him to take up in person his duties at Beaumaris, where he would be provided, possibly for the first time, with a residence of his own. However, in the absence of evidence, the actual cause of Veleville's removal to Beaumaris remains a matter of speculation.

After 1516 Veleville received no further royal grants. Given the generous provision made for him in that year, he could not realistically have claimed further support from the Crown, particularly in view of the unruly behaviour which led to his imprisonment in the Fleet in 1517 and 1522 (75). It is not surprising that he did not participate in the French campaign of 1523, as by the early 1520s Veleville was well into middle age and getting rather old for an expedition of that kind. However, his diligence in performing his military duties in Anglesey was later authoritatively commended. Early in 1544, when musters of able-bodied men throughout the kingdom were being taken in preparation for the French campaign, Henry VIII was said to have 'marvelled' at the report that no able men could be spared to leave north Wales, when Sir Roland was always able to make a great number and keep the waterside and the country too (76). This is the only recorded comment made by the king about any knight resident in Wales, and reflects his personal interest in Veleville's activities.

Two other aspects of Veleville's later career call for comment. The first is that no references have been found to his having a wife before the 1520s and it is uncertain whether he remained unmarried until that time, or whether as a young man he had married a wife who predeceased him. At this period it was unusual for a man to reach middle age without marrying, although it is possible that Veleville's uncertain parentage and lack of any assured income before 1509, except £46 l3s. 4d. a year from annuities, presented an obstacle to his marrying someone of suitable rank. Whatever his marital status in the early years of Henry VIII's reign, not long after he took up residence in Beaumaris, Veleville began living with Agnes Griffith, whom he was eventually to marry. Agnes appears in the published pedigrees as a daughter of William (Gwilym) Griffith Fychan (d. 1483) of Penrhyn, the father of Sir William Griffith (d. 1505) and grandfather of Sir William Griffith (d. 1531), both of whom held office as chamberlain of north Wales (77). Agnes Griffith's first husband was Robert Dowdyng, a burgess of Beaumaris, who appears with her as a joint grantor in a deed of 1508 (78), but may have died before Veleville look up residence in Beaumaris. Complaints made against Veleville by members of the Bulkeley family early in Henry VIII's reign refer to Agnes as his concubine or paramour (79), and in June 1516 she was described as Dowdyng's widow. At that date she was living with Veleville in Beaumaris castle, as is shown by legal proceedings concerning the theft of household goods belonging to the couple (80). They probably did not marry until some years after this incident, since a deed dated 18 June 1521, whereby Agnes Griffith granted Veleville a close of land, would have had no effect if they had been married at that time (81). The earliest reference to Agnes as Veleville's wife is in deeds of 6 July 1528 (82), and although the pedigrees do not cast doubt on the legitimacy of their children, Grace and Jane, it seems clear that they were born well before this date. If, as the pedigrees indicate, Agnes Griffith was indeed the daughter of the William Griffith who died in 1483, rather than of his son, she must have been at least in her late twenties at the time of Henry VIII's accession, and her children by Veleville were born probably in the early years of his reign. There is little evidence to indicate what effect Veleville's association with, and later marriage to, a member of the most powerful family in Gwynedd may have had on his relations with the local gentry, and there is no reason to suppose that Veleville could rely on Sir William Griffith (d. 1531) exercising his great influence as chamberlain of north Wales to promote his interests.

Another aspect of Veleville's later career which calls for comment is that his appointment as constable of Beaumaris castle made him one of the richest men in north Wales. Even after his allowance of nearly £300 a year for soldiers' wages was discontinued in 1516, his income from his annuities and constable's fee was over £240 a year. Altogether during Henry VIII's reign, he received £6,176 l3s. 4d. from the chamberlain of north Wales (83) and a further £1,236 l3s. 4d. from Exchequer revenues (84). The size of his income raises the question of how he spent his money. The wages of household servants and of soldiers or guards for the safe keeping of Beaumaris castle would have represented a substantial item of expenditure, but it seems unlikely that he maintained a regular garrison throughout his years as constable (85). Unlike many men of his rank, he did not spend money on building, since Beaumaris castle remained his only residence until his death and repairs to it, apparently far from adequate, were met from royal revenues (86). His early years in Beaumaris did, however, involve him in a category of expenditure incurred by most members of the gentry, since he must have incurred substantial costs in the legal proceedings arising from his disputes with neighbouring families and forfeiture of bonds to the crown. His periods of residence at Westminster and occasional attendance at Court must also have involved considerable expense. In his will, made a few days before his death, he made modest bequests to several churches, but left all his chattels to his wife for disposal without mentioning any individual items and no inventory of them survives (87). Although Veleville's periods of residence at Westminster must have been expensive, a substantial part of his income must have been spent in Beaumaris. In this respect, his occupancy of his office differed from that of the many titular holders of the principal Welsh offices who were wholly absentees and whose fees, drawn from royal lands in Wales, represented a substantial loss to the Welsh economy. The establishment of a knightly household in any Welsh town enhanced its prosperity, and Beaumaris was unique among the Welsh towns of the early Tudor period in having, for a few years, two knightly residences within the borough. In May 1533 Richard Bulkeley, whose residence, Henblas, stood in Church Street, became the first member of the Anglesey branch of that family to receive a knighthood, and after Veleville's death in June 1535 his ascendancy in Beaumaris and Anglesey was confirmed when he took possession of Beaumaris castle, first as agent of the courtier, Henry Norris, Veleville's successor as constable, and then as joint constable after Norris's execution in 1536.

Some of Veleville's income was apparently devoted to purchases of land, although these were on a modest scale. Six acquisitions by him are recorded in documents surviving in the Lleweni papers, and four of these are grants by Owen ap John ab Owen ap Tudor Fychan, a member of the senior branch of the Tudor family, of parcels of land in the ancestral Tudor estate of Penmynydd (88). Veleville's acquisition of letters of denization in 1512 probably reflects his intention to acquire lands, although none of the surviving grants in his favour is dated earlier than 1519. Two deeds of 1526 show that at least on one occasion Veleville took steps to improve his property, since they concern two shops in the High Street in Beaumaris which he had recently built (89). No evidence is available of the extent of the estate which Veleville ultimately acquired. His will of June 1535 bequeathed to his wife all his lands within the town and liberty of Beaumaris and the county of Anglesey and made no reference to lands elsewhere. This estate was evidently worth at least £20 a year, since in a deed of 5 June 1531 specifying the settlement to be made on the marriage of Veleville's daughter, Jane, to Robert Vaughan ap Tudor, gentleman, of the lordship of Denbigh (90), Veleville undertook that Robert should have £20 on the day of his marriage and the reversion to himself and Jane of the moiety of all lands, to be of annual value of at least £10, in the possession of Veleville or his wife at the time of the death of the surviving spouse of Veleville's marriage. Jane's endowment was more modest than might be expected in view of the size of Veleville's income, and suggests that he had not established himself as a large landowner. Building up an estate through piecemeal acquisitions was often a slow process and, having no male heir, he may not have been disposed to give it priority. The record of Veleville's early years in Beaumaris suggests that he was too headstrong to be a good man of business, and in this respect he certainly did not follow the example set by his former patron, Henry VII. Long years at Court without the responsibilities of maintaining an estate or household may indeed have accustomed him to spending rather than saving or investing.

In his will, Veleville directed that he should be buried in the monastery of the Friars Minor of Llanfaes, the Franciscan house about a mile to the north of Beaumaris (91). Llanfaes was the burial place of Goronwy ap Tudor (d. 1382), one of the ancestors of the Tudors, but there is no reason to suppose that Veleville was influenced by these Tudor associations when giving directions for his burial (92). When his widow, Dame Agnes, made her will on 16 December 1542, she directed that she be buried in the chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Beaumaris where her husband was buried, and she bequeathed £4 for the repair and building of the chapel and a further £4 for a priest to sing for a whole year for the health of her husband's soul and her own (93). Although there are instances where families arranged for the remains of their ancestors to be removed from monastic churches after the Dissolution and reinterred in parish churches, it is unlikely that Veleville was initially buried in Llanfaes friary and then reinterred in Beaumaris church after the friary was dissolved in 1538. Whatever the circumstances of Veleville's burial, it is regrettable that no monument to him survives. Although much about his life and parentage still remains obscure, his career was fuller, and his relations with the first two Tudor monarchs much closer, than Professor Chrimes supposed.



21. I am very grateful to Dr. Steven Gunn, who kindly read a draft of this article and made valuable comments on it.

22. S. B. Chrimes, 'Sir Roland de Veleville', ante, vol. 3, no. 3 (l967), pp. 287-89; Professor Chrimes's rejection of the tradition concerning Veleville's parentage is accepted in R. A. Griffiths and R. S. Thomas, The Making of the Tudor Dynasty (Gloucester, 1985), pp. 108, 174-75: no evidence has been found to support the statement that Henry VII made Veleville constable of Beaumaris castle 'not long before the king's death' (p. l74).

23. A. Llwyd, A History of the Island of Mona or Anglesey (Ruthin, l833), pp, 13l-12.

24. Thomas Pennant, A Tour in Wales (2 vols., London, 1778-83), vol. II, pp. 244-45.

25. Public Record Office (hereafter PRO), SC6/Henry VIII/5418, fees section.

26. National Library of Wales (hereafter NLW), Lleweni Papers 124, calendared in W. J. Smith (ed.), Calendar of Salusbury Correspondence 1559 – circa 1700 (Cardiff, 1954), no. l86. John Salusbury (d. l685) was the son of Roger Salusbury (d. l623) of Bachegraig (ibid., Table III), whose brother, John Salusbury (d. 1566), married Katheryn of Berain (ibid., Table I, Sheet B). For Katheryn of Berain, the daughter of Veleville's daughter, Jane, and Thomas ap Robert of Berain, see The Dictionary of Welsh Biography down to l940 (London, 1959), p. 531. Chrimes's article cited, p. 288, incorrectly stated that her first husband was Sir Thomas Salusbury; no knight of that name was living in her lifetime.

27. A. Llwyd, op. cit., p. 132, note. Professor Chrimes's article does not mention this reference, which gives a somewhat inaccurate quotation from the letter under discussion, including a reference, attributed to the writer, to Sir Thomas Salusbury (d. c. 1506) as 'my grandfather', a phrase which does not appear in the MS.

28. It is interesting to note that an illegitimate son of Sir John Salusbury (d. 16l2) of Lleweni, a son of Katheryn of Berain by her first marriage, was named Velivel Salusbury (Smith, Calendar of Salusbury Correspondence, Table I, Sheet B).

29. Quoted (in Welsh) in D. C. Jones, 'The Bulkeleys of Beaumaris. 1440-1547', Anglesey Antiquarian Society and Field Club Transactions (1961 ), p. 8. The quotation also refers to Veleville as 'of earl's blood', which, assuming an allusion to Tudor ancestry is intended, presumably refers to Henry VII's father, Edmund Tudor (d. 1456), earl of Richmond. I am very grateful to Miss Eiluned Rees and Mr. Cledwyn Fychan for references to Veleville in Enid Roberts (ed.), Gwaith Sion Tudor (Cardiff, l980), vol. 3, p. 50, and vol. 2, p. 4l, and for helpful comments.

30. J. Gairdner (ed.) Letters and Papers, Richard III and Henry VII (Rolls Series, 1861), vol. I, pp. 395, 397-400.

31. Sydney Anglo, 'The Court Festivals of Henry VII: A Study based on the Account Books of John Heron, Treasurer of the Chamber', Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, vol. 43 (l960), p. 36.

32. Idem, The Great Tournament Roll of Westminster (Oxford, l968), p. 36, n. l; A. H. Thomas and I. D. Thornley (eds.), The Great Chronicle of London (London, l938), pp. 314-15.

33. J. Leland, Collectanea (London, l774), vol. iv, p. 263.

34. Anglo, article cited, p. 40.

35. G. Kipling, 'The Queen of May's Joust at Kennington and the Justes of the Moneths of May and June', Notes and Queries, CCXXIX (June, 1984), 158-62 (I am indebted to Professor Sydney Anglo for this reference); A. Young, Tudor and Jacobean Tournaments (London, l987), p. 145.

36. A. R. Wagner, Heralds and Heraldry in the Middle Ages (2nd. ed., Oxford, 1960), pp. 79-80.

37. Buckingham was on sufficiently familiar terms with Veleville to borrow money from him; in 1520 he owed Veleville £l00. Letters and Papers, Henry VIII, vol. III, pt. I, no. 1285 (5, 27, 31).

38. Steven Gunn, 'The Courtiers of Henry VII' (forthcoming). I am greatly indebted to Dr. Gunn for allowing me to read his paper, which throws new light on Henry VII's courtiers, including Veleville.

39. PRO, E404/85/I/35, annuity granted l2 March, noted by Dr. Gunn; E404185/2/24; Cal. Patent Rolls, Henry VII, vol II, p. 47, PRO, C82/148. The annuity of 1493 was to be paid by the Exchequer, that of 1496 by the sheriff of Wiltshire.

40. British Library (hereafter BL), Stowe 440, f. 79, cited in Dr. Gunn's paper; PRO, E36/285, f. 44. The earliest reference to Veleville appears to be that recording a grant to 'Roland de Vielle' in Michaelmas term 1488: W. Campbell (ed.), Materials for the Reign of Henry VII (2 vols., Rolls Series, 1873-77), vol. II, p. 394.

41. W. A. Shaw, The Knights of England (London, 1906), vol. II, p. 30: Ian Arthurson, '1497 and the Western Rising' (unpublished University of Keele Ph. D. thesis. 1981), p. 328. I am greatly indebted to Dr. Arthurson for permission to consult his dissertation.

42. J. S. Brewer, J. Gairdner, and R. H. Brodie (eds.), Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII (22 vols., 1862-l932) (hereafter L. & P. Henry VIII), vol. I, pt. i, no. 20.

43. Sydney Anglo, op. cit., p. 46, n.1; Great Chronicle of London, p. 34l.

44. PRO, SC6/Henry VIII/54I8, fees section, which records the texts of the letters patent and of the warrants of 29 October and 6 December 1509 cited in this paragraph and gives details of payments.

45. Sir Robert Chamberlain (executed 1491) was appointed constable of Beaumaris jointly with his son on l0 February 1485, being succeeded as constable later that year by Sir William Stanley (executed 1495) and his son (E. Breese, Kalendars of Gwynedd (London, 18731, p. 122). For Chamberlain's career, see J. C. Wedgwood, History of Parliament: Biographies of Members of the Commons House, 1439-1509 (HMSO, 1936), pp. l70-7l, and for Stanley's career, M. K. Jones, 'Sir William Stanley of Holt: Politics and Family Allegiance in the Late Fifteenth Century', ante, vol. 14, no. 1 (l988), pp. l-22.

46. William Hastings (executed 1483), created Lord Hastings in 1461, was appointed constable of Beaumaris castle on 4 March 146l and to the same office for life on l2 August 1469 (Breese, op. cit., p. l22; Cal. Patent Rolls, 1467-1477, p. l65). Sir Richard Huddlestone (d. c. 1485) was appointed constable of Beaumaris castle, for life, on 28 November 1483 (Breese, op. cit., p. 122; Cal. Patent Rolls, 1476-1485, p. 369).

47. L. & P. Henry VIII, vol. I, pt. 1, no. 158 (9). Payment was to be at the Exchequer at Easter and Michaelmas by equal portions (PRO, C83/338).

48. L. & P. Henry VIII, vol. III, pt. 1, no. 1000, records payment of this annuity in 1520.

49. Jones, Anglesey Antiquarian Society and Field Club Transaction (1961), pp. 8-9.

50. S. J. Gunn, 'The Regime of Charles, Duke of Suffolk, in North Wales and the Reform of Welsh Government', ante, vol. 12 (1985), pp. 467-69. Dating the Star Chamber documents arising from these conflicts presents problems, as they rarely indicate the regnal years concerned.

51. Anglo, op. cit., pp. 55 n. 1, 113; L h P. Henry VIII, vol. I, pt. 1, nos. 698, 707.

52. BL, Additional MS. 45. 131, f. 160.

53. L. & P. Henry VIII, vol. I, pt, ii no. 2480 (30); PRO, E101/56/25, f. 43v. Veleville's signature, 'Rolant', in an unpractised hand, appears against the sum of 105s. paid to him as conduct money.

54. Gunn, ante, vol. 12 (1985), p. 469.

55. Ibid.; L. & P. Henry VIII, vol. II, pt. ii, no. 3741.

56. J. G. Nichols (ed.), The Chronicle of Calais (Camden Society, vol. 35, 1846), p. 23.

57. BL, Additional MS. 45,131, f. 174.

58. PRO, C82/586.

59. Gunn, ante, vol. l2 (1985), p. 469.

60. PRO, E36/l30, f. 201v.

61. 6 Henry VIII cap. 25; Statutes of the Realm (Record Commission, 1810-22), vol. III, 153-56; Helen Miller, Henry VIII and the English Nobility (Oxford, 1986), p. 198; M. Hicks, 'Attainder, Resumption and Coercion, 1461-1509', Parliamentary History, No. 3 (1984), p. 25; S. J. Gunn, The Act of Resumption of IS I 5'. in D. T. Williams (ed.), Early Tudor England (Woodbridge, 1989), pp. 87-106. I am indebted to Dr. Gunn for letting me have a copy of his paper.

62. PRO, SC 6/Henry VIII/5422, fees and respites sections.

63. The text of the letters patent is recorded in the chamberlain's account for the year ending Michaelmas 1516: PRO, SC6/Henry VIII/5424, fees section.

64. By virtue of this grant, the chamberlain's account for the year ending Michaelmas 1516 records the payment to Veleville of £14 10s. 0d., this being the portion of Veleville's fee of forty marks due in respect of the period from the date of his letters patent of 6 March 1515 until the following Michaelmas, i.e. a half-year and sixteen days. The sum of £12 2s. 8½d., the balance (less 7½d) of the fee due in respect of the period from Michaelmas 1515 to 5 March 1516, was recorded in the account as being 'in respite', but an entry in the 'respites' section of the account for the following year records that this payment was to be excused (PRO, SC6/Henry VIII/5426).

65. Gunn, ante, vol. l2 (1985), pp. 466-67.

66. This sum is calculated from payments made by the chamberlain of north Wales. Reference numbers cited below refer to the chamberlain's accounts in PRO, SC6/Henry VIII, unless otherwise indicated. Total fees and wages for the year ending Michaelmas 1509, £l75 3s. 4d. (No. 5418); for the following year no account survives and for the year ending Michaelmas 1511 the surviving account (No. 5419) gives no details of fees, but for each year the (total is assumed to be £350 5s. 0d., as in the years ending Michaelmas 1512 (No. 5420) and the two following years (PRO, LRI2/21/662); total for the year ending Michaelmas 1515, £350 5s. 0d. (No. 5422), including the sum of £175 2s. 6d. for the latter half of the year authorised in the following year; total for the year ending Michaelmas 1516, £200 (No. 5424, ignoring a possible underpayment of 7½d. for his fee); totals for the following eighteen years, 1517 to 1534 inclusive, £200 (Nos. 5426-30, 5433-36, 544l, 5444, 5447, 5450, 5453, 5455, 5457, 5460); total for the half-year ending Easter 1535, £100 (No. 5461).

67. Angharad Llwyd stated that Henry VII bestowed upon Veleville a moiety of the Penmynydd estate, consisting of 486 acres (op. cit, p. 333); for other references to Henry VIII granting Veleville lands forming part of the Tudor estate of Penmynydd, see J. Williams, 'Penmynydd and the Tudors', Archaeologia Cambrensis, 3rd. series, XV (1869), 402; J. Ballinger, 'Katheryn of Berain', Y Cymmrodor, XL (1929), 2; and R. A. Griffiths and R. S. Thomas, op. cit., p. 192. For Veleville's grant of denization, see L. & P. Henry VIII, vol. I, pt. 1, no. 1524 (7).

68. D. Jones, article cited, p. 8.

69. Gunn, ante. vol. 12 (1985), pp. 461, 466-67; PRO, SC6/Henry VIII/5418, fees section. For Brandon's Career, see S. J. Gunn, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, c. 1484-1545 (Oxford. 1988).

70. Gunn, ante, vol. 12 (1985), p. 46l.

71. The terms of the grants by which constables of the royal castles in the principality of north Wales in the last year of Henry VII's reign held their offices are summarised in the account of the chamberlain for the year ending Michaelmas 1508, PRO, SC6/Henry VII/160l, fees section. Bulkeley held the constableship of Beaumaris castle during pleasure by royal letters placard dated 4 July 1502; John Puleston held the constableship of Caernarfon castle for life by royal warrant dated l6 April 1506; Edward Salusbury, a gentleman usher of the king's chamber, held the constableship of Conway castle during pleasure by royal letters placard dated 28 December 1504; Hugh Lewys, a yeoman of the king's chamber, held the constableship of Harlech castle during pleasure by royal letters placard also dated 28 December 1504. For lists of the constables of these castles, see Breese, Kalendars of Gwynedd.

72. Breese, op. cit. p. 122.

73. Cal. Parent Rolls, Henry VII, vol. II, p. 569.

74. Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon on l June 1509.

75. In a letter of 26 June 1535, Sir Richard Bulkeley stated that Veleville had murdered a man in the Lord Cardinal's (i.e. Wolsey's) time and had forfeited all his goods, but no indication of the date of the alleged murder is cited: L. & P. Henry VIII, vol. VII, no. 889; see below, p. 365, n. 66, for the date of this letter.

76. Historical Manuscripts Commission, no. 58: Report on the Manuscripts of the Marquess of Bath, vol. IV, Seymour Papers, 1532-l686 (HMSO, 1968), p. 97. In the early years of Henry VIII's reign, Veleville is mentioned as holding musters at Beaumaris, and there are references to gunpowder being delivered to him for Beaumaris (PRO, Star Chamber 217, f. 26v; L. & P. Henry VIII, vol. I, pt. ii, nos. 2834, 3222).

77. P. C. Bartrum, Welsh Genealogies, A.D. 1400-1500 (Aberystwyth, 1983), vol. VIII, p. 1265; Lewys Dwnn, Heraldic Visitations of Wales, ed. S. R. Meyrick (2 vols., Llandovery, 1846), vol. II, p. 131, n. 4; J. E. Griffith, Pedigrees of Anglesey and Caernarvonshire (Horncastle, 1914), pp. 26, 223. For the family of Griffith of Penrhyn, see Dictionary of Welsh Biography, pp. 1123-26

78. NLW, Kinmel Deeds, no. 29; Lleweni Collection, nos. 223, 255

79. PRO, Star Chamber 2/7, f. 28; Star Chamber 2/4, f. 5.

80. Hugh Owen (ed.), The Plea Rolls of Anglesey (1518-1516) (Anglesey Antiquarian Society and Field Club, 1927), p. 54, no. 134.

81. NLW, Lleweni collection, No. 222.

82. Ibid., Nos. 210, 268. In deeds dated 20 June and 31 July 1526. Veleville and Agnes Griffith (not referred to as his wife) granted and quitclaimed two shops in Beaumaris that were stated to be in the tenure and occupation of Agnes and one Peter Barbour (University College of North Wales, Bangor. Baron Hill Collection, Nos. 552-53).

83. The settlement made by Veleville before the marriage of his daughter Jane was dated 5 June 1531 (NLW, Lleweni Collection, No. 370). Although child marriages were not uncommon at this period, they were not usually arranged until the parties had passed their earliest infancy.

84. See above, p. 359. n. 45.

85. No search for these payments has been made in the Exchequer records. Veleville's annuity of forty marks, granted in 1496, was still being paid in 1520 (L. & P. Henry VIII, vol. III, pt. 1. no. 1000). The total of £1,2l6 13s. 4d. is based on the assumption that this annuity, and that of £20, originally granted in 1493, continued to be paid until his death, his payments from both annuities totalling £46 13s. 4d. in the twenty-six years, 1509-1534, and £23 6s. 6d. in 1535.

86. Veleville's deputy (unidentified) was alleged to have issued out of Beaumaris castle with sixteen men to attack the burgesses in April 1512 and Veleville was also alleged to have retained divers persons in Anglesey (PRO, Star Chamber 2/7, ff. 25v, 29v), but the number of men in the castle garrison or otherwise retained by Veleville in the early years of Henry VIII's reign is uncertain, as is the effect of the termination of Veleville's allowance for soldiers' wages after 1516. Veleville's responsibility for the safe keeping of the castle continued until his death and it is by no means certain that any soldiers were kept there during the later years of his constableship, as stated in E. A. Lewis, The Medieval Boroughs of Snowdonia (London, 1912), p. 111. No evidence has been found to substantiate the statement in A. Llwyd, op. cit., p. 132, that the conduct of Veleville's garrison was so offensive to the neighbourhood that Henry VIII gave orders for its removal. Veleville's will (in Latin), in which he describes himself as a knight for the king's body and constable of the castle of Beaumaris, was dated 'in my place of habitation in the aforesaid castle' (NLW, Kinmel Deeds, No. 53). For a reference to the removal of wine taken by Veleville at Beaumaris as prise to the castle cellar, see Lewis, op. cit. p. 217. In a letter date 26 June written in 1535 by Sir Richard Bulkeley to Henry Norris (executed l7 May 1536), Veleville's successor as constable of Beaumaris castle, Bulkeley claimed that on taking possession of the castle from Veleville's widow and her son-in-law, William ap Robert, he never saw a house so ill kept, as there was scarcely a chamber in which a man might lie dry (L. & P. Henry VIII, vol. VII, no. 889).

87. In the letter of 26 June 1535 cited in the preceding note, Sir Richard Bulkeley said that Veleville, having murdered a man in the Lord Cardinal's (i.e. Wolsey's) time and forfeited all his goods, had sworn that he was worth 500 marks in goods. The date of this forfeiture is not indicated.

88. NLW, Lleweni collection, Nos. 230, 209, 22l, 257(i), 222 (grant by Agnes Griffith), 210. The first four deeds listed relate to grants by Owen ap John ab Owen ap Tudor Fychan. John ap Owen ap Tudor was one of the sons of Owen ap Tudor granted licence to enter the latter's estate by letters patent of 7 June 1530 (ibid., No. 206), and a son of this John, named Owain, appears in the pedigree of the descendants of Tudor Fychan of Penmynydd (Bartrum, op. cit., vol. VIII, p. 126).

89. University College of North Wales, Bangor, Baron Hill Collection Nos. 552-53, for which see above, p. 364, n. 61.

90. NLW, Lleweni Collection, no. 370.

91. Will dated 6 June 1535, proved on l3 June 1535 at Llanallgo, Anglesey (NLW, Kinmel Deeds, No. 53).

92. Glyn Roberts, Aspects of Welsh History (Cardiff, 1969), pp. 200-1, citing the generally accepted view that the fine alabaster altar tomb now in Penmynydd church commemorates Goronwy and was removed from Llanfaes after the Dissolution.

93. NLW, W. A. Evans Purchase (1962), No. l3, printed in Llwyd, op. cit., pp. 336-37. The north aisle of the parish church of St. Mary and St. Nicholas at Beaumaris was formerly dedicated to St. Mary: An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Anglesey (HMSO, 1937), p. 5.


This information has been extracted from 'The Development of Welsh Heraldry' (1993) by Dr. M. P. Siddons, Welsh Herald Extraordinary. Please refer to that book for an explanation of the sources.

As far I can see from this information, Velville has been attributed with basically two different coats of arms, the first is item 1 below and the second is item 2. I think it is likely that item 3 is another interpretation of item 2.1, that is Velville's senior quartering. I would make a tentative guess that item 1 is the coat of arms granted to Velville upon his being knighted after the battle of Blackheath in 1497 (though I cannot think why he should be granted arms when it appears that he already had a coat of arms) and that item 2 represents his 'proper' coat of arms, that is the arms he inherited by birth. The unquartered coat of arms of his father would therefore appear to be item 2.1 but item 3 may be a more correct interpretation. The arms of Velville's father would appear to be 'argent/or, a boar passant/statant sable', either 'armed or, langued gules' or not as the case may be*.

  • This means, in plain English, either a gold (or) or white (argent) background surmounted by a black boar (a boar sable), either walking past with its head sideways on (looking to its front i.e. left) and with its right paw raised (passant) or standing (head on the left, tail on the right) on its four paws with its head looking towards you (statant), either with gold teeth (armed or) and a red tongue (langued gules), or not as the case maybe.

It is, of course, intruiging that Velville should have been attributed with a coat of arms such as 2 below. This would seem to imply that the identity of both his father and mother was known. According to Dr. Siddons, John Writhe, Garter King of Arms (see below), would have actually known Velville. On the other hand, SF1 refers to a manuscript prepared for Katherine of Berain (Velville's grand-daughter) by Simwnt Fychan. It is possible that this coat of arms actually refers back to the ancestors of the Tudors amongst the Welsh princely families but I have not yet investigated this matter. Dr. Siddons has confirmed that it is 'unusual' that such apparent confusion should arise.

Writhe's Knights.

Argent, a lion rampant gules, charged with a bezant* on the shoulder.

  • A bezant is a small gold circle or disk. They were often used to symbolize travel and the use of this charge may refer to Velville's alleged Breton origins.

SF1, WC4, WC5 and Geo.O.4.

These all seem to broadly agree on the six main elements, namely:-

Or, a boar passant sable.

Argent, three bars sable (WC5 - Barry of six, argent and sable).

Argent, three bars gules (WC5 - Barry of six, argent and gules).

Gules, a label or, three points seen.

'On his mother's side':-

Argent, a lion rampant gules, crowned or (I believe that these are the arms of the Counts of Poitou).

Argent, three chevrons sable.

The last two either being quarterings (Geo.O.4.) or shown quartered on an inescutcheon (SF1, WC4 and WC5). In addition, SF1, WC4 and WC5 (but not Geo.O.4.) show an inescutcheon - argent, a lion rampant gules, crowned, langued and armed or.


Argent, a boar statant sable, armed or, langued gules. Same as 2.1?

Supporters (SF1 and WC4 only):-

Two lions rampant gardant or, each holding a square banner argent, and spearmen or with heads azure supporting them, a crowned lion gules in each banner.

Crest (SF1 and WC4 only):-

A lion's head argent, langued gules, issuant from a crown or.


Page 108

'Illicit relationships may have flourished [between Henry's companions in exile in Brittany and local women] but, (as Henry VII's biographer, S. B. Chrimes, has shown) the later tradition that Roland de Veleville was Henry's own bastard son born in Brittany is false (Woof!). It is true that after fighting for Henry at Bosworth (An interesting idea since, according to my information, Vellville was 11 years old at the time and, by any reasonable estimate, he cannot have been older than his early teens.), de Veleville was rewarded with a knighthood (Incorrect. Velville was knighted in 1497, 12 years after Bosworth.) and the ancestral Tudor lands at Penmynydd in Anglesey (Both Chrimes and Robinson state specifically that Velville was not granted land at Penmynydd by Henry VII.), and in his will Veleville asked to be buried at Llanfaes Priory, the mausoleum of the earliest Tudors. But as far as Henry is concerned, he was simply and genuinely expressing deep gratitude to a Breton friend (A boy less than half his age...) who had stood by him when support was short.'

Page 174

'The more lowly foreign soldiers who settled in early Tudor England are much more elusive, but one attracted the king's special favour and has been the subject of an intriguing myth ever since. Roland de Veleville was in Henry's company in 1485 and by 1488 had received modest recognition for his service. After helping to disperse the rebels gathered on Blackheath in 1497 ('I say, move along there you fellows...' - It was actually a full-scale battle, if rather one-sided, and is correctly called 'The Battle of Blackheath'), he was knighted (Griffiths is contracticting his statement (see above) that Velville was knighted after Bosworth.) and given a position in the king's household (Chrimes does not cite any evidence to this effect. See my earlier comments.). Later still, not long before the king's death, Henry made him constable of Beaumaris Castle (Incorrect. It was Henry VIII who made him Constable of Beaumaris Castle.) on the island of Anglesey, and in 1512 Henry VIII conferred on him all the rights and privileges of an Englishman - in effect, naturalization. De Veleville married a Welsh girl (The 'Welsh girl' referred to, Agnes Griffith, was a member of the most powerful family in North Wales at the time, the Griffiths of Penrhyn, a branch of the Tudor family. Agnes Grifith was therefore a distant cousin of Henry VII.) to whom he left his property in Beaumaris. In his will of 1535, he also expressed a wish to be buried in Llanfaes Priory, where some of the earliest Tudors were interred. He was so well regarded by Henry Tudor (or his son) that he was even given part of the ancestral lands of the Tudors of Penmynydd (Both Chrimes and Robinson state specifically that Velville was not granted land at Penmynydd by Henry VII.) and this grant was to be a germ of the tradition that de Veleville was none other than Henry Tudor's son, born in Brittany. Supported by the fame of his grand-daughter, the much-married Katherine of Berain, who was lionized by Welsh poets during Elizabeth I's reign and became a figure of romance, this tradition is nothing more than a myth inspired by Henry Tudor's early life.'

Page 192

'Henry VII acknowledged his Welsh relatives, but on the whole modestly and privately. He showed no interest in the ancestral Tudor estates in North Wales. The patrimony at Penmynydd in Anglesey was granted away, part to the abbey of Conway and part to Sir Roland de Veleville (Both Chrimes and Robinson state specifically that Velville was not granted land at Penmynydd by Henry VII.), Henry's Breton servant in Wales after 1485 (Roland de Velveille had no connection whatsoever with Wales until after Henry VII's death in 1509, some 24 years later.). The descendants of Gwilym ap Gruffydd, the man who had replaced the earliest Tudors at Penmynydd after they had rebelled with Glyndwr, made little of their kinship with the new royal house. Several of them served in humble positions in the households of Henry VII and Henry VIII, and another, named Jasper, recalled his great namesake. But these Anglesey Tudors (or Theodores as they preferred to be known) were far less prominent in local society than their ancestors had been in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries: they occupied no offices on the island and Welsh poets ignored them.'


Let us look at what we know, or can reasonably assume, about Velville's life:-

A young boy, of unknown parentage, accompanies Henry VII to England from Brittany in 1485. He is probably no more than half Henry's age (Henry was 28 in 1485). Although, perhaps, just of 'military age' at that time, he was too young to be Henry's 'friend' or a mercenary in his own right. For the next 25 or more years he lives at Court. He is, unusually and perhaps uniquely, not given any official position or office but is clearly a favourite of the king, participating in numerous jousts and accompanying the king out hunting. He is a courtier, not a 'servant', and mixes on equal terms with the highest members of the aristocracy, including the Duke of Buckingham (specifically mentioned by Robinson). In due course he is knighted. Shortly after the king's death he is appointed Constable of Beaumaris Castle in Anglesey, the ancient seat of the Tudor family. He marries a lady who is a member of the most powerful family in North Wales at the time and who is also a distant cousin of the king. He is granted or otherwise acquires land in the ancient estates of the Tudor family. Rumours concerning a royal parentage were certainly current in North Wales during his own lifetime and it appears that he was believed to be Henry VII's son by his family and immediate circle, as well as by his descendants. In the 450 years or so since his death no evidence has come to light as to any other parentage.

Let's put this another way. In 1485, Henry VII brings an illegitimate child, who is young enough to be his son, from Brittany to England. This boy is brought up at Court, where he spends the next 25 years of his life. He is a favourite of the king and treated as an equal by the highest ranking members of the aristocracy. He is given no 'position' but lives as a member of the royal household.

If de Velville, given his age, was merely some sort of page (which is quite impossible, of course, since a page or someone of similar standing would not, under any circumstances, have been allowed to participate in court activities, such as jousting and hunting, in the manner de Velville did) who Henry had brought over from Brittany and of whom Henry was particularly fond, then why did he not continue in a similar office after Henry became king? If we accept that de Velville was an illegitimate child then whose child was he? If not Henry VII's then his treatment by Henry VII can only mean that he was the child of someone very close to Henry VII or of someone to whom Henry VII owned a considerable debt of gratitude. If this was the case, then why the secrecy? What is the 'big deal'? Why is this close friendship or extraordinary debt never disclosed? Why is there no record of it? The answer is pure common sense - he was Henry's son. The very secrecy surrounding Velville supports this conclusion. Sherlock Holmes would have spotted it straight away - it's a case of 'The dog that didn't bark in the night'.

  • *********************************************************************************************************

An illegitimate son has also been attributed to Henry by "a Breton Lady":

Sir Roland de Velville or Veleville 1474 - 25 June 1535. He was knighted in 1497 and was Constable of Beaumaris Castle. If de Velville was in fact Henry's son, he was born during the period of Henry's exile in France. Roland de Velville's descendants included Katheryn of Berain, hence she is sometimes referred to as "Katherine Tudor".[23] 


Associated with: ¿?

10. Roland De VELVILLE (Constable of Beaumaris)


Child of Henry VII Tudor, King of England and unknown person (?)

1.Roland de Velville9

9.[S11] Alison Weir, Britain's Royal Family, page 150


King Henry VII had one possible illegitimate son[717] by a Breton lady:

9. [ROLAND de Velville ([1471/85]-1535). Born while Henry Tudor was in exile in Brittany. Constable of Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey 1509-1535.] m AGNES Griffith, daughter of GWILYM Fychan of Penrhyn [Chamberlain of North Wales] & his second wife Gwenllian daughter of Iowerth ap David (-1542).

a) daughter. m TUDUR ap Robert Fychan of Berain.


He was knighted in 1497 and was Constable of Beaumaris Castle. He is sometimes presented as the clear "illegitimate issue" of Henry VII of England by "a Breton lady whose name is not known". The possibility this was Henry's illegitimate son is baseless.[6

Roland de Velville From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Sir Roland de Velville Constable of Beaumaris Castle, Captain of Beaumaris Castle and Town, Anglesey (Ynys Môn), Wales Spouse(s) Agnes Griffith Issue Grace de Velville Jane de Velville (m. Robert Thomas ap Robert of Berain) Father Henry VII of England, presumed Mother unknown to historians (per Beauclerk-Dewar et al., Sir Roland's heraldry reflected known parentage) Born 1471/4 Brittany; under Francis II, a duchy of France (per Beauclerk-Dewar et al., granted Letters of Denization, 1512) Died 25 June 1535 Beaumaris Castle, Wales Buried Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Beaumaris Castle Sir Roland de Velville (1471/4 - 25 June 1535, also Vielleville, Veleville, or Vieilleville)[1] is alternatively presented as the clear "illegitimate issue" (son) of King Henry VII of England by "a Breton lady whose name is not known",[2] or as a favored member of the court of Henry VII and later recipient of beneficences, brought home to England with 28-year-old Henry after his exile in Brittany, an adolescent "of unknown parentage", and so a possible or likely illegitimate son, with formal historical opinion undecided.[3]

Peter Beauclerk-Dewar and Roger Powell note that while not having official position or office, de Velville was a courtier and "favourite of the king, participating in numerous jousts and accompanying the king out hunting."[1] He saw military service in Brittany in 1489, and likely in France with the King in 1492, was knighted in 1497 after the Battle of Blackheath, and was one of a small group of knights individually rewarded for their efforts by Henry VII.[1]

Beauclerk-Dewar and Powell further state that historical records regularly place de Velville at royal tournaments marking significant royal events (marriages, visits of foreign monarchs) of the Court of Henry VII, in particular his jousts, from 1494-1507; in May 1509 he was appointed to attend Henry VII's funeral as a knight of the Royal Household, and in June to participate in the royal jousts in celebration of the accession of Henry VIII. Shortly thereafter, he was appointed Constable and Captain of Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey (Ynys Môn, in Wales) in 1509,[2] a position he held until his death.[1]

History writer Alison Weir notes "he married a Welshwoman, and had issue" [i.e., a child or children].[2] His wife Agnes (née Griffith), was widow of Robert Dowdyng and daughter in the powerful Welsh family of William (Gwilym) Griffith Fychan and so brother to Sir William Griffith, a Chamberlain of North Wales;[1] Agnes gave him two daughters, Grace and Jane, the latter who, in marriage to Tudor ap Robert Vychan, gave birth to Katherine Tudor, in Welsh Catrin o Ferain (who is sometimes referred to as "the mother of Wales").[4] de Velville died on 25 June 1535, cause unknown, and was buried in the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Beaumaris Castle.[1]

References[edit] ^ Jump up to: a b c d e f See Peter Beauclerk-Dewar & Roger Powell, "King Henry VII (1457-1509):Roland de Velville (1474-1535)", in Royal Bastards: Illegitimate Children of the British Royal Family (Gloucestershire, U.K.: The History Press, 2008), e-book edition, pp. 177-186, ISBN 0752473166. ^ Jump up to: a b c Alison Weir, Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy (London, U.K.: The Bodley Head, 1999), pp. 152. Jump up ^ See Beauclerk-Dewar & Powell, pp. 177-186, citing Prof SB Chrimes, Cardiff University, and WRB Robinson, writing separately in the Welsh Historical Review, and Prof RA Griffiths and RS Thomas, University College, Swansea, in "The Making of the Tudor Dynasty" (ISBN 0750937769). Jump up ^ John Ballinger, "Katheryn of Berain", Y Cymmrodon, Vol. XL, The Honourable Society of Cymmrodian, London, 1929, see [1], accessed 22 June 2014. Categories: 1470s births

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Sir Roland Velville, of Beaumaris's Timeline

Age 51
Berain, Llannefydd, Denbighshire, Wales
Age 59
Penmynydd, Isle of Anglesey, Wales, United Kingdom
June 25, 1535
Age 61