on the true story of a forgotten hero, OWEN is the epic tale of one young man’s
incredible courage and resilience as he changes the course of English history.
1422: Owen Tudor, a Welsh servant, waits in Windsor Castle to meet his new
mistress, the beautiful and lonely Queen Catherine of Valois, widow of the
warrior king, Henry V. Her infant son is crowned King of England and France,
and while the country simmers on the brink of civil war, Owen becomes her
tense at the sound of approaching footsteps as I wait to meet my new mistress,
the young widow of King Henry V, Queen Catherine of Valois. Colourful Flemish
tapestries decorate the royal apartments of Windsor Castle, dazzling my senses
and reminding me how life in the royal household presents new opportunities. My
life will change forever, if she finds me acceptable, yet doubt nags at my
doors open and Queen Catherine’s usher appears. I have been told to approach
the queen and bow, but must not look directly at her or speak, other than to
say my name, until spoken to. Taking a deep breath I enter the queen’s private
rooms where she sits surrounded by her sharp-eyed ladies-in-waiting. I have the
briefest glimpse of azure silk, gold brocade, gleaming pearls and a breath of
exotic perfume. I remove my hat and bow, my eyes cast down to her
Tudor, Your Highness, Keeper of your Wardrobe.’ My voice echoes in the
of her ladies fails to suppress her giggle, a sweet enough sound, if you are
not the reason for it. I forget my instruction and look up to see the queen
regarding me with confident, ice-blue eyes.
are a Welshman?’ Her words sound like an accusation.
full name is Owain ap Maredydd ap Tudur, although the English call me Owen
Tudor. I come from a long line of Welsh noblemen, Your Highness.’ I regret my
boast as soon as I say the words.
Tudor…’ This time her voice carries a hint of amusement.
put on my hat and pull my shoulders back. She examines me, as one might study a
horse before offering a price. After years of hard work I have secured a
position worthy of my skills, yet it means nothing without the approval of the
look more like a soldier than a servant?’ The challenge in her words seems to
have served in the king’s army as a soldier.’ I feel all their eyes upon me.
you have no sword?’ She sounds curious.
are not permitted to carry a sword in England, Your Highness.’ I am still
bitter at this injustice.
remember the last time I saw her, at the king’s state funeral in Westminster.
Her face veiled, she rode in a gilded carriage drawn by a team of black horses.
I followed on foot as the funeral procession passed through sombre crowds,
carrying the king’s standard and wearing the red, blue and gold livery of the
fought in France?’
the king’s bowmen, Your Highness, before I became a squire.’
queen has none of the air of sadness I expected. Slim, almost too thin, her
childlike wrists and delicate fingers are adorned with gold rings sparkling
with diamonds and rubies. Her neck is long and slender, her skin pale with the
whiteness of a woman who rarely sees the sun. Her golden-brown hair is gathered
in tight plaits at the back of her head and her headdress fashionably
emphasises her smooth, high forehead.
Henry V chose as his bride the youngest daughter of the man they called the
‘mad king’, Charles VI. They said King Charles feared he was made of glass and
would shatter if he didn’t take care. Charles promised Henry he would inherit
the throne and become the next King of France and there were rumours of a
secret wedding dowry, a fortune in gold.
a year into his marriage, the king left his new wife pregnant and alone in
Windsor. He returned to fight his war in France, capturing the castle of Dreux
before marching on the fortress at Meaux, defended by Jean de Gast, the Bastard
of Vaurus, a cruel, brave captain. The king never saw his son and heir, his
siege of Meaux was hard won and he suffered the bloody flux, the dreaded curse
of the battlefield. Men had been known to recover, if they were strong and
lucky. Many did not, despite the bloodletting and leeches. The flux is an
inglorious way to die, poisoned by your own body, especially for a victorious
warrior king who would never now be King of France.
queen has an appraising look in her eyes. She has buried her hopes for the
future along with her husband. I remember I am looking at the mother of the new
king, once he comes of age. One thing is certain; she will not be left to raise
the prince alone. Ambitious men are already vying for their share of power and
last she speaks. ‘And now you are in my household?’
appointment to your service was made by Sir Walter Hungerford, Steward of the
King’s Household and constable here at Windsor.’
Walter was one of my husband’s most trusted men—the executor of the king’s
worked as squire to Sir Walter for many years, in England and France.’
little, Your Highness.’ I answer in French.
you with King Henry at the siege of Rouen?’ Now she speaks in French.
was, Your Highness. I will never forget it.’ I answer again in French. I
learned the language on the battlefield and in the taverns of Paris and can
swear as well as any Frenchman.
heard the people of Rouen were starving… before they surrendered.’ Her voice
is softer now and she speaks in English.
is cruel, yet now there is less appetite for it.’
pray to God that is true.’ She glances back at her ladies, who are watching and
listening, as ladies-in-waiting do. Queen Catherine regards me, giving nothing
away. ‘I welcome you to our household, Master Tudor.’
you, Your Highness.’
first meeting is over. She is unlike any woman I have known, fascinating, intriguing
and beautiful. More than that; there is something about her I find deeply
attractive, a dangerous thing to admit. Perhaps my fascination is with the
glimpse I’d seen of the real woman, the same age as myself, behind the title of
Dowager Queen of England.
high, boy,’ my garrulous longbow tutor once advised me, his voice gruff from
too much shouting. ‘It’s not the Welsh way to play safe and wait until you have
a clear shot!’ The man spits hard on the ground to add emphasis and stares
knowingly into my eyes, standing so close I can almost feel the coarse grey
stubble of his beard. ‘When you aim high,’ he points an imaginary bow up at the
sky, ‘your arrow will fly far into the enemy ranks and strike with the full
vengeance of God.’
of course, is on our side.’ A daring, foolhardy thing for a boy like me to say
to a man who can punch me to the ground or worse.
a moment I see the old man’s mind working as he tries to decide if I am being
disrespectful, sacrilegious or both. The moment passes. I notch a new arrow
into the powerful yew longbow and fire it high into the sky, without a care for
where it will fall.
smile at the memory as I return down the long passage to the servants’ hall.
Life as a king’s archer was hard, but I enjoyed the camaraderie of the other
men and it taught me many things. As well as how to use a longbow, I learned to
watch my back, when to speak up and when to remain silent. My tutor died in the
thick mud of Normandy, yet his lesson serves me well. I know to aim high.
night, wide awake in the darkness, I reflect on the unthinkable turn my life
has taken. I always imagined I would become a merchant, setting up shop
somewhere in the narrow, dirty streets of London, or perhaps an adventurer,
sailing off to seek my fortune. I remain a servant, yet for the first time I
have my own lodging room, however small and cramped.
reward for long and loyal service as squire to Sir Walter has been this new
appointment, a position of great responsibility. The queen’s wardrobe is a
treasure store of priceless gold and jewels, as well as all her expensive
clothes and most valuable possessions. Such a senior post in the royal
household pays more than I have earned in my life and carries influence,
allowing me regular and privileged access to the queen.
resolve to become indispensable to her. High and mighty lords and dukes will
come and go, with their false concerns and self-serving advice, yet I will see
her every day, tending to her needs. I recall how she referred to Sir Walter as
one of the king’s most trusted men. That is what I wish to become; Queen
Catherine’s most trusted man.
Riches is a UK historical fiction author living in Pembrokeshire, Wales. You
can find out more on Tony’s website www.tonyriches.com and his blog ‘The
Writing Desk’ at www.tonyriches.co.uk.
Find him on Twitter @tonyriches. Owen – Book One of the Tudor Trilogy is
available in eBook and paperback on Amazon, where it is a #1 historical fiction
bestseller. There is a short video
trailer for the book on YouTube http://youtu.be/ELH4IU5pxds