Sir Thomas Vaughan (executed 1483)
If you try to research Sir Thomas Vaughan on the internet you may become quite confused. Some sites suggest he was of the Tretower branch of the Vaughans. Highly unlikely, you might think, given that that family were strong Ricardian Yorkists. Others link him with the Vaughan family of Hergest Court. There were of course several Vaughan families in Wales
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Vaughan, written by Professor R. A. Griffiths, should have removed this problem of identification. The fact is that Vaughan was the son of Robert Vaughan of Monmouth and his wife Margaret. Thomas Vaughan entered royal service under the Lancastrians and was granted the status of naturalised Englishman at the urging of the Earl of Somerset, which suggests that the Beauforts were his original patrons. Later he served as councillor of Jasper Tudor.
However, he was with the Yorkists at Ludford Bridge and subsequently attainted. Returning with the Yorkists in 1460, he recovered his office of Master of Ordnance and was also made Keeper of the Great Wardrobe. After Second St. Albans he fled abroad with all or part of the Yorkist treasure, but was captured by French pirates. Edward IV subsequently contributed £200 towards his ransom.
Vaughan continued in Edward’s favour and was given a number of important offices over the years. His role was by no means confined to Wales. For example, he was Sheriff of Surrey and Sussex in 1466-67. This may reflect his marriage to Eleanor, daughter of Sir Thomas Arundel and widow of Sir Thomas Browne, since this lady had significant landed interest in South-east England.
As is rather better known, Vaughan was also a key member of the Prince of Wales’ household, and was involved in the delegated government exercised by the Prince’s Council in the Marches of Wales.
Vaughan should not be thought of as an ‘obscure Welshman’ or simply as a grey-haired innocent killed for simple loyalty. He was a man of considerable influence with his own mansion in Westminster, and by no means to be written off as insignificant.
Although it is sometimes suggested that the Welsh gentry came to prominence as a result of Tudor favour, Vaughan’s career is proof that a Welsh gentleman could gain considerable advancement under the Yorkists, and indeed under the Lancastrians.
We do not have sufficient information to say whether Richard III was justified in executing Vaughan, but what is clear is that Vaughan was a figure of significant importance, whose career perhaps needs to be looked at in more detail, instead of his being regarded as a footnote to Anthony Woodville.
At some point Vaughan was interred in Westminster Abbey where his tomb may still be found.