Sir James Tyrrell – Sheriff of Glamorgan

As we said in an earlier article,“ Richard III appointed James Tyrrell Sherriff of Glamorgan and Constable of Cardiff in 1477. The importance of Glamorgan is little understood or recognised in Ricardian Studies, but this was certainly a key job and one of the most important at Richard’s disposal. The practical effect, given that Richard was mainly occupied in the North or at Court,, was that Tyrell was his deputy in one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Marcher Lordships. It was a position of considerable power and almost certainly considerable income.”

Looking for further information about Sir James, I came across “An Inventory of Ancient Monuments of Glamorgan” which said that the Lordship of Glamorgan was passed to Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, through his wife Anne Beauchamp. After Warwick’s death at the Battle of Barnet his daughters inherited it. However, due to a dispute between Richard Duke of Gloucester and George Duke of Clarence, as to how the inheritance should be split, King Edward IV stepped in and enforced partition of the lands and Richard became Lord of Glamorgan. In the Autumn of 1477 Richard appointed Tyrrell as Sheriff of Glamorgan and Constable of Cardiff Castle.

The Richard III Society of Canada reported in an article that during the Scottish Campaign in July 1482 Tyrrell was made a Knight Banneret and in November 1482, along with Sir William Parr and Sir James Harrington he was appointed to exercise as Vice Constable to Richard’s office as Constable of England.

Tyrrell was obviously well thought of by Richard. He trusted him to bring his mother in law from Beaulieu Abbey to Middleham. After Hastings’ execution and the arrest of suspected conspirators Richard temporarily placed Archbishop Rotherham in Sir James’ custody. It is also thought that James Tyrrell was responsible for taking the Princes or one of the Princes out of the country before Bosworth. I have always thought it was odd that he was out of the country when Richard needed him, but it is possible that he was performing a much more important task for Richard.

In researching another previous post , I discovered that Rhys ap Thomas had married Jane Stradling, nee Matthew, the widow of Thomas Stradling of St Donat’s Castle and that he was guardian to the young heir, Edward Stradling when Thomas died in 1480. I assumed that when ap Thomas had married Jane Stradling he had taken over the guardianship of Edward Stradling, however, Richard had given Edward Stradling’s guardianship to James Tyrrell in 1480 when his father died so it was probably after Bosworth that Rhys ap Thomas was given the control of the young heir of St Donat’s. Thomas was later accused of taking money from the Stradling’s estates for three years running. The young man was obviously better served by Tyrrell.

Sir James Tyrrell was obviously someone Richard could trust, so it could be said that was evidence that Richard trusted him to be responsible for taking the Princes out of the country. On the other hand, I am sure that those who believe the traditionalist version would say that it could also mean that Richard could have trusted him to do away with the Princes. Personally I have always thought that the former scenario was probably the true version. In her book “The Mystery of the Princes” Audrey Williamson” reported a tradition in the Tyrrell family that “the Princes were at Gipping with their mother by permission of the uncle”. This was told to her by a descendant of the Tyrrell family in around the 1950s. Apparently the family didn’t ever talk about it because they assumed that if the boys had been at Gipping that it must mean that Sir James was responsible for their deaths. However, they were supposedly at Gipping with their mother and by permission of their uncle, so I doubt that their mother would have been involved with their murder. Gipping in Suffolk is quite near to the east coast of England so would have been an ideal place to stopover on the way to the Continent.

In conclusion, it is my opinion that James Tyrrell was a very loyal, trustworthy member of Richard’s retinue. This is evidenced by the fact that he was trusted by Richard to carry out important tasks like bringing his mother-in-law from Beaulieu to Middleham, to carry out his duties as Lord of Glamorgan by making him Sheriff of Glamorgan and as Vice Constable to Richard’s role as Lord Constable. We might never know if the Princes even died in 1483/84 let alone were murdered or if they were taken out of the country. There isn’t any definite evidence to prove that, if they were taken abroad, Tyrrell was responsible for taking them. However, there is evidence that Richard made a large payment to Tyrrell while he was Captain of Guisnes. It was £3000, a huge amount in those days. There is an opinion that it would have been enough to see a prince live comfortably for quite some time while others say that it was probably towards the running of the garrison. As I said before we might never know what happened but it does seem odd to me that when Richard needed him most to fight the Battle of Bosworth, James Tyrrell was abroad as was Sir Edward Brampton, another person who could have helped to save the day at Bosworth.



  1. Tyrell was in charge of Calais in 1485. A very important post, and one at which he would be expected to stay even when an invasion of England occurred. After all, it would be quite possible for the French to have attacked Calais simultaneously with a Tudor invasion; so leaving Tyrell in Calais made sense.

    Further, the time lines don’t make it likely that Tyrell could have actually joined Richard at Bosworth. Had he been summoned, he would have been en route at the time of the battle.

    Tyrell’s name probably would never have come up in connection with the Boys’ disappearance had he not rebelled, in 1500-01, at Calais. Had he simply come to England to answer Henry VII’s anger over the de la Pole incident, the whole thing may have blown over, with forcible retirement and maybe a fine being the worst thing to happen. As was, when Henry found it expedient to put up some story about the supposed murders, Tyrell was a convenient suspect. He was too dead to object.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The instructions to Tyrell are almost universally misunderstood. He was not sent to Calais with £3000. Richard was borrowing that amount from the super rich merchants of the Staple. Horrox has shown that the royal treasury was empty in 1483 and Richard had been subsidising the nation.

    The rich wool merchants often lent money, but because of the ban on usury, the transaction was hidden.

    The process worked thus – the debt was hidden by the King’s confiscating wool which was then sold to the merchants. If you examine Richard’s instruction, you will find that this is what Tyrell is ordered to do. He is ordered to sell wool – so the money is moving to Richard via Tyrell.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a bit hard to follow. From whom would the wool be confiscated; how would the “borrowed” money be repaid?
      Would the wool be confiscated from the wool merchants from whom the king sought to borrow money? And what would be the grounds for confiscation?


  3. The original document reads–

    Sir James Tirelle Richard by the grace of god king of England and of Fraunce and lord of Irland To oure trusty and Righte welbeloved Counsaillor and knighte for oure body Sir James Tyrelle and to oure welbeloved William Bondeman and to eithre of them greting . We Trusting in youre wisedomes and discrecion have ordeyned and appointed you iountly and severelly to Receyve for us and in oure name of the merchantes of oure Staple at Calais . asmany Sakkes of Wolle as shalle ammounte to the some of thre thousand poundes sterling . and the same Wolle to selle and utter for oure use and proufitte . holding to us as ferme and stable whatsoever ye and either of you iountly and severelly shall doo in and about the premisses . by vertue and auctorite of thise oure lettres signed with oure hand . whiche we wol to be unto you and either of you sufficient warrant in that behalf . Yeven etc at Londone the xxti day of Januere The secund yere of oure Reigne
    [British Library Harleian Manuscript 433; Rosemary Horrox & P W Hammond.Volume 2. Second Register of Richard III. 1980.; p 191]


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: