Sir Thomas Vaughan is best known for being one of the men who were executed on the orders of Richard III in April 1483. In his sixties at the time of his execution, Sir Thomas had been in Royal service since 1446, rising to become an esquire of the body, tutor and chamberlain to the Prince of Wales [Edward V] and a member of the Great Council of England.
Sir Thomas’ career in royal service began in the reign of King Henry VI, who he served until 1459. At this juncture, he allied himself with the cause of the house of York, to whom he remained loyal until his execution in 1483. Sir Thomas Vaughan was attainted by the Coventry Parliament, suggesting that he had been present with the Duke of York at Ludford. When the Yorkist Earls returned from exile, Sir Thomas Vaughan was in their party. As fortunes changed in favour of the Yorkists, so did those of Sir Thomas. He was appointed Keeper of the King’s Wardrobe on 1st September 1460. [Link: Croyland Chronicle’s account of the Coventry Parliament].
Following his participation in the Yorkist victory in the Siege of London, Sir Thomas married the widow of Sir Thomas Browne and along with his wife, Eleanor, inherited Browne’s estates in South East England. This made him a wealthy man. His stock continued to rise, participating in embassies to Burgundy and in 1465 he was appointed as treasurer of the king’s chamber and master of the king’s jewels.
Following Edward IV’s exile, Thomas was appointed as Chamberlain of the Prince of Wales’ Household and as one of the infant prince’s tutors. Based in Ludlow Castle, much of Sir Thomas’ time following this appointment saw him engaged in the Prince’s business which tied him very closely with Earl Rivers, who had overall oversight of the Prince’s upbringing.
Sir Thomas Vaughan was at Ludlow in April 1483 when news arrived of the death of King Edward IV. He along with other members of the Prince’s council prepared for the journey to London for the boy king’s coronation. With the Coronation ceremony originally intended to be held on 4th May 1483, the party departed from Ludlow on 24th April.
At Stony Stratford the prince’s party was joined by Richard Duke of Gloucester. Here, Sir Thomas Vaughan and Earl Rivers were arrested by the Duke of Gloucester and sent north to Pontefract Castle for imprisonment. See the Croyland Chronicle’s account of the arrest of Earl Rivers, Grey and Sir Thomas Vaughan,
[Richard III] had found means by accusations…to get rid of the Lord Scales, kinsman of the said children, Lord Rivers and Thomas Vaughan.
From: Chroniques de Jean Molinet, ed. G. D. Doutrepont, 0. Jodogne (Brussels, 1935-7), p. 431
Sir Thomas was executed by beheading at Pontefract Castle in June 1483, on the orders of Richard III. His remains were then transported to Westminster, where he lays in rest in the St. John the Baptist Chapel of Westminster Abbey.
Westminster Abbey – Tomb of Sir Thomas Vaughan
Susan Higginbotham – Biography of Sir Thomas Vaughan
Sir Thomas Vaughan, biography from the Dictionary of National Biography
Note: the Dictionary of National Biography is Public Domain in the United Kingdom. A more recent version is available that takes into account research from the past hundred years. It can be found here. An alternative biography can be found in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography.
VAUGHAN, Sir THOMAS (d. 1483), soldier, was probably youngest illegitimate son of Sir Roger Vaughan of Tretower, son of Sir Roger Vaughan (d. 1415), by an illegitimate daughter of Prior Coch (the redheaded) of the monastery of Abergavenny (Meyrick in Dwnn’s Heraldic Visitation of Wales, i. 42; Jones, Brecknockshire, iii. 506; Nichols, Grants of Edward V, p. xv; but cf. Poems of Lewis Glyn Cothi, ed. Jones, p. 44). He must be carefully distinguished from the Thomas Vaughan of the true line of Herast who was killed at the battle of Banbury, 1469, and is celebrated by Glyn Cothi (Poems, p. 16); from the Sir Thomas Vaughan who distinguished himself at Bosworth (cf. Campbell, Materials for the History of Henry VII, ii. 126, 157, 252); and seemingly from a Thomas Vaughan who was master of the ordnance in 1450.
Vaughan was a great warrior in the wars of the roses, taking the Yorkist side. Glyn Cothi (Poems, p. 47), writing in 1483, speaks of his having fought eighteen battles for Edward IV. In 1455 he was exempted from an act of resumption; he had then two houses in London. He was attainted, like other Yorkists, in 1459. When Edward became king, Vaughan was made a yeoman of the crown, a squire of the king’s body, and then treasurer of the king’s chamber. He also held at some time the office of comptroller of the coinage of tin in Cornwall and Devonshire. He was exempted from an act of resumption in 1464, and from an act of apparel in 1482. On 4 Feb. 1470 he was appointed one of the commissioners to deliver the Garter to Charles the Bold. That Edward trusted him entirely may be seen from his having appointed him in 1471 chamberlain and councillor to the young Prince Edward, and he carried the prince in September 1472 at the ceremonial attending the reception of Lewis de Bruges Seigneur de la Gruthuyse at Windsor. He was knighted on Whitsunday 1475. At the time of Edward IV’s death, Vaughan was with the young prince at Ludlow, as were Rivers, Grey, Haute, and others. On the journey to London, by order of the council, they were met by Richard and Buckingham, who seized them at Stony Stratford, and hurried them off to the north of England. Vaughan was tried before the Earl of Northumberland and a court probably of northern peers, and executed at Pontefract about 23 June 1483. The matter was managed, doubtless roughly enough, by Sir Richard Radcliffe [q. v.] Vaughan was buried in the chapel of St. John the Baptist, Westminster Abbey, where there is a monument to his memory. It is curious that Glyn Cothi, who wrote two odes to him in 1483, thought that he was about to support Richard. But it may be that the words were really addressed to the Sir Thomas Vaughan of the right line, as Jones assumes, which we may accept without following Jones to the extent of regarding that Sir Thomas as the chamberlain of Edward V.
Vaughan married Alianor or Eleanor, daughter and coheiress of Sir Thomas Arundel of Betchworth, Surrey, and widow of Sir Thomas Browne, under-treasurer of the household to Henry VI. By her he had a daughter Anne, married to Sir John Wogan, and a son Henry, whose son, Sir Thomas, taking the name of Parry [q. v.], is separately noticed.[Authorities quoted; More’s Life of Richard III, ed. Lumby, p. 18; Polydore Vergil’s Hist. Engl. ed. 1557, p. 540; Acts of the Privy Council, vi. 94; Stanley’s Memorials of Westminster Abbey, p. 180; Metcalfe’s Knights, p. 5; Lodge’s Illustrations of British Hist. i. 302, iii. 388; Cal. of Inquisitions post mortem, Hen. VII, p. 256; Gairdner’s Richard III; Ramsay’s Lancaster and York, vol. ii.; Markham in Engl. Hist. Rev. vi. 264; Rot. Parl. v. 316, 349, 350, 369, 534, 587, 590, 592, vi. 93, 221.]
Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 58
Vaughan, Thomas (d.1483) by William Arthur Jobson Archbold