Andrew Dudley Meets The Emperor

Edward VI, seated

The peacemaker: Edward VI, seated

On 28 December 1552 the Duke of Northumberland imparted his latest thoughts on English diplomacy to his right hand man, Sir William Cecil. King Edward had just okayed the council’s suggestion “to employ ministers abroad for the public weal of Christendom”, that is to send envoys to Europe to offer English assistance in negotiating a peace between the Empire and France. Cecil was to tell Edward that he was to “be better served if those sent have grace and wit to note what they see and hear”. Those appointed by the council were Sir Andrew Dudley (“my brother”) and Sir Henry Sidney (“my son”), and it had not yet been decided who was to go to the emperor and who to the King of France; however, Northumberland thought that his son-in-law Sidney had “more means to express his mind in the Italian tongue than in the French” and so perhaps he should be the one to meet Charles V (whose first language, incidentally, was French).1

Ignoring the duke’s suggestion, the council sent Sidney to France and Dudley to the Low Countries – where the emperor was staying. For the last few years John Dudley had balanced successfully on a tightrope between the two great powers, and when both requested English assistance for their wars against each other, their demands were politely rejected and England remained neutral. Under these circumstances a general peace was welcome,2 especially as the negotiations would augment Edward’s prestige.

On 1 January 1553 Sir Andrew Dudley called on Jehan de Schefye, Charles V’s ambassador in London, to pay his respects and announce his mission:

He declared to me of his own accord that his charge was a very important one, but did not make himself more plain; he thanked me … and, after some more conversation, departed.3

Sidney and Dudley were chosen for their known personal closeness to the king rather than for any particular skills;4 the more convincingly they could represent the peace initiative as Edward’s personal suggestion. The sending of these “totally inexperienced” men has been criticized,5 yet Northumberland himself suggested that in due course they could be joined by “more experienced” diplomats and that the journey could also serve for their “learning and education”.6 Furthermore, Andrew Dudley was not wholly inexperienced. In 1546 Henry VIII had sent him with presents to Brussels, to Mary of Hungary, Charles V’s sister and Regent of the Netherlands: Dudley, in his role as Equerry of the Stable, brought horses, greyhounds, and running dogs.7

In 1553 Andrew Dudley again first travelled to Brussels, where he was received by Mary of Hungary on 8 January. One of the letters carried by him may have been an address from the emperor’s cousin, the Lady Mary, whom Northumberland had asked to emphasize England’s goodwill towards the Empire.8 Impatient to see the emperor himself, Dudley tried to intercept him on his way to Flanders. Sir Richard Morrison, the English resident ambassador with Charles, knew nothing of this until he met Dudley at Trier, on the Moselle. The ailing ruler was averse to be molested by diplomats while journeying; Morrison nevertheless managed to arrange an interview at Luxembourg in which Charles referred them to a later occasion.9

Morrison and Dudley went back to Brussels, where during February they were busy hosting their Imperial colleagues (including Diego de Mendoza, godfather to Guildford, Andrew Dudley’s nephew):

On the 9th Morysine invited Mons. de Rie to dine with Dudley at his lodgings, where he should meet Don Diego di Mendoza … and others. … After dinner De Rie accepted an invitation from Dudley to dine with him on the following day, and to bring his guest with him as he had done to Morysine. The same evening Mons. de Courriers came to town, and he also gladly came to dine at Dudley’s.

The Emperor Charles V, seated

Not disinclined to peace, in principle: Charles V, seated

Finally, Charles V was ready to meet the English envoys,

for on Friday the 10th instant he sent a gentleman of his chamber to Dudley to tell him that the Emperor would speak with him on the morrow, as accordingly at three o’clock of the Saturday he did. The Court was very well furnished with noblemen, all of them very glad to embrace the Ambassadors, and glad to talk well of England. The Emperor came forth without staff or any to lead him, his chair being set on the farther end of the chamber that they might see he could go so far without any stay. In the conversation which ensued between his Majesty and Dudley, the former said that until particularities were known from his enemy how could he will the King of England to work in the matter of peace? What answer could he give? All the world knew he began not the wars; they knew France took his subjects’ ships and goods, had invaded the empire, hired men to rebellion, taken from the empire things belonging to it, and from himself part of his inheritance. For himself, he always loved peace and wished the quietness of Christendom, and if he might have such a peace … his will was good, and he would be glad to have a peace … But he knew, if peace were made, the French King would no longer keep it with him than he thought it his best.

What the Emperor accounts reasonable they cannot tell, but it seems if reason be offered he is like enough to consent to peace. He bent all his talk to make them understand that he would not refuse any reasonable accord; and it would appear he could be well content that others were judges what should be thought reasonable, and not he himself to be judge. When about to take leave, and offering to kiss his hand, the Emperor cast his arm about Dudley’s neck, with great show of accepting his coming, of liking his message, and of allowing his behaviour in the doing thereof.

Dudley and Morrison noted that the chamber had been hung with tapestries depicting the emperor’s victories.

De Rie and others accompanied them home … They had scarcely arrived at home when Don Diego, who had called during their absence, returned to desire Dudley not to fail him to-morrow at dinner. De Rie promised by the way, that he would not leave Dudley so long as he could enjoy him, and when he could no more, his trust was they should meet one day again.

On taking his leave, Dudley alongside his resident colleagues, Morrison and Chamberlain, received “very gentle entertainment” from the Regent; Morrison was as sorry to stay as Dudley was “glad to be gone”.10 Back in England he delivered a gracious letter to King Edward from the emperor and elicited the close interest of the Imperial ambassador, de Schefye, who in his turn informed Charles V:

Sire: I received your Majesty’s letters of the 13th through Dudley, who arrived in this town on the 18th of the month and had audience of the King and my lords of the Council the following day, and came to see me the same afternoon. I congratulated him on his return, and he told me how he had left your Majesty at Brussels in good health, and that the King, his master, had rejoiced to hear it because of the singular affection he bore you. He declared that your Majesty had done him great honour, and bestowed a present on him. … He declared that he had perceived most clearly that your Majesty indeed loved the King, his master. I assured him such was the truth, and that your Majesty had always held him as his son, and proved it in the past, in contrast to the course adopted by certain others.

As we had entertained one another at some length with these professions of mutual love, … and never a word had he said about the letter from your Majesty to the King, or his negotiation, I made bold at last to question him if he had accomplished his mission to your Majesty. He replied that he had made his report to the King and my lords of the Council on what your Majesty had declared to him, and did not enlarge beyond this, which he did, in my opinion, rather to safeguard his reputation than for any other reason. Therefore I thought it well to say no more at the time and let the matter drop there. …

I can assure your Majesty that the Court and the town are full of the honours and welcome given to the said Dudley, and that all seem pleased about it, especially at the good understanding between their Majesties; and some go so far as to say that under colour of the said embassy a closer alliance may be about to be negotiated. The matter has given some umbrage to the French ambassador. To sum up, Sire, and reverting to the question of friendships, Dudley said to me that the friendship with France would never prove to be a real one, that the English had never thought much of the French, and he believed that if your Majesty wished to employ Englishmen, you would get a good number together. I replied that they had proved their zeal in your Majesty’s service, and after a few more words of no importance, Sire, he took his leave.11

See also:
Edward VI – The Wills of a King
1553: The Emperor and the Vanquished Duke of Northumberland

1 Knighton 1992 p. 283; Beer 1973 p. 139
2 Loades 1996 pp. 241 – 242
3 CSP Span 4 January 1553
4 Loades 1996 p. 242
5 Jordan 1970 pp. 174 – 175
6 Knighton 1992 p. 284
7 L&P XXI No. 444
8 Beer 1973 p. 140
9 Jordan 1970 p. 175
10 CSP Foreign 12 February 1553
11 CSP Span 21 February 1553

Calendar of State Papers, Spain. Volume 11 – 1553 (ed. Royall Tyler, 1916)

Calendar of State Papers, Foreign

Letters and Papers of Henry VIII.

Beer, B. L. (1973): Northumberland: The Political Career of John Dudley, Earl of Warwick and Duke of Northumberland. The Kent State University Press.

Jordan, W. K. (1970): Edward VI: The Threshold of Power. The Dominance of the Duke of Northumberland. George Allen & Unwin.

Knighton, C. S. (1992) (ed.): Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of Edward VI, 1547–1553. Revised Edition. HMSO.

Loades, David (1996): John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland 1504–1553. Clarendon Press.

The Marriage of Mary Dudley

On 29 March 1551 Lady Mary Dudley married Henry Sidney, in private; on 17 May 1551 she married him once again, this time in public, at her parents’ house, Ely Place, London. Henry Sidney was 22 in 1551, and he is perhaps best known today as a close companion of Edward VI, who was eight years his junior and who died in his arms. The usual assumption is that the match between Mary and Henry Sidney was arranged by her father, John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, in order to strengthen his influence over the young king. However, this reading is all too simple and in some measure confuses cause and effect.

Mary Dudley in the early 1550s, perhaps around the time of her marriage

Mary Dudley in the early 1550s, perhaps around the time of her marriage

It is true that Henry Sidney’s father, Sir William, became chamberlain of Prince Edward’s household in 1538, and in 1544 advanced to the position of his steward;1 during these years Henry met the prince and, it is assumed, then and later shared lessons with him. On Edward’s accession in 1547, however, a new household was assembled, with no posts reserved for the Sidneys. It was not before John Dudley took over the government in early 1550 that Henry Sidney was appointed a gentleman of the privy chamber. And it was not before several months into his marriage with Dudley’s daughter that he became one of the “principal gentlemen” of King Edward (July 1551). As such he was one of six men charged with “the singular care” of the royal person, and at every hour three of them at a time were to be on duty in the king’s apartments.2

On 11 October 1551, Edward VI made Henry Sidney a knight; it was on the same day that his father-in-law was created a duke. Obviously it is following his marriage that Henry Sidney’s career really took off: his premier position in the privy chamber; his knighthood; the grant in 1552 of the Kentish manor of Penshurst to his father; his diplomatic mission to the French court in early 1553. His role as the Duke of Northumberland’s son-in-law also made him the close friend of this statesman (“I pray you keep this from my wife”, the duke was to instruct him on a harmless enough matter3).

So, how did Henry Sidney, son and heir of a courtier-gentleman and Knight of the Garter, gain the hand of the eldest daughter of England’s most powerful man? As the eldest daughter, Mary should have been a considerable marriage prize. We do not know how old she was in 1551, whether she was born before or after her brother, Robert, who was born in 1532 (or possibly 1533). It has been suggested that she was born between 1531 and 1535,4 but perhaps she was even the same age as her husband, born in 1529. Since her brother, John, was almost certainly born in late 1530, she may well have come before him, as the third child of her parents. Of course, one might wonder why, at twenty or over, she was not yet married or at least engaged. Whatever her age, there is some evidence that by the spring of 1551 she felt she should take matters into her own hands. It is quite possible that the marriage of Mary Dudley and Henry Sidney was a love match.5

In a 15th century psalter she used as a calendar for important family dates, like the birth dates of her seven children, Mary made an intriguing note:

The marriage of Sir Henry Sidney knight with the Lady Mary Dudley daughter of John, then Earl of Warwick and afterward Duke of Northumberland, was first at Asser the nine-and twenty day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand, five hundred fifty, and one: and afterward most publicly and honourably solemnized in Ely Place, in Holborne.6

It was certainly not the norm to have two marriage ceremonies, the first of them at Esher, a stately enough place, but none that was related to her or her husband’s family. On the other hand, the description of the second ceremony as “most publicly and honourably solemnized” speaks for itself, and Ely Place in Holborn was then the principal London residence of the Dudleys. It would thus appear that after a secret marriage in March 1551 the young couple may have talked their elders into accepting the fact, which would have been made a lot easier for Sir William Sidney by his daughter-in-law’s high status and for the Earl of Warwick by his son-in-law’s friendship with King Edward.

1 MacCaffrey 2008
2 Jordan 1970 p. 20; Hoak 1976 p. 124; Alford 2002 p. 156
3 Beer 1973 p. 135
4 Adams 2008
5 Adams 2008
6 Brennan 2006 p. 22

Adams, Simon (2008): ‟Sidney, Mary, Lady Sidney (1530×35–1586)“. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition.

Alford, Stephen (2002): Kingship and Politics in the Reign of Edward VI. Cambridge University Press.

Beer, B. L. (1973): Northumberland: The Political Career of John Dudley, Earl of Warwick and Duke of Northumberland. The Kent State University Press.

Brennan, Michael (2006): The Sidneys of Penshurst and the Monarchy, 1500-1700. Ashgate.

Hoak, Dale (1976): The King’s Council in the Reign of Edward VI. Cambridge University Press.

Hoak, Dale (2008): “Edward VI (1537–1553)”. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition.

Jordan, W. K. (1970): Edward VI: The Threshold of Power. The Dominance of the Duke of Northumberland. George Allen & Unwin.

MacCaffrey, Wallace (2008): “Sidney, Sir Henry (1529–1586)”. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition.

John Dudley’s Youth: In Kent, at Court, in France

Edmund Dudley’s decapitated body was buried in the precincts of the Blackfriars monastery in the west of the City of London. Fifteen months later, in November 1511, his widow remarried, on the king’s command; the lucky bridegroom was Arthur Plantagenet, Henry VIII’s uncle of illegitimate birth. He received a good share of Edmund Dudley’s confiscated lands, but did not succeed in becoming his stepchildren’s guardian, a circumstance which left him somewhat disgruntled.1 Instead Sir Edward Guildford petitioned for and received John Dudley’s wardship. At the same time, in February 1512, Edmund Dudley’s attainder was annulled by a parliamentary statute and his son was restored “in name and blood”. The king was hoping for the good services “which the said John Dudley is likely to do”.2

Henry Guildford, Edward's half-brother. His appearance gives an idea of 1520s court fashion.

Sir Henry Guildford, Sir Edward’s half-brother. His appearance gives an idea of 1520s court fashion.

The Guildfords had been loyal Tudor servants from the start and Sir Edward and his half-brother Sir Henry belonged to the circle of Henry VIII’s personal favourites. Now about seven years old, John Dudley would possibly have left his home to live in another family’s household, anyway; as it came, he moved to Kent to live with the Guildfords. We do not know how much he saw of his mother or his little brothers, Jerome and Andrew, in the ensuing years; we do not know where they grew up while Elizabeth Grey, now Plantagenet, bore her second husband three daughters who survived. She died, probably in childbirth, in 1525 or 1526.3

Sir Edward Guildford’s principal residence was at Halden in Kent. He married twice, and his two children were born of his first marriage: Richard, whose date of birth is unknown and who predeceased his father; and Jane, who would have been three years old when John Dudley was added to the household. The date of Guildford’s second marriage being unknown, it is possible that the Lady Guildford of 1512 was Richard’s and Jane’s stepmother. The children doubtless became John’s playmates and their schooling probably occurred at home under the direction of a private tutor. As his letters show, John Dudley became perfectly literate in English. In 1552, having received one of the youthful Edward VI’s drafts for reform, he complained that it was written “all in latin, I can but guess at it”, a remark which would support the assumption that he had no Latin. However, the truth is more complicated. On the one hand it was “polite convention” to underplay one’s capacities in this respect,4 and on the other he was quite capable to understand the meaning of Edward’s text, so he must have learnt his “grammar” as a youth and simply forgotten most of it.5

Sir Edward, in 1514, was appointed Master of the Tower Armouries and thus became responsible for the king’s personal body armour. Guildford organized jousts and tournaments, and served as marshal in many festivities held to impress foreign ambassadors.6 It seems likely that he introduced John to the court as a page during these years.7 John’s education was certainly that of a courtier and knight, comprising training with horses and weapons such as daggers, swords, and pikes. He soon would also have opportunity to brush up his French (which, conversing personally with Francis I and the future Henry II in later life, must have been excellent).

In May 1519 Edward Guildford was appointed Marshal of Calais, and it has been speculated that John Dudley, now about 15, went with his guardian to serve there at the garrison.8 Guildford was still at Calais in June 1520 when he was responsible for arranging the elaborate pavilions and lodgings for the Field of Cloth of Gold, where Henry VIII and Francis I met to celebrate their somewhat hollow friendship. In July 1520 Calais also saw the visit of the Emperor Charles V, Edward Guildford again being involved in the preparations.9 It is unknown if young John saw some glimpses of all this splendour, but quite possible.

A pavilion at the Field of Cloth of Gold, the kind of building Sir Edward Guildford was responsible for

A pavilion at the Field of Cloth of Gold, the kind of construction Sir Edward Guildford would have been responsible for at the festival

The next year, 1521, Sir Edward served as Constable of Dover Castle and became Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. His ward John, whom he seems to have always preferred before his son Richard, meanwhile entered the entourage of Cardinal Wolsey on a mission to France. The Cardinal, who was wont to tour Europe with a huge following, was to help negotiate a peace between the French king and the emperor; nothing came of it, though. We next find John (once again?) at Calais, in his first ever command at the garrison. War between England and France had resumed, and, towards the end of 1522, he gained his first experiences of military action in skirmishes around Calais.10 He was 18 years old.

In August 1523 he got his first military post, again at Calais, as Lieutenant of the Spears. “As that position was in the gift of the Lord Deputy rather than the Marshall [Sir Edward Guildford], his advancement cannot be attributed to mere nepotism. He was a very promising young soldier.”11

A few weeks later he took part in the Duke of Suffolk’s campaign in France. This was meant to support the emperor and the Duke of Bourbon, who had recently switched sides and was now fighting against his master the King of France. However, Bourbon turned up at Marseille instead of in the Northwest of France, and the English army, about 11,000 men, soon got bogged down at the Somme. The October weather was terrible and many English soldiers succumbed to sickness. Nonetheless, towns and fortified places were taken in the revived cause of an English “empire” on French soil.12 The exploits of John Dudley’s guardian stood out:

Sir Edward Gyldford capitaine of the horsmen vewed the castle of Bowhen or Boghan, whiche euer was thought to be impregnable, but he iudged it might be wonne, for the castle was inuironed with Marryses [marshes], so that to no mans judgement it was possible to wynne it: But nowe he perceiued that the frost was so great and strong that it might be beseaged, & all that night it fresed againe: wherfore he desired the Duke to geue him leaue to assaute it whiche thereto agreed. Then he caused the ordinance to be set furth ouer the marrish. When they within the castle perceiued that the marrishe fayled theim, they were sore dismayed. Then sir Edward Guildeford shot thre great pieces at the castle, and the castilian shot thre pieces againe. Then as the Englishe gunners wer preparing to the battery, the capitain seyng his castle could not hold, by reason that the marishe failed, and that he could defende none assault, deliuered the castle to him to the behofe of the Emperor and the kyng of England, and after a small communicacion had betwene the sayd sir Edwarde Guyldforde and the capitaine, the capitaine with all his retinue departed leuyng behynd the ordinaunce of bombardes, curtawes, & demy curtaux, slinges, canons, volgers, and other ordinaunce, there were Ixxvi. pieces, plentie of pellettes & pouder.13

In early November the Duke of Suffolk in person made “Sir Edw. Semer” and “Sir John Dudlay” into knights,14 the first evidence of an often close relationship which would end in tragedy 30 years later. A friendship from boyhood was that between John Dudley and Thomas Wyatt, who was John’s exact contemporary. John was Edward Guildford’s ward, Thomas Henry Guildford’s protégé. Both the Wyatts and the Guildfords resided in Kent, and so did the antiquarian John Leland, who during the 1520s enjoyed John Dudley’s patronage.15 In 1527, when Sir John once again accompanied the Cardinal to Europe – as one of over 900 attendants – Leland composed a Latin poem for his friend Wyatt, who had remained in England; the piece was carried home by Dudley:

Dudley, about to arrange a journey from here to his native shores, advised that I should remember to present you, my familiar and old companion, with a greeting.16

John Dudley, by his 18th birthday, was firmly integrated into a Kentish network of intellectual friends; in July 1522 one of the group, writing from Louvain, desired “remembrance” to, among others, Dudley.17 By 1524 Sir John had also gained the king’s personal favour; he was now a Knight of the Body, which meant a lot of jousting and things like archery and wrestling, sports he still excelled in many years later.18

He was also about to become a married man. His intended bride was Jane Guildford, Sir Edward’s only daughter. Apparently this arrangement was agreed upon by Dudley’s mother and his guardian,19 probably many years before the consummation of the marriage. Since their first child, Henry, was born not later than 1525, the wedding may have occurred in 1524, perhaps after John’s return from campaigning in France. Jane would have been about 16, the perfect age to marry. She would form the opinion that her husband was “the most best gentleman that ever living woman was matched withal”.

continued from:
John Dudley’s Childhood, in London

1 Loades 2008
2 Loades 1996 p. 17 – 18
3 Grummitt 2008
4 Ives 2005 p. 45
5 Loades 1996 p. 203; Loades 2008
6 Lehmberg 2008
7 Loades 2008
8 Loades 1996 p. 20
9 Lehmberg 2008
10 Lehmberg 2008; Loades 2008
11 Loades 1996 p. 22
12 Loades 1996 pp. 21
13 Hall p. 671
14 L&P III No. 3516
15 Brigden 2012 pp. 80, 130
16 Brigden 2012 pp. 129, 130; Loades 1996 p. 24
17 Brigden 2012 pp. 89 – 90, 130; L&P III No. 2390
18 Loades 1996 p. 22; Ives 2009 p. 99
19 Loades 2008

Edward Hall: The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancastre and Yorke. (1809 edition).

Letters and Papers of Henry VIII.

Brigden, Susan (2012): Thomas Wyatt: The Heart’s Forest. Faber & Faber.

Grummitt, David (2008), “Plantagenet, Arthur, Viscount Lisle (b. before 1472, d. 1542)”. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition.

Gunn, S.J. (1999): ‟A Letter of Jane, Duchess of Northumberland, 1553“. English Historical Review. Vol. CXIV pp. 1267–1271.

Ives, Eric (2005): The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: ‘The Most Happy’. Blackwell.

Ives, Eric (2009): Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. Wiley-Blackwell.

Lehmberg, Stanford (2008): “Guildford, Sir Edward (c.1479–1534)”. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition.

Loades, David (1996): John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland 1504–1553. Clarendon Press.

Loades, David (2008): ‟Dudley, John, duke of Northumberland (1504–1553)“. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition.

Wilson, Derek (2005): The Uncrowned Kings of England: The Black History of the Dudleys and the Tudor Throne. Carroll & Graf.

John Dudley’s Childhood, in London

John Dudley was born between February 1504 and February 1505,1 probably in London, Candlewick Street. Apparently, he was named after his grandfather, Sir John Dudley of Atherington, himself a younger son of another John, the formidable first Baron of Dudley Castle who had always managed to be on the right side of the Wars of the Roses.

Baby John was the first child of Edmund Dudley, esquire, by his second wife, Elizabeth Grey. In 1505 Elizabeth was described as in her early twenties and she would have married Edmund around 1502/1503. She came from the nobility, her father being Edward Grey, 4th Viscount Lisle, and later in life she became Baroness Lisle in her own right as her brother’s co-heir. After John she bore her husband two more sons, Jerome and Andrew. From his father’s first marriage John had a half-sister, who in 1500 was described as “little Elizabeth Dudley”, indicating that she was still very young.2 She would have been something between five and eight years older than John.

In 1504 Edmund Dudley served as Speaker of the House of Commons and later in the year entered the council and counsels of King Henry VII. In 1506, when little John was about two, he was appointed President of the King’s Council. A brilliant lawyer, Edmund Dudley had worked for the City of London, including acting as under-sheriff, and in the king’s service he put his accumulated inside knowledge about the merchant class into practice: He and his colleague Sir Richard Empson became notorious collectors of fines and other “contributions”. The centre of Edmund’s activities was his house in Candlewick Street, positioned in the heart of London’s commercial hub, and especially its textile trade. Edmund Dudley, like Thomas Cromwell decades later, was not just an administrator but a draper or cloth trader as well.3 His first years John Dudley passed surrounded by beautiful fabrics.

John Dudley would have grown up in Italianate luxury, of which this detail by Carlo Crivelli may give some - exaggerated - impression

John Dudley would have grown up in Italianate luxury, of which this detail by Carlo Crivelli may give some – exaggerated – impression

The house stretched over 180 feet along the street, but as one Venetian visitor wrote, merchant houses “do not seem very large from the outside” but “they contain a great number of rooms … and are quite considerable”.4 It boasted a hall with a dais and a large old arras behind it, a “great parlour”, a “little parlour”, and, importantly, a “counting house in the little parlour”. There was a great chamber and many smaller chambers, an armoury, and “the long gallery leading to the garden”, “the low gallery by the garden”, as well as “the great gallery at the end of that”.5

When John Dudley was about three, his father obtained permission to build a private “current of water” to his house, leading off the public conduit at Cheapside. Such luxury was copied from Italian palazzi,6 and indeed one of the people most often seen in Candlewick Street would have been the Genoese banker Battista Grimaldi who collaborated intensely with Dudley.

The interior of the house was luxurious with “fine arras” on the walls, exquisite furniture, and glassware of “beyond sea making”.7 Like all parents, Edmund Dudley (writing his book, imprisoned in the Tower) was concerned that his children might be spoilt, growing up “among the women”: “Let not the feminine pity of your wives destroy your children, pamper them not at home in furred coats and their shirts to be warmed … Dandle them not too dearly lest folly fasten on them.”8

In fact, it was normal even for four-year-olds to be spanked by their doting mothers, and moral education started early. Four- and five-year-olds had to learn the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer by heart. In 1500 the Bible was still the basis of literacy, favourite passages being taken from the Book of Proverbs and Ecclesiasticus. These texts also served to instill good manners in the children.9

In the eyes of their contemporaries Empson and Dudley were “ravening wolves” who squeezed the last penny out of the poor rich and the unfortunate well-to-do. So there was great rejoicing when the two ministers, and some of their agents, were arrested in the early hours of 24 April 1509, three days after Henry VII’s death. To young John the events were unforgettable. In August royal commissioners descended on Candlewick Street to confiscate and inventorize the movables and papers of Edmund Dudley. How long John and his siblings were allowed to remain with their mother and how long they continued to live in Candlewick Street is unknown. In the Tower, his father could regain some hope when parliament did not pass his attainder despite his conviction for treason months earlier. He even dropped his plan to escape from the prison10 and turned to writing a book, The Tree of Commonwealth, a treatise on good government:

Its detailed prescriptions for the judicial system and its suspicion of noble self-assertion, mercantile chicanery, and popular idleness and disorder look very like those pursued by Henry VII’s regime. Reflections upon the previous reign and forebodings for the new meet in warnings against royal covetousness, fleshliness, warmongering, and indulgence in dangerous sports.11

That all collaborators of Empson and Dudley, even the most notorious, had meanwhile been released must have been comforting to Edmund and his family. Battista Grimaldi’s cousin now even served one of Catherine of Aragon’s Spanish ladies – after all the Grimaldi bank had processed the queen’s dowry. However, this very reinstatement of the Grimaldis caused a new outcry among the London merchants and probably contributed to Edmund Dudley’s end.12

In mid-August 1510, well over a year after their trial, Henry VIII ordered Sir Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley to be beheaded on Tower Hill. Dudley turned to writing his will. In it he mentioned his children; Andrew and Jerome were mere toddlers or infants in 1510, and Jerome he destined to the Church. Jerome Dudley appears next in the mid-1550s, in the wills of his sister-in-law and his brother. From these it is clear that, though not bed-ridden and capable of eating normally, he needed care. He was relatively helpless and probably mentally disabled; significantly he never had a household of his own, which a person of his station could otherwise have maintained even if suffering from a physical ailment.

Edmund Dudley had been one of the executors of Henry VII’s will, and while awaiting his fate he drew up a list in which he detailed his actions for his late master; it was a catalogue of the persons Henry VII had wronged “contrary to his laws”, compiled at his request so that restitution could be made for the benefit of the king’s soul. Dudley admitted that people had been imprisoned for “light matters”, that inordinate fines had been levied, that some had had a “very hard end”, and that many proceedings had been “contrary to conscience”.13

That the ministers had operated under the close scrutiny and direction of Henry VII is apparent from the king’s own personal notes, including in Dudley’s account book;14 after Henry VIII had ascended the throne and summarily dealt with his father’s “enforcers” this became a moot point, however. It was only then that the most graphic stories were written down by Polydore Vergil and the London chroniclers, and they represented the point of view of what today would be called tax evaders, whether clerical (like the Bishop of London) or civic (like the City merchants); when they write of Empson’s and Dudley’s “poor” victims some skepticism is in order. John Dudley in later life took the view that his father, like he himself, had been a faithful servant to his master; this was true, and there was a tragic irony in it:

And, for my own part, if I should have passed more upon the speech of the people than upon the service of my master, or gone about to seek favour of them without respect to his Highness’ surety, I needed not to have had so much obloquy of some kind of men; but the living God, that knoweth the hearts of all men, shall be my judge at the last day with what zeal, faith, and truth I serve my master. And though my poor father, who, after his master was gone, suffered death for doing his master’s commandments, who was the wisest prince of the world living in those days, and yet could not his commandment be my father’s charge after he was departed this life; so, for my part, with all earnestness and duty I will serve without fear, seeking nothing but the true glory of God and his Highness’ surety: so shall I most please God and have my conscience upright, and then not fear what man doth to me.15

1 Loades 1996 p. 8
2 Loades 1996 pp. 7 – 8
3 Penn 2012 p. 266; Loades 2013 p. 23
4 Penn 2012 p. 266
5 L&P 17 August 1509 No. 146
6 Penn 2012 p. 314
7 Penn 2012 p. 266
8 Brigden 2001 p. 56
9 Brigden 2001 p. 56; Smith 2013 pp. 27 – 28
10 Loades 1996 p. 11
11 Gunn 2010
12 Penn 2012 p. 373
13 Brigden 2001 p. 37
14 Brigden 2001 p. 36; Penn 2012 p. 262
15 Tytler 1839 p. 150

See also:
John Dudley’s Youth: in Kent, at Court, in France

Letters and Papers of Henry VIII.

Brigden, Susan (2001): New Worlds, Lost Worlds: The Rule of the Tudors 1485-1603. Penguin.

Gunn, S.J. (2010): “Dudley, Edmund (c.1462–1510)”. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition.

Loades, David (1996): John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland 1504–1553. Clarendon Press.

Loades, David (2013): Thomas Cromwell: Servant to Henry VIII. Amberley.

Penn, Thomas (2012): Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England. Penguin.

Smith, L. B. (2013): Anne Boleyn: Queen of Controversy. Amberley.

Tytler, P. F. (1839): England under the Reigns of Edward VI. and Mary. Volume II. Richard Bentley.

Wilson, Derek (2005): The Uncrowned Kings of England: The Black History of the Dudleys and the Tudor Throne. Carroll & Graf.

Plotting the Demise of Mary Queen of Scots in 1572

It is often said that Robert Dudley supported his brother-in-law, Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, in the Elizabethan succession question. There is not much substance to this, however, and from early in Elizabeth’s reign his favourite candidate was clearly Mary Stuart, the Catholic Queen of Scotland. She was also Elizabeth’s own preference, which is probably reflected in Dudley’s choice. In the early 1560s, Dudley was also on the best terms with William Maitland, Mary’s principal secretary, and other Protestant lords in Scotland, supporting the English or, as he saw it, the Protestant interest.1

Mary Stuart, 1570s

Mary Stuart, 1570s

In 1563 Elizabeth suggested Robert Dudley as a consort to the widowed Mary; Lord Robert, becoming Earl of Leicester in the process, was horrified and Mary was not thrilled either, and finally Elizabeth herself changed her mind. Five years later, after two disastrous marriages to other candidates, Mary Stuart fled to England. – Henceforth the English political scene became dominated by an unending series of plots, real and imagined, to place Mary on the throne instead of the Protestant “bastard” Elizabeth. The immediate question in 1568 and 1569 was what to do with Mary, now in Elizabeth’s custody. Unlike Cecil, Leicester was in favour of restoring her as Scottish queen under English control, preferably with a Protestant English husband – as long as he himself was not the intended bridegroom (as had been suggested).2

In a letter from late 1569 Robert Dudley detailed his opinion to the Earl of Sussex, then President of the Council of the North at York. The basic question was whether to support Mary or the young James VI with his regent, the Earl of Mar. Leicester conceded that it was in the Protestant interest to assist the regency government, but: “I must confess myself to your lordship to be on the opposite side.” Support for the Lords would mean war, and war in Scotland would result in war with France or even Spain, and for that Elizabeth simply had no resources, “surely my Lord, I cannot see it.” Of course, one could not trust the Queen of Scots’ word, but, on her restoration, she might be forced to surrender some Scottish towns and be held in check with losing her rights to the English succession if she reneged on her promises: “There, I would think, would be sufficient bonds to bind any Prince, specially no mightier than she is.”3 – “For there is danger from delivering of her to her Government, so is there danger in retaining her in prison”.4

Then, on 23 August 1572, a terrible massacre of Protestants occurred in Paris and changed the scene once again. The outcry at this “St. Bartholomew’s Night” was immense. Edwin Sandys, Bishop of London, demanded “forthwith to cutt off the Scottish Queen’s head”, and Robert Beale, the privy council’s clerk, counselled “death to the Jezebel”!5 These were just two of many similar opinions, set out in uncalled-for written expertises. Something had to be done about the Queen of Scots, who in recent years had continued to plot, with the Duke of Norfolk and the banker Ridolfi.

Parliament, meanwhile, in 1571 and 1572, had also clamoured for Mary’s execution, but Elizabeth had resisted this sort of pressure; she now sought another way out. About a fortnight after the St. Bartholomew Massacre, Sir Henry Killigrew, then on a mission in France, was recalled and received instructions to travel to Scotland and deal with the regency government:

You ar … secretly to informe some … of the late horrible, universal Murder in France, thereuppon to move them … that the lyke be not ther attempted.

It is found dayly more and more that the Contynuance of the Quene of Scotts here is so dangerooss, both for the Person of the Quene’s majestie and for her State and our Realme as nothyng presently is necessary than that the Realme might be delivered of hir; and though by Justice this might be done in this Realme, yet for certen respects it seemeth better that she be sent into Scotland to be delyvered to the Regent and his Party, so as it may be by some good Meanes wrought, that they themselves wold secretly require it and that good Assurance may be gyven, that as they have hereto fore many Tymes … so they wold without fayle proceed with hir by wey of Justice.6

The idea was that the Scottish government would ask for Mary to be sent to Scotland so that they could try and execute her for the murder of Lord Darnley (her second husband and the father of James VI). Biographers of Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I have usually ignored this particular episode in Anglo-Scottish relations; others, like John Guy, have ignored Elizabeth’s involvement in it.7 This was just the impression Elizabeth wanted to create, however, as Killigrew told his patrons, Cecil and Leicester: “Great charge her majesty gave me at my coming hither, saying that no more was privy to this matter but your honours, and I, that if it came forth the blame should fall thereafter.”8

Killigrew soon sent another missive to Leicester and Cecil in which he reported on his progress and that he would meet the Regent and his party at Leith, where they would “break their minds to me secretly”. He had also achieved that “this great matter” would be “moved by them and not by myself”.9

Cecil and Leicester, back in London, were waiting impatiently:

We two have received your several letters … and we do greatly long to receive from you a further motion with some earnestness, … as we may look for assurance to have it take effect; …

Wherefore we earnestly require you to employ all your labours to procure that it may be both earnestly and speedily followed there, and yet also secretly, as the cause requireth: and when we think of the matter, as daily, yea hourly, we have cause to do … we suspend all our actions only for this, and therefore you can do no greater service than to use speed.

The next step was a conference in the Earl of Morton’s bedchamber, with the earl himself, the Regent Mar, and Killigrew the only persons present. Both noblemen were “willing to do the thing you most desire”, however their lordships could as yet not make up their minds, although both “thought it the best way to end all the troubles, as it were in both realms.” As it turned out, the two lords did not want it to be done without “some manner of ceremony, and a kind of process” which would require an assembly of the Scottish nobility ”after a secret manner”, and “would ask some time”. They also demanded that Elizabeth send troops in order to hold back disaffected elements who might come to Mary’s rescue. Morton and Mar were confident, though, that once they succeeded in getting the Scottish Lords’ consent, “they will not keep the prisoner three hours alive after she come into the bounds of Scotland.”

In further dispatches to Leicester and Cecil, Killigrew informed them how “very hot and earnestly bent” the Earl of Morton was “in the matter”, and how the Earl of Mar had “sent his resolute mind unto my Lord Morton, insomuch that he desired me to write speedily unto both your honours to further the same by all the good means you might, as the best, and as it were, the only salve for the cure of the great sores of this commonwealth.”

Mar and Morton handed their written conditions to Killigrew, an important point in which was that the English Parliament should guarantee James VI’s title to the English throne, notwithstanding any proceedings against his mother. Another demand was that the Earls of Huntingdon, Bedford, and Essex witness Mary’s execution, bringing some 3,000 English troops with them.10

Alas, Killigrew now also had to write that the Regent Mar was gravely ill and not expected to live. As it turned out, the Scottish earl died on the very day Killigrew sent his letter with the Scottish demands. On 3rd November 1572 William Cecil, Lord Burghley, informed Leicester that their scheme had died as well:

My lord – This bearer came to me an hour and a half after your departure. The letters which he brought me are here included. … This way that was meant for dealing with Scotland is, you may see, neither now possible, nor was by their articles made reasonable.

If her majesty will continue her delays for providing for her own surety by just means given her by God, she and we all shall vainly call upon God when the calamity shall fall upon us. God send her majesty strength of spirit to preserve God’s cause, her own life, and the lives of millions of good subjects, all which are most manifestly in danger, and that only by her delays; and so, consequently, she shall be the cause of the overthrow of a noble Crown and realm, which shall be a prey to all that can invade it. God be merciful to us.11

As for Leicester, in his 1569 letter to the Earl of Sussex, he had sensed the moral dilemma the coming years would put him into:

In wordly causes men must be governed by wordly policies, and yet so frame them as God, the author of all, be chiefly regarded. And though in some points I shall deal like a wordly man for my Prince yet I hope I shall not forget that I am a Christian, nor my duty to God.12

1 Adams 2002 pp. 104, 107, 137 – 138, 141
2 Jenkins 2002 pp. 159 – 160, 168 – 169; Adams 2002 p. 18
3 Jenkins 2002 pp. 168 – 169
4 Chamberlin 1939 p. 187
5 Whitelock 2013 pp. 145 – 146
6 Chamberlin 1939 p. 194
7 Guy 2009 p. 470
8 Chamberlin 1939 p. 195
9 Chamberlin 1939 p. 195
10 Chamberlin 1939 pp. 196 – 197
11 Chamberlin 1939 p. 198
12 Jenkins 2002 p. 169

Adams, Simon (2002): Leicester and the Court: Essays in Elizabethan Politics. Manchester University Press.

Adams, Simon (2008): ‟Dudley, Robert, earl of Leicester (1532/3–1588)“. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition.

Chamberlin, Frederick (1939): Elizabeth and Leycester. Dodd, Mead & Co.

Guy, John (2009): My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots. Fourth Estate.

Jenkins, Elizabeth (2002): Elizabeth and Leicester. The Phoenix Press.

Whitelock, Anna (2013): Elizabeth’s Bedfellows: An Intimate History of the Queen’s Court. Bloomsbury.

Acquitted, Delivered, Discharged

In November 1579, on a Tuesday afternoon, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, wrote one of his most personal letters; addressed to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, it speaks about his relationship with the queen like no other. A couple of months before, Elizabeth had been told that the Earl of Leicester had secretly remarried, after 18 years as a widower. Her reaction had been fury and despair, coupled with an intensified wooing of Francois Duke of Anjou, the French royal prince whom she called her “frog”. Leicester was seriously against this foreign match with the heir to the French throne, while Burghley favoured it. Implicitly equating Leicester’s former role with Anjou’s future one, he reminded Elizabeth that (as he hoped) with her favourite out of the way, who was there to share the pleasures of life with? Who was there “that your majesty may love and esteem above the rest? Or lives the man and speaks he English that you highly esteem and love at this day?”1

Although Elizabeth had sought Leicester’s solace and advice only days after being told the “news” of his marriage,2 by the autumn of 1579 he was still very much in disgrace – for his political stance against the Anjou marriage as much as for having wedded the queen’s cousin Lettice Knollys. And Elizabeth had developed a habit of delivering foul speeches about him in public:

My lord, I have desired my Lord of Pembroke to excuse me to you, and to pray your lordship to helpe to excuse my not coming this day. I perceave by my brother of Warwyke your lordship hath found the like bitterness in her Majesty toward me that others (too many) have acquainted me lately withall. I must confess it greveth me not a lyttle, having so faythfully, carefully, and chargeably served her Majesty this twenty yeres, as I have done. Your Lordship is witness, I trust, that in all her services I have bene a direct servant unto her, her state, and crown, that I have not more sought myne owne particular proffyt than her honor.

This last point has been called into question by writers hostile to Dudley who then typically go into listing all the material benefits Leicester received from the crown over the years, entirely missing the point he is making about his personal sacrifice:

Her Majesty, I see, is grown into a very strange humour all things considered toward me, howsoever it were trew or false as she is informed, the state whereof I will not dyspute. Albeit I cannot confess a greater bondage in those cases than my dewty of allegiance oweth, your lordship hath bene best acquainted next myself to all my proceedings with her Majesty and I have ere now broken my very hart with you, and have offered for avoyding of such blame as I have generally in the realme, myne own exyle, that I might not be suspected a hinderer of that matter, which all the world desired and were sutors for.

Here Leicester, after alluding to his marriage, is speaking of the French match and his own unpopularity caused by his resistance to it. He indeed considered exile (in Germany) in case that Elizabeth should marry the Duke of Anjou, convinced there would no longer be a place for him at the English court once the queen was married.3 Given his closeness, including his physical closeness, to her this is not a surprise; even though Henry III of France himself had assured him in a letter that he had nothing to fear should Anjou become King of England and that his career should prosper.4 Robert Dudley was not prepared to take chances. And he thought it necessary to clarify things to Burghley: that he was not bound to Elizabeth by anything else than his oath of allegiance (such as a secret engagement). His words are somewhat contradictory in places, but William Cecil, while not Leicester’s greatest friend was his oldest correspondent, and he would have been the one to guess the earl’s true meaning. (Did Leicester say the contrary of what he was writing?)

I ever had a very honourable mynd in all my actions as neare as my capacity might dyrect me (and with modesty be it spoken) toward her servyce in my pore calling. Even so was it never abased in any slavish manner, to be tyed in more than unequall and unreasonable bonds. And as I caryed myself almost more than a bondman many a yere together, so long as one dropp of comfort was left of any hope, as you yourself my lord doth well know, so being acquitted and delyvered of that hope and by both open and pryvate protestations and declarations dyscharged, methinks it is more than hard to take such an occasion to beare so great dyspleasure for. But the old proverbe saythe, they that wyll beat a dogge shall want no weapon.

This is a farr fetched matter to pyck to me. The cause is some other, I must suppose, or ells my lyfe is very wretched and unhappie. But why do I trouble your lordship with this matter? I meant only to thank you for that you have done, and to friend me as in truth I shall be found to deserve. For her manner toward me, I may not find lacke, I know what I have bene and am to her in all humble dewty. She may perhaps forthink her benefitts bestowed. So may I say, I have lost both youth, liberty and all my fortune reposed in her; and my Lord by that tyme I have made an even reckoning with the world your lordship wyll not give me much for the remainder of my twenty yeres’ service; but I trust styll she that hath been so gracious to all wyll not only be grievous to me.

1 Gristwood 2007 p. 276
2 CSP Span II p. 682
3 Jenkins 2002 pp. 247, 269
4 Jenkins 2002 p. 241

Calendar of … State Papers Relating to English Affairs … in … Simancas, 1558–1603. (ed. by Martin Hume, 1892–1899).

Adams, Simon (2002): Leicester and the Court: Essays in Elizabethan Politics. Manchester University Press.

Gristwood, Sarah (2007): Elizabeth and Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics. Viking.

Jenkins, Elizabeth (2002): Elizabeth and Leicester. The Phoenix Press.

Wright, Thomas (1838) (ed.): Queen Elizabeth and Her Times: A Series of Original Letters. Volume II. Henry Colburn.

Sir John Dudley Goes to Spain

On 12 October 1537 England finally was blessed with the prince the country had yearned for so long. Three days later, among “all estates and gentlemen present at the christening” was listed “Sir John Dudley”.1 He already had played his part in Princess Elizabeth’s baptism four years before, but this time he was additionally chosen to bring the glad tidings to the emperor.

In late 1537 John Dudley was either 32 or 33 and his fifth-born son, Robert, was five. He decided to travel to Spain not by sea, but through France. This was not for lack of experience on the waters, for the same year had also seen his appointment as Vice-Admiral and he did his job, which consisted chiefly of clearing the Channel from Breton pirates, with great diligence.

On coming to Boleyn [Boulogne] I chanced to find the Bretons that I took upon the sea, who tried to impeach me for the things my mariners took from them; whereupon the captain came out of the castle and beat them with his sword that it would have pitied a man to have seen it, and caused them to be put into a dungeon within the castle, although they had only come wandering about me, asking for some compensation.2

The Emperor Charles V, by Christoph Amberger, 1532

The Emperor Charles V, 1532, by Christoph Amberger

Sir John’s diplomatic immunity thus spared him any further inconvenience, and he proceeded to Paris. At this juncture France and the Empire, the age-old rivals, were drawing nearer together, even talking of peace (as Dudley informed Cromwell); this was alarming for Henry VIII, who feared to be left isolated and vulnerable, and so he offered himself as peace broker.

In early November 1537 Charles V was staying in north-eastern Spain, at the former Templar castle of Monzón in Aragón; Sir Thomas Wyatt, Henry VIII’s resident ambassador, had just been in trouble for promoting the new faith (through distributing his own pamphlets) – and speaking bad of the pope in the emperor’s presence.3

Wyatt and Dudley had been “good friends” since their youth, having got to know each other via the Guildford family.4 Now, Sir Thomas was happy to greet Sir John at Monzón, and their audience with the emperor occurred probably on 8 November. Of this event Dudley wrote his own “Memorye”:

After the King’s effectuous recommendations to the Emperor’s Majesty by me declared and his Highness’ letters delivered, the Emperor thanked God of the news, of which he was no less glad than he was of his own child which was born 20 Oct., the same present month that the King his brother’s son was born in. Although he would have been glad if the benefit had been to his own blood, he was as rejoiced as if it had been by his aunt [Katherine of Aragon]. He had always a good opinion of the King’s last marriage, as much as he was cloyed with the other. He trusted that things between the King and him would go the better for this, and prayed God to send the King’s son long life.

When we perceived he had finished his answer and showed gladness we declared the stature and goodliness of the child, and who were the godfathers and godmothers. I declared I was sorry he had made no better answer to the King’s ambassador touching the overture for peace between him and the Most Christian King, which would have been acceptable to God and laudable to himself. Mr. Wiat added “Sire, undoubtedly my fellow Mr. Dudeley here present hath the like commandment as I had to treat in this overture of peace to your Majesty, how well that I think the matter is already so far forwards and at so good a point betwixt your Majesty and the French king … and though you were sure that the King [my] master would be right glad of a peace, which thing he desireth nothing more, yet you were in doubt how his Majesty would conceive it, seeing the overture and mediation that he made was no otherwise embraced.”

He answered to this “M. Ambassador, at the last time you were with me for this matter, truth it is I did not so frankly utter my mind to you as I will do now.” He then said that one Cornelius … came from his sister in Flanders through France, by whom the French king sent word that he would “intend to the peace.” … I said I saw no great appearance of peace considering the French king’s passing the mountains with so great an army … He answered he did not think the French king would much prevail there, where the marquis de Guast was ready for him with 30,000 Spaniards and Italians, the best men of war that ever he had. No other mention of peace had been made and nothing would be concluded without the King’s privity. … He asked how his cousin the lady Mary did.5

It was uppermost on Charles’ agenda to achieve England’s return to Rome, to end the “English schism”. He offered to mediate between Henry and the Holy See, “if the king would”. Wyatt and Dudley made clear to his Imperial Majesty that, quite apart from King Henry, the English people would never return to “the yoke … and that that mediation should be but vain”. – That was Wyatt’s version of their words, yet Charles got the impression that “nevertheless, the proposal did not seem altogether distasteful to them”.6

The papal nuncio was very hopeful and excited, too, praising the two English diplomats as “fine men”. It was always clear to Wyatt and Dudley, though, that Henry’s reconciliation to the papacy was not an option and, more importantly, that they could not afford to let anyone in England think that they had wavered for a second on this issue. Still, keen to defuse the notion of England’s isolation, they somehow managed to leave Charles dreaming of King Henry contributing to Christianity’s crusade against the Turk.7

This particular chimera lasted less than a fortnight, Charles threatening to withdraw his ambassador from England a few days after Dudley had left the Imperial court, leaving Wyatt on his own again. When John Dudley, a good rider, arrived in Lyon he heard rumours that Wyatt had been arrested on the emperor’s orders; this was not true, but Dudley was now taken prisoner by the Chancellor of France and the Cardinal of Tournon, who had been expecting him. They said they acted on the King of France’s orders.

Dudley, having smelt the rat, had already sent his own messenger to Paris – in guise of a merchant – so that the most important news should reach England. Francis I, on hearing this, thought Dudley “had perhaps learnt some subtlety in Spain”.8 But all English messengers were being stopped now: “All the posts between this and Calais are stayed. [Which] can mean no truth to the King,” wrote Dudley on 26 November, still detained in Lyon. He complained that his news would be “cold” by now and that his treatment by the French, so dishonourable to the King of England, was in “every mouth”.9

He was back in England for Christmas, though, and Henry VIII himself had Sir Thomas Wyatt informed of how the issue had played out:

Sir John Dudley, late ambassador to the Emperor, has reported the Emperor’s kind entertainment of him. … If the Emperor marvel that he has not heard from [us] (as it is so long since the departure of Sir John Dudley), Wyat shall declare that Dudley was stayed at Lyons 12 days by Card. Tournon, whereat the French king was displeased.10

The Wyatt-Dudley friendship survived this instance of diplomacy: In June 1539, Dudley was busy extracting Wyatt’s arrears in ambassadorial diets from the Exchequer.11

1 L&P 15 October 1537 No. 911
2 L&P 25 October 1537 No. 987
3 Brigden 2012 p. 347
4 Brigden 2012 pp. 80, 130
5 L&P 10 November 1537 No. 1053
6 Brigden 2012 pp. 347 – 348
7 Brigden 2012 pp. 348 – 349
8 Brigden 2012 p. 349; L&P 23 December 1537 No. 1253
9 Brigden 2012 p. 349; L&P 26 November 1537 No. 1133
10 L&P 23 December 1537 No. 1249
11 Loades 1996 p. 41

Letters and Papers of Henry VIII.

Brigden, Susan (2012): Thomas Wyatt: The Heart’s Forest. Faber & Faber.

Loades, David (1996): John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland 1504–1553. Clarendon Press.

Guildford Dudley’s Looks

Every Tudor enthusiast knows that Guildford Dudley, Lady Jane Grey’s equally short-lived husband, was blond. This “fact” comes from a supposed eyewitness description of Jane’s solemn entry into the Tower of London, printed in a 1909 “biography” by Richard Davey:

She walked under a canopy, her mother carrying her long train, and her husband Guilfo walking by her, dressed all in white and gold, a very tall strong boy with light hair, who paid her much attention.1

In 2009 Jane’s biographer Leanda de Lisle argued convincingly that this description must be a fraud, and Dr. Stephan Edwards, a scholar devoted to the study of Jane Grey, has now confirmed this.2 Indeed, Davey’s book is full of fakes, and the only other description of Guildford Dudley’s dress likewise appears in no earlier source than Davey’s work: On the day of the young couple’s trial Guildford is said to have worn a “black velvet suit slashed with white satin”.3

So, if we know nothing about his dress and hair colour, do we know anything else about his appearance? ‟A comely, virtuous and godly gentleman“, called him the Elizabethan chronicler Grafton. Now, Grafton was enjoying the patronage of Robert Dudley, among others, and so is unlikely to have written anything unfriendly about Robert’s late brother, but he quite probably had also met Guildford personally.4

A few words on Guildford, apparently from his own lifetime, appear in a letter recently discovered by Dr. Edwards. Written by an unknown Italian, it says on 24 July 1553, it was printed in Venice in the 1560s as part of a collection of interesting material. The author may have been an eyewitness to some proceedings, or at least used information supplied by someone who had seen Guildford as a bridegroom and “consort”. He describes him as “un bello adolescente”.5 Indeed, the writer believed his “bellezza” to be Guildford’s only real asset, being just the fourth son of a father still alive.6 That a teenager should be handsome is not a surprise, and Guildford came from a family of good-looking people; Robert Dudley a few years later would be described as “giovane bellissimo” (“a very handsome young man”).7

The Italian reporter of 1553 was scandalized by the reversal of the natural order in having the parents serve their own children:

To speak with her and to serve her on bended knee. Not only all the others, but the father and the mother! … The husband stood with hat in hand, not only in front of the Queen, but in front of father and mother, all the other Lords making a show of themselves putting the knee on the ground.8

The reign of Queen Jane broke all rules, certainly, but there was also a tradition of foreign visitors taking exception to the perceived servility at the English court. English etiquette was ‟very strange“, they found, requiring princesses, dukes, and earls to sit on simple stools at a fair distance from their monarch, serving him (or her) on bended knee.9

Guildford standing with his hat in hand, even in front of his sovereign wife, appears a harmless enough figure in the Italian letter; although, like other accounts, this one too reported some behind-the-scenes gossip, there is no trace here of rows or ill-feeling between the young couple. Guildford may not have had many other gifts beside his beauty, but he was not the spoilt brat of tradition either.

See also:
‟Loving of my Husband“: Jane and Guildford Dudley
King Guildford?
Mass In The Morning or What Did Northumberland’s Sons Make of His Recantation?

1 Davey 1909 p. 253
2 de Lisle 2009; Edwards 2013
3 Davey 1909 p. 317
4 Ives 2009 pp. 185, 275
5 Lettere f. 222 verso
6 Lettere f. 223 recto
7 CSP Venetian 4 May 1559
8 Lettere f. 223 recto
9 Loach 2002 pp. 143 – 144

Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 7 – 1558–1580.

Lettere di Principi, le quali si scrivono o da principi, o ragionano di principi. (ed. J. S. Edwards, 2013)

Alford, Stephen (2002): Kingship and Politics in the Reign of Edward VI. Cambridge University Press.

Davey, Richard (1909): The Nine Days’ Queen: Lady Jane Grey and Her Times. Methuen & Co.

de Lisle, Leanda (2009): “The Faking of Jane Grey”. BBC History Magazine.

de Lisle, Leanda (2013): Tudor: The Family Story. Chatto & Windus.

Edwards, J. S. (2013): “The Spinola Letter”.

Ives, Eric (2009): Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. Wiley-Blackwell.

Loach, Jennifer (2002): Edward VI. Yale University Press.

The Earl of Leicester’s Fool

Elizabeth I, 1560s. Unlike their Spanish counterparts, English court jesters were not usually included in royal portraits.

Elizabeth I, 1560s. Unlike their Spanish counterparts, English court jesters were not usually included in royal portraits.

It is well known that Elizabeth I did not suffer fools gladly. Indeed, while she enjoyed to be entertained by the likes of Richard Tarlton, that is outright clowns, her sense of humour had its limits when it came to the more satirical remarks of court jesters. John Pace, an Eton-educated “bitter fool”, ended up being banned from the queen’s presence.1

Robert Dudley had his own fool. He appears in a report by King Philip’s ambassador, Guzmán de Silva, in June 1565. De Silva’s Imperial colleague, Zwetkowitsch, had recently arrived to (once again) deal in the marriage of the Archduke Charles to Elizabeth. On Whit Sunday the queen invited Zwetkowitsch to dinner, saying first that she was looking forward to the archduke’s visit and that “if they liked one another the matter could soon be settled”. – She then inquired, however, if Zwetkowitsch had heard whether the Earl of Leicester was perhaps opposing the match in any way, implying that he first needed to obtain Leicester’s consent. When the envoy assured her that Dudley himself had written to the emperor in support of the project and that the archduke remained the only suitable foreign candidate for her hand, Elizabeth suddenly reminded him: “But I have never said yet that I would not marry the Earl of Leicester.”2

Philip II's daughter Isabel Clara Eugenia with her favourite dwarf, Margarita Ruiz

Philip II’s daughter Isabel Clara Eugenia with her favourite dwarf, Margarita Ruiz

Indeed, Philip II had known it all the time: “and, after all, she will either not marry or else marry Robert, to whom she has always been so much attached … the Queen is in love with Robert.”3 – Now, his ambassador, de Silva, could allow himself to come to the same conclusion: “I keep Leicester in hand in the best way I can, as I am still firm in my idea, that if any marriage at all is to result from all this it will be his.”4

Being entertained daily by Leicester with suppers and dinners, on the previous day, de Silva and Zwetkowitsch were taken on a morning tour around the royal park at Windsor. Elizabeth, who was “not a morning person”, had not yet appeared: “We came round by the footpath leading to the riverside through the wood to where the Queen lodges, and when we came to her apartments Leicester’s fool made so much noise calling her that she came undressed to the window.” One and a half hours later she came down, fully dressed, “and walked for a long while talking with the Emperor’s man and me about many different things.”5 There is no sign that this time she was angry at the fool, or at the Earl of Leicester.

1 Loades 2003 p. 316; Southworth 2003 pp. 142 – 143
2 Hume 1904 p. 92
3 Hume 1904 p. 100
4 CSP Span I p. 466
5 CSP Span I p. 465

Calendar of … State Papers Relating to English Affairs … in … Simancas, 1558–1603. (ed. by Martin Hume, 1892–1899).

Hume, Martin (1904): The Courtships of Queen Elizabeth. Eveleigh Nash & Grayson.

Loades, David (2003): Elizabeth I. Hambledon Continuum.

Southworth, John (2003): Fools and Jesters at the English Court. The History Press.

Whitelock, Anna (2013): Elizabeth’s Bedfellows: An Intimate History of the Queen’s Court. Bloomsbury.

The Earl of Leicester’s Social Conscience

According to Leicester’s Commonwealth, the Catholic libel of 1584, the Earl of Leicester was a rapacious upstart, persecuting the old and decent gentry families up and down the country. Local historians of the 17th century were much influenced by the satire, some, like the famous William Dugdale of Warwickshire, referring directly to it.1 Hardly any of these stories, often recounted as fact in popular narratives, stand up to scrutiny; for example, Leicester’s alleged feud with Sir Richard Bulkeley of Anglesey, an attempt to drown Sir Richard on the London Thames included, is no more than a myth.2 Also, 19th and 20th century authors critical of Leicester have regularly failed to grasp that the supposed “victims” in those tales are not “the poor” but wealthy gentry who had very little regard for the poorer sections of society themselves.

A case in point is the assessment of Leicester’s legacy in North Wales. In 1563, when he entered his Welsh possessions granted by the queen, there had existed a virtual tenurial chaos for more than half a century. Some leading local families benefited from this situation, to the detriment of the crown’s revenue. In order to amend the problem, Dudley, after conducting a thorough survey, effected compositions with the tenants. Through these they could better themselves socially by becoming freeholders instead of copyholders. In exchange Leicester’s agents agreed new rents with the tenants. The increase in revenue the earl achieved for himself mirrored the inflation of the preceding decades, but was everything else than “rack-renting”.3 Also, all tenant’s rights of common were guaranteed against enclosure as were the boundaries of the commons; serfdom was finally abolished, having survived in a few instances. – Leicester’s tenurial reform in his lordships of Denbigh and Chirk “was an ambitious resolution of a long-standing problem, … without parallel in Elizabeth’s reign”; it was still cited as exemplary in the times of Oliver Cromwell. It was not an example of aristocratic rapaciousness.4

Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick was founded in 1571 as a fairly traditional institution of poor relief

Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick was founded in 1571 as a fairly traditional institution of poor relief

However, Robert Dudley only once visited Wales in person (in 1584); this was quite different in the region he claimed as his home turf, the West Midlands, and especially Warwickshire. Here he displayed an “almost emotional”5 interest. When Mr. John Fisher of the town council of Warwick visited London in November 1571 he sought to speak with the Earl of Leicester. The queen being absent on a hunting trip near Greenwich,

the said earl among other lords attending her highness the said Fisher had good opportunity and took such time as the said earl heard him at length … and asked what good trade there was in the said town and how the poor were relieved. To which the said Fisher answered that the number of the poor was great … ‘I marvel [said the earl] you do not devise some ways among you to have some special trade to keep your poor on work … which methinketh should not be only very profitable but also a means to keep your poor from idleness, or the making of cloth or capping or some such like. But I do perceive that every man is only careful with himself …

I could wish there were some special trade devised wherewith having a good stock both reasonable profit might arise and your poor set on work. Whereunto I would be glad to help, and in mine opinion nothing would be more necessary than clothing or capping to both which occupations is required many workmen and women and such may be employed as in no faculty else, for though they be lame they may pick and free wool and do such things as shall keep them from idleness and whereof some commodity may grow. And therefore many such poor as I perceive you have, I would to God you would some ways devise that they might in sort be relieved and your commonwealth profited. And because I am of that country and mind to plant myself there I would be glad to further any good device with all my heart.’

The workhouse later acquired a very bad reputation, but to the Puritan mind in the 1570s the employment of the poor in some industry seemed both natural and good. However, Leicester in 1571 also founded a hospital in Warwick, “for sustentation and relief of needy, poor and impotent people”. This exercise was as medieval as its 14th century lodgings, with its 12 “brethren” and their master, a clergyman, attending daily services and praying for their patron. Leicester later changed the statutes for the facility – his Maison Dieu as he called it – to care for 12 soldiers or sailors “wounded, maimed or hurt in the wars”, and their wives, and allotted £200 a year for their upkeep in his will.

Yet Robert Dudley was not naive and seriously thought about the social issues of his time, as is shown by a letter he wrote to William Cecil in 1566: “And whether it be cause or no I know not but I never saw in so rich a soil so many miserable and poor people. It shows few have all and great numbers nothing”.6

Nor was he a heartless man. Among Leicester’s many offices was the chancellorship of the County Palatine of Chester, and on 28 June 1578 he wrote to the Mayor and Justices of the town, having heard some disturbing news about inmates dying in the county prison:

So have I thought good to move you to assemble yourselves together and take some good order that the same prisoners may be relieved at the least wise as far forth as by the laws you are bounden to relieve them. It is very pitiful to hear of, that prisoners are dead by famine since the last assizes, and those that be living are very many very feeble in like peril of death; which I pray you to have in good consideration.7

It was certainly unusual for a man in Leicester’s position to express such feelings. When in 1586 a number of judges succumbed to jail fever, the Principal Secretary Francis Walsingham was shocked at their plight (as he wrote to Leicester); he spared no thought for the prisoners. By then the earl was in the Netherlands, Elizabeth delaying to send much needed money for the English army. Leicester was desperate: “They cannot get a penny; their credit is spent; they perish for want of victuals and clothing in great numbers.” – “There was no soldier yet able to buy himself pair of hose, and it is too too great shame to see how they go, and it kills their hearts to show themselves among men”. – “I assure you it will fret me to death ere long to see my soldiers in this case and cannot help them.” Months later, in the face of mass desertions and corrupt officers, his very honest conclusion was: “I do but wonder to see they do not rather kill us all than run away, God help us!”8

Of course, a great nobleman like Leicester was expected to give to the poor and he did so on a daily basis. In his lifetime he even had a reputation for generosity and accessibility.9 Leicester’s account books indicate what kind of persons could expect to benefit from the earl’s kindness. Between countless mentions of the generic “poor woman”, there are also several instances of poor Irishmen (who always seem to have appeared in groups) – a result of failed English policy on the neighbouring island.

As in England, Leicester’s habit to give to poor or otherwise deserving people continued during his stay in the Netherlands. On his arrival the Dutch trumpeters and a blind Dutch harper were the lucky ones. A few days later it was “a blind man that played upon the organs”. A little girl who presented the earl with strawberries and cream received 5s., while the “perfumed gloves” of another visitor were worth 9s. A poor Englishman “with a great cold” received 2s.10

1 Adams 2002 p. 387
2 Adams 2002 p. 252
3 Adams 2002 p. 276
4 Adams 2002 pp. 3, 276 – 277
5 Adams 2002 p. 3
6 Adams 2000
7 Chamberlin 1939 p. 404
8 Gristwood 2007 pp. 315 – 316; Leycester Correspondence pp. 167, 339
9 Adams 1996
10 Adams 1995 pp. 345, 348, 350; Adams 1996

Correspondence of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leycester, during his Government of the Low Countries, in the Years 1585 and 1586. (ed. John Bruce, 1844). Camden Society.

Adams, Simon (ed.) (1995): Household Accounts and Disbursement Books of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, 1558–1561, 1584–1586. Cambridge University Press.

Adams, Simon (1996): “At Home and Away. The Earl of Leicester” History Today. May 1996.

Adams, Simon (2000): “Book reviews: Two new studies of Edward VI”. History Today. August 2000.

Adams, Simon (2002): Leicester and the Court: Essays in Elizabethan Politics. Manchester University Press.

Chamberlin, Frederick (1939): Elizabeth and Leycester. Dodd, Mead & Co.

Gristwood, Sarah (2007): Elizabeth and Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics. Viking.

Jenkins, Elizabeth (2002): Elizabeth and Leicester. The Phoenix Press.