In the morning of 14 July 1553 the streets of London were bustling with preparations for an armed response to the Lady Mary’s challenge against the newly proclaimed queen, Jane. Jane’s father-in-law, the Duke of Northumberland, had been appointed (by herself) to lead the army which was being recruited from the duke’s retainers and by the generous payment of up to 20 pence per day for volunteers.1 Jane’s father, the Duke of Suffolk, had been the council’s first choice of general, but apparently he did not feel fit. He was possibly unwell,2 or he may have suffered from nerves or even some diplomatic illness.
Lady Jane Grey, made queen “rather of force … then by hir owne seking and request”
Northumberland had misgivings, too. It was crucial which duke stayed and which duke went: Suffolk was a political lightweight lacking authority and so Northumberland – though considered the best soldier in England – was needed to keep Jane’s council in line. He was perfectly aware of that. And so when he addressed his colleagues before his last meal at home, he revealed what he really thought of them as well as his true opinion of recent events (even if we keep in mind that the chronicler wrote in hindsight):
“My lordes, I and theis other noble personages, and the hole army, that nowe go furthe, aswell for the behalfe of you and yours as for the establishing of the quenes highnes, shall not onely adventer our bodyes and lives amongest the bludy strokes and cruell assaltes of our adversaryes in the open feldes, but also we do leave the conservacion of our selves, children, and famelies at home here with you, as altogether comytted to your truths and fydellyties, whom if we thought you wolde through malice, conspiracie, or discentyon leave us your frendes in the breers [briars] and betray us, we coulde aswell sondery waies foresee and provide for our owne savegardes as eny of you by betraying us can do for youres.
But now upon the onely truste and faythefullnes of your honnours, wherof we thincke ourselves moste assured, we do hassarde and jubarde [jeopardize] our lives, which trust and promise yf ye shall violate, hoping therby of life and promotyon, yet shall not God counte you innocent of our bloodes, neither acquite you of the sacred and holley othe of allegiance made frely by you to this vertuouse lady the quenes highenes, who by your and our enticement is rather of force placed therin then by hir owne seking and request.
Consider also that Goddes cause, which is the preferment of his worde and the feare of papestry’s re-entrance, hathe been as ye have herebefore allwaies sayed, the oryginall grounde wherupon ye even at the first motyon granted your goode willes and concentes therunto, as by your handes writinges evidentlie apperith.
And thincke not the contrary, but if ye meane deceat, thoughe not forthwith yet hereafter, God will revenge the same. I can saye no more; but in theis troblesome tyme wishe you to use constaunte hartes, abandoning all malice, envy, and privat affections.”
Therewith-all the first course for the lordes came uppe. Then the duke did knit uppe his talke with theis words: “I have not spoken to you on this sorte upon any distrust I have of your truthes, of the which allwaies I have ever hitherto conceaved a trusty confidence; but I have put you in remembrance therof, what chaunce of variaunce soever might growe emongest you in myne absence; and this I praye you, wishe me no worse goode spede in this journey then ye wolde have to yourselves.”
“My lorde, (saith one of them), yf ye mistrust eny of us in this matter, your grace is far deceaved; for which of us can wipe his handes clene therof? And if we should shrincke from you as one that were culpable, which of us can excuse himself as guiltles? Therefore herein your doubt is too farre cast.” “I praie God yt be so (quod the duke); let us go to dyner.”3
1 Ives 2009 p. 200
2 de Lisle 2008 p. 107
3 Chronicle of Queen Jane pp. 7 – 8
The Chronicle of Queen Jane and Two Years of Queen Mary. (ed. J. G. Nichols, 1850).
de Lisle, Leanda (2008): The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: Mary, Katherine, and Lady Jane Grey. A Tudor Tragedy. Ballantine Books.
Ives, Eric (2009): Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. Wiley-Blackwell.