“My Lord of Leicester, Kneeling by Her Highness”

Loseley House, where Elizabeth I stayed with Robert Dudley in 1569. Photo by Andrew Mathewson CC BY-SA 2.0.

Loseley House, where Elizabeth and Robert Dudley stayed in 1569. Photo by Andrew Mathewson CC BY-SA 2.0.

In 1569, like almost every year, Queen Elizabeth went on summer progress. Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, reluctantly accompanied her. The reason was that he was planning his marriage to Mary Queen of Scots (who was in Elizabeth’s custody), and he did not want to attract negative attention through his absence. On 11 August the royal party stopped at the new house of Sir William More, Loseley, which had only been finished the year before. The next morning Norfolk went to see the queen in the room that served as her privy chamber. The scene he found there he described months later when he was in trouble over his plans with the Scottish queen: What he saw was a boy, one of Sir William’s sons seated before the queen, who was “playing upon a lute and singing, Her Majesty sitting upon the threshold of the door, my Lord of Leicester kneeling by Her Highness”.

On seeing the duke, Elizabeth commanded him to come to her. “Not long after my Lord of Leicester rises and came to me, leaving Her Highness hearing the child, and told me that as I was coming, he was dealing with Her Majesty in my behalf; to which I answered, if I had known so much I would not have come up”. Norfolk then inquired how the queen was disposed to him, to which Leicester replied, “indifferent well”, and that Elizabeth had promised to speak with Norfolk at the next stop on her progress, the Earl of Arundel’s house.

A somewhat greyed Earl of Leicester kneeling by Elizabeth's side. The Duke of Norfolk is entering through a curtain. W. F. Yeames' interpretation of a scene described by Norfolk in 1569.

A somewhat too old Earl of Leicester kneeling by Elizabeth’s side. The Duke of Norfolk is about to enter the room. W. F. Yeames’ interpretation of a scene described by Norfolk in 1569.

This beautiful scene is one of several that show us that Elizabeth was not always surrounded by her ladies, as is usually claimed, but that she did enjoy quiet moments without them. Robert Dudley is usually not far away. The scene piqued the interest of the prolific Victorian painter William Frederick Yeames, who painted it in 1865.

Quotations from:
Williams, Neville (1964): Thomas Howard, Fourth Duke of Norfolk. Barrie & Rockliff.

Posted in Elizabeth I, paintings, Robert Dudley, sources & historians | Tagged | 3 Comments

John Dudley at The Anne Boleyn Files

Southampton, Thomas Wriouthesley 1st Earl of by HolbeinNorthumberland PenshurstI am happy and feel very honoured that you can now read about John Dudley and his many friends (he really had a lot) at the amazing The Anne Boleyn Files! Please go here …Paget, William 1549 NPG

Posted in friends & foes, John Dudley

John Dudley Interview

I feel very honoured to have been interviewed about John Dudley: The Life of Lady Jane Grey’s Father-in-Law by the Lady Jane Grey Reference Guide, a Lady Jane institution! Please go here …

Lady Jane Grey accepting the Crown after Leslie

Posted in my book

John Dudley on Kindle

Northumberland PenshurstI am happy to say that my biography

John Dudley: The Life of Lady Jane Grey’s Father-in-Law

is now available on Kindle worldwide,

amazon.com

amazon.co.uk

as well as in paperback.

Thank you anyway!

… Three days later, Edward wrote in his journal, the Duke of Somerset had “sent for the secretary Cicel to tell him he suspected some ill. Mr. Cicel answerid that if he were not gilty he might be of good courage; if he were, he had nothing to say but to lament him.” On 16 October, the Duke of Somerset was arrested after dinner, to which he had appeared late, “Sir Thomas Palmer on the terrace walking there.”

Posted in my book | 2 Comments

John Dudley Book

John_Dudley_Cover_for_KindleI am very happy to say that

John Dudley: The Life of Lady Jane Grey’s Father-in-Law

is now available from amazon and amazon marketplace. Thank you, all!

amazon.co.uk
amazon.com

The book is in paperback and has 270 pages, and it is a (mostly) narrative biography of Robert Dudley’s father, John, who led a very interesting life at the courts of Henry VIII and Edward VI (though to his great chagrin he was not allowed to continue this life at the court of Mary I).

Posted in my book

Coming Soon: John Dudley Book

John Dudley Knole mit RahmenI am happy to say that I am almost finished with writing my biography of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, Robert Dudley’s somewhat notorious father.

John Dudley: The Life of Lady Jane Grey’s Father-in-Law

will be available from amazon in early February 2016.

Now, what can readers expect? I’ve chosen a narrative approach, such as usually enjoyed by the “general reader” or Tudor enthusiast (like myself). I also discuss some of the questions discussed on this blog in the last few years, though, as well as many additional topics. Many of John’s very interesting contemporaries and friends also feature prominently, such as William Parr, Thomas Wriothesley, and Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset; but also ambassadors and other Dudleys, like John’s brother Andrew, his wife Jane, and his children, especially his sons John, Guildford, and Robert. For example, if you do want to know why John Dudley’s daughter Mary married the courtier Henry Sidney when she did you should read my book:)

Just watch this space if you are interested! Thank you!

BookCover John Dudley white cover purple light letters

Blurb:

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland  (1504–1553), one of the most notorious figures of Tudor England, is best known as the father-in-law of Lady Jane Grey, whom he helped to place on the English throne for nine days. However, he was also a courtier and diplomat, a general and de facto regent, as well as a patron of art and exploration and a devoted family man; and in the past decades his image has undergone significant changes from villain to talented statesman. The father of Queen Elizabeth’s friend Robert Dudley and grandfather of the poet Philip Sidney led a colourful life at the courts of Henry VIII and Edward VI which is vividly retold in this fully documented biography.

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“I Can Saye No More”: John Dudley’s Farewell Speech to the Council

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

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

Notes:
1 Ives 2009 p. 200
2 de Lisle 2008 p. 107
3 Chronicle of Queen Jane pp. 7 – 8

Sources:
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.

Posted in 1553, John Dudley, sources & historians | Tagged , | 3 Comments

A Grand Conspiracy in 1553? – Grants

Money is probably the best evidence for a conspiracy in 1553. The “cash flow” does not only tell us that there was a plot, but also when it took place. In May, but mostly in June 1553, a lot of property changed hands in England: To put his daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, on the English throne, the Duke of Northumberland needed to buy support. The greatest plums went to the Princess Mary, Edward VI’s half-sister and, by law, the heir to the throne.

Not every royal grant in 1553 was a bribe. Many beneficiaries indeed seem to have profited from death bed largesse rather than needing to be bought. Henry Gates, the brother of Sir John Gates (the chief influence in Edward’s privy chamber) was unlikely to disagree with the accession of Jane Grey. Sir John, deemed a fanatical Protestant, was later even suspected of coming up with the plan to make her queen.

Edward Lord Clinton, Northumberland's nephew, was another beneficiary of royal grants

Edward Lord Clinton, nephew of the Duke of Northumberland and a beneficiary of royal grants

Several beneficiaries were personally close to Edward, while not being powerful figures themselves. One of the earlier grants was made on 22 May 1553, to John Cheke, the king’s beloved tutor. Others who received grants were Sir Henry Sidney and Thomas Wroth, the friends in whose arms Edward died only days later. None of these men had to be bought. Sidney and Wroth worked closely with Northumberland, and Cheke, another keen Protestant, was reported to be one of those planting Mary’s demotion into Edward’s head.1

The most important and most difficult people to buy were the noblemen. The Earl of Shrewsbury was a great provincial magnate, rather cool towards the Edwardian regime and keeping aloof from involvement in central government. He certainly had to be bought. Most difficult, and as it turned out impossible, to win was the grand Earl of Arundel, who had fallen into disgrace together with the Duke of Somerset. Other than Somerset he had kept his head and had been released, but he had received a huge fine, which was adjusted and confirmed as late as 10 May 1553!2 – A sign, surely, that any plots for the succession were not yet in the making. Interestingly, Arundel’s fine was remitted on 1 July. Only on 21 June 1553, the day he and many others signed Edward’s “Devise”, was Arundel restored to the privy council.3

The other noblemen receiving grants were not enemies of the regime, but allies. John Russell, Earl of Bedford, may have been not particularly committed but he too was a Protestant and John Dudley had already rewarded his support (with an earldom) on an earlier occasion. Henry Neville, Earl of Westmorland, 29 years old, could almost be called the Duke of Northumberland’s protegé. An incorrigible gambler, he was always in debt. His ancient name notwithstanding, he owed his position of power in the North of England to the duke’s regime, in whose interest he worked. The Earl of Pembroke and the Earl of Huntingdon were also allies, almost cronies; and Huntingdon was not only a recently acquired relative (his son having wed Northumberland’s daughter), but he and his son were also regular house guests of the Dudleys.4

Of the remaining peers, Lords Clinton and De La Warr were relatives as well; De La Warr was the Duchess of Northumberland’s uncle, while Clinton was the duke’s nephew (by marriage). Lord Darcy, on the other hand, was one of those men Northumberland called “my special friends”. As Edward’s Lord Chamberlain he was also the most important channel of communications between the king and his chief minister.

The London financier, Thomas Gresham, received his grant on 1 July 1553 (King Edward dying on the sixth); it is always a good thing to have warm relations with money people. And Gresham had been very useful before.

The largest grant for Princess Mary: Framlingham Castle

The biggest grant to Princess Mary: Framlingham Castle. Photo by Squeezyboy. CC BY 2.0

The most intriguing group of grants are those given to Princess Mary and her circle. Mary received the substantial Framlingham Castle and Park in mid-May and Hertford Castle as late as 6 June.5 In the same month she also received lands worth £604 17s 1¾d p.a. in exchange for lands near the Essex coast and a diamond and pearl pendant from Edward VI.6 As late as 19 June – the day public prayers started to be held for Edward’s recovery – her best friend and lady-in-waiting, Susan Clarencius, was allowed to buy more lands in Essex.7

Framlingham Castle in Suffolk (which she would use as her fortified headquarters within a few weeks) was the most generous gift Mary ever received from her brother. It came as the last step in an exchange of lands talked of since December 1552, but the point in time is still highly significant. Added to this came the considerable lands, and another functioning castle, received in Hertfordshire on 6 June. How plausible is it that Northumberland would have transacted this deal with Mary when at the same time he was plotting her overthrow?

Or was it actually a deal of another nature? One historian has argued that the Edwardian government sought to buy even the king’s sisters. That the grants of Framlingham and Hertford Castle to Mary and some other benefits to Elizabeth (as hinted at by William Camden) were part of a deal to accept their brother’s ideas for the succession.8 We must remember that Mary actually took possession of her new strongholds and that Framlingham especially proved to be crucial in her forthcoming struggle, for the crown and against Northumberland and his troops. Had she duped the duke? That Susan Clarencius was favoured as late as 19 June only supports this impression. Whatever the answer, it seems inconceivable that Northumberland would have let Mary have a place like Framlingham – in her home turf East Anglia – if he had anticipated to fight against her in the near future. It would have been strategic suicide.

Considering how, and especially when, some things happened between March and July 1553 – in parliament, in foreign relations, in issuing rewards – it clearly appears that there was a conspiracy for the crown. However, it becomes also clear that there was no grand conspiracy, no master plan planned over many months, as tradition would have it. The circumstantial evidence discussed points towards June as the time when the plan to enthrone Jane really came into being. And that’s pretty late.

Grants by Edward VI to courtiers and noblemen, April – July 15539

  • 17 April
      Henry Neville, 5th Earl of Westmorland
  • 22 May
      John Cheke, royal tutor, lands worth £100 p.a.
  • June
      Lord Edward Clinton
      Lord Thomas Darcy
      Thomas West, 9th Baron De La Warr
  • 12 June
      Henry Gates, brother of Sir John Gates, lands worth £102 12s 7d p.a.
      Francis Hastings, 2nd Earl of Huntingdon, £158 8s 5d p.a.
  • 23 June
      Sir Henry Sidney, privy chamber, lands worth £160 6s 11½d p.a.
  • 26 June
      William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, Dnyate, Somerset
      John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, lands worth £78 16s 7d p.a.
      George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, mansion of Coldharbour, London, and lands worth £66 13s 1½d p.a.
  • 1 July
      Thomas Gresham, financier, lands worth £201 14s 9½d p.a.
  • 3 July
      Sir Henry Sidney, keepership of Sheen (Palace of Placentia)
  • 4 July
      Thomas Wroth, privy chamber, lands worth £87 3s 8½d p.a.

continued from
A Grand Conspiracy in 1553? – Parliament
A Grand Conspiracy in 1553? – Foreign Affairs

Notes:
1 Loach 2002 p. 163
2 Loades 1996 p. 262
3 Ives 2009 pp. 161 – 162
4 Hoak 1976 pp. 63 – 65; Cross 1966 pp. 9, 13; Loades 1996 p. 308
5 Skidmore 2007 p. 264; McIntosh 2008 ch. 4; MacCulloch 1995 p. 538
6 Skidmore 2007 pp. 264, 329
7 MacCulloch 1995 p. 538; Ives 2009 p. 186
8 McIntosh 2008 ch. 4
9 Skidmore 2007 pp. 264, 327; Ives 2009 p. 317; Gammon 1973 pp. 185, 275; Loach 2002 p. 165

Sources:
Cross, Claire (1966): The Puritan Earl: The Life of Henry Hastings, Third Earl of Huntingdon 1536-1595. Jonathan Cape.

Gammon, S. R. (1973): Statesman and Schemer: William, First Lord Paget. Tudor Minister. David & Charles.

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

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

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

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

Lock, Julian (2004): “Fitzalan, Henry, twelfth earl of Arundel (1512–1580)”. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.

MacCulloch, Diarmaid (1996): Thomas Cranmer: A Life. Yale University Press.

McIntosh, J. L. (2008): From Heads of Household to Heads of State: The Preaccession Households of Mary and Elizabeth Tudor. Columbia University Press.

Skidmore, Chris (2007): Edward VI: The Lost King of England. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Posted in 1553, Edward VI, Elizabeth I, John Dudley, sources & historians | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

A Grand Conspiracy in 1553? – Foreign Affairs

On 13 March 1553 the English privy council busied itself with granting a licence for the export of 200,000 pairs of old shoes.1 On 27 June 1553 the members of the same council swore themselves to secrecy about their forthcoming proceedings and banned the council clerks from their presence. The secret matter in hand was the succession of Lady Jane Grey to the crown of Edward VI,2 whose death was daily expected. The date of 27 June is noteworthy; it is a very late date compared to what is usually said about the Duke of Northumberland’s plotting. Traditionally, John Dudley and his colleagues on the council in the early months of 1553 did little else than thinking of how to avert the succession of Mary Tudor. However, as is hinted by their actions in March, this is far from the truth and it looks as if the decision to go through with their scheme came very late in the day.

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland

Although England was a small country, English foreign policy under the Duke of Northumberland tried to stay clear from getting sucked up in the perennial rivalry between France and the Empire. Thus, when war once again broke out in September 1551, a policy of neutrality was pursued despite existing treaties of friendship with both powers.3 In December 1552 Northumberland decided to bring about a European peace by English mediation, which, if successful, would add to the prestige of Edward VI. He sent his brother (Sir Andrew Dudley) and his son-in-law (Sir Henry Sidney) on diplomatic missions to the emperor and the King of France, respectively.

On 11 February 1553 Dudley and Sir Richard Morrison, the English resident ambassador at the Habsburg court, had an audience with the emperor at Brussels. Charles V declared that he would gladly make peace, if only the French king could be trusted (which he could not). Then, as Andrew Dudley was taking his leave and offered to kiss the emperor’s hand, “the Emperor cast his arm about Dudley’s neck, with great show of accepting his coming [and] of liking his message.”4

Back in England, Andrew Dudley was received by Edward VI. In early April follow-up missions were sent to both Brussels and Paris. The Imperial ambassador, Jehan de Schefye, also had an audience, with the Duke of Northumberland, who opined that

if the King of France were inclined to make peace, his Imperial Majesty ought to forgive what had happened, without remembering past offences. I rejoined that his Majesty was bound to defend his territories and subjects, and by all appearances the King of France was not seeking peace, as he was making a brave show of warlike preparations. He answered, smiling, that the Emperor was also making great preparations, but he did not explain himself further.5

Henry Sidney had also returned to England, with promising signs from the King of France “that he would not refuse to entertain peace, particularly as the King of England, his well-beloved son and brother, had taken a hand in them; and he would do more for his sake than for that of any other prince.”6 However, all these hopeful nicecties were ended in the first week of June by the warring parties, the benefits from continued hostilities turning out more advantageous.7

Meanwhile, Northumberland had even brought the German Protestant states into the equation, and his active pursuit of a European peace had lasted from December 1552 until late May 1553. It seems significant that it was the Continental powers who ended these diplomatic initiatives. Was Northumberland planning to exclude Mary from the succesion all those months? Is it conceivable that he would have risked so much to offend the emperor, Mary’s great protector, and at the same time give him a free hand against England through a peace with France? While most historians seem to have ignored the question, at least two did not think so.8

More mundane business went on as well: During May 1553 the English government tried to get hold of a man known by the name of Black Will, “who of long time has been a notable murderer and one of the most wretched and vile persons that lives”. Will had reached Flanders – Habsburg territory – where English agents finally succeeded in hunting him down after more than two years. A flurry of diplomatic activity ensued, and ambassador Philip Hoby received instructions how to achieve Black Will’s extradition. Hoby reported success on 19 May, writing that “Black Will is to be delivered up, it being a pity so abominable a murderer should escape unpunished”, but in the end the regent did not quite comply with the English government’s wishes. However, Black Will did not escape punishment, for, after commiting several further murders, he was executed in Flanders.9

It was now common knowledge that King Edward was dying, and Jehan de Scheyfye had convinced himself that Northumberland was engaged in some “mighty plot” to settle the crown on his own head.10 However, as late as 12 June he knew nothing specific and had only recently reported that Northumberland would divorce his wife and marry the Lady Elizabeth.11

To France, meanwhile, the notion of the emperor’s cousin Mary sitting on the English throne seemed disagreeable; the new ambassador, Antoine de Noailles, had several talks with Northumberland and the council, indicating support for any schemes removing her from the succession. It was also suggested to Northumberland that he take the throne himself.12 On 15 June Henri II personally wrote a letter “à mon cousin le duc de Northomberland”, whose contents however consisted chiefly of a demand to extradite a French nobleman and his wife, who, accused of crimes against the state, had escaped from prison and found refuge in England.13 Henri had also sent a special delegation to England, which was received at the court on 28 May 1553. It was nearly a month later, though, on 26 June, that the Duke of Northumberland had himself rowed up the Thames to pay a secret visit to the French ambassador’s home.14

continued at
A Grand Conspiracy in 1553? – Grants

continued from
A Grand Conspiracy in 1553? – Parliament

Notes:
1 Hoak 1976 p. 220
2 Hoak 1976 pp. 10, 277
3 Loades 1996 pp. 203 – 206; 241 – 242
4 CSP Foreign 12 February 1553
5 CSP Span 17 March 1553
6 CSP Span 31 March 1553
7 Loades 1996 p. 244
8 Jordan 1970 p. 177; Loades 1996 pp. 241 – 244
9 Bellamy 2005 p. 124; CSP Foreign 19 May 1553
10 Ives 2009 p. 151
11 Loades 1996 p. 239; Loades 2003 p. 79
12 Loades 1996 p. 255; Skidmore 2007 pp. 255 – 256
13 Vertot II pp. 36, 30
14 Loach 2002 p. 166

Sources:
Ambassades de Messieurs de Noailles en Angleterre. Volume II. (ed. by Abbé Vertot, 1763)

Calendar of State Papers, Spain. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/search/series/cal-state-papers–spain

Calendar of State Papers, Foreign. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/search/series/cal-state-papers–foreign

Bellamy, John (2005): Strange, Inhuman Deaths: Murder in Tudor England. Sutton.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skidmore, Chris (2007): Edward VI: The Lost King of England. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Posted in 1553, Andrew Dudley, errors & myths, John Dudley, sources & historians | Tagged , , , , , ,

A Grand Conspiracy in 1553? – Parliament

Historians have disagreed considerably on deciding when exactly the Duke of Northumberland’s plot to plant his son Guildford on the English throne – by marrying him to Lady Jane Grey – came into being. Traditionally this happened quite early, sometime in 1552, so as to give the duke enough time for his nefarious enterprise. It has been observed that he did not have enough time,1 however, so that in recent decades (i.e. from 1970 onwards) the date has wandered to early 1553, or to the spring, or even to the early summer of that fateful year. In parallel it has also been debated whether there was even a plot at all, or whether the attempted change in the succession was rather instituted according to the wishes of the adolescent king. Most historians now believe that Edward VI and his chief minister plotted together.

Many differing scenarios of the events can be found in history books, and some are more plausible than others, while it is probably impossible to arrive at the exact truth. There can only be interpretations of what may have happened, and there is plenty of evidence to consider.

Edward VI, in the pose of a King in Parliament

Edward VI, in the pose of a King in Parliament

Tradition has it that Edward was a sickly child and suffered from a weak constitution, but his health seems to have been normally robust. However, at Christmas 1552 he caught a cold, and in early February 1553 he was suffering from a high fever which alarmed the authorities enough to summon the Lady Mary, his half-sister, to London. On arrival she was obsequiously honoured in recognition of the fact that she was the heir apparent.2 Edward never fully recovered his health, but it was not at all clear from the outset of his illness that he would die within a few months. There were intermittent signs of hope until in late May his condition worsened dramatically.

Henry VIII had buttressed his changes to the succession of the crown by Acts of Parliament, and apparently this set a precedent that any further changes would also need to be sanctioned by parliament to be lawful. Aware of this, Edward VI on 19 June 1553 personally stipulated that his will should be ratified by that body. The next day the writs were sent out for the assembly to meet on 18 September.

Tantalizingly, Edward VI had opened a parliament on 1 March 1553, only to close it on 31 March. Oddly enough, the government had dissolved the parliament instead of simply proroguing it, which would have dispensed with the need of new elections for the next session of parliament; this indicates that on 31 March Northumberland had no idea that he would be in need of one in the foreseeable future. As it came, the parliament called in June for September really came together in October 1553, to inaugurate the reign of Queen Mary.

Is it conceivable that Northumberland would have disbanded the one institution that could have sanctioned his alleged plans for the crown, the business unfinished? It has been argued that he would not have dared to broach the subject of the succession in parliament;3 however this seems unconvincing in the light of his bold later doings, and he had already decided to call parliament in the first place in spite of misgivings over asking them for a subsidy. While, as was usual, the subsidy was the chief purpose there were also other tough questions handled with great efficiency,4 and any mid-Tudor parliament could not seriously have denied its sovereign anything if demanded by him in person (as Edward, though in bad health, could certainly have done).

It is likely therefore that in March 1553 the government – or Northumberland and his cronies – were not yet aware of Edward’s plans for the succession or even his hopeless case.5 It is sometimes said that the Venetian ambassador had an audience with the king in March, in which he found him to be clearly dying.6 However, in the relazione or diplomatic report out of which this detail seems to have been evoked there is no mention of any audience or of a moribund Edward;7 and anyway the ambassador writing on 17 March that Edward was – possibly – mortally ill was the Imperial rather than the Venetian. In the case of the Habsburg ambassador, however, wishful thinking played as big a part as actual information.8

continued at
A Grand Conspiracy in 1553? – Foreign Affairs

Notes:
1 Loades 2008a
2 Hoak 2008; Loach 2002 p. 159; Ives 2009 p. 84
3 de Lisle 2008 p. 87
4 Loades 1996 pp. 231 – 232, 236 – 237
5 Loades 2004 p. 69
6 Chapman 1958 p. 269; Hoak 2008; de Lisle 2008 p. 87
7 CSP Venetian 18 August 1554
8 Loades 2004 pp. 120 – 121; CPS Span 17 March 1553

Sources:
Calendar of State Papers Spain: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol11

Calendar of State Papers Venice: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/venice/vol5

Chapman, Hester (1958): The Last Tudor King: A Study of Edward VI. Jonathan Cape.

de Lisle, Leanda (2008): The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: Mary, Katherine, and Lady Jane Grey. A Tudor Tragedy. Ballantine Books.

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

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

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

Loades, David (2004): Intrigue and Treason: The Tudor Court, 1547–1558. Pearson/Longman.

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