For a few years during his childhood Robert Dudley’s eldest and youngest brother both bore the name Henry. The elder Henry died in 1544, aged 19, and the younger Henry at some point had ceased to be the youngest brother, becoming the second youngest. Charles, however, also died, aged eight, and Henry became the youngest brother again, the youngest of five who survived into their teens.
That Henry – or Harry – as he was called, should bear the same name as his eldest brother was not a particularly strange thing. Much depended on the names of the godparents, and this is also the most likely reason why there were two Henrys and two Katherines among the 13 children of John and Jane Dudley. Harry Dudley was the seventh son born to his parents. Like in the case of his siblings, his birth date is hard to establish: He was the next son after Guildford, who was most probably born in 1537 or 1538,1 and since he took part in his father’s campaign against Mary Tudor in 1553, it is reasonable to assume that he was born in 1538 or 1539. Boys participated in military campaigns from a young age, as can be seen in the case of Sir Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester’s son, who was with his father at Tilbury Camp in August 1588 at the time of his 14th birthday.
Considerably younger than their older brothers John, Ambrose, and Robert, who were tutored by the likes of Thomas Wilson, Roger Ascham, and Michelangelo Florio, Harry and Guildford seem to have received a slightly different education. The two boys may well have passed time in the household of their uncle, Francis Jobson. Jobson, who in the early 1540s had married Elizabeth Plantagenet, their father’s half-sister, became a close friend of John Dudley; and he also spent money for the “board of his children”.2
Nevertheless now and then all the brothers were in each other’s company, as appears from inventories of the goods of John Dudley, Viscount Lisle, the eldest son since 1544. Henry apparently did not accompany John on a trip to Warwick Castle in September 1550, where Robert and Guildford received gifts of clothes on the way. Five years before, though, little Harry, perhaps six years old, had received “a white satin coat” from his 14-year-old big brother. On other occasions “Master Harry Duddely” gave the presents: a sword, and another time, “a fine rapier, dagger, and girdle of Damascene work”.3
With two of Henry’s elder siblings, Robert and Mary, having married for love,4 it was the more important to secure some good matches for the family as well, and Harry’s match to Margaret Audley proved the most valuable financially. She was the sole heiress of the Lord Chancellor Thomas Audley, who had died in 1544. About one or two years younger than Harry, she was about 13 in the summer of 1553, by which time the marriage must have been concluded. Lands worth £1,000 p. a. came with it.5 The wedding date is unknown, but as the canonic age for boys to consent lawfully to a marriage was 14, and for girls 12, it would probably have occurred sometime in 1552 or 1553. That is not to say that it could not have been agreed upon considerably earlier, even years, or that the couple could not have gone through some form of more or less binding betrothal, as must have been the case with Harry’s younger sister, Katherine, who “married” Lord Hastings at around 10 years of age. The wedding is furthermore unlikely to have been celebrated in May 1553, around the time of the festival which, among other matches, saw the nuptials of both Guildford and Katherine, or it would have been mentioned by some of the ambassadorial reporters.
Lord Harry (as he was styled since 1551) is next heard of as a prisoner, after the attempt to install Lady Jane Grey, his 16-year-old sister-in-law, on the English throne had failed. The Duke of Northumberland’s party had been arrested at Cambridge. We do not know whether Harry was among the small group who accompanied his father to proclaim Queen Mary in the market place following the privy council’s change of sides: “The duke cast up his cap with others, and so laughed, that the tears ran down his cheeks for grief.”6
A few days later, on 25 July 1553, the prisoners were escorted through London. If we can believe the diarist Henry Machyn, Lord Harry rode between his uncle, Sir Andrew Dudley, and his brother Ambrose; behind them followed the noblemen: their brother-in-law Lord Hastings, the Earls of Huntingdon and Warwick (their eldest brother), and finally the Duke of Northumberland. Although his guards honoured the duke in accordance with his rank, “all the people reviled him and called him traitor and heretic, and would not cease for all they were spoken unto for it.” The Imperial ambassadors noted that his youngest son wept as the party approached the Tower.7
The five Dudley brothers John, Ambrose, Robert, Guildford, and Henry were imprisoned in a room in the Beauchamp Tower, while their father was lodged in St. Thomas Tower. On 22 August 1553 he was beheaded on Tower Hill. The chief traitor gone, security within the walls of the Tower was lowered somewhat and soon the brothers were allowed “to take the air” on the leads. With the politically motivated exception of Guildford, they were also granted visits from their wives. The principal purpose of these being an opportunity for marital sex, we need not wonder why the Lady Margaret was not among the visiting ladies.8 The young Lord Harry seems to have had other liberties instead; he was allowed to exercise on the leads of more than one tower: “My lord Ambrose and my lord Harry had the liberty of the leads over Coldharbour. Likewise had the lord Harry and the lord Guildford the liberty of the leads on Beauchamp Tower.”9
At his trial Northumberland had asked a few favours from the queen, but “above all to have compassion for his sons, the which had erred, like youths, and ignorantly, in obedience to him”.10 The authorities were pleased at his return to the Catholic faith, and soon the emperor’s ambassadors reported that his sons would not be executed. A fortnight later they believed the contrary, while the next month they wrote that the widowed Duchess of Northumberland was “doing her utmost to secure a pardon for her children” but that the queen had not yet decided on anything.11
Meanwhile almost all of the – so to speak – adult prisoners of state had been released; unlike in these prisoners’ cases, though, there seems never to have been any doubt that all of the Dudley brothers should be condemned for high treason. Already in September they had been scheduled for attainder in parliament, but then proceedings dragged on until 13 November, the day that were “led out of the Tower on foot, to be arraigned, to Guildhall, with the axe before them”, “Doctor Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, the lord Guildford Dudley … and my lady Jane his wife, … and the lord Ambrose Dudley, and the lord Harry Dudley”: “they all five were cast for to die.”12 Guildford and Jane were indeed executed two months later, in the wake of Wyatt’s Rebellion against Queen Mary’s plan to marry Philip of Spain.
The arrival of the Spanish courtiers in the summer of 1554 brought more opportunities for the imprisoned boys’ mother to lobby for their release. Philip saw the need to make as many friends as possible among the English nobility and, with time, he lent a sympathetic ear. Thus, in the autumn of 1554 all four surviving brothers, John, Ambrose, Robert, and Henry came free. John died almost immediately; perhaps his illness had been the ultimate trigger to restore them to liberty. Their mother also died, in January 1555. In her will she bequeathed Henry 50 marks and his wife “a gown of pink velvet”.13
Unlike Ambrose and Robert, who were experienced jousters, at 15 or 16 Henry was as yet too young to take part in the tournaments which King Philip hosted to celebrate Anglo-Spanish friendship in December 1554 and January 1555. In January 1555 the three brothers were also formally pardoned; in May the queen even allowed them to inherit, despite the attainder against the Dudleys being still in force. Now the eldest brother, Ambrose received his mother’s jointure lands of Hales Owen, a former monastery; Robert, like Henry, had only been bequeathed 50 marks and by November 1555 Ambrose, Henry, and their uncle, Sir Andrew Dudley, felt he was ‟left with nothing to live by … having most need of friendly and brotherly love“. Robert should now have Hales Owen on condition that he pay the late duchess’ debts and grant their sister Katherine a rent of 50 marks p.a. Ambrose and Andrew Dudley were each to receive £800 from him, while Henry apparently did not demand anything.14
By way of his marriage he was comfortably settled. In 1556 Margaret, at 16, was declared of age so she could enter her inheritance. The couple immediately sued in chancery against a gentleman who had meanwhile taken possession of her Hertfordshire estates. Margaret’s great London home, a former Augustinian priory known as Christchurch, was a most welcome abode for her husband’s poor relations – Robert Dudley and his wife Amy still used it in the late 1550s, when Lady Margaret had become the Duchess of Norfolk through remarriage.15
Despite demonstrations of royal clemency and good connections to King Philip’s entourage, the Dudley brothers were not exactly welcome at court or in London; during Mary’s ‟confinement“ in 1555 they were ordered to leave the city after being seen at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the company of ‟known malcontents“. In April 1556, after another anti-government conspiracy, the French ambassador reported that ‟les enfans du duc de Northumberland sont tous fugitifs et que l’on a fait une grande diligence pour les prendre“.16 It is true that quite a number of Dudley associates were in trouble, and it is possible that, as the French report says, the brothers themselves were on the run – if so, successfully.
By January 1557, however, they were allowed – and perhaps expected – to raise contingents for Philip’s war in France. Ambrose, Robert, and Henry Dudley all took part in the victorious Siege of St. Quentin. Alas, on 3 September 1557
at night came commandment that every church in London, and other country and shire, to sing and make bonfires for the winning of Saint Quentin; and there was slain my lord Harry Dudley the younger son of the duke of Northumberland that was beheaded with many more at the winning of it.17
Lord Harry had been killed during the storming on 27 August, by a cannonball: “which Henry Dudley and Sir Edward Windsor were the first that advanced banner on the wall.”18 Robert Dudley saw it happen ‟before his own eyes“, as he still remembered twenty years later. He also personally recorded his youngest brother’s death in a family pedigree. It is believed that Henry Dudley’s death in battle contributed to his family’s restoration in blood five months later, by Act of Parliament.19
1 Higginbotham 2011; de Lisle 2013 p. 492
2 Sil 2004; Adams 2004a
3 HMC Second Report pp. 101 – 102
4 Adams 2004c
5 Beer 1973 p. 195
6 Foxe p. 591
7 Machyn p. 37; Greyfriars Chronicle pp. 80 – 81; CSP Span 27 July 1553
8 Chronicle of Queen Jane p. 27; APC IV p. 344
9 Chronicle of Queen Jane p. 27
10 Rosso f. 30
11 CSP Span 4 September 1553; CSP Span 19 September 1553; CSP Span 9 October 1553
12 Chronicle of Queen Jane p. 32; Machyn p. 48; Ives 2009 p. 249
13 Collins 1746 p. 34
14 Adams 2002 pp. 171, 159
15 Adams 2002 p. 171; Beer 1973 p. 195; Adams 1995 pp. 43, 378
16 Adams 2002 p. 161; Adams 2004a; Wilson 1981 p. 71
17 Machyn p. 150
18 Chamberlin 1939 pp. 87 – 88
19 Adams 2004a; Adams 2002 pp. 134, 317, 354
The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe. Volume VIII. (ed. S. R. Cattley, 1839).
Acts of the Privy Council of England. Volume IV. (ed. J. R. Dasent, 1890).
Calendar of State Papers, Spain. Volume 11 – 1553. (ed. Royall Tyler, 1916) http://www.british-history.ac.uk/source.aspx?pubid=973
Chronicle of the Greyfriars of London. (ed. J. G. Nicholls, 1852). Camden Society.
The Chronicle of Queen Jane. (ed. J. G. Nichols, 1850)
The Diary of Henry Machyn. (ed. G. J. Nichols, 1848). Camden Society.
Genelogies of the Erles of Lecestre and Chester: U Penn Ms. Codex 1070. http://dla.library.upenn.edu/dla/medren/detail.html?id=MEDREN_4218616
Giulio Raviglio Rosso: History of the Events that Occurred in the Realm of England in Relation to the Duke of Northumberland after the Death of Edward VI. (ed. J. S. Edwards, 2011) http://www.somegreymatter.com/rossointro.htm
Second Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. (ed. 1874).
Adams, Simon (1995): Household Accounts and Disbursement Books of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, 1558–1561, 1584–1586. Cambridge University Press.
Adams, Simon (2002): Leicester and the Court: Essays in Elizabethan Politics. Manchester University Press.
Adams, Simon (2004a): ‟Dudley, Robert, earl of Leicester (1532/3–1588)“. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
Adams, Simon (2008b): “Dudley, Sir Robert (1574–1649)”. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
Adams, Simon (2004c): ‟Sidney, Mary, Lady Sidney (1530×35–1586)“. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford 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.
Chamberlin, Frederick (1939): Elizabeth and Leycester. Dodd, Mead & Co.
Collins, Arthur (ed.) (1746): Letters and Memorials of State. Volume I. T. Osborne.
de Lisle, Leanda (2013): Tudor: The Family Story. Chatto & Windus.
Higginbotham, Susan (2011): ‟How Old Was Guildford Dudley? (Beats Me).“ http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/blog/posts/how-old-was-guildford-dudley-beats-me/
Ives, Eric (2009): Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. Wiley-Blackwell.
Sil, N. P.: “Jobson, Sir Francis (b. in or before 1509, d. 1573)”. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
Wilson, Derek (1981): Sweet Robin: A Biography of Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester 1533–1588. Hamish Hamilton.