Arundel and Northumberland

Revenge. Revenge and liberty were on the mind of Henry Fitzalan, 12th Earl of Arundel, when he addressed his fellow councillors at dinner on 19 July 1553. Having left the Tower under a pretext, the group had decided to leave the sinking ship of Queen Jane’s government – her chief minister being conveniently absent in the field against Mary Tudor:

Can you imagine there is any good in him, who durst so shamelessly to embrew his hands in the blood royal? You shall see at last when he is once possessed of the kingdom, that he will make reason obey his appetite, abandoning the first, and embracing the second, from whence will grow injustice, violence, rapine, seditions, cruelty, and all kind of villainy … Now, on the contrary, if we look to the Lady Mary, we may see all goodness shining in her, from whom we can expect nothing but true justice, continual quiet, pity, mercy and mild government.

“I am only hereto induced for the common wealth and liberty of this kingdom”, Arundel explained,

I might well be thought too bold and too little regardful of myself; … to speak against the person of the Duke of Northumberland, a man of great authority … thirtsting after blood as a man of very small or no conscience at all. … Whereunto I am not drawn by any passion either of ambition, as desirous to rule, or desire of revenge, albeit he most unjustly kept me a prisoner almost a year, practising my death by many wicked devices.1

So, what had gone wrong between the two men (and why was the earl still alive?)

Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, in the guise of a Roman emperor

Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, in Roman emperor fancy dress

Having become Lord Chamberlain in the last year of Henry VIII, Arundel’s position had all but been usurped by Sir Michael Stanhope, the Lord Protector’s brother-in-law, in the next reign.2 His colleague, Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, had lost his office of Lord Chancellor, and while John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, had been the protector’s friend, he too was disillusioned; by the Duke of Somerset’s increasing aloofness and his mismanagement of the 1549 rebellions.

Thus, in October 1549, Arundel and Southampton were joined by Warwick in a coup which ousted the Lord Protector from his office. Within weeks there were cracks in the alliance, though, and notwithstanding all three men pleading illness during much of November and December,3 a new conspiracy was rife.

Arundel had been busy examining the fallen protector in the Tower “concerning his treasons in his government”: Alas it transpired, according to Somerset, “that they were done from article to article by the advice, consent, and counsel of the Earl of Warwick”. Southampton – “being hot to be revenged of them both” – lost no time and

said to my lords in commission, I thought ever we should find them traitors both; and both is worthy to die for by my advice; my Lord of Arundel in like manner gave his consent that they were both worthy to die; and concluded there that the day of execution of the lord protector, the earl of Warwick should be sent to the Tower and have as he deserved.

One witness to this meeting, however, William Paulet (soon to be Earl of Winchester), immediately went to Warwick and warned him of the plot. Dudley’s reaction was to invite his enemies to his house,

and all the council coming to Holborn Place where the earl of Warwick lay sick … my Lord Wriothesley began to declare how worthy the lord protector was to die and for how many high treasons; the earl of Warwick hearing his own condemnation to approach, with a warlike visage and a long fachell [sword] by his side laid his hand thereof and said; my lord, you seek his blood and he that seeketh his blood would have mine also; upon his great earnestness and sound speeches being so well assisted, put all the rest to silence.4

Within a few weeks, Warwick consolidated his power by placing his “great friends about the king” and packing the privy council so that there was a balance between conservative and evangelical councillors.5 The Earls of Southampton and Arundel (conservatives as long as convenient6) were dismissed from the body; Arundel was also deprived of his office of Lord Chamberlain, “commanded to leave away his staff”, thus losing his privileged access to the king. A contemporary correspondent, Richard Scudamore, informed his friend that

what is laid to their charge is not openly known, but some imagineth that they went about the subversion of religion, and where there were bolts on the doors of the king’s highness privy chamber the Earl of Arundel caused divers of them to be taken away. What he meant thereby I know not, but his answer was therein to Sir Andrew Dudley coming to him at the striking of the bolts that he would not tarry at other men’s pleasure to come to the king’s chamber.

While Arundel and Southampton were commanded to keep to their palaces and later to their “countries”, the Duke of Somerset’s rehabilitation made great progress. The plot against himself had convinced Warwick that it would be better to work his erstwhile friend’s release, and Dudley “bent himself all he could for his life”.7 There were even expectations and rumours that Somerset would regain the title of Lord Protector (only just abolished by parliament), but the new ruler was undoubtedly the Earl of Warwick. During the spring Somerset was received back into the privy council and the privy chamber; now without a major office, he was still the senior peer of the realm, as well as the richest.

On 3 June 1550 Warwick’s eldest son married Somerset’s eldest daughter. Alas, from the start the duke was not really committed to this alliance, Somerset hoping somewhat vaguely to remove his supplanter with the help of popular support and parliament. Warwick accordingly avoided to recall parliament, but this he could not do indefinitely.8 And so, in October 1551, he decided to strike. Days after Warwick’s elevation to the dukedom of Northumberland rumours were rife of Somerset’s arrest, an event which occurred after he dined at court on 16 October. The ensuing swoop landed also the Earl of Arundel in the Tower.

Arundel had been perhaps the most active member in Somerset’s circle of malcontents.9 He admitted to repeatedly having had “talk and communication” with the duke regarding the “apprehending” of the Earl of Warwick; Somerset confirmed this when he stated that he had “contemplated” Dudley’s arrest, saying that he had had no intention to kill his rival, only to have spoken about it.10 It further transpired that they had planned to arrest Warwick at a banquet before convening parliament in order to “set everything … right” – since “the kingdom had been very badly governed”.11 For Somerset at least, whose own rule had recently ended in total failure, this was a remarkable plan.

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. The Earl of Arundel tried hard to topple him.

Somerset’s execution took place on 22 January 1552, Northumberland later confessing to have it ‟falsely procured“. He certainly could also have procured Arundel’s death, had he wished so; as it was the earl escaped with 13 months in prison. And he was fined, with £4,000 on his release from the Tower in December 1552 (to be paid in yearly instalments of £666). In February 1553, King Edward caught a serious cold and there was a grandiose reception of the Lady Mary, to reassure her of her place in the succession. The Earl of Arundel and his wife participated alongside Northumberland and his duchess, with many other nobles, but only on 10 May was his fine reduced to £3,221.12 This was a common enough procedure, as such fines were virtually never paid in full, if at all.

During the next month it became painfully clear that the king was dying and Northumberland seriously needed to look for support. On 21 June, days after the succession had been settled according to Edward’s wishes, Arundel was readmitted to the council and his fine cancelled and remitted. On that very day Arundel signed the document declaring Jane Grey the heir to the throne, as did most peers of the realm.13 Due to his marriages, Arundel was related to Jane and technically her uncle; on the other hand, he was likely to welcome Mary’s accession for personal reasons.

Edward having died on 6 July, by 14 July Northumberland was obliged to leave his London colleagues, and his misgivings, behind in order to confront Mary in East Anglia. Before he went,

as the duke came through the council chamber, he took his leave of the Earl of Arundel, who prayed God be with his grace; saying he was very sorry it was not his chance to go with him and bear him company, in whose presence he could find in his heart to spend his blood, even at his foot. Then my lord of Arundel took also my lord’s boy Thomas Lovell by the hand, and said, “Farewell, gentle Thomas, with all my heart.”14

Within five days he had forgotten those words and achieved the council’s defection to Mary by his impressive speech, the message of which was underlined by the Earl of Pembroke’s drawn sword. Next, Arundel rode to Mary at Framlingham to bring her the good news. The new queen at once sent him to arrest the Duke of Northumberland, who was awaiting his fate at Cambridge. In the morning of 21 July

came the Earl of Arundel, who had been with the queen, to the duke into his chamber; and when the duke knew thereof he came out to meet him; and as soon as ever he saw the Earl of Arundel he fell down on his knees and desired him to be good to him, for the love of God. “And consider (saith he) I have done nothing but by the consents of you and all the whole council.” “My lord (quod he), I am sent hither by the queen’s majesty, and in her name I do arrest you.” “And I obey it, my lord (quod he), and I beseech you, my lord of Arundel (quod the duke), use mercy towards me, knowing the case as it is.” “My lord (quod the earl), ye should have sought for mercy sooner; I must do according to my commandment.” And therewith he committed the charge of him to diverse of the guard and gentlemen that stood by. And so the duke continued walking up and down in the outer chamber almost two hours; and once or twice he would have gone to the bedchamber about some business, but he could not be suffered. Then was Tom and Coxe from him.

At last the duke, looking through the window, spied the earl of Arundel pass by; then he called to him, and said, “My lord of Arundell; my lord, I pray a word with you.” “What would ye have, my lord?” said he. “I beseech your lordship”, quod he, “for the love of God, let me have Coxe, one of my chamber, to wait on me.” “You shall have Tom and your boy”, quod the earl of Arundell. “Alas, my lord!” quod the duke, “what stead can a boy do me? I pray you let me have Coxe”; and so both Tom and Coxe were with him.15

The Earl of Arundel had also the honour and satisfaction to escort the fallen duke to the Tower of London on 25 July 1553. As they rode through the City of London, Arundel told Northumberland, whom he treated “worshyppfully as he … deservyd”, to remove his cap and his conspicuous red cloak; he wished to deliver his prisoner safely, unharmed by the angry mob.

The two men met again on 18 August, at Westminster Hall, for Northumberland’s trial. The Duke of Norfolk presided, Arundel assisting him on the bench. On the eve of his execution, Northumberland wrote a letter to Arundel, asking him to intercede for his life. A great piece of writing, this letter is usually dismissed as “abject” or “pathetic”, but above all it is very moving.16 Historians have wondered why John Dudley chose to address the Earl of Arundel, a man on whose sympathy he could hardly count. Arundel was well-placed to intervene with the queen, though, and on a more personal level Northumberland may have believed the earl owed him some consideration; after all, while Arundel had twice plotted Dudley’s “removal”, Northumberland had never sought Arundel’s life.

Honourable lord, and in this my distress my especial refuge; most woeful was the news I received this evening by Mr. Lieutenant, that I must prepare myself against tomorrow to receive my deadly stroke. Alas my good lord, is my crime so heynous as no redemption but my blood can wash away the spots therof? An old proverb there is and that most true that a living dog is better than a dead lion. O that it would please her good grace to give me life, yea, the life of a dog, that I might live and kiss her feet, and spend both life and all I have in her honourable service, as I have the best part already under her worthy brother and her most glorious father. O that her mercy were such as she would consider how little profit my dead and dismembered body can bring her, but how great and glorious an honour it will be in all posterity when the report shall be that so gracious and mighty a queen had granted life to so miserable and penitent an object. Your honourable usage and promises to me since these my troubles have made me bold to challenge this kindness at your hands. Pardon me if I have done amiss therein and spare not I pray your bended knee for me in this distress, ye God of heaven it may be will requite it one day on you and yours. And if my life be lengthened by your mediacion and my good Lord Chancellor’s (to whom I have also sent my blurred letters) I will vow it to be spent at your honourable feet. O my good lord remember how sweet life is, and how bitter ye contrary. Spare not your speech and pains for God I hope hath not shut out all hope of comfort from me in that gracious, Princely and womanlike heart; but that as the doleful news of death hath wounded to death both my soul and body, so that comfortable news of life shall be as a new resurrection to my woeful heart. But if no remedy can be found, either by imprisonment or confiscation, Banishment and the like, I can say no more but God give me patience to endure and a heart to forgive the whole world.

Once your fellow and loving companion, but now
worthy of no name but wretchedness and misery,


See also:
Arundel and Leicester

1 Nichols 1833 pp. 119, 120
2 Lock 2004
3 Beer 1973 p. 99
4 Adams, Archer, Bernard 2003 pp. 135, 136
5 Adams, Archer, Bernard 2003 pp. 135 – 136
6 Lock 2004
7 Adams, Archer, Bernard 2003 p. 135
8 Hoak 1976 pp. 74 – 75
9 Loades 2004 p. 108
10 Hoak 1976 p. 75; Loades 2004 p. 110
11 Hoak 1976 p. 75
12 Lock 2004; Ives 2009 p. 94; Loades 1996 p. 262
13 Ives 2009 pp. 161 – 162
14 Chronicle of Queen Jane p. 7
15 Chronicle of Queen Jane pp. 10 – 11
16 Loades 2008

Chronicle of the Greyfriars of London. (ed. J. G. Nichols, 1852). Camden Society.

The Chronicle of Queen Jane and Two Years of Queen Mary. (ed. J. G. Nichols, 1850). Camden Society.

Adams, Simon; Archer, Ian; Bernard, G. W. (eds.) (2003): ‟Certayne Brife Notes of the Controversy betwene the dukes of Somerset and Nor[t]humberland“ in: Ian Archer (ed.): Religion, Politics, and Society in Sixteenth-Century England. 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.

Brigden, Susan (1990): “The Letters of Richard Scudamore to Sir Philip Hoby, September 1549 – March 1555”. Camden Miscellany. Volume XXX. Royal Historical Society.

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

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.

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

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

Loades, David (2012): The Tudors: History of a Dynasty. Continuum.

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

Nichols, J. G. (1833). “Life of the last Fitz-Alan, earl of Arundel”. Gentlemen’s Magazine. Vol. 103/2. (1833).

About Christine Hartweg

Hi, I'm the author of "Amy Robsart: A Life and Its End" and "John Dudley: The Life of Lady Jane Grey's Father-in-Law". I blog at
This entry was posted in 1553, friends & foes, John Dudley, letters and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Arundel and Northumberland

  1. Princess of Eboli History Masquerade says:

    Reblogged this on Princess of Eboli and commented:
    Hello: this is a great post!!!!!!

  2. bluffkinghal says:

    That last letter is so poignant. I don’t understand why people think historical people should have died stoically. It’s perfectly fine to plead for your life, it’s the only one you’ll ever have!

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