Tag Archives: Duke of Northumberland

Amy Robsart

ward-edward-matthew-1816-1879-leicester-and-amy-robsart-at-cumnor-hall-1866.jpgI can only conclude that I’m having a phase of unfortunate young women on the History Jar at the moment – and have made a mental note to be more grateful that I was born when and where I was!

Amy was the daughter of Sir John Robsart of  Stanfield Hall near Wymondham in Norfolk.  By a convoluted family link his wife was the sister-in-law of Robert Kett’s brother.  Normally I wouldn’t bother with the intricacies of such a tenuous link but the fact that Elizabeth Scott, Amy’s mother had once been married to Roger Appleyard, a family with close links across a couple of generations to the Kett family is perhaps a small part of the reason why after the Battle of Mousehold Heath near Norwich in 1549 that John Dudley, then earl of Warwick visited the Robsarts along with his teenage son Robert. I should note that a more important reason was the fact that Robsart was a part of the Norfolk gentry and had served as Sheriff of Norfolk.

The conventional story is that Robert and Amy fell in love – a case of marry in haste and repent at leisure for both halves of the couple. Certainly William Cecil who was a guest at the marriage which took place in 1550 was most disapproving of the alliance but in reality it was an opportunity for John Dudley to extend his circle of influence in Norfolk and to provide an inheritance for one of his younger sons – at that stage in proceedings Elizabeth Tudor was the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII rather than queen of England.

The pair married on the 5th or the 4th of June 1550 at Sheen in Richmond.  The bride was not yet eighteen but neither was the groom – which is perhaps the reason why Cecil described it as a “carnal match.” A more exalted guest was the king.  Edward VI had come to see one of his childhood friends married. Another guest was Elizabeth who was purported to have said to her friend Robert Dudley in 1540 after the execution of her step-mother Katherine Howard that she would never marry.

Edward VI noted the marriage in his diary – S. Robert dudely, third sonne to th erle of warwic married S. Jon Robsartes daughter after wich marriage ther were certain Gentlemen that did strive to who shuld first take away a goses heade wich was hanged alive on tow crose postes. Ther was tilting and tourney on foot on the 5th, and on the 6th he removed to Greenwich.

It should be noted that Robert was not the third son he was the fifth son.

Initially the pair lived at Ely Place, the former Bishop of Ely’s residence and now the Dudley’s London home or at Somerset House where Dudley had been appointed in 1553 as its custodian. The couple were also provided with a home, Hemsby, near Yarmouth by John Dudley. Robsart amended his will to accommodate Robert – he also agreed to give Robert £20.00 per year.   So if it was a love match, which it appears to have been, it was accompanied by the usual exchange of property and both fathers might have felt as though they had made a gain – Robert Dudley might have been a penniless younger son but at that time his father was the most important man in the land next to the king so it is easy to see where Robsart might have felt that he had made a good deal.

The newly married pair settled in Norfolk and Dudley began to play the role of Norfolk gentleman in terms of serving as JP and in 1551 as MP but as John Dudley’s grip on power tightened the couple returned to London – Robert was a courtier when all was said and done.

In May 1553 the young couple found that their lives had become part of a Royal Crisis.  From 10 May 1553 until 19 May 1553 Lady Jane Grey was queen of England.  Robert’s younger brother, Guildford, sulked because his wife, Lady Jane, would not make him king and John Dudley discovered that the Commons were not with him or Sir Henry Grey in their planned coup. On the 22 January 1554 Robert was sentenced as a traitor but Amy was allowed to visit him in the Tower. Royal accounts also reveal that the new queen provided clothing for Dudley’s wife.

The problem for Amy was that her husband – traitor or not- was an ambitious Dudley.   In the aftermath of Queen Mary’s accession to the throne it was judged expedient that the Dudley brothers be sent overseas to serve in Philip’s military campaigns.  In short, Amy gained a husband who was interested in much more than his wife and the life of a country gentleman.  Not only that but as an attainted traitor the property which both fathers had settled upon the pair reverted to the Crown.  Robert and Amy were penniless.  Amy’s father had died in 1554 so it fell to their respective mothers to provide for them.  Jane Guildford, Robert’s mother died in January 1555 and a property was cobbled together on the understanding that Robert would pay his mother’s debts and give his sisters an annuity. If Amy thought that married wife had turned out differently from what she might have expected things were only about to get worse when in 1558, Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne – and Amy became a decided inconvenience.

There will be more, after all the death of Amy Robsart caused a scandal across Europe and her death still sells papers and books.  Did she fall or was she pushed?  And if she was pushed who did it – Dudley, Elizabeth or Dudley’s wiley political adversary William Cecil. I have a week to gather primary sources!

Skidmore, Chris. (2010) Death and the Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the fate of Amy Robsart


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England’s Forgotten Queen – the use of wills.

lady-jane-greyHow many of you watched Helen Castor’s new three part series on Lady Jane Grey last night entitled England’s forgotten queen?  Its on BBC4 at 9.00pm on Tuesday evening.  I’m sure its on the Iplayer as well by now.

I usually think of Helen Castor in connection with the Wars of the Roses and I know that her history is thoroughly researched.  I’d have to say that I enjoyed her outline of events as well as the discussions about primary sources. I loved the fact that Lady Jane Grey was the first queen proclaimed by printed proclamation rather than a hand written one and that it required three pages to explain how she’d landed the crown rather than Henry VIII’s daughters Mary and Elizabeth. I enjoyed the dramatisations less but that’s probably just me.

But back to Lady Jane Grey and those wills.  On 30th December 1546 Henry VIII made his final will.  He died almost a month later on the 28th January 1547.  The succession was straight forward.  Henry VIII was succeeded by his son Edward VI – though interestingly Edward V was never crowned, disappearing instead quietly in the Tower (this is not the time to start pointing fingers at who did it.  Suffice it to say the V is a ghostly imprint upon the chronology of England’s monarchy.)

1531_Henry_VIIIMaking Henry VIII’s will was probably a tad on the tricky side to draw up as it had become illegal to speak about the king’s death thirteen years before it was drawn up in 1535- verbal treason.  Normally a family tree would have been sufficient to identify who was going to inherit what but Henry’s matrimonial past was complex to put it mildly.  Parliament had passed two Succession Acts – one in 1536 and the second in 1544.  Both of them empowered Henry to nominate his heir.  There was even a proviso for the appointment of a regency council.  Henry clearly thought that being dead was no barrier to dictating the way things should happen.

The will aside from giving directions to be buried next to his “true wife” Jane Seymour in Windsor and giving money to the poor obviously launched by placing Edward on the throne.  It then ran through a variety of scenarios about who should inherit in the event of Edward’s demise without heirs.  Rather optimistically for a man of increasingly poor health he identified that any children by Queen Catherine or “any future wife” should inherit.   He then identified his daughters, both of whom had been made illegitimate by that time – first Mary the only surviving child of Catherine of Aragon and then in the event of her not surviving or having children, her sister Elizabeth the only surviving child of Anne Boleyn.  So far so straight forward and very typical of Henry to decide who was and who wasn’t legitimate based on his particular plans – or even that they could inherit even if they were illegitimate so long as Parliament ratified it.

He identifies his nieces and their families after that.  His elder sister Margaret had married James IV of Scotland but Henry’s nephew James V was already dead.  That just left his great niece the infant Mary Queen of Scots.  Really, because she was descended from the eldest sister the little queen should have been identified next in Henry’s will but aside from being Scottish and the daughter of Marie de Guise there was the small matter that the Scots hadn’t taken kindly to the proposed marriage of their little queen to Edward.  There was also the issue that in Scotland Cardinal Beaton  had been murdered and the pro-French were becoming increasingly important (for the time being at any rate.) In any event Henry ignored the senior female line of the Tudor family tree and identified  the heirs of his younger sister Mary who had married Charles Brandon (duke of Suffolk).  Mary died in 1533 aged just thirty-seven.  She did however have two surviving daughters, Frances and Eleanor.  Frances was married to Henry Grey the Marquess of Dorset. They had three daughters Jane, Katherine and Mary.  Henry’s will went on to say that after the heirs of Frances that the heirs of Eleanor married to Henry Clifford earl of Cumberland would be by default his rightful heirs.

As Susannah Lipscomb observes Henry’s will is an intriguing document and its easy to see why it ended up being so roundly contested.  You have to admire Henry’s consideration of the possible scenarios and his plans for each eventuality.  It’s interesting that Frances wasn’t identified as a contender for the crown only her heirs.  What was it about Frances that Henry didn’t like?  Lipscomb observes that her husband Henry Grey wasn’t on the list that Henry VIII proposed as Edward VI’s councillors so it may simply have been that he didn’t like the man very much.

Unfortunately for Henry soon after his death the idea of a regency council was rather badly mauled by Edward VI’s Seymour uncles and by the time young Edward VI lay dying it was the duke of Northumberland who was the power behind the throne.

Henry VIII had stipulated that his daughters Mary and Elizabeth had to accept the order of succession on pain of their exclusion from the succession.  What Henry hadn’t accounted for was that his son Edward would write his own will.  A perusal of  Edward’s will was one of the highlights of last night’s programme on Lady Jane Grey.  It revealed poor penmanship and a last minute change of plan.  Logically if one king could leave a kingdom in his will as though it was a personal possession with the connivance of Parliament and its two supporting acts – it isn’t such a great leap that another king should do exactly the same.

edward-smEdward’s “devise” differed from his father’s in that he excluded Mary – she was just far too Catholic for devoutly Protestant Edward.  He also excluded Elizabeth- because she was legally illegitimate and because by that time, if we’re going to be cynical about it, John Dudley duke of Northumberland had acquired Lady Jane Grey as a daughter-in-law and wanted to remain in charge.  In excluding Mary Queen of Scots young Edward was simply following his father’s will. At first, as Castor revealed last night, the will only considered the possibility of male heirs – either his own or those of the Grey sisters.  As his health unravelled the amendment was made in two words which made Lady Jane Grey his heir; L’ Janes heires masles,” turned into “the L’ Jane and her heires masles.”  Simple really – though it did rely on Mary and Elizabeth accepting the turn of events or being rounded up sooner rather than later.

John_Dudley_(Knole,_Kent)Ignoring the  problem of Henry VIII’s daughters there was the small mater of Parliament.  The Third Succession Act of 1544 left Mary and Elizabeth illegitimate but placed them in line for the Crown.  Henry VIII’s will is backed up by Parliament.  It is not simply a personal document.  It is held up on the shoulders of law.  Edward’s on the other hand assumes that because one king has willed his kingdom to his heirs that another could do the same.  The problem for the duke of Northumberland was that Edward did not live long enough for the legal process to be fulfilled by an act of Parliament.

Lipscomb, Suzannah. (2015) The King is Dead: The Last Will and Testament of Henry VIII

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Lady Margaret Stanley, Countess of Derby

LadyMargaretCliffordHenry VIII’s will specified the order in which his relations were to inherit the throne. He began with his own children and then progressed to his nieces – the English ones descended from Princess Mary Tudor, once married to Louis XII of France, then to Charles Brandon, were identified as having a superior claim to the descendants of Margaret Tudor. Mary was actually the third daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York whilst Margaret was the first daughter born to the new dynasty – so technically speaking Henry VIII played fast and loose with the order of inheritance in any event…possibly the least of his worries. However, the 1544 Act of Parliament enshrined the whole thing in law and presumably no one liked to mention the discrepancy to Henry.

To recap – Frances and Eleanor Brandon were the only surviving children of Mary and Charles. There had been two little boys both called, somewhat confusingly, Henry Brandon. The older boy lived long enough to become Earl of Lincoln.  The younger boy was born in 1516 and died in 1522. The second Henry Brandon was born in 1523. He had been destined to marry Katherine Willoughby but after he and his mother died, the bereft duke of married his young ward in 1534.

Frances survived to adulthood, married Henry Grey and had three daughters – Lady Jane Grey, Lady Katherine Grey and Lady Mary Grey.  Grey managed to get himself executed in 1554. Frances swiftly married her master of horse, Adrian Stokes, and in marrying a commoner took herself out of the equation.

When Elizabeth I came to the throne her heir presumptive were in turn Katherine and Mary Grey. After they died, and Elizabeth without children of her own not to mention a coyness when it came to naming successors, it was inevitable that Henry’s will should be looked at once again.

Eleanor Brandon, Frances’ younger sister, died in 1547. She was predeceased by her two sons, Henry and Charles, who had died in infancy. Lady Margaret Clifford was the only surviving daughter of Henry Clifford, 2nd Earl of Cumberland  and Lady Eleanor Brandon.

She was the great granddaughter of Henry VII and according to Henry VIII’s will if anything happened to Elizabeth she would become queen of England. She therefore became Elizabeth’s heir presumptive. It was not a good place to be.

Before then she’d managed to avoid becoming a pawn in the game of crowns through her father’s forethought and then through her own lack of popularity. In 1553 the Duke of Northumberland had proposed to marry her to either his son, Guildford, or his brother, Sir Andrew Dudley, but Cumberland refused the match on his daughter’s behalf and took no part in the attempt to make Lady Jane Grey queen (sensible man).

Instead, Margaret was married with Queen Mary’s blessing in Westminster Abbey in February 1555 to Henry Stanley, Lord Strange. He was descended from the Woodvilles, Howards, Nevilles and a certain Thomas Stanley who happened to be married to Margaret Beaufort and who sat around on hillsides during key battles of the Wars of the Roses waiting to see how it would all pan out – landing the title Earl of Derby for his pains.

By 1557 Margaret was recorded as saying that Lady Jane Grey’s treason had excluded her sisters, Catherine and Mary Grey, from the succession, thus making Margaret, Queen Mary’s heiress presumptive…yes I know there was Elizabeth to take into consideration but Mary’s relationship with her sister was fraught by 1557.  Mary was fond of stating that Elizabeth had the look of lute player Mark Smeaton.  There was also the fact that Elizabeth was notably not Catholic whereas Margaret was.

Let’s just say that Lord and Lady Strange weren’t terribly popular so there wasn’t a rush of aristocratic types to support her claim for the throne.

Margaret had to settle for being a lady at court.  Poets dedicated their works to her and she spent huge sums of money. She spent so much money that she had to borrow from her own lady-in-waiting. Lord Strange had to sell land to settle her debts which probably didn’t help their relationship. By 1578 her creditors were hounding her in the streets of London – by that time she was the Countess of Derby and Henry had gone off to live with his mistress.

Unfortunately it was at about that time she became Elizabeth I’s heir presumptive.  It turned out that whilst Elizabeth could tolerate her cousin getting the odd dedication from artistic types she didn’t much like her sizing up the throne and crown.

Margaret had an interest in the sciences that she’d inherited from her father. She enjoyed dabbling in alchemy and astrology. In 1578 she was accused of employing a “magician,” named Dr. Randall, to cast spells to discover how long Queen Elizabeth would live. No one was interested in Margaret’s protests that Randall was a doctor dealing with her rheumatism. According to one source, Randall was hanged and Margaret was banished from court and spent the rest of her life, eighteen years in all, under house arrest in her home at Isleworth.


Interestingly she had two sons who survived to adulthood.  Both of them would become Earls of Derby in their turn: Ferdinando Stanley, 5th Earl of Derby (c. 1559 – 16 April, 1594) and William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby (c. 1561 – 29 September 1642).

Yes – I know that’s two adult English males with Tudor blood…albeit Stanleys. More on Ferdinado anon.





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Eleanor Brandon, Countess of Cumberland…

eleanor brandon.jpgIt is sometimes easy to forget that Henry VIII had more than one English niece who featured in his will.  Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor, married Charles Brandon who was elevated to Duke of Suffolk.  They had two children who survived childhood, Frances and Eleanor. I’ve posted about Eleanor before.  Double click here to open the post in a new window. This post is by way of a precursor to a post about Lady Margaret Stanley (no, not Henry VII’s mother better known to history as Margaret Beaufort but her great-granddaughter born Lady Margaret Clifford.)

Frances Brandon, the elder of the two girls, married Henry Grey and bore three children who survived to adulthood: Lady Jane Grey, Lady Catherine Grey and Lady Mary Grey.  All three of her daughters were blighted by their Tudor blood and claim to the throne. Lady Jane Grey or Dudley as she was by then was executed by her cousin Queen Mary whilst Catherine and Mary became in turn “heir presumptive”; each married for love and each in turn was imprisoned by their other cousin Elizabeth I, one starved to death and neither was allowed to see her husband again.  The treatment of the Grey girls was not Elizabeth’s finest hour.  Lady Mary died on the 20 May 1578.

The role of heir presumptive was then passed to Lady Margaret Stanley, Countess of Derby.  Her claim came through her mother – Eleanor Brandon.  Needless to say Lady Margaret soon found herself under house arrest just as her two cousins had done.  She didn’t make the mistake of marrying for love – she and her husband were long married by then and estranged.  No, Lady Margaret was something of an alchemist and a follower of astrology – she had apparently wanted to know what the chances of Cousin Lizzie popping her clogs might have been.

So back to Eleanor Brandon – she was born some time between 1518 and 1521 meaning that when she died in 1547 she was at most twenty-eight.  Henry VIII was a guest when Eleanor married her husband in 1535.  Henry Clifford, the First Earl of Cumberland and Eleanor’s father-in-law  was determined to make his home fit for a princess and promptly extended Skipton Castle, adding an octagonal tower and long gallery to make it more pleasant. The Cliffords had sold off some of their estates to pay for the rebuilding work and also to pay for the wedding. It comes as something of a surprise to discover that the young couple spent much of their early married life at Brougham Castle.

Eleanor turns up the following year in the capacity of chief mourner at Katherine of Aragon’s funeral in Peterborough Cathedral. Interestingly Frances Brandon didn’t fill the roll – perhaps it was because Frances was pregnant at the time.That same year Eleanor was rescued from the Pilgrims of the Pilgrimage of Grace by Christopher Aske and taken to safety rather than being turned into a hostage for Lord Clifford’s co-operation. She ended up holed up in Skipton Castle. Eleanor appears to have suffered from ill health for quite some time after this but by 1546 she is listed in the household of Queen Katherine Parr – who had experienced her own difficulties at the time of the Pilgrimage of Grace as Lady Latimer.

Henry VIII died at the beginning of 1547, his niece died at the end of autumn the same year – in November (or possibly September depending on which source you read).  Henry Clifford, by now the second earl, went into a bit of a decline, burying his wife in Skipton Church where he’d buried his two infant sons. Ann Clifford, in her family history went on to explain:

…he fell into an extream sickness, of which he was at length laid out for a dead man, upon a table, & covered with a hearse of velvet; but some of his men that were then very carefull about him perceiveing some little signs of life in him, did apply hot cordials inwardly & outwardly unto him, which brought him to life again, & so, after he was laid into his bed again, he was fain for 4 or 5 weeks after to such the milk out of a woman’s breast and only to live on that food; and after to drink asses milk, and live on that 3 or 4 months longer.

Henry Clifford recovered and married for a second time.  He also had the common good sense not to get tangled up in the plots of the Duke of Northumberland who initially tried to arrange a marriage between his own son Guildford Dudley and Lady Margaret Clifford, Eleanor’s only surviving child.

Eleanor’s father, Charles, married three times.  Eleanor’s mother Mary Tudor was his second wife. He’d previously married secretly in 1508 and had two daughters. Eleanor mentions on of her elder half sisters in the only letter that survives from her:

“Dear heart,
After my most hearty commendations, this shall be to certify you that since your departure from me I have been very sick and at this present my water is very red, whereby I suppose I have the jaundice and the ague both, for I have none abide [no appetite for] meat and I have such pains in my side and towards my back as I had at Brougham, where it began with me first. Wherefore I desire you to help me to a physician and that this bearer my bring him with him, for now in the beginning I trust I may have good remedy, and the longer it is delayed, the worse it will be. Also my sister Powys is come to me and very desirous to see you, which I trust shall be the sooner at this time, and thus Jesus send us both health.

Certainly the letter confirms Eleanor’s ill health and the reference to sister Powys is to Anne Brandon who was married to Lord Grey of Powys.


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Henry Grey, duke of Suffolk – father of Lady Jane Grey.

henry-greyHenry Grey was the great grandson of Elizabeth Woodville by her first husband Sir John Grey of Goby – and incidentally it’s pronounced ‘Grooby’. He died at the second Battle of St Albans in February 1461 leaving Elizabeth a widow with two sons.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Henry Grey’s father was the second marquis and on of Elizabeth of York’s closest relatives.  He found that his credentials were suspect under the new Tudor regime not least because of his suspected conspiracy in the Lambert Simnel affair.  What saved his bacon was his skill at jousting and his friendship with Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk.  When he died in 1530 it is perhaps not surprising that young Henry found his wardship in the hands of Brandon.  And with that knowledge it is unsurprising that he ended up married to Charles’ daughter Frances.  His links to the crown mad whim a suitable match for a girl of royal blood – Frances’ mother was, after all, Princess Mary or the French Queen as she was known during her lifetime.

Henry did what nobles did – he jousted. He gambled. He wandered around looking magnificent whilst being short of cash.  He took part in ceremonies such as Henry VIII’s funeral.

To all intents and purposes he does not appear desperately interesting, until that is he became embroiled involved with Sir Thomas Seymour at the beginning of Edward VI’s reign. Seymour convinced Henry and Frances that he could arrange a marriage between their oldest surviving child, Lady Jane Grey, and the new king, young Edward VI.  With this in mind and perhaps on account of Henry’s rather sizeable gambling debts, Henry sold the wardship of his daughter to the king’s uncle and was drawn further and further into Seymour’s web.  Whilst  Jane was at Chelsea in Katherine Parr’s household all initially seemed to be well.  Young Jane was in receipt of a first rate education and a step closer to the crown. All that can be said with the clarity of hindsight  is that Grey was either extremely ambitious and took gambling to the extreme or that he was incredibly naive to believe that any of Seymour’s schemes would work. Not only that of course but it soon became clear that Seymour was behaving inappropriately by romping with Princess Elizabeth. For reasons best known to themselves, even after they’d heard the rumours Jane’s parent allowed her to remain in Seymour’s care. She did refer to him as a beloved father and there is no evidence of any untoward behaviour on Seymour’s part.

Grey was a man of the time.  He had  Protestant sympathies. He was father to three of the potential claimants to the throne and husband of the fourth.  He was a man worth cultivating. Perhaps for this reason he was appointed to the privy council in 1549 after the fall of the duke of Somerset. He certainly started to extend his collection of lands at this time, he rounded up some of the property of the duke of Somerset when he was convicted of treason, and added to his offices. In 1551 he became a warden of the marches but didn’t really seem to know what to do.  It was something of a relief to all concerned, apart possibly from the Scots, when he handed in his notice. Even if he was fairly nondescript as a politician or a military commander his role as head of the family of female Tudors made him important in the Tudor political world so it is fairly unsurprising that Dudley made him duke of Suffolk following the death of his father-in-law and two young  half-brothers-in-law. There was also a handy little grant of £2000 a year.


Suffolk, as I shall now call him in line with his title, must have felt as though everything was falling into place when Northumberland persuaded Edward, who was seriously ill by the beginning of 1553, that it would be a good idea if his own son were to marry Lady Jane Grey and that she should be nominated heir to the throne given her protestant credentials. There was the small matter of persuading Jane that it was a good idea but it was effectively a done deal with the marriage being celebrated in May 1553 along with the nuptials of Jane’s younger sister Lady Katherine Grey to William Herbert, heir of the earl of Pembroke on the same day.  At the same time as the Grey girls acquired husbands the duke of Northumberland’s daughter, also called Katherine and not yet twelve years old, married Henry Hastings, son of  the earl of Hastings – another man with Plantagenet blood threading through his veins. Northumberland was binding his party together through promises of power and through the traditional medium of marriage.  Edward VI died on 6 July 1553.
 On the 9th July 1553 Suffolk together with the privy council declared Jane queen.  A few days later Suffolk declared Mary queen outside the Tower before tearing down the canopy of state from over his daughter’s head.  He then left her to face the music.
Somehow or the other Suffolk managed to avoid being  incarcerated in the Tower and having the key  to his cell thrown into the Thames. He was imprisoned, along with Frances, on the 27th  May 1553. After a few days he was released without charge, unlike seventeen year old Jane. She was a hostage and Mary’s pro-catholic council, featuring amongst its number men who’d made her queen, were looking for an excuse to end her life. Under those circumstances you’d have thought that Suffolk would manage to keep his head down and his nose clean.
Of course, he didn’t. Whilst Frances and their two  younger daughters returned to court where they were welcomed by Queen Mary, Suffolk having paid a fine made disgruntled noises about the prospect of a return to Catholicism.  It was for this reason that he became involved with Sir Thomas Wyatt who wished to prevent Queen Mary from marrying Philip of Spain.  Suffolk thought that as a leading gentleman of the Midlands that he could raise support for a rebellion.  He also thought that the Earl of Hastings would support him. Hastings was very busy at that particular time back tracking as fast as he could. Unfortunately  Suffolk was just about as good a rebel as he was a politician and had failed to spot that the band of nobles who’d sealed their deal with the marriages of their children were now backtracking rather rapidly – poor Katherine Grey was virtually kick rout of the Pembroke house despite the young couple having taken rather a shine to one another. The plot was betrayed by Edward Courtenay, earl of Devonshire, who also happened to have quite a lot of Plantagenet blood and who Wyatt thought would make a better royal spouse.
It wasn’t long before the Privy Council asked Suffolk to pop around for a cosy little chat.  Had he heard anything about a rebellion?  Would he take command of men in order to put the insurgents down? Suffolk panicked and scarpered home to Bradgate where the locals showed a determined line in being loyal to the Crown.  Leicester and Coventry turned him away.
Suffolk realising the game was up thought that it would be sensible to leave rather rapidly…he wasn’t terribly good at being a fugitive either. He decided that he would flee to Denmark but wasn’t quite sure about the direction he needed to take. Unsurprisingly he was softly captured and returned to the Tower where he was executed on 23rd February 1554. His actions were the excuse that Mary’s government needed to execute his daughter. Grey, attainted of treason,  went to his death grieving for his daughter who was executed along with her husband on the 12th.
It’s hard to feel any sympathy for Henry Grey. He played at the top table of Tudor politics without having any real aptitude for the game. His eldest daughter paid with her life.

Robert C. Braddock, ‘Grey, Henry, duke of Suffolk (1517–1554)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/11535, accessed 27 Feb 2017]


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John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland – traitor part two…or a game of queens

john_dudley_knole_kentThe correct title for this post should be the  succession crisis and it all occurs in 1553.  Edward VI’s health was an important affair.  These are the some of the key facts that we know:

  • Oct 1541 Edward had quartan fever (malaria) which was treated by Henry VIII’s doctor – Butts.
  • Oct 1550 – No diary entries suggest that Edward was too unwell to write.
  • 1552 – Edward caught smallpox or measles.  It is generally accepted, though not universally, that the suppression of immune system as a result of the measles or possibly smallpox that incipient TB flourished. .
  • Oct 1552- Hieronymus Cardano notes Edward short sighted and a little deaf which would suggest the measles as deafness is one of the possible side effects.
  • Dec 1552 TB evident?
  • Feb 15 1553 – Edward had a feverish cold and a violent cough

The one thing that we can be sure of is that the teenage king was not a well bunny despite having started his reign as a healthy enough nine-year-old but that by March 1553 he was forced to open Parliament in a very low key ceremony rather than with the usual pageantry. The Imperial Ambassador,  Jehan Scheyfve,  took an ever greater interest in the king’s health and it for ambassadorial reports that historians get much of their evidence for Edward’s symptoms.

Scheyfve had a rather tenuous contact at court in the form of  John Banister, a 21 year old medical student, whose father was a minor court official.  Both Scheyfve and and Italian visitor to Edward’s court report that Northumberland became so concerned about the king’s health that an elderly and unknown woman was allowed to administer unspecified potions to the king.  Unsurprisingly there were also rumours of poison, not least because in the immediate aftermath of the old woman’s visit Edward’s body, particularly his head and feet, began to swell.

Yet, when all is said and done it was not in Northumberland’s best interests to see the king off this mortal coil.  It would have been rather bad for his power base. Instead Northumberland began to look at ways of maintaining his power over a future monarchy. It can’t have been a particularly difficult job to plant some ideas in Edward’s head because Edward as a staunch Protestant wasn’t terribly keen on his catholic half-sister reversing all the changes that he and Cranmer had made by this time.  He also had a thing about legitimacy and in his family it wasn’t too difficult to cast aspersions.

Initially Edward had suggested in his will any future, as yet unborn, sons of Lady Frances Grey or even sons of her daughters: Ladies Jane, Katherine and Mary Grey.  Edward clearly did not approve of the idea of women on the throne.  Aside from being temperamentally unsuited as he pointed out when his will was ratified with Letters Patent they could run off and marry strange foreign types at which point England would be at the mercy of the whims of the aforementioned foreign types. There was also the problem of a possible civil war.  No one wanted another round of the Wars of the Roses.

At some point when Edward’s mortality became all to obvious his will was amended through a ‘devise’ which was then passed through council and by the lawyers.  All that was required was an act of Parliament to make the whole thing completely legal. Aside from cutting out his sisters on grounds of their dubious legitimacy, and dodgy faith in the case of Mary, Frances Grey had also been bypassed.  The heir to the throne was Lady Jane Grey.


Conveniently for Dudley the lady in question was his young daughter-in-law having been married off to his son Guildford with the king’s blessing in the form of a grant for clothing and jewels for Jane.  It cannot be said that Jane was so enthusiastic.


Edward died on the 6th of July.  His death was kept a secret.  Jane was moved from Syon House to the Tower in preparation for her coronation. Northumberland had secured the treasury and the capitol.  What could possibly go wrong?

There was the question of running up and isolating the Ladies Mary and Elizabeth. Elizabeth was at Hatfield – where she stayed watching events unfold from a safe distance- hardly sisterly unity but definitely demonstrating a strong sense of self-preservation.

marytudorMary had been on her way from her Suffolk estates to visit her sick brother but forewarned she turned back and avoided capture by Robert Dudley and a force of armed men.  Once she’d regained the safety of Framlingham Castle she declared herself queen and sent Thomas Hungate to London with a letter to present to the Privy Council to that effect. She fled deeper into East Anglia – to Kenninghall in Norfolk.

Meanwhile, Hungate was bundled off to the Tower for his troubles and the Privy Council tried to threaten Mary by suggesting they’d execute the likes of Gardiner if she continued to be stroppy about Edward’s wishes.  But at Kenninghall men flocked flocked to her cause, both Catholic and Protestant.

Northumberland had underestimated an English sense of fair play that had nothing to do with religion.  Mary was King Henry’s oldest daughter.  She should be queen – as a certain commercial meercat might say – simples.  There was also the fact that Northumberland wasn’t widely liked and admired by anyone very much.  The Commons resented him for the death of Somerset who was known as the ‘Good Duke’  and the regional gentry liked the conservatism represented by Mary.  The Protestants who you might have expected to rally to Northumberland distrusted him.

Undeterred by the fact that Privy Councillors started to feel unwell and make their excuses to leave London, Northumberland set out with a body of men to take on Mary.  He got to Bury St Edmunds where his men waved him good bye and went to join their lawful sovereign – Mary. Following this blow, Northumberland sent a letter to Henri II inviting him to invade England.  He promised the French that they could have Calais and Guines if only they would assist.  The letter was intercepted. It was the final straw for the Privy Council who defected as fast as they could scurry. Jane’s own father tore the canopy of state from over her head.

On July 23 1553 Northumberland surrendered in Cambridge by then it was all over.

On the 3rd August 1553 Queen Mary  entered London. Lady Jane Grey was in the Tower.  Northumberland and all his sons shared a similar view.

Inevitably Northumberland was tried for treason.  He argued that he had only done Edward VI’s bidding.  Sadly for him, Edward’s will wasn’t legal.  There had been no act of Parliament.  It was no good arguing that more than two hundred men had signed up to the Letters Patent that validated the will nor that the Privy Council had all sworn allegiance to Queen Jane.

The writing was on the wall.  Dudley promptly became a Catholic – he’d been associated with the reforming party since the rise of Anne Boleyn, his role in the investigation into Katherine Howard’s behaviour had confirmed it.  He was a leading player in a government that had done away with many of the rites of Catholicism.  Lady Jane Grey was not amused – she declared that Northumberland was afraid to die.

It didn’t make any difference.  Dudley, like his father before him, was executed on 22 August 1553. Two of his sons would follow him to the block.  His oldest son, John Dudley, was spared in 1553 because like his father he turned to catholicism. Unfortunately Wyatt’s rebellion saw an end to that and he was executed in 1554. Guildford Dudley, Lady Jane’s unwanted husband suffered a similar fate along with his wife.

Ambrose, who became the third earl of Warwick following his brother’s demise was condemned to death as well but he got out a of tight fix  thanks to his mother and brother-in-law who asked virtually anyone who would listen to them at court for their release. He went off to fight for Philip of Spain when Mary relented enough to release him from custody. Robert Dudley famously became Queen Elizabeth I’s favourite. Henry Dudley was the youngest of the Dudley sons.  Like his brothers he was condemned as a traitor but like Ambrose he became a soldier for Philip of Spain.  He was killed at the Battle of St Quentin in 1557.

It is tempting to think that perhaps the Duke of Northumberland, who is known to have had a close and loving relationship with all his children, turned to catholicism not just because he wanted to live but because he wanted to save his sons. Of course, that is speculation and speculation is not history.

History has not been terribly kind to Dudley.  If Somerset is the ‘Good Duke’ then Northumberland is the nasty one. If Somerset was autocratically virtuous then Northumberland is just plain conniving. His last minute change of faith didn’t help matters – was it genuine or was it a ploy?  Did he do Edward VI’s bidding – a loyal servant of the crown?  Or was he determined to keep the power that he wielded? Was he yet another wicked uncle?  People tend not to be motivated by one thing or the other perhaps it was a mixture of factors that caused him to try and put Lady Jane Grey on the throne. The only thing that we can be sure of is that he miscalculated very badly in July 1553.





Filed under Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

John Dudley, Lord Lisle, earl of Warwick, duke of Northumberland…traitor. Part one: rise to power

John_Dudley_(Knole,_Kent).jpgJohn Dudley, son of an executed traitor suffered the same fate as his father in 1554 when he failed to place his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey on the throne. He’d risen to the highest place in the country and become the first non-royal duke in the land.

John’s father Edmund was one of Henry VII’s key administrators and tax collectors.  So when John was born in 1504 it looked as thought the family was on the rise.  Five years later John’s world came crashing down when his father along with Richard Empson became Henry VIII’s sacrificial offerings to the people of England.  On the 17th August 1510 having been arrested and tried for treason the chief instruments of Henry VII’s hated financial policies were executed.


The Duke of Rutland Collection- Empson and Dudley with King Henry VII

John’s mother Elizabeth, (nee Grey- the niece of Elizabeth Woodville through Woodville’s first marriage) remarried the following year.  Her new husband was Arthur Plantagenet who became Lord Lisle as a consequence.  Arthur has appeared on the History Jar before. He was an illegitimate son of Edward IV who lived in Elizabeth of York’s household and appears to have been raised as a companion to young Prince Henry. Edmund Dudley’s lands were handed over to Arthur. The year after that the taint of treason was removed from young John when Edmund’s attainder for treason was erased – so presumably some lands went back to John but history’s account books have been slightly blurred round the edges. This together with Dudley’s connections meant that he was all set for a career at court under the guardianship of Lord Guildford who promptly married John off to his own daughter Jane. John Dudley would not acquire the title of Lord Lisle until the death of his step-father who by that time would have been accused of treason and imprisoned himself.

Dudley surfaces on the margins of events though out the period and by 1532 had aligned himself with Thomas Cromwell. He was not terribly important but he was gaining land around the country and no one could dispute his loyalty to the king. He begins to come to the fore in 1541 when he worked with Archbishop Cranmer to find out exactly what Katherine Howard had been up to and with whom.

From this point onwards Lord Lisle can be seen rising in prominence.  He even became warden of the Scottish marches – an all encompassing appointment along the English side of the border.  It was Dudley who had to deal with the aftermath of the Battle of Solway Moss and the quarrelling Scottish council as well as having to communicate that his master wished for the baby queen of Scots to marry Prince Edward. By 1544 his job had changed and rather than being a politician in soldiers clothing he’d become an admiral, a post that he continued to hold until the ascent of King Edward VI.

He was actually the admiral in charge of Henry VIII’s navy when the flagship the Mary Rose somewhat embarrassingly sank. His role as politician, admiral and diplomat led to him rising in Henry’s estimation so that by the time Henry made his will it could be said of Dudley that he was in the right place at the right time. He also benefited from Henry’s will to the tune of £500.  He was also of the reforming religious persuasion.  It probably also helped that not only had he once leant Sir Edward Seymour, the oldest of the new king’s uncles, money but he was also very good friends with the man who now styled himself Lord Protector.


John now found himself promoted to Lord Chamberlain and the Earl of Warwick whilst Sir Edward Seymour not content with being Lord Protector also became the Duke of Somerset. This obviously meant that he had to hand in his admiral’s hat which was, in turn, dished out to Edward VI’s other uncle Sir Thomas Seymour – who wasn’t particularly grateful for the role but seems to have got his own back by marrying the dowager queen Katherine Parr having asked first of all to marry Princess Mary and when that request was turned down the Princess Elizabeth.

At this stage in proceedings Edward Seymour and John Dudley were the best of friends. They even went on a jolly little outing to Scotland together, along with an army, when Somerset decided to try and force the Scots into accepting a marriage between Mary Queen of Scots and King Edward. The reality was that Seymour’s foreign policy in regards to the Scottish borders was untenable. Men and fortifications required money that England did not have.  Even worse the french who had been quiet at the on-set of Edward’s reign now acquired a young and belligerent king in the form of Henri II. Somerset became the bone between two dogs as he sought to control his extended northern borders and hang on to England’s continental lands in the form of Calais and Guines.

At home things weren’t too brilliant for Somerset either. His brother was found guilty of treason  and executed having spent more time canoodling with Princess Elizabeth than he ought and then hatching a plot to remove the king from his brother’s clutches which ended in him shooting the king’s favourite dog.   Currency values continued to plummet. Inflation rocketed and not everyone was terribly happy about Cranmer’s reforms to the Church which now became decidedly protestant in tone. In the months that followed his brother’s execution Somerset grew grumpy and autocratic.  He became suspicious of everyone and refused to listen to the council.   Dudley was conveniently on the margins of all of this having been given the Welsh marches to govern.

In 1549 the country exploded into civil unrest.  In Cornwall the so-called Prayer Book Rebellion kicked off whilst in East Anglia the locals led by Robert Kett became rather rowdy on the subject of enclosure. Whatever else might be said of Somerset he did listen to the Commons and he ordered that common land that had been fenced off should be removed.  Unfortunately this resulted in riots across the region as locals took the removal of hedges and fences in to their own hands.  Ultimately Norwich, the second city in England at the time, found itself under siege.  Somerset was unable to quell the trouble and this did not go down well with the nobility – who understandably felt a bit nervous about the hoi polloi running around with sharp implements.

Sir William Parr had been sent off with a very small army to see Kett and his happy band off but he didn’t have enough men to convince them to leave.  It was Dudley who put the East Anglians firmly in their place by killing some 2000 of them but the aftermath was far less bloodthirsty than might have been expected Would now be a good time to mention that Kett was John Dudley’s tenant? Not that it saved him from being found guilty and hanged from the castle walls in Norwich.  He had been offered clemency if only he would ask for a pardon but Kett insisted that he had nothing to ask pardon for.

The thing was that Dudley was fed up with Somerset. He didn’t disband his army and he found himself buddying up with the catholic Earls of Arundel and Southampton. There were many conversations in darkened corners.  The privy council who had been marginalised by Somerset came on board with the idea that Somerset’s day was done.

Somerset found out what was going on and issued a proclamation asking the ordinary people to defend the young king – and the Lord Protector- against a vile plot.  This wasn’t terribly clever as once again the “Good Duke” was seen to be favouring the unwashed masses rather than the great and the good. Then Somerset moved Edward from Hampton Court to Windsor.  It should also be added at this point that Uncle Edward Seymour wasn’t the king’s favourite uncle – Seymour kept his royal nephew short of cash, isolated an uninvolved in governing the realm despite the letters that Edward sent on various subjects.

In mid October 1549 Seymour gave up his protectorship, handed over the king and awaited arrest. At that time it was the Earl of Southampton, Thomas Wriothesley “call me Risley” who seemed to be in charge.  Wriothesley who’d learned politics from the masterly hands of Wolsey and Cromwell probably thought that his moment had come. It wasn’t.

By the end of November Somerset had been accused of treachery and in the old Catholic V Protestant scramble for power Dudley tarred with the same brush. Dudley, having been warned about what was on the cards, made an impassioned speech which probably saved Somerset’s life as well as his own political career. Historians still can’t work out whether there really was a plot by Southampton and other religious conservatives or whether Dudley simply made one appear in a clever ruse to strengthen his own position on the council because by February 1550 Dudley was in charge and his title was about to change…Machiavellian or what?




Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

Cuthbert Tunstall – Bishop of London and Durham.

mw125060.jpgThe country here about Durham is substantially established in the abolition of the bishop of Rome and his usurped power. Would to God ye would send for the bishop of Durham and hear his advice for the utter extirpation of the said power, and how it might be extinguished for ever. I thought myself to have known a great deal and all that could be said in the matter; but when I heard his learning, and how deeply he had searched into this usurped power, I thought myself the veriest fool in England. If he would write a book upon it all the kings of Christendom would shortly follow our master’s steps, so great is his learning and reputation. In all other things concerning high judgment, Parliament matters, &c., he is not living that would advertise you more for your honor and prosperity. Expertus loquor. Your injunctions can have no effect in Durham Abbey in some things; for there was never yet woman was in the abbey further than the church, nor they (the monks) never come within the town. Newcastle, 26 Jan. – Layton

It’s been a while but I thought I’d have a look to see what Cromwell had on his mind at the end of January 1536.  His monastic visitors, the comedy double act, Layton and Legh had reached the county of Durham and as we can see from this letter the Bishop of Durham made quite an impression on Layton unlike the clergy of Bangor who wrote to Cromwell on the 30th January to complain about the injunctions for incontinence that had been placed upon them that would prevent them from offering hospitality to travellers – i.e. having women around the place.  The good brethren of Bangor complain that they will be forced to seek their living in “ale houses and taverns” if they cannot keep female servants and such women.  Nice try gentlemen!

So, who was the Bishop of Durham who compares so favourably to virtually every other cleric in the country and who managed to extract a good account from Layton? The gentleman in question was Cuthbert Tunstall and he replaced Cardinal Wolsey who had been Bishop of Durham from 1523 until 1529. He might not have agreed with Thomas Cromwell but he was a law abiding citizen and obedient to the will of his king.

Tunstall was a Yorkshireman from Hackforth born on the wrong side of the blanket and educated in Oxford before moving to Cambridge where he became friends with Sir Thomas More. Tunstall’s career was initially that of diplomat.  He worked on the engagement of the young Princess Mary to Charles V.  His reward for his work was to become Bishop of London in 1522. Interestingly, although Tunstall learned towards humanism and reform from within as did Sir Thomas More his future would take a very different course even though they both held a number of identical posts.

During the 1520s Tunstall worked to flush out heretics, to burn proscribed books and the men and women who adhered to new dangerous beliefs.  It was Tunstall who was Bishop of London in 1527 when Thomas Bilney, a radical preacher from East Anglia, was tried by Wolsey and found guilty of heresy.  In the church court was Sir Thomas More – a layman.  He joined with the clerics in their questioning of Bilney. Having been found guilty he was handed over to Tunstall who persuaded him to recant after some time in prison.  he was forced to walk barefoot to St Paul’s amongst other things.  It has been said that it was Tunstall who persuaded him to recant but ultimately it did not save Bilney’s life.  After a stint in prison he set out to demonstrate that he had been in error in going back on his beliefs and was finally executed in 1531 in Norwich.

Tunstall’s life was not about to get any easier.  Henry VIII wanted a divorce.  Cuthbert sloe up for Catherine of Aragon but ultimately switched sides.  It was he and Bishop Lee of York who were sent to Kimbolton in 1534 to try and persuade Catherine to take the Oath of Supremacy and to accept that her daughter was no longer heir to the throne. Tunstall decided to opt for obedience to the King in all things and it perhaps for this reason that a man who would continue in post during the reigns of Edward VI and Queen Mary received a remarkably clean bill of health when Cromwell’s visitors arrived in the County of Durham.

Recognising, perhaps, that the monasteries were to be purged he did not put up a fight to save them.  He did, however, insist that Durham’s library be kept in tact.

In 1536 he managed to keep a low profile during the Pilgrimage of Grace by holing up in one of his castles and refusing to come out until it was all over.

Henry VIII recognised Tunstall as a loyal servant of the crown and made him an executor of his will or perhaps Henry’s wife Katherine Parr offered a good reference.  Tunstall had been the executor of Sir Thomas Parr ‘s will- Katherine’s father.   He and Thomas Parr were cousins and it was perhaps for this reason that Cuthbert assisted Maude Parr with the education of her children- somewhat ironic given Katherine Parr’s leaning to the new learning.  Maude left Tunstall a ring in her will…once again proving that everybody of note was related to some degree or other.

As an aside, Cuthbert’s legitimate half-brother Brian managed to get himself killed at Flodden in 1513 and was immortalised in Marmion by Sir Walter Scott. The 1827 memoirs of Marmaduke Tunstall identify Cuthbert’s mother as a daughter of the Conyers family – a notable Yorkshire name. His father was Thomas who provided for the boy and saw to his education.

He officiated at Edward VI’s coronation.

Tunstall had the courage to speak out against the changes that ran counter to his belief.  He spoke against the Act of Uniformity in 1549 for example.  He didn’t like the idea of married clergy or the changes in offering both bread and wine to communicants.  But as with his initial support of Catherine of Aragon once laws were enshrined he acquiesced to their rule. When the Duke of Somerset fell from power and was replaced by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick (who swiftly got an upgrade to  Duke of Northumberland) he hoped that the religious policies would be reversed.  They weren’t.  Even worse, Dudley didn’t buy this lawful bishop’s promises of good behaviour so Tunstall found himself in the Tower on charges of felony and only got out of jail when Queen Mary ascended the throne.

In 1558, having weathered three Tudor monarchs Cuthbert, now in his eighties, found himself faced with a fourth.  After all those years he finally refused to backtrack from his Catholic position.  He refused the Oath of Supremacy, refused to consecrate Parker as Archbishop of Canterbury and was, as a consequence, deprived of his office and committed into house arrest at Lambeth. He died there a few weeks later at the age of eighty-five of natural causes.

The image of Cuthbert is one of three held by the National Portrait Gallery.


‘Henry VIII: January 1536, 26-31’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10, January-June 1536, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1887), pp. 64-81. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol10/pp64-81 [accessed 20 January 2017].

Porter, Linda. (2010).  Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr. London:MacMillan

Townsend Fox, George (1827) Memoirs of Marmaduke Tunstall, esq., and George Allan, esq


Filed under Sixteenth Century, The Tudors