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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.

lady-jane-grey

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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Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon

huntingdon3bHenry Hastings, born in 1535, was the great grandson of  Margaret, Countess of Salisbury – the redoubtable lady who defied the executioner in the Tower of London , and as the very entertaining Yeoman of the Guard explained during my visit, “had it away on her toes.”  She was in her 80s at the time and about to be the victim of judicial murder.   He was descended from the Pole family so was a Plantagenet, Margaret was the niece of King Edward IV.  It was a bloodline that did rather mean that his family was prone to sudden death by beheading.  Both his maternal grandparents had suffered a similar fate and his two times great grandfather the Duke of Clarence was the chap who suffered an unfortunate end in a vat of malmsey.

 

Henry loyal to the Tudors and his country was a protestant with puritan tendencies having spent much of his childhood as companion to King Edward VI.  He was even married to the Duke of Northumberland’s daughter Catherine Dudley (making him a brother-in-law to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester).  Upon his father’s death he became the Third Earl of Huntingdon.

 

When Elizabeth was seriously ill in 1562 his name was given as a potential replacement.  It would have meant ignoring the rights of Lady Catherine Grey but his bloodline, his faith and, of course, his gender made his claim a powerful one.

 

His protestant sympathies were so strong that he asked Queen Elizabeth if he could go to France to support the Huguenots.  There was talk of him selling his estates to raise an army.  It is perhaps not surprising then, that as a possible heir to the English throne and a man of Protestant principle he was not one of Mary Queen of Scots admirers; he’d been invited to hear the evidence against Mary as presented by Moray in the form of the Casket Letters.  He was firmly against a marriage between Mary and the Duke of Norfolk in 1569, not least because it would have weakened his own position.

 

At this time the Earl of Shrewsbury, Mary Queen of Scots jailor, was ill and had been with the queen to take the waters in Buxton.  He had gone without Elizabeth’s permission.  Now, ordered back to Tutbury Mary was about to make the acquaintance of Huntingdon.  He was sent ostensibly to assist Shrewsbury to guard the queen against the northern earls who were planning to raise an army, march south and free the queen.  He arrived on the 19th of September.  Mary feared for her life and said as much in a letter to the French ambassador.  Shrewsbury must have agreed with Mary because he wrote back saying that his health was sufficient to guard his charge and that he had no desire to be replaced.  In the event Mary was conveyed to Coventry and out of reach of the Northern Earls via Ashby de La Zouche castle which belonged to Huntingdon.  The shared responsibility for the queen was not a happy alliance as letters in the National Archives demonstrate.

 

Huntingdon soon departed from his temporary role as joint custodian of the queen.  He soon found another occupation.  The threat of the Northern Earls loomed ever larger  in 1569 so it was decided that Huntingdon should be made lord-lieutenant of Leicestershire and Rutlandshire.  He was also created Lord Presedent of the North in 1672.  The following year he was one of the Duke of Norfolk’s judges when he was tried for the crime of treason.

 

His offices in the North grew and as a consequence it was he who represented Queen Elizabeth in a conference with the Scottish regent Moray following the Raid of Reidswire; he looked into the religious beliefs of the gentry of the north – no doubt in search of Catholic plotters- and was part of the force that gathered to repel the expected Spanish invasion.

 

In his spare time he wrote a family history, a poignant task given his lack of children.  He also invested in the early chemical industry buying land in Dorset with an alum and coppera mine, the manor of  Puddletown and part of the manor of Canford, which had previously belonged to Lord Mountjoy.  The two men became involved in a legal wrangle about who had the right to extract the minerals.  Mountjoy claimed that he had stipulated that he should retain the rights to extract the minerals.    The conflict was eventually resolved after many years.  The mines did indeed belong to Huntingdon but he had to pay Mountjoy’s son (the old lord had died by that time) £6000 in compensation.

 

Henry Hastings died in December 1595 and was buried in Ashby-de-la-Zouche.  His brother George became the Fourth Earl.

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