Tag Archives: Lady Jane Grey
Henry 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.
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]
The 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.
Mary 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.
John 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.
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?
Inevitably whilst looking at Raleigh my attention has drifted to Bess Throckmorton; Raleigh’s wife and the love of his life. From there my mind has wondered to Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, Bess’s father. A man who seems to have been as outspoken as Raleigh himself and regarded by the Spanish as ‘dangerously clever’ – though that doesn’t seem to have stopped him from getting into some unpleasant scrapes which ultimately ended with his disgrace.
Sir Nicholas served four Tudor monarchs as well as the Duke of Richmond, Henry Fizroy. Nicholas was related to Sir William Parr and at the time he was Fitzroy’s chamberlain which explains Throckmorton’s entry into such a prestigious household. Throckmorton’s mother was Catherine Vaux of Harrowden and it was through her that the relationship to the Parr family came – meaning that Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last wife was Throckmorton’s cousin. Throckmorton was a younger son so he needed every family connection he could find if he was to make his way in the world.
Sir Nicholas’s fortunes remained linked to those of the Parr family. He turned up on the Scottish Borders in the service of the Parr family just in time for the so-called Rough Wooing. He turned up in Scotland again in 1547. It was Nicholas Throckmorton who was sent south with the news that Protector Somerset had won the Battle of Pinkie.
Despite having gained his foothold in the rungs of the Tudor social and political ladder through his links to the Parrs and to Somerset he seems to have been unaffected by Admiral Seymour’s goings on or indeed the fall of Somerset. In short Throckmorton was one of Edward VI’s men and a good protestant to boot.
His name appears on the device naming Lady Jane Grey queen but equally it is supposed to have been Throckmorton who sent word of Edward VI’s death to Mary – perhaps a case of having his cake and eating it. It was only when Throckmorton began agitating about the restoration of Catholicism that he got himself into trouble with Mary suggesting that she didn’t hold his affirmation of Lady Jane Grey against him. The trouble was he wasn’t that keen on Mary’s chosen husband, Philip of Spain and became involved with the Wyatt Plot.
In April 1555 he was charged with treason for his part in the plot. However, when he came to trial the jury acquitted him despite the judges hostility: a fact which didn’t go down well with Mary who promptly had the jury incarcerated for nine months and heavily fined when they were eventually released.
Throckmorton took himself off to France rather than face the possibility of any more of Mary’s hospitality. He left his wife at home (she refused to live in France) but ultimately was allowed to return and take up government post. But by this point he was in correspondence with William Cecil and Princess Elizabeth, no doubt lining himself up to serve his fourth Tudor. When Elizabeth came to the throne Throckmorton wrote suggesting who would be her best advisors and in 1560 when Cecil and Elizabeth were out of sorts with one another Cecil said he would depart from his role as Elizabeth’s minister if Throckmorton replaced him.
Nicholas returned to France as ambassador from 1559-1562. It was his job to try and dissuade Mary, Queen of Scots, from displaying the arms of England. Throckmorton was also in France when the scandal of Elizabeth I’s love for her Master of Horse Robert Dudley became laden with overtones of murder. Amy Robsart’s death at Cumnor near Abingdon caused tongues to wag (Throckmorton wrote of “her neck” being broken “with other appurtenances” and Throckmorton didn’t hesitate to describe what people were saying. He also announced that “Every hair of my head stareth!” His letters to Cecil at this time are so distinctly undiplomatic that his friends warned him to write no further on the subject. Ironically it was the same Robert Dudley now Earl of Leicester who offered a final home to Throckmorton when he was disgraced for his part in trying to marry Mary Queen of Scots to the Duke of Norfolk but more of that shortly.
Throckmorton was ultimately undone by his regard for Mary Queen of Scots who he’d known since she was a child in France. He was sent to Scotland to prevent Mary from marrying Lord Darnley – not one of his greatest successes, though at least Elizabeth didn’t have to send anyone to rescue him as had been the case when he was sent on a diplomatic mission to Catherine de Medici. He was also sent to negotiate for Mary’s release when she was deposed but the Scottish nobles knew he was sympathetic to Mary so weren’t terribly pleased to see him. Once Mary was imprisoned in England he plotted for her to marry the Duke of Norfolk. It appears that Throckmorton thought that if she was married and ‘respectable’ then she could be released from captivity. He regarded a marriage to Norfolk as a safe marriage. He also thought that the Duke of Norfolk’s proposal was in line with what the queen wished.
Unsurprisingly Throckmorton soon found himself incarcerated; this time in Windsor Castle. His actions were deemed foolish but not treasonous. He was released possibly because in the years since he’d objected to Elizabeth’s marriage to Robert Dudley he’d become one of Dudley’s political advisors. However, he’d also managed to remain on reasonably good terms with William Cecil because he wrote to Cecil begging for him to intercede with the queen. It should be added that it is quite possible that Cecil who was fiercely anti-Mary may well have shown Elizabeth the inflammatory letters which Throckmorton wrote when he was the English Ambassador in France.
Throckmorton’s end was recorded by Robert Dudley;
We have lost on Monday our good friend Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, who died in my house, being there taken suddenly in great extremity on Tuesday before; his lungs were perished, but a sudden cold he had taken was the cause of his sudden death. God hath his soul, and we his friends great loss of his body.
He died in London on 12 Feb 1571 and was buried in the church of St. Catherine Cree, Aldgate. His daughter Elizabeth known as Bess was one of Elizabeth’s maids of honour and ultimately Bess would be banished from court having done her own stint in the Tower for daring to fall in love, something which her father had castigated the queen about many years earlier.
Frances Grey nee Brandon is another ‘not quite Tudor princess.’ She was the elder daughter of Henry VIII’s sister Mary Tudor the Dowager Queen of France and her second husband Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk- based on modern rules she would not be defined as a princess but her nearness to the crown at a time when there was a shortage of Tudor heirs created tragedy for her three daughters.
Frances was born at Hatfield on July 16, 1517. Interestingly, like her cousins there was some legal wrangling as to her legitimacy. Charles had been married to Margaret Neville before marrying Mary – unfortunately Margaret was still very much alive at the time. Charles had to get the marriage annulled on grounds of consanguinity by which time Frances had arrived so his legal paperwork had to declare her legitimate.
Mary Tudor was close to her sister-in-law Catherine of Aragon so inevitably Frances spent time with her cousin the Princess Mary meaning that the arrival of Anne Boleyn made family gatherings a tad tricky.
In 1533, Frances married Henry Grey, Marquis of Dorset. He was the great-grandson of Elizabeth Woodville through her first marriage. Soon after the marriage Frances’ mother died. By 1551, Frances’ half brother was dead and Henry Grey became Duke of Suffolk. Frances was also third in line for the throne, the Tudor lack of males making her more important than she might otherwise have been. By the time she was nineteen she’d already lost a daughter and more importantly, in the minds of folk wanting male Tudors, a son. In 1537 another daughter, Lady Jane Grey, was born. Roger Ascham, her one time tutor, recorded Jane’s views of Frances’ parenting strategy –
“For when I am in presence either of father or mother; whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand, or go, eat, drink, be merry, or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing any thing else; I must do it, as it were, in such weight, measure, and number, even so perfectly, as God made the world; or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yea presently sometimes with pinches, nips, and bobs, and other ways (which I will not name for the honour I bear them) so without measure misordered, that I think myself in hell, till time come that I must go to Mr Elmer; who teacheth me so gently, so pleasantly, with such fair allurements to learning, that I think all the time nothing whiles I am with him…”
No wonder then that numerous writers have suggested that the greys were disappointed that Jane was not a boy – although expectations of learning amongst the Tudor children was undoubtedly high.
Unlike Eleanor Brandon who seems to have been unambitious, perhaps because of her poor health Frances appears to have been much more determined to shin up the Tudor powerlist. When Henry VIII died in 1547 they handed Jane over to Thomas Seymour as a ward in the hope that he might arrange a match with her cousin the new king Edward VI.
But by 1553 it was clear that Edward was dying. Jane leapfrogged over her cousins Mary and Elizabeth bypassing Henry VIII’s will when Edward named her his heir. She was married off to Guildford Dudley. Novels suggest that Frances beat Jane in order to ensure compliance but there are no historical sources to support this.
Frances’s husband Henry Grey was executed on February 23, 1554 for his part in Wyatt’s rebellion against Mary- he outlived his daughter by ten days. His involvement in the rebellion cost Jane her life.
Frances went on to marry her Master of Horse, rather suggesting she wasn’t as ambitious as all that the following month. By marrying Adrian Stokes she lowered her rank so significantly that William Camden believed that she distanced herself and her surviving children far enough from the throne to make them less of a threat. Leanda de Lisle’s book about the Grey sisters reveals that Katherine and Mary remained at risk because of their closeness to the throne but that during Mary’s reign they were welcome at court, as indeed was their mother Frances.
Frances’ health deteriorated in part from late pregnancies- she gave birth to a daughter who died the same day – had she visited Henry Grey in the Tower after his arrest there might have been some doubt as to whether or not Adrian Stokes was the father. And there were also two sons who died in infancy. Frances died in the Charterhouse at Sheen in 21 November 1559. She was given the burial of a princess in Westminster Abbey and was described as such by the heralds at the funeral demonstrating that the term princess was a moveable feast during the Tudor period.
The Act of Settlement in 1701 ensured a Protestant succession upon the deaths of King William III (That’s the William in William and Mary) and his niece Princess Anne who would become the last Stuart monarch dying in 1714. Since then, the title of princess has been clearly designated. The daughter of a monarch is a princess. The daughter of a prince is a princess. The daughter of a princess on the other hand is not a princess unless her father is one of the above.
Before the advent of the Hanoverians the title was less regularly used and it was not always clear how diluted royal blood was deemed to have become. Mary Tudor was undoubtedly a princess being the daughter of King Henry VII of England. She was also the Dowager-Queen of France having been married off for political reasons to the elderly Louis XII of France who expired three months after the wedding – the moral here being don’t marry a bride more than thirty years your junior… perhaps. However, although Mary was known throughout her life as ‘The French Queen,’ and whilst her daughters Francis and Eleanor were important in terms of the Tudor dynasty they were not, by Hanoverian standards princesses because their father was neither a prince nor a king.
After Louis XII died Mary batted off a number of suitors and married the man she’d fallen in love with whilst she was a princess back at home in England. Charles Brandon was the Duke of Suffolk. His father had been Henry VII’s standard-bearer at the Battle of Bosworth. Following the death of his father at Bosworth Charles was raised at court. He was a favourite of young Henry and was described in one letter as a ‘second king.’ Even so the pair of star struck lovers had enough common sense to undergo a private ceremony in France before returning home and then to get Cardinal Wolsey to break the news to Henry VIII that his sister, whom he had promised could marry whosoever she wished, was married to Brandon. He was not amused. The pair ended up giving the grasping Henry all her dowry and plate as well as agreeing to pay £1000 each year for the next twenty-four years.
Eleanor was their second daughter and at that time was so unimportant that her birth was not recorded accurately – so sometime between 1518 and 1521. In 1533 she was contracted to marry, Henry Clifford, First Earl of Cumberland who was also a second cousin through the maternal line. An account is given in that same year of Eleanor and her sister Frances as mourners at their mother’s funeral.
The marriage between Eleanor and Henry Clifford, like most noble matches was about land and power. The pair, who spent much of their married life at Brougham Castle, seem to have been genuinely fond of one another – she refers to him as “dear heart” in her letters. As for Henry Clifford, he celebrated his marriage into the Tudor family by extending Skipton Castle with the addition of a tower and a gallery. After all, its not everyday you marry into royalty.
In 1536, Eleanor acted as chief mourner at Catherine of Aragon’s funeral, as her cousin the Princess Mary was refused permission to attend because of her intransigence in the matter of her personal beliefs and her determination to uphold her mother’s wishes. It suggests that Eleanor was as close as her mother had been to Catherine of Aragon. This is confirmed by the circumstantial evidence that she does not seem to have had any role in the households of any of Henry’s queens apart from Katherine Parr – perhaps it was the northern link.
Alternatively it may be that Eleanor was not in robust health. We know that she bore three children – two of whom, Henry and Charles, died young. There are letters from her father, her husband and one from her which contain information about her own poor health:
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 Anne Brandon 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.
At my lodge at Carlton, the 14th of February.
And, dear heart, I pray you send for Dr Stephens, for he knoweth best my complexion for such causes.
By your assured loving wife, Eleanor Cumberland
In the same year that Catherine of Aragon died Eleanor was staying in Bolton Priory with her infant son, when the Pilgrimage of Grace erupted around her. Skipton Castle was besieged and the pilgrims threatened to use Eleanor as a hostage. To ensure that Henry Clifford did what they wanted of him – the message, according to Stickland, was that if Clifford failed to comply with the pilgrims demands then Eleanor would be handed over to ‘ruffians.’ Being a Victorian lady writer Agnes Strickland passes over the terror of that particular fate. Fortunately for Eleanor there was a knight errant at hand. Robert Aske, leader of the Pilgrimage of grace, had a brother called Christopher. It was he who offered Eleanor protection. Along with the Vicar of Skipton he escorted Eleanor and her son through the camp and across the moor to safety under cover of darkness.
The religious uncertainites of the period seem to have haunted Eleanor once more at a later stage of her life when she was mentioned as having a connection to Anne Askew. Fortunately for Eleanor it would appear that Anne approached her but nothing came of it.
Henry VIII died in 1547 as did Eleanor who passed away whilst residing in Brougham Castle. She was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Skipton. It is interesting the at the wording of Eleanor’s epitaph gives her the title “Grace” – a reminder, perhaps, that to her family and to her people she was a princess. Henry Clifford was, apparently, bereft for months afterwards to the point that his household thought that he had died and set about laying him out. He recovered sufficiently to remarry. Henry VIII, as might be expected of a man who turned his kingdom upside down, wrote a will which identified the order in which his children would inherit the throne. If they did not survive he identified the children of Lady Frances Grey, Countess of Dorset and then those of Lady Eleanor, Countess of Cumberland to follow after him- bypassing the children of his other sister , Margaret Tudor, completely. It was perhaps fortunate that Eleanor did not live long enough to know the fate that befell her niece Lady Jane Grey or the difficulties that her only surviving child, Margaret, would face as a result of their Tudor blood and Henry VIII’s will.