Mary Tudor and Jane Grey: The Battle for the Crown

Jane and Mary

Between the 12th and 15th of July 1553, things in the Mary Tudor and Jane Grey camp were getting tenser. On the 12th, Jane issued a proclamation, calling everyone to fight for their rightful queen by giving them an incentive of twelve pence a day. For her part, Mary was sending messaged to the important barons in East Anglia who remained undecided. Most of these men were Protestant and they did not wish to be on the wrong side of things. Some of them had sided with Jane. As with their great ancestor, Henry Tudor, they were determined to fight to the bitter end.

The Lady Jane

Because of the high stakes, Jane to delay her coronation for another three weeks. At the same time that Jane was doing this, Mary was issuing her own proclamations, declaring herself the one and true Queen in Norfolk and Suffolk. Her tenants carried her message throughout the countryside, calling the lesser lords to side with her but many, like the nobles during the time of her great-grandfather –Henry, Earl of Richmond’s- invasion, did not wish to risk everything. What if Mary lost? Mary was without foreign support. Her cousin did not believe she could win. Henry Tudor, the Earl of Richmond had won thanks to French support and foreign mercenaries. What did Mary have besides the commons? And what if the commons were not enough? The Emperor was not going to risk a good opportunity to turn the Duke of Northumberland, whom he believed would control Jane once she was crowned, away from a French alliance. But Mary was resolute.

Mary I historical

“The miserable indecisive princess who could not quite bring herself to cut her ties with England in 1550 was nowhere to be seen. Instead, she had rediscovered the implacable girl who resisted, for three years, a king’s determination to make her deny who she was … Mary was not the sort of woman who sat in the background where matters of such importance were concerned.” (Porter)

She continued to send missives throughout East Anglia, and soon as she advanced further south, throughout the country, demanding people’s loyalty and signing her letters with ‘Mary the Quene’. In Mary, the people remembered her beloved mother, who had been so popular with the commons. They remembered the girl, as Porter pointed out, who rebelled against her father, and stayed true to her beliefs until she was forced to sign an admission that saved her from a certain death. By the time she became mistress of her own household, the kindness for which her mother had been known, had been shown to her tenants as well. She knew their names, she interacted with them at a personal level, and was godmother to most of their children. This relationship earned her a degree of success –on where she could take the crown without bloodshed. Something that was unheard of at the time.

John Dudley

Meanwhile, Jane, her father-in-law, her father and their supporters were busy making sure they were prepared for when Mary’s army came. Foreigners were so certain of Jane’s success that some, like the French Ambassador, were beginning to refer to her husband as “the new King” in their letters. The papal envoy, Giovanni Francesco, however, shows that Jane had no desire to make her husband King and that they quarreled as a result of this. After she agreed to his wishes, she changed her mind again and called the Earls of Arundel and Pembroke that she felt better if her husband were “a duke, but not a King.” Jane was showing (probably to the frustration of her would-be-controllers) that she was her own person, and that as her cousin Mary Tudor, there would be no other ruler in England but her. It could also be that the envoy might have been exaggerating things, showing the Protestant side as a house divided in contrast to Mary’s side where everyone was united. It did not help matters that there were already some rumors that the Duke of Northumberland (Jane’s father-in-law) was looking for an alternative route –in case Jane’s regime did not work- in where he would substitute Jane with another teenager, Mary, Queen of Scots. It was no secret that Dudley had always sided with the French and had actively spoken against Edward Seymour’s savage incursions into their Northern neighbor’s Southern border. After he heard that Mary of Guise had become a widow and her daughter an orphan and the new Queen of Scots, he had spoken against his (then) King, Henry VIII’s proclamation to lead a campaign to kidnap the infant queen of Scots; Dudley vehemently opposed it. The Imperial Ambassadors, pressing Dudley to side with the Emperor instead, were getting frustrated and it is very possible that they added more fuel to the rumors as Dudley showed very little interest in an Anglo-Imperial alliance. It could be during this time that they began to look more positively on Mary’s candidacy.

Suspecting that the Council might be of the same mind after they advised him to leave the city to defend the country (in case Mary thought of an escape), John Dudley gave a passionate speech on the thirteenth reminding them of “the holy oath of allegiance made freely by you to this virtuous lady the Queen’s highness” whose crown they helped her win. His message was clear ‘If I go down, you go down with me’. He ended it with a last reminder that if Jane failed, their religion failed and as a consequence, God’s vengeance would wash down on them. He then went to see his daughter-in-law who trusted him completely with the task ahead and “beseeched him to use his diligence” against Mary. Dudley promised that he would do all that he could.

Mary I and Jane Grey Nine day

The following day, on the 14th, he left London with the “the fairest band of gentlemen” and a “fearsome” artillery train. He was confident that he could still win; but at Mary had gained another ally. Lord Wentworth flocked to her side “clad in splendid armor” and he was not along, accompanied “by a not inconsiderable military force”. More counties started joining her, including some of the Protestant elite which had previously sided with Jane.

John Dudley and William Parr, the Marques of Northampton, met with other veterans at Durham House on the 15th where they planned their offensive against the Lady Mary. In London, Jane faced problems of a different sort, when she received dire news that fifteen of her ships guarding the Eastern Coast had mutinied. Unpaid and forced to work under deplorable conditions, they chose to abandon Jane to side with Mary.
Once again, history would prove that the most unlikely of contender, would win the English throne.

Sources:

  • Passion. Manipulation. Murder by Leanda de Lisle
  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
  • Sisters Who Would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle
  • Mary Tudor by Anna Whitelock
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