God Save the First Queen of England, France and Ireland!

Mary I coronation

On Sunday, the 1st of October, Mary Tudor was crowned Queen of England at Westminster Abbey. She was the first female King in English history. Her day began early when she departed from the Tower of London, she was accompanied by her ladies and other nobles. As before, there were elements that were identified with the coronation for queen consorts, but also others that were of Kings. Instead of riding a litter as queen consorts had done, she chose to walk barefoot to the Abbey. She dressed splendidly for the occasion, wearing “parliament robes of crimson velvet under a rich canopy borne by the five barons of the cinque ports” in addition to having her hair loose with a circlet of gold around her head.

Following her were her ladies and gentlemen (by two) which included knights, aldermen, the French and Latin secretaries, councilors, the knights of the Garter, and those carrying the three swords which represented Spiritual and Temporal Justice, and Mercy. The sword of state was carried by Edward Courtenay (who’d recently been ennobled as the Earl of Devonshire), the Duke of Norfolk carried the crown, the Marques of Winchester carried the orb, and finally the Earl of Arundel carried the scepter. Mary’s train was carried by the Duchess of Norfolk who was assisted by Sir John Gage. Behind her were her sister and stepmother, the ladies Elizabeth and Anne of Cleves.

Westminster Abbey Mary I Tudor's coronation

When she reached the Abbey, she would not have been surprised to find it decorated with heraldic symbols and popular Tudor images. The pulpit was covered in rest worsted, with the porch of Westminster Hall decorated with blue cloth. In addition, there was the royal chair which was covered in damask gold with the three lions and the fleur-de-lis representing the crowns of England and France –the latter which England still lay claim too and enabled Mary to add to her title of Queen of France as well.

Stephen Gardiner then turned to the crowds and gave the following announcement:
“Sirs, here present is Mary, rightful and undoubted inheritrix by the laws of God and man the crown and royal dignity of this real of England, France, Ireland, where upon you shall understand that this day is appointed by all the Peers of this land for the consecration, inunction and coronation of the said most excellent Princess Mary; will you serve at this time, and give your wills and assent to the same consecration, inunction, and coronation?”

To which everyone shouted “joyfully Yea, yea,” followed by “God save Queen Mary!”

Mary then made an offering to the altar and following with ancient tradition, she prostrated herself before it on cushions while prayers were being said for her. Then she rose and listened to the sermon from the Bishop of Chichester which had to do with obeisance to kings.

Mary Tudor coronation engraving painting

Then came the moment of truth. The moment that Mary had anxiously been waiting –and preparing- for all her life. The actual coronation. Still lying before the altar, she took the sacrament and said her oaths, and listened to the rest of the prayers. Then she went behind a screen at the left of the altar to make her first change of clothing. She was helped by some of her ladies. After she emerged she was anointed with the holy oils (by Gardiner) on her breasts, shoulders and forehead.

“Because so much depended on her anointing Mary had taken special care to ensure the validity of the ritual. She feared that the oils to be found in England were tainted as a result of the ecclesiastical censures brought against the nation by the pope many years earlier.” (Erickson)

This is true. Mary went above and beyond to make sure everything was perfect. So the oils were brought from Flanders. Judith M. Richards in her journal article about “Gendering the Tudor Monarchy” about Mary Tudor, discusses a lot of the issues regarding the first Queen of England’s coronation. Mary wanted to present herself as more than just a King, she wanted people to perceive her as both a woman and a king. Elizabeth would follow this model many years later when she addressed the troops at Tilbury in 1588 when she was at war with Spain. England never had a queen, and the concept of a female monarch was still very alien to many, even those that accepted Mary. So she had to thread very carefully. And one way she could be accepted without eliciting much criticism was by presenting herself as the paragon of virtue and morality (wearing her hair down and with a circlet as queen consorts traditionally wore) while at the same time, showing herself as ordained by god like monarchs before her. So here was a woman who was took the role of mother and guardian of her country, but also as an enforcer. And she made sure that people remembered this glorious day by having pamphlets be printed and distributed across Europe. (Not for nothing, her sister would take on the same roles, when on the eve of her coronation she would be compared to biblical figures like Esther and Deborah who were famous for upholding the moral values and preserving their people’s faith).

With a canopy being held over her head, she was given privacy to change back into her velvet robes. She then sat on the royal chair and was given the spurs and swords, had the ring placed on her finger then had the crown of Edward the Confessor placed on her head, followed by the Imperial crown and then another crown that was especially made for her.

Her subjects, including Gardiner and some of the courtiers that had carried the canopy and the heraldic symbols for her, knelt before their new monarch and swore their allegiance to her.  With the ceremony at an end the Te Deums being sung, Mary made her final offering to the Abbey (still carrying the orb and the two scepters of king and queen in her two hands) before departing for the state dinner that awaited her at Westminster Hall.

Ladies, Elizabeth Tudor and Anne of Cleves from

Feeling triumphant, Mary didn’t let the exhaustion win her over. Her sister and her stepmother were her guests of honor, seated next to her, basking in the attention and enjoying the spectacle that was being played out before them. There were some (like Renard) who didn’t like the Queen trusting Elizabeth with such honors, but Mary didn’t pay any attention to them. She was after all the daughter of a King and now the sister to the Queen, and she and her stepmother were awarded the highest positions that any man or woman could wish for. No other lady sat next to the queen or rode in a chariot that outranked the others. But there was a big difference between the sisters that Mary wouldn’t find out (or admit to it) until much later when the two became bitter rivals. For now though, she had no cause to worry. This was her moment and as far as she was concerned, it was meant to last.

Sources:

  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
  • Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen by Anna Whitelock
  • On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
  • Bloody Mary by Carolly Erickson
  • Mary Tudor by David Loades
  • Gendering the Tudor Monarchy: Mary Tudor as ‘sole queene’ by Judith M. Richards/Journal article
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The Eve of Mary Tudor’s Coronation

Mary I Tudor

On the 30th of September 1553, Mary Tudor emerged from the Tower to begin her procession through London. Her journey began at 3’o clock in the afternoon. She was greeted with cheers from the thousands of people lining to see their new monarch. With her were her sister and her stepmother, the Ladies Elizabeth and Anne of Cleves. The Queen’s messengers came out first, followed by trumpeters, esquires of the body, the new Knights of the Bath who’d been invested the day before, heralds, bannerets, members of the Royal Council, Garter knights, and the rest of the nobility. These numbered about five hundred. The nobles were dressed for the occasion, wearing gold and silver, and on their mounts too “which caused great admiration, not more by the richness of the substance than by the novelty and elegance of the device.”

The ambassadors were also dressed for the occasion, and lined up behind the nobles; each of them were accompanied by a lord of the Privy Council. (The French ambassador for example rode alongside Paget, the Imperial Ambassador was accompanied by Lord Clinton. Renard and others rode with Lord Cobham). Other foreigners included the merchants, the Italian ones for example wore “suits of black velvet lined, beautifully trimmed with many points of gold and garnished all around with embroidery of more than a palm in width.” Spanish cavaliers (four in total) followed “attired in cloaks of mulberry colored velvet lined with cloth of silver, with a very fine fringe of gold all about.” Then came the heraldic symbols being carried by her courtiers. The Earl of Sussex, the chief server, carried her hat and cloak then “two ancient knights with old-fashioned hats, powdered on their heads, disguised,” which recalled the people of their country’s old glory when they held Normandy and Guienne. The Chancellor, the Lord Mayor carried the golden scepter, and finally the Earl of Arundel who carried Mary’s sword.

And then came the person for whom they were all cheering and were eager to see, the Queen-to-be herself, Mary Tudor. Coming out in a chariot “open on all sides save for the canopy, entirely covered with gold and horses trapped with gold.”

Linda Porter in her biography of Mary, writes that “she was a small but unmistakably superb figure”. Mary wore a “Gown of purple velvet, furred with powdered ermines, having on her head a caul of cloth of tinsel, beset with pearl and stone, and above the same upon her head a round circlet of gold, beset so richly with precious stone that the value thereof was inestimable.”

Purple was the color of royalty. Mary was the first female King in English history. She knew the power of imagery, so she made sure that her coronation was something that people would always remember. And on the eve of her coronation she spared no expense. One of the things that must also be said about this rich display of imagery is how the queen wanted to present herself to the people. Women in power were still an oddity. Even though her maternal grandmother, the indomitable Isabella Trastamara, had been a Queen in her own right in Castile; England never had such experience. The closest thing to a Queen Regnant they had had been in Matilda FitzEmpress and that ended in disaster. For many years her image was carried through the mud and it wasn’t until she was relegated to the position of King’s mother, and religious matron that she finally got the respect from her English peers. Mary was threading on very dangerous grounds. She knew that if she rode on horseback, as many kings had done before her, she would open the door to more criticism. So she opted for a middle path. One where she would be relegated to the image of queen consort, wearing her hair loose to symbolize her virginity, and ride on litters or carriages, but also one where she would make it clear that she was sovereign of her reign and her authority could not be challenged. Opting for color purple reaffirmed this.

Ladies, Elizabeth Tudor and Anne of Cleves from
Ladies, Elizabeth Tudor and Anne of Cleves from “The Tudors”.

Behind the Queen were her ladies which included the Marchioness of Exeter, the Duchess of Norfolk, the Countess of Arundely, and among many others her sister and stepmother. They were granted a special place, and as members of the royal family (especially Elizabeth) they were treated with great respect. Elizabeth’s new clothes were courtesy of her sister, she had sent her a lot of gifts and gowns so she could pick and choose what she wanted. She and Anne of Cleves both wore cloth of silver that matched the silver trappings of their carriage. Mary had not seen her sister in a long time and she probably wanted to re-establish the bond the two sisters had shared when Bess was a kid, but time –as the motto that Mary would adopt- would reveal to the new Queen, that there was no going back.

As her progress passed through many streets, she was greeted with pageants, salutations (one where a girl dressed as a woman was held up by two men sitting up in a chair so she could greet the queen), and acrobatics.

“The procession paused at Fenchchurh Street to see a costly pageant presented by the Genoese merchants –a triumphal arch inscribed with verses celebrating Mary’s accession, flanked by four great giants. At Gracechurch corner the Hanseatic merchants had set up an artificial mount and a little fountain spouting wine; by some mechanism a man “flew down from the top of the pageant as she rode by.” The most elaborate and flattering of the representations was that of the Florentines, who saluted Mary as “liberator of her country,” and pointedly compared her to the Hebrew heroine Judith who by beheading the tyrant Holofernes delivered her people from the threat of slavery. Holorfernes they meant Dudley, whose beheaded was still a recent memory. Mary was also compared to Pallas Athena, and an inscription told how her fame was so great it reached the stars … At the conduit in Cornhill was “a very pretty pageant made very gorgeously” in which three little girls dressed as women took the parts of Grace, Virtue and Nature. Grace wore a crown and carried a scepter, and when Mary rode by all three children “kneeled down, and everyone of them sang certain verses of gratifying the queen.”” (Erickson)

Once she reached St. Paul’s churchyard, she was greeted with more spectacle. Sir John Heywood who had praised her in the past, sat under a vine and delivered an oration in Latin and English that celebrated her upcoming coronation. There were also a choir of men and boys that sang for her, and then a pageant where children carried burning tapers “made of most sweet perfumes.”

After these ended, Mary called all her councilors and addressed them in a solemn manner:

“Sinking on her knees before them, she spoke at length of her coming to the throne, of the duties of kings and queens, her intention to acquit herself of the task God had been pleased to lay on her to His greater glory and service, to the public good and all her subjects’ benefit. She had entrusted her affairs and person, she said, to them, and wished to adjure them to do their duty as they were bound by their oaths; and she appealed especially to her Lord High Chancellor [Gardiner[, reminding him that he had the right of administration of justice on his conscience. Her councilors were so deeply moved that not a single one refrained from tears. No one knew how to answer, amazed as they were by this humble and lowly discourse, so unlike anything ever heard before in England, and by the queen’s great goodness and integrity.”

Mary Tudor resplandescent

This was a great contrast to their previous masters who had been extremely strict and straight forward. Mary was all of these things, but she also knew how to put a show, having learned from experience and observing many great women in their position behave with dignity and grace (most notoriously her mother, and no doubt the stories she must’ve heard from her about her grandmother Isabella, and her late governess, the Countess of Salisbury). She had been preparing for this role all her life. As Leanda de Lisle writes in her latest biography on the Tudors, she was “a warrior queen, established by God, by blood and by law” and she wasn’t going to disappoint. While she appeared merciful on the outside, she would prove to be just as firm as her ancestors.

Sources:

  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
  • Passion. Manipulation. Murder: The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family by Leanda de Lisle
  • On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
  • Bloody Mary by Carolly Erickson
  • Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen by Anna Whitelock

Mary & Elizabeth: The Tudor Sisters Make Their Way Into London

Mary Tudor and Elizabeth Tudor in the Tudors

From August 2nd to 3rd of 1553, Mary and Elizabeth made their way to London. Mary’s triumph had been guaranteed by her connections in East Anglian and her courage that sustained her during this difficult time. One common myth is that Charles V supported her and this is not true. Charles V was telling his ambassadors to do their best to convince his cousin to yield to the new regime and ingratiate themselves to Dudley so they could convince him of an Imperial Alliance instead of a French one that he was leaning towards. After Scheyfve and Renard heard that half the country was rallying to her, they told her cousin to switch his alliance to her. Mary’s victories is one of the most unlikely –a bloodless victory that allowed her to become the first female king in England.

Mary Tudor and Elizabeth Tudor

On the second of August, the two sisters were reunited. Mary had asked her sister to join her days before but she never replied. Days before her sister’s triumph, Elizabeth moved from Somerset to Wanstead where she met her sister. Despite their happy reunion, the Imperial Ambassador Simon de Renard had the mission to drive the sisters apart and foster doubt in the future Queen, but Mary was determined to keep her sister with her. They hadn’t seen each other in over a year, and Mary took the opportunity to bestow her sister with gifts, jewelry, dressed and much more.

The following day on the third, the sisters entered the capital, greeted by large crowds of people. Their procession began at seven o’clock at evening. Accompanied by an army of 10,000 men and a great retinue that included her sister, she was acclaimed by the common citizenry. According to the Wriothelesley Chronicle:

“Her gown of purple velvet in the French fashion, with sleeves of the same, her kirtle purple satin all thick set with goldsmith’s work and great pearls, with her foresleeves of the same set with rich stones, with a rich bodice of gold, pearls, and stones about her neck, and a rich array of stones and great pearls on her hood, her palfrey that she rode on richly trapped with gold embroidered to the horse feet.”

And the Imperial Ambassador added “Her look, her manner, her gestures, her countenance were such that in no event could they have been improved.”

Mary Tudor I Elizabeth

Mary was welcomed by the Lord Mayor at Aldgate who presented her with the scepter office, and after thanking him she returned it and entered the city followed by her sister, Sir Anthony Browne, the Duchess of Norfolk, the Marquis of Exeter and many others. Following protocol, one of the highest ranking nobles held the sword of sate. She and her party passed St. Butolph’s Church where they were greeted by a choir of children from Christ’s Hospital, then rode through Leadenhall, Gracechurch and Fenchurch St. down Mark Lane to the Tower of London. Streets had been wiped clean and the houses were decorated with tapestries while the spectators overcrowded the roofs and streets, struggling to see their new queen. Such was the “joy of the people” wrote the Imperial Ambassadors “that it was hardly credible … Like great thunder” cannonfire sounded from every battlement “that it had been like an earthquake”. At the Tower, the lord mayor took his leave and she was greeted by the lord constable of the Tower, Sir John Bridges. The Duke of Norfolk, Edward Courtenay whose father had been executed in her father’s reign (along with his co-’conspirators’ Margaret Pole and her son), Stephen Gardiner, and Cuthbert Tunstall, greeted the new Queen and Mary with a sense of humor reminiscent of her grandfather declared “Ye are my prisoners” earning popular acclaim then raised them up and freed them.

“The people are full of hope” and they believed, the ambassadors added “that her reign will be a godly, righteous and just one, and help establish her firmly on the throne.”

Sources:

  • Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen by Anna Whitelock
  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
  • On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway

Cousins at War: The Lady Mary’s Final Victory

Mary i and Jane

From the 18th to 20th of July 1553, the odds fully turned in Mary’s favor when an important ally found his way into her camp. The 16th Earl of Oxford, John de Vere was a complex man. He was a Protestant and a great military leader, whose experience no doubt, gave Mary the boost she needed to issue her proclamation where it goes as follows: “By the Queen. Know ye all good people that the most excellent Princess Mary, eldest daughter of King Henry VIII and sister to King Edward VI, your late sovereign Lord, is now by the grace of God, Queen of England, France and Ireland, defender of the Faith and very true owner of the Crown and government of the realm of England and Ireland and all things thereto justly belonging, and to her and no other ye owe to be her true Liege, men…” Then she denounced Jane Grey’s usurpation, pinning all the blame on her father-in-law instead of her cousin, and declared herself the rightful queen. “… Most false traitor, John, Duke of Northumberland and his accomplices who, upon most shameful grounds, minding to make his won son King by marriage of a new found lady’s title, or rather to be king himself, hath most traitorously by long continued treason sought, and seek the destruction of her royal person, the nobility and common weal of this realm…” This is not surprising given that Mary knew the power of propaganda and she knew that a House divided, as during the Wars of the Roses with the case of the House of York, made everyone in her family look weak. And if people knew the nuts and bolts behind the usurpation, they wouldn’t blame the Duke, but instead look at Mary’s family. This would look very bad for the Tudor Dynasty. If a monarch couldn’t control her own brood, then how could she rule over a country? And it was much easier to use “bad councilors” as scapegoats rather than holding the royals accountable for their actions. Mary’s father had done it many times. Whenever he did a bad decision, someone else was blamed, be it his spouse, his in-laws, or his councilors.

Mary I Signature

The proclamation ended with a rallying cry calling all the “good people” to join “her said armies yet being in Suffolk, making your prayers to God for her success … upon the said causes she utterly defied the said Duke for her most errant traitor to God and to this realm” then she signed it as “Mary, the Quene”.

When Jane heard what happened, she was out for blood. She ordered her troops to march against the rebels in Buckinghamshire, naming William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, one of the two commanders. She gave him specific instructions to deliver “punishment or execution as they deserve.” The message was clear. Her cousin the Lady Mary Tudor might be older, more experienced and have the support of almost all the commons in the realm, but Jane Grey was no passive teenager. She was not going to give up so easily, and until her cause was fully lost, she was going to keep acting as she had done for over a week. Nobody who saw Jane, saw a timid girl, but a strong teenager who continued to carry out her duties as the unofficial queen. On the morning of the 19th, a Christening ceremony at Tower Hill where Lady Jane had been asked to stand in as godmother by one of her servants, a man named Edward Underhill. Her goddaughter was named after her husband, Guildford. Jane was too busy to attend so she sent her mother’s cousin, the Lady Throckmorton, instead. Other proxies were sent for her father and other family members, including William Herbert who excused himself from the ceremony, claiming he had to meet the French Ambassador to convince him of sending troops to fight off Mary’s common forces. In reality, William Herbert was pondering on his own future and where he would fit in all of this conspiracy if Mary won. How would she deal with the traitors? The Marquis had felt an air of unease the day before when he heard the news of Mary’s proclamation and the Earl’s defection. Although he had been given specific instructions to deal with the rebels, the Marquis chose not to comply. He and a number of other councilors gathered at Baynard’s Castle where they discussed a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Nobody wanted another civil war like the one that had split the country in two over one hundred years ago. The men gathered their things and rode to Cheapside where they declared Mary Tudor the lawful Queen and read her proclamation. The crowd went “mad with joy” the Imperial Ambassador reported. “From a distance the earth must have looked like Mount Etna.”

Jane Grey juxtaposed

Jane and her family also knew that everything was over. That same day, the council’s soldiers headed to the Tower to arrest the Duke of Suffolk. Jane’s father had heard of the council’s betrayal and rushed to tell his daughter the news. Jane did not lose her composure. Using the same irony she’d used against one of Mary’s maids when she mocked her Mass, she told her father that she was blameless and she only took the crown because he gave convincing arguments to her. If he hadn’t, she would have never done it. Her father was forced to take down the canopy of state, and other symbols that were representative of her reign, and agreed to the Council’s demands. Jane had gone from a guest at the Tower, awaiting her coronation, to a prisoner.

John Dudley

News of Mary’s victory reached Northumberland and his men that night. He felt angry and betrayed. He had suspected of the council’s betrayal since they asked him to go away to lead a small force against Mary. But he had not expected things would fall down so quickly. Realizing he was lost, and that he was going to be –not only Mary’s scapegoat- but the Greys’ scapegoat as well, he began to cry and sent someone to the new Queen, in the hopes that she would take pity on him. He told the vice-chancellor of Cambridge that their new monarch was a “merciful woman” and read her proclamation the following day, declaring her the rightful Queen. It was over. Mary had won. She was informed of her victory on the 20th. Mary, as her supporters, were overjoyed. She rode on a white horse, and made an inspection of her troops at four o’clock in the afternoon.

“An inspiring sight awaited her. The standards were unfurled, the military colors were set up and battle lines divided into two, under Wentworth and Susssex. For the first time as Queen, Mary saw her forces arrayed…” (Porter)

And like her maternal grandmother before her, she showed herself fearless, giving an inspirational speech “with an exceptional kindness and with an approach so wonderfully relaxed as can scarcely be described” that won everyone’s affections. After she finished with her inspection, she ordered a large detachment of cavalry to stream forth. The Lady Mary was delighted to hear the sounds of cavalry, and the cries of her men who did not stop cheering for their new Queen. She demonstrated an exceptional charisma, and she was ready to fight if needed be. Thankfully, it had not come to that. Lord Paget and the Earl of Arundel had come to tell her of the latest events, adding that the Duke of Northumberland had also surrendered. Bonfires were lit, people cried out to the sky, “men ran hither and thither, bonnets flew into the air, shouts rose higher than the stars, and all the bells were set a-pealing” wrote an anonymous Italian staying in London at the time, echoing the Imperial Ambassador’s words that the earth seemed to be shaking with joy.

Mary I signature Tudor

This was something unprecedented. Mary had won the throne without shedding one drop of blood. To her it must have felt like déjà vu. Her grandfather Henry Tudor, then Earl of Richmond, had won the crown through bloodshed, and he owed it largely in part to the military expertise of the 13th Earl of Oxford, another John de Vere who had always been a staunch Lancastrian and upon knowing that the royal Lancastrians were dead, he ran to Brittany to join Henry Tudor (who was considered by many, the last Lancastrian scion). While there were other factors that contributed to her grandfather’s victory, the Earl’s military expertise can’t be denied. He was there with Henry, helping him rally more men to his cause and after he won, his title was restored. Mary’s ally was Protestant unlike her, but despite this, he joined her because as his predecessor, he viewed her as the legitimate successor to Edward VI. And it was his decision to join her that became a turning point in this conflict. Mary having an army of commons was one thing, but soldiers mutinying, and an Earl who was well known for his military expertise joining her, was another. Mary thanked God, owing her victory to Him, saying that she “wanted the realm cleansed of divisive parties” and thanks to Him, she had done so. Mary’s struggles were far from over though, and so were Jane’s. The two cousins would still be pit against each other, and as Mary’s reign faced many rebellions, it became clearer that only one  of them could live.

Sources:

  • The Sisters Who Would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle
  • Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen by Anna Whitelock
  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
  • Tudor. Passion. Manipulation. Murder: The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family by Leanda de Lisle

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

Lady Jane Grey takes possession of the Tower

Lady Jane and her husband, Guildford Dudley.
Lady Jane and her husband, Guildford Dudley.

On the 10th of July 1553, Lady Jane Dudley nee Grey and her husband, Guildford Dudley arrived at two o’clock in the afternoon at the Watergate near the Tower of London. They had traveled by barge from Westminster to Richmond Palace where she momentarily stopped to put on royal robes, then she returned to the boat where she resumed her procession. Jane had been informed of the King’s death a day before. The sudden realization that she would become the first Queen Regnant of England must have hit the teenager hard. Yet Jane was no passive victim as she’s been portrayed by Victorians. In extolling virtue, they gave the public a version of Jane where she is a shy, quiet, and religious woman who knows her place. It was the role model that Victorians intended for young women at the time. But the real Jane Grey was anything but passive. She saw herself as a leader amongst the Protestant faction. So much so, that she had received praise at an early age from many notable Protestant scholars such as Roger Ascham, Ulm and Heinrich Bullinger. While she may not have wished to be Queen, she saw it as an opportunity to preserve the religious establishment of the late king, Edward VI.

Lady Jane Grey Prevailed on to Accept the Crown exhibited 1827 Charles Robert Leslie 1794-1859 Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900
Lady Jane Grey Prevailed on to Accept the Crown exhibited 1827 Charles Robert Leslie 1794-1859 Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900

After Richmond, she traveled to Northumberland’s residence, Durham, where she dined with important courtiers. The Privy Council met afterward. What was supposed to be a successful coup, was proving to be disastrous as they Council discussed a letter they had received from the Lady Mary Tudor (who resided in Norfolk). The Lady Mary informed them that she was England’s rightful heir and by denying her the crown, they were committing treason.

The lady Mary Tudor
The lady Mary Tudor

Jane must have heard of the letter at some point during the procession, but if it unnerved her, she did not show it.

“Like Joan of Arc who defended France at the age of seventeen, she would protect her country and her faith against the threat she believed Mary poised.” (Lisle)

Her mother could not help but cry out in fear. Like their ancestress Margaret Beaufort, the Countess of Richmond -when her son had been crowned- she knew the dangers that awaited Jane if she became Queen. Her life would never be easy, and even if she succeeding in being crown and defeating Mary, there would be many who would conspire against her.

When she and Guildford set course for the Tower of London, the people could not help but be overtaken with the spectacle. The Italian merchant Baptista Spinola who was present at the event, describes it in great detail:

“This Jane is very short and thin, but prettily shaped and graceful. She has small features and a well-made nose the mouth flexible and the lips red. The eyebrows are arched and darker than her hair, which is nearly red. Her eyes are sparkling and light hazel, I stood so long near Her Grace, that I noticed her color was good, but freckled. When she smiled she showed her teeth, which are white and sharp. In all, an animated person. She wore a dress of green velvet stamped with gold, with large sleeves. Her headdress was a white coif with many jewels. She walked under a canopy, her mother carrying her train. Her husband Guildford walking by her, all in white and gold, a very tall boy with light hair, who paid her much attention … Many ladies followed, with noblemen, but this lady is very ‘heretica’ and has never heard Mass, and some great did not come into the procession for that reason.”

Spinola’s account however may be the fabrication of a New York journalist then turned novelist and later biographer. Lisle believes that there is some truth to it but that Richard Davey might have added that romantic spin to it to perpetuate the myth of Jane Grey created by Victorians.

Between four and five o’clock their procession stopped and she and Guildford took full possession of the tower. Once the gates closed, trumpets blew and the heralds cried, reading the royal proclamation of “Jane by the Grace of God, Queen of England, France and Ireland”  and ending it with “God save her” which was meant to reaffirm Jane’s right to the wear the English crown.
One boy did not believe she was the rightful queen and he shouted that Mary was the true Queen. What happened to this kid, you might ask? Well these were the Tudor times. So he was arrested and had his ears cut off the next day.

Notices were pinned across London outlining Edward’s will while elsewhere in East Anglia Mary continued to rally more supporters to her cause.

Sources:

  • Passion. Manipulation. Murder by Leanda de Lisle
  • Sisters Who Would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle
  • On This Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway

Edward VI: The Death of the First True Protestant King of England

Edward VI. The last Tudor King.
Edward VI. The last Tudor King.

On the 6th of July 1553, King Edward VI of England died at Greenwich Palace. He was fifteen. He was the first true Protestant King of England. Although his father initiated the break with Rome, it was his son who instituted a book of common prayer that changed the face of how people worshiped throughout the country. During his reign, there were many disturbances, within his family and in the realm. As the coinage was devalued, and his uncles fought for control over their nephew, Edward became colder and agreed that sacrifices had to be made to ensure the stability of his realm. The rebels were severely punished, his uncles were executed and everyone who celebrated the Catholic Mass was a traitor. On the latter, he faced a great backlash from his sister, the Lady Mary Tudor who refused to give up her religion and confronted him many times (on one occasion she forced him to recall all the times she’d been good to him and another one she confronted his officials when they visited her house head on and screamed at them as they left).

Because he was leaving no heirs, he created a document called “My Device for the Succession” in which he posed a legal question of who should take the throne if he died? The question was answered months later when he and his councilors excluded his sisters from the line of succession and replaced them with Frances’ male heirs and (in case there were none) her daughters from eldest to youngest and their male heirs.

Edward VI's eldest sister, Mary Tudor.
Edward VI’s eldest sister, Mary Tudor.

On Sunday the second of July, the contents of the King’s will were made public and church services excluded the usual prayers for Mary and Elizabeth. This was a powerful symbol of things to come.
His eldest sister did not miss a thing. She knew something was amiss before the will was made public. She departed from her homestead the next day to Kenninghall in Norfolk from where she could flee in case Dudley and co. tried to apprehend her.

On Thursday between eight and nine o’clock on the evening, Edward VI drew his last breath. He had been surrounded by his two chief gentlemen of the privy chamber, Sir Thomas Wroth and Sir Henry Sidney, his groom Christopher Salmon and his doctors, Doctor Owen and Doctor Wendy. His last words, uttered in the form of a hoarse whisper were:

“Lord God, deliver me out of this miserable and wretched life, and take me among thy chosen: how be it not my will, but thy will be done. Lord I commit my spirit to thee. Oh Lord! Thou Knowest how happy it were for me to be with thee: yet, for thy chosen’s sake, send me life and health, that I may truly serve thee. Oh my Lord God, bless thy people, and save thine inheritance! Oh Lord God save they chosen people of England! Oh my Lord God, defend this realm from papistry, and maintain thy true religion; that I and my people may praise thy holy name, for thy Son Jesus Christ’s sake!”

Raising his head and looking straight at them he asked “Are you so nigh? I thought ye had been further off.”

“We heard you speak to yourself, but what you said we know not” was their reply. Edward told them it was because he was praying to the Almighty then when Sidney took him in his arms, he said with a note of finality “I am faint; Lord have mercy upon me, and take my spirit” then he died.

Some people were quick to say that the King had been poisoned by the ambitious Dudley who was eager to see Jane Grey on the throne (since she was married to his younger son Guildford) but these rumors have no basis. The people who whispered such things were immediately put in the Tower. Machyn, a merchant reported this in his diary. “The noble King Edward the VI was poisoned, as everybody says, where now, thank be God, there be many of the false traitors brought o their end, and I trust in God that more shall follow as they may be spied out.” Although this can be used by some to prove that he was poisoned, it is highly unlikely. Edward had been sick once of measles but he recovered very quickly. Now he wasn’t so lucky. This was the Tudor era where sickness ruled their world and everyone could be taken in the blink of an eye.

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland.
John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland.

The Duke of Northumberland wanted to keep his death a secret for three days so it would give him enough time to install Jane as Queen and apprehend Mary Tudor before she could stir up any trouble or worse, escape to Flanders where she could receive Imperial support from her cousin, the Emperor and King of Spain.
His plans were foiled. Someone ran to Mary right away and informed her of her brother’s death and this gave her the perfect weapon to rally up her tenants and countrymen, being the first one to inform them of her brother’s death and the Duke’s plot as well as the coup d’ etat.

Elizabeth (I) Tudor.
Elizabeth (I) Tudor.


“The King was dead”
as Leanda de Lisle writes in her biographies of the Tudors and the Grey sisters, “but the Tudor women were not finished yet”. And their fight would last decades until only one was left standing and we know who that was.

Sources:

  • Edward VI: The Lost Tudor King by Chris Skidmore
  • The Sisters Who Would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle
  • On this Day in Tudor England by Claire Ridgway
  • Tudor: Passion. Manipulation. Murder: The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family by Leanda de Lisle

A Triple Wedding and a Coup in the making

Jane Grey played by Helena Bonham Carter and Guildford Dudley played by Cary Elwes. The movie featured a very idolized Victorian version of Jane, one where her greatest strengths are neglected.
Jane Grey played by Helena Bonham Carter and Guildford Dudley played by Cary Elwes. The movie featured a very idolized Victorian version of Jane, one where her greatest strengths are neglected.

On May the 25th 1553 a triple wedding was celebrated. The couples were Lady Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley, his sister Lady Catherine and Lord Hastings, and Jane’s sister, Lady Katherine and Lord Herbert -the son of the late Anne Parr -sister to the late Queen Dowager and Baroness Sudeley, Katherine Parr.

Lady Jane Dudley nee Grey
Lady Jane Dudley nee Grey

The wedding was a master plan in the making. Initially the ailing King, Edward VI had been considered as a potential suitor for the eldest of the Grey sisters since negotiations to continue his betrothal with Henry II’s eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth of France, were not going very well. Among the many reformers abroad who encouraged this union was Ulmer and Bulm who told their former apprentice she would flourish there. Jane’s popularity was rising and all that fame soon got to the teenager’s head. She began to make bolder statements against her cousin Mary and others who refused to follow the ‘true faith’. In Jane perspective, this was holy war, and she had become one of her faith’s greatest pioneers. But as the year 1552 came and went, it became clear to anyone that Edward’s days were numbered. He had survived a brush with death when he overcame the measles in 1551, but he wasn’t going to be so lucky this time. Edward began to draft a legal document that was more of a legal exercise that posed an important question on who would be king or queen after he died. The succession did not favor women as many people think. In fact “My Device for the succession” as it was titled, still favored male succession. It stated that if Frances failed to give birth to any male issue before he died, the throne would pass on to Jane and her sons. If Jane failed to have any sons then the throne would pass on to Katherine and her sons. And if she failed to have any sons as well, then to Mary and her sons.

To strengthen Jane’s claim and the Protestant alliance, the teenagers were married on the same day.  Not surprisingly, supporting the Evangelicals was France (whose own ambassador, Boisdauphin was present at the wedding) who were as opposed as they were to see the Lady Mary Tudor succeed her brother (since she would favor Spanish interests over French).

Lady Katherine Grey and her firstborn son, Edward Seymour. She married for a second and last time which landed her in the tower of London and then under multiple house arrests. At the time of the triple marriage, she was married to Lord Herbert, son of the Earl of Pembroke and the late Anne Parr -sister to the late Queen Dowager  and Baroness of Sudeley, Katherine Parr.
Lady Katherine Grey and her firstborn son, Edward Seymour. She married for a second and last time which landed her in the tower of London and then under multiple house arrests. At the time of the triple marriage, she was married to Lord Herbert, son of the Earl of Pembroke and the late Anne Parr -sister to the late Queen Dowager and Baroness of Sudeley, Katherine Parr.

The wedding took place in Northumberland’s London residence, at Durham House. The young couples wore “silver and gold fabrics forfeited to the King from the Duke of Somerset in 1551 and figuratively at least, marked with his blood.” (Lisle). Perhaps it was appropriate they were wearing such clothes since this wedding -albeit sanctioned by the head of their  church- was a declaration of war against their future rival, Lady Mary Tudor. The triple ceremony was attended by almost all of the nobility. They enjoyed a great number of entertainments such as masques, jousts, and a great feast. When the celebrations ended, the two Grey sisters went to their new homes with their respective fathers-in-law. Jane at Sion in Richmond, and Katherine at Bayanard’s Castle near the Thames (coincidentally the same palace one of their ancestress –Cecily Neville, Duchess of York  aka “Queen by Rights” and “Proud Cis”- had once possessed and where some historians suggest, Richard engineered his usurpation).

Edward VI. The last Tudor King.
Edward VI. The last Tudor King.

It is unclear whether the marriage was consummated or not. Some believed that it wasn’t because of her young age. But it is important to remember that in the Tudor age, the age of consent for girls was twelve and for boys fourteen. Both Jane and Guildford were well past that age range. Then again, the argument against it holds up very well too. Since she was her mother and Edward’s heir, her health was of the utmost importance. Consummating the marriage could result in a pregnancy which could result in her death or inability to have more children (as it had happened to her great-great-grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond).

Three days later, Edward VI’s doctors confirmed that he was dying. Edward had sent expensive gifts to the Grey sisters and to Catherine Dudley to congratulate them on their union. This proved his own validation for the Evangelical elite’s schemes against his sisters, and more than that, his own involvement with them. For Edward, it was imperative that England remained faithful and he believed that the only way that could be achieved was if another Evangelical succeeded him to the throne and that someone was Jane who was just as passionately Evangelical as he was.

Sources:

  • Tudor. Passion. Manipulation. Murder by Leanda de Lisle
  • Sisters Who Would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle
  • Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery by Ives
  • On This Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
  • Inglorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Caroll