Jane Grey, the early years: An Outstanding Prodigy & Evangelical leader in the making

6804,Lady Jane Dudley (née Grey),by Unknown artist

There is no question that Jane Grey was for all intent and purposes a prodigy, even for her times. Today we expect children to learn the basics. But back in the sixteenth century, things were different, especially for noblewomen, who were expected to make their families proud by finding a suitable husband who’d make a powerful ally. In the case of Jane Grey, being the eldest of her sisters, meant she had to meet most of society’s expectations. Having royal blood, and being related to the King through her mother, meant that she had to work harder than Katherine and Mary, and just as hard -if not more- than her bastardized cousins, Ladies, Mary and Elizabeth Tudor.

Jane Grey HBC black and white 1

But Jane Grey exceeded everyone’s expectations, especially her father whose continual indulgence made her appreciate him more than her mother who was stricter. When her thirst for knowledge became evident, she became a ward in the Parr household. Queen Dowager Kathryn Parr had recently remarried, for the fourth and last time to her true love, Sir Thomas Seymour, Baron Sudeley. The couple’s manor, Sudeley Castle, became a safe haven for many intellectual curious girls like Jane. Among them was Jane’s cousin, and Kathryn’s favorite royal stepdaughter, lady Elizabeth Tudor. Elizabeth Tudor was nearly Jane’s equal, but after she fell from grace, Jane took her place in Kathryn’s heart.

Jane lamented the Queen Dowager’s death, and after she was returned to her parents, she berated them and begged them to send her back. She wrote how unfair they were treating her. Several historians and novelists have taken this as ‘proof’ that Jane Grey’s mother was a wicked woman and her husband, an indolent fool, or her partner-in-crime who saw their daughter as nothing more than tool in their quest to gain more power. As easy as it is to turn this into a dualistic tale of good and evil, heroes and villains and so on; the truth is that her parents were neither of these things.
Lord Henry Grey, Marques of Dorset and (after the fall of Somerset) Duke of Suffolk, and Frances Brandon, were self-serving aristocrats. This is not unusual given that a family’s number one interest was in promoting their children to other courtiers in the hopes that they would marry into equally or more powerful families to further their riches. Family mattered more than everything else, and this is where religion comes into play as well because it was believed that the best way to raise successful wives and lords, was to instill the fear of god in them. As a result, Jane’s intelligence became highly by Reformers in England and abroad.

Jane Grey black and white 3

Soon after, she became one of the leading figures in the Evangelical movement. In 1552, shortly after Somerset’s execution, her family gained more prominence. Renown Protestant figures like the pastor Michael Angelo Florio whose congregation looked after Protestant exiles, praised her and held her as an example for other Protestant women to follow. He wasn’t the only one, older women like William Cecil’s wife, Mildred Cooke, thought the same. In a letter she wrote in Greek, she compared the adolescent girl to the fourth century bishop of Caesare, Basil the Great, and gave her a copy of one of his many works. Her former tutor Bullinger introduced her to the works of Theodore Bublinger who had translated the Koran -this has led some historians to believe that she might have also been taught Arabic. As her popularity among scholars grew, Jane’s self importance also grew and so did her arrogance. Her father, by this time Duke of Suffolk, together with the Marquis of Northampton (William Parr -Katherine Parr’s brother), and John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, supported the King in his reissue of the prayer book which completely outlawed the mass and introduced more radical reforms inspired by Swiss and German reformers such as Bullinger and Ulm. There were few opponents in Edward’s council to these new reforms, but among them was Archbishop Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury who had been a good friend of the “Good Duke” (Edward Seymour) and believed these reforms were too radical and too soon to be implemented. Also in this year, Henry began to make plans for his eldest daughter and heir’s betrothal. Jane was not he first bride her father in law had in mind for Guildford. Margaret Clifford, another descendant of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon was his first choice but her father said no since Guildford was only a fourth son and in spite of his pleas and the king’s, the earl’s mind remained unchanged. As the king’s health got worse the following year, he gave his blessing to Northumberland and Suffolk to wed their four teenage offspring. In a triple marriage ceremony in May 25 1553, Jane was married to Guildford, Katherine to Lord Herbert, and Catherine Dudley to Lord Hastings. With the pieces set, it was only a matter of time before Edward’s passing led to their final move.

Sources:

  • Lisle, Leanda. Tudor. Passion. Manipulation. Murder. The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family. Public. 2013.
  • –. The Sisters who would be Queen. Harper. 2009.
  • Ives, Eric. Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. Wiley-Blackwell. 2009.
  • Whitelock, Anna. Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen. Random House. 2010.
  • Porter, Linda. The Myth of Bloody Mary. St. Martin Press. 2008.
  • Borman, Tracy. The Private Lives of the Tudors. Grove Press. 2016.
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500 Years ago the ‘Right noble and Excellent Princess Mary’ was born

600 Queen Mary

On the 18th of February 1516, Princess Mary Tudor was born. Her parents were King Henry VIII and his first Consort, Queen Katherine of Aragon. The long awaited Prince turned out to be a girl. While this was a minor disappointment on her parents, they were nevertheless joyful and considered this as a sign of good will. After all, Henry had replied to the Venetian Ambassador “If it was a daughter this time, by the grace of God, sons will follow.”

COA Six Wives of Henry VIII

Immediately after her birth, the child was cleaned and presented to her parents. Two days later she was christened at the Church of the Observant Friars. Following tradition, her parents were not present. Her godparents were Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (who was fast becoming a favorite of her father), the Duchess of Norfolk and her grand-aunt, Catherine of York, Countess of Devon. Present at the ceremony were an army of courtiers; gentlemen, ladies, earls and bishops who were in awe of their new Princess.

After she was blessed, she was given the name Mary, her paternal aunt who had risked royal wrath a few years back, but had worked things out with her brother. Henry had always felt closer to his younger sister than his older one, and now was honoring her even further by naming his only surviving child after her.
Afterwards, she was plunged three times into the basin of holy water, then anointed with holy oil, dried, swaddled and finally taken to the high alter where it was proclaimed:

“God send and give good life and long unto the right high, right noble and excellent Princess Mary, Princess of England and daughter of our most dread sovereign lord the King’s Highness.”

Mary Tudor 4

Mary’s life would not be without struggle. She was constantly under suspicion and despite her father’s actions -influenced by her last stepmother, Katherine Parr- to restore her and her half-sister to the line of succession, she still had many enemies and her troubles continued well into her brother’s reign. Following her half-brother’s death, she rallied  the people to her cause after she found out the King had taken his sisters out of the line  of succession in favor of their cousins, the Grey sisters.
Mary’s popular revolt was astounding because she reclaimed her birthright without the need for bloodshed. After Mary’s forces became too much for the new regime, the Council turned their backs on her cousin and her family, and sent her a letter, pledging their allegiance to her.

600 Mary I coronation

Mary was declared Queen and she entered the city of London triumphantly. Months later she was crowned Queen of England, becoming the country’s first female monarch.

Mary’s reign however wasn’t easy. Once more she faced a lot of disagreement and tragedy, as well as an inability to bring what her dynasty needed the most: a male heir. Mary’s phantom pregnancies became an embarrassment to her, and her contributions became forgotten and attributed to her sister (who also appropriated her motto on her coronation progress). To make matters worse, her wishes to be buried next to her mother (as well as having her mother’s body moved to Westminster) were never carried out. She was given a modest plaque. Her eulogy changed to fit the new rhetoric of Elizabeth’s reign being a godsend as opposed to Mary’s. And after her sister died, her successor James Stuart, created an elaborate monument and put the two sisters together. But only Elizabeth’s effigy was included, Mary was once again absent except in the plaque that read:

0Tudor tombs elizabeth mary

“Partners both in throne and grave. Here rest we, two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hopes of the resurrection.”

David Loades lists Mary I’s achievements in a BBC History Magazine article he did in honor of England’s first Queen. These include:

  1. Preservation of the Tudor succession
  2. Strengthening of the position of Parliament by using it for her religious settlement.
  3. Establishment of the “gender free” authority of the crown
  4. Restoration and strengthening of the administrative structure of the church.
  5. Maintenance of the navy and reforming the militia.

In her book “Mary Tudor. Princess, Bastard, Queen”, Anna Whitelock adds more, saying that she refounded various universities. Linda Porter in her biography “Myth of Bloody Mary” also adds that she established a curriculum that brought an emphasis to Humanism, and forced every priest to serve their parish” and had very little tolerance for those that didn’t bend their knee to royal authority.

Sources:

22 JANUARY 1552: The Execution of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset

Edward Seymour contrast with Tudors
The Historical Edward Seymour (left) was in reality a shy man as opposed to the intimidating figure played by Max Brown (right) in “The Tudors”.

 

On the 22nd of January, Edward Seymour, the former Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset was executed.

John Dudley and William Herbert had grown dissatisfied with the way he was running the country. When Edward Seymour was elected Lord Protector, he got to that position by making deals with many of Henry VIII’s executors and members of his imagined Regency Council. Edward was also part of this council, and upon his death he was going to be elevated to Duke and his eldest son by Anne, to Earl. But this wasn’t good enough for him. Less than a year later, he had alienated most of his supporters, including his brother. After Thomas’ execution, there was a popular uprising and instead of dealing with them in the same manner he had dealt with the Scots in the battle of Pinkie Cleugh, he pardoned many of them.

One of his close friends and allies, (Paget) had warned him of what might happen if he continued down this path. In a letter, dated July 7th 1549, he wrote: “I see at the hand the King’s destruction and your ruin. If you love me or value my service since the King’s father’s death, allow me to write what I think. Remember what your promised me in the gallery at Westminster before the late King died … planning with me for the place you now occupy to follow my advice before any other. Had you done so, things would not have gone as they have. Society is maintained by religion and laws: you have neither. The old religion is forbidden and the new not generally imprinted. The law is almost nowhere used: The commons have become King.”

The Protector obviously chose to ignore it until August when John Dudley and his men dealt with the rebels accordingly.

“The Earl of Warwick commanded an army of twelve thousand professional soldiers and German mercenaries against Norfolk farm boys with few guns or blades, but hopes of “an equal share of things.” Three thousand men died outside Norwich at Dussindale on 27 August.” (Lisle)

As he and his men gained more supporters, Somerset took his nephew to Windsor where he promised him he would be safe from his enemies. The King highly distrusted his uncle but there was little he could do.

Edward VI

Anticipating his arrest, the Protector took his nephew to Windsor. He told him that he was taking him to a “safe haven” and that this would be temporary until he dealt with his enemies.

Anne joined her husband at Windsor days later. With no one else they could trust, they sent their ten year old son, Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford to bring reinforcements. But these never came. Instead, the boy was intercepted in the West by Sir William Herbert.

Sir William Herbert’s allegiance was to the league of conspirators, among them his brother-in-law, the Marquis of Northampton, William Parr who was the late Queen’s brother and who was one of many who held a grudge on the Lord Protector for kicking him off the Privy Council. He probably held a grudge against his wife as well, given her treatment of his sister.

With their son captured, and one of their commanders asking the Protector to step down “rather than any blood be shed,” the two realized that they had no option but to surrender.

Eventually he was released and continued to attend council meetings, but on the 16th of October 1551, he was arrested once again and brought to the Tower. His wife was arrested the following day and also brought to the Tower and *“if we are to judge from the list of articles she sent for, she must have realized that her visit was a long one.”

The charges laid against the Duke of Somerset were outrageous. Following his first arrest, he had lost his Protectorate but still retained some influence. His wife went on to make deals with the leading families in government by proposing betrothals to the Dowager Duchess of Suffolk, Warwick and others, to her son and daughters. Warwick married his son to her daughter Anne, but as tensions began rising, the couple decided to use the last card they had up their sleeves which was their illustrious daughter Jane.

John Dudley

Jane was smart, articulated, and was highly praised by her mother’s chaplain and other Reformers. If she could get her royal cousin’s attention, she could bring her father back into favor. Somerset’s plan were discovered and fearing what he would do if he succeeded, Dudley and the others prosecuted him, and charged him with attempted murder, saying he planned to invite all the nobles to dinner so he could murder them. Since there wasn’t any evidence regarding this, new charges were laid against him, this time they involved sedition treason and conspiracy to “overthrow the government, imprison Northumberland and Northampton, and convene Parliament.”

Somerset attended the hearings in December where Lord Strange was brought in to testify of his plans to marry his daughter to Edward VI so he could regain power, and others were brought in to add more weight to the other charges. After his trial, his sentenced was pronounced, along with his brother-in-law, Michael Stanhope who had also been arrested and charged with treason.

There are many versions of his last words, one comes from his chaplain (John Foxe) who wasn’t present for his execution but he maintained that his account was taken from a “certain noble personage” who was.

Edward began by saying: “Dearly beloved masters and friends, I am brought hither to suffer, albeit that I never offended against the king neither by word nor deed, and have been always as faithful and true unto this realm as any man hath been. But foresomuch as I am by law condemned to die, I do acknowledge myself, as well as others, to be subject thereunto …” and added that he had come here to die, according to the law, and gave thanks “unto the divine goodness, as if I had received a most ample and great reward” then asked them to continue to embrace the new religion and obey their young King.

His speech was then interrupted by the arrival of two horsemen which the people took as a sign of a pardon and shouted “A pardon! A pardon! God save the King!” But it wasn’t. Northumberland and the council had issued a law that prevented the lords’ tenants and the common citizenry yet they still managed to come. So they were sorely disappointed when they found out that no such pardon was given and turned to their hero, the “Good Duke”, who said lastly:

Edward Seymour

“Dearly beloved friends, there is no such matter here in hand as you vainly hope or believe. I have always showed myself a most faithful and true subject and client unto him. I have always been most diligent about His Majesty in doing of his business, both at home and abroad, and no less diligent about the common commodity of the whole realm.”

Kneeling down, he let his face be covered with his handkerchief and right before the axe cut through his neck, he prayed “Lord Jesus, save me.”

In many ways, Edward Seymour can’t be blamed for the economic disaster since he inherited that from Henry VIII, but in other ways his mismanagement caused an even worse economic crisis and despite his popularity with some of the commons, he attempted to solve the problem of vagabonds by turning them into slave and his wars with Scotland brought an even greater strain on the treasury.

But for the people gathered that day, he was their hero and like many popular saints with the old religion, they saw him as something larger than life, and some even went as far as dipping their handkerchiefs and other pieces of clothing in his blood and treasured them as relics.

Edward VI for his part showed very little emotion. He wrote in his diary after he had been informed of his uncle’s death: “The Duke of Somerset had his head cut off upon Tower Hill between eight and nine o’clock in the morning.”

Sources:

  • Ordeal by Ambition by William Seymour *
  • Sisters who would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle
  • On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
  • Tudor: A Family Story by Leanda de Lisle
  • Edward VI by Chris Skidmore

The Christening of Prince Edward: ‘Son and heir to the King of England’

789px-Hans_Holbein_the_Younger_-_Edward_VI_as_a_Child_-_Google_Art_Project

On the 15th of October 1537, three days after he was born, Prince Edward was christened at the royal chapel of Hampton Court Palace. His eldest sister, Lady Mary Tudor, stood as his godmother with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, performing the ceremony.

Mary Tudor carrying Prince Edward

“As befitted a lady of royal birth –and the child’s godmother- she was wearing a kirtle of cloth of silver, richly embroidered.” (Porter)

And she wasn’t the only one dressed for the occasion. Despite the outbreak of the plague, between three and four hundred clerics, nobles and foreign envoys had come to witness the baptism of the new Tudor Prince. Among the nobles present, was none other than his second eldest sister, the Lady Elizabeth Tudor who was carried by her new step-uncle, Edward Seymour who was created Earl of Hertford on that day.

“The gentlemen in the procession walked in pairs, carrying unlit torches before them. The children and ministers of the king’s chapel followed. The knights, chaplains and other members of the nobility also walked in pairs.” (Norton)

Following them was the Marchioness of Exeter carrying the little prince, assisted by her husband and the Duke of Suffolk. The prince was “dressed in a great robe with a long train borne by Lord William Howard” and Norton adds: “over the prince’s head, a canopy was held by a number of gentlemen, including Thomas Seymour”. As was customary, Jane wasn’t present for her son’s christening. Instead, she waited in the Queen’s chamber and watched from her window the procession go by.

Jane Seymour red

As the ceremony finished, the heralds cried out: “Edward, son and heir to the King of England, Duke of Cornwall, and Earl of Chester” and afterwards the procession turned to the Queen’s apartments where he was welcomed back into his mother’s back. Henry was with her, and the two of them gave him their blessing before he was taken back to his room.

Despite being tired, Jane continued to be part of the celebrations and she was helped back to her bed after these were done. It is hard to know what was running through Jane’s mind, being that Jane is a mysterious and often elusive figure, but the times she made her voice heard, and even her silence alone, reveals as Chapuys once said of her “a woman of great understanding” and one who must have felt deeply proud and accomplished. She had succeeded where her predecessors and previous mistresses had failed. Sadly, she would not live long enough to reap the benefits. Jane would die nine days later as a result of childbed fever. And in death, she would become Henry’s favorite because of what she gave him: a son. And although the great monuments that Henry had planned for both of them never came to be, she would be remembered through the eulogies and poems made after her funeral, and her son would go on to become the first true Protestant King, and also the last Tudor (male) monarch.

Sources:

  • Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s True Love by Elizabeth Norton
  • Edward VI: The Last King of England by Chris Skidmore
  • Jane Seymour by David Loades
  • The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
  • Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock
  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter

‘Jane the Quene brought in childbed of a Prince’

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Rejoice all around for a son has finally been born! This was the sentiment all around the country when they heard that Henry’s third queen, Jane Seymour, had given birth to a baby boy. Jane had gone into labor three days before, on the ninth and on the eleventh St Paul held solemn procession to pray for a safe delivery. Hours later, at two o’clock in the morning, on St. Edward’s day, a boy was born at Hampton Court Palace. He was named after his patron saint, and possibly after his Yorkist ancestor Edward IV, and his parents’ common ancestor, Edward III.

“Henry VIII would look back on Jane Seymour as the wife whom he had ben uniquely happy; forgetting perhaps those early years with Catherine of Aragon, the charming young Spanish Princess so eager to please.” (Fraser)

Indeed, Henry’s dreams of securing the Tudor dynasty via a son had been fulfilled (through Jane) but they came at a high cost and his wife would pay the price less than two weeks later when she lay on her deathbed. There is the apocryphal posthumous tale of Jane dying because Henry told her doctors to cut her open when he was forced to make a decision between his wife and son’s lives. In the Tudors they allude to this, but this tale is false. The Death of Queen Jane which is a collection of ballads done three hundred years after her death, take romantic license on this.

“He gave her rich caudle
But the death-sleep slept she
Then her right side was opened
And the babe was set free …”

Jane Seymour didn’t die because of a badly perform caesarean section. “Such procedures” historian Amy Licence explains, were uncommon in England at the time, and when they did come into practice, there were only for extreme cases when doctors had to remove “living fetuses from dead or dying mothers”. Furthermore, Henry was away at the time and he didn’t come until he heard she’d given birth to a healthy boy.

“It had pleased God so to remember Your Grace with a prince … and also us all, your poor subjects.” -Dowager Marchioness of Dorset when she heard the news.

As soon as the news spread throughout the city, Te Deums were sung, church bells rang, and bonfires were lit. “Eager to impress”, Skidmore writes in his biography on Edward VI, “German merchants at Steel Yard distributed a hogshead of wine and two barrels of beer to the poor.” And they weren’t the only ones, the entire city was going crazy. At last, what Henry had torn his country apart for, was here. A son. A male heir to secure the Tudor dynasty. The guards at the Tower of London fired off over two thousand rounds of canon fire, and as soon as Jane recovered, she wrote to the country, announcing the birth of her son:

“Right trusty and well-beloved, we greet you well, and for as much as by the inestimable goodness and grace of Almighty God, we be delivered and brought in childbed of a prince, conceived in most lawful matrimony between my lord the King’s Majesty and us, doubting not but that for the love and affection which you bear unto us and to the commonwealth of this realm, the knowledge thereof should be joyous and glad tiding unto you, we have thought good to certify you of the same. To the intent you might not only render unto God condign thanks and prayers for so great a benefit but also continually pray for the long continuance and preservation of the same here in this life to the honor of God, joy and pleasure of my lord the King and us, and the universal wealth, quiet and tranquility of this whole realm.”

The tournament celebrating the Prince’s birth went on in full vigor, and the word ‘Prince’ unlike before with her predecessor, wasn’t altered, and Jane’s letter was copied and distributed throughout the country bearing her signature and the royal seal which had the arms of France and England next to hers.

Mary Tudor carrying Prince Edward

The baby was christened right away three days later in which his eldest sisters participated, with Mary acting as one of his godparents. Jane, as custom dictated, wasn’t present for the christening and had to wait to see her son until it was over, carried over by the lady Mary. Three days after that, on the eighteenth, he was proclaimed Prince of Wales, created Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Carnarvon. The Seymour family was thoroughly rewarded, with his uncle and namesake, being elevated to an Earl and his younger brother, Thomas, was knighted.

It was all well in paradise for Jane’s family, or at least it would have been if Jane hadn’t died. We can’t say for sure what would have happened if she had lived, but it is safe to assume that she would have become very influential. In her biography on Jane Seymour, Elizabeth Norton makes the case point, that there were times where Jane exhibited traits of rebelliousness found in her predecessors, but she was a woman who knew how to play the game of politics really well (having served under them) so she stayed silent most of the times, because she knew that at this stage, Henry was not a man you wanted to cross. He was no longer the Sir Loyal Heart that her first mistress Katherine of Aragon had married, or the man who acted as a besotted teenager when chased Anne Boleyn. Henry wanted a son, he needed an heir to secure the Tudor Dynasty. Now more than ever since he’d broken away from Rome.

Jane Seymour historical and the one from the Tudors But in dying, she adds, her legacy had an “entirely unexpected” turn of events, becoming the model of the ideal woman, just as her late mother-in-law had been. Perhaps it is true what they say ‘It’s always the quiet ones’. Silence, can speak louder than words. For Jane it certainly did, and since the birth of her son, she’s become the object of ridicule, admiration, and speculation.

Sources:

  • The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
  • Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s True Love by Elizabeth Norton
  • Passion. Manipulation. Murder: The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family by Leanda de Lisle
  • Edward VI: The Lost King of England by Chris Skidmore
  • In Bed with the Tudors by Amy Licence

The Last Tudor King is laid to rest at Westminster Abbey

Edward collage1

On the 8th of August 1553, Edward VI was laid to rest at Westminster Abbey beneath a white marble vault in the Lady Chapel. The night before, a procession was led with “great company” of men and children, including Henry VIII’s bedesmen from the Greyfriar’s Church and Edward’s servants who wore black. Among the many symbols displayed ere the traditional Tudor symbols: The Welsh dragon, the greyhound, his father’s lion and of course, the Tudor rose which represented the union of the two warring houses of Lancaster and York. A symbol which would be shown on every Tudor’s coronation and funeral. Behind them came the coffin “covered by a canopy of blue velvet upon a chariot decorated with cloth of gold pulled by seven horses.” (Skidmore) Edward VI’s effigy was sculpted by Nichollas Bellin, and in it he wore the garter collar and bore the standards of the Tudor rose and the Seymour insignia.

“At his burying was the greatest moan made for him of his death as ever was heard or seen.”

In spite of his troubled reign, due to his young age, Londoners mourned him deeply.  And as a king, he showed a level of firmness and coldness that reminded people of their first two Tudor monarchs.

His sister (the yet to be crowned Mary I) feared a Protestant funeral would make her look weak in the eyes of the Lutherans who she said “would only become more audacious, and would proclaim that she had not dared to do her own will”. Renard and others in her council advised caution and told her of the seditious talk that had been circulating among Protestant circles in the capital, adding that giving him a Catholic funeral would make her subjects “waver in their loyal affections” for her. In the end Mary agreed to a compromise and five days after her triumphant entrance into London, she ordered her brother’s burial. His body was moved from Whitehall where it had been residing for almost a month to Westminster where he was buried following Protestant liturgy. The Mass was presided by the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer with the Marquess of Winchester acting as his chief mourner. Meanwhile Mary held a separate requiem (Catholic) Mass for his soul at St. Peter’s chapel in the tower of London presided by George Day, Bishop of Chichester which according to one observer was considered a great insult to his memory and “prepared the way for papistry just like an advance raiding party.”

Sources:

  • Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen by Anna Whitelock
  • Edward VI: The Lost King of England by Chris Skidmore
  • 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

The Coronation of the Last Tudor King: Edward VI

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

Edward VI was the last Tudor King and the first true Protestant King of England. On the eve of his coronation, Edward made his procession from the Tower of London to Westminster. There were many pageants that greeted the boy-king as he rode horseback dressed in a jerkin of white velvet decorated with diamonds, rubies and pearls.

“His gown was a fine mesh of gold with a cape of sable, whilst the horse he rode upon was draped in crimson satin beaded with pearls.” (Skidmore)

The Imperial Ambassador Francois Van der Defelt was not impressed and when he met the king, he spoke to him in French to which his uncle, the Lord Protector and now Duke of Somerset, reproached him and told him he should speak in Latin instead because the king “understood better than French.” Defelt had no more good things to say about the King or the Archbishop of Canterbury who refused to speak to him because of his Catholic beliefs.

edwards-coronation-procession-1547

As for the pageantry itself, it was nothing short of glorious. Everything went according to plan. Protocol was followed. The Marquis of Dorset [Henry Grey, husband to Frances Brandon and father to Jane Grey] carried the sword of justice in his role as Constable of England and Edward was flanked by John Dudley and his uncle [Somerset]. Next came the Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber, the pensioners and the other guard.

Pageants greeted the young king. These were not rehearsed and many had to be improvised. Of these was one of children who each represented one of the four virtues: Grace, Fortune, Nature and Charity.

Another had a huge fountain topped with a “crown of imperial gold” garnished with pearls and other precious stones and sprayed jets of wine through pipes into the street. And there was one which had a stage where a scaffold had been erected. Beneath its roof was brilliant iconography with the sun, stars and clouds. On one of these clouds was none other than the image of a phoenix descending on to a mount, covered in red and white roses and hawthorn bushes.

Like with his first Tudor ancestors, Edward VI’s procession on the eve of his coronation served to leave its mark on history. The Tudors knew the importance of imagery and how powerful it was to manipulate or rewrite history. At the same time, it evoked the tales they themselves kept perpetuating of their legitimacy. For example the phoenix was his mother’s badge, standing on a golden tower with its wings spread up and nature flourishing as a result. Edward was making a powerful statement, and his uncle helped too perhaps, about his parents’ marriage as lawful and true. And also establishing his legitimacy. His sisters would do the same for their coronations [especially Elizabeth whose glorious pageantries marked the contrast between her future reign and her sister’s]; emphasizing on their legitimacy and lineage through their parents. The female consort played an important role here. Although she was not physically present, she could still be seen [and remembered] through her insignia. Secondly, the red and white roses were powerful symbols and reminders of the legitimacy of the Tudor line, or what they called their right to inherit the throne. It reminded everyone of the wars fought between brothers and cousins, that ended with the destruction of Houses Lancaster and York (represented by the red and white rose) and the ascension of the Tudors who brought about peace when their first monarch, Henry VII (considered the heir to the Lancastrians) married the beautiful Elizabeth, Princess of York.
The truth we now know is very different but it was a tale that worked very well for the Tudors and it simplified the conflict, and it gave their line legitimacy.

The Coronation of Edward VI, Shrove Sunday

Along the road he encountered more pageants, one which glorified his namesake and one of England’s most celebrated Kings: Edward the Confessor and another his country’s patron saint, Saint George. After he passed these, he encountered other ones that probably made a greater impression for the boy who was a committed Reformer. On Fleet Street a child representing ‘Truth’ epitomized the cause of the English Reformation and he said a few lines:

“Then Shall England, Committed To Your Guard, Rejoice in God, Which Hath Given Her Nation, After an Old David, A young King Salomon.”

David as everyone remembers was the legendary biblical King, father of the wise Solomon who succeeded him after his death. This told Edward that although his father started the break from Rome, it would be up to Edward like a new Solomon, to follow his work and improve it by carrying on with Reforms to ‘purify’ the church.

The procession had lasted nearly five hours and ended at six o’ clock.

The following day, the real show began when Edward was taken by barge to Whitehall where he was received by the guard and pensioners. Passing them into the chamber of Court of Augmentations, he donned the Parliamentary robes he was wearing and put on a robe of crimson velvet ‘furred with powdered ermines’. From there he went to Westminster Abbey under a canopy borne by the barons of the Cinque Ports. At his right and left was the Earl of Shrewsbury and Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of Durham. John Dudley, the Marquis of Northampton –Catherine Parr’s brother, William Parr- and his other uncle, Thomas Seymour bore his train.

At his entrance into the Abbey, Cranmer began the address, asking the congregation “Will ye sirs at this time, and give your wills and assents to the same consecration, enunction, and coronation?” To which they responded “Yes, ye, ye, God save King Edward!”

In spite of the great response it received, the coronation had been altered significantly from the precepts set in the Liber Regalis (c.1375) and certain ceremony and addresses cut down not to wear the King, but more than that, because it was against the new tradition that Cranmer and the Reformers wanted to impose for their “new era”. The crowd who was aware of the changes, was explained by Cranmer the reason for this changes in a sermon to the King. He said that the alteration was due to the fact that before, Kings had atone for their actions to the clergy or somebody else, including their people. This time Kings were infallible. They were demi-gods of a sort. Edward as the Reformist king would account to no one and the clergy had no right “to hit Your Majesty in the teeth”. Nevertheless, he reminded that as God’s anointed sovereign he still had to have certain virtues for he was a messenger of Jesus and his representative on Earth.

“Your Majesty is God’s vice-regent and Christ’s vicar within your own dominions, and to see, with your predecessor Josiah, God truly worshiped, and idolatry destroyed, the tyranny of the bishops of Rome banished from your subjects, and images removed. These acts be signs of a second virtue, to revenge sin, to justify the innocent, to relieve the poor, to procure peace, to repress violence, and to execute justice throughout your realms. For precedents, on those kings who performed not these things, the old law shows how the Lord revenged his quarrel; and on those kings who fulfilled these things, he poured forth his blessings in abundance. For example, it is written of Josiah in the book of Kings thus: Like unto him there was no King before him that turned to the Lord with all his heart, according to the Law of Moses, neither after him arose there any like him.
This was to the prince a perpetual fame of dignity, to remain to the end of days.”

After the Mass was finished, Edward took his place on the throne and was first crowned with the St. Edward’s crown then the Imperial crown and finally his own which was made for the occasion and was lighter than the previous two. Then he was given the orb and scepter to hold on each hand. His most prominent uncle [Somerset] knelt before him and swore an oath of loyalty. He was followed by Cranmer and the rest of the nobility.

With this done, they followed their newly anointed King to the Great Hall of Westminster to take part in a sumptuous feast. The reign of Edward VI had begun.

Sources:

  • Edward VI: The Lost King of England by Chris Skidmore
  • Ordeal by Ambition by William Seymour
  • Tudor by Leanda de Lisle