1st Duke of Northumberland., 1st Duke of Suffolk, Archbishop of Canterbury, Henry Grey, High Treason, John Dudley, Lady Jane Grey, Lord Gilford Dudley, Philip II of Spain, Privy Council, Queen Mary I of England, Thomas Cranmer, Thomas Wyatt Rebellion
The Duke of Northumberland faced a number of key tasks to consolidate his power after Edward VI’s death. Most importantly, he had to isolate and, ideally, capture Mary Tudor to prevent her from gathering support. As soon as Mary was sure of King Edward’s demise, she left her residence at Hunsdon and set out to East Anglia, where she began to rally her supporters. Northumberland set out from London with troops on 14 July to capture Mary.
The Privy Council switched their allegiance and proclaimed Mary queen in London, on July 19. The historical consensus assumes that this was in recognition of overwhelming support of the population for Mary. However, there is no clear evidence for that outside Norfolk and Suffolk, where Northumberland had put down Kett’s Rebellion; hence, where Princess Mary sought refuge.
John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland
Rather, it seems that Henry FitzAlan, 19th Earl of Arundel—whom Northumberland had arrested and detained twice as an ally of Somerset, before rehabilitating—engineered a coup d’état in the Privy Council in Northumberland’s absence.
Jane is often called the Nine-Day Queen, although if her reign is dated from the moment of Edward’s death on July 6, 1553, her reign could have been a few days longer. On July 19, 1553, Jane was imprisoned in the Tower’s Gentleman Gaoler’s (Jailer’s) apartments, her husband in the Beauchamp Tower. The Duke of Northumberland was executed on August 22, 1553. In September, Parliament declared Mary the rightful successor and denounced and revoked Jane’s proclamation as that of a usurper.
Trial and execution
Referred to by the court as Jane Dudley, wife of Guildford, Jane was charged with high treason, as were her husband, two of his brothers, and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. Their trial, by a special commission, took place on November 13, 1553, at Guildhall in the City of London.
Lady Janes Grey
The commission was chaired by Sir Thomas White, Lord Mayor of London, and Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. Other members included Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Derby and John Bourchier, 2nd Earl of Bath. As was to be expected, all defendants were found guilty and sentenced to death.
Jane’s guilt, of having treacherously assumed the title and the power of the monarch, was evidenced by a number of documents she had signed as “Jane the Quene”. Her sentence was to “be burned alive on Tower Hill or beheaded as the Queen pleases” (burning was the traditional English punishment for treason committed by women). The imperial ambassador reported to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, that her life was to be spared.
The rebellion of Thomas Wyatt the Younger in January 1554 against Queen Mary’s marriage plans with Felipe II of Spain sealed Jane’s fate. Her father, Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk, and his two brothers joined the rebellion, and so the government decided to go through with the verdict against Jane and Guildford.
Their execution was first scheduled for February 9, 1554, but was then postponed for three days to give Jane a chance to convert to the Catholic faith. Mary sent her chaplain John Feckenham to Jane, who was initially not pleased about this. Though she would not give in to his efforts “to save her soul”, she became friends with him and allowed him to accompany her to the scaffold.
On the morning of February 12, 1554, the authorities took Guildford from his rooms at the Tower of London to the public execution place at Tower Hill, where he was beheaded. A horse and cart brought his remains back to the Tower, past the rooms where Jane was staying. Seeing her husband’s corpse return, Jane is reported to have exclaimed: “Oh, Guildford, Guildford.” She was then taken out to Tower Green, inside the Tower, to be beheaded.
While admitting to action considered unlawful, she declared that “I do wash my hands thereof in innocence”. Jane then recited Psalm 51 (Have mercy upon me, O God) in English, and handed her gloves and handkerchief to her maid. The executioner asked her forgiveness, which she granted him, pleading: “I pray you dispatch me quickly.”
Referring to her head, she asked, “Will you take it off before I lay me down?”, and the axeman answered: “No, madam.” She then blindfolded herself. Jane then failed to find the block with her hands, and cried, “What shall I do? Where is it?” Probably Sir Thomas Brydges, the Deputy Lieutenant of the Tower, helped her find her way. With her head on the block, Jane spoke the last words of Jesus as recounted by Luke: “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit!”
Jane and Guildford are buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula on the north side of Tower Green. No memorial stone was erected at their grave. Jane’s father, the Duke of Suffolk, was executed 11 days after Jane, on February 23, 1554. Her mother, the Duchess of Suffolk, married her Master of the Horse and chamberlain, Adrian Stokes, in March 1555. She was fully pardoned by Mary and allowed to live at Court with her two surviving daughters. She died in 1559.