Saturday, 17 July 2010

Monday, 17 July 1553 – Dying days of Jane’s reign

O ye counsellors, why did ye me advance,
To a queen’s estate, full sore against my mind,
Assuring me it was my just inheritance.
Now, contrary to your suggestion, I perceive and find
All was in vain, your wits were too blind
Me to delude against the form of law;
Forsooth, you were to blame, and all not worth a straw.

Your creeping and kneeling to me, poor innocent
Brought me to weening with your persuasions
That all was truth which you untruly meant.
Such were your arguments, such were your reasons
Made to me sundry times and seasons
Your subtle dealing deceived hath both you and me.
Dissimulation will not serve, now may you see

(George Cavendish’s tragical poem from the perspective of Jane Grey, c.1553)

After Mary was declared queen, William Cecil – the future Lord Burghley and renowned Elizabethan minister – claimed that he held doubts regarding the legitimacy of Edward VI’s alterations to the succession but was convinced to support Jane. Though he did not flee London on this date to pay homage to her, he started to entertain ideas of escape. His man, Richard Troughton, was ordered to have horses ready for him at Royston. When he felt the time was right, namely when the council in London completely abandoned Jane, he would flee and beg Mary to forgive him. Fortunately his sister-in-law, Lady Anne Bacon, was one of Mary’s former ladies and would become a gentlewoman of her Privy Chamber. A pardon was secured.

His decision to contemplate abandoning Jane was not unique. The earls of Arundel and Pembroke had fled the Tower to Pembroke’s residence, Baynard’s Tower, and were now discussing whether to support Mary. It was from this location that two days later they would agree with the rest of the Council that Jane’s cause was lost.

In France, the duke’s kinsman, Henry Dudley, was at the French court attempting to convince King Henri II to recognise Jane as queen and promise military aid if Mary’s cousin, Charles V, chose to intervene on her behalf. Talks with the French had extended back to before Edward VI’s death, but the duke needed to ensure that Henri would not advance his daughter-in-law, Mary, Queen of Scots as a rival candidate or show indifference to the idea of Charles invading England. In fact Charles had no aspirations to do this; he was far more preoccupied with other affairs including his war with France which lead, on this date, to his troops capturing the town of Hesdin. Still Jane’s supporters needed to know that they had an ally in case the worst occurred. The duke was also vigilant of appearing too needy. Henry Dudley was to make it clear that England didn’t need France’s help unless Charles made a move. Henry Dudley was still talking over terms with King Henri by the 19th, the day Mary was proclaimed queen in London.

Sometime in the last days of Jane’s reign, various parts of Devonshire called for Mary. At first this may not seem that surprising given that areas of the south-west remained attached to conservative religious practices. In 1549 Edward’s government had faced a rebellion in the south-west against the changes in the Church, an uprising which some accused Mary of being complicit in. The Council asked her plainly whether certain of her servants had left her household to join her rebellion. She staunchly denied that she or her household had anything to do with this and though the Council believed her they retorted that her blatant Catholicism had meant she was a natural figurehead for the rebels. Yet in these past days, Mary’s support base had been focused predominately in the areas where she held most estates and where she was based – the south-east of the country. Now support for Mary was proclaimed elsewhere. Sir Peter Carew of Mohun's Ottery, Devon felt ‘allegaunce to his naturall Prince [Mary]’ and ‘dyd cause the sayd Lady Marye to be proclaymed Queene in too markett townes neere to the place where he then dwelled – the one in Dartemouthe, and th’other at Newton Abbot’. With most of the south-west and now areas of the south-east calling for Mary, the capital was the next target. Mary believed that London would need to be taken by force and as late as the 20th she was preparing her troops for battle. Fortunately her precautions were unnecessary; it would not take a battle to cause London to call for Mary.

(Image - Portrait of Sir Peter Carew by Gerlach Flicke. National Gallery of Scotland)


  1. I've been enjoying reading your account of Mary's struggle for the throne, very in depth and thoughtful. Even though we all know the outcome (and I must confess to having a soft-spot for Mary!) I can't help feeling for poor Jane!

  2. Thank you! Though Mary's eventual success is well known, it is interesting to see how far into the affair her cause was still regarded as hopeless. Even the Imperial ambassadors, whose sympathies were entirely with Mary, thought she stood no chance right up till the last days. Jane comes across as rather remarkable, exhibiting a lot more courage and grace than most of her key supporters.