“Very early the next day Jerningham, accompanied by Tyrrell and Glemham, rode up to inspect the ships thus brought to the haven by a lucky tide and wind, as they say. When they had reached the haven he ordered Sir Richard Brooke, the squadron’s commander, a diligent man and skilled in seamanship, to be called to him, and took him to Framlingham castle to bring news of this happy and unexpected arrival to the queen”.
(Wingfield, The Vita Mariae Angliae Reginae, 1554)
No sooner had Edward VI died then the captains of several royal ships were given their orders to guard the east coast on behalf of Queen Jane. It was their understanding that Jane was Edward’s rightful successor so like dutiful subjects they carried out the commands. Unfortunately they received no pay for their men and as a consequence war had broken out onboard. Now, on the morning of the 15th, Sir Henry Jerningham and his men paid these ships a visit. The previous evening Jerningham had been told that several royal fleets were stationed in Orwell haven, having docked there owing to poor weather. They took a small boat and sailed to the ships and demanded that the crews called for Mary. Do you wish for the loyalty of our captains, asked the crew? ‘Yea’ was the obvious response from Jerningham. “Ye shall have theym or els we shall throwe theym to the bottom of the sea” they promised. The captains, none too fond of the notion of being plonked unceremoniously into the water, suddenly decided that they liked the sound of a ‘Queen Mary’. The overall commander, Richard Brooke, was subsequently ordered to go to Framlingham and offer the ships to Mary. Once the duke had hoped to trap Mary by providing her with no viable route out of England. Now he no longer controlled both land and sea.
In London, confusion was rife. The Imperial ambassadors reported that ‘there was trouble coming’ and ‘good men’ are ‘disgusted’ by the situation, including some members of the Privy Council. Sir Edmund Peckham, the Treasurer of the Mint had fled the city to pay homage to Mary. Lord Windsor and Sir Edward Hastings had also abandoned Jane, even though Hastings was the brother of the earl of Huntington who was then heading an army in Jane’s honour. Apparently Hastings fled to Mary after having a private conversation with his brother who revealed to him the duke’s plans to assassinate Mary. Once provided with the information he needed, he met with Peckham and the pair agreed they would desert the duke and Hastings and tell Mary of their plans. So much for brotherly love. Now men were starting to remember past grievances, however real or perceived, between themselves and Northumberland. He was a tyrant; he was a traitor. They had supported him out of fear though they had always been for Mary. They were disturbed by his ambition which, they argued, was far more significant than their own. Their only concern was for, as the earl of Arundel would argue, 'the public weal and the freedom of this Kingdom' not for the advancement of themselves and their family.
The duke, unaware of the changing attitude and such betrayal, entered Cambridge in the afternoon of the 15th. Despite the devastating loss of royal ships he still had an impressive force. So notable was the army that one contemporary in London heard that he had ‘great guns’ and ‘gunstones a great number’. Desertions by this point were small in number and the duke had taken artillery from the Tower. He was also expecting more men and would station his army in Cambridge for three days whilst his son, Robert, was in nearby King’s Lynn. Despite having a significant army it seems that Mary’s supporters were encouraging, even devising, rumours that she possessed huge forces – larger than she actually had. How influential these rumours were in persuading individuals give up on Jane and go to Framlingham offering their loyalty to Mary is debatable. Though clearly many were becoming uneasy by reports of her success and prepared to switch sides.
Mary’s standing in Norfolk and Suffolk was excellent and now Northamptonshire was showing signs of distaste for Jane’s accession. Sir Robert Tyrwhitt had raised troops for the duke there but Sir Thomas Tresham, described as ‘notable for his courage and his decent’, decided to defy his orders. At Northampton he proclaimed Mary queen and was aided by the citizens. Her position in Oxfordshire was also improving. John de Vere, sixteenth earl of Oxford came over to her cause. The story of his conversion is intriguing for, according to Wingfield’s account, the earl was won over by his servants. He had some days previously imprisoned a lawyer named Clement Tusser because the man proclaimed Mary queen and denounced Jane. The earl’s servants were ‘fully convinced that it was their duty to urge the earl to espouse and embrace Mary’s cause with all his might’. Still he had his doubts, which were enhanced when several of the duke’s allies arrived at his home to convince him to stay committed. In the end his servants adopted some zealous methods. They ‘crowded into the ample space of the castle hall and sent up deafening shouts that they recognised no other queen but Mary’. And if he would not change his mind they would ‘throw off their liveries’, thus renounce him as a master, and set out for Framlingham. We are told that the earl was ‘moved’ by such words; most likely he felt absolute horror over this defiance to his authority. The incident indicates that Mary not only held the devotion of her own servants but, remarkably, the loyalty of others.
(Image - Portrait of Edward Hastings, Baron Hastings of Loughborough by unknown artist, c.1540-43. NPG, London)