Friday, 16 July 2010

Sunday, 16 July 1553 – Mary’s forces ‘mershe forth towards’ Westminster

The xvjth daye of July the lorde highe treasurer was going to his howse in London at night, and about vij. of the clocke the gates of the Tower upon a sudden was shut, and the keyes caryed upp to the quene Jane; but what the cause was I knowe not. The noyes in the Tower was that ther was a seale lacking; but many men thought they surmysed that but the truthe was she feared some packinge in the lorde treasurer, and so they dyd fetch him at xvj. of the clocke in the night from his house in London into the Tower.”

(Nichols, The Chronicle of Queen Jane, and of Two Years of Queen Mary)

Mary now had the loyalty of the royal fleets and reports circulated London that she controlled a sizeable force. News had reached Mary that an army of 10,000, lead by her ally Sir Edmund Peckham and complied of men ‘of the shyres of Oxforde, Buckyngham, Berks, Myddlesex’ were planning ‘to mershe forth towards the Palaice of Westminster’ in her name. The number may have been an exaggeration but if she was told of this then her enemies in London were bound to have heard this alarming piece of information. Unsurprisingly panic broke out amongst Jane’s supporters. Were they backing someone doomed to fail? Were their lands, their titles – their lives – at risk? Could Mary’s troops easily conquer London? Some men decided to go out amongst the people to understand their sentiments. Evidently those still loyal to Jane were not too happy about such early signs of desertion and attempted to prevent some from testing the public mood. The lord treasurer and lord lieutenant of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, William Paulet, marquess of Winchester, tried to escape from the Tower where Jane and the Privy Council were stationed, to his London residence. However Jane’s men discovered what he was up to and ‘dyd fetch him at xij of the clocke in the night’. The earl of Arundel and earl of Pembroke would later prove more successful. The same day Jane’s father, the duke of Suffolk, whom the duke of Northumberland had left in charge during his absence, ordered Sir Thomas Cawarden to supply tents for the troops that had been brought in to guard the Tower where the queen dwelt. Letters proclaiming Mary as a wicked subject who was leading others into rebellion and spreading such ‘traitorous sundry untrue reports’ about Jane were drawn up by the Council and sent off to all the counties. It was a last-ditch effort that was simply ignored in various areas.

The duke still had the majority of the peers in the realm on his side. He also still commanded a large army and his son, Robert, was successful in securing the loyalty of King’s Lynn where he was stationed with his troops. He had also secured Thetford for Jane. But Mary was gaining support in a number of counties. The report concerning Peckham’s army of 10,000 indicates that he had men from Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Middlesex. Mary also received significant support in Norfolk and Suffolk, and she had allies operating in the Thames Valley. Now there was uneasy in London – in the heart of what was supposed to be Jane’s territory.

From the time Jane was proclaimed queen in London her supporters had been busy presenting arguments to the people about the righteousness of her rule and the unsuitability of Mary. Despite events developing in Mary’s favour, the most ardent of Jane’s supporters continued to uphold her claim. On this day in London, the bishop of the city, Nicholas Ridley, preached at Paul’s Cross and told the citizens that Mary was ‘not lawfully begotten in the estate of good matrimony according to God’s law’ and thus had no right to become queen. Once again the matter of her religion was raised and yet again the people were not convinced. They were, we all told, ‘sore annoyed with his words’ and thought him uncharitable. But they also may have been scared for they heard that a great force was heading their way and though they had not shown rapturous support for Jane, they had also not rebelled in Mary’s name. True a letter proclaiming Mary as queen was left anonymously in St Paul’s on this date, but this was not akin to an outright uprising. When Mary’s accession was announced in London three days later, the people were said to be overjoyed. Contemporary Ralph Starkey recorded that 'the bonfires were without number and what with shouting and crying of the people, and ringing of the bells, there could no one hear almost what another said, besides banqueting and singing in the streets for joy'. Perhaps for most this joy was genuine though their fervour may have been partly motivated by a sense of concern that their actions before had bordered on indifference.

For those interested in Jane Grey be sure to check out this fantastic site: Lady Jane Grey Reference Guide Blog.

(Image - Portrait of William Paulet, first marquess of Winchester by unknown artist, 1560s. NPG, London)

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