February 18th 2016 marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of Mary Tudor, who was Queen of England from 1553-1558. Earlier this month also saw the 462nd anniversary of the execution of Lady Jane, on Mary’s orders. As it is Mary’s 500th birthday, I thought I would look at Mary and Jane and their relationship before and after the dramatic events of July 1553, ‘when in the space of 24 hours, the country had two rival queens regnant.'(1)
Instead of Mary (his half-sister) inheriting the throne on his death, Edward VI had tried to change the line of succession as laid down in the will of Henry VIII. Using his ‘Devise for the Succession’, Edward had decreed that the throne should not pass to either of his half-sisters, but should go to the male heirs of Lady Jane Grey (the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister, Mary). But there was not enough time between Lady Jane’s marriage (to Guildford Dudley) and Edward’s death, for her to produce an heir. So Edward had made a last minute change to the succession and willed the crown to Jane herself. Nor was there time for the change to be made law by parliament and when the succession of ‘Queen Jane’ was announced on 10th July 1553, Mary fought for her throne.
On the 19th July, Jane’s supporters amongst the Privy Council went over to Mary and the reign of ‘Queen Jane’ was over. Jane was found guilty of treason in November and sentenced to death. Mary intended to reprieve Jane but the actions of Jane’s father, with his involvement in Wyatt’s rebellion in January/February 1554, led Mary to sign Jane’s execution warrant.
Evidence of the relationship between Mary and Jane (as first cousin’s once removed) can be found in the ‘Privy purse expenses of the Princess Mary.’ Ives writes that before Jane ‘was ten Princess Mary had given her a ‘lace for the neck… containing small pearls’ (2) and ‘possibly also another.’ (3) In the ‘inventory of jewels’ section of ‘Privy purse expenses etc’, there is a note next to the items in question, ‘gyven to my cousin Jane graye. Itm an other lace for the nekke of gold smyth-wke…small ples xxxij. Itm a lace for the necke…xiiij. small Rubies and lxx. meane ples.’ (4)
There are a number of stories that relate to Jane and Mary. One of these happened during a visit the Greys’ made to the Princess at Beaulieu Palace (New Hall) in Essex. De Lisle writes that the ‘Grey sisters’ last recorded visit to Beaulieu (was) in November 1549.’ (5) The story, which Ives describes as ‘possibly apocryphal’ (6), appeared in the 1563 version of Foxe’s ‘Acts and Monuments’.
‘THe lady Iane, she whom the Lord Gilford maried, being on a time whē she was very yong, at New hal in Essex, at the Lady Maries was by one lady An wharton desired to walk, and they passinge by the chappell, the Ladye Wharton made low curtesy to the popish sacrament, hanginge on the alter, which when the Lady Iane saw, marueled why shee did so, and asked her whether the Lady Mary were there or not. Vnto whom the lady Whartō answered no, but she said she made her curtesy to him that made vs all. Why, quod the Ladye Iane, howe canne he be there that made vs all, & the Baker made him? This her aunswer comminge to the lady Maries eare, she did neuer loue her after as is credibly reported, but estemed her as the rest of that Christian profession.’ (7)
De Lisle writes that ‘there is no evidence’ that Mary ‘never loved her after’ and that ‘Mary later showed fondness for the younger Grey sisters.’ (8)
Another story about Jane and Mary was told by Dr John Aylmer (Jane’s former tutor) in ‘A Harbor for Faithful Subjects.’ Ives writes, ‘She was clearly the person Aylmer had in mind.’ (9)
‘Yea this I know that a great mans daughter, receaiuinge from Ladye Marie before she was Quene, goodly apparel of tynfyll, cloth of golde, and veluet, layd on with parchement lace of gold: when she sawe it, sayde, what shal I doo with it? mary saide a gentle woman weare it. Nay quod she, that were a shame to followe my lady Mary against Gods woorde, and leaue my lady Elyzabeth, whiche foloweth Gods woorde.’ (10)
In Mary’s proclamation announcing her succession on 18th July 1553, Porter describes how Mary ‘goes on to attack Northumberland and his ambitions without even deigning to name her cousin Jane Grey…‘minding to make his own son king by marriage of a new found lady’s title…’ (11)
De Lisle writes that, Mary’s strategy in blaming Northumberland and ‘putting the best possible complexion on all Jane’s former actions’ so that ‘peace was re-established within the royal family.’ (12) Jane herself described Mary as a ‘merciful Princess’ on 29th August 1553. (13) The author of ‘The Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary and Especially of the Rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt’, dined with Lady Jane that evening.
‘Note, that on tuisdaie the xxixth of Auguste, I dyned at Partrige’s house with my lady Jane, being ther present, she sitting at the bordes end, Partige, his wife, Jacob my ladyes gentill woman, and hir man. She commanding Partrige and me to put on our capes, emongest our communycacion at the dyner, this was to be noted: after she had one or twice droncke to me and bad me hartellie welcome, saithe she, “The queens majesty is a merciful princes; I beseche God she may long continue, and sende his bountefull grace apon hir.” (14)
Ives writes that Jane ‘must have heard – possibly even seen – Mary leave the Tower at the start of her triumphant coronation.’ (15) However, unlike in the 1986 film ‘Lady Jane’, there is no evidence of a meeting between Queen and usurper.
Ives states that, ‘A letter of explanation and confession to the queen is the one written appeal from Jane that would have been allowed, the August date is what one would expect, and remarks made by Mary to the imperial ambassador on the 13th indicate that she received such a letter.’ (16)
In a despatch dated 16 August 1553, the ambassador wrote to the Emperor that:
‘As to Jane of Suffolk, whom they had tried to make Queen, she could not be induced to consent that she should die…three days before they went to fetch her from Sion House to take her to the Tower and make her entry into the town as usurping Queen, she knew nothing of it, nor was she ever a party nor did she ever give her consent to the Duke’s intrigues and plots.’ (17)
According to Ives, ‘this echoes the explanation which Jane had given to the queen in her letter, so proving that Mary had received it and accepted it as true. (18)
Jane was tried for treason at the Guildhall on 13th November 1553. De Lisle writes that ‘Mary intended that the trial play a role in the sixteen-year-old’s rehabilitation.’ (19) However, Mary’s attempts to save Jane were thwarted to some extent by Jane’s own actions. De Lisle describes Jane’s choice of appearance and her walking reading a prayer book on her way to trial, as ‘a public statement of Protestant piety.’ (20) The letter written by Jane to Thomas Harding, ‘the Greys’ former chaplain…who on the accession of the Catholic Mary had abandoned his previous Protestantism (21) was also to test Mary’s mercifulness. In the letter, Jane writes, ‘I will not refuse the true God, and worship the invention of man, the folden calf, the whore of Babylon, the Romish religion, the abominable idol, the most wicked mass.’ (22)
Despite Jane’s outspokenness, Mary still planned to pardon her. In mid-December, Mary granted Jane permission to walk in the Queen’s garden at the Tower. The author of ‘The Chronicle of Queen Jane etc’ wrote, ‘The xviijth day, the lady Jane had the libertie of the Tower, so she might walk in the queens garden and on the hille; and the lorde Robert and lorde Gilford the liberty of the leds in the Bell Tower…’ (23)
Henry Grey’s involvement in the Wyatt rebellion at the end of January 1554, sealed the fate of Jane and her husband. Although Mary was persuaded by events that Jane had to die, she made one last effort to try and save Jane’s soul. Dr Feckenham, sent by Mary to debate religion with Jane, failed in his quest to convert Jane to Catholicism.
1. Porter, L. (2007) Mary Tudor: The First Queen, Piatkus Books, p. 196
2. Ives, E. (2009) Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery, Wiley-Blackwell, p.54.
3. Ibid, note 62, p.301.
4. Madden, F. (1831) Privy purse expenses of the Princess Mary, daughter of King Henry the Eight, afterwards Queen Mary (electronic resource): with a memoir of the princess, and notes, W Pickering, (inventory of jewels, Fol. 148.b p.199). https://archive.org/details/privypurseexpens00maddrich Date accessed: 14 February 2016.
5. De Lisle, L. (2010) The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: The Tragedy of Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey, HarperPress, p.76
6. Ives, E. (2009) Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery, Wiley-Blackwell, p.77
7. John Foxe, The Unabridged Acts and Monuments Online or TAMO (1563 edition) (HRI Online Publications, Sheffield, 2011), modern page no. 1815, Foxe page no. 173. Available from: http//www.johnfoxe.org Date accessed: 14 February 2016.
8. De Lisle, L. (2010) The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: The Tragedy of Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey, HarperPress, p.76
9. Ives, E. (2009) Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery, Wiley-Blackwell, p.55
10. Aylmer, J. (1559) An harborovve for faithfull and trevve subiectes, John Day, (p.47-49, downloaded version). Available from JISC Historic Texts. Date accessed: 17 February 2016.]
11. Porter, L. (2007) Mary Tudor: The First Queen, Piatkus Books, p. 209
12. De Lisle, L. (2014), Tudor: The Family Story, Vintage, p.280-81
13. Nichols, J. G (ed) (1850) The Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary and Especially of the Rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt, Written by a Resident in the Tower of London, Llanerch Publishers, p. 25
14. Ibid, p.24-5.
15. Ives, E. (2009) Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery, Wiley-Blackwell, p.261
16. Ives, E. (2009) Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery, Wiley-Blackwell, p.19
17. ‘Spain: August 1553, 11-20’, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11, 1553, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1916), pp. 162-176 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol11/pp162-176 [accessed 17 February 2016].
18. Ives, E. (2009) Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery, Wiley-Blackwell, p.248
19. De Lisle, L. (2014), Tudor: The Family Story, Vintage, p.282
21. Ives, E. (2009) Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery, Wiley-Blackwell, p.17.
22. Nicolas, N.H Harding, The Literary Remains of Lady Jane Grey: With a Memoir of Her Life, Triphook & Lepard, p.24
23. Nichols, J. G (ed) (1850) The Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary and Especially of the Rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt, Written by a Resident in the Tower of London, Llanerch Publishers, p.33