Saturday, 10 July 2010

Monday, 10 July 1553 - Jane is proclaimed Queen

And she [Jane Grey] left Sion, a palace of the Duke on the river Thames, in front of which is a palace of the Duke of Suffolk, both 7 miles distant from London. With a great retinue of Noblemen she was brought to the Tower and was received at the door by the Duke who, kneeling, put the keys in her hands. And although the number of people assisting to the ceremony was very big, no cheering was heard.”

(Commendone, Successi d’ Inghilterra, 1554)

Hungate, I am truly sorry that it was your lot to be so immature and thus rashly to throw yourself away in this embassy.”

(John Dudley’s words to Thomas Hungate, 10 July 1553)

Poor Thomas Hungate. Having confronted the Council in London with Mary’s letter demanding they recognise her as queen or face the consequences, he was duly arrested and sent to the Tower. His ‘immature’ actions, as the duke of Northumberland put it, cost him his liberty but only for a matter of days. Hungate backed the right cause though by the 10th there was no certainty Mary would become queen. Particularly as, whilst Hungate was being transported by water to the gloomy fortress, the King’s death was being announced in London and Jane declared queen.

Jane was taken from Syon to the Tower, a fortress held by her supporters. This was bad news for Mary. As the papal envoy Commendone later explained,

Any one who has to succeed to the English Crown, before his coronation, must forcibly dwell there [the Tower] 10 days and the reason if it is, as they say, that owing to its outstanding importance, he will be proved with certainty to be the rightful successor to the Crown once master of the Tower; otherwise the Council would refuse to grant its consent.”

Jane, beautifully attired in a gown of green velvet embroidered with gold and with her train bore by her mother, arrived at the Tower by around three o’clock in the afternoon. Some two or three hours later, Edward VI’s death was officially announced in London. It was common knowledge already that he was dead; the official announcement came as no surprise. If Londoners had got used to the news of Edward’s death they had not come to terms with the idea of ‘Queen Jane’. Few showed joy. Twenty years earlier, Londoners were said to have kept their caps firmly on their heads and the tongues still in their mouths when Anne Boleyn had been presented to them as their queen in her coronation procession. Uncomfortably for the Council, the vast majority of whom had been present at the same procession, the crowds repeated the same antics. It was time for the propaganda. Do you not know that the Lady Mary and the Lady Elizabeth are mere royal bastards and thus unfit to rule, they told the people? Do you all not know that the Lady Mary was born from a most offensive union to God – that her mother, Katherine of Aragon had first married Prince Arthur and then engaged in an incestuous union with his brother? (The Marquis of Winchester allegedly exclaimed, “Bastard, bastard, incestuous bastard Mary shall never reign over us!”) Do you not know that the Lady Mary was a follower of that religion which sought to suppress the English and take their rights – the religion which was governed by foreigners and not by the English sovereign, the natural ruler of these dominions? Their arguments were repeated continuously and with much zeal but proved ineffective. The Londoners remained silent.

Whilst Jane was dressed in the gowns and jewels that had one adorned Henry VIII’s ill-fated queens, Mary’s mother included, her men were rushing to various corners of the realm to proclaim her publicly. The council were issuing letters to local officers warning them to act against any disturbances they encountered and to ensure Jane’s accession was public knowledge. But Mary had still not been caught – for all his efforts, Robert Dudley had failed – and this was of deep concern to the duke and his allies. News reached London that Mary was calling for support and, worse still, receiving it in respectable numbers. Very shortly the duke would realise that if a job needs doing it is best done yourself, and thus joined the fight.

At Kenninghall where Mary was still residing, a number of supporters arrived having received their summons. Amongst them was Sir Henry Bedingfield and his brothers. A man once recommended to the duke, Bedingfield was also a Catholic and connected to the Howard family, the head of which was currently imprisoned in the Tower. Bedingfield would prove to be a man Mary could depend upon; in 1554 she appointed him as Princess Elizabeth’s jailor. Frustratingly the first list of men who supported Mary was drawn up on the 14th making it hard to indicate who were first to reach Kenninghall. But Sir Henry undoubtedly was there in the early days and was remembered for this in an account of the whole affair written by Robert Wingfield in 1554. Kenninghall was now getting rather cramped. A larger, better fortified household was needed and one which was more magnificent – a suitable place for a queen to conduct her affairs from. Fortunately Mary possessed such an establishment; a place which had been awarded to her just that year. Ironically Mary would win the throne of England from a castle which her brother had given her. Edward must have been turning in his freshly made grave.

(Image - ‘Jane by the grace of God Quene’, The Proclamation of 10 July 1553.)

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