“...she made a difficult and tiresome journey, hurrying at the dead of night to the home of Sir John Huddleston in Cambridgeshire, where she spent the night.”
(Wingfield, The Vita Mariae Angliae Reginae, 1554)
Whilst Mary was fleeing into Cambridgeshire to seek support and get as far away from her enemies as possible, the duke of Northumberland and the King were busy trying to secure the support of the nobility. Later, when the plot failed, many alleged that they had been bullied into agreeing to the affair though their hearts had always been with Mary. Nevertheless only a few did make significant protests against the changes at the time. Happy to please their monarch and perhaps genuinely agreeing with him about how unfit Mary was to be queen, most signed the letters-patent that sought to legalise Edward’s ‘devise’ of the succession. Mary’s movements had not gone unnoticed nor did the duke trust that all in the realm would readily accept Jane as the queen. Thus in these crucial final moments, numerous fortresses, amongst them the Tower, were secured and troops accumulated. Mary could not even escape by sea for the duke had ensured that the royal fleets were assembled, ready to face any potential attacks from Mary’s relatives abroad and blockading Mary’s access to the same relations. Six of the nine ships were active around East Anglia, where the princess was based. Mary, the duke hoped, would prove to be the insignificant fly, tangled in the spider’s web.
Regardless of these developments, Mary did not resort to panic and take reckless decisions. The following evening she had travelled into Cambridgeshire and by the next day she was at the residence of Sir John Huddleston. But instead of confining the stay to a few hours, she spent the night of the 5th there, probably conversing with Sir John about a plan of action and ensuring which households she would go to next. Still she had no idea when her brother was to die and she could not be sure that the news would get to her quickly. She was also unaware of her cousin’s schemes. For while Mary was occupied with her fight for the throne, Charles V was directing his diplomats in London to try to come to some sort of agreement with the duke of Northumberland. Perhaps they could seek an agreement whereby Charles would agree to recognise Jane as queen if the duke promised not to form an alliance with the French. An Anglo-Imperial alliance was still obtainable if the duke was willing. Certainly a betrayal to Mary, but Charles had got wind of the duke’s talks with the French. Reports were now circulating that the duke was asking for French assistance in securing Jane’s accession and to reward them he would hand over Calais, England’s last territory in France. One wild report stated that he was even offering Ireland to the French. You must do anything to prevent this, Charles furiously wrote to his representatives (“You will take such steps as you think necessary to defeat the machinations of the French, and to keep them out of England”.) While these male leaders and diplomats conspired, the two women at the centre of this matter did not know how shortly they would have to wait to become queen. Indeed for one, then recovering from illness in Chelsea, she did not even know a crown was awaiting her.
(Image - Medal of Charles V, attributed to Hans Reinhart the Elder, c.1537; Leipzip, Germany. On display at the V&A, London)