Guildford DUDLEY

Born: ABT 1534/6

Died: 12 Feb 1554, Tower of London, Tower Green, London, England

Buried: Chapel Royal of St.Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London, Tower Green, London, England 

Father: John DUDLEY (1 D. Northumberland)

Mother: Jane GUILDFORD (D. Northumberland)

Married: Jane GREY (Queen of England) 21/5 May 1553, Durham House, London, England


With Edward VI dying, there was no possibility of Jane Grey marrying him. Frances and Henry Grey were happy enough to encourage Dudley. They may have been put off by Dudley's ambition; he first attempted to marry Guildford to Eleanor Brandon's only child, Margaret Clifford (Eleanor was Frances's younger sister). But, swayed by the prospect of wealth and power, they agreed to marry Jane to Guildford. In late Apr or early May, the betrothal was announced. Jane had protested the union but was persuaded by 'the urgency of her mother and the violence of her father'; in other words, persuaded by verbal and physical abuse.

Educated as an athlete and a scholar by John Dee. Jane Grey's biographer's have painted the picture of a precocious, spoilt young man, doted on by his parents and disinterested in his wife. Many have argued that Jane protested because she didn't like Guildford. That is unlikely. He was handsome enough (like most of the Dudley men), fair-haired and about her age. He was arrogant and spoilt; his mother openly favored him. But he had no other documented flaws. When considered against other men of the age, he was a good match. Jane's reservations centered on his father. She disliked and feared Dudley, as most people did. But the Duke had a weapon against Jane which he would wield effectively: religion. She was a devout and committed Protestant. She didn't want Mary as Queen any more than he did. And, unlike Dudley, Jane's desire was based on real principle, not simple greed.

So on 25 May 1553, Jane married Guildford at the Dudley's London residence, Durham House. It was one of the great homes of Tudor England; her sister Catherine was also married that day, to the Earl of Pembroke's heir. Orders, signed by the King, had been sent to the Master of the Wardrobe so that the grandest clothing and jewels could be used. Edward was supposed to attend but was far too ill. He did not watch as his cousin marched down the aisle, richly appareled in cloth of gold and silver, her red hair braided with pearls.

For many, Jane and Guildford's marriage marks the beginning of the attempt to change the line of succession. In reality, Edward VI had been pondering the problem for months.

Edward VI died on Jul 6, 1553 and four days later Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen of England. But here Northumberland's plans suffered their first check. Jane flatly refused to allow her new husband Dudley to be named King, a title he had manifestly no right to possess.

Instead, she proposed he be created Duke of Clarence. Northumberland, his wife Jane Guildford, and  Guildford, were furious at her refusal, but she would not unbend from what she considered the only right and lawful course. Of the little information we have of him we do know Jane referred to his aggressive temperament, and ill treatment of her when he learned she would not crown him King.

A second setback soon followed; to secure the success of his plans Northumberland needed to capture Mary and prevent support forming around her. But Mary was warned of his plans, and barely escaped the men sent to imprison her. Northumberland abandoned London and set off in pursuit of Mary, who had taken refuge at Framlingham Castle in Norfolk. In his absence the Council acted quickly and declared its support for Mary.

Mary was declared Queen at Paul's Cross, London, and Northumberland realized that his plans had failed. He threw himself upon Mary's mercy. She was inclined to be magnanimous in victory, but Northumberland's enemies on the Council persuaded her that the Duke was too dangerous, and he was quickly put to death.

As for Jane Grey, she and her unwelcome husband Guildford were sent to the Tower. She had spent but nine short days as Queen of the realm.

Guildford was taken into custody on 20 Jul and was held in the Beauchamp Tower, and Jane at the house of the Gaoler at #5 Tower Green. Though the couple were neighbours, they were forbidden contact.

It was in this lodging that the inscription, 'Jane' was found etched in the stone wall. Many have seen this as a romantic gesture in reference to his young wife. While it is possible that Guildford did do the etching, it should also be remembered that his mother's name was also Jane.

   

There is some evidence to suggest that Guildford became fond of Jane towards the end of their imprisonment. This argument is made by Mary Luke, in 'The Nine Day Queen.' Regardless of Guildford's affections, Jane possessed a formidable intellect and was a young lady more interested in religious and scholarly pursuits than matters concerning her husband.

On Nov 13 they were brought to trial for treason at the Guildhall and speedily found guilty. Even then, Mary was inclined to be merciful and spare the lives of these unwitting pawns in the schemes of Northumberland. But once again the plots of others ensnared Jane Grey. This time it was her father Henry, Duke of Suffolk, who brought about her final ruin.

Henry Grey joined the ill-fated revolt known as the Wyatt Rebellion. Sir Thomas Wyatt, angered at Mary's plans to marry Felipe of Spain, raised an armed revolt in Kent and marched on London. His cause failed to rouse the Londoner's support, and Wyatt was captured. Grey tried to raise the Midlands in revolt, but he also was swiftly captured. Mary realized that as long as Jane lived she would continue be a focus for rebellion, so on Feb 7, 1554 she reluctantly signed Jane's death warrant.

Guildford begged Mary's leave to visit Jane, which Mary granted, but Jane refused to meet with her husband, saying 'it would disturb the holy tranquility with which they had prepared themselves for death'.

On the morning of Feb 12 Jane watched from her window as Guildford was taken to Tower Hill, and she was still watching when his headless corpse returned to the Tower. He was refused the counsel of a Protestant minister and he turned down the offer made by Dr. Feckenham to accompany him. Most of Jane's biographers report that Guildford wept on his way to Tower Hill. At the scaffold, Guildford did not address the crowd. He knelt, said his prayers, held up his hands to God and asked the people to pray for him. Afterwards, his body was placed in a cart and taken back within the confines of the Tower. See an account of his execution from the anonymous Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary.

to Bios Page

to Family Page

to Peerage Page to Home Page