Henry GREY

(1st D. Suffolk)

Born: 17 Jan 1517

Acceded: 11 Oct 1551

Died: 23 Feb 1554, Tower Hill, London, England, beheaded

Buried: St. Peter et Vincula, Tower of London

Notes: Knight of the Garter.

Father: Thomas GREY (2° M. Dorset)

Mother: Margaret WOTTON (M. Dorset)

Married 1: Catherine FITZALAN SEPARATION 1553

Married 2: Frances BRANDON (D. Suffolk) Mar/May 1533, Suffolk Place, Southwark, London


1. Son GREY

2. Dau. GREY

3. Jane GREY (Queen of England)

4. Catherine GREY

5. Mary GREY

Born 1514, he was the son of Thomas Grey, second Marquis of Dorset, by his second wife, Margaret, dau. of Robert Wotton of Braston. In 1530 he took possession of Bradgate, a mansion which combined the amenities of a hunting-palace with the comforts of a private villa. A rather uncertain and hazardous existence at court and in the French wars, alternating with abortive intrigue for further favours, had given Dorset ambition without stability of purpose. Handsome, affable, cultivated, impetuous and far too easygoing, he had competed for wealth and position with only moderate success. In these days of the rising "new men" he counted himself to the old nobility: for his grandfather, the first Marquis, was the son of Elizabeth Woodville and therefore the stepson of Edward IV, Henry VIII's maternal grandfather.

He became third marquess of Dorset on his father’s death (1530). Three years after he succeeded, young Dorset, who in addition to his marquisate and his other estates in Leicestershire had inherited the baronies of Ferrers, Grey of Groby, Astley, Boneville and Harrington, dissolved his contract of betrothal with lady Catherine Fitzalan, sister of the Earl of Arundel, in order to ally himself with the King's elder niece, Frances Brandon. Frances was the daughter of Mary Tudor, youngest sister of Henry VIII, and this alliance brought Henry Grey into the royal household; they were married in the chapel of his London house in Southwark. This lady's ancestry combined royal and middle-class blood and, from her husband's point of view, her kinship with the King was of incalculable value; its results were to prove fatal to every member of the family but herself.

By the time Frances and Henry Dorset had been married two years, she had borne him a son who died a few months later; a daughter followed, who also died. Lady Jane was born in the same year and the same month - the exact date in Oct 1537 is not recorded - as Edward VI, Henry's son by his third wife, Jane Seymour. Although the Dorsets were disappointed at not having a son, they had important plans for Jane. From their point of view, the dynastic situation was promising, and they were bent on getting the most out of it.

In the years immediately before and after Jane's birth these patterns followed a course which was to affect her whole career: By the end of the 1530s, religio-political dissension had divided the ruling classes in three parties, who were striving with one another. The first was that of the papalist, who had condemned the nullity suit brought by Henry against Catalina of Aragon and had tried to withstand Parliament's declaration of his supremacy over the Church, this party was in a minority. The second, the largest and most powerful, was that of the Henricians; they had approved the nullity suit and the King's second marriage and were Catholic in everything but obedience to the Pope. The third party, which was beginning to form when Jane Grey was born and was not described as Protestant till her tenth year, became effective as she grew up. It was of course looked on as heretical and criminal by the other two, although Henry himself patronised some of its leaders; it attracted those interested in the New Learning (of which Jane was to become such a famous example), including her tutors; it put her and her parents in touch with continental and Calvinist intellectuals. Meanwhile the King, who burnt heretics and hanged or beheaded those denying his supremacy, controlled all three parties through ruthlessness, subtlety and prescience.

As the moods and tenses of Henry's policy were reflected in the Dorsets' actions, so Jane's education and point of view were gradually and indirectly affected by such events as the redistribution of monastic lands, the translation of the Bible, the failure of the King's fourth and fifth marriages and the installation of his last wife. Catherine Parr's influence indeed was one of the most important influences in Jane's life; but she did not come under it until her tenth year. BEF then - by the age of five - she had acquired some social experience, and was being trained in public behaviour.

Henry and Frances Dorset were robust and energetic. They spent a great deal of time out of doors and lead a healthy, busy life. The routine that suited them was sometimes too strenous for their daughters, of whom much was required, with the result that both Catherine and Jane were apt to succumb to nervous exhaustion. Mary's birth amounted almost to a disaster: she was a hump-backed dwarf and was very ugly. but although she might prove, in spite of her Tudor blood, to be unmarriageable, they did their best for her by giving her the same education as her sisters and took her about with them. But her future remained a problem. Catherine was the beauty of the family. Jane was small, light-haired and neatly made. Her skin was very fair and soon became permanently freckled. But as soon as she passed the first stage of her education she showed herself to be gifted in so many ways that her freckles were overlooked. Mary's birth amounted almost to a disaster: she was a hump-backed dwarf and was very ugly. but although she might prove, in spite of her Tudor blood, to be unmarriageable, they did their best for her by giving her the same education as her sisters and took her about with them. The English custom of boarding out young children consisted of sending those children to larger and wealthier establishments so that they might acquire the habits of the fashionable world. As the Dorsets' position was one of the highest, the only way of raising her daughter Jane's social status was to place her with Queen Catherine Parr. By the time Henry VIII's health began to fail, and he withdrew from the bustle of Westminster and Whitehall to the comparative seclusion of Windsor and Hampton Court - between the spring of 1546 and his death in Jan 1547 - the tenor of life in his palaces had so changed that it would have been difficult to introduce his great-niece into the Queen's household. Although it is not clear when Jane left Bradgate, she became known to the Queen, Prince Edward and the Princesses before Henry died. By the time the boy King succeeded and his step-mother had taken up partial residence at Chelsea Palace, Jane had joined her household, and was given precedence of all but her cousins as a princess of the blood.

It now ocurred to the Admiral Thomas Seymour, the King's uncle, that he was the very person to arrange an alliance between the cousins. His doing so woul diminish the prestige of the Protector, who was carrying out the late King's policy of obtaining a french or Spanish princess for his nephew. Seymour consulted Dorset, and they agreed to work together on the scheme.

When Jane had been with the Queen Dowager for some months, Dorset, who seems to have been pushing his interests from his London house, began to grow impatient. He talked of removing Jane from the Admiral's household if nothing were done about the marriage. At last, Seymour sent one of his gentlemen, Harington, to reassure him. Still nothing happened. Finally Dorset went to the Admiral's house in Seymour Place and had a talk with him in the garden, out of the hearing of the servants. Seymour was full of promises and schemes. But if Dorset was so foolish as to remove Jane, they would never be realized. He must have her guardianship - and he was willing to pay for it. What Dorset later described as "certain covenants" were then agreed upon. They resulted in Seymour's paying Dorset some hundreds on account of the £2,000 that would be his if Jane was officially contracted to Edward VI. But the Admiral took no practical steps, for the Protector, as Edward's Governor, was in absolute control. It would not do for Dorset to know this, however. He continued to make Dorset "fair promises", and Jane stayed on.

Meanwhile Catherine Parr was persuaded by the Admiral to marry him secretly. They confided in the King, whose approval and support would protect them from the wrath of Somerset and the Privy Council. By the end of May 1547 all was known, and the Protector, although much displeased, had forgiven his younger brother. A year passed happily and uneventfully for Jane. The Queen gave birth to a daughter and died eight days afterwards of puerperal fever. Then the clouds began to gather round Lady Jane.
As soon as he heard of the Catherine's death, Dorset sent for Jane to his London house, and Seymour seemed rather relieved that she should go. At any rate, he consented to her departure and she remained with her parents for a little while. The letters that passed between them and the Admiral during the next few weeks make it clear that they had perceived a change in her. She was no longer the docile, little creature they had known at Bradgate. Dorset did not like this development and neither did his wife. What concerned them much more, however, was the Admiral's failure to arrange her marriage, and they decided to cut their losses and remove her permanently from his charge. Seymour then visited them and insisted that all would yet be well, if they would let her come back to him. "As he would have no nay," said Dorset afterwards, "we were contented she again return to his house," and Lady Jane and her attendants accompanied the Admiral to Hanworth. Seymour wanted to keep her indefinitely while doing nothing about her marriage. She was an asset. Her presence in his household raised his status. To Parry, Princess Elizabeth's treasurer, he confided a secondary scheme. "There hath been a tale of late," he said, "they say now I shall marry my Lady Jane," adding with his great laugh, "I tell you this but merrily - merrily".

Seymour might have succeeded in putting off Dorset, but Frances was not so easily satisfied. She began to worry too, about her daughter's position - who was chaperoning her? Seymour answered her objections in a soothing latter to her husband. He was keeping on all his wife's maids and could therefore provide suitable attendants for Jane. Also, his mother, old Lady Seymour, had arrived, "who will, I doubt not, be as dear to Jane, as though she were her own daughter". He added that he and the Dorsets must meet to discuss the matter as soon as he returned from Court. When they did so, Seymour renewed his promises. At first, Dorset did not whish to leave Jane with the Admiral, then he hesitated. At least Frances Dorset wrote, thanking Seymour for his offer. They would continue to take his advice about Jane's future - i. e. her marriage with the King, but he must trust her as "his good sister" to know what was best for their own child. Once more the Admiral had to plead for her guardianship. Dorset replied with a description of her development. In fact, Dorset thought that Jane had been spoilt and was becoming unmanageable. It seems that Jane had changed, from the Dorsets' point of view, for the worse. Perhaps the strength of character which was to surprise so many was now apparent beneath her quiet exterior.

Again, she returned to her parents. And before they were again persuaded by Harington and Seymour to give her up, she herself wrote to the Admiral, formally, as the occasion required, yet beneath the stiff phrases the desire for his company is clearly seen.
She returned to the Admiral's care at about the time of her twelfth birthday. BEF she did so
Dorset received another five hundred pounds. The Dorsets were now committed to the Admiral's cause.

Between the autumn of 1548 and Jan of the following year the Admiral's schemes became more daring and widespread. He ignored all warnings, including those of his friends on the Privy Council. But the Admiral would not accept that the King had seen through him - it was his brother's fault that he could not obtain access to His Majesty. By this time Sharington had collected £10,000 and the rising was planned - in the Admiral's brain, at least. Still nothing happened. No one would join him in the first move. At last, maddened by the King's withdrawal and his allies' pusillanimity, Seymour broke into the King's bedchamber, apparently with the intention to kidnap him. He was seized, atteinted, and executed a few weeks later. As soon as he was arrested the Dorsets removed Lady Jane to Bradgate, having supplied the Privy Council with all the evidence they needed and thus exculpating themselves.

For the next three years Jane remained with her parents. In their eyes she was now a symbol of failure and a wasted effort - and they treated her accordingly.

By the time Jane was fifteen, her parents had abandoned their dream of marrying her to King Edward. Jane now believed that she was betrothed to the Duke of Somerset's son, Lord Hertford. But Somerset was imprisioned and his place taken by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick (later Duke of Northumberland). Henry Grey soon shifted his allegiance to the Earl of Warwick. He received favors at court and was created (1551) Duke of Suffolk through his wife’s claim. Lady Jane was stunned when her parents informed her that she was instead to marry Guildford Dudley, the youngest son of the Duke of Northumberland. She refused to marry him, and went on refusing until her mother literally beat her into submission.

Jane married Guildford Dudley in May of 1553. The marriage was consummated the following month at Northumberland's command, but the couple continued to live apart.

Northumberland had little trouble persuading the fervently Protestant Edward that the throne must not fall to his Catholic sister Mary. The King was convinced to circumvent his father's will and name Jane's mother Frances as his successor. Frances then duly relinquished her own "claim" in favour of her daughter, Jane. With great difficulty Northumberland convinced the Council to fall in with his plans, and most of them signes the device of King Edward.

Three days later the King died. Northumberland kept the death secret for several days to prevent Edward's sister Mary from claiming the crown. But on Jul 9 Mary, who was in Norfolk, heard the news and proclaimed herself Queen. On the same day Jane was taken by her sister-in-law, Mary Dudley, to Northumberland's house, the old monastery of Syon and led to a throne. Everyone bowed or curtsied to her. Realizing what was happening, Jane began to shake. Northumberland made a speech announcing that Jane was the new Queen, at which Jane fell on the floor in a brief faint. No one came to her assistance and she remained on the floor, sobbing. Finally she got to her feet and announced, "The crown is not my right, and pleaseth me not. The Lady Mary is the rightful heir."

The next day Jane made her state entry into London. She was taken to the Tower of London, as was traditional. For a few days Northumberland stayed close to Jane, bringing her documents to sign and generally telling her what to do. Despite Jane's objection to making Guildford King, Northumberland announced that both she and her husband would be crowned in two weeks. Then Northumberland left with an army to capture Mary, who was marching toward London with an army of her own. While he was gone the nervous royal council decided to proclaim Mary the rightful Queen. The proclamation was made on Wed 19th Jul. The people of London were jubilant. Determined to save himself, the Duke of Suffolk signed the proclamation making Mary Queen, then went to his daughter's apartments and tore down her canopy of estate, telling her she was no longer Queen.

"Out of obedience to you and my mother I have grievously sinned," Jane said quietly. "Now I willingly relinquish the crown. May I not go home?"- her quote when Suffolk came for her. Her father left without answering her.

Jane and Guildford soon became prisoners. Her father and Northumberland were also arrested and brought back to the tower. Henry Grey was released after a few days. He and Frances did not write to Jane or try to save her life. Northumberland was executed in Aug. On Nov 13 Jane and Guildford were tried and sentenced to death. Jane wasn't worried, however, because she had been told that the Queen would pardon her.

Then, in Feb of 1554, Sir Thomas Wyatt raised a revolt against Mary. The people didn't want Mary married Felipe of Spain. Soon enough, word reached London of uprisings in the countryside - Carew in Devonshire, Wyatt in Kent, Sir James Croft in Wales...

When the news first arrived in London that Sir Thomas Wyatt "was up in Kent", the Duke of Suffolk was resident at his house, late the Carthusian monastery of Sheen, in the parish of Richmond, Surrey. Whatever part he may have undertaken to perform in the conspiracy, he was scarcely prepared to execute it; in consequence of their names having been betrayed by the Earl of Devon to the Lord Chancellor, the conspirators, says Noailles, (who was in their confidence), had been driven to take arms six weeks or two months earlier than they had intended (Lettre au Roy, 25 Jan. 1553, Ambassades, iii. 43).

But, to avoid arrest, Suffolk fled hastily to his own estates in Leicestershire and Warwickshire; a letter of the Earl of Shrewsbury states, that it was on friday the 26th: "The Duke of Suffolk is on friday stolen from his house at Shene, and run away, with his two brethren, to Leicestershire; for he was met at Stony Stratford. My lord of Huntingdon is gone into those parts after him, with (blank) against him. The Duke is proclaimed traitor". (Lodge's Illustrations of Brit. History, vol. i. p. 189).

Bishop Cooper asserted in his Chronicle, that the Duke during his journey, "in divers places as he went, again proclaimed his daughter, but the people did not greatly incline to him". This statement is certainly untrue; if the Duke had so done, it would have been alleged against him at his trial. His professed object was identical with Wyatt's, to oppose the Queen's alliance with Spain, and he "made proclamation only to avoid strangers out of the realm".

His intent was to lead men of the midland shires and join Wyatt near London. His actual course fell far short of this goal - he fled from one county to another until he reached his manor of Astley. 

Holinshed correctly says, that the Duke, "in the towne of Leycester and other places, caused proclamation to be made in semblable wyse as sir Thomas Wiat had done, against the queenes matche, which she ment to make with the sayd King of Spain, but fewe there were that woulde willingly harken thereto".

"The Duke had ment at the first to have rid awaye (as I have credibilye hearde), if promise had been kept by one of his servaunts, appoynted to come to him to bee his guyde; but when he, either feyning himselfe sicke, or being sicke indeede, came not, the Duke was constrayned to remayne in the parke there at Astley, hoping yet to get awaye after that the searche had bene passed over, and the countrie once in quiet. Howsoever it was, there he was taken, as before is sayde, togither with his brother the lord John Grey."

Some further traditional particulars of the duke's capture are thus given by Dugdale in the History of Warwickshire: "Finding he was forsaken, he put himself under the trust of one Underwood, as 'tis said, a keeper of his park here at Astley, who hid him some few days in a large hollow tree there, standing about two bow-shoot south-westwards from the church: but, being promised a reward, betray'd him".

He was promptly arrested by the Earl of Huntingdon. Later, rumors spread that he had proclaimed Jane Queen during his ride through the midlands. This was untrue but it didn't matter. Jane had once been Queen and, as Mary's advisors put it, she would be the figurehead of any Protestant plot. Now he wrote to Jane and asked for her forgiveness. She wrote back, "Although it hath pleased God to hasten my death by you, by whom my life should rather have been lengthened, yet can I patiently take it, that I yield God more hearty thanks for shortening my woeful days". Once again, she was morally innocent but she was still dangerous. She had to die. To this, Renard added that Felipe could not arrive until the Protestant threat had been destroyed. All the opposition to her marriage had simply made the obstinate Mary more determined to marry Felipe. So the suspended sentence on Jane was revoked and she was condemned to die immediately.

Jane was also preparing to die. She sent a letter to her father (brought to the Tower on 10 Feb).

The latter included a remonstration that his actions had hastened her death. But she did not write to her mother; nor did Frances attempt to visit her.

Five days after Jane's execution, Henry Grey was brought to trial and found guilty of treason for his part in Dudley's scheme. He was beheaded on Tower Hill 23 Feb 1554.

Modern writers are generally content to characterise the Duke of Suffolk as a very weak man. His friends had, however, something to allege in his praise; and the following character of him, fuller than was usually bestowed upon great men by the chronicles of his age, appears in the pages of Holinshed, and may appropriately close the present note:

"Suche was the ende of this Duke of Suffolke, a man of high nobilitie by byrthe, and of nature to his friendes gentle and courteous, more easie in deede to be led than was thought expedient, of stomacke nevertheless stoute and hardie, hastye and soone kindled, but pacified streight againe, and sorie if in his heate ought had passed him otherwise than reason might seeme to beare; upright and plaine in his private dealing, no dissembler, nor well able to beare injuries, but yet forgiving and forgetting the same, if the partie woulde seeme but to acknowledge his fault, and seke reconcilement. Bountifull hee was and very liberall, somewhat learned himselfe, and a greate favorer of those that were learned, so that to many he showed himself a very Mecaenas; no lesse free from covetousnesse than voide of pride or disdainful hautinesse of mind, more regarding plaine-meaning men than clawback flatterers: and this vertue hee had, he coulde patiently heare his fautes told him, by those whom he had in credit for theire wise dome or faithful meanings towards him, although sometime he had not the hap to reforme himself thereafter. Concerning this last offence for the which he died, it is to be supposed he rather toke in hand that unlawfull enter price through others' perswasion than of his owne motion, for anye malicious ambition in himselfe".

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