(1st D. Northumberland)

Born: 1502, Northumberland, England

Acceded: 11 Oct 1551

Died: 22/23 Aug 1553, Tower of London, Tower Hill, London, Middlesex, England

Notes: Knight of the Garter. The Complete Peerage v.XIIpII,p.397.

Father: Edmund DUDLEY (Chancellor of Exchequer)

Mother: Elizabeth GREY (6° B. Lisle)

Married: Jane GUILDFORD (D. Northumberland) ABT 1520


1. Henry DUDLEY (Sir)

2. Thomas DUDLEY (b. 1526 - d. 1528)

3. John DUDLEY (2° E. Warwick)

4. Ambrose DUDLEY (3° E. Warwick)

5. Henry DUDLEY

6. Robert DUDLEY (1° E. Leicester)

7. Guildford DUDLEY

8. Jane DUDLEY

9. Mary DUDLEY

10. Catherine DUDLEY (C. Huntingdon)

11. Charles DUDLEY (b. 1537 - d. 1542)

12. Temperance DUDLEY (d. 1552)

Dudley,John(1ºD.Northumberland)01.jpg (51288 bytes)

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland

Portrait at Penshurst

Suc. family 18 Aug 1510. Kntd. 4 Nov 1523; KG nom. 23 Apr inst. 5 May 1543, cr. Viscount Lisle 12 Mar 1542, Earl of Warwick 16 Feb 1547, Duke of Northumberland 11 Oct 1551. J.p. Surr., Suss. 1531-45, Warws. 1532-d., Kent 1537-d., Staffs. 1538-d., Worcs. 1540-d., numerous counties 1547-d.; jt. (with Sir Francis Bryan) constable, Warwick castle, Warws. Mar. 1532-50, knight of the body by 1533, master of the armoury, Tower of London 10 Jul 1534-44; sheriff, Staffs. 1536-7, chief trencher 16 Feb 1537-12 Jan. 1553; v.-adm. Feb 1537 - Jan 1543; dep. gov. Calais 29 Sep 1538; Ambassador to Spain Oct 1537; master of horse to Queen Anne of Cleves 1540; warden, Scottish marches 8 Nov 1542 - Apr 1543?, 20 Oct 1551 - Jul 1553; ld. admiral 26 Jan 1543 - 17 Feb 1547, 28 Oct 1549 - 14 May 1550; PC 23 Apr 1543 - Jul 1553; gov. Boulogne 30 Sep 1544-31 Jan 1545; chamberlain, Household 17 Feb 1547-1 Feb. 1550, master 20 Feb 1550 - Jul 1553; lt. of the north 17 Jul 1547; constable, Beaumaris castle, Anglesey by 1548-d., pres. council in the marches of Wales 1549-50; ld. lt. Warws. 1550, ld. pres. the Council Feb 1550-Jul 1553; gov.  Northumb. 1509-64 and warden of the east marches 27 May 1550-Jul 1553; Earl marshal 20 Apr 1551; chancellor, Camb. Univ. 1552-3, steward, ct. augmentations, Yorks. (E. Riding) 13 Apr 1552-Jul 1553; chief steward, Exchequer, Cumb., Northumb. Westmld., Yorks. 2 May - Jul 1553; trier of petitions in the Lords, Parlt. of Mar 1553; numerous commissions and minor offices.

First son of Edmund Dudley of Atherington, Sussex and London by Elizabeth, suo jure Baroness Lisle, dau. of Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Lisle. After his father's execution the wardship of the infant John Dudley was acquired by Sir Edward Guildford of Halden and Hemsted, Kent; and his mother married Henry VIII's kinsman Arthur Plantagenet, later Viscount Lisle. Two years later Guildford petitioned the King for the reversal of the attainder and under the Act (3 Hen. VIII, c.19) for Dudley's restoration he was confirmed in the guardianship. Although Guildford was not as much at court as his brother Sir Henry Guildford, his ward grew up there, married his daughter Jane and succeeded him as master of the royal armour. Dudley served as Guildford's lieutenant in the campaign of 1523 and was knighted by Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, for his valour at the crossing of the Somme.

His rise in the court was steady and he was sponsored by Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell.

He soon gained renown in the mock warfare of the court and joined the group of young men whose task it was to amuse the King. In 1527 he accompanied Wolsey to France and five years later went to Calais with the King. In 1533 he was a cup-bearer at the coronation of Anne Boleyn and he led the procession at the christening of Princess Elizabeth. Cromwell more than once considered him for the vice-chamberlainship of the Household but although he enjoyed the minister's friendship he did not obtain the office. At a by-election held on 19 Oct 1534 he replaced his father-in-law as one of the knights for Kent, taking his seat in the Commons at the opening of the seventh session two weeks later. His name appears on a list compiled by Cromwell on the back of a letter of Dec 1534 and thought to be of Members particularly concerned, perhaps as a committee, with the treasons bill then being debated. He was doubtless returned to the Parliament of 1536 in accordance with the King's general request for the re-election of the previous Members; on the eve of its assembly he informed Lisle that this Parliament was to condemn Anne Boleyn.

The Act for his restoration had assured Dudley of his patrimony in the south-west but on reaching 21 he sought to strengthen his title by litigation. The difficulties he encountered led him to part with much of his inheritance in favour of the midland estate of his impecunious kinsman John Sutton, 3rd Lord Dudley; he also disposed of his reversionary interest in the lands left by his mother to his stepfather for life. The failure of Sir Edward Guildford to make a settlement of his property in Kent and Sussex bred contention between Dudley, as the heir general's husband, and John Guildford as the heir male: after succeeding in his claim Dudley sold the manor of Halden and other lands to Cromwell. He also made extensive purchases, especially in Staffordshire and the Welsh marches, besides being given several manors by the King, so that his landed base shifted to the central and west midlands. He was pricked sheriff of Staffordshire in 1536 after helping to put down the northern rebellion.

In 1537 Dudley was sent on a mission to Spain and also began the connexion with the Admiralty which with his military commands from 1542 was to bring him to the fore during the closing years of the reign. It is not clear whether his appointment in 1538 as Lisle's deputy at Calais, designed by Cromwell to strengthen the government of the town, had the effect of excluding him from the Parliament of 1539. He was not re-elected for Kent, but Lisle as lord warden could have had him elected by one of the Cinque Ports or he could have been returned for a borough in Staffordshire or, as a royal nominee, for one elsewhere. Two fragments of evidence favour the supposition that he sat in this Parliament: on the eve of its third session he wrote to Sir Ralph Sadler about leasing a house near London, and after the session had begun he jousted with several men who are known to have been Members. During the second prorogation he had been named master of the horse to Anne of Cleves and had led her spare horse when the King received her at Blackheath.

The disgrace of Lisle in 1540 does not seem to have compromised Dudley. In Jan 1542 he took his place in the Commons as one of the knights for Staffordshire, but his stepfather's death on 3 Mar was followed nine days later by his own creation as Viscount Lisle. He entered the Lords the next day and was in regular attendance for the rest of the session; it is not known who replaced him in the Commons. After spending the summer of 1542 surveying the fortifications on the Scottish border, he was at court by the autumn when he was made lord warden of the marches, although ‘of small experience in the borders’. BEF he entered upon the office the situation was transformed by the battle of Solway Moss, but his request to be relieved of it on the ground of his unsuitability to negotiate a peace was not granted until the following spring. He then resumed his seat in the Lords during the second session and was shortly afterwards admitted a Privy Councillor. As lord admiral he directed the naval operations of the next two years and his attendance during the third session of the Parliament was correspondingly curtailed. To his other duties there was added in late 1544 the governorship of Boulogne.

After attending the first session of the Parliament of 1545 he went with the embassy to France to conclude peace. On his return he excused himself from Council meetings because of ill-health, but the Imperial Ambassador attributed his withdrawal to a quarrel with Gardiner, whom he had assaulted in the Council. He had reappeared there before the King died, and he was present for several days of the final session of the Parliament.

An unidentified man, possibly John Dudley

by Hans Holbein

Dudley,John(1DNorthumberland)02.jpg (62692 bytes)

John Dudley

Portrait at Penshurst


Dudley's signature as Viscount Lisle

Dudley was named an executor of the King's will and according to Secretary Paget he was to have been elevated as Earl of Coventry; in the event it was the earldom of Warwick which he received from Edward VI. He exchanged the Admiralty for the chamberlainship of the Household, a post which he had asked for two years before when its holder fell ill, and he acquiesced in Somerset's assumption of the Protectorate. Given the lord lieutenancy of the army against Scotland, as subordinate only to Somerset, he was generally credited with the success of the campaign, and on Somerset's return south he remained to consolidate its gains. He thus missed the first session of the Parliament of 1547, but several of his kinsmen, servants and followers were returned to the Commons, presumably on his nomination. During the second session he was present in the Lords almost daily and he spoke at length in the debate on the eucharist. His appointment early in 1549 as president of the council in the marches of Wales fulfilled a long-standing ambition, but the military reversals in Scotland led to his summons north, whence he was recalled to meet Ket's rebellion.

After the fiasco at St Martins Place Warwick was appointed to lead an army to suppress Ket. His action during the rebellion showed him as a ruthless soldier and a skilled politician. He honoured all his promises of pardon and truce and it was only his personal interventions that prevented a reign of terror sweeping through Norfolk after the rebel Defeat.

Dudley's signature as Earl of Warwick

He shared the widespread discontent with Somerset's discharge of the Protectorate and at meetings held mostly in his London house after his return from Norfolk he and other Councillors engineered the Duke's overthrow. This paved the way for his own exercise of power, but within a few months he had a lapse of health: he managed to attend some Council meetings but missed almost the entire third session of Parliament, although affirming his Protestantism in the Lords and being one of the signatories to the Act for Somerset's fine and ransom. On his recovery he assumed the presidency of the Council, but unlike the Protector he sought to diffuse responsibility. As ‘general warden of the north’ he took charge of the Scottish war, but pressure of business and renewed illness prevented him from taking the field. His handling of Somerset had no success: a heated exchange between the pair in Apr 1551 preluded the final rupture and in the autumn Somerset was arrested for conspiring to recover the Protectorate. His trial and execution, and Warwick's elevation to the dukedom of Northumberland, signalized the transfer of power, with those who had broken away from the ex-Protector sharing in the distribution of honours.

Dudley held great wealth, his homes at Dudley Castle and Ely Place in London were well known for their magnificence. He was devoted and loyal to his family and there were no scandals  reported about him. He lusted for power and profited greatly from the disillusion of the monasteries. He is described as good looking, charming and cleaver but also as cold and cunning with the ability to intimidate and bully. He wrote of the death of his  young daughter as  an inconvenience that would prevent him from attending council meetings.

Dudley attended two thirds of the meetings of the Lords in the parliamentary session of Jan-Apr 1552, but his health was clearly breaking down and with growing infirmity went loss of political control. In Mar 1552 he established the commission for courts of revenue which proposed their reunion with the Exchequer. He wanted the reform implemented by a Parliament to be summoned in the autumn of 1553, but in Dec 1552 he yielded to opinion in the Council that it could not wait that long but should be dealt with by a Parliament in the spring. Early in the following month he scrutinized the ‘arguments and collections’ prepared by Cecil for this Parliament. He must have concurred in, if he did not initiate, the despatch of the circular letter to the sheriffs directing them to return ‘men of gravity and knowledge’ capable of furthering ‘such causes as are to be propounded in the said Parliament for the common weal of our realm’ and demanding their compliance in cases ‘where our Privy Council or any of them within their jurisdiction in our behalf shall recommend men of learning and wisdom’. His own intervention is reflected in the number of men appearing in this House who were linked to him by blood, marriage or service, several of whom had no previous experience in the Commons. He himself was joined in the Lords by his eldest surviving son John, under the courtesy title of the Earl of Warwick, and he was instrumental in the summoning of two other peers’ sons, Sir Francis Russell and George Talbot, in their father's lesser dignities. Once again he was as regular in attendance as his health and commitments allowed, but apart from denouncing the episcopacy when Cranmer introduced the measure to revise the canon law he is not known to have spoken.

Toward the end of Aug 1552, Elizabeth Gyllyott, who had been part of the household of the Duchess of Somerset, was apparently a guest at Rochford in Essex, the home of Sir William Stafford (or possibly a waiting woman to Stafford's second wife, Dorothy), she talked at supper one night of the plan then current to marry Guildford Dudley to Margaret Clifford, who stood to inherit the throne after the Grey sisters. “Have at the Crown with your leave!” she said, and made a “stout gesture”. The next day, she was overheard to say that Northumberland was “better worthy to die” than Somerset and further stated that King Edward VI was an “unnatural nephew” for ordering Somerset’s execution and that she wished she had “the jerking of him”. Sir William reported these comments to the Privy Council and both Elizabeth and her husband were promptly arrested. Elizabeth Gyllyiott was married to William Huggons (Huggins, Hogan) (b. 1524 - d. 1588), who was referred as a servant of the John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, or also referred to as a London merchant. On 8 Sep 1552, they were questioned in the Tower of London by Robert Bowes, master of the rolls, and Sir Arthur Darcy, Lieutenant of the Tower. Elizabeth denied ever saying any of those things, although she did admit to talking of the deaths of Somerset and his brother, Sir Thomas Seymour, while at Rochford. Elizabeth remained a prisoner in the Tower until 16 Jun 1553. 

The traditional belief that on realizing that the King was close to death Dudley set out without encouragement from the King to subvert the succession is not borne out by the events of the summer of 1553. In May Dudley married his son Guildford to Jane Grey, Jane's sister Catherine to the son of his ally, William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, and his daughter Catherine to Henry Hastings, the heir-apparent of Francis, 2nd Earl of Huntingdon, thus linking his family with claimants to the crown, but he lay sick while the King drafted and amended the device altering the succession, insisted upon the preparation of a formal document based on his draft and compelled the witnesses to sign the document. The decision taken in Jun by Dudley and the Council to call a Parliament in the following Sep was presumably meant to give legislative force to the device by reversing the Succession Act (35 Hen. VIII, c.1) of 1544 and invalidating Henry VIII's will. A warrant was directed to the Chancellor Thomas Goodricke, Bishop of Ely to issue writs for the Parliament but the matter was hardly in hand before Edward's death on 6 Jul.

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, the wife of Edward´s best friend, Sir Henry Sidney, 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.

The delay in proclaiming Jane combined with the failure to secure Mary while she had been conveniently near London suggests that Dudley had not expected the King to die, at least so quickly, and that he had made inadequate preparations against the possibility.

His actions in Jul were inept and bear the signs of being impulsive and unplanned. He attempted to marry his brother Sir Andrew Dudley to Margaret Clifford, daughter of Henry Clifford, 2º Earl of Cumberland and Eleanor Brandon, and sent him to the north as lieutenant and Governor, a manifest attempt to reduce Francis Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury´s authority there. He also sent his son Robert to capture Mary. When Mary eluded him, Dudley declared for her at Cambridge on 20 Jul. He was sent to the tower with his sons, John, Ambrose and Robert.

A final explanation of Northumberland´s failure must be sought in the skilful diplomacy of the imperial Ambassadors, especially the newly arrived Renard, who offered the councillors concessions and guarantees in return for their support of Mary. On 13 Jul Shrewsbury, Arundel, Bedford, Cobham and Mason indicated that they would give the Ambassadors a formal audience. On 19 Jul Shrewsbury and Mason went to inform them of the councillors decision to proclaim Mary.

On Thursday 20 Jul, at Cambridge, Northumberland abandoned his attempt to place Lady Jane Grey on the English throne and proclaimed Mary Tudor in her stead. On Tuesday 25 Jul he was committed to the Tower. His wife, Jane, herself shut up in the Tower for a week or more after Mary's proclamation in London on 19 Jul, rode into Essex as soon as she was released. She aimed to meet the Queen, for whom she had acted as an intermediary with her husband in the previous reign. She would plead for the lives of her children and perhaps also of her husband. But when she came within five miles of the court, she was turned away on Mary's orders. The Duchess wrote the letter printed below, to Anne Preston, Lady Paget:

Nowe good madame for the love youe bere to God foregett me nott: and make my lady markes of Exiture my sayd good lady to remembere me, to Mestres Clarencyous to contynewe as she haythe begone fore me: and good madame desyre lord as he may doe: in spekynge fore my husbondes lyff: in way of cheryte I crave hyme to doe ytt madame I have held upe my hed fore my grett hevynes of hartt that all the world knowes canott be lyttyll: tyll nowe that inded I doe begyne to growe in to weke seknes: and also seche a ryssyng in the nyghte frome my stomake upe to ward that in my jugmentt my brethe ys lyke clene to goe away as my wemen well cane full say ytt as they knowe ytt to be trewe by there owene payne they take me: good madame off  goodnes remembere me: so God to kepe youe ladyshep longe lyff lord and yours ladyshepes powrest frynd Jane Northumland as longe as pleys the quene & good madame dysere my lord to be good lord unto my powere v sones: nayture cane noe othere wyss doe butt sue fore theme althoughe I doe nott so meche care fore theme as fore there fathere who was to me & to my mynd the moste beste gentylmane that evere levynge womane was mached all: as nethere thos abowtt hyme nore abowtt me canott say the contrary & say trewly: howe good he was to me that owre lord & the quenes maygeste shewe there merssy to theme

Addressed on reverse: To my good Lady Pagyt

Endorsed in later hand: The duchesse of Northumb [er] land to myne old Lady Paget

According to the Spanish Ambassadors, Lady Exeter and Mistress Clarencieux made effective pleas for Dudley's ally, William Parr, Marquess of Northampton. But they and Lady Paget could evidently do nothing to save the Duke himself, if they tried.

The Duke tried to escape execution by renouncing Protestantism, saying "A living dog is better than a dead lion", Lady Jane, though, was disgusted with him - "I pray God I, nor no friend of mine die so". On Friday 18 Aug John Dudley was convicted and sentenced to death for high treason. He was executed on Tuesday 22 Aug at Tower Hill. An Act (1 Mary St. 2, c.16) confirming his attainder was passed in Mary's first Parliament.

The Dying Speech of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland

Executed on Tower Hill, 23 Aug 1553

"Good people, all you that be here present to see me dye. Though my death be odyouse and horrible to the flesh, yet I pray you iudge the beste in goddes workes, for he doth all for the best. And as for me, I am a wretched synner, & haue deserued to dye, and moost iustly am condempned to dye by a law. And yet this acte Wherefore I dye, was not altogither of me (as it is thoughte) but I was procured and induced therevnto by other. I was I saye induced therevnto by other, howbeit, God forbyd that I shoulde name any man vnto you, I wyll name no man vnto you, & therfore I beseche you loke not for it.

I for my parte forgeue all men, and praye God also to forgeue them. And yf I haue offended anye of you here, I praye you and all the Worlde to forgeue me: and moost chiefly I desire fogeuenes of the Quenes highnes, whome I haue most greuouslye offended. Amen sayde the people. And I pray you all to witness with me, that I depart in perfyt loue and charitie with all the worlde, & that you wyll assiste me with youre prayers at the houre of death.

And one thinge more good people I haue to saye vnto you, whiche I am chiefly moued to do for discharge of my conscience, & that is to warne you and exhorte you to beware of these seditiouse preachers, and teachers of newe doctryne, which pretende to preache Gods worde, but in very deede they preache theyr owne phansies, who were neuer able to explicate themselues, they know not to day what they wold haue to morowe, there is no stay in theyr teaching & doctryne, they open the boke, but they cannot shut it agayne. Take hede how you enter into straunge opinions or newe doctryne, whiche hath done no smal hurt in this realme, and hath iustlye procured the ire and wrath of god vpon vs, as well maye appeare who so lyst to call to remembraunce the manyfold plages that this realme hath ben touched with all synce we disseuered oure selues from the catholyke church of Christ, and from the doctryne whiche hath ben receaued by the holy apostles, martyrs, and all saynctes, and vsed throughe all realmes christened since Christ.

And I verely beleue, that all the plagues that haue chaunced to this realme of late yeares synce afore the death of kynge Henrye the eyght, hath iustly fallen vpon vs, for that we haue deuvded ourselfe from the rest of Christendome wherof we be but as a sparke in comparison: Haue we not had warre, famyne, pestylence, the death of our kinge, rebellion, sedicion amonge ourselues, conspiracies? Haue we not had sondrye erronious opinions spronge vp amonge vs in this realme, synce we haue forsaken the vnitie of the catholyke Churche? and what other plagues be there that we haue not felt?

And yf this be not able to moue you, then loke vpon Germanye, whiche synce it is fallen into this scysme and diuision from the vnitie of the catholike church, is by continuall dissention and discorde, broughte almoost to vtter ruyne & decaye. Therfore, leste an vtter ruyne come amonge you, by prouokynge to muche the iuste vengeaunce of God, take vp betymes these contentions, & be not ashamed to returne home agayne, and ioyne youre selues to the rest of Christen realmes, and so shall you brynge your selues againe to be membres of Christes bodye, for he cannot be head of a dyfformed or monstruous body.

Loke vpon your crede, haue you not there these wordes: I beleue in the holy ghost, the holy catholik churche, the communion of saynctes, which is the viniuersall number of all faythfull people, professynge Christe, dispersed throughe the vniuersall worlde: of whiche number I trust to be one. I could bryng many mo thinges for this pupose, albeit I am vnlearned, as all you knowe, but this shall suffice.

And heare I do protest vnto you good people, moost earnestly, euen from the bottome of my harte, that this which I haue spoken is of my selfe, not beynge required nor moued thervnto by any man, nor for any flattery, or hope of life, and I take wytnes of my lord of Worcestre here, myne olde frende and gostely father, that he founde me in this mynde and opinion when he came to me: but I haue declared this onely vpon myne owne mynde and affection, for discharge of my conscience, & for the zeale and loue that I beare to my naturall countreye. I coulde good people reherse muche more euen by experience that I haue of this euyl that is happened to this realme by these occasions, but you knowe I haue an other thyng to do, whervnto I must prepare me, for the tyme draweth awaye.

And nowe I beseche the Quenes highnes to forgeue me myne offences agaynst her maiestie, wherof I haue a singular hope, forasmuch as she hath already extended her goodnes & clemency so farre vpon me that where as she myghte forthwith without iudgement or any further tryall, haue put me to moste vyle & cruell death, by hanging drawing, and quartering, forasmuch as I was in the field in armes agaynst her highnesse, her maiestie neuertheles of her most mercyfull goodnes suffred me to be brought to my iudgement, and to haue my tryall by the lawe, where I was most iustly & worthelye condempned. And her highnes hath now also extended her mercye and clemencye vpon me for the manner and kynde of my death. And therefore my hoope is, that her grace of her goodnes wyl remyt al the rest of her indignation and displeasure towardes me, whiche I beseche you all moost hartely to praye for, and that it maye please God longe to preserue her maiestie to reigne ouer you in muche honour and felicitie. Amen, sayd the people.

And after he hadde thus spoken he kneeled downe, sayinge to them that were about: I beseche you all to beare me wytnesse that I dye in the true catholyke fayth, and then sayde the Psalmes of Miserere, and De profundis, and his Pater nostre in Latin, and sixe of the fyrste verses of the psalme, In te domine sperant endynge with this verse, Into thy handes O lorde I commend my spirite. And when he had thus finished his prayers, the executioner asked him forgeuenes, to whom he sayde: I forgeue you with all my harte, and doo thy parte without feare. And bowynge towarde the block he sayd, I haue deserued a thousand deaths, and thervpon he made a crosse vpon the strawe, and kyssed it, and layde his head vpon the blocke, and so dyed.

The sayinge / of John late Duke of Nor / thumberlande, vpon the / scaffolde at the tyme of / his execution.

Quarto. No sigs. Black letter.

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