Dudley Conspiracy


Another conspiracy was hatched against Mary in Dec 1555, called the Dudley Conspiracy after one of its main architects, Sir Henry Dudley. Dudley, kinsman of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, was the second son of John Sutton de Dudley and younger brother of Edmund Sutton, 4th baron Dudley. His mother was Cecily, daughter of Thomas Grey, first Marquis of Dorset, so he also a relative of the Duke of Suffolk and her daughter, Lady Jane Grey.

During the attempt to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne, the Duke of Northumberland sent Sir Henry to Henri II in France, begging the French King to lead an army into England to support his cause, in return for the the surrender of Calais and Guisnes. A few days later, Dudley was arrested in Calais and found to have in his possessions a great deal of plate and jewellery purloneid from the treasury. Under questioning, he confessed his mission.

Two years later, the rumous that Mary meant to have Felipe crowned King of England caused another rebellion. Sir Henry Dudley was one of the prime movers. The idea was depose Mary and Felipe, and raise Elizabeth to the throne. It was also intended to secure her marriage to Edward Courtenay, a distant relative descended from Edward IV.

Money for the uprising, to the tune of 50,000, was to be appropriated from the Exchequer, wherein Dudley had contacts. The money would be smuggled abroad to France, where the conspirators had supporters among the protestants exiles, and used to hire ships and mercenaries. Dudley, having once been Capt. of the Guard at Bolougne, had friends in France. In Dec Sir Henry went to Paris, expecting the King support. But Henri II had sign a truce with Felipe recently. Lord Clinton had visited the French King to demand the expulsion of the english expatriates at the French Court, who, assisted by their confederates in Switzerland and Germany had kept a tremendous wave of seditious literature pouring into England and worked constantly for the overthrow of Mary and the elevation of Elizabeth. The King didn't give Dudley more than vaguest promises

Neither succeeded the conspirators in obtaining the support of the substantial gentry who would have lent their enterprise. However, may minor gentry supported the plotters, as did some royal servants and a few minors scions of the peerage.

Involved in this rebellion was John Throckmorton of Tortworth Gorseland, Gloucestershire, son of Sir Thomas Throckmorton of Coughton; and his kinsman, Nicholas Throckmorton, of the Coughton line of the Throckmortons. Amongst those questioned after the conspiracy were Lord Grey, Lord Thomas Howard, Nicholas Arnold, Nicholas Throckmorton, Sir Peter Killigrew, Sir John Perrot, Edmund and Francis Verney, Henry Peckham, Lord John Bray, William Courtenay and Anthony Kingston, Comptroller of the Queen's Household, Member of Parliament for Gloucester in the Parliaments of 1545, 1552-3 and 1555.

William Courtenay was the great son and heir of the first husband of Anthony Kingston's swife, and kinsman of the Earl of Devon. Henry Peckham, the Verneys and Lord Bray were from Buckinghamshire. The Verneys, sons of Ralph Verney, were MPs. Lord John Bray, their maternal uncle, was grandson of Sir Reginald Bray confidant and minister of Henry VIII; and he was the Lady Elizabeth neighbour at Hatfield. Henry Peckham was the younger son of Sir Edward Peckham, brother-in-law of Bray's sister MarySir Edward Peckham knight of Denham, Buckinghamshire, had been Cofferer of the Household to Henry VIII and Treasurer of the Mint under Edward VI, Mary and ElizabethHenry had been Member of Parliament for the family borough of Chipping Wycombe (now West Wycombe), Buckinghamshire, in each of Mary's Parliaments until 1555. At first he had been loyal to Queen Mary as his father had been and she had awarded him lands in Gloucestershire for his service against Wyatt Rebellion.

By Jan 1555/6, Dudley and his conspirators had concealed stores of arms at strategic points, suborned the Captain of Yarmouth Castle to ensure that a safe harbour was prepared for the coming invasion of exiles and mercenaries, and hidden the money obtained from the Exchequer in the water, by London Bridge. They also contacted Courtenay, who was in Brussels, and obtained his agreement to marry Elizabeth. Courtenay was keeping a low profile, but a suspicious Felipe had arranged for a careful watch to be kept on him in Brussels.

People close to Elizabeth knew about the plot, and in Feb 1556 the Constable of France wrote to the Ambassador De Noailles to "restrain Madame Elizabeth from stirring at all in the affair of which you have written to me, for that would be to ruin everything..."

That Mar, Sir Henry Dudley was again in France, raising an invasion force that would land on the Isle of Wight and march to London. Sir Anthony Kingston was to raise the West and march to London. Fire would be set in sevral places in the City to divert attention while the Crown tresure was taken from the Tower and the Mint. Richard Uvedale would secure Yarmouth Castle and deliver the Isle of Wight to the French; John Throckmorton would enlist French aid and boats. The plan seemed foolproff, but the French King hesitancy contributed to the uncovering of the plot. The delayed conspiracy was depending on too many people. The English Ambassador in France sent word of a conspiracy of long standing whose object was to "deprive Mary of her state" and to use her " as she used Queen Jane". According to the Ambassador's informant the chief conspirators were "strong and many", and "such as had never offended the Queen before". One of the lesser figures in the scheme, Thomas White, an Exchequer official, became frightened and told Cardinal Pole all he knew. White had been assigned to take part in robbing the royal Exchequer. Through the wife of the Exchequer's teller the conspirators were able to make an impression of the teller's key, and they counted on the cooperation of the Keeper of the Star Chamber and the customs official at Gravesend who agreed to let the boat loaded with the stolen silver pass the harbor unmolested.

Twenty arrests were followed by a series of interrogations, some under torture. Most of the accused confessed all the details of the plot. `Move mistress Clarenceau for me', wrote John Bedell to his wife as he lay in prison for his part in the conspiracy. Anne, Lady Bray, working at court to rescue her husband from the consequences of his involvement in the same plot, equally turned to the mistress of the robes.

The numbers of the conspirators who had connections with Elizabeth was alarming. The Venetian Giovanni Michieli, said that "never is a conspiracy discovery in which either justly of unjustly she or some of her servants are not mentioned...". Several of the accused referred to De Noailles's involvment, and the Council considered deported him as a plotter, but Henri II recalled him before the scandal.

The ramifications of the plot seemed endless, and extended even to some of the councillors themselves. The Queen felt "deeply troubled", she saw treason everywhere, and on Apr she put the investigation in the hands of men such Rochester, Jerningham and Englefield, who had served her for many years and proved themselves to be trustworthy.

Henry Dudley escaped arrest for he was in France. Most of the conspirators were either arrested or had fled to France. The rest were pardoned by Elizabeth after her accession and some filled the places of trust like Nicholas Throckmorton and Henry Killigrew. John Throckmorton went to the block, Nicholas did not and sat as Member of Parliament in Elizabeth's first parliament.

There were other plots, all of which failed, but England remained in a sorry state. The last blow to national pride came when Felipe convinced Mary and the English Parliament to join Spain in its war against France. As a result of the conflict England lost Calais, its last possession in France.

to Life Page to Home Page