Mary’s letter of 10th July brought home an uncomfortable truth that Northumberland had expected to avoid – that Jane must fight for her crown. If an army could be found
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Yesterday we concentrated on Mary, her brave decision at Kenninghall to rebel against England’s Queen, and the impact of her letter on Jane and her Council in London on 10th July 1553. On the morning of 11th, the first sound to be heard around the precincts of the Tower was the sound of hand slapping against forehead. It was the sound of Northumberland’s hand, ‘Army first, then queen’, army first then queen. Dooohhh’, closely followed by a call to his minstrels to play ‘If I could turn back time’. It is true that Northumberland and Suffolk had men wearing their livery all over London, which had so impressed Scheyfvre and Renard, and maybe as many as 800 in all. But under the fur coat of their liveries, there were no knickers. Not even a pair of scants. Northumberland and the Council had not made preparations to put together a proper army. It is remarkably poor planning and it can only be that Northumberland foolishly assumed that Mary would accept the legal will of the sovereign and the Council; or that she’d do the same thing Gloria Gaynor’s boyfriend had assumed.
Still all was not lost. They could get on with recruiting right now, it would only take a few days and they could be gone. Plus, crucially, they would have the resources of the Tower which could yield them up to 20 pieces of artillery – and that’s a resource that Mary would surely find impossible to match, and artillery would be critical in any fight. So Jane’s Council met, and this time it was Jane that shouted defiance at the world. Now on 11th July, it was Jane that proclaimed her right to the world, and called her supporters to her side. They did have something of a problem; William Cecil was asked to draft the document and he refused to do so, which was irritating of him, but everything was fine because John Cheke stepped forward and agreed.
Jane’s proclamation as rightful queen of England to her country was confident, robust and uncompromising, and like all good pieces of marketing had a nice clear call to action. First of all, let there be no doubt that Jane was queen by right
By good order of old ancient laws but also by our late sovereign lord’s letters patent signed with his own hand
Now the call to action; the lords lieutenant were required to
Disturb, repel and resist the feigned and untrue claim of the Lady Mary, bastard daughter to our great uncle Henry the eighth of famous memory
The letters renewed the commissions issued by Edward VI to the lords lieutenant – because the when there was time, they would be needed to provide the means of Mary’s correction. Meanwhile though, an accession proclamation was also knocked up, signed by the full council and Jane herself and was sent off to the printer Richard Grafton. Grafton must have rubbed his hands with glee at the commission and the promise of many more to come – roll on political instability he might have crowed, and worked overtime to get the proclamation printed and out the door. Before you could say ‘propaganda’, royal servants were plastering up bills all over London, trying to convince the unconvincable. More would be needed to persuade the citizenry.
Meanwhile Jane’s domestic worked its way through, and young though she was Jane demonstrated once more that she would be her own person. Guildford fixed to follow his Mother’s advice of the night before and flounce – flounce out of the Tower in protest at not being made king. Jane would have none of it. There’s every sign of her Tudor blood in her pre-emptory command that Guildford would stay exactly where he was and was forbidden to leave. Guildford stayed. There is a story that Guildford none the less tried to eat in state in the manner of a king and attend Council meetings. There’s no evidence of this other than the Catholic chronicler Wingfield, and in all likelihood it’s just mudslinging. Guildford seems to have been more biddable than Jane, and found it harder to resist family pressures; what does not happen, though, is any intervention by the Duke to try and force Jane into recognising Guildford as king. Now look that is interesting is it not; you would really have expected that if we were going for the Bad evil Duke theory, just out to get his boy on the throne. So you know. Think on’t.
There was more to be done by the Council; there was a war to be fought, and, military man though I ain’t, even I know that to fight a war you need an army. A recruitment letter was needed and a plan. The letter was drafted on 11th July and sent to the Grafton. It repeated Jane’s legitimacy, but now rather than the gentle instruction to Mary to bow her head and submit, now there was a full frontal smear campaign. Let slip the dogs of war. Mary was being a thorough going rotter they said, and was doing all she could to
Stir and provoke the common people of the realm to rebellion but also the means to bring in great forces of papists, Spaniards and other strangers for the aid of her unjust and unnatural pretence, to the great peril and danger of the utter subversion of God’s holy word and of the state of this realm
Now the call to action was to gather together to preserve
The true religion and ancient liberty of your natural country against foreign power’.
It also mentioned a threat from ‘the baser sort’ to ‘men of worship and good degree and wealth’. This is something of a text book appeal to the fundamental drivers of your Tudor gentry, the families on whose backs the result of this conflict would depend. Foreigners? Yuk: the pope; not at home to Mr Pope sorry pal; Baser sort? Bring me my horse, a shot gun and a pastry!
Meanwhile the Council remained paranoid about Imperial military intervention; on the same day, 11th July, a delegation arrived at Scheyfvre’s pad to demand that he leave; Scheyvfre managed to confuse the business by linking any possible French aid with an attempt to put Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne. A note for the future folks, but Mary and her husband the Dauphin would take great delight in advancing Mary’s claim to the throne of England, quartering the royal arms of England on the French arms. Which gave Scheyfvre’s obfuscation some force. Out of the Tower rushed Henry Dudley, emissary to France and off to the channel. He won’t arrive at Henry II’s court until 19th July, but the message he bore reflected Northumberland’s view of the world on 11th. His message was to relax, everything was fine, they wouldn’t need or want French military intervention – they had this covered. So despite the feverish activity, the Council felt well on top of everything, things were cool, just a little local difficulty. After all, Mary was unlikely to be able to raise a substantial army, and even if she did they’d be just a bunch of East Anglian yokels armed with spades, pitchforks and the odd beet. Obviously, the humble beet can be a vicious weapon, she’d she’d have no artillery, and that was the key. Nope, everything was in hand.
Before the letters could go out, though, Jane and her Council needed to make a decision; should this army stay in London or go to East Anglia? That decision seems to have been reasonably straightforward; the quicker Mary was locked away the better. So fine, a trip to the exotic East then. But who should command?
Well, it was quickly agreed that the Marquis of Northampton and Earl of Huntingdon should go along, but the ultimate commander was trickier. There are two basic stories. What I need you to imagine then is the Tower of London. Ravens. [Croack]. Tudor royal bodyguard standing around with pikes looking fierce. [clash of pikes]. Then, inside the white Tower we fly to a Council room. Dark wood, table, men looking old and grave, and maybe 20 men or more sitting around said table. Secretaries. And Jane, maybe cloth of estate on a canopy above her head. Do you have that as a freeze frame? OK, press start.
The Council are debating who’s name they should add to the recruitment letter. Jane at this point leans forward, and calls for attention. Of course, it must be her father she declares! ‘I can have no safer defence than my loving father’ she proudly, and loyally declares, eyes shining with filial pride. Excellent declares the Council, Henry Duke of Suffolk it shall be, huzzah. Suffolk stands tall, and proud! Right, lets take a comfort break, cup of tea, custard cream that sort of thing says someone. Well, not tea obviously. Or Custard cream for that matter but you know what I mean, a break.
Now, quickly cut away [schleep sound like a film cutaway) to a small private room elsewhere. Frances Grey Duchess of Suffolk and her hub are talking. There is the gentle sound of male whining, along the lines of ‘I don’t want to go, Fran’. Frances looks no happier; Mary afterall is her friend; and Frances reckons pretty clearly that if it all goes wrong and Henry was back in the Tower when the fighting was happening there’s some chance of a pardon – there’s absolutely no chance for the commander of the army, they will be chicken feed. Cutaway again, back to the Council room.
Henry leads forward. He’s looking ashen. I am so sorry he says. I have been attacked by a terrible illness. I am so faint I can hardly stand. There’s nothing I’d like more than to go with the army, but it cannot be me. With a few pitying and sceptical looks, there is then only one other candidate. I will lead, says the Duke of Northumberland. Huzzah!
So, that’s the first reported scenario; now lets have the second. Back to the freezeframe, council chamber, blokes, Jane, canopy – right press start again. The debate is raging, and the Council has hit on the Duke of Suffolk as their man. Who better to win a kingdom that the queen’s own flesh and blood. Suffolk accepts the commission of the Council all is decided but suddenly there is a commotion. Jane’s hand is over her mouth in distress, the tears are pouring down her young cheeks. Not my father she cried! Anyone but my father, he must not leave the tower, he must stay here with me! The Council are nonplussed. Then it must be you, Northumberland, there is no one else with as much military experience as you. Eventually Northumberland spoke
Well, since ye think it good I and mine will go not doubting of your fidelity to the Queen’s majesty, which I leave in your custody
Either solution seems plausible it has to be said, but I’m going for the first one, which is controversial of me. Jane had shown some steel; her Dad had already displayed a deal of military incompetence and backsliding in resigning the Wardenship of the North, and Frances was pretty sharp. Either way, the point has been made that Northumberland had the power to make his own choice. And he was facing a toughie. To stay would mean he remained at the centre of power, stiffening the resolve of the Council. To leave meant he controlled the military. It was he that chose to leave – after all the Council seemed to be rock solid behind Jane. Time will tell if that was the right call, but the long and short was that Northumberland was going east with the army.
The recruitment letters to the regions went out the following day 12th July, although men had been coming into the Tower to join up from the bills posted in London. On 11th July, men of London had been ordered to assemble at Tothill Fields, and offered 10d a day rather than the more normal 6d. Outside London the response is difficult to know. What’s clear is that Jane’s announcement in the town squares and villages of England came like lightening out of a blue, cloudless sky. Jane who? But the Tudor state was, by the standards of the day, well organised. It seems that the vast majority of Justices of Peace and Lords Lieutenant did what they were told. Jane was announced as Queen; they started to mobilise local resources to join Northumberland on his march eastwards, whatever the response of the wider commons was.
In London, the response of the ordinary people was shall we say unenthusiastic. Outward revolt was pretty much absent; there is only that one vocal voice of Gilbert Potts, who had his ears cut off for his pains. But nor was there any enthusiasm for Jane or her pronouncements. One Papal observer claimed that Jane’s proclamations were ‘received with remarkable discontent as hateful to everybody’. There were very few prepared to shout for Mary, but many Londoners were sullen and silent supporters of her cause, the majority at very best undecided.
Outside Durham House, Northumberland’s residence, sounded the beat of the drum as Londoners came forward to join Queen Jane’s army. By the night of the 13th July, it looks as though he may have gathered around 1,500 men and 30 pieces of artillery. His son Robert Dudley was in East Anglia already with 300 men. Other’s would join him on the way. Within a few days on the march, Northumberland would probably have mustered 3,000 foot and 1,000 horse and the artillery. Northumberland also had around him the best military leadership in the country. Mary was trapped in the right hand corner of the kingdom. It was a small but disciplined force, and it should be more than enough.
Still, Northumberland was nervous – nervous of what would happen behind his back when he was gone. On the night of the 13th July, then, he gathered together the Council for a big supper, to stiffen the sinews and make sure their various aspects were sufficiently tigerish. He felt the need for a rousing speech, reminding them of the loyalty they owed Jane. There was a sting in the tiger’s tail
If ye shall violate, hoping thereby of life and promotion, neither acquit you of the sacred and holy oath of allegiance, made freely by you to this virtuous Lady, the queen’s highness, who by you and our enticement is rather by force placed thereon than by her own seeking and request
It’s an interesting line – we all have a responsibility here he says, some recognition that this situation was not a usual one – Jane was no grasping power seeker. They owed her. One Councillor replied:
If ye mistrust any of us in this matter your grace is far deceived; for which of us can wipe his hands clean thereof?
His job done, Northumberland left. As he rode out with his army the following morning, 14th July, Northumberland showed all the outward confidence of the commander, and Londoners gathered to see him pass. After he watched him go, Scheyfvre gloomily wrote
We believe that my Lady will be back in his hands in four days
But Northumberland on the other hand noticed that
The people press to see us, but not one sayeth God speed us.
Everything now depended on Northumberland.