Northumberland made good speed towards East Anglia and Mary, and his army swelled with troops and artillery. But in London, the mood was ugly, and Mary was having some success too.
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Yesterday we left Northumberland riding out from London at the head of 1,500 men, northwards to the town of Ware. Since Mary wrote her letter of defiance on 10th July, what had been happening to her cause? In fact, Mary’s magnificent household had swung into action earlier than Northumberland; from 8th July, letters had started to be sent from Kenninghall to the network Rochester had built up. Letters had gone to Sir George Somerset, Sir William Drury, Sir William Waldegrave telling them to ignore the Council in London and come to join Mary. The following day, the letters kept pouring from Rochester’s pen, to be signed and hurriedly taken to the waiting hands of loyal horsemen, hooves clattering on the cobbles as they rode from the courtyard to their distant destination. On 9th a letter to Sir Edward Hastings who would gather support in the Thames Valley; letters written to towns such as Gt Yarmouth and as far away as Chester. Often these letters assumed that Mary was Queen, rather than a lawless rebel; Lord Stourton was appointed Lord Lieutenant.
Joining Mary required the subject to break their basic instincts of self preservation, and the carefully taught obedience to the state built up over a thousand years. But there were reasons you might go.
One of those was religion. Mary had bravely and proudly stood out for traditional religion; she had done so not just so that she could continue to practice the religion of her forefathers, but to consciously encourage those who, like her, could not adjust to the innovations of the reformers. Some therefore rushed to Mary’s side for that reason – the lawyer Richard Morgan made his way from London. Lord Mordaunt’s son came from Bedfordshire. Sir Leonard Chamberlain tried to raise Oxfordshire and Berkshire for Mary.
But there were plenty of Protestants who were for Mary. London was the most religiously advanced place in the country, and yet the majority in their hearts supported Mary. Because the assumption had always been that Mary was the heir – there had been no time to digest this news. But more, because Mary was the daughter of the big man, Henry VIII. Hate it or loathe it, in 16th century England Henry’s memory cast a long, powerful if slightly pudgy shadow. Mary was his flesh and blood. Mary had been his heir. They were loyal to his memory.
Lastly, there was hatred. Northumberland was the most public of the Councillors, and Jane’s cause was associated with him. In London, Northumberland was hated because he had removed the Protector and had him executed. In East Anglia they had longer memories, and they thought back to 1549, the Camping time, the glorious camp at Mousehold Heath and their leader Robert Kett. For a brief 6 weeks the downtrodden ordinary people of east Anglia had breathed the breath of freedom. They had elected their representatives to the council. They had walked to the court held under the Reformation tree and watched as one of their own dispensed justice, openly and equably in the name of King Edward. And then they had watched as the state had come and destroyed the dream, slaughtering men by the thousand in the battle of Dussindale, hanging men in the market place of Norwich and hunting them down afterwards. And the name of their defeat, humiliation and servitude was Northumberland. It was he that had led the army that crushed them. They would have their revenge.
And so men came. And Mary was careful not to antagonise the locals who in East Anglia had shown in 1549 that they were sympathetic to the reformed religion; she probably emphasised that while she would prefer people to follow the old ways, she would not force them. She even treated Catholics more harshly; when the Sheriff of Ipswich arrived at Mary’s, she berated him for
‘being somewhat slow and stubborn and less mindful of his duty that he ought to have been despite the repeated requests of her letters’.
Others around the country who wanted to support did not come, fearing to make the wrong decision; but it is clear that if Queen Jane was able to survive the coup, she would face a hard task afterwards bringing the country back together. But by the time Northumberland rode out of London, many big names were coming to Mary’s side. By 12th July Mary had moved south from Kenninghall into Suffolk, to the old Howard stronghold of Framlingham. Framlingham was a castle, much safer and better defended than Kenninghall; and it was close to the sea if flight should be required. So it was at Framlingham that Sir Richard Southwell, the Earl of Sussex and the Earl of Bath joined her court.
On that same day, 12th, the town of Bury proclaimed the new queen. But they proclaimed Queen Mary not Queen Jane, and they sent a message to Northumberland at the head of his army that Mary
‘would give him his breakfast dinner and supper’
The following day Norwich also declared for Mary, and send arms to Framlingham. The local lord Wentworth had declared already for Jane; but Mary was relentless, sending her local servants directly to talk to him with the message that
He should take a good care for himself and for his family not to forsake the queen’s cause, which would be to the perpetual dishonour of his house
Wentworth knew when he was beaten. He replied that although he had pledged his support for Jane
His inner conscience constantly proclaimed that Mary had a greater right to the throne
And promised to turn his coat. The army for Mary at her castle was growing steadily. It was a rag tag army sure enough, with nothing like the quality of arms Northumberland possessed. It had no artillery. Its leadership had nowhere near the military experience of Northumberland and his commanders. But Mary could look around her and know that she and her household were no longer alone.
Back at the Tower, leadership of the Council was now in the hands of Jane’s father, the Duke of Suffolk. Suffolk was a much less forceful and competent man than Northumberland. And at the very moment that Northumberland’s firm hand had been removed from the tiller of state, the political clouds had begun to darken, black clouds arriving from the East. On 14th, with Northumberland just departed, the news arrived of the defection of the Earls of Sussex and Bath. News came from Yorkshire that Lord Dacre had declared for Mary. There were disturbances rumoured from Oxfordshire and Berkshire. Suffolk was deeply worried; he had shown before his lack of confidence in his own capability. One evening the Marquis of Winchester left the court to go back to his home. To his astonishment when he tried to leave he was told that he could not. Confused he asked the guard why not. He was told that Suffolk had given orders that none of the Council were to leave the court. Demanding the keys, Winchester was told that the keys had been given up to the Queen. The Councillors were trapped in the Tower – and none of this could have helped any feeling of trust and companionship – a siege mentality began to develop. William Cecil had been the least convinced of Jane’s supporters from the start, refusing to even write the letter of defiance to Mary. Although he had ordered his estates to supply troops to Northumberland, his agent had contrived to throw every possible obstacle in the path of recruitment, and you have to suspect private, secret orders from Cecil himself. Now Cecil was threatening to leave. John Cheke drew him to one side – maybe he reminded him of Mary’s Catholicism, maybe of his duty to Jane. Either way Cheke persuaded Cecil to stay – for now.
How much this rising anxiety and the sullen hostility of the city affected Jane at this stage we do not know, but it’s difficult to believe the constant trickle of bad news didn’t build a sense of dread. So maybe to distract herself, Jane turned her attention to her coronation, which must inevitably follow once this affair was over. So on 14th July she ordered all the jewels and possessions which previous queens had held be delivered to her chambers. Jane had already shown her dislike of fine clothing and riches; but she was equally well aware that for her to be queen she must look like a queen. And so she must dress like one; and her husband Guildford must look like a suitable consort. There is then this image of the 16 year old Jane and her 18 year old husband in a room filled with the treasures of past ages, a collection of riches, gold, silver, jewels that she and Guildford would have never seen before. Jane would have loved the richly decorated books – one decorated with acorns of gold. While they ran the treasures through their fingers, more arrived from the palace of Westminster maybe for Guildford; a ‘sword girdle of red silk and gold’ ; ‘a coronet for a duke set with five roses of diamonds, six small pointed diamonds, one table emerald, six great rubies, seven blue sapphires, 38 great pearls with a cap of crimson velvet’.
There was no sign of concern though in Northumberland and the army. By the end of 14th he had made good time and reached the town of Ware, where John Gates joined him. Close behind, leaving London on the 15th, came the artillery train. Northumberland’s army was growing all the time as bands joined him, and he also knew there were supporters that would reach him in the days following. His son Robert Dudley had been in north Norfolk disrupting people from joining Mary, and he joined his father at Ware, and probably Northumberland’s other sons joined him there with the Dudley manred. On 15th Northumberland continued north, pausing to sack the house of John Huddleston at Sawston, which had sheltered the rebel Mary just a few days before. North of him were the Earl of Oxford, and the lord Admiral, Lord Clinton, who could also at some place along the way be expected to join him. The Council had been warned that they might need to send more troops, and could supply him if needs be. And Mary had no artillery. On 16th July Northumberland came into Cambridge, and there he had to stay for a few days, to allow his artillery to catch up and to give as much chance as possible for other bands to join.
No doubt news was reaching Northumberland as well that Mary’s support was growing; but he continued to feel comfortable, and in fact his route to take the battle to Mary suggests confidence. A direct route from London to Framlingham or even Kenninghall does not go via Cambridge. Northumberland’s route took him to Cambridge both to build the size of his army, but also to block Mary’s escape route by land; Northumberland still believed this could only end one way. Of course, given that Framlingham is close to the Suffolk coast, if Mary was to flee to her Imperial friends, then the best route would be to go via the sea. But Northumberland had already provided cover for that idea.
The Thames estuary was being patrolled by a squadron of six warships. It’s not clear exactly when they were sent, but they were there by 13th or 14th July, so their existence is another indication that Northumberland had planned for flight or submission – not for fight. Mary was trapped between Northumberland’s hammer and Brooke’s anvil. None the less the situation was clearly getting worse, and the news that was reaching him would not have been encouraging. Nothing to laugh at at all.
Back in London outside the Tower things appeared to be going from bad to worse, the hostility of the citizens growing increasingly obvious. Scheyfvre wrote that
It seems to us that there are many people in the realm that love Mary and hate the Duke and his children
On Sunday, the Council enlisted the power of the church to help their cause. Bishop Nicholas Ridley mounted the pulpit at St Paul’s cross. Ridley brought all the weight of his preaching talents to bear down on the Princess Mary and her cause. Mary and Elizabeth were base borne he declared, because they were illegitimate. But for once, Ridley was unable to rouse the crowd; in fact many ‘muttered sore’ against the preacher. Rumours reached the city that Mary’s force had climbed to 30,000 strong. It all encouraged people to talk about their real feelings, comfortable that they were not alone; many began to describe Jane as the ‘falsely styled queen’. The Guard around the Tower was doubled – the government was now terrified of its own citizens. Again, Scheyfvre reported
A strong guard is being mounted round the tower, where the queen and the council are to protect her from a popular tumult, for they know that my lady Mary is loved throughout the kingdom, and that the people are aware of their wicked complaisance in allowing the Duke to cheat her of her right
Jane and her Council did all they could. Richard Rich was sent into East Anglia to his estates to bring more support to Northumberland. More proclamations were posted around the city
We understand that the Lady Mary does not cease by letters in her name, provoked by her adherents, enemies of this realm, to publish and notify slanderously to divers of my subjects matters derogatory to our title and dignity royal, with the slander of certain of our nobility and council, we have though it mete to admonish and exhort you as our true and faithful subjects, to remain fast in your obeisance’
The letter went on to punch the bruise as someone once called the noble art of messaging. It’s not just that Jane’s the rightful Queen; Mary is just a stalking horse she is, a stalking horse for the Pope and his minions, for the destruction of the true religion, and for her imperial friends.
In Cambridge by the evening of 16th July this news would have reached Northumberland. Meanwhile disturbances in Buckinghamshire had put further wind up the Council, and they needed to hold back a force to deal with that – so no further men would be coming Northumberland’s way.
That day, the Cambridge University VC Edwin Sandys gave a bravura performance, brandishing catholic missal and chalice captured from Sawston. But at supper Northumberland cracked a rather grim gag to the VC
‘Masters, pray for us that we speed well: if not you shall be made bishops and we deacons. [for] You shall have mitres on your heads and we shall be tonsured’
This falls firmly into the category of a gag that is way too clever for it’s own good. Decoded, the gag means that the VC would be wearing a mitre of flames, i.e. he’d be burned for heresy, and Northumberland would be definitively tonsured by having his head cut off. As I say, it’s hardly a rib tickler.
None the less, the artillery had caught up. Northumberland and John Gates could now set off, with their force at 3,000 foot and 1,000 horse and 30 artillery pieces. On the morning of 18th July they set out for Bury St Edmunds, towards Mary, confident that Oxford and Clinton would soon swell their numbers, and that with the finer quality of their army and the artillery, and the fleet in the Estuary they would win the day with some ease.
25 miles away in Bury, critical news awaited them that would change the picture once more.