The life of Lady Jane Grey to 1553, and the fate of Edward VI is settled as the vultures gather. The first in our series on the succession crisis of 1553.
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Picture the scene then – we are at Bradgate Park in God’s own county of Leicestershire in 1537. People with east Midlands accents are wandering around calling it Braggie Park and wondering what’s happened to their dogs. Tradition has it that there in the Lady Jane Tower as it was renamed, Frances Brandon and Henry Grey were delivered of their first child. So much for tradition of course; it has equally been argued that she was born in late 1536 in London, so you can probably just scrub out the scene in your mind and just picture a squalling baby girl, but I saw no reason not to work the noble east Midlander into the story. After all, we don’t get much glory.
The squalling baby was lucky enough to be born into one of the greatest families of the land. Henry Grey and Frances Brandon had been married at the tender ages of 16 in 1533 in what must have been something of a push the boat out hooley, probably with Henry VIII in attendance. Henry Grey was the Marquis of Dorset, almost at the top of the order of precedence, a matter of some importance to your above average Tudor. But even more impressively Jane’s Mum was Frances Brandon, and Frances Brandon was the daughter of Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. And some bloke. Charles Brandon. Whatevs. So little Jane Grey had royal blood in her veins. Ain’t no doubt about it She was doubly blessed.
Her Mum Frances was born in 1517 and has not been well treated by history, with some nasty words attaching themselves to her – ‘cunning and predatory’, ‘relentless and permanently dissatisfied schemer’, ‘arrogant and energetic’ being some of the worst alongside more double-edged things like ‘hard riding’, ‘Ambitious’. There is a suspicion that Frances and Henry did not have been terribly close relationship in the later years of their marriage, and Frances married with lightening and suspicious speed after Henry’s death. None the less it’s worth mentioning a few things. Frances’ quick marriage after Henry was to a courtier called Adrian Stokes. It may have been a meeting of minds, but part of her calculation was likely to be that Stokes was far too low born for their children ever to be considered for the throne. It took Frances completely out of any suspicion; it made her safe from the violence of Tudor politics. Furthermore, when the chips were down, Frances would argue hard for the lives of her nearest and dearest, including Hubby Henry. Another couple of relevant things; Frances was probably quite close to the Princess Mary. Mary was her cousin, they were close in age and knew each other at court – they may have developed very different religious views in later years but there was a genuine affection between them. The other thing was that in 1544, Henry VIII made a will in which he defined the succession. In said document he excluded Frances from the succession – it jumped her and went to her heirs. People have wondered why. It could have been that Henry was not keen on Frances; equally it could be that he realised that if Frances became Queen, then Henry Grey would be in a position of enormous influence. Which it appears Henry would not have considered an entirely positive development. The most likely explanation is that Henry, hung up as he was by a male succession, hoped that by the time the succession reached the Brandons, if it did, they would have had a boy.
Which brings us to Henry Grey, or Daddy. And as we will see, Henry wasn’t necessarily a bad person, but if you were looking for a political or military leader of intellect, auctoritas and Gravitas you’d look straight through Henry. You’d look at Jane or Frances first. As we’ll see, Henry never really manages to hold down a steady job. There is an occasion for example when Henry was appointed to the northern marches, which it has to said must have been one of the most difficult tours of duty on offer, but he pretty quickly chucks it in. His lack of authority and leadership will be an important factor at a particular point in the story. Holinshed’s chronicle paints him as rather short tempered but at the same time malleable, and malleable will be something of a theme. His Mum wrote to Thomas Cromwell when Henry came to court as a lad, asking him to keep an eye out because she too feared that he was well, malleable. However, Grey has some good points. But of course we all have some good points.
Bountiful he was and very liberal, somewhat learned himself and a great favourer of those that were learned…void of pride and disdainful haughtiness of mind, more regarding plain meaning men than claw-back flatterers; and this virtue he had – he could patiently bear his faults told him…though sometimes he had not that hap to reform himself thereafter
Well that’s nice, though again, more Bertie Wooster than Arthur Wellesley, and Iron Duke might have been better suited to the times sadly than one of the softer metals.
Jane was one of three children at Bradgate; she was joined by a younger sister Katherine in 1540 and another, Mary, in 1545, so she’s very much the big sister, and there is no male heir around. As they grew up, Jane would have spent most of the day in Education. She lived in a rich and formal household; deference to parents would have been very strongly enforced, quite rightly of course, I entirely approve. Her parents though would have been reasonably distant figures with this quite formal relationship – Jane would have been surrounded by attendants and may have seen many of them more frequently than she did her folks. But her story would show that however alien to modern parenting was the Tudor approach, in some ways at least, the bond between Jane and her father in particular was strong.
Interestingly, the Grey household was joined in 1544 for a while by the redoubtable Elizabeth Hardwick, of whom we’ll no doubt hear much more in the future. Just to make sure I have not failed to make the point, the Greys were rich and important people, they would have looked up to very few. They were also evangelical, though the evidence is much stronger for Henry than for Frances, and that also would be a defining factor in Jane’s life. And of course religion is such a daily, ever present part of life in Tudor households; the family had their own chaplain and tutors, and if you listen very carefully there’s an ever present sort of tearing sounds, like drawing sellotape from a reel, as the family chaplains constantly tear a strip off the Greys for their card playing gambling habit. Morality and behaviour was very much within the scope of your average churchman those days.
The Greys would have had no truck with any idea that girls should not receive the very best education. And so the Grey Chaplains like Dr Thomas Harding was given the responsibility to make sure that Jane and her sisters were given the very best of educations. And not just the resident chaplains; Braggie Park was a target for travelling academics, part of that network of learned relationships, and so men like Roger Ascham, tutor to the Princess Elizabeth, would come to stay. We are going to focus on the academic side of things, but let’s be clear that for girls, education would include the traditional skills too; needlework, weaving, dancing, music, managing a household. It wasn’t all Plato, Aristotle and Cicero; Bradgate would have had a permanent staff of musicians and Jane practised hard at the lute for example. But whereas once that would have been the vast bulk of a girl’s education now there were languages, ancient and modern, and writing and the classics.
So what about Jane then? It so happens that we have no surviving likeness of her, which is technically known as a bummer. There is one painting that was until recently thought to be her, but the people that know these things have concluded that its actually Katherine Parr. Much later when she was 16, there would be this description of her, though once more some doubts have been thrown on how contemporary it was:
“This Lady Jane is very short and thin, but prettily shaped and graceful. She has small features and a well-made nose, the mouth flexible and the lips red. The eyebrows are arched and darker than her hair which is nearly red. Her eyes are sparkling and reddish-brown in colour, her skin freckled, and her teeth white and sharp.”
What is beyond argument though, is that none of this education was wasted on Jane; she was an extraordinarily good scholar who really took to her studies, and was constantly praised by her tutors. One of them wrote
I do not think there ever lived anyone more deserving of respect than this young lady
Of course it’s possible said tutor was looking for a raise at the time, but there are plenty of corroborations. Jane was a hard working scholar. But more than that she appears to have enjoyed it. Jane would prove herself a dutiful daughter, but her learning was not just a result of a sense of duty, far from it.
Then in 1547, the 10 year old Jane was introduced to life outside the delights and wonders of Leicestershire and Charnwood Forest. As an heiress with a claim to the throne, Jane was hot property. So Henry Grey had a visitation from the agent of a friend of his – one John Harrington, who came to visit on behalf of Thomas Seymour, with a proposal that sounds a bit weird to the modern ear. Why, he said, doesn’t Jane come and live with their household, with Thomas and Queen Catherine Parr, why doesn’t Seymour take her into wardship? Now as you may remember from a previous episode, this was not so unusual in England, though it horrified an Italian visitor; English parents often managed to offload their offspring on other families, in the hope that it’ll help them develop into fully rounded people, and develop a network of contacts. This relationship though seemed to go further than normal. But what swung it here was a promise or a prayer from Seymour. He’d get Jane a good marriage he said. When asked for specifics he promised the best – marriage to the king. Plus of course there’s money involved here – £2,000 Seymour was to pay for the wardship, and you can be sure he expected to turn a good profit on that very large outlay. Well, the Greys were hooked, good and proper, and Jane joined the Seymour household.
For Jane, life in the Seymour household seems to have worked well. She was introduced to the big smoke – to the Seymour house on the Strand in London, although later moving back to the county to Sudeley Castle. She seemed to like Thomas Seymour as many did, he was clearly a charming sort of bloke. And Catherine Parr worked her magic on her – with Catherine’s kindness which had worked so well with Henry VIII’s children, and with her evangelical erudition, which must have just re-inforced the strength of her academic and evangelical leanings.
Sadly of course Catherine Parr soon died; and there’s a bit of a tug of war over Jane. Her parents clearly believed that she should come back home, and indeed insisted on it; Seymour persisted, and she eventually came back to Seymour until he suffered the misfortune of having his head chopped off which brought the debate to a definitive conclusion. During the to’ong and fro’ing there’s an interesting letter from Henry Grey, arguing that Jane needed her mother’s guiding hand because she, as he wrote
Shall hardly rule herself without a guide, lest she should for lack of a bridle take too much the head and conceive such opinion of herself that all good behaviour that heretofore she has learned…should either altogether be quenched in her or at the least much diminished
The language is a bit unfortunate – bridles and so on, but these are different times. Catherine of Aragon had commissioned a book on the education of women, which gave this advice – and the language is very similar:
Specially the daughters should be handled without any cherishing. For cherishing mars the sons but utterly destroys the daughters. And men be made worse with over much liberty, but women be made ungracious for they be so set upon pleasures and fantasies, that except they be well bridled and kept under, they run headlong into a thousand mischiefs
So you know; the point was that the Greys were far from being harsh parents by the standard of the day, and their primary motivation was their duty to their children. They would be failing their daughter if they did not make absolutely sure that she was ready for the life ahead of her, with the tools to succeed.
From 1550, Jane and the Greys began to be much more present at court. 1549 had ended in fact with a visit to the Princess Mary’s Christmas celebrations. There’s a story from the time which illustrates that the seed of evangelism in Jane’s upbringing had grown into a healthy plant. The story is preserved by John Foxe, and there’s no other source so it could be apocryphal, but in the light of later history its plausible. So, Jane was being given a tour of the Princess’s house by one of Mary’s ladies, Lady Anne Wharton, no doubt national trust card firmly in hand. They came into Mary’s private chapel, all dressed up to the nines in traditional garb no doubt. Anne courtesied to the altar where the host was exposed. Jane was all astonishment, looking round, and asked if the Lady Mary had come in and she’d missed her. Anne probably looked a bit surprised
‘No I made my curtsey to Him that made us all.
Which of course gave Jane the chance to come back with
‘Why how can he be there that made us all that be, and the baker made him?’
It’s an interesting little incident. It’s you know, full of admirable evangelical zeal, great. It’s also just a little bit rude, even arsey. Or if you like, there’s a bit of zealot or steel in this 12 year old.
By this stage, Somerset has lost his crown as Lord protector, and John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland holds the reins of power. One of Northumberland’s political allies was Henry Grey, Marquis of Dorset, who was also promoted to Duke of Suffolk, in right of his wife Frances. Grey’s position on the Council now meant that Jane Grey was also seen much more at court; and it’s worth remembering just how important she was, given her royal blood. One particular occasion was the visit of the Scottish queen Mary of Guise; she’d been in France to visit her daughter Mary, and returned via London, and was given a rousing and lavish reception, with all the members of the court decked out in their finery. At the official reception, Jane’s mother Frances led the elite of England’s womenfolk to meet the Scottish regent – with Jane ranking as fifth. Jane is young but not obscure, inexperienced but by no means uninformed. She is part of the dance.
Jane would not have been at court constantly; she’s still be back and forth a bit, and in July or August 1550 she is at Bradgate when she was visited by Roger Ascham, the scholar. Again apologies for the repetition those of you who have been here before, but it’s a critical insight. There is a word of warning to be made; Ascham was a big fan of learning without violence and severity, which means he was sadly ahead of his time, and it’s possible he exaggerated a little.
Anyway, Ascham came a visiting, but found the Mistress and master of the house out hunting having a good time. So he was shown into see the eldest, Jane who was reading Plato, as you do. Ascham made the small talk, and then asked why she was inside rather than out in the park with the folks
I wist all their sport in the park is but a shadow to the pleasure that I find in Plato. Alas good folk, they never felt what true pleasure meant
So look, I mentioned arsey and maybe there’s a shadow that here to. Jane had refused to go out with the parents, preferring her own company, and was prepared to show her independence to a visitor in her views – a twinge of rebellion to put alongside the sharp intelligence. Then the conversation turned a bit dark:
“When I am in the presence of either Father or Mother, whether I speak, keep silent, sit, stand or go, eat, drink, be merry or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing anything else. I must do it as if it were in such weight, measure and number, even so perfectly as God made the world, or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yes presently sometimes with pinches, nips and bobs and other ways, that I think myself in Hell.”
This needs to be seen in context before you condemn the Greys’ parenting; there may be some exaggeration, the parenting theory of the day was a little harsh and the Greys were convinced of where their duty lay; and as time will show, the relationship between father and daughter at least was strong. And a teenager is taking the chance to offload. None the less – Jane needed a bit of steel in her soul. And it is clear that the combination of evangelism and learning had taken deep route in Jane. Another of her modern biographers, Nicola Tallis, notes that Jane is unique, even above the much-vaunted intellectual skills of Elizabeth, in corresponding with the leading protestant theologians of the day. Here Jane explains why the correspondence is so important to her:
If you consider the motives by which I am actuated, namely, that I may draw forth from the storehouse of your piety such instructions as may tend to both direct my conduct and confirm my faith in Christ my Saviour your goodness cannot and, your wisdom will not, allow you to censure them
One more anecdote then, and then I’ll draw it together and we can move back to the main narrative. Part of the parental duty that the Greys valued so much was to make sure jane didn’t become simply on of the vacuous peacocks of the court. Clearly Jane had managed to avoid vacuous, but what about the peacock? The Greys were worried that Jane would grow to love clothes and finery too much. They were keen that their daughter would follow the example of the princess Elizabeth, of whom it was written at this time
Her maiden apparel which…made the noblemen’s daughter and wives to be ashamed to be dressed and painted like peacocks
They needn’t have worried. This reminiscence would seem to have been written about Jane and an encounter with the Princess Mary
This I know that a great man’s daughter receiving from the lady Mary before she was queen goodly aperel of tinsel, cloth of gold and velvet, laid on with parchment lace of gold, when she saw it said ‘what shall I do with it?’ Marry, said a gentlewoman, ‘wear it’. Nay quoth she ‘that were a shame to follow my lady Mary against God’s word and leave my lady Elizabeth which followeth God’s word’.
Which is an interesting quote, both for Jane’s character, and the identification of Mary and Elizabeth with different religions – though given this was a reminiscence, who knows if that was not laid on later for effect. What do we have then? In 1553 we have a picture of a rather serious 16 year old, even a bit priggish. I’ve never really known what priggish means but I guess here I’m thinking there’s a bit of holier than thou sanctimoniousness going on here, to sit alongside impressive extraordinary intelligence and academic talent. She is a dutiful daughter thoroughly traditional, but she has all the necessary accomplishments and is worldly enough to move in the corridors of power without going arse over tip. And while we are on arse, she’s not afraid to hand it out, she’s got the courage of her convictions.
That’s quite a lot about Jane, sorry, once more I am guilty of warbling. So back to court. To set the scene; Edward VI is badly ill, and in May 1553 his doctors have told the Duke of Northumberland and the King’s Council that he is without doubt going to die, he is going on up to the toaster in the sky. According to Henry’s will, the next in line would be the offspring of his loins, if you’ll pardon the world loins which is, I appreciate, an unattractive word, and this even though at the moment they are illegitimate – both Mary and Elizabeth. Mary has recovered her very own mix of courage and sanctimoniousness, priggishness if you will, and has had a series of run ins with the Council and with Edward about her staunch defence of the traditional religious practice which elsewhere has been rolled back by the Edwardian religious reforms. It is probably that fear of Mary’s religion which lead Edward and or Northumberland to change the succession as defined in Henry’s will, though it’s complicated. Through June the work had been done with Council and lawyers to replace Henry’s will with Edward’s ‘Devise for the succession’, and all the Councillors had signed up to it, despite, let it be noted, that it was quite clear Edward was dying, and if they were Mary supporters all they would have to do was throw a sicky, hang on and the problem would go away. Because of the toaster. Why? Probably because Edward as king was following the precedence his father had set that the king was within his rights to determine the succession as he saw fit. And because ironically, the Devise was closer to traditional common law than Henry’s will, since Henry’s will gave the succession to the illegitimate. Anyway, they all signed up by 21st June 1553.
Now, the $64,000 question is – was this the young king Edward’s handiwork, or the hand of Northumberland? Such a question would once have been greeted with an incredulous stare and nervous shuffling, Of course it was Northumberland. He was filled with nothing but naked ambition. Butt naked ambition even. He was out to take control of the throne, and he’d manufactured this by having his eldest son Guildford Dudley marry Jane on 25th May. However, the revisionist have been at work. Historians now start off by noting that at very least Northumberland had other motivators than just butt naked greed and ambition. This marriage everyone talks about had been forged well before Edward was known to be terminally ill – and only when an alternative plan for Guildford Dudley was rejected by the Clifford family. It was just a normal dynastic marriage. Northumberland was also clearly driven by a desperate need to rehabilitate his family name which was dear to him – since his father had been condemned a traitor, for essentially doing as his boss the king told him. And Northumberland was competent and filled with a sense of duty – unlike Somerset he had done that which was required. And finally while Northumberland had done a fair bit of nest feathering, it was nothing on the scale of his predecessors, the likes of Cromwell, Wolsey, Somerset. But look, we shall see what happens.
Of Jane and Guilford and their feelings we know very little. There was traditionally a view that Jane resisted the marriage, believing herself already promised and had to be beaten into it by her parents – but the evidence on which this has been based is discredited. In fact we know almost nothing about Jane’s relationship with Guildford; we just have to assume that this point that Jane was a good Tudor daughter, did what she was told, and hoped her husband would be a nice chap. They were of course on the receiving end of a dynastic marriage so it’s very unlikely that it was Notting Hill or something. None the less Guildford Dudley appears to have been no slouch in the attractiveness area; a ‘comely, vertuous and goodly gentleman’ so, no slobby shedcaster this, I imagine a fine turn of leg on the lad. He was probably a couple of years older than Jane – so 18 or 19 to her 16 or 17. Let’s go for 1537 for Jane’s birthdate, so, she’s 16. The marriage on 25th May was a big, big event – not just for the main protagonists but because there were a number of others on the bill. There was also the 13 year old Katherine Grey, marrying the son of the power broker William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. There was the 8 year old Mary Grey being betrothed to Lord Grey of Wilton; and then Henry Hastings, marrying Jane and John Northumberland’s daughter Katherine Dudley. I mean this is a crazy rich Brit super wedding, held at Northumberland’s gaff at Durham House on the Strand. I hope Mr and Mrs had a good supply of hankies, not a dry eye in the house.
It was an event and a half and make no mistake. Durham House stretched down to the Thames of course, and there’d have been a gate on the river – one such gate only still exists in Victoria Embankment gardens should you ever go. A mass of guests would have gathered in the chapel at Durham House the rich and the powerful, the great and the no necessarily good. If he’d not bee so ill, the king would have put his head round the door at some point. Jane’s clothes would have included purple material given her by the King, a colour emphasising her royalty. Given that Northumberland was also an evangelical, no doubt they would have used Cranmer’s new marriage vows. Once the vows had been taken, it was off to the Great Hall for a slap-up feast, and in the grounds there were to be masques and plays. No expense spared – the celebrity event of the year.
As it happens, the magnificent feast gave quite a few people food poisoning which was unfortunate, and Guildford was one of them, retiring to bed. So Jane did not go to the marriage bed for the traditional consummation – instead she went home, even though her younger sister and her hub did stay together, despite being younger and did head for the marriage bed where I assume they did some crosswords and maybe ran a game of scrabble or two.
So now we will leave Jane and Guildford, where they are, and return to Edward.
How kindly and courteously he received them, and how greatly he esteems them
Wrote John Cheke on 7th June, after delivering books to Edward who despite his illness his ceaseless coughing and inability to sleep without drugs, was still trying to study.
‘Should a longer life be allowed him….I prophesy indeed that, with the lord’s blessing, he will prove such a king a neither to yield to Josiah in the maintenance of true religion, nor to Solomon in the management of state, nor to David in the encouragement of godliness
Ckeke continued. It’s a good summary of the regret of those that surrounded Edward. A feeling of a lost opportunity, of being robbed of a talent, mixed with the pathos of the death of someone so young. Outside I the wider world, rumours circulated but to a large degree London remained ignorant of the extent of the king’s illness.
Jane Grey, meanwhile had, finally moved in with her husband and family at Durham house om the Strand, so we are going to assume the marriage had been consummated. At some point, some time after 21st June but probably not too much after, her parents in law the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland drew her aside for a bit of a chat. It didn’t go well. The king is going to die they said, no doubt about it. Well that was bad enough. Interestingly Jane asked to go back to her parents house, which doesn’t say very much for her relationship with Guildford. The Duchess turned her down in the most delightful way:
Saying that when God would be pleased to call the king to his mercy, not remaining any hope of saving his life, I had immediately to proceed to the Tower, as I had been made by his majesty heir to the throne
If this is really the way it happened well, by golly what a delightfully off hand way of passing across the news. ‘Um, No Jane, sorry you can’t go back. No no, sorry can’t be done. Anyway you’ve been made heir to the throne. Oh Gosh sorry, did I forget to tell you? Good lord look at me what a goose I am, I’d forget my own head if it wasn’t screwed on.’ Sort of thing. It had something of a nuclear impact on Jane. She fell ill immediately, and despite a rearguard action by the Duchess was finally allowed to escape to the more comfortable air of the Grey estate at Chelsea.
Meanwhile, the air around Edward was black with vultures. Emperor Charles V and on the other side the French were in egg laying mode, desperate to come out of this situation to their advantage. You might think that this was an entirely English affair, but both Empire and to an extent, French were to have a significant impact on the outcome. Remember first of all that Charles V and Henry II of France were at war – so there’s a surprise for you. Just like the glory days of Henry VIII, where one played one they looked for 2, specifically for England to tip the military and diplomatic balance. The French saw an opportunity here. To make sure they missed nothing, they were at the English court in force led by a man with too many vowels in his name, possibly called de Noailles. On 26th June, there was a surprisingly open conversation between Noailles and Northumberland. In this little tete a tete Northumberland assured the French ambassador that ‘they had provided so well against the Lady Mary’s ever attaining the succession’ that the French need not worry about a pro Hapsburg government in English. Yippee cried Noailles – inside, of course, outside he probably nodded gravely, maybe with a hint of disinterest, but offered French support for Jane and Northumberland. It’s very interesting that the Devise was being spoken of so early.
The Charles V vulture was desperate not to go too early and mess up if Edward did that Lazarus thing; but deep down was very excited at the thought of Catholic Mary on the throne. I mean, how good would that be? Charles heard about the French staking out the court, so on 23rd June he sent an embassy too, to join Scheyfvre – led by a man called Simon Renard. Their job was clearly and unequivocally to ensure the success of Mary. However, Charles ruled out an invasion – he had his hands full with the French war, so brilliant diplomacy would have to be the only tool. Go for it.
Now, given the lack of military muscle, you might think that we can keep the diplomats out of it; but the point is that Northumberland did not know that Charles would not commit troops. Fear of Imperial intervention would remain strong through out.
By 25th June poor Edward was unable to keep any food down; his cough was incessant, and the output of said coughing smelled to high heaven. His legs had swollen up, and so he was confined to lying flat. He was near the end, devoid of strength. ‘I am glad to die’ he whispered to John Cheke. But then, hallelujah – a recovery! Call off the Jane Grey bonanza, everything is going to be OK. Phew.
Now the rumour mill was going potty – partly because the Council were taking precautions, doubling the watch and that sort of thing, and d’you people aren’t stupid they knew something was up. A vast crowd assembled at the royal palace at Greenwich, anxious for news about Edward’s health. So some bright spark suggested that since the king was on the mend, why not show himself to the people and everyone would be satisfied and the balance of the universe would be restored. So, on 1st July, Edward dragged himself out of bed, and to the window to show himself to the people.
Yay! Great roared the crowd, that’s brilliant, thanks…lovely. Whoop. Yeah. When poor Edward had dragged himself back in doors they all looked at each other and did the Fraser thing. We’re doomed. Basically, Edward looked so thin and wasted that everyone thought he was already dead and somebody was holding him up. The following day the crowd gathered again. This time no king appeared at the window. We’re doomed said the crowd.
On 6th July, after 8 o Clock in the evening a 16 year old boy lay on a richly dressed bed, and he was dying. He was surrounded by 3 of his privy chamber and 2 doctors. One of those by his side was the 24 year old Henry Sidney. Sidney had been at Edward’s side for much of his life, one of the king’s companions. Henry Sidney will be a controversial figure in our story in the future, but for now his only job was to ease the death of a friend. According to Foxe, there was quite a speech from Edward; I’m not dissing it, but it’s a bit like a Cecil B de Mille set, you can almost hear Charlton Heston grinding his teeth and Anne Baxter wailing in despair.
O my lord God, defend this realm from papistry, and maintain thy true religion; that I and my people may praise thy holy name, for thy son Jesus Christ’s sake.
Edward turned towards his friend
Are you so nigh? I thought ye had been further off
We heard you speak to yourself, but what you said we know not
I was praying to God
Sidney held his companion’s arm to comfort him. Edward spoke again:
I am faint; Lord have mercy upon me and take my spirit
And so died Edward VI. A much forgotten king, but one who had built a temple in England that no fire would be able to burn down. Until the fire of secularism arrived of course.
Away from Greenwich the rest of the world was doing what the rest of the world does – moving on. And gathering itself to fight for England’s future.
Northumberland and the Council kept the news of Edward’s death secret. Messages had been sent to Mary 2 days ago asking her to come to visit Edward, because he was so ill; the Imperial ambassador reported home that Northumberland was still behaving with great courtesy towards Mary, as though nothing untoward was going to happen. And Mary had moved closer to London, to Hunsden to be on hand, so she had been expected in Westminster for a while. Where, Northumberland must have thought, is Mary? Time to go and get her before she found out about her brother’s death and decided to cause trouble.