The 1553 Succession Crisis

Chapter 5 : Queen Mary

Mary began her triumphal journey to London. Elizabeth, miraculously recovered from the mysterious illness that had prevented her from sending so much as a word of support to her sister, joined her at Wanstead.

On 30th July, Northumberland was brought to London. Only the guards’ orders to protect him kept him from being lynched by the furious mob.

Four days later, Mary entered her capital, where she had always been popular. She was greeted with jubilation, with church bells and with banners reading ‘Vox populi, Vox Dei' (the voice of the people is the voice of God).

Whilst Mary, for reasons both personal and political, was prepared to forgive most of the conspirators, even the Duke of Suffolk, there was no reprieve for Northumberland. He was tried on 18th August, with his son, John, Earl of Warwick, and the Marquis of Northampton. Presiding was the old Duke of Norfolk, who had been in the Tower since 1546.

Northumberland, having pointed out that almost all of his judges were as guilty as he, confessed his guilt and sought mercy. At the very least, he requested that he be executed as a nobleman, by beheading, rather than the hanging, drawing and quartering that commoners suffered.

All were found guilty, and four others condemned the following day, including Northumberland’s brother, Sir Andrew Dudley, his brother-in-law, Sir John Gates, and his friend Sir Thomas Palmer.

Northumberland then startled his friends and horrified Jane by being reconciled to the Catholic faith, saying he had erred and been led astray for sixteen years. He reaffirmed his new-found old faith on the scaffold, but, if it was a ploy to win mercy, it did not work. He was executed, as were Gates and Palmer. The others were eventually pardoned.

Meanwhile, Jane was still in the Tower. She had been moved from the royal apartments, and was in the care of the Lieutenant, Sir John Brydges (later granted Sudeley Castle). Mary was determined to protect her cousin. She accepted that Jane had been overwhelmed by others, and refused to countenance her death, despite urging, particularly from the Imperial Ambassador, who, having done nothing to help Mary, now sought to control her.

Eventually, Jane and Guilford were tried at the Guildhall, along with Cranmer. All three were found guilty, but there was no move to have the sentences carried out. The terms of Jane and Guilford’s confinement were relaxed somewhat, and they were allowed to receive visitors and take exercise.

All might have been well and the couple eventually released, if Jane’s father had not foolishly embroiled himself in a further rebellion and again proclaimed Jane as queen. A second attempt on her throne could not be overlooked, and Mary made the reluctant decision that Jane and Guilford must be executed.

There was yet a chance of reprieve. Mary sent her chaplain, Dr Feckenham, to persuade Jane to embrace Catholicism. Despite Jane appreciating the priest’s kindness, she could not bend – to abjure her faith would result in eternal damnation. She was executed on 13th February 1554, certain that she would wake in Paradise.