The 1553 Succession Crisis

Chapter 4 : The Tide Turns

By the 15th July, events were moving in Mary’s favour. Norwich had come down on her side, and sent money and men, as had Coventry and Gloucester. Perhaps most useful of all, the six ships which had been sent to patrol the waters off the coast of East Anglia defected to her (although perhaps more because they had not been paid than for philosophical reasons). Their guns were taken to Framlingham. Lord Wentworth, a major Suffolk landowner, also renounced his previous oath to Jane, and came to Mary.

Northumberland had sent his cousin, Sir Henry Dudley, to France, to request French intervention should the Emperor Charles attempt to support his cousin, Mary. The French were thrilled with the notion of preventing Mary reaching the throne – but the Imperial Ambassador pointed out to the Council that Henri II was far more likely to have long-term plans to see his daughter-in-law, Mary, Queen of Scots, as Queen of England, than the Protestant Jane.

In London, Jane’s supporters were seeking to win popular support. Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, preached against Mary at St Paul’s Cross, promoting Jane’s virtues and Protestantism. Half of the crowd had never heard of Jane and needed to have her claim spelt out. Even then, they were underwhelmed.

Members of the Council were becoming restive, and some were attempting to leave the Tower. Suffolk gave orders for the gates to be locked, and the keys handed over to Jane in person.

In Cambridge, Northumberland wrote to the Council, requesting reinforcements but none were sent. Lord Rich, sent by the Council to raise troop in his Essex territory for Jane, headed for Framlingham to support her rival.  Given that Lord Rich had shamelessly betrayed both Sir Thomas More and Cromwell, and made sure always to be on the winning side, this could have been taken by the Council as a certain indication of the end.

Despite the exhortations of ‘Jane the Quene’ the gentry of Sussex declared for Mary. The Earl of Oxford, too, headed for Framlingham.

Back in the Tower, the Earl of Arundel, a Catholic, who had previously suggested that Mary be nominated as Regent for her brother when Somerset fell from power, conferred with Pembroke, who was his mother’s cousin. They departed the Tower for Baynard’s Castle in the City on the pretext of receiving the French Ambassador. The rest of the Council then assembled, and Arundel persuaded them to abandon Jane and Northumberland. Any who were worried about breaking their oath to Jane should consider the danger of civil war.

The other members of the Council followed in their usual sheep-like fashion once they had a leader. They agreed to proclaim Mary, and a delegation hurried to meet the Lord Mayor at Cheapside. Mary was duly proclaimed Queen, following which the full Latin Te Deum was once more heard in St Paul’s Cathedral.  London went wild with joy.

With not a moment to be lost, Arundel and Sir William Paget hastened to Framlingham, arriving shortly after Mary had finished reviewing her troops and watched a cavalry charge. They submitted themselves to her mercy and told her that she was now acknowledged as Queen.

In the Tower, Suffolk, hearing the news, dismissed the guards and went to tell his daughter that she was no longer Queen. Northumberland, in Cambridge, immediately proclaimed Mary himself, there being no herald to hand. He hoped for mercy, but was assured by a bystander that, even if Mary were disposed to forgive him, the new Council (that was the old Council in a new guise of Marian loyalty) would kill him.

He shortly received orders from the Council to lay down his arms, disband his troops and wait for further orders. The next day, he was treated to the sight of the Earl of Arundel approaching to arrest him. Northumberland told his erstwhile colleague that he had done nothing without the consent of the whole Council. Arundel, whether he felt any shame, or only the pleasure of revenge on the man who had once sent him to prison, merely responded that he was but obeying the Queen’s commands.

Jane herself was deserted by everyone - even her parents had raced away from the Tower, leaving her and Guilford to face the future alone. Nevertheless, she composed herself to write to her cousin and explain that, although she knew she had done wrong in allowing herself to be persuaded, she had never sought Mary’s crown.