The Tudor Society

18 July 1509 – Edmund Dudley convicted of treason

Richard Empson (left), Henry VII (centre) and Edmund Dudley (right)

Richard Empson (left), Henry VII (centre) and Edmund Dudley (right)

On this day in history, 18th July 1509, Edmund Dudley, administrator, President of the King's Council in the reign of Henry VII and speaker of the House of Commons, was convicted of treason after being blamed for the oppression of Henry VII's reign. He was charged with conspiring to "hold, guide and govern the King and his Council" and ordering his men to assemble in London during the final days of Henry VII's life.

In the Third Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records (1842), we have the record of "Trial and conviction of Edmund Dudley, Esq. - Constructive Treason - Commissioners of Oyer and Terminer, London, 18 July, 1509. 1 Hen. VIII":

"Charges that Edmund Dudley, late of London, Esquire, as a false traitor, &c., on the 22nd of April, 1 Hen. 8, at London, in the parish of St Swithin, in the ward of Candlewick-street, falsely, feloniously, and traitorously conspired, imagined, and compassed how and in what manner he, with a great force of men and armed power, might hold, guide, and govern the King and his Council against the wishes of the King either by himself or others, according to the will and intention of the said Edmund, and falsely and traitorously, and totally deprive the King of his Royal liberty: and to make and move discords, divisions, and dissensions amongst the Magnates and Councillors of the King and his kingdom; and that if by him the said Edmund, or by others his adherents, the King and Council should refuse to be held, ruled, and governed in the before-mentioned manner, the completely to destroy the King and to depose, remove, and deprive him from and of his Royal authority.

That in order to fulfil such wicked intention, the said Edmund Dudley, wrote or caused to be written divers letters to divers of the King's lieges, viz., one to Edward Sutton, Knight; another to Francis Cheyne, Knight, then Esquire; a third to Edward Darell, Knight; a fourth to Thomas Turbervyle; a fifth to Thomas Asshebournham, Esquire; a sixth to William Scott, Knight; a seventh to Henry Long; an eighth to Thomas Knyaston; and a ninth to John Mompesson, Esquire; requiring that they, with their servants and adherents, and all their power arrayed in a manner of war, should come together and speedily repair to him at London, and adhere to and follow his will. Furthermore, that the said Edmund, in order to carry into effect the said false and traitorous intention, on the said day, delivered the letters to Richard Page and Angell Messenger, [ Ayngell' Messynger,] to deliver the same to the said Sir Edward Sutton and the others aforementioned, who delivered the same accordingly; by reason whereof a great multitude and power of people, arrayed in manner of war, came to London, the in parish and ward aforesaid, according to the tenor of the letters, against the allegiance of the said Edmund."

The record goes on to say that Edmund Dudley pleaded 'Not guilty', but that the jury found him 'guilty': "Judgment according to the usual form in cases of high treason", i.e. death.

You can read or download this record for yourself on Google Books - click here. The next page has the record of the trial and conviction of Sir Richard Empson, who, like Dudley, had been one of Henry VII's chief advisors and who was also convicted of treason.

Empson and Dudley were imprisoned in the Tower of London before being executed on 17th August 1510.

Historians have seen these men as scapegoats for Henry VII's unpopular regime and have attributed their falls "to Henry's desire to win popularity and signify his distancing himself from his father's draconian financial measures", but historian Derek Wilson, in his book In the Lion's Court: Power, Ambition, and Sudden Death in the Reign of Henry VIII, writes of there being more to their falls than that:

"The King certainly had these motives but they do not fully explain the significance which the fate of the two ministers held for some of those most closely involved. There was a very pointed message in the precise words of the indictment, to 'govern the king and his council against the wishes of the king' [....] The very first power Henry VIII had displayed was the power to destroy highly placed servants who failed to do his bidding. It was a power he would exercise frequently and to devastating effect in the years ahead."

It was a very clear warning from the new king to those around him who might look to control or manipulate a young king.

Notes and Sources

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