The Tudor Society

31 July – Henry Grey, father of Lady Jane Grey, is released from the Tower

On this day in Tudor history, 31st July 1553, Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, was “discharged out of the Tower by the Earle of Arundell and had the Quenes pardon.”

Suffolk had, of course, been imprisoned after Mary I had overthrown his daughter, Queen Jane, or Lady Jane Grey, and his release was down to his wife, Frances, interceding with the queen and begging for mercy.

But who was Henry Grey and how did he go from being pardoned to being executed in 1554?

Find out in today's talk.

Henry Grey's execution and the story regarding his head:

Also, on this day in Tudor history, 31st July 1544 and 1548, the future Queen Elizabeth I wrote letters to her stepmother, Catherine Parr. The letters were written at very different times in Elizabeth's life, the first when Catherine was queen and Elizabeth had been separated from her for a while, and the second after Catherine had actually removed Elizabeth from her and Thomas Seymour's household. Find out more about these letters and their context in last year’s video:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1549 – Death of Edmund Sheffield, 1st Baron Sheffield, in Norwich. It is said that he was killed by a butcher called Fulke, while serving in the royal army against the rebels of Kett's Rebellion. Apparently he stumbled into a ditch and then was killed by a blow from Fulke. Sheffield was buried in St Martin's at the Palace, Norwich.
  • 1574 – Death of John Douglas, Archbishop of St Andrews and educational reformer, in St Andrews. He was buried in the public cemetery. It is said that he died in the pulpit.


On this day in Tudor history, 31st July 1553, Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, was, according to contemporary chronicler, Charles Wriothesley, “discharged out of the Tower by the Earle of Arundell and had the Quenes pardon.”
But why was he in the Tower and why was he pardoned?

Let me tell you…

First, let me tell you a bit about Henry Grey.

• Henry Grey was born in 1517 and was the eldest son of Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset, and his second wife, Margaret Wotton.
• In 1530, following his father’s death, Grey’s wardship was granted to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, Henry VIII’s best friend and brother-in-law, being married to Mary Tudor, Queen of France. Grey also became Marquess of Dorset on his father’s death.
• In 1533, Suffolk married his daughter, Frances Brandon, off to Grey, and Grey was made a Knight of the Bath during the celebrations for Queen Anne Boleyn’s coronation.
• Grey was chief mourner at the funeral of King Henry VIII in 1547 and acted as Lord High Constable at King Edward VI’s coronation.
• He became a Knight of the Garter in 1547, following the accession of Edward VI.
• Also in 1547, Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley and brother of the Lord Protector, Edward Seymour, took on the wardship of the Greys’ eldest daughter, Lady Jane Grey, promising to arrange a marriage between Jane and his nephew, the king. Seymour went on to marry the dowager queen, Catherine Parr, and Jane joined their household. However, scandal soon surrounded Seymour’s behaviour with the king’s half-sister, Elizabeth, and Seymour ended up on the scaffold.
• In 1551, following the fall of the Lord Protector and the rise of John Dudley, Grey was made Duke of Suffolk at the same time that Dudley was made Duke of Northumberland. Grey was one of those who convicted the former Lord Protector and he was rewarded with some of Seymour’s property.
• In May 1553, Grey’s eldest daughter, Lady Jane Grey, married Northumberland’s son, Lord Guildford Dudley, and the dying King Edward VI, who was Frances Grey’s first cousin, chose Lady Jane Grey as his successor. Jane was proclaimed queen on 10th July 1553.
• Although Jane’s council chose Grey to leave London to apprehend Edward’s half-sister, Mary, who had proclaimed herself queen, Jane chose her father-in-law, Northumberland, to go instead. Without Northumberland’s leadership, Jane’s council betrayed her and proclaimed for Mary and Jane’s reign ended on 19th July 1553, with her father being the one to inform her and to take down her cloth of estate.
• Jane, her husband Guildford, her father, her father-in-law, her brothers-in-law, and other supporters were imprisoned in the Tower of London, but Grey was released without charge on this day in history, 31st July 1553. According to contemporary Robert Wingfield, Grey’s wife, Frances, who was, of course, Mary’s first cousin, went to visit Mary at Beaulieu to intercede for her husband and “to obtain his liberty on parole”. Wingfield records that Mary “freely conceded this, won over by cousinly affection, by her entreaties and by her own merciful nature”. Frances may well have tried to appeal for her daughter too, but Jane remained in the Tower. While Frances went to court with her cousin, the queen, Grey stayed at home at East Sheen.
• On 1st November 1553, Simon Renard, the Spanish ambassador, recorded that “The Duke of Suffolk is doing bad work in connexion with religion, and the Queen is angry with him for his manner of abusing her clemency and good nature”. On 14th November, in his report on the condemnation of Lady Jane Grey, Renard mentioned that the queen was “truly irritated against the Duke of Suffolk”. However, just three days later, Renard reported that Grey had recanted his Protestant faith and that Queen Mary I had “reinstated him by means of a general pardon.”
• You’d think that Henry Grey would have stayed out of trouble for the sake of his imprisoned daughter, who’d been condemned to death, but, no, he became involved in Wyatt’s Rebellion, a rebellion seeking to depose Mary and to replace her with her half-sister, Elizabeth. Unfortunately for Grey, and for his daughter, the rebellion failed and Grey was arrested as he tried to flee the country in disguise. His betrayal of the queen after she’d been merciful, led to Mary finally signing the death warrants of his daughter, Jane, and her husband, Guildford. Jane and Guildford were executed on 12th February 1554 and Grey was found guilty of high treason on 17th February and condemned to death. He was executed by beheading on 23rd February 1554. I’ll give you links to my video on Grey’s execution and what happened to his head.

Leave a Reply

31 July – Henry Grey, father of Lady Jane Grey, is released from the Tower