The Tudor Society

6 July – The king is dead, long live the queen!

On this day in Tudor history, 6th July 1553, fifteen-year-old King Edward VI died at Greenwich Palace leaving the throne to his cousin's eldest daughter, Lady Jane Grey.

I share details of Edward's final illness and last days, his "Devise for the Succession", and Lady Jane Grey's reaction at being told that she was Edward's successor.

Another big event happened on this day in Tudor history, the execution of Sir Thomas More in 1535, so here is a link to read an article on that -

Also on this day in history:

  • 1535 – Execution of Sir Thomas More, Henry VIII's former friend and Lord Chancellor, for high treason for denying the King's supremacy.
  • 1537 – Execution of Sir Robert Constable at Beverley's Gate in Hull. Constable had been an active participant in the Pilgrimage of Grace Rebellion in 1536, but had received a royal pardon and had gone on to try and suppress Bigod's Revolt in 1537. However, he was summoned to London in 1537, and subsequently tried and condemned to death. He was hanged in chains.
  • 1560 – Signing of Treaty of Edinburgh (Treaty of Leith) between representatives of Elizabeth I and Francis II of France, husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. The terms were that French and English troops were to withdraw from Scotland and that Francis and Mary should stop using the title and arms of the monarch of England and Ireland, which belonged to Elizabeth I.
  • 1570 – Death of Margaret Clement (née Giggs), wife of John Clement and adopted daughter of Sir Thomas More, in Mechelen where she and her husband had gone into exile. Margaret was buried in the Cathedral of St Rumbald. Trivia: In 1537, Margaret bribed the gaoler at Newgate Prison to let her feed the Carthusian priests who were starving there.
  • 1583 – Death of Edmund Grindal, Elizabeth I's Archbishop of York and of Canterbury, at Croydon.
  • 1585 – Executions of Thomas Alfield, Catholic priest, and Thomas Webley, a dyer, at Tyburn. They had been tried and condemned under statute 23 Eliz. c.2 s.2, which made the publication of any book attacking the queen a felony punishable by death. The book in question was Dr William Allen's book, “Modest Defence of the English Catholiques”, which Alfield and Webley had helped to distribute.
  • 1614 – Death of Sir Anthony Cope, 1st Baronet, politician and Puritan. He was buried at Hanwell, Oxfordshire.
  • 1618 – Death of John Davies of Hereford, poet and writing master. He was buried in the church of St Dunstan-in-the-West, London. His works included “The Scourge of Folly”, “Writing Schoolmaster”, or, “The Anatomy of Fair Writing” and “Mirum in modum: a Glimpse of Gods Glorie and the Soules Shape”.

There are 2 comments Go To Comment

  1. M

    I can see both sides of this. I can understand Mary’s belief in her right to the crown, and don’t condemn her for it. But I understand Edward, as the sovereign, making his own will, over riding his father’s. Though I guess he was considered still in his minority. Maybe bound to the will of his father? I don’t know. But very sad. As I feel for Queen Jane, as well as understanding Queen Mary. Michelle t

  2. R

    Edward had his own reasons for making someone other than the natural and lawful succession, that is his two half sisters, Mary and Elizabeth. It didn’t matter whether Henry Viii left it in his will or not, the Third Act of Succession 1544 confirmed Mary and Elizabeth as next in line and in any case they were the daughters of Henry Viii, the former whom the people saw as lawfully begotten, even if Elizabeth was dubious. The Act had not made Mary and Elizabeth legitimate again but that didn’t change the fact that they were. However, being Henry’s daughters and Tudors they were in the natural line of Succession and Jane Grey wasn’t. In fact, even putting them aside, her mother Lady Frances Grey, nee Brandon was next so she was also set aside.

    However, here is the logic behind Edward vi making his own succession, which of course he could do, being without a child and without a male brother or uncle to leave the crown to, with the consent of the Council, Judges and Parliament ( remember Edward was a minor) and, because of his Protestant faith it makes sense to leave the country to a legitimate Protestant. The Devise is traditionally thought to have been pressured onto Edward by Northumberland, but it actually reflects quite well the mindset of the young King. Edward had been ill for several months and Jane was married to Dudley’s son, Guildford in preparation for this day. The Devise was altered as at first he hoped Jane would have a son as his heir, but then his health declined and it was changed to Jane and her heirs. The first two sentences excluding his half blood sisters as he puts it, are rather insulting, excluding Mary because she was Catholic but also because her mother was Spanish and his father had divorced her and Elizabeth, who although Protestant was the daughter, according to the document of an adulterous wife who was executed with justification and she was also illegitimate. It was very insulting to his own half sisters but he was very much trained by his father and tutors to this end. The rest of the document sets out his will for Jane to rule and her right to the crown and the Judges were commanded to accept it or face charges of treason.

    Letters Patent completed the job and Parliament should have made it lawful but as it didn’t meet until September the Devise never became law. Jane was indeed reluctant but accepted as if it was a holy decree. She issued proclamations signed Jane the Quene, which was used against her at her trial. As Edward died before Parliament could confirm Jane as Queen her succession was not entirely lawful. In any event that was rendered mute because a few days later, Mary was warned by the faithful servants and taken to safety and she was soon proclaimed Queen. In fact she had proclaimed herself Queen by 8th July, 1553.

    In her own sights Mary was the lawful Queen by right of birth, being the lawfully begotten child of Henry Viii and Katherine of Aragon and his only legal heir. She recognised her brother, of course as legitimate but Elizabeth was a different matter. Nevertheless she had remained close to her half sister and shown her kindness. Elizabeth was also in danger from this move and eventually picked up to enter London with her sister. Mary acted swiftly and decisively as only a Tudor could and had the people behind her. Hers was the legitimate claim and nobody was going to stop her taking back control of her kingdom. Land was the key. Henry had left both daughters vast amounts of land, mostly in East Anglia in Mary’s case and there she marched to make her base at Framingham Castle in Suffolk. The navy went over to her first and then over 10,000 troops. Northumberland and Jane’s father could not supress the support and by 19th July it was over. Mary was proclaimed Queen, the Council had abandoned Jane, who tried to prevent them leaving the Tower by taking the keys, which actually do belong to the Sovereign as does the palace and fortress itself and finally her father tore down the cloth of state and informed his daughter she was no longer Queen.

    Mary was remarkably tolerant of those who had prevented her taking the crown; the majority were pardoned. Northumberland was made an example of probably regarded as the leader, Suffolk and Lady Frances were pardoned and although put on trial several months later, Jane and Guildford were held in royal apartments, rather than executed. Henry Grey supported the Wyatt Rebellion and sealed his daughter’s fate. Reluctantly Mary agreed to her execution in February 1554. It was a tragic loss of a young intelligent and promising woman and the dangers of being born too close to the crown, all too exposed by her execution.

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6 July – The king is dead, long live the queen!