The Tudor Society

9 July – Mary wants to avoid bloodshed and vengeance

On this day in Tudor history, 9th July 1553, three days after the death of her half-brother, King Edward VI, and the day after she'd proclaimed herself queen at her estate at Kenninghall, Mary (future Mary I), daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, wrote to the late king's privy council regarding "some evil" that she'd heard.

But what was going on? What had Mary heard and what was she going to do about it?

Find out more about the situation and Mary's letter in today's talk.

Also on this day in history, 9th July 1540, Anne of Cleves went from being Henry VIII’s queen consort to being his “right dear and right entirely beloved sister” after their marriage was annulled. Why was their marriage annulled? How did Anne of Cleves react to the news? What happened to her and Henry VIII afterwards? Find out in last year’s video:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1539 – Execution of Sir Adrian Fortescue, courtier and landowner, on Tower Hill. He was condemned for treason by act of attainder, but it is not known what he had done to deserve this. He was beatified in 1895 as a martyr, but historian Richard Rex points out that he is unlikely to have opposed Henry VIII's supremacy because he was a cousin of Anne Boleyn.
  • 1575 (9th-27th) – Elizabeth I was entertained at Kenilworth Castle by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. It was a special visit in that it lasted nineteen days and was the longest stay at a courtier’s house in any of her royal progresses.
  • 1586 – Death of Edward Sutton, 4th Baron Dudley, soldier and landowner, at Westminster. He was buried in St Margaret's, Westminster. Sutton served as a soldier in Henry VIII's reign in Ireland and Boulogne, and in Edward VI's reign against the Scots. He was made a Knight of the Bath at Mary I's coronation, and then given Lordship of Dudley Castle, where he entertained Elizabeth I in 1575.


On this day in Tudor history, 9th July 1553, the day after she had declared herself queen in front of her household at Kenninghall, Mary, daughter of the late king Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, wrote an important letter to the privy council.

What was it about?

Well, let me set the scene.

On 3rd July 1553, Mary was at Hunsdon when she received news that her half-brother, King Edward VI, was dying and that there was an “aristocratic conspiracy aimed at her destruction”. She decided that it was safer to make her way to her estates in East Anglia. The following day, she set off for Sawston Hall in Cambridgeshire, the home of Catholic Sir John Huddleston, a man she could trust, and arrived there on the 5th, staying one night. She set off again on 6th and possibly spent that night at the home of John Bourchier, 2nd Earl of Bath, Hengrave Hall in Bury St Edmunds. On 7th July 1553, she reached Euston Hall, home of Lady Burgh, and it was there that she received news from London goldsmith Robert Reyns, that the king had died on 6th July. She hurried on to Kenninghall and there, on 8th July, she gathered her household together, telling them of the king’s death and that “the right to the crown of England had therefore descended to her by divine and by human law”. Mary’s household reacted by cheering and then they “proclaimed their dearest princess Mary as queen of England.”

On the same day that Mary proclaimed herself queen at Kenninghall, the late Edward VI’s wishes for the succession, i.e. that Lady Jane Grey was his successor, were made to local magistrates.

On 9th July 1553, Mary put quill to parchment and wrote to her half-brother’s privy council, stating her claim to the throne and demanding their allegiance. She wrote of how she had learned that Edward was dead, news that was “woeful unto our hearts”, and moved on to talking about the crown and how they could not be ignorant of the fact that an act of Parliament and her father’s last will had given her the right to be queen, and that her right and title should “be published and proclaimed accordingly”. She commented that it “seemeth strange” that she had received no official news of the king’s death from the council, but that she had “great hope and trust and much assurance” in their loyalty and service and that they would “like noble men work the best”. She did mention, however, that she was “not ignorant” of what was going on, “some evil”, she called it, but that she was “ready to remit and fully pardon” them “to eschew blood-shed and vengeance”. She concluded by writing:
“Wherefore, my lords, we require you and charge you, for that our allegiance which you owe to God and us, that, for your honour and the surety of your persons, you employ your selves and forthwith upon receipt hereof cause our right and title to the Crown and government of this realm to be proclaimed in our City of London and such other places as to your wisdoms shall seem good and as to this case appertaineth, not failing hereof, as our very trust is in you. And this letter signed with our hand shall be your sufficient warrant.”

While Mary was writing this letter at Kenninghall on 9th July, Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, was preaching at St Paul’s Cross in London, denouncing Mary and her half-sister, Elizabeth, as bastards. He did not get the support he was hoping for, the congregation there was described as being “sore annoyed with his words”.

And on that very same day, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, who had led Edward VI’s government in his final years, informed his daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, of the king’s death and told her that Edward had nominated her as his successor. Jane collapsed weeping and declared “The crown is not my right and pleases me not. The Lady Mary is the rightful heir.”
Northumberland and Jane’s parents, the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk, then explained Edward’s wishes to the distressed Jane and she accepted the crown as her duty. She later described this moment, saying:
“Declaring to them my insufficiency, I greatly bewailed myself for the death of so noble a prince, and at the same time, turned myself to God, humbly praying and beseeching him, that if what was given to me was rightly and lawfully mine, his divine Majesty would grant me such grace and spirit that I might govern it to his glory and service and to the advantage of this realm.”

She took the crown believing that it was God’s plan for her. Of course, Jane’s short reign would come to an end on 19th July 1553 when Mary was officially proclaimed Queen Mary I. Jane was executed as a traitor in February 1554.

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9 July – Mary wants to avoid bloodshed and vengeance