The Life of Lady Jane Grey (Part Two)

We ended Part One with the execution of the man who Jane lived with for 18 months – she even considered him a father-figure, Thomas Seymour. In this article we’ll look at her life after her wardship.

In order to continue with the life of Lady Jane Grey we really need to look at the events occurring in England at the time, and delve a bit further into the relationship between Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and John Dudley.

To keep all these people straight while telling this story, going forward, I will try to refer to Edward Seymour as ‘Somerset’,  John Dudley as either Dudley or Northumberland, Thomas Seymour as both Thomas and Sudeley.

Listen to Part One HERE

Don’t want to read this all? Listen to Part Two HERE

Where it all Went Wrong

Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset would soon discover that his involvement in the downfall and execution of his brother Thomas would be his own undoing. Was it Dudley who created a division between the brothers to pave way for his own ambitious plans? Did he hold a grudge against Somerset for stripping him of the title, “Lord High Admiral”? Not only stripped him of it, but Somerset gave the title to his younger brother, Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley. Was that the so-called move that Somerset made to gain such vengeance from Dudley?

Sudeley had always been an ambitious man, with ideas of what he saw as fair. The life he lived turned him into a well-liked, attractive man who behaved as a middle child would behave- always wanting more and striving to be noticed. As a middle child I can attest to this.

Is being ambitious so bad? Nowadays one would be applauded for being so driven, but history has not been so nice to Thomas Seymour.

If Dudley instigated any strife between the Seymour brothers I do not know, but his actions later definitely show that he was on a mission to be the most powerful man in England – what would stop him from getting everything he wanted?

Betrothal to Somerset’s Son?

In February 1549, Somerset was in discussions with Henry Grey about a possible marriage between his son, Edward, Earl of Hertford and Grey’s daughter Jane. While Somerset still alive it would have seemed an invaluable match to Grey, however, after his execution a match with Somerset’s kin seemed less appealing to Dudley. Around this time a match was made with Northumberland’s son, Guildford Dudley and Lady Jane Grey. A match that would benefit both families.

Initially, for Northumberland, a marriage with Lady Jane Grey meant that his son would be able to secure the dukedom of Suffolk after the death of Jane’s father. At that point in the plan it doesn’t appear to be all about making Jane Queen of England.


After the execution of his friend Sudeley, Henry Grey aligned himself with Dudley. What was it that Dudley had said to him to get him to ally himself against the Lord Protector? Did he say that Somerset had lost all his power? Did he tell him of his plans to be Lord Protector himself? Did he go so far as to tell him that he wished for Jane to be Queen? — We know that Henry and Frances Grey were thrilled when Sudeley offered a marriage between Edward VI and their daughter – making her a queen consort and raising the station of their family. What would stop them from being motivated to make their daughter a queen regnant instead?

Religion played a big part in this all. The idea of a Catholic on the throne was terrifying to the Protestants and they did whatever it took to ensure Mary Tudor would never became queen of England.

On the 29th of November 1549, Henry Grey’s relationship with Dudley became beneficial to them both. Dudley with the persuasion and power he had was able to get Henry Grey appointed as a privy councillor. This appointment shifted the balance of the council in favor of those who agreed with Dudley.

In February of the following year (1550), Henry Grey was appointed as one of the six lords who was personally responsible for the king. With this new appointment, the Grey family was now living at the court of Edward VI.

Downfall of Somerset

The fate of Somerset became similar to that of his late brother, Sudeley, who was executed in 1549. Somerset had been surrounded by men who were whispered in his ear and warned him of his brother’s behavior. They convinced him that he had no other choice than to sign his brother’s death warrant, if he did not his own safety and the safety of the king would be in jeopardy.

Four months after Sudley’s execution, a rebellion broke out in East Anglia. The commoners were protesting against the enclosure of land and the misuse of power by their landlords. —- In July 1549, a group of rebels destroyed newly built fences that were placed there by the wealthy landowners. One of the landowners was a man called Robert Kett. Kett chose to agree to the rebel demands instead of fighting against them. He then offered to lead the men.

In July 1549, Paget wrote to Somerset: “Every man of the council have misliked your proceedings … would to God, that, at the first stir you had followed the matter hotly, and caused justice to be ministered in solemn fashion to the terror of others …”.[46]

It was Somerset’s reaction to the rebellion that cost him favor — after the rebels managed to occupy Norwich, Somerset wrote letters where he sympathized with the rebels and offered them pardons -he even stated he would bring up their grievances in Parliament. Unfortunately for Somerset, a man who was trying to compromise with the rebels, the king’s privy councilors were outraged by his actions. It was decided that Dudley, a seasoned-soldier,  would lead an army against the rebels. He did, and on the 27th of August stopped them in their tracks. Dudley did what Somerset could not.

Somerset had become a huge liability to the country. With multiple rebellions and the cost of war with Scotland, the rest of the council had lost faith in him.

By the beginning of October 1549, Somerset could see the power dwindling from his fingertips and feared the worst. Looking for support he sent letters asking men to take up arms and head to Hampton Court Palace – the King needed protection. Somerset then took the King and moved to what he believed to be a safer location, Windsor Castle. It was noted by Edward in the King’s diary that “Me thinks I am in prison.”[47]  

The council needed to act quickly, and formed a united front against Somerset – the group of men who had once been his allies and had approved him to become Lord Protector, now placed all the blame directly on him for all the events of the last year. They realized that, like Henry VIII used to do, they could make men and break them. That is indeed what they did to Somerset.

On the 11th of October, Dudley was raised to Duke of Northumberland and Henry and Frances Grey were created Duke and Duchess of Suffolk (finally inheriting her father’s title after the death of her brother) – Five days later, on the 16th of October, Somerset and dozens of his supporters were arrested.

“…the Council had Somerset arrested and brought the king to Richmond. While looking at the charges against his uncle, King Edward had this to say about them: “ambition, vainglory, entering into rash wars in mine youth, negligent looking on Newhaven, enriching himself of my treasure, following his own opinion, and doing all by his own authority.”

After his arrest, Somerset was no longer Lord Protector.

Historian Eric Ives did not believe that the downfall of Somerset was by the plan of Dudley. The fact that Dudley gained power was merely a coincidence. While I respect the late historians views I do not agree with him. In my opinion, Dudley wanted more power from the get-go. After the death of Henry VIII he found a way to wedge himself between the two Seymour brothers, the uncles of the king, and became instrumental in the downfall of those men.

After the “dethroning” of Somerset (so to speak), Dudley made peace with him. This was an intelligent move by Dudley because the Duke of Somerset was still the most senior duke in all of England. Somerset still wielded a lot of power and money — with those two things he was able to hatch a plan to retrieve his title.

As with Mary, Queen of Scots and her long battle for her queenship, Somerset always believed it was his right to watch over his nephew and no one else. That is what became his downfall. It is also what caused Mary’s demise as well. Both lost their head for their pride.

As soon as Somerset fell from favor, Henry Grey immediately joined sides with Dudley and helped to bring down his former friend.

Somerset was executed on largely fabricated charges, three months after Dudley had been raised to the Dukedom of Northumberland in October 1551.

“Somerset had never ceased to be popular among the general populace, his execution in January 1552 went down as cold-blooded judicial murder by a newly elevated rival who was determined to secure unfettered power.”

In all reality, Somerset only had himself to blame for his downfall – if he had not rebelled against Northumberland (Dudley) he may have had a much longer life. With that being said, Northumberland later admitted that the charges against Somerset were flimsy at best, but he knew how to massage them to get the result he wanted. This was a popular method in Tudor England.

Since Somerset never ceased being popular with the general populace, it was Northumberland who had an uphill battle to climb to gain a positive reputation after Somerset’s execution. His reputation had gotten so bad that the Spanish were claiming that he was planning to marry the Lady Elizabeth.

Side Note: The death of Somerset saw Jane’s family gaining a new home, at the Charterhouse at Sheen.

Northumberland’s Plan

Edward Montagu, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas once said this about the rule of the young King Edward and how Northumberland actually did the ruling:

Who put the king in mind to make the said articles, or who wrote them, or any of them, or by whose procurement or counsel they were made, or by what means he and others were called unto this matter, he knows not; but he thinks in his conscience the king never invented this matter of himself, but by some wonderful false compass.

A contemporary English historian had this to say about the situation:

The unhappy king – born to disaster, and subject to abuse and plunder from both his guardians, first by his dearest uncle, the duke of Somerset, then as if from the frying-pan into the fire, by Northumberland – dared not make any protest, but fell in with the duke’s wishes; he soon ordered the most skilled lawyers to be called to note his will, or rather that of Northumberland, and to write it with all the ancient legal elaboration.

Northumberland’s plan was to use the same method as Sudeley – convince the young king that he should outright and flatter him with lots of decision-making.

Although Northumberland overthrew Somerset, it was the method of the King’s other uncle, Sudeley,that Northumberland modeled after with the young King. I’ve always believed that King Edward was sheltered from his role as King by his uncle Somerset, and Sudeley saw it and tried use it to his benefit.

King’s Health

When the King’s health began to fail Northumberland knew, if he wished to keep his powerful position he had to find a way to protect himself in the event the young king should die.

Guildford Dudley Betrothal and Marriage

A warrant dated  the 24th of April 1553 is the first indication we have of a betrothal between Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley. The warrant was for ‘wedding apparel’ to be delivered to both the bride and groom.

On the 25th of May 1553, Durham House, Northumberland’s residence in London was witness to a triple wedding. Jane Grey to Guildford Dudley, Katherine Grey to Henry, Lord Herbert (who had been brought from his sick bed to wed Katherine) and Katherine Dudley to Henry Hastings. All three marriages were advantageous for the Dudley clan and either brought them closer to the Grey family or other noble families in the realm.

The weddings were quite the spectacle to be seen and a majority of English nobility showed up to witness them. There were jousts, a feast and two masques performed.

We don’t know for certain how Jane felt about a marriage with Guildford. He had been described as ‘a comely, virtuous and goodly gentleman’.

Whether or not Jane fought against the marriage is a grey area – some have said she fought against it, while others say that went along with the process because she knew it was her duty.

The marriage would join the two prestigious families of the Greys and Dudleys, and would be celebrated in all the glory as one should if they had royal blood. Unfortunately, the King was ill at the time and was unable to attend. In his place he sent gifts of ‘rich ornaments and jewels’.

The imperial ambassador wrote that the wedding was being ‘celebrated with great magnificence and feasting at the duke of Northumberland’s house in town’ and it extended over two days.

After the wedding feast, several attendants, including the bride and groom, fell ill from food poisoning. The source of the food poisoning is believed to have been a salad. It is said that the cook, “plucked one leaf for another”.  Jane Grey suspected her mother in law was responsible for the food poisoning.

The coupled lived apart for a while after their wedding. But, by the time Jane became Queen of England they were living together at Durham House and had certainly consummated their marriage.

Was the rush of their wedding because the Edward’s ‘devise for succession’ only named male heirs? All that remained were women and they need to have a son….and fast.

Jane’s relationship with Guildford appears to be a very interesting one. They were both young and Guildford was still a mama’s-boy. I believe, from all that I’ve read, that Jane did care for and maybe even loved, Guildford.

Dying King

There were already rumors that King Edward was dying, but on the 28th of May 1553, Edward’s doctor privately informed Northumberland that the King would not survive past autumn.

It was not long after Northumberland was made aware of the poor health of the King that the French showed their support to stop the succession of Mary. The death of the English king was on everyone’s mind — Edward’s successor could easily throw off a balance of power in the world.

Everything appeared to be playing out just as Northumberland had planned. King Edward adjusted his will to pass over Frances Grey (since she had not had male heirs) to her daughter Jane and her heirs male. This wasn’t the first time that Frances Grey was overlooked – Henry VIII had done the same thing to the daughter of his favorite sister.

According to the papal envoy (Giovanni Francesco Commendone), Northumberland was the one who informed Jane that she was now heir to the throne of England. Jane, understandably, was upset – not so much that she was taking away something from her cousin, Mary, but that her own mother was overlooked in favor of Jane.

Upset, Jane requested to go back to Suffolk Place to see her mother, however, the Duchess of Northumberland denied her request since she needed to be immediately available upon the death of the king.

Jane had found her voice over her short years and wasn’t about to allow the mother-in-law she did not like to dictate what she could and couldn’t do, so Jane snuck out of Durham house and took a boat on the Thames to see her mother at Suffolk Place. While Frances consoled her young daughter who would soon be queen of England, Guildford’s mother was furious that Jane had snuck out. She threatened to keep her son away of Jane if she did not immediately return. Such action would be cause for a public scandal. The two families came to some type of compromise and Jane returned to her husband’s side.

It wasn’t only Jane who was upset that her mother was passed over, Henry Grey was livid about what had just transpired and was now convinced that Northumberland merely wanted to have his son on the throne all along.

While all this drama was playing out, King Edward VI slowly prepared for his death. On the 21st of June, after a long time of considering who would succeed him he declared that his ‘half blood’ sisters were still illegitimate and would not be eligible to succeed him –  his successor would be the Protestant Jane Grey.

On the 27th of June, after rumors had spread that the King was dead, Edward VI made a point to show himself at a window. This was the last time his subjects (outside the building) would see him alive.

Only six weeks after her arranged marriage with Guildford Dudley, Edward VI had died and Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed (by Northumberland) Queen of England.



De Lisle, Leanda. ‘Three Sisters Who Would Be Queen‘.

Ives, Eric. ‘Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery‘.

Tallis, Nicole. ‘Crown of Blood’.

Scard, Margaret. ‘Edward Seymour: Lord Protector’

Skidmore, Chris. ‘Edward VI’

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The Life of Lady Jane Grey (Part One)

In this new series I have chosen to focus on the life of Lady Jane Grey. Recently I finished reading ‘Crown of Blood’ by Nicola Tallis and ‘The Sisters Who Would Be Queen’ by Leanda DE Lisle, as well as referencing Eric Ive’s biography on Jane. Along with my fascination of Thomas Seymour, Jane Grey’s life nicely intertwined with that of his and is a fantastic story to share with all of you.

Early Years

As granddaughter of Mary Tudor, dowager queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk, Lady Jane Grey was born with royal blood flowing through her veins. As the eldest surviving child of Frances Brandon and Henry Grey she received the education that normally would have been given to the eldest son. Some even believe Jane was better educated than Elizabeth Tudor.

Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and queen of France.

Born in the latter half of 1536, Jane Grey was named after Queen Jane Seymour, who was most likely also asked to stand as godmother to the child.1

Those Who Cared For Jane

As is usual with royal children, Jane was cared for by a wet nurse. It was considered unfashionable, and frowned upon, for a woman of royal status to breastfeed her own children. Choosing the perfect wet nurse was of utmost importance to Frances Grey – she was the daughter of a Tudor princess and a dowager queen, and so her daughter Jane was royal. It is unknown who Jane’s wet nurse was but it is highly likely that whomever it was had been chosen by Frances Brandon herself.

Jane was not only suckled by a wet nurse but she also had a nursery staff which included rockers. A rocker’s job was to rock the infant to sleep and to soothe the child when necessary.

Until watching PBS Masterpiece series on Queen Victoria I had been unaware of the tradition of “churching” – maybe unaware is the wrong word…I didn’t understand it. In modern day this seems utterly ridiculous, but back in 16th century England this was commonplace. Churching allowed a woman to return to her normal activities in society. It was a purification ceremony that took place forty days after giving birth.2

Presentation in the Temple, a representation of the presentation of Jesus at the Temple upon which the churching of women is based. (Hans Memling, c. 1470, Museo del Prado. Madrid).

The custom of blessing a woman after childbirth recalls the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary mentioned in Luke 2:22. The Jewish practice was based on Leviticus 12:1-8, which specified the ceremonial rite to be performed in order to restore ritual purity. It was believed that a woman becomes ritually unclean by giving birth, due to the presence of blood and/or other fluids at birth.”

Here is the quote from Leviticus:

A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period.  On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over. If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean, as during her period. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding.

With Jane being born in the latter half of 1536 she would have only known an England that did not include Anne Boleyn, as well as not knowing religion that included the Pope. She was raised Protestant, like her cousin Elizabeth – it was the only religion either ever knew.


Education played a very important role in Jane’s life. It was of greatest importance to her father, who had been well educated himself, that his daughters learned all that he was taught and more.

In this new England it was not frowned upon for girls to be educated. At five years old Jane began her formal education.

In the beginning she began like most of us, learning her alphabet which lead to reading and writing. She would have also learned and memorized the Lord’s Prayer, in English – this was of utmost importance – education was not only learning to read and write but to build a strong relationship with the Lord.

Jane proved to be a enthusiastic student who loved to learn and was eager to be taught. This was something her first teacher, Dr. Thomas Harding would have noticed immediately.

It was around 1541 that the well-known tutor John Aylmer joined the household at Bradgate as tutor and chaplain – he had been invited by Jane’s father.

Aylmer once commented on Jane’s intellect by saying, “God has fit to adorn with so many excellent gifts”. Jane flourished under the guidance of her new tutor and everyone, including her parents were pleased with her progress.

Aylmer once said:

It has always indeed been my disposition not only to set the highest esteem upon all kinds of learning, but to regard with the greatest affection those who cultivate and profess it. For I well know how brutish this life of our would be, were not the understanding of mankind cultivated by useful learning and liberal pursuits.

It was under Aylmer that Jane’s enthusiasm for religious reform grew. But as always it wasn’t only learning from books and religion that Jane learned, but also the traditional forms of education to prepare woman for Tudor court – she would have learned etiquette, how to sew or embroider, how to dance and play musical instruments.

Jane excelled at history and learning languages. She spoke Greek and Latin, as well as Italian and Hebrew. She also learned French as well as other languages.

For Jane, books filled the void from the lack of age appropriate companionship at Bradgate. Her sisters Catherine and Mary were younger than her and Jane was happiest when she was inside reading. While her sisters preferred to play outside.

Jane’s Wardship

As with any noble, or aristocratic child, Jane approached adolescence and needed to further her education within a household of an equal or someone of superior nobility. Henry Grey had indicated that his eleven year old daughter became the ward of Sir Thomas Seymour in February 15473 and was sent to Seymour Place in London- this was not long after the death of King Henry VIII and prior to Seymour’s marriage to the dowager queen, Kateryn Parr.  Historian, Eric Ives believed that Jane’s parents were aware of Seymour’s intentions to wed Parr and that they were pleased with the arrangement.

Sir Thomas Seymour had proposed to purchase Jane’s wardship from her parents Frances Brandon and Henry Grey. Grey and Seymour were well acquainted. Seymour attempted to entice the couple by offering them 2,000£ for Jane’s wardship. When that didn’t seem to do it he said he would also arrange a marriage between Jane and Edward, the king.

Jane’s parents jumped at the chance for their daughter to be queen consort and allowed Seymour to purchase the 2,000£ wardship. They would have also seen the benefit of their daughter being in the presence of the dowager queen, who was a Protestant. Parr was already known for her care and education of the Lady Elizabeth. Elizabeth had the best tutors and mentors around – the same would be fore Jane. This offer from Seymour was in stark contrast to an offer made by the Lord Protector and his wife. The Somersets had attempted to arrange a marriage between their son and Jane. It seems both Seymour men, Thomas and Edward, understood how powerful of a chess piece young Jane could be.

It was in her new household that Jane appeared able to spread her wings – she felt a freedom with Seymour and Parr that she had not experienced under the wings of her parents, as any child would feel being removed from their parents in their youth. She also was able to enjoy the company of the beautiful Parr. With Parr as a role model, Jane grew fond of beautifully styled hair and fine clothes, as well as a love of music. These were things that her tutor Ascham would later inform her were not of the Protestant way.

It was in this household that Parr had arranged the best tutors for Jane and she thrived in her studies on religion and became more convicted in her reformed views.

Jane’s parents, after a while, were concerned that progress was not being made in a marriage between Jane and the King since the Lord Protector had blocked both Seymour and Parr from seeing him. Seymour reassured them that he was indeed the King’s favorite uncle and that all would be well in due course.

Jane, under the care of Seymour and Parr would have come across her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth was a few years older than Jane and so she was not as interested in interacting with her, not to mention that Elizabeth had always understood how precarious her position in the line of succession was since she was still considered the illegitimate daughter of the late king. Jane may have seemed to be a threat to Elizabeth’s future.

The Lady Elizabeth

Even though they had not spent much time together, Jane would most likely have been witness to Seymour’s attention toward the Lady Elizabeth. Once can wonder what Jane’s feelings were on the matter.

Death of Parr

Jane Grey spent a total of a year and a half under the wardship of Seymour, but it all came to an end when Parr succumbed to childbed fever after giving birth to a daughter, Mary. At the service, Jane became the Chief Mourner in the first ever Protestant funeral in England.

Tomb of Kateryn Parr at Sudeley

After the death of his wife, the grief-stricken Seymour chose to disband the household and to send Jane back to her parents at Bradgate.

Return to Bradgate

It was after Jane returned to her parents at Bradgate that Thomas Seymour realized he had made a hasty decision. He wrote to Jane’s father on the 17th of September pleading with him to return Jane to his care. He explained that he understood Jane’s mother would be concerned that her daughter no longer had a strong female influence in her life, so Seymour reassured her that all the ladies and maids of honor of the dowager queen would be kept on at Sudeley – continuing with the theme that Sudeley Castle was home to the second court as when Parr was still living. He insisted that everyone would be ‘as diligent about [Jane], as yourself would wish’.4  He also reassured  them that Jane would return to Sudeley under the supervision of himself and his aged mother, Margery Wentworth and that he would care for her as she was his own daughter.

Bradgate ruins. CC BY-SA 3.0

During these new negotiations Jane replied to a letter that Seymour had written her:

‘Right Honourable and my singular good lord, the Lord Admiral’:

My duty to your lordship in most humble wise remembered, with no less thanks for the gentle letters which I received from you.

Thinking myself so much bound to your lordship for your great goodness towards me from time to time that I cannot by any means be able to recompense the least part thereof, I purposed to write a few rude lines unto your lordship, rather as a token to show how much worthier I think your lordship’s goodness, than to give worthy thanks for the same; and these, my letters, shall be to testify unto you that, like as you have become towards me a loving and kind father, so I shall be always most ready to obey your godly monitions and good instructions, as becometh on upon whom you have heaped so many benefits. And thus, fearing lest I should trouble your lordship too much, I most humbly take my leave of your good lordship.

Your humble servant, during my life,

Jane Grey

Endorsed: “My Lady Jane, 1st October 1548”

Jane’s parents were not convinced that sending their daughter back to Sudeley was the best course of action. With the death of the dowager queen Seymour’s status had dropped dramatically.

Seymour, never happy to accept no as an answer, grabbed a horse and his friend William Sharington and they both headed to Bradgate. Thomas Seymour knew that he was very convincing in person. Once at Bradgate, Seymour and his friend Sharington used their wits and charms to the best of their abilities and convinced the couple that he would make good on their initial agreement. His only obstacle was access to the King. The Greys were convinced and (probably against their better judgement) sent their daughter back to Sudeley Castle under the care of Thomas Seymour.

Return to Sudeley Castle

The Sudeley Castle that Jane returned to after the death of Katheryn Parr’s had a heavier feeling in the air than before . There was a noticeable change in the mood at the castle and it appeared that Seymour had not yet accepted her death. He had often spoken about presenting a Bill to Parliament that would stop people from slandering his late wife’s name. It was her marriage to Seymour that tarnished her reputation.

Around this time there were rumors that Seymour was looking to remarry. Some believed he would try and wed the Lady Mary, or even Jane herself. Others believed he was after a marriage with the Lady Elizabeth, which he replied that he had heard his brother would lock him away in the Tower if he should marry her, but that he did not see anything wrong with a marriage with the Lady Elizabeth if she were to agree to it.

Sudeley Castle from the Air by Wiebe de Jager

The further Seymour moved toward a possible marriage with the Lady Elizabeth the more concerned those around him became. His friends and those who served him tried to change his mind – that it was against all that was decent for a man of his birth to go after an heir to the throne of England. One even warned him saying, “It were better for you if you had never been born, nay, that you were burnt to the quick alive, than that you should attempt it.” Seymours plan not only risked his life but also the reputation and life of the Lady Elizabeth.

It wasn’t long after that Jane witnessed her father arriving at Sudeley to have secret meetings with Seymour. Henry Grey may have believed after these meetings that there would be a double wedding in the near future: His daughter to the King and Seymour to the Lady Elizabeth.

When the arrests of those involved in Seymour’s plan began Jane was returned to Dorset House – her parent’s home in London. It was there she would have tried to wrap her head around all the accusations against the man who she had known as a father.

It didn’t take long for Seymour to be railroaded and found guilty of treason, and on the 20th of March he was executed by beheading.

That’s where we will end for this week. We will continue on with her story in Part Two of the series on Lady Jane Grey.


1Tallis, Nicola. “Crown of Blood” pg. 17
2Wikipedia. “Churching of Women” – History
3Ives, Eric. “Lady Jane Grey – A Tudor Mystery’. pg. 44
4 De Lisle, Leanda. The Sisters Who Would Be Queen. Pg 46

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Margaret Wotton: Unnatural Mother


Motherhood isn’t necessarily for every woman. Some are better caretakers and givers than others. Some have a way of nurturing their children and teaching them how to be the best person they can. Motherhood does not come with a handbook. There is no step by step process that teaches us the things we should do to make our children good people.

This is the story of Margaret Wotton, Marchioness of Dorset and mother of Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk.

In 1530, Margaret’s husband, Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset died – after his death  she was given custody of all his property during her oldest son Henry’s minority.

Margaret was an important lady at the Tudor court. She rode in Anne Boleyn’s coronation procession in 1533 and was also present at the baptism of Princess Elizabeth as one of her godmothers.

The arguments between Margaret and her son Henry began when he refused to marry the woman he had been betrothed to – Catherine Fitzalan, the daughter of William Fitzalan, 17th Earl of Arundel. For this refusal he was fined  £4000 for breach of contract.

Because of this enormous, unexpected financial burden, Lady Margaret, who had custody of all her husband’s property during Henry’s minority, feared she would “not be able to set forth my daughters in marriage, neither continue in the keeping of my poor house.” Insisting that her husband’s estate was “right small” in comparison to his debts and the cost of supporting herself and their children, she tried to limit her expenses for Henry to the allowance specified in his father’s will.¹

After her son’s refusal of marriage to Catherine Fitzalan she attempted to restrict his allowance throughout his minority which caused much alarm from her peers –  they labeled her actions as”unmotherly”.

Margaret, however, agreed to Henry’s marriage with Lady Frances Brandon on the condition that her father, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk support the couple until Henry reached his majority. Brandon was niece to Henry VIII through his sister Mary and her husband Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.

Once Henry Grey came to his majority is when Margaret Wotton began writing letters to Thomas Cromwell, Lord Privy Seal.

In July 1538, Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset shows up in Henry VIII’s grants:

‘Henry VIII: Grants in July’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 13 Part 1, January-July 1538

The following letter is believed to have been written in 1539 because on the 10th of July 1538, the young Marquis of Dorset – Henry Grey, became of age to claim his inheritance.

Margaret, Marchioness dowager of Dorset, to Lord Cromwell

My very good lord, my Lord of the Privy Seal –

After my right hearty recommendations to your good lordship remembered. Where I lately received your loving and gentle letter concerning a reasonable end to be made by the lord chancellor and your lordship between my son Marquis and me; my lord, notwithstanding that I know no such variance between him and me, but that we might end the same among ourselves, without troubling any other between us, yet undoubtedly I am no less glad to have our matters ended by the said lord chancellor and your lordship than my said son is, and especially by your lordship, who hath always borne so good heart towards my lord my late husband, whose soul Jesu pardon, that I doubt not you do now the same towards all his children indifferently. which is right well approved by your goodness now shewed to my son Thomas, for whom I most heartily thank your lordship; heartily requiring you to continue good lord and master unto him, and to call sharply on him for his diligent service towards you; whereby your lordship shall do him more good than that little living left unto him by my lord his father shall be worth.

My lord, there goeth many untrue and light reports of my unnatural and unkind dealing towards my son Marquis, much to my slander and rebuke, which troulbel me not a little, considering how good mother I have always been towards him in heart and deed, and what pain and troulbel I have sustained, and what bonds I have brought my friends into, since the death of my good lord his father, only for his commodity and wealth. Wherein I have this only comfort, that I know well neither your lordship, nor any other of my lords of king’s council, of your great wisdom, will give credit to any suchlewd and false reports, till you have heardthe answer thereof. Of truth, my lord, I never reckoned that little portion which my son Marquis, by the order of the laws of the realm, shall now enjoy, to be meet or sufficient to maintain his estate: wherefore I have always been, and am at this present, conteneted to enlarge it with such part of the lands liable to the last will of my said lord my late husband, as the lord chancellor and your lordship shall think convenient, reserving always to myself my jointure and dower; whereof I doubt not your lordshiops of your honours will in no wise minish or abate any part from me. And as touching the baluations of my son Marquis’ lands, I know not but he hath as much thereof as I can help him unto. I have at this time sent unto my son Medley to make good search for such things as may do my said son Marquis any pleasure in the suite of his livery; and have also commanded my said son Medley to attend on your lordship with my counsel for the knowledge of your farther pleasure in these matters; heartily beseeching you, my good lord, to give farther credence to my son Medley, this bearer, trusting verily that there shall be nothing determined in these things without min assent thereto; beseeching you, my lord, to be good lord unto me, a poor widow, in these matters, and in all other that I shall have to do with your lordship, as you have been always. As knoweth Almighty God, who send you good lordship good life and long, to his pleasure.

Written at Sir Richard Clement’s Moat, in Kent, the 8th day of February.

Your lordship’s assured during my life,

Margaret Dorset

Margaret, Marchioness dowager of Dorset, to Lord of the Privy Seal, 8th March, 1539

My very good lord,

It may please you to be advertised that where it pleased your lordship to write for my son Marquis to come up for the determination of mine accompt, remaining yet undiscussed; I heartily beseech you, my lord, if it may so stand with your pleasure, to take some good order between him and me now at this time; and if so be that, for the great and weighty causes of the king’s highness, your lordship cannot at this time be at leisure to have the hearing and to determine an end between us, my humble request is to you, my good lord, that the revenues of those lands which be liable to the wills of my late lord my husband, and my lady Cecil, my lord’s mother, be no longer received by my son Marquis; for he payeth no debts, neither to the king’s highness nor no other. And every term I am importunately called upon for them. Wherein I beseech your lordship to be good lord to me, a poor widow, that now, in my old age, I may live in some rest and quietness, which I am sure never to come to but through your lordship’s only help; besseching your lordship to farther credence to this bearer; for if I were in case able to ride or go, I would have given attendance upon you myself, but unfeighnedly,my lord, I am so troubled divers ways I am not able to endure the pain of any labour. As knoweth Almighty God,who send your lordship good life and long, to his pleasure.

At Christchurch, my lord chancellor’s house in London, the 8th day of March.

Your lorship’s assured to my power,

Margaret Dorset

Margaret, Marchioness dowager of Dorset to Lord Cromwell

In honour of our Lord’s passion, my lord, I beseech you to be my good lord,and consider me, a poor widow, how unkindly and extremely I am handled by my son Marquis, that I cannot be suffered to have mine own stuff out of mine own house. I think there is few mothers alive so handled by my children: wherefore I beseech you, my very good lord, for the love of God, cause my son to send down his letter to his servants that I may have my said stuff delivered; for there lies all this while my servants and their men, with their carts and horses, which stands me in no little money. And much it will be to my rebuke and shame, if they should come and leave that behind them that they were sent for. My lord, if I had a loving child and a good obedient child of my son Marquis, as I have even clean the contrary, he would not strive with me for my stuff, nor nothing else that of right I ought to have, considering my years and sickness, with continual aches and pains. I know that he knows full well I have whereby it may well be perceived, that my time cannot be long to keep him from that thing that he ought to have – wherefore I eftsoons beseech you, my good lord, help me to this letter, with all the speed that may be, for their long tarrying there hinders me sore. My lord, I beseech you let me have justice at your hand, as you be a nobleman and a knight of the garter, so helm me in rights, and defend me, a poor widow, against all them that would do me wrong, as your lordship is bounden by that noble order of the garter that you have received. My lord, I beseech you of pardon, how boldly or rudely soever I have written to you, for I assure you, my lord, this unkind handling of my son Marquis troubles me so, that almost I wit never what I do nor what I say; but ever I pray you, my lord, help me that I take not this open rebuke and shame in the country at my son’s hand. And thus I take my leave of you, my very good lord, praying Almighty God to send your lordship good life and long.

By your own assured to my power,

Margaret Dorset

What is your impression of Margaret Wotten? Do you think she had a right to do what she did with her son’s inheritance?


¹ Harris, Barbara Jean; English Aristocratic Women, 1450-1550: Marriage and Family, Property and Careers; page 1115
Everett Wood, Mary Anne; “Letters of royal and illustrious ladies of Great Britain, from the commencement of the twelfth century to the close of the reign of Queen Mary”; Volume III

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