The Lady Mary becomes Queen Mary I
On July 19th 1553, Lady Mary Tudor was proclaimed, by right of her birth, Queen Mary I of England. The people rejoiced; lighting bonfires, eating feasts, dancing and the Church bells rang through the night. For a while, it might have seemed that Mary wouldn’t become queen after all.
At the beginning of July 1553, it was well known that King Edward VI was likely to die. He had made his council aware of his wishes; both Mary and Elizabeth were excluded from the succession. Edward, a devout protestant, was concerned about religious changes Mary would make to England. It could also be true that he genuinely believed his sisters to be illegitimate and unfit to rule; if his reasons for excluding Mary as his heir were purely religious, there would be no need to overlook his protestant sister Elizabeth.
Edward originally left the crown to a male child of Frances Brandon, his cousin, born during his lifetime; or the son of one of her three daughters. It does seem he didn’t want any woman to rule after him. When it became clear he would die before a male heir came, he changed his succession. He removed the ‘s’ from heirs and added the word ‘and’- leaving England to Lady Jane and any male heirs she was yet to have.
On July 6th, the 15 year old King Edward died. His Head of council, the Duke of Northumberland, wanted to keep his death a secret. However, an unknown messenger managed to leave the King’s household to inform Lady Mary; who had been summoned by the duke to visit King Edward two days earlier. Lady Mary immediately left where she was staying, taking with her two of her ladies and six gentlemen. She rode away from London to the house of Master John Huddleston, claiming sickness had broken out in her household and she feared infection. She rested for the night at his house, heard Mass at dawn then set off again, arriving at Hengrave Hall just outside Bury St Edmunds the next day.
In the meantime, the council had begun to tell the city merchants and the Mayor of London that King Edward had died, and the wishes he expressed in his will. The Sunday following Edward’s death, Mary and Elizabeth were removed from prayers. Even though the council had received a letter from Lady Mary declaring her right to the throne, the heralds declared Lady Jane Grey queen on July 10th. The proclamation was greeted with silence. Earlier that day, Lady Jane had arrived at the Tower of London as queen, having been informed of Edward VI’s will the day before. She is reported to have been shocked at the news; perhaps at first she did not want to be queen. Her initial shock does not seem to have lasted, though. She took on her new role, asserting her authority quickly. She refused to name her husband Guildford Dudley king, offering him the dukedom of Clarence instead and began to sign documents as ‘Jane the Quene’.
By July 11th, Lady Mary had arrived at Kenninghall in Norfolk. She was gaining support for her claim to the throne; the Earl of Bath was already with her, the Earl of Sussex on his way. Lesser nobles, knights and common men were also declaring for Mary.
The council in London planned to send an army to capture Lady Mary and bring her to the Tower The Duke of Northumberland was to lead the men, at the request of Lady Jane. She did not wish for her father, the Duke of Suffolk, to head her army. The Duke of Northumberland had already placed ships in Yarmouth harbour, to prevent Mary leaving the country to gain support. A muster was called on the 12th, offering men 10d a day to ‘fetch in the Lady Mary’. Guns and arms were brought into London. On July 13th Northumberland requested the council send him more men and horse at Newmarket. He rode out the next day, taking with him an army of 3,000 men and horse.
Around this time, Lady Mary moved to her bigger castle at Framlingham in Suffolk and was raising an army of her own. Some of the men that had already declared their support for Mary rode to Yarmouth harbour; the captains and men in the ships placed by Northumberland gladly declared for Mary. Men of all ranks were declaring their support for Mary and joining her army, which was growing by the day.
When the Duke of Northumberland reached Cambridge on July 16th he sent men destroy and burn down the house of John Huddleston, where she had recently stayed. He was aware that support for Lady Mary’s claim was strong, and growing; his own men were losing faith in him and the claim of Lady Jane. Mary was gaining more and more support as the days went by, and on the 18th the council drew up a proclamation offering rewards for the arrest of Northumberland.
On the evening of July 19th, the Earl of Arundel declared Mary to be rightful Queen of England to the council. When the town heralds made the proclamation, the people rejoiced. Lady Mary was, by direct succession and her father’s Act of Parliament, the rightful Queen of England. Her brother’s will did not pass through Parliament, and was therefore invalid. Lady Jane Grey and her husband remained at the Tower of London; but as state prisoners, not the queen and her consort.
The next day Northumberland heard of the proclamation himself. He tore down Jane’s proclamation before being arrested by the Earl of Arundel. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London on a charge of treason, and would be executed on Tower Hill the following month.
And so the Lady Mary became Queen Mary I of England. She rode triumphantly into London on August 3rd, accompanied by her half sister Elizabeth, ex-stepmother Anne of Cleves, and her loyal men.
‘Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen’ by Anna Whitelock
‘Mary Tudor: The First Queen’ by Linda Porter
‘Mary Tudor: The Spanish Tudor’ by H.F.M. Prescott