The Reign of Mary I

Jane Grey

         After Edward VI died on July 6, 1553, Jane Grey was made Queen according to Edward VI Letters Patent. However, she only ruled for nine days from July 10 to July 19 before Mary came and seized the throne.
            Jane’s primary supporter was John Dudley who was also her father-in-law. He had been the head of the Privy Council under Edward VI and now attempted to raise support for Jane. Dudley’s stake in the matter had to do with the powerful position that he would be in if his son was married to the Queen. He had probably been trying to secure his power for a long time and this was a permanent way in which to dos so. However, he made one key mistake that led to the failure of Jane’s reign. Mary had been summoned to come to her dying brother’s bedside, but was warned that it was a trap. The plan was to capture and imprison her to ensure Jane’s succession. Heeding this warning, she never did return to London until she had raised an army. Dudley was not able to catch Mary before she left her residence in Hundson and headed to East Anglia. This was where Dudley had crushed Kett’s Rebellion and many people were still adherent to the Catholic faith. Therefore, it was probably easy for Mary to raise support there.[1]
            Dudley’s failure to lure Mary to London meant that he had to go out and capture her himself. He led an army of troops out of London on July 14th. However, with Dudley out of London the Privy Council switched their support from Jane to Mary because they saw the public support for Mary. Edward and his council had instituted Jane, but “with the outer world the favorite was the Princess Mary.”[2]  The public was massively supportive of Mary at first because they saw her as the child of Henry’s only legitimate marriage. They had never liked how Catherine of Aragon and her daughter were treated by the King. Dudley underestimated the support for Mary. On July 19th Jane was deposed as Dudley’s support collapsed. Jane, her husband Guilford Dudley, and John Dudley were all imprisoned in the Tower of London. On August 3, 1553 Mary rode triumphantly into London and the public accepted her with open arms. The support of London was crucial. If Mary controlled London, then she controlled England.
            Mary’s mercy is shown through her hesitation to execute Jane and Guilford. She recognized that they were young people who had been pawns in others’ plots. John Dudley had used them to try to cement his own power in England. Dudley was the only one executed for the plot to put Jane on the throne. He was executed on August 22, 1553 while Jane and Guilford remained in the Tower of London. However, Mary’s hand was forced to execute Jane when her father joined a plot in Jane’s name to overthrow the Queen. Mary gave Jane even one more chance to live. All Jane had to do was renounce Protestantism and accept Catholicism. However, Jane would not do so and she and Guilford were executed on February 12, 1554.
            Mary’s merciful side is often overlooked because of the way that she later handles Protestants in her reign. However, this is one look at how she was not as heartless as is thought. She sought to show mercy to those who had been misled. However, she was forces to take action in order to secure the throne. It was not her first choice to execute her cousin.
[1] Robert Tittler and Susan L. Battley. The Local Community and the Crown in 1553; the Accession of Mary Tudor Revisited. (Historical Research 57, no. 136 (1984): 131-139.)
[2] James Froude, 1891

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