Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Open thread - The Sisters Who Would Be Queen

I know I haven't posted anything since the request for suggestions on further book discussions, but I have been collecting the responses and we'll get to some of the others in the future. Both PhD Historian and I have received our advance copies of Leanda de Lisle's The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: The Tragedy of Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey and he is ready to tackle it (I'm already reading two books now so I think I'll be waiting to start this one). Chime in with any comments or questions!

Our previous open thread book read was Foose "live blogging" her read of Starkey's new book on Henry VIII.

[edited to correct a typo and post the info below... I shouldn't try to post with a sinus headache]

Previous discussion on this book is here:

And I'll post an announcement for this thread and Amazon links on the news blog in a moment...


Elizabeth M. said...

When will this book be out?

Lara said...

It's January 19th in the UK and probably September in the US.

Anonymous said...

Advanced copy??? How do you rate??? (grin)

How wonderful that the book is finally being published. Guess the historical information glitch was corrected. What a hassle that must have been.

I am looking forward to PhD's thoughts on how Lady Jane is presented... where he differs in his opinion, why he believes de Lisle went in one direction and not another, etc.

Lara, you're going to sit on this book for a bit? Send it my way in the meantime, ok??

Anonymous said...

Following on a method initiated by Foose in October when she “liveblogged” her reading of David Starkey’s Henry: Virtuous Prince, I am offering here my assessment of Leanda de Lisle’s The Sisters Who Would be Queen: The Tragedy of Mary, Katherine, and Lady Jane Grey (London: HarperPress for Harper Collins, 2008), scheduled for release on 26 January 2009. The book is a collective biography of the three Grey sisters, grand-nieces of Henry VIII, each of whom became tragically involved in the politics of succession to the Tudor throne.

Ms de Lisle’s book will be available in the near-term only in the UK, or from UK-based online suppliers. I understand a US edition, with some revisions of content, is forthcoming from Ballentine Books in late 2009 or early 2010.

In the UK, the book is in hardback only and has a sticker price of £20, very reasonable for a book of its size.

But first, I must offer full disclosure and state up front that while I will strive to be entirely unbiased in reading this book, I may have a little trouble remaining totally objective. For those who do not already know, my own research and writing efforts have been focused for many years on the first of Ms de Lisle’s three subjects, Lady Jane Grey Dudley. So I come to the project with certain expectations, ideas, and conclusions of my own, though I will make every effort to put those aside for this reading.

On first opening the book, I was immediately struck by the “production values.” The endpapers literally made me gasp, as they are full-color photographic enlargements of two pages of Jane Grey’s prayerbook that she famously carried to her execution. (British Library Harley Manuscript 2342 ... sometimes displayed in the museum at the Library.) Jane’s handwriting is clearly visible along the lower border, though sadly her signature was cropped out.

Other high-end “production values” include two sections of full-color plates and illustrations, including numerous contemporary portraits of many of the principle actors in the historical drama. I was particularly impressed to see a full-color and full-page photographic reproduction of Edward VI’s “Devise for the Succession” that brought Jane Grey to the throne ... a document that is rarely photographically reproduced, much less in color.

There are four genealogical trees at the front of the book, one each for the Tudors, the Greys, the Dudleys, and the Seymours. Curiously, one – the Seymours – includes the family’s heraldic achievement (a.k.a. “coat of arms”) while the others do not. I am delighted to see the trees at the front of the book where it is easier to make use of them as one is reading and inevitably becomes confused by the intricacies of Tudor-era family relations. They are too often at the back and difficult to find quickly and while reading a chapter.

The endnotes are extensive. And where modern publishers often discourage the use of notes to explain complex points (what publishers call “discursive notes”), HarperPress has allowed Ms de Lisle to use them, to the reader’s benefit. I have a strong personal preference for footnotes rather than endnotes, since footnotes eliminate the need to constantly flip to the back of the book to check citations, but again publishers dislike formatting extraneous text at the bottom of a page.

The endnotes and bibliography together reveal an overwhelming reliance on primary source material, indicating that this book is situated toward the academic end of the academic-general public spectrum. Even the secondary sources are largely academic ones, though the usual non-academic ones are also present (Agnes Strickland, Richard Davey, Alison Plowden, Alison Wier).

Ms de Lisle is primarily a journalist rather than a professional academic historian, but she does hold a BA with honors in Modern History from Oxford University, roughly the equivalent, at least in terms of actual educational content, to an MA from a US school. We can therefore safely assume, even if we have not read her existing other volume of historical writing, that she is more thoroughly trained for her task than are many others who write histories and biographies for the general public. She clearly did extensive firsthand archival research in preparation for writing this book, always a hallmark of quality.

The book itself is divided into four parts plus a prologue and an epilogue. The first two parts deal with Lady Jane Grey Dudley, while Part Three focuses on Jane’s sister Katherine Grey Seymour and Part Four on the third sister, Mary Grey Keyes.

The Author’s Note, placed curiously at the back of the volume, situates Sisters in the growing academic work on the development of English queenship in the Tudor period. Ms de Lisle observes that the look-back nature of history has somewhat obscured the fear so prevalent among the Tudor political elite as they faced the death of Henry VIII’s sole male heir, Edward VI. The fame and splendor of the later reign of Edward’s sister, Elizabeth I, and the peaceful transfer of power to the Scottish Stuart dynasty have all but obliterated much of the intense succession drama that played out between Edward’s death in 1553 and Elizabeth’s own death fifty years later. Ms de Lisle’s thesis in respect to this 50-yer period is an ambitious one: “The Grey sisters and their Tudor cousins, Mary and Elizabeth, were protagonists in the development of a civic consciousness that arose in response to an unwelcome series of reigning queens and proved problematic to the absolutist Stuart kings who followed them.”

Lara said...

I usually get my advance copies for posting links and info. Free advertising! Well, the cost of a book, I guess. :)

I'm hoping to get started on my copy during my two weeks off from work. Since I'm not traveling this year I might actually be able to get caught up on movies and books and maybe get a little needlework in too!

Anonymous said...

Tracey, I got my copy because Harper Collins had originally planned to use one of my personal photographs of Bradgate Park ... until they found a better one.

kb said...

phd historian -

Thank you for providing the context of the work. Nice to get a visual image of the text in advance of you diving into the main body.

Anonymous said...

You can pre-order now on Amazon UK, where the book is only £10, with free delivery within the UK.

Tamise said...

I was lucky enough to get a copy too. I've read it and really enjoyed it!

Looking forward to the discussion.

Foose said...

Phd historian, I have looked forward to this. As usual, you are meticulous in examining the material at hand and situating it within a broader context.

I have a question regarding the genealogical charts, although perhaps my question will not be fully addressed until you get into the book. How detailed is the Grey chart? I find the name Grey crops up in reference to several noble families, the Greys of Ferrers Groby, the Greys of Ruthyn, and the Greys of Lisle; I'm curious to know how related they were. Also, addicts of Henry VIII's reign know that at various times Charles Brandon, Arthur Plantagenet and John Dudley are all Lord Lisle, which can be confusing when you're reading a narrative or a primary source unless you have a very good understanding of the dates. Does the Grey chart spell out the various affiliations?

Anonymous said...

Foose, the genealogical table for the Greys is primarily concerned with demonstrating the blood-line connection to the Tudor royal family. Thus it contains only those members essential to tracing the descent from Elizabeth Woodville and her fisrt husband, Sir John Grey, through their son Thomas, 1st Marquess of Dorset, then his son (also called Thomas), then to Henry Grey. At that level, it broadens to include most of Henry's siblings and some of their descendants that figure in the narrative of the younger Grey sisters later in the 16th century.

Genealogy is amazingly difficult to explain in words rather than by use of a table, but I will try:

The same John Grey who married Elizabeth Woodville (later wife of Edward IV) was the son of Sir Edward Grey, in his turn a younger son Reginald Grey, 3rd Baron Grey of Ruthin. Thus John Grey was himself of the ancient Ruthin lineage.

John Grey later became 1st Baron Ferrers of Groby (in a new creation) in right of his mother, who had been 7th Baroness Ferrers of Groby. Groby is adjacent to Bradgate Park, the Marquess of Dorsets' family seat. Bradgate House was built as a modern replacement for the ancient and less comfortable Groby Hall.

John Grey's younger brother Edward became 1st Viscount Lisle in a new creation in right of his wife, Elizabeth Talbot, 3rd Baroness Lisle.

John Grey's son Thomas later became 1st Marquess of Dorset, largely because he was the queen's son by an earlier marriage, Edward IV's step-son, and half-brother to all of Edward IV's children. Upon becoming Marquess of Dorset, he retained the Ferrers of Groby title as a secondary one.

Bottom line: All of the Greys are descended from Reginald Grey of Ruthin, and the later Greys of Ferrers Groby are cousins of the Greys of Lisle. The other Grey lines, those of Wilton, Pirgo, etc., are also cousins to Henry Grey's generation and descendants of younger sons out of the original 14th-century Ruthin line. Likewise, the Grey earls of Kent and Stamford are also descendants of Reginald Grey of Ruthin.

Intermarriage among the cousins and childless deaths allowed for Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset (later Duke of Suffolk) to have as secondary titles those of 4th Lord Bonville, 9th Baron Ferrers of Groby, and Baron Harrington.

In my own writing, I tend to avoid the use of titles of nobility and instead refer to people by their given (or "Christian") names and surnames because, as you note, titles changed hands frequently in the Tudor period and it can be hugely confusing to keep track of who has what title when. No doubt the foregoing explanation serves as an example of just how confusing it can be!

Foose said...

Phd historian, thank you for that extremely interesting overview of the extensive Grey kinship. I have wondered if John Dudley being half-Grey might have conditioned either his or Edward VI's plans for the succession (Dudley from self-interest and family interest, perhaps priming Edward to redirect the succession towards a Grey candidate; Edward independently and from the calculation that Dudley would do his utmost to support a Grey queen, perhaps even if she was not his daughter-in-law.) I wonder if the nine-day-queen episode could be seen as an attempt at "the Woodville connection strikes back ..."

Looking forward to more of your blogging on Leanda de Lisle's book!

Anonymous said...

Yes, Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset shares with John Dudley, Viscount Lisle (later Earl of Warwick and Duke of Northumberland) a common descent from Sir Edward Grey, but at a distance of 4 generations, if my count is correct. And the descent for Dudley was in the "less valuable" female line. I cannot imagine that Dudley saw himself as related to the Greys in any but the most distant sense. The evidence suggests that Dudley saw himself primarily as a Dudley of Sutton, a family "wronged" by the Tudor dynasty. (See Derek Wilson's The Uncrowned Kings of England: The Black History of the Dudleys and the Tudor Throne)

Anonymous said...

Friday evening: Apologies for the delay in posting the second installment of my assessment of The Sisters Who Would Be Queen, but other obligations have unexpectedly gotten in the way. I promise a suitably lengthy catch-up tomorrow, Saturday.

Anonymous said...

The main issue facing any writer or historian attempting to trace the history of Jane Grey, her sisters, and her family is an acute lack of sources. There is simply very little in the way of extant primary source material to document the lives of the Greys for the period between the mid 1530s and ca 1551. Many of the records were lost or destroyed when the Grey family seat, Bradgate in Leicestershire, changed hands to a distant branch of the family after Wyatt's Rebellion in January 1554. Likewise Dorset House and Suffolk House, each at different times London residences of the Greys, changed hands and were both later demolished. Other records may have been destroyed during the civil wars of the 1640s, when so many important documents were lost. The challenge posed by a scarcity of surviving records is compounded when dealing with female subjects, since women’s activities were usually less well recorded in the first place. Finally, the lives of children and young people were also seldom recorded in any detail.

Ms de Lisle and every other historian or scholar researching and writing on Jane Grey and her sisters are thus faced with a multi-fold problem: How does one recount a life when few records were produced because the subjects were female and (prior to ca 1550) children, and whatever records that were produced were mostly destroyed over the intervening centuries?

One method, well accepted by academic historians, is to extrapolate from whatever we do know and to speculate how the individual under study may or may not have conformed to what is known about others. This is the method that Ms de Lisle has chosen (as do I in my own writing). She weaves an entertaining and compelling story that extends well beyond the Grey sisters and their parents to include most of the “big names” of the period. And she is quite correct in doing so, for the upper reaches of Tudor social and political circles were formed by a relatively small number of people and families, each with a spider’s web of ties to the others.

There is also a significant danger in using the method of extrapolation. Writers are too often tempted to make up for gaps in the record by an over-aggressive use of extrapolation and of outright imagination. To her great credit, Ms de Lisle reveals that she is well aware of this phenomenon, observing in her Prologue that past writers on the subject of Jane Grey, driven by various political and religious agendas (and no small amount of gender prejudice) have “mythologized, even fetishized [Jane Grey] as an icon of helpless innocence destroyed by the ambitions of others.” (p. xxvi) She sets for herself the task of brushing aside the legends and uncovering the “real” Grey sisters that are otherwise nearly lost to us today.

It is perhaps worth noting that Ms de Lisle is herself a Roman Catholic. As such, she brings a fresh perspective to the subject. I am not aware of any significant modern published work on Jane Grey that has been written by a Catholic. And as a Catholic, Ms de Lisle is far less likely to be entranced by modern Protestant tales of Jane’s “heroic martyrdom” in the cause of religion. She can more easily set aside four centuries of religious mythmaking and instead “get at” a more nearly accurate perception of the historical Jane Grey, as well as her sisters.

In the Prologue, Ms de Lisle establishes in a single paragraph the 16th-century context in which women were viewed as physically, mentally, and morally inferior to men and thus ill-suited to rule over men. This belief is then juxtaposed against the reality that Henry VIII had but one male heir, and that heir, Edward, was still a child. In his effort to secure a continuing male succession, Henry “would tear unwittingly into the myths from which royal authority was drawn,” introducing the notion of consent of the people rather than divine appointment as the source for royal authority. When consent of the people combined with a half-century of successions by “inferior” females, the result was an effective blocking in England of the kind of absolutist monarchies that arose at the same time on the European continent.

Chapter One: Beginning
Ms de Lisle poses a very interesting politically-centered thesis as to why Frances Brandon, a granddaughter of Henry VII, might have married Henry Grey. The Brandon – Grey match, occurring at precisely the same time as Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, provided Anne and the king with much-needed political support. (Henry Grey’s father had been a witness in the king’s favor during the divorce proceedings.) I confess this is an idea I had not considered before, since I see the marriage in a somewhat different, less political, light. I wish Ms de Lisle had explored this idea at greater length, as it is an intriguing one.

In regard to the birth of Jane Grey, Ms de Lisle rejects the tradition that Jane was born in the same month or week as her cousin Prince Edward. She states that Jane was instead born sometime before May 1537. She presents a well-reasoned argument, one with which I totally agree, having myself published on this narrow topic. Through personal correspondence with the author, I learned that she was not fully aware of my research on Jane's date of birth, and she informs me that some changes that include my research will be made for the US edition.

In describing the actual birth, Ms de Lisle relies here largely on the extrapolation method noted above. In the total absence of any documentation for where, when, or how Frances delivered daughter Jane, Ms de Lisle relies on what we do know of birthing practices in the early- and mid-Tudor periods. In doing so, however, her choice of wording does not make it clear that she is speculating. Instead, the narrative is presented largely as though it were documented fact. I am no doubt being too rigorously academic here, but I would have much preferred to see at least a footnote to some scholarly secondary work on birthing practices, perhaps David Cressy’s invaluable Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England.

Ms de Lisle states that Jane Seymour served as Jane Grey’s godmother. While I do agree that this is entirely probable, I am not aware of any primary source that verifies the assumption. Again, I am probably being too rigorously academic, but I do think it wise to state things as fact only when they can be proven to be so, and not just assumptions. Interjecting the simple word “probably” solves the problem.

Ms de Lisle proposes a second theory that I had not myself considered before: that Jane was born in London rather than at Bradgate in distant Leicestershire. Ms de Lisle notes that Henry Grey’s widowed mother was still resident at Bradgate in 1536-37, and that Frances was more likely to have been at Dorset House in London. And by being in London, Frances would have been nearer to her husband, who was himself busy with the legal trials of the Pilgrimage of Grace offenders. This depends, however, on the precise timing of Jane’s birth. I am personally convinced that she was born well before May, probably in very late 1536 or very early 1537, at which point her father would have still been in the North Country putting down the remnants of the Pilgrimage. Frances may have been in London during that winter, but I am more inclined to believe she was at Bradgate, seeking its relative safety away from the political center, despite any animosity between Henry/Frances and the dowager Marchioness.

Setting aside my relatively minor objections, this first chapter made it clear that what would follow would be an engaging and well-crafted story that would indeed set aside many of the myths and legends heaped upon the historical figure of Jane Grey.

After putting up my antique aluminum Christmas tree, I will move on to Chapters 2-4 later this evening.

Lara said...

Is it known where the idea that Jane was born close to the birth Edward VI came from? It makes me think of the 'myths' of the Tudor period that can usually be traced back to the Victorian writers.

Anonymous said...

You hit the nail on the head, Lara! In my own research, I have found no specific mention of Jane's actual age taht occurs between Florio's writing in the 1560s and the semi-fictional accounts written in the late 1700s. The notion that she was born in the same month or week as Edward seems to have appeared in the early 1800s, around the time of the Catholic Emancipation Act. My theory is that the anti-Catholic writers embellished the story in a conscious effort to make Edward and Jane more alike, in order to create a latter day Adam and Eve for the English Reformation and the Anglican Church. But I don't want to give away all the details of my own book!

Foose said...

Any background on Jane's parents? You never hear about Henry Grey until he suddenly emerges full-blown as a poltroon and a weakling at time of his daughter's marriage and accession, but there must be a three-dimensional human being there somewhere. Frances Brandon - well, we are all familiar with the popular view of her character. Does De Lisle discuss these people in their own context?

Also, any info on what Mary "Rose" Tudor might have thought about the marriage of her elder daughter being a bid to consolidate support for the Boleyn marriage? The little evidence there is about her attitude to Anne Boleyn is usually construed as unfavorable, so although the marriage was probably a good one independent of the Boleyn angle, I'm curious about her acquiescence. Frances' brother Henry was probably visibly on the decline in 1533 (he died in 1534), so Frances would have been assuming a new importance from a dynastic standpoint. Since Henry carefully avoided making a marriage for his other niece, Margaret Douglas (perhaps complicated by her potential value in Scotland), his daughter Mary had been declared a bastard, and Mary "Rose" Tudor herself was dying, Frances was clearly a top contender for the throne. Did Henry have other reasons to consider Henry Grey a suitable successor beyond the support he might offer for the Boleyn marriage? Would the other nobles?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Foose, there is some background on Henry Grey and Frances Brandon Grey, though not a great deal in the first full chapter. On page 3, de Lisle describes Frances as "a conventional Tudor woman ... submissive to ... her husband's decisions." This is, of course, in striking contrast to the traditional picture of a domineering woman who ruled those around her, including Henry Grey. I think the historical reality lies somewhere in between.

Henry Grey is described in Chapter 3 as well educated and admired for his learning, but "lazy and uncompromising," doing "little more than the minimum required of a nobleman"(p.26). I tend to agree, on the whole, with de Lisle's assessment of Grey, though I am not convinced that his minimal involvement in the affairs of the realm was entirely of his own choosing. I believe he was personally ambitious, but wanted the world handed to him on the proverbial silver platter. Maximum reward for minimal work; power without the responsibility. And I believe there were those who actively sought to keep Grey out of offices and away from power for reasons having nothing to do with Grey's personality, character, or ability. (I discuss this at some length in my own book, so you will bear with me and forgive me if I do not reveal all here.)

Let's wait and see if Henry's and Frances's backgrounds are discussed more fully in later chapters.

De Lisle offers no direct and explicit reaction from Mary Tudor Brandon to the marriage of her daughter. This is perhaps because no reaction is documented. In my own research, I found no direct evidence whatsoever of any reaction on Mary's part.

I am not convinced that Frances Brandon was ever considered by her contemporaries, and certainly not by Henry VIII, as a realistic contender for the throne. Henry's entire domestic and marital policy centered on the production of as many of his own male heirs as possible. And Beverly Murphy has presented in Bastard Prince: Henry VIII's Lost Son a very convincing argument that the king was preparing his bastard son Henry Fitzroy to assume the throne in the event he had no legitimate male children ... at least until Fitzroy died in 1536. For reasons that I explain more fully in my own book (but am again reluctant to give away here), I do not think the political elite would ever have accepted Frances before Henry and Katherine's daughter Mary and/or any one of several more distant male contenders.

Anonymous said...

Chapter Two: First Lessons
The title of this chapter seems to refer to the introduction of John Aylmer as tutor to the two older Grey daughters in 1545, as well as to Jane’s first experiences of the world beyond Bradgate.

De Lisle describes Jane as having a “fiery character” and her sister Katherine as “preferr[ing] her pets to Jane’s books,” though she does not offer primary-source documentation for either characterization. Mary Grey was at this time still an infant.

Life at Bradgate is described, along with the sisters’ early education in traditional domestic skills. De Lisle records that the girls were also taught Latin and Greek “as a means to help reinforce lessons of moral, social and religious truth indoctrinated from the cradle.” Though de Lisle may address the issue more fully in a later chapter, she does not here offer any background on the radical changes in how some aristocratic and noble women were educated in the 1530s and 1540s. Nor does she discuss here specific examples of the Latin and Greek texts used or what larger lessons those texts might teach.

There follows considerable discussion of Henry VIII’s last wife, Katherine Parr, of Parr’s ties to more radical strains of Protestantism, and of attempts by opponents of Protestantism to link Parr with the heretic Anne Askew. De Lisle very correctly notes the 19th century origins of the myth that Jane was present when Parr went to the king to beg for forgiveness for this religious radicalism. Unfortunately, she implicitly reinforces the myth by ending the chapter with the image of Jane as “a young girl walking into the darkness, carrying her candle before her.”

The organization of this chapter is largely chronological, rather than topical or thematic. The interplay in Jane’s life of education, religion, and female role models is a complex one, however, so that no one organizational structure is obviously better than any other. De Lisle’s is purely a stylistic choice, and she certainly cannot be faulted for choosing the style she did, especially since it is perhaps better suited to a strictly narrative account than to a more analytical account. Because my own study is more analytical (and undoubtedly “drier” and less entertaining!), I separate the three themes/topics so that each can be treated in depth within a single-theme chapter.

kb said...

This is an invaluable discussion! Thank you for doing this.

kb said...

I'm always a bit shocked when some historians overlook the political and social aspirations revealed by the act of educating young 16thc. elite females. Sounds like this is the case here. At least so far?

Anonymous said...

Chapter 3: Wardship
This chapter presents much of the traditional background narrative of the transition of power from Henry VIII to Edward VI and Protector Seymour, including a brief overview of Edward VI’s coronation. It also describes the setting aside of Henry VIII’s last will and testament and its plan for government by council, with the substitution of rule vested essentially in one man (Seymour) instead.

Henry’s will also named Jane Grey as a potential but distant heir if Edward died without issue, but it did not name her mother Frances. I agree with Ms de Lisle when she says Henry probably left Frances out of the will owing to a lack of trust in her husband, the Marquess of Dorset, but I am left wondering if we agree on the basis for the old king’s mistrust. De Lisle offers perfectly plausible reasons why Grey was not the kind of man that Henry VIII “respected,” but I see distrust and disrespect as two different things. I would very much like to have seen more discussion from de Lisle on the specific topic of mistrust/distrust.

There follows an account of the Lord Protector’s younger brother Thomas and the latter’s marriage to Henry VIII’s widow, Katherine Parr, together with Thomas’s growing involvement with the Grey family. De Lisle discusses Seymour’s acquisition of Jane’s wardship, and in that discussion she seems to assume that Jane was not already a part of the queen’s household before she married Seymour. De Lisle asserts that Henry Grey “balked” at the idea of selling his daughter’s wardship to Seymour, but offers no documentary evidence to support the claim. Frances, too, is described as appearing “to have [had] doubts about the scheme,” but she set aside her doubts out of obedience to her husband.

It is implied that Henry Grey agreed to Seymour’s plan only when Seymour promised to bring about a marriage between Jane and Edward, Seymour’s kingly nephew. The implication seems to be that the notion of Jane becoming Edward’s queen-consort was at that point a new one to Henry Grey, though I am not certain that Ms de Lisle meant to make that implication.

As I read, I am beginning to notice that the individual chapters are relatively brief, the first four averaging just ten pages each. There is no way to know whether this was the author’s original organizational plan or whether it was imposed upon her by her editor. There are advantages to shorter chapters, not least of which is that it allows “general public” readers to more easily pick the book up during brief interludes in their daily routine. I have seen this style used with very great success in works of fiction, but here it leaves me feeling like I have barely gotten started good before there is an interruption. There is excellent narrative continuity between chapters, certainly, but less continuity in the area of “why all this is important to us now.” I am left feeling as though I am hop-scotching through events. My sense of unease may again be due to the chronological-narrative organizational pattern of the book, rather than a thematic one. Most non-biographical works of history are arranged thematically ... and some biographies are as well. Perhaps I am simply unaccustomed to reading books aimed at the general public. Others probably will not have the same isue.

Anonymous said...

Chapter Four: The Example of Katherine Parr

This chapter deals with Jane’s sojourn in the Parr-Seymour household during 1547-48, an important one in her developmental life. Ms de Lisle notes it was there that Jane came to know (better) the Princess Elizabeth and the young King Edward, though Elizabeth “did not grow close to Jane”(p.34).

In response to KB’s question, Ms de Lisle here notes that Jane’s course of study was similar to that of the young king, perhaps including reading of Cicero’s De Officiis (Offices) and the Tusculan Disputations. The first of these is on the subject of civic duty and government, important to any future monarch, while the second is a “spiritual” work. Ms de Lisle then segues into a brief discussion of Parr’s role in the English reformation, especially her writings, including Lamentations of a Sinner.

There is also the well-known story of Seymour’s flirtation with the Princess Elizabeth and the scandal that accompanied Parr’s discovery of it, followed by Seymour’s ill-fated plans to seize control of the young king from his brother, the Lord Protector. Seymour’s plans were interrupted, however, by Parr’s pregnancy, confinement, and death soon after delivery of a daughter. Jane served as chief mourner at the funeral, an important public function despite the fact that Parr died and was buried far from London. By the time she returned to her parents’ home after the funeral, Jane was a “maturing girl with a strong sense of her own dignity.”

Foose said...

Does de Lisle discuss any of Jane's probable personal associations outside of her sojourn with Elizabeth and Queen Katherine? She always seems fairly socially isolated in the accounts I read of her, except for her nurse Mrs. Ellen, but I don't know whether that's just due to a lack of source material. I would think that as quasi-royal personages, she and her mother would have long-standing attendants, probably of noble lineage. (By contrast, we know a great deal more about Mary Tudor's attendants and associates, many of who continued from her girlhood through her accession to the throne.)

More specifically, this question comes to mind because I was reading Philippa Gregory's The Other Queen (yes, I know it's hardly scholarly but sometimes Tudor fiction kicks up an interesting train of thought), in which Bess of Hardwick laments for Jane Grey, on whom she had attended at Bradgate (according to Gregory). My impression is that Bess of Hardwick, if she knew the Grey sisters intimately at all, would be more likely associated with Katherine Grey (who burst into Bess' bedroom one night to confess her secret marriage to Hertford, when they were both ladies-in-waiting to Elizabeth). Is there any evidence for Bess' close acquaintance or employ with the Grey sisters or their mother?

Anonymous said...

A good question, Foose. To answer it relative to Sisters Who Would Be Queen, yes, there are a few social connections demonstrated, but so far (up to Chapter 5) only in connection with the Parr household or with Jane's tutors. Jane was friends with or acquainted with Edward and Elizabeth, Katherine Willoughby Brandon, her own tutor Aylmer, plus Roger Ascham, as well as Parr and Seymour, of course. A small social circle, but we are still at the beginning with many chapters left to read.

From my own research, I know that Jane Grey had significant social connections. With regard to Bess of Hardwick, the two certainly knew each other fairly well, though I am not certain that they were "intimates" or personal confidantes. Elizabeth "Bess" Hardwick's second marriage, to William Cavendish, was solemnized in the Grey family chapel at Bradgate while Bess was serving as a lady-in-waiting to Frances Grey. Jane Grey served as godmother to at least one of Bess' daughters, Temperance. Other Grey family members served as godparents to other members of the Hardwick-Cavendish family. And there is circumstantial evidence that Bess retained a degree of personal loyalty to the Grey family. So Gregory is not totally off the mark in that regard.

Anonymous said...

Chapter Five: The Execution of Sudeley [Thomas Seymour]

Try as I might ... and I really am trying ... much of this chapter was difficult for me to get through without feeling a little unsettled. Not that there is anything “wrong” with the content of the chapter, necessarily ... as long as one considers that this is first and foremost a book written to entertain the general public, and only secondarily to educate. Entertaining is an excellent goal, and I have no quarrel with those who seek that goal. In fact, I genuinely feel very uncomfortable saying anything critical about this book, given the author’s apparent goals and knowing from personal experience the tremendous effort any author puts into a work of this size.

As a rigorously trained academic historian, however, I cannot help becoming a little concerned when authors begin attributing to their subjects emotions, thoughts, and motives that are not explicitly documented by the subject’s own surviving writings or by the writings of credible eyewitnesses. In fact, my own interest in Jane Grey stemmed in part from reading Mary Luke’s Nine Days Queen: A Portrait of Lady Jane Grey (1986) and wondering just exactly how Ms Luke knew that Jane “thought” or “felt” this or that. To find out, I started doing my own research and pursuing advanced education in order to learn how best to conduct that research. Ms de Lisle’s writing, while based on a significantly larger body of primary source evidence and far more rigorously documented than Ms Luke’s (or Alison Plowden’s or Alison Weir’s, fro that matter), is nonetheless too reminiscent of Luke’s earlier work, at least in terms of the insertion of content that can only be described as “imagined.”

In the first few pages of this chapter, Henry Clifford is “shocked” at wife Eleanor Brandon’s death, Katherine and Mary Grey “underst[an]d” Jane’s grief but are “awkward” at having her back at Bradgate, and Frances Grey “believed ... Jane’s youthful wilfulness could ... become a force for good.” These thoughts and emotions are entirely unsupported, at least in so far as the author’s two footnotes for the relevant pages are either discursive (the first) or support an entirely tangential idea (the second). I understand the need to make history interesting and to make a story compelling enough that someone actually wants to read it, but I am opposed to putting words, thoughts, and ideas into the heads of one’s human subjects in this way. I have always been taught that it negatively impacts the credibility of the larger work when even the smallest portions are, in essence, “made up.” The knowledgeable reader is left to question what else is “made up,” while the less knowledgeable is inadvertently misled. It is, to me, a slippery slope, at the top of which are biographies that include fabricated thoughts and emotions and at the bottom of which lies Showtime’s “The Tudors.” This book is definitely NOT comparable to "The Tudors," and I do understand Ms de Lisle’s rationale for her use of literary license, but I am very sorry to say that I cannot, in good conscience, condone it.

The chapter largely deals with Thomas Seymour’s efforts to challenge his brother as Lord Protector, and especially with his efforts to use Jane Grey as a pawn in his schemes.

Again, Ms de Lisle offers a nugget of which I was not myself previously aware: that Henry Grey was the sole peer to vote against Edward Seymour’s appointment as Lord Protector in violation of Henry VIII’s will. This is ironic, in light of the former king’s apparent distrust of Grey. Unfortunately, Ms de Lisle does not offer a source citation for this tidbit.

The issue is undoubtedly related, at least in my opinion, to the Greys’ seeming reluctance to allow Jane to become Thomas Seymour’s ward after Parr’s death. Ms de Lisle does not explore this connection, however.

The remainder of the chapter is devoted almost exclusively to Seymour’s scheme to assume power in place of his brother, the Lord Protector. The narrative account is well written and more detailed than is usual. Somewhat oddly, the notes cite the early 19th century antiquarian Edward Tytler’s edited collection England Under the Reigns of Edward VI and Mary I (1839) for documents related to Seymour’s fall and trial rather than the Salisbury Hatfield House Manuscripts, also listed in the bibliography and one of the actual sources for Tytler’s volume.

Foose said...

If Henry Grey did indeed vote against Seymour's appointment, could it be construed that his vote was not against the creation of the post itself but rather against the choice of Hertford as its occupant? Could his action be seen as a failed attempt to position himself as an alternative choice? While French rules do not apply in England, Grey might have seen himself as ranking as the "senior prince of the blood" by virtue of his marriage to Frances Brandon (with James V disqualified as a foreign monarch, Margaret Douglas by being married to a Scots nobleman, Mary and Elizabeth technically bastardized) and to have a reasonable claim to custody of the king's person. In France, the senior prince of the blood often is able to assume that role (compare Antoine de Bourbon's attempt to challenge the Guises for control of Francois II, Philippe d'Orleans' ouster of the Duc du Maine to establish his Regency for the child Louis XV).

I hope I am not slowing down the progress of your blogging or irritating other people by asking my questions. It is rare I have the opportunity to consult a genuine historian on the topics that interest me!

Anonymous said...

Foose, I am happy to answer questions as we go along, even if it slows down progress every so slightly.

There is no evidence to suggest that Henry Grey saw himself as a potential regent/Lord Protector to Edward in place of either of the Seymours. Since the Seymours were both far more closely related to Edward, it is likely that no one seriously considered an alternate candidate for the Protectorship, once that path had been decided on. And as someone who had been all but exiled from central government for the preceding 10-15 years, Grey would have been a very unlikely candidate.

Though I still need to confirm Ms de Lisle's assertion that Grey was the sole opponent among the peers to a Protectorship (I have absolutely no reason to doubt her ... I just like always to check these things for myself before accepting them as fact), I suspect his opposition was to the creation of the Protectorship itself rather than to the appointment of Seymour (Hertford). As long as a large council was responsible for managing the realm in Edward's name, Grey had a chance of becoming a member of that council and of gaining advancement. But if the realm was managed by one man, Grey's chances of gaining participation were significantly reduced. It's easier to find friends and allies from among a group of many than it is to find them among a group of one. I suspect Grey's vote was an effort to maximize his chances. Though I will admit that I may be giving Grey credit for more insight than he may have actually had ......

Tamise said...

The discussion is interesting but difficult to keep up with at this time of year!

PhD Historian

- Chapter One - Why do you think historians have just accepted the traditional date of birth for Jane since Victorian times?

- Chapter Two

‘Though de Lisle may address the issue more fully in a later chapter, she does not here offer any background on the radical changes in how some aristocratic and noble women were educated in the 1530s and 1540s’.

She does mention that there has been changes. On page 15, De Lisle writes, ‘But the thinking on what women were capable of was changing…Other Englishmen had, however, already begun promoting the idea of female education.'

‘…and for a brief period that would end with the generation of the Grey sisters, the education of women remained fashionable.’

Anonymous said...

Greetings, Tamise. I am glad that you have a copy of the book. In fact, I'd be absolutely delighted if you kept track of my postings and offered different interpretations and challenged my views. I think a debate would be much more productive than a one-sided review, especially since you and I are reading the book from two different perspectives.

Historians have until now accepted the traditional date of birth for Jane Grey largely because they have been disinclined to investigate the veracity of the 19th century accounts. Jane has been kept very much at the sidelines of academic history, usually rating little more than a paragraph's worth of mention in academic studies. As of today, no rigorously academic biography of her has ever been published, though Ms de Lisle's book is, absolutely and without question, the very best and most reliable work in print. Even the nine-day reign is usually dismissed as an unimportant usurpation of no lasting consequence. Historians simply have not been interested in investigating the episode in any depth. So why bother about something as minor as her date of birth? Or at least that has been the attitude so far.

Regarding education ... yes, Ms de Lisle does mention that there were changes, but she does not detail what those changes were, why they occurred, or what effect that are believed to have had. There is a massive body of scholarship on the advent of the humanist curriculum in the first half of the 16th century, on the changes in the education of women, etc, all of which is the kind of background that may help a reader to better understand the narrative. It could have been covered in one concise paragraph, perhaps. Why, for example, did the education of women suddenly become "fashionable"? (The answer lies in part with Mary Tudor, Juan Luis Vives, Thomas More, and Anthony Cooke.) But to say that there were changes and then not enumerate those changes is not enough ... to me at least.

Anonymous said...

Chapter Six: Northumberland’s ‘Crew’

Now things are really starting to simmer! This chapter was much more “fun” to read and contains some fascinating ideas and arguments.

The chapter opens with background on the uprisings of 1549 in reaction to the introduction of the First Book of Common Prayer. The Book was the spark that caused the already smoking embers of social and economic instability to burst into open flames. England’s nobles were called upon to put down the widely scattered rebellions. John Dudley (Earl of Warwick and later Duke of Northumberland) emerged as the principal power of the realm in place of Protector Somerset, who was himself arrested and placed in the Tower. Dudley was ruthless in opposing the rebels.

Gears shift and the narrative moves to Jane and her sisters’ visit to Princess Mary at Beaulieu in November and there subsequent Christmas at Tilty, home of a family friend. Ms de Lisle cogently notes that the Grey women remained on quite good terms with Mary despite their religious differences. But at the same time, Henry Grey was appointed to the Privy Council, in large part because of his reformist religious zeal, or so Ms de Lisle implies. She seems to construe Grey as more aggressive in the political aspects of religious reform than I always considered him to be, giving me something to think upon really carefully again.

The increasingly Protestant composition of the Council posed a threat to Mary’s continued Roman allegiance, of course, sewing the seeds of future struggle. Edward VI does not yet figure personally in Ms de Lisle’s account of the difficulties Mary faced for her religion.

We are also offered an overview of Dudley’s personality and character, and a foreshadowing of his plans for Jane Grey. The plan of 1550 was a marriage between Jane Grey and the former Lord Protector’s son and heir, Edward, Earl of Hertford, together with other alliance-building marriages and betrothals. Ms de Lisle notes that no marriage contract was apparently ever agreed to, however, on the evidence that none emerged during government investigations into Hertford’s marriage ten years later to Jane’s sister Katherine. Had Hertford ever been formally betrothed or contracted to Jane, his later marriage to Katherine would have been void under existing canon law. Ms de lisle speculates ... very correctly, in my opinion ... that Grey was holding out for a marriage between Jane and the young king.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 7: Bridling Jane

The simmer becomes a slow boil.

We begin with the famous visit by Roger Ascham, former tutor to Princess Elizabeth, to the household at Bradgate, where he finds Jane “alone in her chamber” reading Plato. During his conversation with Jane, Ascham later claimed, she related to him her negative feelings about the treatment she received at the hands of her parents. This one episode has been the basis for most of the portrayals of Jane as a helpless and long-suffering tragic heroine.

Ms de Lisle does here a truly wonderful job of negating those mythologized portrayals. She very rightly points out that Ascham’s account was written two decades later and preserved in a decidedly agenda-driven text on how best to educate children. As such, it was surely "adjusted" to suit the lesson Ascham wished to convey.

But she also points out a facet of the construction of the myth that I had never before considered myself. Whereas Jane was made the Snow White-like character in the later myth, Frances Brandon was cast as the Evil Stepmother, the dark shadow hanging over Jane’s quasi-holy candle-glow. This is a truly superb point that really made my skin prickle! It serves to explain in crystal clear language why Frances has been perceived in modern times as an domineering, controlling, even abusive woman. (And it answers your question of a
few days ago, Foose.) Well done, Ms de Lisle! I must include a note in my own book citing this superb explanation.

Ms de Lisle notes the existence of a letter written by Ascham directly to Jane very shortly after his famous visit, a letter in which he made no reference to Jane feeling abused. And indeed, when one reads that letter, pre-dating his other account by 20 years, one sees the evidence of literary license on Ascham’s part. In the early letter, he describes finding Jane “in [her] father’s great hall,” not "alone in her chamber." The difference may seem slight at first glance, but the impact on the later legend is immense. Great halls were busy public spaces of hustle and bustle, suggesting that Jane was less prone to personal isolation than writers such as Agnes Strickland and Richard Davey have stated (but there I go again, giving away my own book!).

Ms de Lisle also discusses another frequent visitor to the household, John of Ulm (or John ab Ulmis). Ulm noted Henry Grey’s propensity for personal vanity, a character flaw that I believe figured greatly in his entire career ... or relative lack of career. Ms de Lisle notes Grey's fondness for telling foreigners that he was entitled to be styled Prince (both for his own descent from Queen Elizabeth Woodville and in right of his marriage to the king’s niece), but his (false) modesty would not allow him to be addressed in that way.

Ms de Lisle also discusses Ulm's pivotal role in setting up contact between Jane and several influential religious reformers based on the continent, especially Heinrich (or Henry) Bullinger in Zurich. Ulm, Bullinger, and the other religious reformers encouraged and, when able, assisted Jane in her education, helping her to expand her knowledge of languages to include not only Latin and Greek, but also Hebrew. Ms de Lisle notes that Jane was educated in an effort to make her a suitable wife for Edward or any other king.

While I do completely agree that was one goal in providing her with an education (among others, some of which were more immediate and tangible), I also believe that Jane’s education had unforeseen and unintended consequences. I would prefer that Ms de Lisle had explored the content of Jane’s education a little further. If the reigns of Queens Jane, Mary and Elizabeth negatively impacted the later development of Stuart royal absolutism, as Ms de Lisle proposes, how might the education of those women and the use to which they put there education have impacted the education of women during the Stuart period? (Hint: Just as absolutism failed to take hold in England in the 17th century, so too the education of women suffered a serious reversal in the first half of that same century.)

kb said...

So she does come back around to the idea that education for females could be a reflection of parental hopes for upward social mobility.

foose - you ask such great questions. I love reading the dialogue between you and phd historian.

Foose said...

With kb's kind encouragement, then, I will ignore the wrapped presents lying around the tree and ask the questions that occurred to me Christmas Eve: (Merry Christmas, Tudor fans everywhere!)

Any thoughts, from your own research and de Lisle's book, as to how widely known at the time was the plan to marry Jane to Edward VI? Were Edward, Mary and Elizabeth aware of it? (Edward seemed entirely fixated on a foreign bride "well-stuffed" for his spouse.) Obviously the king set a fashion for public adherence to the Reform movement, but could Elizabeth's elaborate self-presentation as "sweet sister Temperance" (Temperance seems to be one of the era's Protestant buzzwords) have signalled any awareness on her part of what the Greys were up to? She couldn't marry Edward, but perhaps her strategy was that if Edward felt a need for a recognized "first lady of the English Reformation" in his regime, Elizabeth could fill it -- leaving him free to marry a Catholic and attempt to "turn her opinions" (which would probably have a lukewarm result), rather than marry Jane Grey.

What about the reformers, domestic and foreign? Had the Reformed movement developed a division in its ranks, perhaps, with some looking to Jane and some looking to Elizabeth as their preferred candidate for "queen of the reform"; or was it an entirely earnest attempt to disseminate the Reform by taking full advantage of the fashion for it among high-ranking women? Do you perceive preferences among certain reformers for either one?

Also, at this point, after the execution of Thomas Seymour (but while Edward Seymour was still in power, apparently hoping to marry his own daughter Jane to the king - what about her education?) were the Greys receiving any secret or nonpublic support from Dudley or other major players on the Council for their plan?

kb said...

Side note for foose: the three Seymour sisters were also well educated with Nicolas Denisot as their tutor. The Seymours had published in France a dedicatory book to Marguerite of Navarre titled 'Le tombeau de Marguerite de Valois'. There is a second edition (1551)at the Beinecke archives at Yale. The book is very much like an exercise book with poems by Rosnard in multiple translations among other things.It includes a French translation of the Hecatodistichon originally published in Latin in 1550 (I think). In the second edition every 2 lines appears in Latin, Greek, Italian and French. The introduction lavishes praise on the 'three most excellent Princesses of the England' - Anne, Margaret and Jane Seymour.

Of course, it is possible that most of the work was actually Denisot's and the whole exercise was to position the Seymour girls as potential reformation brides at the behest of their father.

Anonymous said...

Foose, I typed out a long answer to your questions, but bad weather here took out my Internet connection before I could save it or send it ... so I will try again.

I believe Grey’s and Seymour’s plans to bring about a marriage between Jane Grey and the king were widely known early on, including by Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth. Any marriage plans contemplated or made on the king’s behalf required a large coalition of support. Even Thomas Seymour cannot have believed it possible to bring about the king’s marriage without the knowledge and support of a majority of the Council (though he may have planned to coerce their consent). Anyone with an eligible daughter not brought into that coalition might have mustered a counter-coalition. Therefore one of the first tasks at hand for Grey and Seymour was the gathering of support and suppression of resistance. That alone would have let the cat out of the bag. And court gossip being what it was, especially gossip surrounding royal and courtly marriages, all and sundry would have known within the blink of an eye.

I do not believe that Elizabeth’s own construction of a public image as “sweet sister Temperance” was a reaction to Grey’s plans for Jane. Rather, I think it was solely intended to signal her intention to be the submissive sister compliant with Edward’s religious reformation, in deliberate and striking contrast to half-sister Mary’s vehement and public disobedience and opposition.

Nor do I think Elizabeth intended to position herself as a Protestant distraction freeing Edward to make a Catholic marriage. Elizabeth was a consummate politician from a very young age, and she must surely have been aware of the danger to herself that might come with such self-positioning. The recent uprisings of 1549 had made it clear to all that religious factionalism could lead to serious rebellion, and throughout the years before her own accession Elizabeth was always careful to distance herself from any hint of rebellion. I cannot imagine that Elizabeth would have courted potential disaster by setting herself up as a focus for expressions of religious discontent, even if in so doing she aided the king by freeing him to marry more easily.

As far as I have been able to ascertain, the overriding concern of religious reformers was that Edward’s bride be non-Catholic. Continental reformers in particular seem to have been less concerned with a potential bride’s specific Protestant doctrinal affiliation than that she be anti-papist and anti-Mass. As far as the reformers within England are concerned, I am inclined to suspect that the various doctrinal factions would have welcomed any non-Catholic in the hope that she could be steered toward their respective version of orthodoxy, just as each faction hoped eventually to steer the king himself. And my sense of it is that reformers foreign and domestic rested virtually all of their hopes in Edward first and foremost, and in his putative future bride only incidentally and secondarily, and not in Elizabeth at all. After all, participation by women in religious debate and leadership was still severely frowned upon, as Anne Askew had learned and as Katherine Parr very nearly learned. The same men who taught that women should remain silent, submissive, and obedient, especially in religious matters, cannot realistically have looked to a woman for any kind of genuine leadership, even if that woman was the king’s own wife or sister.

In the period after Seymour’s execution, the Grey’s appear to have put their plans for Jane’s marriage to the king on a back burner until 1553. I am not aware of any documentation that confirms or even suggests any back-hallway secret dealing within the Council regarding the king’s marriage, especially dealing that supported a Grey marriage. If anything, discussions revolving around each and every potential candidate seem to have been fairly open. But again, marriage discussions were seldom successfully kept secret in the Tudor court, so if plans and counter-plans had existed, it is likely that courtiers and ambassadors would have been gossiping about them anyway. Edward was “the most eligible bachelor in England,” after all, and all eyes were on each and every eligible female and her entire family, waiting to see who would win the largest sweepstakes of the century.

Between the holidays and my loss of Internet service for much of the day, new postings on further readings will be delayed until late Friday afternoon.

Foose said...

Thanks, kb, on the note about the Seymour sisters. It conjures up an amusing image, Seymour pitting his own three brainiacs against Grey's in the Edwardian Reformed Women's Education stakes.

Phd historian, thank you for another lucid explanation. I still have to disagree a bit about Reformers not looking to women as leaders ... strictly speaking, this may be so, but they made ample use of Marguerite d'Angouleme in France, Renee of France in Ferrara, and other evangelically-inclined women in high positions on the Continent. A few years later, Jeanne of Navarre would be accepted as a Protestant chief, although her brother-in-law Conde was preferred by evangelicals (probably because of his sex, but also because Jeanne had a really abrasive personality).

It seems to me that when the Protestant movement was on the rise against a dominant Catholic culture, women in its ranks were often encouraged to speak "truth to power" (i.e., Catholic authorities) and citing Scripture gave them a license to do so. Once Protestant movements achieved power, these same women appear to have been strongly discouraged from engaging in this behaviour, since at that point they would be challenging the Reformed authorities. Perhaps this led to the decline of elite women's education in England ...?

Anonymous said...

Foose, you have excellent insight. I agree completely with your last paragraph on the reasons for the decline of the education of women in the first half of the 17th century.

However, in the preceding paragraph, it is noteworthy that you did not cite any English examples of female leaders of religious reform... only continental ones. And while women in England were active in the early, pre-Elizabethan Settlement English Reformation, most of their involvement was relatively indirect or even covert. Wealthy women patronized male reformers, and on rare occasions offered English translations of male-authored texts. But it was exceedingly rare in England for a woman to publish her own written works ... Queen Katherine Parr being the first exception, and she was able and successful only because she was queen. Women in England who attempted to involve themselves directly in religious reform usually met an unhappy fate. Cross-cultural differences in attitudes toward women make it very difficult to speak of English, French, and Italian (Ferrara) women in the same thematic context (leadership in religious reform). This is even more true when one considers that the continental women you named were either in positions of political power ... Marguerite was a queen consort ... or suffered greatly for their actions (Renee of France, who was incidentally a former ruling duchess in the city-state of Ferrara).

Anonymous said...

Chapter 8: Jane and Mary

Jane’s famous criticism of a consecrated Eucharist wafer on display in Princess Mary’s chapel (“Why, how can He be there that made us all when the baker made him?”) opens the chapter, suggesting that Jane had a confrontational nature, at least in regard to matters of religion. The narrative quickly shifts, however, to discussion of Jane’s father’s place in the English reformation movement, together with William Parr, brother of the deceased queen. Ms de Lisle describes the Grey-Parr alliance as “Tweedle Dum with Tweedle Dee.” Together they were responsible for guiding the Council’s attempts to restrain Mary from use of the Mass and the full practice of her faith, or so Ms de Lisle implies. Despite their critical role in these events, clerical figures such as Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and Bishop of Gloucester John Hooper are absent from the narrative.

Here too we find the famous story of Jane refusing a gift of luxurious fabrics from Mary, preferring instead to emulate Elizabeth, who “followeth God’s word” by dressing modestly. Ms de Lisle notes that Aylmer recorded the incident over a decade after the fact, which raises the same sorts of questions of embellishment that surround the Ascham story of parental abuse. This gift story has been the single source for the later myth that Jane always dressed exceedingly simply, in what I usually refer to as “proto-Puritan basic black or grey.” Yet Aylmer himself had reason to complain during Jane’s lifetime about her habit of paying to much attention to dress and “braidings of the hair,” as Ms de Lisle also notes.

Other issues noted briefly in this chapter include Edward Seymour’s final fall from power and execution, the continuing rise of Dudley and his allies (including Henry Grey), the visit to England of Marie de Guise, dowager queen of Scotland and mother of Mary Stuart, and a jarringly gruesome tale of King Edward’s treatment of one of his falcons, the last apparently meant as a foreshadowing device.

On the whole, this chapter covered a lot of ground both chronologically and thematically. It did so in only ten pages (again), leaving me feeling rushed, as though watching a DVD on fast forward. I do understand that this work is largely one of narrative history, with little analysis of the significance of individual events, but even within the stylistic constraints of simple narration I am left feeling as though parts are missing ... parts that if present might give the whole a greater richness and depth.

kb said...

Sorry - need to correct myself. The book authored by the Seymour girls was dedicated to Marguerite de Valois not Navarre. Don't know why I slipped up there.

foose - yes all these pre-pubescent and pubescent female brainiacs must have been a sight.

Anonymous said...

Part Two: Queen and Martyr
Chapter 9: No Poor Child

Jane once again moves to the head of the line among prospective brides for Edward as the French proposal fails. Meanwhile, her network of contacts expands to include more continental religious reformers as well as English women who would prove in future to be powers to reckon with in their own right. Dudley continues to build his alliance, attempting to use his son as a pawn in marriage ... but to Jane’s cousin Margaret Clifford rather than to Jane herself (yet).

Meanwhile, Edward’s health begins to fail and the question of the succession moves to the fore. Ms de Lisle suggests that someone prompted Edward to write a will naming a successor, but she does not state or even speculate who the prompter was. And chronologically, she places the first draft in March 1553, whereas I place it in January of that year. Nonetheless, she offers a concise and accurate assessment of the terms of the will, terms that created “a race for the birthing stool” to see which female cousin might produce a male child first. This race is the context in which Ms de Lisle situates Jane’s marriage to Guildford in the late spring of 1553.

(I am compelled to pause here and note with both relief and satisfaction that Ms de Lisle spells the name of Jane’s future husband with two d’s: GuilDford. I agree entirely that this is the correct modern spelling, despite those who prefer the single-d “Guilford.”)

Ms de Lisle credits William Parr’s second wife, Elizabeth Brooke, with first suggesting the Jane-Guildford marriage. Ms de Lisle suggests that Brooke-Parr spoke to the Earl of Pembroke who in his turn suggested the marriage to John Dudley, and “the duke proved enthusiastic.” There is a single primary source that supports this idea, but I personally find it difficult to imagine that John Dudley needed to be prompted before realizing that a marriage between his son and Henry Grey’s daughter presented an amazing dynastic opportunity. I am not denying that Brooke-Parr chimed in and offered her two cents ... I'm just arguing that Dudley was foresighted enough to come up with the idea well before Brooke-Parr did, and I believe Brooke-Parr merely confirmed Dudley's pre-existing plan.

Frances is portrayed as opposing the match on account of Jane’s young age (Jane was at least 16 in May 1553), citing a letter written five years previously. I am inclined to think that if Frances opposed the match, she did so on grounds of social standing, not age. The Dudleys were of insufficient status for the granddaughter of a queen (Jane’s Brandon grandmother having been briefly Queen of France) and the great-granddaughter of Henry VII.

Henry Grey reportedly opposed the match, at least initially, for fear of losing control over any of Jane’s male children to their father-in-law/grandfather, John Dudley. This perhaps helps to explain any resistance Grey may have presented, but it cannot be the sole source for his hesitation. I suspect he felt too insecure in his own position to think he would survive as Dudley’s ally into the next reign. And both Grey parents may well have been hesitant to commit to a binding betrothal until it was absolutely certain that the prospect of a marriage to the king was literally dead. The betrothal occurred in late April or early May, well before it was inconceivable that the king might yet miraculously recover, and fully two months before his Devise for the Succession was finalized.

Most readers familiar with the story of Jane Grey know of the three marriages contracted in April/May 1553: that of Jane to Guildford; Jane’s sister Katherine to Henry Herbert; and Guildford’s sister Catherine to Henry Hastings. Ms de Lisle notes several additional betrothals and marriage contracts arranged at the same time. Jane’s eight-year-old sister Mary was betrothed to a distant cousin whom Ms de Lisle identifies as the “middle-aged ... Lord Grey of Wilton ... disfigured ... at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547” (p. 101). My sources indicate that Mary was actually betrothed to Lord Grey’s son Arthur, aged about sixteen in early 1553. Dudley’s son Henry, aged about eighteen, was betrothed to Margaret Audley, also aged eighteen and a daughter of Henry Grey’s sister Elizabeth. And young Margaret Clifford, previously a candidate for marriage to Guildford, was now to marry another Henry Dudley, identified by Ms de Lisle as John Dudley’s older brother. Again, my sources indicate that John Dudley was himself the eldest child of Edmund Dudley and did not have any brother named Henry. John Dudley did, however, have a distant cousin named Henry Sutton Dudley who was also a cousin of Henry Grey. Henry Sutton Dudley was in his mid thirties in 1553, while Margaret was just thirteen. But I find no record that Henry Sutton Dudley was ever betrothed to Margaret Clifford. Perhaps one cannot fault Ms de Lisle for getting the names and associations a bit confused ... I’m not even 100% certain that I have them correct ... since Tudor genealogy and marriage alliances are enormously complex. Thus we can reduce this to a “take home lesson”: Dudley created a byzantine tangle of familial connections in order to literally purchase support for his plans for the future of the Dudley lineage.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 10: A Married Woman

Ms de Lisle proposes a new date for the wedding of Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley: Thursday, 25 May 1553 (Julian calendar). She bases her conclusion on a Court Revels document noting that the wedding was “booked for a Thursday” [emphasis mine] and upon correlating that day of the week with the relative timing of other known events, she arrived at 25 May. However, multiple other sources, including the letters of foreign ambassadors who witnessed the attendant celebrations, state that the wedding occurred on Whitsunday, which in 1553 fell on 21 May (Julian calendar).

Jane and Guildford retired to Durham House after the wedding, according to Ms de Lisle, though she does not offer a footnote to her source. The evidence I have in hand (an Exchequer inventory) suggests they retired instead to Syon House, Dudley’s new prize acquired from Edward Seymour following the latter’s final downfall. In any event, Ms de Lisle argues that Jane’s marriage to Guildford was consummated immediately, and on that point we completely agree, despite persistent modern suggestions that Jane “hated” her husband and died a virgin. Perhaps Ms de Lisle has never been asked whether Jane was raped by Guildford, since she does not address that issue, though the question is often asked of me. I am sure Ms de Lisle would agree with me that Jane was notraped.

Edward’s health continues to decline and Jane becomes aware that she is destined to succeed Edward (Ms de Lisle states that John Dudley told her the news at some unspecified point before Edward’s death on 6 July). This is a departure from the traditional myth that has Jane taken totally by surprise on 9 July, but it is yet another point on which Ms de Lisle and I agree. Jane certainly knew well before Edward died that the crown was to be hers.

The remainder of the chapter offers a brief overview of some of the main events, all well known, that led up to Jane being proclaimed Queen on 10 July 1553. But Ms de Lisle departs from the traditional narrative in the final three paragraphs of the chapter when she notes that while revisionist historians have not hesitated to shift “blame” from Dudley to Edward for setting Mary aside from succession, those same historians have failed to accurately assess Jane’s “read[-iness] to embrace the role” of queen. Ms de Lisle does not see Jane as the helpless victim-puppet that tradition dictates. And again, Ms de Lisle and I agree completely on this point.

But Ms de Lisle also describes Jane as one “raised to be a leader of one side of an ideological struggle.” It remains to be seen in subsequent chapters whether she can convince me of this thesis.

I hate to keep harping on what is for most casual readers a minor point, but the lack of frequent and specific footnotes is disconcerting. There are numerous references to correspondence that passes back and forth, actions that are taken, and events that occur that are not part of the traditional mythologized narrative. In my opinion, any account that proposes something new and different ... sometimes startlingly different ... needs to be fully supported by documentation, with footnotes that allow anyone so interested to track down the sources and read the documents for themselves. I have it on good authority that Ms de Lisle will be adding footnotes to the US edition, and this will be very welcome by many readers, especially in this and the next chapters.

Tamise said...

PhD Historian

Am learning a lot from this fascinating discussion.

Chapter 6

In a later chapter (p133), de Lisle mentions another possible betrothal. I had never heard of this before and when you get to that chapter, would be interested to know if you have?

Chapter 7

Ms de Lisle notes the existence of a letter written by Ascham directly to Jane very shortly after his famous visit, a letter in which he made no reference to Jane feeling abused. And indeed, when one reads that letter, pre-dating his other account by 20 years, one sees the evidence of literary license on Ascham’s part.

Very, very interesting!!!!!!!!! I wish that the relevant parts of the letter were quoted in the book to show the contrast.

Chapter 9

And chronologically, she places the first draft in March 1553, whereas I place it in January of that year.

Why do you place it in January and not March?

Chapter 10

Edward’s health continues to decline and Jane becomes aware that she is destined to succeed Edward (Ms de Lisle states that John Dudley told her the news at some unspecified point before Edward’s death on 6 July). This is a departure from the traditional myth that has Jane taken totally by surprise on 9 July, but it is yet another point on which Ms de Lisle and I agree. Jane certainly knew well before Edward died that the crown was to be hers.

Was this myth part of ‘Jane the victim’? That she had no idea before hand and was an unwilling participant with no choice? Not someone who accepted and took an active role?

Do you agree with de Lisle, that Jane’s reaction to the news was carefully staged, ‘Jane’s actions made the point very publicly that she had not sought the crown and that it had been imposed on her.’ (p 110)

This explains the account that on July 9th that when told she was to be Queen said, ‘The crown…is not my right, and pleaseth me not. The Lady Mary is the rightful heir.’ (H.W.Chapman quotes Vertot p 106).

Anonymous said...

When I get to page 133, I will certainly look carefully at the betrothal mentioned there. And if I forget, please remind me.

Ms de Lisle informs me that the "Henry" Dudley- Margaret Clifford betrothal that I questioned was in fact a typographical error and should have read "Andrew Dudley."

On the draft of the Devise: Historians differ on when the Devise was first drafted, and why it was written in the first place (school exercise? awareness of impending death?). I tend to side with the "earlier rather than later" crowd, in large part because I do believe that the matter was originally intended to come before the Parliament of March 1553. It seems to me unlikely that the document would have been first drafted mere days before that Parliament. I am inclined to believe that the drafting process was started well in advance, either in late January or perhaps earliest February.

Yes, I do think that the aspect of the myth that portrays Jane as totally unaware of events until she was told on 10 July 1553 that she was queen is part of the "helpless victim" construction. After all, if she knew in advance, one might assume she had time to formulate a more substantive resistance. That she did not resist any more forcefully is explained within the "helpless victim" myth by the element of complete surprise. In both Ms de Lisle's account and mine, we agree that her exceedingly weak offer of resistance was, if not staged, at least a pro forma display consistent with socio-cultural expectations of the "I am not worthy" false modesty, false humility kind.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 11: Jane the Queen

Jane makes a colorful entry into the Tower, marking the official beginning of her reign, at the outset of this chapter. Ms de Lisle quotes from a purported letter usually attributed to a Genovese merchant, Baptista Spinola, who was reportedly in London on the day. She does not, however, offer a footnote to the source for this letter. It is a letter with which I have many concerns, not least of which is with its authenticity. It apparently makes its first appearance in Agnes Strickland’s works from the mid 19th century, and again without adequate sourcing. Despite extensive research, I have never been able to confirm the existence of the letter.

From there, the chapter becomes engrossing. Though there are one or two very minor points on which we disagree, we are otherwise in complete agreement that Jane was no shrinking violet unwilling to play the role that circumstances had thrust upon her. Instead, she is a determined ruler who “cried out for [the] blood” of those who betrayed her in favor of Mary. Ms de Lisle utterly negates the myth of Jane as helpless victim.

Ms de Lisle offers the basic details of the events that transpired within the Tower as the new regime worked to solidify its hold on power. And she also offers some cogent analysis of why certain events transpired as they did, though the analysis is unsatisfyingly brief for my taste.

Ms de Lisle offers a fascinating rationale for Henry Grey’s relative lack of involvement during the nine-day reign, especially for why he did not lead the army intended to capture Mary: genuine physical illness. I would really have liked to read more on this issue, since it is a significant departure from the traditional narrative (and since my own characterization of both Grey and Dudley lead me to a different conclusion).

This is more nearly a chapter of people and personalities than a chapter of events. The nine day reign is covered in just twelve pages and focuses almost exclusively on the central characters in the drama, especially Jane, and occasionally supplemented by colorful peripheral characters (e.g., Gilbert Potter and his ears). And the drama is situated almost entirely within the Tower. We read very little of what was transpiring elsewhere, and get only minimal details of what Mary and her supporters were up to or why Mary received such rapid and extensive support. Though there is some analysis, as noted above, Ms de Lisle’s central concern is clearly the telling of a powerful and entertaining story ... and she does that very well indeed. She seems to be almost consciously avoiding the sometimes tedious and dry details that infrom us why certain events transpired as they did.

From a purely literary standpoint, I do think the narrative might have benefited greatly had there been more discussion of Mary, presenting her as the antagonist to protagonist Jane ... a battle for control waged between two women in a world where men were presumed to be superior to women.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 12: A Prisoner in the Tower

The period between Jane’s fall from the throne and her death in February 1554 is one usually characterized by pathos and evolving tragedy, and Ms de Lisle does an excellent job of tapping in to both of these. Her narrative is colorful, detailed in its description of events, and based on generally reliable sources.

There are some fascinating details of occurrences sprinkled in, many of which I was previously unaware (my primary interest usually lies with the larger themes rather than the peripheral detail, though I do certainly enjoy the latter!). An ear-less Gilbert Potter brandishing a threatening sword along the route of Dudley’s entry into London as a prisoner is just one example (footnote?).

Ms de Lisle also offers an unusual alternate rationale for the elder Greys’ seeking pardon: that they were as much victims as their daughter, and that Dudley intended to kill them in order to gain sole control over whomever wore the crown ... even if that meant transferring the crown to eleven-year-old Mary Stuart of Scotland. I would really have liked to see this avenue of argument developed further and in greater detail, especially since it is a departure from the traditional story.

Ms de Lisle also notes many of the ways in which Mary allowed herself to be guided by the Spanish and Imperial ambassadors, but she does not develop this idea either. I believe it is evidence of a profound difference in character between Jane and Mary, a difference that had a very direct impact on the failure of Jane’s brief reign. This is particularly true in light of discussion later in the same chapter of Jane’s dinner with several minor officials of the Tower and the words she is reported to have spoken during that dinner.

Ms de Lisle presents Dudley as desperately repentant in his final days, ever hopeful of a royal pardon and willing to do anything to secure it, even converting to Catholicism. Her interpretation has definite merit and is entirely logical and fully supported by the evidence she presents. Nonetheless, other interpretations are possible, I believe (sorry, not going to give them away here). There are also repeated suggestions that Dudley attempted to shift blame onto one of his lieutenants, Sir John Gates, though Gates culpability is not entirely clear to me. This is an area I will be following up on myself.

Lastly, Ms de Lisle relies heavily on the writings of one Giovanni Francesco Commendone and his account of a "letter" that Jane reportedly wrote to Mary in early August. Commendone's version of the "letter" heavily influenced Girolamo Pollini's history of the events of 1553, an account written over forty years later. In a footnote, Ms de Lisle offers a teaser that Eric Ives will be critiquing the "letter" in his own study of Jane Grey slated for publication in late 2009. I, too, offer a critique of the "letter" (and of Pollini more generally) in my own book, since Pollini became one of the most often quoted "primary sources" used by 19th century historians to construct a history of Jane Grey. But before anyone asks, all I will say for now is that Pollini is not a primary source for documenting the life of Jane Grey, and I believe that the origin and nature of the "letter" has been grossly misunderstood by both Pollini and all subsequent writers.

Anonymous said...

Tamise asked earlier that I comment on a second reported betrothal for Jane Grey mentioned on page 133.

Ms de Lisle states that the Imperial ambassadors were told by Mary that Jane had previously been betrothed to a member of Bishop Stephen Gardiner's household. The man was "of sufficiently low rank for her to be excluded as a possible rival Queen were they to be reunited." The relevant footnote is to the ambassadors' letters conveying the tale to their superiors.

This story is exceedingly implausible and almost certainly an invention of the Marian party in an effort to shift the ambassadors' focus away from Jane and to spare Jane's life ... if it was not a "misunderstanding" or complete fabrication on the part of the ambassadors. In the first place, Gardiner was a foe of the Edwardian Reformation. Any member of his household would have shared his master's conservative religious convictions. If Henry Grey was indeed a staunch advocate of evangelical reform, why would he betroth his daughter to a religious conservative? More practically, why would he betroth his heir to a lowly hanger-on of a mere bishop who was himself at the time imprisoned in the Tower (1548-1553)? It defies logic.

In all likelihood, the story was invented to appease the Imperial ambassadors, since a forced marriage based on a fabricated prior betrothal would have tied Jane to a staunch ally of Mary and Mary's own religious programme. In other words, had Jane's marriage to Guildford been voided and the marriage to Gardiner's unnamed follower been pushed through, Jane would have been effectively neutralized as a threat. The ambassadors wisely failed to take the bait, and Ms de Lisle notes that the issue died of its own implausibility.

Foose said...

The Dudleys have taken almost as much of a beating from the "traditional" portrait of Jane Grey, as her Grey parents, particularly in regard to Jane's mother-in-law and husband Guildford. Guildford seems like a sort of proto-Darnley, spoiled, petulant, whining about his right to be king.

Does de Lisle offer any new evidence that might adjust the record, or has your research been able to provide a more balanced viewpoint? Or were they just as ghastly as they're usually presented?

Also, any speculation from you or Lisle on how a Jane Grey queenship might have preceded from a religious standpoint? It's usually suggested that Jane disliked and distrusted her father-in-law, but de Lisle's account indicates that Jane was accepting of his stage management. You both believe that Jane was a committed ideologue, while Dudley himself seemed more of a pragmatist. If Jane and Dudley had clashed, I wonder, if she had borne a male heir (Edward's preferred solution), whether Dudley would have found a way to retire her or utilize a sort of "Elizabeth of York" strategy, with Guildford coming to the fore.

Anonymous said...

Foose, I am afraid I am not a huge fan of counterfactual history and speculative "what if-ing."

I do believe that Jane distrusted her father-in-law, and I also agree with Ms de Lisle that Jane was, at least for those nine days, largely (but not entirely) accepting of his stage management. But realistically, it would have been impossible for her not to accept that management. She had no personal power base, no coterie of trusted advisors, no basis of experience upon which she could draw for self-guidance. Her only choice was to work within the framework available to her at the outset of her reign.

And while I do see Jane as committed to her religion, I part company with Ms de Lisle when it comes to the extent of that commitment. I do not see Jane as a religious leader or ideologue, but rather as a malleable student.

Dudley, on the other hand, was undoubtedly a pragmatist, in my opinion. And Dudley and Jane did clash ... during the nine day reign. Jane won those skirmishes but lost the war.

As for Guildford, Ms de Lisle treats him fairly peripherally. He never emerges as a three-dimensional character. And that is with good reason, as there are almost no primary sources to illuminate his personality or character. My own research has not turned up anything new that might expand on the limited picture available. I do not believe the traditional Darnley-esque characterization is correct, but the sources do not allow us to build a credible substitute. The same is largely true for Jane Guildford Dudley, Duchess of Northumberland.

In place of counterfactual speculation, I will say that I do believe it exceedingly unlikely that the Grey-Dudley dynasty would have successfully established itself and held on to power as long as Mary and Elizabeth were alive.

Tamise said...

Chapter 11: Jane the Queen

Do you think that if Henry Grey had led the army, it would have merely have delayed the inevitable?

De Lisle suggests that there would have been a future clash between Jane and Guildford about his becoming King and that, ‘there is some evidence that one of Mary’s supporters on the Council now sought to engineer its early arrival’ ( p 115). That this was the aim of Winchester bringing Jane the crown jewels when she had not asked for them and mentioning that another would be made for her husband.

What do you think of this theory?

Chapter 12: A Prisoner in the Tower

De Lisle suggests, unlike other writers, that the Duchess of Suffolk did not abandon Jane, once she had obtained a pardon for her husband but that the family ‘needed to redouble their efforts to achieve a pardon for her.’ (p127) Was this again, part of the general blackening of Frances?

Thanks for your comments about the previous betrothal. As you say it defies logic. Have you come across the story before?

‘Suffolk knew that if this plot failed his daughter would without doubt be executed. But if Jane’s speech at Partridge’s dinner table reflected her true feelings, she would have surely judged this a gamble worth taking.’ (p137)

Do you agree?

Anonymous said...

This is counterfactual speculation again, which I really do not like doing, but I do think had Henry Grey led the army intended to capture Mary, the expedition would have failed even more rapidly than it did under Dudley’s leadership. The evidence suggests that Grey lacked the tactical skills required of a military commander, and he lacked the personal charisma and fear-based respect that Dudley seems to have enjoyed. I doubt an army under Grey would have made it out the gates of London before it dissolved.

I agree completely with Ms de Lisle that Paulet (Winchester) was, in effect, “floating a test balloon” with Jane regarding Guildford’s future status. And I have to agree that some future negotiation would have been inevitable had Jane’s reign continued. How heated or contentious that negotiation would have been cannot be known.

I am not personally convinced that the Greys, even Jane’s mother Frances, pressed as hard for a pardon for Jane as they did for Henry Grey. Consider: with Henry Grey executed, Frances and any surviving daughters stood to lose everything, from lands and income to social status. The daughters would likely have become wards of the Crown, and Frances may herself have been forced into a marriage with some Catholic noble in an effort to neutralize her. Henry’s survival and pardon were critical to the survival of the entire family. Jane, on the other hand, was disposable. As a female, she was significantly less valuable as an heir than a male child would have been. Either of her surviving sisters could have replaced her as heir. Her consummated marriage to a Dudley made her a lasting liability. And it is also entirely possible that the Greys assumed that Mary would eventually pardon Jane as her blood cousin, whereas Henry Grey had no such blood connection and therefore much less reason to expect a pardon.

I have never come across the Gardiner story before, no.

I am afraid I disagree with Ms de Lisle’s assessment of Jane’s attitude toward the January rebellion, as well as her assessment of Jane’s general outlook from November 1553 until her execution. And I’m afraid you will have to await my own book to find out how I view it. Don;t want to give away everything just yet!

Anonymous said...

Chapter 13: A Fatal Revolt

I enjoyed this chapter. A lot. Ms de Lisle offers some very intriguing alternate interpretations of events that deserve further investigation.

She suggests, for example, that Jane’s famous letter to her former tutor and chaplain, Thomas Harding, was intended as a kind of public position statement and meant, rather self-consciously, to cast herself as a religious leader. Ms de Lisle then draws a close link between the letter and what she (de Lisle) implies was Jane’s awareness of and perhaps even involvement in what has become known as Wyatt’s Rebellion. I would really have liked to read more from Ms de Lisle on this issue. As it stands, she treats the idea too briefly for it to be entirely convincing, but it has merit.

Ms de Lisle also departs a bit from the traditional narrative in that she focuses more on Henry Grey’s rebellion in Leicestershire in late January 1554 than on Wyatt’s in Kent. This is perhaps because Ms de Lisle lives in the Leicester area herself (or so I believe). Regardless of the reason, it is refreshing to read of Henry’s efforts in such detail. I confess I did not pursue Henry’s rebellious trail in my own book, sticking instead to Wyatt’s (largely because Wyatt made it all the way into London and very nearly succeeded, whereas Grey managed neither).

Ms de Lisle again offers a new theory when she asserts that Jane self-consciously set herself up, at least in her final writings, as a religious martyr. She cites Jane’s letter to sister Katherine in particular, in which Jane urges Katherine to “learn to die.” Ms de Lisle interprets this as Jane urging Katherine toward martyrdom as well. Again, this is a very intriguing interpretation that deserves further investigation and consideration. At present, however, I do not agree with Ms de Lisle. I read Jane’s actions and writings in those final days as entirely consistent with the mid sixteenth century culture of death and dying.

The scene of Guildford’s execution is presented in far greater detail than usual. But I would have liked here ... you guessed it! ... more footnotes to primary sources.

Even in regard to the existing footnotes, it troubles me that Ms de Lisle has as one of her stated goals the setting aside of the nineteenth-century mythology that has accumulated around Jane Grey yet she relies, in part, for source material for this chapter on none other than Agnes Strickland, one of the principal authors of the Jane legend. I would much rather that the footnotes had cited the first publication of Jane’s letters (printed in the summer of 1554), or the actual documents as they exist in modern archives, or some other primary source. For example, she cites Nicholas Harris Nicolas’s [Memoir and] Literary Remains of Lady Jane Grey for quotations from the prayerbook presented to Thomas Bridges, yet the image of the relevant pages of the prayerbook are used as endpages, suggesting Ms de Lisle had access to the actual document (British Library Harley Manuscript 2342). Citing the original document, when possible, always lends greater credibility to the author’s overall work than does citing later printed or edited versions.

But again, this chapter contains some truly intriguing ideas that I do hope Ms de Lisle will develop further in some future publication.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 14 : Aftermath

With Jane Grey now dead, the focus shifts to the surviving family members: mother Frances Brandon Grey and her daughters Katherine and Mary (Henry Grey is dispatched in the first few pages of the chapter). I confess that my own research has not taken me into the personal lives of Jane’s surviving kin, so this is an area where I expect to be learning a great deal from Ms de Lisle.

Ms de Lisle casts Frances as far more involved in resistance to the religious changes anticipated from the Marian regime than I would have expected her to be. She credits Frances, for example, with conveying Jane’s final letters to John Day, who printed them in the summer of 1554, constituting “the most powerful contemporary attack on the reign of Queen Mary” (p. 159).

She also portrays Frances as actively and aggressively pursuing the “rehabilitation of her family,” and implies that Frances’ efforts are the reason why she and her daughters were recalled to court in July 1554. I have to question whether the recall was the direct result of Frances’ efforts, or was instead an attempt by Mary to keep close at hand and under watchful eye three potential enemies and focal points of rebellion. “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” after all.

Ms de Lisle offers a very great deal of descriptive and narrative detail regarding the lives of Katherine and Mary in the first months of Mary’s reign. The existing footnotes cite reliable and mostly primary sources ... I just wish there were more of them, especially since some of the text offers exceedingly precise details such as cuts of gowns and a very pointed (but non-sourced) reference to Margaret Willoughby being “bossy.” There is also an extended and very amusing tale of a party-crasher (Edward Underhill) that is entirely without citation.

There are some fascinating discussions of succession politics ... who would be Mary’s heir and why ... that are often overlooked by most historians, especially academics. I think Ms de Lisle is very correct to focus on the succession issue, since it was for those of the period an unsettled and anxiety-producing issue, not least because most of the living heirs were female. Historians blessed with hindsight tend not to appreciate the effects that that anxiety produced, yet Ms de Lisle offers us a glimpse of the kinds of posturing and positioning that went on at court and beyond. She suggests, for example, that Katherine Grey, in serving as godmother to a daughter of Bess of Hardwick, had chosen the name “Elizabeth” for the child (the future Countess of Lennox and mother of Arbella Stuart, herself a pawn in Elizabethan succession politics) as a symbolic gesture of support for Lady Elizabeth’s claim to succeed her half-sister Mary (p. 167). This was a bold and potentially dangerous move for a young woman of just fourteen or fifteen years to make.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 15 : Growing Up

The focus here is largely on Mary’s repeated false pregnancies, declining health, and death in 1558. Incorporated in that is continuing discussion of succession politics, as well as Philip’s limited role as reluctant king-consort.

Ms de Lisle observes that “the gentry were learning to use Parliament to prevent what they did not want – such as Philip’s coronation and the Queen’s wish to exclude Elizabeth [from the succession] by statute” (p. 171). This is a critical point and absolutely central to Ms de Lisle’s stated thesis that repeated queens-regnant in the second half of the sixteenth century set England on a path that prevented the successful development of absolutism in the seventeenth century. Because it is so central to a main thesis of the book, I would very much have liked to see the point developed in greater scope and depth. I believe Ms de Lisle is on exactly the correct path ... she simply did not go far enough down that path.

She returns to the topic briefly on page 177, noting that unlike Jane, “Mary had the opportunity to develop a model of Queenship,” and that the model was expected by contemporaries to change under Elizabeth. Specifically, Elizabeth was expected to marry just as Mary had done, but it was already anticipated that Elizabeth’s husband would play a larger role than had Philip of Spain. But there was also continuity, with Elizabeth later embracing a role first created by Mary: that of bride to the kingdom and matriarch to her subjects. These are again fascinating points on which I would have liked to read much more.

Mary’s death brings an ironic reversal in Grey family fortunes, as Katherine Grey becomes the first heir-in-blood of Queen Elizabeth (assuming foreign-born heirs remain excluded, as they had been since the First Act for the Succession). This places Katherine and her younger sister Mary at the apex of the social hierarchy, but also at the center of succession disputes.

Foose said...

Phd historian, the information about Frances possibly acting as a Protestant propagandist is very interesting. Is there any suggestion that Cecil was involved? Some research done over the past few years have indicated that he was involved in running an anti-Marian printing press on property owned indirectly by him; de Lisle has indicated elsewhere that she believes him to be a tireless supporter of the Grey claim during Elizabeth's early reign, much to the Queen's annoyance. It would fit if he had made contact with Frances and encouraged her subversive activities or even facilitated them.

Anonymous said...

Foose, Ms de Lisle does state that John Day's press was hidden on an unidentified estate belonging to Cecil, and that Cecil was an "old family friend" of the Greys. And I can confirm that there are numerous indirect links between the Greys and Cecil via various other evangelical religious reformers. So the idea is entirely plausible, and casts Frances in a new light that deserves further investigation.

Anonymous said...

Lady Jane's death...often in descriptions of her execution she is pictured as being blind-folded and then fumbling frantically for the block. Eventually, a kind soul takes pity on her and guides her hands to the wood.

True? Or just another 'myth' capitalizing on Jane's supposed helplessness and an attempt to portray her as an unwilling pawn?

Tamise said...

PhD Historian - Your different takes on Jane’s letter to Katherine is very interesting. I’ve enjoyed reading the rest of your discussion.

Anonymous said...

Tracey, Jane's execution was witnessed and those witnesses wrote down what they saw. They agree that Jane had difficulty finding the block because of the blindfold and that she had to be assisted. The best account is in the Chronicle of Queen Jane, which is believed to have been written by an official who lived and worked in the Tower.

Anonymous said...

I am out of town for New Years Day attending the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena. Postings will resume on Friday, 2 January 2009. Happy New Year to all!

Lara said...

Oh how fun! I've always wanted to go to that parade... I just love the creative use of plants and flowers on the floats. Have a great time and Happy New Year!

kb said...

Eagerly looking forward to the next installment....

Anonymous said...

I do sincerely apologize for the delay in posting new installments. Without going into details, suffice it to say that I have been entirely bogged down with other issues, mostly involving wind storms, property damage, responsibilities as a board member
for my condo association, etc. Horribly distracteding. But getting back to it today.

Lara said...

As someone who once had a house side-swiped by a tornado (and getting Swiss cheese siding from horizontal hail), you have my sympathies. Don't you hate it when life gets in the way of the stuff we'd rather being doing?

Thanks for all the reading and analysis you've done so far!

Anonymous said...

Chapter 16: The Spanish Plot

The chapter opens with a vivid description of some of the processions and pageantry associated with Elizabeth’s coronation ceremonies. Ms de Lisle emphasizes in particular the series of stage plays and tableaux set up along processional routes to convey very specific political messages to the viewing public. Ms de Lisle observes that Elizabeth herself found at least one of the pageants “unsettling” because it suggested the Elizabeth could not govern alone, but must instead rely on male councilors and advisers. This theme of women ruling only with male assistance is central to Ms de Lisle’s larger thesis concerning absolutism, and as such I would really have liked to see the discussion go further. I think Ms de Lisle is very much correct in her thesis and supporting themes ... my concern is that the argumentation is too cursory. In particular, I would have enjoyed reading about some of the discussion that went on among the political elite at the time ... what the arguments were “for” and “against” Elizabeth ruling only with guidance from a council of men versus ruling unimpeded.

Ms de Lisle notes that Katherine Grey was placed in a less conspicuous role during the coronation festivities than might have been expected for an immediate heir to the throne, and that Katherine’s younger sister Mary was simply not invited. She also notes that Katherine was demoted within the Royal Household, shifted from Privy Chamber to the more public Presence Chamber. A demotion of that kind conveyed clearly that Katherine was not to enjoy the same status that she had under Mary.

Ms de Lisle seems to imply that the move was initiated by Elizabeth herself in a conscious effort to keep courtly focus on herself as monarch and off any potential successors. I am left wondering, however, whether it might be possible that Cecil and his colleagues were the origin of the change, rather than the queen. I question how much direct and personal control Elizabeth actually had over even her Privy Chamber in these first weeks and months when she had necessarily to be seen to cooperate as much as possible with her male advisors, at least until she had developed enough personal loyalty to exert her own authority over them. Indeed, Ms de Lisle explicitly notes on page 186 Elizabeth’s awareness of the precariousness of her position.

Katherine emerges in these pages as less intelligent than her sister Jane, but somewhat devious. While the Spanish and Imperial ambassadors endeavored to make Katherine a pawn in religious political struggles between the Catholic Empire and Protestant England, it is suggested that Katherine perhaps took advantage of the tensions to safeguard her own status and position.

In the midst of it all, Katherine’s romance with the Earl of Hertford grows, paralleled by the romance between Elizabeth and Dudley. Without having read ahead, I am wondering if perhaps the parallel will be carried further, and the “success” of the Grey/Hertford romance contrasted with the “failure” of the Elizabeth/ Dudley affair.

kb said...

There is significant confusion over Katherine's exact court title. J.Goldsmith, ‘All the queen's women: the changing place and perception of aristocratic women in Elizabethan England, 1558-1620’, unpublished PhD dissertation (Northwestern University, 1987) p.269 lists her as a lady of the presence chamber/gentlewoman privy chamber. C.Merton, ‘Women who served Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth: ladies, gentlewomen and maids of the privy chamber’, unpublished PhD thesis (Trinity College, Cambridge, 1990) lists her as a maid of honour on p.261. The Spanish ambassador refers to her as a lady of the presence chamber in CSP-Spanish 1559, p.45.

Merton's assessments are, for the most part, sound based on primary research (I am away from my documents still but this data is for the most part in the BL Lansdowne and PRO Lord Chamberlain's documents.

No matter her exact title, she was clearly upset that she had been demoted. It will be interesting to hear what further tidbits Ms. de Lisle provides. She also appears o have connived with the Spanish and Imperial ambassadors quite a bit...but I don't want to get ahead of Ms. de Lisle aided wonderfully by phd historian.

There doesn't appear to be any record of Mary Grey being granted livery for the coronation. Although she might have been there wearing livery other than the queen's. (unlikely but possible)

Elizabeth was very quick to make some appointments that did not involve consultation with Cecil - at least where they concerned her cousins the Careys and Knollys. She was fairly definite about her privy chamber.

Foose said...

Any inference that Mary Grey's appearance might have been an issue and a reason why she wasn't on public display? I believe phd historian, in another thread, stated that she was not in fact a dwarf (as is often assumed), but merely very small, perhaps an exaggeration of a family trait. But might there have been something else in her appearance that would have made an image-conscious queen wish to keep her in the background?

kb said...

Nothing mentioned in the sources I've looked at. Just very short. She may have been elsewhere or ill at the time of Elizabeth's entry.

Anonymous said...

Foose, I'm not sure that Mary Grey's appearance would have in any way merited exclusion from the coronation festivities. Regardless of the exact medical condition that rendered her unusually small (whether the condition was "normal" short stature, genetic dwarfism, scoliosis or another spinal defect, or some other condition), she was included at other events. And physical abnormality was sometimes treated as a curiosity to be placed on display. Dwarves are known to have been present at court on occasion simply for their value as oddities.

I tend to agree with KB, that Mary was perhaps not able to attend due to illness or inability to travel to London from an outlying estate.

kb said...

I just looked at Merton's list of payments made to women of the chamber and Mary Grey is listed as receiving a payment Jan 1 1577 as a maid of honour. I suspect this was a New Year's gift not a payment for service at court as this is after her unfortunate 1565 marriage to Keys.

Susan Doran in her ODNB article on Mary Grey says that Elizabeth gave Mary a pension of £80 after her mother's death in 1559.

I strongly suspect that Mary was in service with Katherine Willoughby Brandon duchess of Suffolk at the time of Elizabeth's entry. A younger Carey daughter was also in service with the duchess and did not attend Elizabeth's entry. Katherine Willoughby, Cecil and Katherine Parr were good friends. It would have made sense for younger daughters of reformed families to be placed in the duchess's household during Mary's reign.

But I am waiting for phd historian's next installment...

Anonymous said...

Chapter 17 : Betrothal

One of the first issues mentioned in this chapter, and one that was to play havoc with the English throne for decades to come, is that of Mary Stuart’s claim to the Crown of England. Elizabeth’s legitimacy was called into question, though Ms de Lisle takes a less common approach to the “why” of it. She cites the prohibition in Roman Catholic canon law on marriage (much discussed in this blog) against a man wedding the kin of any woman with whom he has had carnal relations. Henry, of course, had “known” Anne Boleyn’s sister Mary, creating a “diriment impediment of affinity” that should have prohibited his marriage to Anne. Ms de Lisle contends that the existence of the impediment rendered the marriage invalid from the outset. By extension, therefore, Elizabeth was illegitimate from the moment of her birth.

I am not certain that I agree with this exact line of reasoning. The issue of applicability of Roman canon law arose recently in another thread here, and I pointed out that various statutes passed in the year before Henry’s marriage to Anne largely voided Roman canon law in England. Marriage law was in a state of transition in England at the time of Henry and Anne’s marriage, and remained so for the next three decades.

In my opinion, it is enough that the leading clergy, under Henry’s Supreme Head-ship of the Church in England, raised no objection to the marriage under Church law-of-the-moment. Indeed, Cranmer went so far as to positively validate the marriage in an official Church statement issued in May 1533.

Further, the First Act of Succession (1533), Article VI, prospectively legitimized any child born of Henry and Anne and explicitly enabled them to inherit the crown. Since Parliamentary statute supercedes canon law in England, Elizabeth was without question legitimate at her birth.

She was, however, rendered illegitimate and barred from the throne under the Second Act of Succession (1536), then re-instated to the succession under the Third Act (1544). That Third Act, however, did not remove the earlier statutory imposition of illegitimacy.

Ms de Lisle notes that Mary “addressed the statement of illegitimacy against her” made by the Succession Acts, while Elizabeth did not. Ms de Lisle does not mention how the issue was addressed, even though it bears heavily on her thesis regarding the development of absolutism in England.

Mary resorted to an Act of Parliament, the first Act of her reign, by which Parliament declared Mary legitimately born. More importantly, Parliament also inserted language that explicitly confirmed and validated Mary’s right to the throne. In other words, Mary was Queen because Parliament allowed it, and not solely by divine right. This is a distinction that I believe critical to Ms de Lisle’s larger argument that continental-style absolutism failed to develop in England because Parliament gained unprecedented power during the half-century of queens regnant.

Neither Elizabeth nor her Parliaments ever directly addressed the issue of her birth and statutory legitimacy/illegitimacy. She remained, at least under Parliamentary statute law, illegitimate until her death. And if I am not mistaken, Parliament never specifically confirmed her right to rule, as they had done with Mary (if I am wrong on this point, I do hope any Elizabeth experts out there will correct me and cite the act). Elizabeth was thus one step closer to absolutist divine-right monarchy than was Mary.

The main subject of the chapter is not Elizabeth’s legitimacy, of course, but rather Katherine Grey’s desire to wed Edward Seymour, the Earl of Hertford. Katherine’s marriage and potential for childbearing posed a threat to unwed Elizabeth, so that Elizabeth refused to allow it. Instead, she brought Katherine into the inner circle of court, keeping her close and informally guarded. Katherine’s attachment to Seymour was superceded in both court and public eyes, however, by Elizabeth’s own entanglement with Robert Dudley, Katherine’s former brother-in-law.

Ms de Lisle inserts William Cecil into the fray, fearing public scandal on all sides and perhaps actually promoting the Grey-Seymour marriage out of frustration over Elizabeth’s ill-considered attraction to Dudley ... at least initially. Cecil successfully persuaded the queen of the inappropriateness of a marriage to Dudley, and once the queen declared her decision not to marry “Robin,” Katherine’s own marriage became a threat once again, especially in Cecil's eyes. Cecil therefore discouraged Seymour from the match. With others continually meddling in their private relationship, it is perhaps no wonder to modern readers that Katherine Grey and Edward Seymour took matters into their own hands and secretly entered into a formal betrothal.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 18 : A Knot of Secret Might

The book as a whole really begins to come into its own with this chapter. Ms de Lisle apparently has a greater fondness for Katherine than for Jane, if one judges by the writing. Or perhaps I am over-reading the melodramatic love story contained here.

In any event, this chapter is a perfect example of the kind of factual historical narrative that should make history interesting to any reader, even those who think they dislike history and who call it “boring.” This chapter is nothing short of a bodice-ripper! And despite being a true bodice-ripper, it is grounded solidly in authentic primary sources. Katherine got up to a great deal more scandalous behavior than did sister Jane, and the scandal resulted in a good-sized body of documents generated in the course of official investigations. Ms de Lisle mines those documents for all sorts of fascinating detail, right down to which side of the bed the offending couple had sex on (both!).

Ms de Lisle makes it clear that the scandal was based not so much in the fact that Katherine Grey and Edward Seymour got married secretly and without permission, or that Katherine Grey soon became pregnant but was able to hide her pregnancy until she was full term, but that the marriage and birth of an heir posed a serious threat to unwed and childless Elizabeth’s stability on the throne.

Katherine comes across as a marvelously naive and foolish girl-child, apparently unable to determine whether or not she was pregnant until well advanced. She is also duplicitous, accepting a rival suitor’s advances despite being already both married and pregnant. The correspondence between Katherine and her suitor after he discovers the truth is very entertaining! His embarrassment and rage are palpable.

Husband Seymour reads as something of a bon vivant, heading off to the continent on a “Grand Tour” (pressured to do so by Cecil, acting too late to prevent the marriage that had already occurred), living it up at the French court, and playing the corrupting influence on Cecil’s own eldest son Thomas (half-brother to Robert Cecil).

I do not want to give away too much detail for this chapter that will spoil the “plot” for readers, but suffice it to say that the whole was immensely entertaining ... reminiscent of the dreaded “Tudors” on Showtime, but this time entirely factual.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 19 : First Son

Once the bodice has been ripped, someone has to pay a tailor to mend it. This chapter is largely about attempts at mending ... especially Katherine and Edward Seymour’s relationships with the queen.

Ms de Lisle recounts the conflicting testimony given by Katherine and Edward during the investigation, noting the variances on “who knew what and when.” Each gave false testimony in order to protect others, while the persons they were attempting to protect often owned up to their misdeeds anyway. Ms de Lisle’s full telling of this episode is a perfect instructive example of why academic historians are always very careful not to take all documents at face value. By including all of the false testimony, Ms de Lisle very clearly illustrates the kind of fact-finding that historians must go through even with legal documents. I was very pleased to see these small details included.

Ms de Lisle also does an admirable job of weaving together the various succession conflicts. Elizabeth was beset from all sides by those seeking future stability in the succession, some supporting Mary Stuart and others supporting various English candidates, including Katherine Grey Seymour. The entire discussion nicely supports her central thesis on absolutism in that Stuart supporters, especially Protestant ones, favored what Ms de Lisle calls “the Great Chain of Being,” or divinely ordered inheritance based on primogeniture. Opponents of the Stuart line, including Catholic ones, seemingly favored a people’s right to appoint (and ultimately to restrain) the monarch.

The birth of Katherine’s son only increased the conflict, for now one of the English heiress-rivals for the throne had produced a male heir, something the English political establishment had desired since Edward VI’s Devise for the Succession of June 1553. Meanwhile, Mary Stuart lurks menacingly and almost unseen in the background, negotiating with Elizabeth for acceptance of herself as the heir to the English crown.

If anyone gets the raw end of the stick in all this conflict, it really seems to be Elizabeth, at least in this version. She appears beset at all times and from all sides by virtually everyone, from closest advisors to foreign ambassadors, in an effort to settle the question of who should succeed her. Yet she has been queen for barely three years and is still of childbearing age. It is as though no one in England wanted to give Elizabeth a chance to get on with being queen; all eyes were instead on the future.

Someone (Tamise?) asked me early on to comment on Ms de Lisle’s reference on page 225 to the miniature painting of a woman which David Starkey famously identified as a portrait of Jane Grey. Ms de Lisle seems to accept Starkey’s identification and his argument that the acorns and oak leaves worn at the woman’s breast are symbolic of the intricate family ties between Jane Grey/Guildford Dudley, Jane’s sister Katherine, and Guildford’s older brother Robert Dudley. The suggestion is that the portrait is symbolic evidence of a “drumming up of support” for Robert Dudley to pressure Elizabeth to name Katherine and her new son as immediate heirs to the throne, and that his support should follow somewhat automatically on the basis of his brief past relationship by marriage ... that there was some sort of “natural” emotional family tie or affinity between Robert Dudley and the sister of his dead brother’s equally dead wife. This is, I believe, significant over-reaching with too little evidence.

As I have stated elsewhere (, I have serious reservations about Starkey’s interpretation of the foliage worn by the sitter. I continue to believe that he is shaping the evidence to fit a foregone conclusion rather than interpreting the evidence objectively.

Ms de Lisle states that the portrait, together with that of Katherine holding her infant son, perhaps “dates from this period” (i.e., early 1561). If the portrait was indeed done in 1560-61, long after Jane Grey’s death, it cannot be a life portrait, and it is therefore very unlikely that it faithfully depicts Jane. If, however, the Yale miniature was painted in late 1553, as Starkey contends, there would be no reason to include Robert’s floral emblem since there was not yet any need to draw a connection between Jane Grey, her brother-in-law Robert Dudley, and his support for Katherine Grey as Elizabeth’s heir. It is an anachronistic interpretation.

Incidentally, someone asked in a recent post how Christmas was celebrated in Tudor England. The questioner will no doubt be very interested to read pages 223-224, which contain a brief description of Robert Dudley’s participation in Twelfth Night celebrations at the Inner Temple (a law college).

Foose said...

Phd historian, does de Lisle or your research suggest that if Katherine Grey had married someone else than Hertford, her situation might have been less calamitous? The usual reading is that love was behind it, but it could be read that Katherine made a very calculated dynastic decision.

It seems to me that short of marrying a foreign prince or a Dudley or maybe the Duke of Norfolk, Katherine Grey choosing Hertford was just about the most inflammatory matrimonial selection she could come up with. His kinship to Queen Jane Seymour and Edward VI, his father remembered among the poorer classes as "the Good Duke" and his Reformist-family credentials were really dangerous to Elizabeth when allied with Katherine Grey's.

If Katherine had secretly married someone less prominent, do you think her punishment would have been so dire? I know her sister Mary got into a great deal of trouble for marrying a mere sergeant-porter, but that was after all the trouble with Katherine, when Elizabeth was plainly exasperated with the family -- and Mary's choice was also extremely low-bred. If Katherine had gone for someone less exalted but still noble, would her fate have been the same?

Anonymous said...

Chapter 20 : Parliament and Katherine’s Claim

With Elizabeth’s bout with smallpox in late 1562, the issue of the succession becomes absolutely critical. Though Elizabeth ultimately survived, the episode must have been eerily reminiscent of Edward VI’s own bout with the disease ten years earlier and must have called to everyone’s mind what befell him over the year following. Were Elizabeth to suffer the same fate without having produced an heir, and with no heir clearly named, civil and even international war was a distinct possibility.

Ms de Lisle does an admirable job of explaining concisely the claims of various potential heirs and of outlining how and why Parliament asserted itself into a matter that had been beyond its power prior to the 1530s.

I very much like the way in which Ms de Lisle reinserts Katherine into the succession crisis of 1562-63. Whereas most academic historians write retrospectively, describing what did happen and dismissing Katherine with little more than a sentence or two and a footnote, Ms de Lisle writes prospectively and shows us what could have happened. She does not enter into counterfactual speculation, but instead gives us a sense of the extent of aristocratic and popular support Katherine enjoyed during the period. She notes, for example, that Foxe’s Actes and Monuments was published at this time, popularizing the story of Jane Grey, which in turn bolstered Katherine’s reputation by extension. However, Ms de Lisle’s statement that Roger Ascham’s The Scholemaster may have been linked to support for Katherine seems to me less likely. The Scholemaster was not published until 1570, two years after Katherine’s death. Though Ascham died in 1568 as well, and must therefore have written the book before then, its later publication removes it from supporting Katherine Grey.

Thomas Challoner’s elegy on Jane may well have been intended as indirect support of Katherine’s claim, however ... something I had not myself previously considered. It too was first published (in 1579) well after Katherine’s death, but was certainly written before Challoner’s own death in 1565. Challoner was a staunch supporter of William Cecil (the volume containing the elegy is dedicated to Cecil), who in turn supported Katherine, so Challoner may have circulated his elegy privately during the succession crisis of 1562-63. Praising an individual’s relatives or family was a common method in the sixteenth century for simultaneously but less overtly praising the individual, since close family members were often thought to share “naturally” in personality and character traits (both positive and negative). Calling attention to Jane's famous positive attributes can have only helped Katherine.

Despite its own best efforts, Parliament was unable to settle the succession issue before it was prorogued in April 1563. Katherine’s position remained precarious, at best.

Anonymous said...

I do think, Foose, that almost regardless of whom Katherine married, had that marriage been undertaken without Elizabeth's consent the consequences would have been equally "calamitous." Marriage meant children, and children were heirs. As long as Elizabeth remained unmarried and without issue-heirs, the secret marriage of ANY of her closest heirs, male or female, would have carried dire consequences, exactly as you note with Mary Grey Keyes.

I do not interpret Katherine's spousal choice as anything but a love match, and Ms de Lisle offers no hint whatsoever of any dynastic calculation in Katherine's choice. The simple fact is that Katherine was Elizabeth's nearest English-born hereditary heir if the line of Margaret Tudor continued to be excluded (as it had been since the 1530s). Katherine could not "boost herself up" in the hereditary line by any marriage within England. All marriage to a Dudley, a Norfolk, or a non-Stuart foreign prince might do is improve her political position, not her hereditary one. And as history repeatedly proved between 1553 and 1603, heredity trumped politics every time.

Foose said...

Phd historian, regarding your comments on Robert Dudley's tie or affinity with Katherine Grey, which you tend to discount ... later in the 1560s Elizabeth offered Robert Dudley to Mary Stuart as a matrimonial parti. It has been interpreted by many historians as an insulting gesture. However, Robert had been the brother-in-law of Queen Jane and his sister was married to another Protestant candidate for the throne, the Earl of Huntingdon.

In view of Elizabeth's lack of male relations, could it be from a certain standpoint that she saw Robert as rating as a sort of peripheral member of the royal family? He would never be able to qualify for the throne himself, but there is just a chance that in view of his connections he could be considered an eligible English suitor for a foreign queen. Mary is reported to have been offended by the offer, but perhaps would not have been so averse if Dudley were not notorious for being Queen Elizabeth's, well, boyfriend.

Anonymous said...

Foose, I'm just not convinced that Dudley's former relationship-by-marriage to Katherine engendered in Dudley any sense of personal affinity to her. The Jane-Guildford marriage was brief, spent largely in prison, and both parties were long dead by 1562. If anything, Dudley had cause to distance himself from any connection to his own family's and the Greys' past political transgressions by distancing himself from Katherine. And the Grey family royal line in 1562 consisted solely of females, none of whom could have been expected to possess any real political value other than as "brood mares" for a male heir.

And yes, Elizabeth's offering of Dudley to Mary Stuart was indeed an insult to Mary, in my opinion, whether it was intended as such or not (and I do not believe that Elizabeth necessarily intended it as an insult). Dudley was not himself of royal blood and was the descendant of two generations of traitors. Even his title of nobility was created for him rather than inherited. He did not in any way qualify as a proper candidate for marriage to a female monarch, in my mind.

And given the pressures that Elizabeth was under regarding the naming of a successor, I am sure that she was keen to limit the number of persons who might have any claim, however "peripheral," to membership in the extended royal "family." The dearth of males among those of royal blood was for Elizabeth a blessing, since any male might pose a serious threat to herself and the stability of her own reign. I cannot imagine that she ever encouraged any male to perceive of himself or to be perceived by others as a "member of the royal family."

Foose said...

Perhaps I expressed it badly ... a sort of "para"-member of the royal family, one without a claim to the throne himself, but having certain connexions that elevate him above the ordinary nobility. kb indicated in one thread that the descendants of Mary Boleyn were suggested as matrimonial choices to the Scots, and I was thinking of Dudley along the same lines.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 21: Hales’s Tempest

This short (seven pages) chapter contains some wonderful nuggets. The chapter deals primarily with Katherine’s attempts to regain Elizabeth’s good graces following John Hales’s circulation of a manuscript supporting Katherine’s right to succeed Elizabeth. (Though Ms de Lisle does not say so, the manuscript was apparently not published or the publication and its content have since been lost, as it is not listed in the comprehensive and authoritative English Short Title Catalogue or on Early English Books Online.) Hales apparently received support for his endeavor from William Cecil, Elizabeth’s chief minister.

Katherine received considerable support herself from her paternal uncle and jailer, Lord John Grey of Pirgo. She even had support from Cecil ... at least until Elizabeth made it clear that forgiveness would not be forthcoming.

But in the course of describing Katherine’s struggles, Ms de Lisle publishes for the first time the full content of a letter that passed from Katherine to her husband. The letter is noteworthy for the relatively explicit reference to a longing on Katherine’s part for sexual contact with her husband. Sex and sexuality have until recently been ignored by historians, so Ms de Lisle is to be commended for wading into this sometimes controversial area. She is also to be commended for including in a footnote the original language of the letter, since the chapter itself has a modernized version of the text.

Once Lord John Grey came under suspicion and was arrested, presumably for involvement with Hales’s manuscript, Katherine was moved to the custody of Sir William Petre. This is an ironic placement, though Ms de Lisle is either unaware of the irony or chose not to highlight it. William Petre had been a Secretary of State under Edward VI and had been a signatory to Edward’s Devise that had barred Mary and Elizabeth both from the succession and instead settled the crown on Katherine’s sister Jane. It is a marker of the mutability of Tudor-era loyalties that a man who once sought to bar Elizabeth from the throne in favor one Grey sister was now acting as jailer on behalf of Queen Elizabeth and holding prisoner another Grey sister for having asserted her succession rights.

The top of page 245 contains another little irony that makes history so fascinating, and that supports the adage that “history always repeats itself.” Ms de Lisle notes the widespread debates over the validity of Katherine’s marriage to Edward Seymour, that the debaters sought the support of religious authorities on the continent, and that Elizabeth was infuriated that her subjects sought advice from outside the realm and from outside the English church. The whole immediately brings to mind Henry VIII’s “Great Matter” of three decades earlier.

kb said...

In response to foose's comment regarding the possibility of Dudley as a 'para' member of Elizabeth's royal family. I do think that his status as the one of the most influential men at the court was based on his intimacy with Elizabeth.I also think that intimacy was the political coin of the realm. While Cecil was undeniably powerful and influential, the quality of his intimate relationship with Elizabeth was different. The Carey's great protection was that although they were openly considered the queen's nearest kin, they never claimed royal status. I believe that Dudley systematically allied himself with the Careys and that Elizabeth did think of him as part of her 'family'.

I believe that Katherine's marriage would have been problematic for Elizabeth no matter the groom. However, that the groom was Edward Seymour was like throwing salt on wound.

phd historian - Is there any discussion in the book of Edward's sister Jane's involvement in the marriage arrangements?

Anonymous said...

KB, there is only a single-sentence mention on each of two pages (175 and 199) that she was involved in passing messages back and forth between Katherine and Edward. No discussion, as such.

kb said...

One more query please...

Does the author discuss Gorbuduc at all? There is a line of argument that this play performed at the Inns of Court in 1561(?) was in support of Katherine's claim to the throne.

Foose said...

Hmm, the London Times just published John Guy's review of this book. kb will find the last paragraph highly inflammatory and even Phd historian may take issue with his characterization of Jane Grey as a "cold fish."

kb said...

Yep - them's fightin' words!

Guy is a classically trained historian who in most ways I respect. But he's always been dismissive of the privy chamber women. Despite his strong archival background, he has no problem romping through emotional tidewaters when it suits.

ah well....

Thanks for bringing it to our attention foose!

Anonymous said...

Yes, KB, Ms de Lisle does indeed discuss Gorbuduc, and at some length. She agrees with the argument that the performance was intended to support Katherine's claim to the throne. And the argument makes perfect sense to me, especially since Cecil and others in positions of highest power also seem to have favored Katherine's claim, and government officials often oversaw what was performed where.

Foose, allow me to "live-blog" my reading of Guy's review ... literally write comments as I read:

Guy gives the date of the first publication of Jane's letters as 1563. That is incorrect. They were first published in the summer of 1554, precisely as Ms de Lisle points out. How closely did Guy read the book before writing his review???

Jane was a "teenage know-it-all"? Maybe it's my American perspective, but in the US, that phrase implies a smart-aleck, someone with an attitude of aggressive superiority. I have to disagree with that characterization. Jane was very intelligent, yes, but she appears in her own writings as appropriately meek (as expected for her gender) with her peers, perhaps slightly and entirely appropriately less so with her social inferiors (e.g., her jailers).

Guy is again incorrect in stating that Jane wrote to continental reformers in Greek, which was in the 1540s and 1550s a less well-known and well-studied language. She wrote in Latin, the common language of international discourse, with not more than three sentences of Greek scattered among 3 or 4 lengthy letters.

"Edward liked to play cards with Jane [I paraphrase Guy's sentence]." This is a perfect example of how pervasive the modern myth surrounding Jane Grey has become, that a leading historian of the period should revert to that myth as though it were documented fact. I have never seen a single primary source describe Edward playing cards with Jane. I believe the statement to be a product of the 19th century myth-machine, and I believe Ms de Lisle would agree with me. And I have rechecked Ms de Lisle's book without finding the story repeated as fact, so it seems clear that Guy was drawing on his own experience of the myth, not on Ms de Lisle's text.

"A thoroughly cold fish." Does Guy expect that Jane was supposed to warm to Guildford immediately, within days of the arranged marriage? To be and play the loving wife without taking time to adapt to being married to someone she surely did not know well? Yes, Foose, I "take issue," and I agree with KB that "them's fightin' words!"

I agree that the second half of the book is "a particularly gripping read."

I suppose Guy was attempting to write a positive review containing the kinds of words and phrases that would stimulate his readers to go out and buy the book ... and they SHOULD go out and buy the book. But I think Guy did himself a personal disservice by appearing to have been somewhat cursory in his reading of the book and/or unaware of some of the essential facts.

Anonymous said...

Part Four : Lost Love
Chapter 22 : The Lady Mary and Mr Keyes

As the title of this chapter implies, the narrative shifts away from Katherine Grey Seymour, who is left languishing in captivity in Essex, and toward her younger sister, Mary Grey.

Ms de Lisle repeats the accounts of Mary’s exceptionally short stature and of her apparent “ugliness.” She then offers a very detailed narration of Mary’s courtship by and marriage to Mr Thomas Keyes, a Sergeant Porter in the royal household. The story is a touching one, with Mary’s short stature counterbalanced by Mr Keyes reported physical massiveness. The level and degree of intrigue and plotting that surrounded their wedding offers an insight into the nature of court politics and the kinds of strictures that weighed on anyone associated with the royal household and court. The degree of detail also makes for a vivid narrative, just as John Guy noted his review of the book in the Times. (Though of course I'd like to see more footnotes ....)

Ms de Lisle does a very good job of situating the romance and marriage in its larger context of succession politics. What would have otherwise been a union between an physically unfortunate descendant of a secondary royal line and a servant is instead a matter of state politics because it occurs at precisely the time, July 1565, when Mary of Scotland was wed to Henry, Lord Darnley, himself a claimant to the English throne. That marriage increased the immediate likelihood that a male heir would be born into the senior line descending from Henry VII, increasing the pressure on Elizabeth to marry and provide the realm with an heir of her own body. Worse, it also increased the number of claimants around whom dissatisfaction with Elizabeth might focus. Like Katherine Grey, Mary was thrust into the center of succession struggles and anxieties, though she apparently had no desire to be seen as an heir.

The Grey-Keyes wedding date was 16 July 1565, the same day as the wedding of Henry Knollys, grandson of Mary Boleyn and the queen’s cousin, and Margaret Cave, a wealthy heiress. Ms de Lisle states in a footnote that the Knollys-Cave wedding did not occur in August as stated in other biographies. (Any comment, KB?)

Mary, like Katherine before her, was found out, and both she and her husband were imprisoned. Mr Keyes, because of his social station, was treated more harshly than his wife, his sister-in-law, and brother-in-law.

Upon news of Mary Stuart Darnley’s pregnancy in later months, the English political elite became ever more nervous regarding matters of the English succession. Ms de Lisle poses an intriguing theory that Elizabeth reacted as an absolutist, refusing to countenance any degree of involvement by others in what was, in her mind at least, an issue for the monarch alone. Ms de Lisle suggests that the Grey sisters and the threat they posed to Elizabeth's control over the succession came to be associated in Elizabeth’s mind with attempts by Parliament to gain ever increasing power. I look forward to this notion being developed in coming chapters.

Anonymous said...

It may be a bit late to bring up the supposed match making of King Edward and Jane. I don't think Jane stood a chance in the race. Edward was looking for a rich royal to marry. Not a non-royal, rich, but not "I own a country rich" cousin.
That the two were thought to entertain marriage may be on the same level as both playing cards together. A story that is backed up, by being repeatedly told.

kb said...

Henry Knollys married Margaret Cave 16 July 1565 according to my research as well. I don't know which other biographies de Lisle is referencing. Although Susan Doran's ODNB article on Mary repeats the early August date. Unfortunately it is difficult to tell which reference listed at the end of the article supports the August date. The nearest reference within the text is for the Spanish ambassador's description of Mary's physicality.

The ODNB article for Sir Ambrose Cave gives the July date as does the CSP-Spanish vol. 1, p.446. This is confirmed by a letter of Charles Howard's printed in CSP-Domestic 1547-1580, p.256. Alas, there is no cross-editing between ODNB articles to catch these sorts of conflicts. Howard was at the wedding as a gentleman of the privy chamber and as a member of the family.He was half 1st cousin twice removed of the groom and he was married to Katherine Carey 1st cousin to the groom.

The wedding of Henry Knollys and Margaret Cave was a large court affair held at Durham House that went on for 3 days. The queen was in attendance. There was a ball, a tourney and 2 masques. The bride's father, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, invited both the French and Spanish ambassadors nearly provoking a diplomatic incident over precedence which the queen had to step in and settle. The French ambassador attended the first part of the celebrations and then left as which point the Spanish ambassador arrived to enjoy the balance of the evening.

It was the perfect time for Mary and Keys to elope. The court was entertaining itself as this was a royal family affair for the non-royal cousins.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree, Bladeruner. I believe wealth was less of a concern in Edward's marriage plans than was diplomacy. In the months prior to his death, the English had been negotiating with France for a marriage to the French princess Elizabeth. Money was involved, of course, and fairly large sums of it. But more importantly, the marriage was intended to create a political and military alliance between England and France against the seemingly superior might of the Spanish and Holy Roman Empires. With England in the throes of a religious revolution, and Spain as the leading Catholic power in Europe, England had much to fear from Charles V. England needed allies more than it needed cold hard cash.

Setting aside the dictates of international relations, I believe Jane stood by far the greatest chance within England of becoming the wife of Edward VI. In terms of wealth, she was heiress to the entire estates of one of England's richest and highest ranking peers. Jane shared Edward's religion, she was of equal or better intellect, they had (more or less) known each other all their lives, she was of royal blood. Barring a totally unforeseen and socially inappropriate "love-match" of the kind made by Edward IV with Elizabeth Woodville, I believe Edward may well have eventually married Jane. Assuming, that is, that no international and politically valuable wife could be found.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that KB. The writers giving August as the wedding date are apparently Strickland and her successors.

Yes, I sometimes wish the ODNB had editors to cross-check for blatant factual conflicts in separate entries. You'd think with computers and "Find" functions that it would be fairly easy to accomplish.

Ms de Lisle does discuss the Knollys-Cave wedding, including the diplomatic spat between French and Spanish ambassadors, and she does note that the Grey-Keyes wedding was deliberately timed to coincide with the larger distraction of the Knollys-Cave wedding and the absence of most of the court for that larger wedding.

Tamise said...

Phd Historian – Yes, I did ask about the Yale miniature. Thanks for your extra comments. I also enjoyed reading your review of John Guy’s review. Very interesting!

kb said...

Following up on the date of Mary Grey's marriage and the Knollys-Cave wedding....

Doran's ODNB article does not seem to list Strickland but does list R. Davey, The sisters of Lady Jane Grey and their wicked grandfather (1911) which I have just downloaded from the internet archive. There the August date is listed and although Davey critiques Strickland a couple of times, I suspect the date may have been copied from her 'Lives of the Tudor Princesses'.

I presume PHD Historian has the Davey well dissected.

Anonymous said...

KB, I do indeed have Davey "well dissected"! He relied heavily on Strickland for both of his books on the Grey sisters. And he repeated all of her mistakes, some verbatim. He also "invented" a few new mistakes of his own. I am of the opinion that serious students of legitimate history should set Davey aside as nothing more than historical fiction, in the same vein as Philippa Gregory, Jean Plaidy, and others. Were Davey alive today, he would be writing next season's episodes of Showtime's "The Tudors."

My apologies for the delay in fresh postings. I've been pre-occupied with work. I plan to resume on Tuesday evening.

Anonymous said...

This is really fascinating. Thanks PhD Historian! I can't wait to read it for myself as well as your book.

I have one question that always bothered me about the succession. What happened to Frances Brandon's claim? I understand that Jane was probably chosen for support by Northumberland because of her youth and marriage to his son. But after she was executed for usurping and things calmed down, why wasn't Frances considered the next heir from Mary Tudor's line? Was she dead/retired by the time Elizabeth was Queen? Did Henry bypass her in his succession act? I know he ignored his older sister Margaret's descendents.

Anonymous said...

Good question, Denise.

Frances was little more than a distant and unlikely heir after the Act for the Succession of 1544. Under the terms of that act, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth each had to die without issue of their own before Frances could/would become queen. Prior to early 1553, no one had any real reason to think it likely that Edward would die without issue, much less his two half-sisters. All three dying without having had children was unimaginable and extremely unlikely.

Edward deliberately set Frances aside as an heir to the throne herself. Some historians, including myself, believe that this was because Edward thought Frances was unlikely to bear additional male children after 1553. Her last child, Mary, had been born eight years earlier, and there appears to have been no pregnancies between 1545 and 1553. If she could not have a son, she was all but useless as an heir to the crown.

Ms de Lisle discusses in her book the fact that during Mary's reign, Frances was indeed Mary's heir after Elizabeth. And since Elizabeth was still illegitimate under the various Succession Acts, some thought Frances would inherit the crown instead of Elizabeth.

However, Elizabeth did inherit. And for the first year of Elizabeth's reign, Frances was her immediate heir under the various Succession Acts and Henry VIII's will. But Frances died exactly one year after Elizabeth became queen, leaving her daughter Katherine as the next in line.

Anonymous said...

Apologies to all who are waiting with baited breath to read the next installments, but I am delayed again. I have spent too much time today responding to fascinating questions in other threads, as well as attending to my "real work," and have no time left to work on new postings. I have finished reading the book, so it is just a matter of doing the write-ups. Tomorrow (Wednesday), I promise!

Anonymous said...

Chapter 23 : The Clear Choice

Katherine re-enters the picture as she is shifted about among a rapid succession of jailers. I am slightly amazed that Katherine never escaped (nor apparently even attempted to do so), especially since she was sometimes held by septuagenarian jailers in markedly non-secure quarters. Presumably she was quite accepting of her imprisonment, or too fearful of the consequences of a failed escape. But in light of some of the more dramatic flights from captivity engineered by other Tudor figures, including females, it seems odd and in need of further exploration.

The English succession issue is further complicated by the birth to Mary Stuart of a son, the Riccio murder, Darnley’s murder, and Mary’s rapid remarriage to a man accused in Darnley’s death. Katherine’s position as the native-born heir would seem to be strengthened by the scandals even as it was challenged by Mary’s delivery of a son.

Ms de Lisle again does a fine job of resurrecting the obvious potential for instability in the English monarchy perceived by contemporaries but largely lost to those of us viewing the era in hindsight. If history is written by the victors, Ms de Lisle gives voice to the losers. She illuminates the struggle between Elizabeth’s stubborn nature and Cecil’s patient strong will, highlighting the division between the two over the succession where most historians have portrayed them as staunch allies.

We vividly see, too, how the succession struggle weighed on Katherine, as did the separation from her husband and elder son, accelerating the untimely decline of her health.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 24 : While I Lived, Yours

This is the shortest chapter in the entire book, at just four pages. It describes in great detail the pathos-filled end of Katherine Grey, the second Grey sister to lose her life to the succession struggle. Ms de Lisle argues that Katherine essentially starved herself to death out of despair.

And the chapter is adequately footnoted to primary sources! (I feel obliged to make that observation, after my repeated calls in earlier chapters for more footnotes.)

Anonymous said...

Chapter 25 : The Last Sister

Mary Grey, by then virtually penniless and destitute, remained imprisoned and separated from her husband. Ms de Lisle portrays her taking solace in her books, much like her oldest sister Jane. I took a strong personal interest in Ms de Lisle’s suggestion that Mary’s Italian grammar may have been the same small volume written by Michelangelo Florio for Jane in the early 1550s. That book still exists, largely overlooked, in the vaults of the British Library as Sloane Manuscript 3011. It is one of the few documents that was certainly handled by Jane that is today readily accessible to researchers and that they can themselves handle. Call me weird, but even after many years of conducting archival research, I still get a childlike thrill at touching something that I know iconic figures from the past once owned and touched, whether that figure is Jane, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Cecil, or someone else.

One small quibble that I cannot let pass: Ms de Lisle asserts on page 276 that “Mary Grey remembered the wedding at Bradgate” in which Bess of Hardwick married her second husband. That wedding took place in August 1547, when Mary was at most 2 years old.

Ms de Lisle mentions on page 277, very much in passing, that Bess Hardwick Cavendish owned a portrait of Jane Grey. She does not offer a footnote to support that claim. It is, however, a true claim. That portrait is the very one that I have been attempting, off and on over the past few years (as my finances allow) to track down. If it can be found, it will be the only documented life portrait of Jane ... a priceless national treasure.

Mary’s jailers, like Katherine’s before her, were anxious to be rid of Mary, so that she too was moved around frequently. At least one of her jailer’s pleaded for relief on the grounds that his wife quarreled mightily and regularly with Mary, resulting in a troubled household. Thanks to a rebellion in the north, Elizabeth did not considered releasing her for some time, however. Meanwhile, Mary’s husband Thomas Keyes died.

Finally, in August 1572, Mary was released from captivity and given a small pension by the queen. Broken and all but indigent, she was nonetheless still Elizabeth's close heir under the Acts for the Succession and Henry VIII's will, after sister Katherine's two sons.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 26 : A Return to Elizabeth’s Court

Mary Grey went to live with her mother’s second husband, Adrian Stokes. It is a shame that there is so little evidence to document this man, since he had ties not only to the Greys but also to Sir Walter Raleigh.

Seeking personal independence, Mary moved on once again to a house in London. She was able to renew old friendships with some of the female members of Elizabeth’s court. Those friendships were no doubt helpful in keeping Mary out of trouble as religious controversies resurfaced in the early 1570s. Mary steered clear, and seems to have avoided even the slightest hint of involvement in the related succession matters, even as Bess of Hardwick jumped in to them with both metaphorical feet. Bess’s granddaughter and ward Arbella, another of those “tragic” female figures of the Tudor-Stuart succession disputes, wed Charles Stuart, brother of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, Mary of Scotland’s murdered husband. Arbella was to become the next victim in the ongoing succession struggles.

Mary enjoyed a return to court and to the queen’s personal favor, but it was short-lived. She died, perhaps of plague, in April 1578.

Ms de Lisle observes that Mary Grey Keyes made a will and endorsed it “Lady Mary Grey ... widow.” Ms de Lisle argues that Mary’s use of her maiden name was obligatory, since Elizabeth had never consented to the marriage to Mr Keyes. The addition of “widow” was an attempt by Mary to “make it clear that she was determined to maintain the memory of her marriage to Mr Keyes,” according to Ms de Lisle. And while I agree that it is entirely likely that Mary wished to remember her marriage, her assertion of status as a widow had meaning of a far more practical nature. Unmarried women in Tudor England were not legally empowered to make wills and to bequeath property, whereas widows were. By staking a claim to widowhood, Mary asserted her right to make a will. And while her property and wealth was modest, I have to suspect that she enjoyed a certain sense of personal accomplishment and satisfaction through the act of disposing of what little she did have. Having been a powerless prisoner for so long, making a will was perhaps for Mary the last and only gesture of self-determination she could make.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 27 : Katherine’s Sons and the Death of Elizabeth

For me, the book could easily have ended with the preceding chapter and Mary Grey Keyes’s death. There is a certain narrative finality to the demise of all three of the figures from the book’s title. I do understand, however, that many readers want to know “the rest of the story” (as the old US television show used to say). Readers and movie-goers seem to like to have all the loose ends neatly tied up.

Thus Ms de Lisle follows the lives and careers of Katherine’s sons Edward (Lord Beauchamp) and Thomas. I found it difficult to keep track of who was who as Katherine’s husband and son are referred to by their titles, Hertford and Beauchamp, while poor Thomas is known only by his name. But that is purely a stylistic choice and has no real impact on the quality of the argument presented.

I suppose this chapter is necessary in that it relates to Ms de Lisle’s thesis on the development of absolutism in England and how that development was impeded by the rise of masculine counciliar government during the reigns of three successive female monarchs. Edward, Lord Beauchamp married himself to a woman of much lower social status, essentially removing himself from contention as a male successor to Elizabeth, Ms de Lisle argues. And while I agree that a lowly marriage may have removed Edward from being directly nominated by Elizabeth, I am not convinced that it removed him altogether from the consideration of the council.

Young Thomas, meanwhile, repeatedly attempted to have his parents’ marriage recognized and he and his brother legitimized, without success.

Edward’s marriage to Honora Rogers resulted in several children, the eldest of which (also named Edward) was linked to Arbella Stuart, Bess of Hardwick’s granddaughter. Though the two were never wed (she later married Edward’s younger brother William), the tale of their intrigues is another example of the kinds of stories that make history so fascinating.

Elizabeth finally died in 1603 and the crown passed peacefully to James VI of Scotland, son of Mary Stuart and descendant of Margaret Tudor, the very line that English Parliamentary law and the wills of Henry VIII and Edward VI had overlooked for seventy years. Ms de Lisle observes that James accession might be seen as a triumph of divine-right primogeniture, but argues that it was instead a victory for counciliar government since the Council “offer[ed] the crown to the King they had chosen” rather than James’ having claimed it by right. Ms de Lisle’s argument has definite merit, especially in light of the evidence and argument presented in her first book, After Elizabeth: How James King of Scots Won the Crown of England in 1603.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 28 : The Story's End

This is another exceptionally short chapter, one that will satisfy the genealogy enthusiasts as it traces the Seymour line through the course of the seventeenth century. There is little here, however, that is relevant to the story of the Grey sisters themselves or to the author's central thesis.

Anonymous said...


Though the “story” was declared at an end in the previous chapter, we now have an Epilogue that actually carries the story down to the modern day, ending with Faith Cook’s biography of Jane Grey published in 2005.

This Epilogue is far more satisfying intellectually, however. It is packed with marvelous ideas and the beginnings of fascinating arguments. Ms de Lisle really gets right to the “meat of the matter” in these few pages. She traces the evolution of the myth of Jane Grey (and her sisters) from its sixteenth-century origins right down to Ms Cook’s evangelically inspired but traditionally told biography.

But despite my enthusiasm for this Epilogue, I nonetheless find it less satisfying than I think it could have/should have been. Ms de Lisle mentions the plays of Thomas Dekker and Joseph Banks, for example, stating that they heavily influenced subsequent depictions of Jane Grey as a submissive romantic heroine. I am disappointed, however, that she did not explore this argument in any real depth and offered no specific evidence from Banks’s play (most of Dekker’s text has been lost). And curiously, though she mentions Dekker and Banks, she does not mention Nicholas Rowe. Yet Rowe’s play about Jane was produced far more widely than were Dekker’s and Banks’s, and Rowe’s was printed and re-issued dozens of times between 1715 and the modern day. If any dramatist influenced the development of the myth of Jane Grey, it was Rowe. Indeed, many literary historians credit Rowe's writing of The Tragedy of Lady Jane Grey with his being named Poet Laureate.

There is also a very intriguing suggestion that the mythical figure of Jane Grey was eroticized by later writers, especially in the nineteenth century. Ms de Lisle had mentioned this idea several times earlier in the book, and also in connection with Frances Brandon Grey. But all she does is mention the idea; she does not develop it. The average reader will, I believe, be left slightly mystified by what this all means. It is a theme I would really have liked to have seen explored, as I believe it has enormous bearing on the development of the Jane myth during the nineteenth century.

So while the Epilogue begins to tell a new story, one about the evolution of a myth, it does not flesh out the story in any detail. I would encourage Ms de Lisle to explore this entire area further, as it would make a superb magazine article.

Anonymous said...


At the end of this assessment, I must confess that I feel terrible ... as though I have betrayed a friend. I did want very much to be able to gush about how wonderful this book is from beginning to end. Unfortunately, I cannot go quite as far as “gushing.” I can say that as a narrative account that offers a fresh perspective on the story of the three Grey sisters, freed from the mythology that has developed and enveloped them over the past four and a half centuries, it is well-written and very entertaining. I can highly recommend this book as a compelling historical drama.

The author has clearly read her Jane Austen and heeded the words of the character
Catherine Morland (Northanger Abbey) when she said “History, real solemn history, I cannot be interested in.... I read it a little as a duty; but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars and pestilences in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all - it is very tiresome.” Ms de Lisle has clearly made a concerted effort at making the history of the three Grey sisters less “tiresome” through use of a little literary license and occasional informed imagining. And although the Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough (John Adams and 1776) once wrote, “No harm's done to history by making it something someone would want to read,” I cannot help but argue that extreme caution must be exercised in that “making” in order to prevent the “history” being told from becoming yet another myth or legend. There is a very fine line between history and historical fiction, and while this book is absolutely "history" in the best possible sense, there are enough sprinklings of imagination and literary license to give me briefest pause.

Nonetheless, Ms de Lisle has produced an account that is closer to the “history” of Jane Grey and her sisters than any yet published, without question. And for that she is to be highly commended. I only wish that she had been more aggressive with footnoting in instances where she tells a new version of the story, so that readers might consult the original texts and share more directly in her exploration.

From my perspective, the best works of “history” seek to accurately and faithfully recount past lives and past events as far as the primary sources allow and to situate those lives and events in the broader sweep of time. The very best works also analyze those former lives and long-distant events in an effort to learn something from them that can be applied in turn to the world of today or tomorrow. The Sisters Who Would Be Queen is among the best in that it accurately and faithfully recounts a story that has otherwise been overwritten by myth. But it lacks the kind of extended, in-depth analysis that might place it among the very best. Even so, I recommend it unreservedly as an excellent and entertaining story, and even as a resource for undergraduate research studies in Tudor history. The world has waited over four centuries for the story of Jane and her sisters to be told without whitewash, bias, and hidden agendas, and Ms de Lisle has ended that wait.

Anonymous said...

PhD Historian,
In the last post, minus three, you note that Arbella Stuart married Darnley's brother Charles. Did de Lisle write that? Because Im pretty sure that Charles Stuart was Arbella's _father_ . Just checking, as Arbella, especially her fabulous letters, are one of my Tudor sub-obsessions.


Anonymous said...

My sincere apologies, Anon, especially to Ms de Lisle - I confess I misread the relevant sentence. Charles Stuart was the brother of Darnley, and the father of Arbella, not the husband. What was I thinking!?!?
Arbella married William Seymour, who was later granted the title Duke of Somerset, last held by his great-grandfather, the Lord Protector Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset.

Thank you very much for pointing out my mistake.

Foose said...

Does de Lisle discuss screen portrayals of Jane Grey? I know you don't approve of the 1980s flick Lady Jane, but compared to a lot of Tudor films I think it did a reasonable job of presenting Jane's life using the accepted sources of the time and trying to make Jane's religious beliefs intelligible to a modern audience. I also thought there were some good performances by Jane Lapotaire as Mary, Patrick Stewart and Sara Kestelman as Jane's monstrous father and mother (per the traditional view), and a rather good cameo by Richard Vernon as the "time-honored" Marquess of Winchester, presenting the crown to Jane with a nicely calculated blend of self-interest and apprehension. Nubile teen romance was shoehorned in, of course, but then the backers always want some assurance of making money.

There's another movie I haven't seen, but which is mentioned in the book Tudors and Stuarts on Film, called Tudor Rose. Have you seen that and do you have an opinion on its view of Jane? Does de Lisle?

Thank you for taking the time and energy to blog this book. It has been a marvelous discussion and I have learned so much! Amazon has notified me that the book is in the mail to me so I will be able to refer to your blogging as I read.

Anonymous said...

Ms de Lisle does mention the 1986 film Lady Jane, though she does not go into it in any great detail. Her interest is in its portrayal of Frances Brandon Grey, specifically the scene in which Frances is out hunting in the winter snow. Frances is depicted as rather ruthlessly circling in on a doe and quite deliberately and coldly shooting it, with all the men standing back to watch passively as she dominates the scene (and them, symbolically), the doe's dark red blood spilling on the pure white snow. The scene is laden with malevolence, foreboding, and symbolism. Ms de Lisle interprets the scene as a cinematic device that foreshadows Frances's sacrificing of her daughter in pursuit of family aggrandizement.

Ms de Lisle observes (brilliantly, in my opinion) that the scene "establishes [Frances] early on in the film as a ruthless destroyer of innocents: a wicked Queen to Jane's Snow White." The wicked Queen/mother/stepmother literary trope is a common one, yet I had never considered this scene in that light myself until Ms de Lisle mentioned it. But clearly nineteenth-century authors were deeply influenced by their own childhood hearings of such stories, and they drew on those memories as they depicted Frances as wicked queen/mother/stepmother figure and Jane as a Snow White/Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty pure and virtuous innocent wronged.

I agree that the film did a reasonable job of presesnting Jane's story, but only up to the scene in the garden in which Jane and Guildford face off over the impending marriage. From that point forward, the film goes off the rails and departs from even the mythologized Strickland-Davey account. The entire plot line involving "shillings worth a shilling" and beggars on the side of the road is utter nonsense, as is the love story (but what is a Hollywood film without a little sex and nudity?). Patrick Stewart was 46 when he made the film, yet Henry Grey was just 36 in 1553. Kestleman did turn in an excellent performance and protrayed Frances in a manner consistent with the Jane myth, but she too was 10 yeas too old. And then there's the whole Feckenham issue ... that one really made me crazy.

Ms de Lisle does not mention Tudor Rose (1936). I do own a copy, but it is on old-fashioned VHS tape so it has been a few years since I last viewed it. Nova Pilbeam was exactly the correct age to play Jane, unlike Helena Bonham Carter in Lady Jane. Beyond that, the dialogue and acting were a bit heavy-handed, especially the scenes with John Knox. And there were numerous historical inaccuracies, even if the Jane myth is the basis for the "history." It is a very short film at just 80 minutes. Useless as "history," but excellent for studying social concerns of the 1930s.

Tamise said...

Chapter 25 : The Last Sister

‘That book still exists, largely overlooked, in the vaults of the British Library as Sloane Manuscript 3011. It is one of the few documents that was certainly handled by Jane that is today readily accessible to researchers and that they can themselves handle. Call me weird, but even after many years of conducting archival research, I still get a childlike thrill at touching something that I know iconic figures from the past once owned and touched, whether that figure is Jane, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Cecil, or someone else.’

I didn’t know that Mary’s book was at the British Library. I think it is amazing seeing Jane’s prayer book on display where you can actually view her writing.

‘Ms de Lisle mentions on page 277, very much in passing, that Bess Hardwick Cavendish owned a portrait of Jane Grey. If it can be found, it will be the only documented life portrait of Jane ... a priceless national treasure.’

With the other ‘possible portraits’ coming to light in recent years, I really hope this happens.

Thank you for ‘blogging’ ‘The Sisters Who Would Be Queen’, and for answering my questions, it has been a very informative read.

Anonymous said...

Tamise, British Library Sloane Manuscript 3011 is not catalogued as a former possession of either Jane or Mary Grey, and the BL makes no claim that it was in fact ever owned by either of the two sisters. However, the evidence supports Ms de Lisle and I in our shared belief that the book actually did belong first to Jane Grey Dudley and then to Mary Grey Keyes.

The book was handwritten and never printed or published.
Only one other handwritten copy of it is known to exist (Cambridge University Library).
Both were certainly written by Michelangelo Florio.
Florio was probably hired by Henry Grey to teach his daughters Italian in about 1552-3.
The BL copy is dedicated to Jane, and the language of the dedication goes beyond the customary for such inscriptions and suggests that Florio was in frequent personal contact with Jane and himself gave the inscribed book to Jane.
The Cambridge copy of the same text is dedicated to Henry Herbert, who was married to Jane's and Mary's sister Katherine Grey in the triple weddings of May 1553, during the time Henry was teaching the Grey sisters Italian.
The Cambridge copy may well have passed into Katherine Grey's possession after the annullment of the marriage to Herbert.

I think the BL is simply unaware of the significance of the book.

As for portraiture, Cunard has just announced a massive price cut for transatlantic crossings in 2009, so I may be able to afford a return trip to the UK to conduct more research in an effort to find the lost Hardwick portrait of Jane.
Finding it is on the top of my "to do" list!

kb said...

It wouldn't be the first time the BL missed what was in front of their eyes....or in their vaults.

But thank goodness they occasionally let us in to poke around...

Thank you PHD Historian for leading us through this text and for the thoughtful discussion that ensued.

Lara said...

And let me add my thanks again to PhD Historian and everyone else who commented in this thread! It's our busiest one yet!

Anonymous said...

You are all very welcome. Checking in with this site is always one of the highlights of my day, and I always learn something from the other questioners and contributors.

Foose said...

Chris Skidmore, who has written a biography of Edward VI and is coming out with (I think) a book in 2009 about Amy Robsart's death, wrote a favorable review of this book in the Spectator magazine for Jan 24, 2009, "Pawns in the Royal Game":

The review touches upon the controversial identification of a Lavina Teerlinc minature by David Starkey as being that of Jane Grey ("no other portrait of Jane is known to exist"; it would be quite a coup to find one, phd historian, and I wish you good fortune in your research). The review includes an excerpt from Katherine Grey's frank letters to her husband, considered too scandalous to reprint by the Victorians.

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