Born: 16 Jul 1517, Bishop's Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England
Died: 20 Nov 1559, Chaterhouse, Sheen, Surrey, England
Buried: Westminster Abbey, London, Middlesex, England
Father: Charles BRANDON (1° D. Suffolk)
Mother: Mary TUDOR (Queen of France/D. Suffolk)
Married 1: Henry GREY (1° D. Suffolk) Mar/May 1533, Suffolk Place, Southwark, London, Middlesex, England
1. Son GREY
2. Dau. GREY
3. Jane GREY (Queen of England)
4. Catherine GREY
5. Mary GREY
Married 2: Adrian STOKES (Master of Horse) (b. 1532 - 30 Nov 1586) (m.2 Anne Carew) 9 Mar 1554
6. Elizabeth STOKES (b. 20 Nov 1554 - d. same day)
7. Elizabeth STOKES (b. 16 Jul 1555, Knebworth, Herts. - d. 7 Feb 1556)
8. Son STOKES
Frances Brandon was the elder daughter of Charles Brandon Duke of Suffolk (a country gentleman ennobled by Henry VIII) and Henry's younger sister, Mary Tudor, formerly Queen of France, whose marriage to Louis XII lasted three months, leaving her free to give her hand to Suffolk as soon as her period of mourning was over. Suffolk was an extremely shady character. He had divorced two wives and buried a third before he married the Queen Dowager, by whom he had two daughters, Frances and Eleanor.
in the chapel of his London house in Southwark. This lady's ancestry combined
royal and middle-class blood and, from her husband's point of view, her
kinship with the King was of incalculable value; its results were to prove fatal
to every member of the family but herself.
By the time Frances and Henry Grey had been married two years, she had borne him a son who died a few months later; a daughter followed, who also died. Lady Jane was born in the same year and the same month - the exact date in Oct 1537 is not recorded - as Edward VI, Henry's son by his third wife, Jane Seymour. Although the Dorsets were disappointed at not having a son, they had important plans for Jane. From their point of view, the dynastic situation was promising, and they were bent on getting the most out of it.
Frances ambitions were political, and her temperament was that of a restless, permanently dissatisfied schemer. She was constantly on the move, in order to keep in touch with her richer friends and her Tudor relations. she was much more fitted than Dorset to adapt herself to the ever-changing patterns of religious and political movements controlled by Henry VIII.
Frances Dorset was a harsh, grasping, brutal woman who dominated her capricious husband. That these characteristics were shown comparatively early is proved by her attitude towards her daughters, Jane; Catherine (born in 1539) and Mary (bon in 1543), whose sex she could not forgive.
Henry and Frances Dorset were robust and energetic. They spent a great deal of time out of doors and lead a healthy, busy life. The routine that suited them was sometimes too strenous for their daughters, of whom much was required, with the result that both Catherine and Jane were apt to succumb to nervous exhaustion. Mary's birth amounted almost to a disaster: she was a hump-backed dwarf and was very ugly. but although she might prove, in spite of her Tudor blood, to be unmarriageable, they did their best for her by giving her the same education as her sisters and took her about with them. But her futur remained a problem. Catherine was the beauty of the family. Jane was small, light-haired and neatly made. Her skin was very fair and soon became permanently freckled. But as soon as she passed the first stage of her education she showed herself to be gifted in so many ways that her freckles were overlooked. The Grey sisters took their mother's rank; they met the King's daughters on equal terms and received the same training. Their background and way of life were more luxurious than those of Mary and Elizabeth, who were brought up economically and sometimes in real hardship. Bradgate was palatial. Its interiors reflected the magnificence, and the modernity, of its outward planning. Dorset's father had been one of the pioneers of the new architecture which provided homes built for the enjoyment of wealth and ease, without regard of defence.
The English custom of boarding out young children consisted of sending those children to larger and wealthier establishments so that they might acquire the habits of the fashionable world. As the Dorsets' position was one of the highest, the only way of raising Jane's social status was to place her with Queen Catherine Parr. They therefore brought her to the notice of the King as soon as it was feasible. The Lady Frances, who was frequently at Court, made it her business to be on friendly terms with the Queen. By the time Henry VIII's health began to fail, and he withdrew from the bustle of Westminster and Whitehall to the comparative seclusion of Windsor and Hampton Court - between the spring of 1546 and his death in Jan 1547 - the tenor of life in his palaces had so changed that it would have been difficult to introduce his great-niece into the Queen's household. Although it is not clear when Jane left Bradgate, she became known to the Queen, Prince Edward and the Princesses before Henry died. By the time the boy King succeeded and his step-mother had taken up partial residence at Chelsea Palace, Jane had joined her household, and was given precedence of all but her cousins as a princess of the blood.
A few weeks after the death of Henry VIII the Lord Admiral reappeared in Catherine Parr's life. Very soon he was visiting her secretly at Whitehall and in her country palace of Chelsea. Jane was now a member of the Court circle: a silent, background figure, she yet had importance, not only because of her status but because her intellectual powers were already apparent. She was considered extraordinarily advanced for her age. No one then, least of all the King's tutors, would have admitted that she surpassed him - her development shows that she did, and also that she might be a match for him in more than one sense.
It now ocurred to the Admiral that he was the very person to arrange an alliance between the cousins. His doing so woul diminish the prestige of the Protector, who was carrying out the late King's policy of obtaining a French or Spanish princess for his nephew. Seymour consulted Dorset, and they agreed to work together on the scheme.
When Jane had been with the Queen Dowager for some months, Dorset, who seems to have been pushing his interests from his London house, began to grow impatient. He talked of removing Jane from the Admiral's household if nothing were done about the marriage. At last, Seymour sent one of his gentlemen, Harington, to reassure him. Still nothing happened. Finally Dorset went to the Admiral's house in Seymour Place and had a talk with him in the garden, out of the hearing of the servants. Seymour was full of promises and schemes. But if Dorset was so foolish as to remove Jane, they would never be realized. He must have her guardianship - and he was willing to pay for it. What Dorset later described as "certain covenants" were then agreed upon. They resulted in Seymour's paying Dorset some hundreds on account of the £2,000 that would be his if Jane was officially contracted to Edward VI. But the Admiral took no practical steps, for the Protector, as Edward's Governor, was in absolute control. It would not do for Dorset to know this, however. He continued to make Dorset "fair promises", and Jane stayed on.
Catherine Parr was persuaded by the
Admiral to marry him secretly. They
confided in the King, whose approval and support would protect them from the
wrath of Somerset and the Privy Council. By the end of May 1547 all was known,
and the Protector, although much displeased, had forgiven his younger brother. A
year passed happily and uneventfully for Jane. The
Queen gave birth to a daughter and
died eight days afterwards of puerperal fever. Then the clouds began to gather
round Lady Jane.
As soon as he heard of the Catherine's death, Dorset sent for Jane to his London house, and Seymour seemed rather relieved that she should go. At any rate, he consented to her departure and she remained with her parents for a little while. The letters that passed between them and the Admiral during the next few weeks make it clear that they had perceived a change in her. She was no longer the docile, little creature they had known at Bradgate. Dorset did not like this development and neither did his wife. What concerned them much more, however, was the Admiral's failure to arrange her marriage, and they decided to cut their losses and remove her permanently from his charge. Seymour then visited them and insisted that all would yet be well, if they would let her come back to him. "As he would have no nay," said Dorset afterwards, "we were contented she again return to his house," and Lady Jane and her attendants accompanied the Admiral to Hanworth. Seymour wanted to keep her indefinitely while doing nothing about her marriage. She was an asset. Her presence in his household raised his status. To Parry, Princess Elizabeth's treasurer, he confided a secondary scheme. "There hath been a tale of late," he said, "they say now I shall marry my Lady Jane," adding with his great laugh, "I tell you this but merrily - merrily."
Seymour might have succeeded in putting off Dorset, but Frances was not so easily satisfied. She began to worry too, about her daughter's position - who was chaperoning her? Seymour answered her objections in a soothing latter to her husband. He was keeping on all his wife's maids and could therefore provide suitable attendants for Jane. Also, his mother, old Lady Seymour, had arrived, "who will, I doubt not, be as dear to Jane, as though she were her own daughter". He added that he and the Dorsets must meet to discuss the matter as soon as he returned from Court. When they did so, Seymour renewed his promises. At first, Dorset did not whish to leave Jane with the Admiral, then he hesitated. At least Frances Dorset wrote, thanking Seymour for his offer. They would continue to take his advice about Jane's future - i. e. her marriage with the King, but he must trust her as "his good sister" to know what was best for their own child. Once more the Admiral had to plead for her guardianship. Dorset replied with a description of her development. In fact, Dorset thought that Jane had been spoilt and was becoming unmanageable. It seems that Jane had changed, from the Dorsets' point of view, for the worse. Perhaps the strength of character which was to surprise so many was now apparent beneath her quiet exterior.
Again, she returned to her parents. And before they were again persuaded by Harington and Seymour to give her up, she herself wrote to the Admiral, formally, as the occasion required, yet beneath the stiff phrases the desire for his company is clearly seen. She returned to the Admiral's care at about the time of her twelfth birthday. Before she did so Dorset received another five hundred pounds. The Dorsets were now committed to the Admiral's cause.
Between the autumn of 1548 and Jan of the following year the Admiral's schemes became more daring and widespread. He ignored all warnings, including those of his friends on the Privy Council. But the Admiral would not accept that the King had seen through him - it was his brother's fault that he could not obtain access to His Majesty. By this time Sharington had collected £10,000 and the rising was planned - in the Admiral's brain, at least. Still nothing happened. No one would join him in the first move. At last, maddened by the King's withdrawal and his allies' pusillanimity, Seymour broke into the King's bedchamber, apparently with the intention to kidnap him. He was seized, atteinted, and executed a few weeks later. As soon as he was arrested the Dorsets removed Lady Jane to Bradgate, having supplied the Privy Council with all the evidence they needed and thus exculpating themselves.
For the next three years Jane remained with her parents. In their eyes she was now a symbol of failure and a wasted effort - and they treated her accordingly.
By the time Jane was fifteen, her parents had abandoned their dream of marrying her to King Edward. Jane now believed that she was betrothed to the Duke of Somerset's son, Lord Hertford. But Somerset was imprisioned and his place taken by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick (later Duke of Northumberland). Henry Grey soon shifted his allegiance to the Earl of Warwick. He received favors at court and was created (1551) Duke of Suffolk through his wife’s claim. Lady Jane was stunned when her parents informed her that she was instead to marry Guildford Dudley, the youngest son of the Duke of Northumberland. She refused to marry him, and went on refusing until her mother literally beat her into submission.
Jane married Guildford Dudley in May of 1553. The marriage was consummated the following month at Northumberland's command, but the couple continued to live apart.
Northumberland had little trouble persuading the fervently Protestant Edward that the throne must not fall to his Catholic sister Mary. The King was convinced to circumvent his father's will and name Jane's mother Frances Grey as his successor. Frances then duly relinquished her own "claim" in favour of her daughter, Jane. With great difficulty Northumberland convinced the Council to fall in with his plans.
Jane's new mother-in-law visited her on Jul 3 and told her, "His Majesty hath made you heir to his realm." Jane said later that this unexpected news "greatly disturbed" her.
Three days later the King died. Northumberland kept the death secret for several days to prevent Edward's sister Mary from claiming the crown. But on Jul 9 Mary, who was in Norfolk, heard the news and proclaimed herself queen. On the same day Jane was takenby her sister-in-law, Mary Dudley, to Northumberland's house, the old monastery of Syon and led to a throne. Everyone bowed or curtsied to her. Realizing what was happening, Jane began to shake. Northumberland made a speech announcing that Jane was the new queen, at which Jane fell on the floor in a brief faint. No one came to her assistance and she remained on the floor, sobbing. Finally she got to her feet and announced, "The crown is not my right, and pleaseth me not. The Lady Mary is the rightful heir."
The next day Jane made her state entry into London. She was taken to the Tower of London, as was traditional. For a few days Northumberland stayed close to Jane, bringing her documents to sign and generally telling her what to do. Despite Jane's objection to making Guildford King, Northumberland announced that both she and her husband would be crowned in two weeks. Then Northumberland left with an army to capture Mary, who was marching toward London with an army of her own. While he was gone the nervous royal council decided to proclaim Mary the rightful queen. The proclamation was made on Wed 19th Jul. The people of London were jubilant. Determined to save himself, the Duke of Suffolk signed the proclamation making Mary queen, then went to his daughter's apartments and tore down her canopy of estate, telling her she was no longer queen.
"Out of obedience to you and my mother I have grievously sinned," Jane said quietly. "Now I willingly relinquish the crown. May I not go home?"- her quote when Suffolk came for her. Her father left without answering her.
Jane and Guildford soon became prisoners. Her father and Northumberland were also arrested and brought back to the tower. Henry Grey was released after a few days. He and Frances did not write to Jane or try to save her life. Northumberland was executed in Aug. On Nov 13 Jane and Guildford were tried and sentenced to death. Jane wasn't worried, however, because she had been told that the queen would pardon her.
Then, in Feb of 1554, Sir Thomas Wyatt raised a revolt against Mary. The people didn't want Mary married Felipe of Spain. Soon enough, word reached London of uprisings in the countryside - Carew in Devonshire, Wyatt in Kent, Crofts in Wales... The councilors were alarmed. And then word reached them that Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, had disappeared from his country home, Sheen.
Inevitably, after the rebellion finish, all her advisors urged Mary to execute Jane Grey. Wyatt had been supported by the vanished Henry Grey. When he had disappeared from Sheen, he had gone to raise an army against the Spanish marriage. But he gained little support. Grey owed his life to Mary's kindness and he responded by seeking to overthrow her. His intent was to lead men of the midland shires and join Wyatt near London. His actual course fell far short of this goal - he fled from one county to another until he reached his manor of Astley. He apparently hid in a tree trunk or under some hay; accounts vary. He was promptly arrested by the Earl of Huntingdon. Later, rumors spread that he had proclaimed Jane queen during his ride through the midlands. This was untrue but it didn't matter. Jane had once been queen and, as Mary's advisors put it, she would be the figurehead of any Protestant plot. Now he wrote to Jane and asked for her forgiveness. She wrote back, "Although it hath pleased God to hasten my death by you, by whom my life should rather have been lengthened, yet can I patiently take it, that I yield God more hearty thanks for shortening my woeful days." Once again, she was morally innocent but she was still dangerous. She had to die. To this, Renard added that Felipe could not arrive until the Protestant threat had been destroyed. All the opposition to her marriage had simply made the obstinate Mary more determined to marry Felipe. So the suspended sentence on Jane was revoked and she was condemned to die immediately.
Jane was also preparing to die with as much grace and dignity she could summon. She chose her dress, composed her speech, and appointed the two members of her household who would accompany her and dispose of her body. She sent a letter to her sister Catherine; and one to her father (brought to the Tower on 10 Feb). But she did not write to her mother; nor did Frances attempt to visit her.
Five days after Jane's execution, Henry Grey was brought to trial and found guilty of treason for his part in Dudley's scheme. He was beheaded on Tower Hill 23 Feb 1554.
Queen Mary remembered her aunt's kindness to the beleaguered Catalina of Aragon; she also wanted to put the past behind her - she was marrying Felipe of Spain, thus fulfilling her heart's two great desires. Mary I wanted a family and to restore the Catholic faith to England. On her way to achieve both, she was inclined to be generous. She allowed Frances and her two remaining children, Catherine and Mary (11 years old) to remain at court. They attended her wedding on 25 Jul 1554 to Felipe at Winchester Cathedral. Catherine and Mary were appointed maids of honor; the queen was careful to show them special kindness, singling them out for favor.
Even when their mother's second marriage, they were still afforded every privilege. Frances Grey had waited just three weeks after her husband's execution to marry her steward, Adrian Stokes, her Master of the Horse.
It is possible that Frances and Adrian kept their marriage secret for a while, since a grant of land from the Queen in May 1554 mentions only Frances, not Adrian, and the Imperial Ambassador wrote in Apr 1555 that it had been suggested that Frances marry the Earl of Devon. In any case, by at least Jul 1557, the couple was known to be married, as they were mentioned together in grants of land. Queen Mary did not protest - perhaps she was happy her cousin was putting the past to rest. The Privy Council were suggesting that Frances would marry Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon. If one of Frances’s motives in marrying Adrian was to demonstrate her lack of ambition for the crown, it would be hardly surprising if Frances chose to avoid the court. William Camden commented that the marriage was “to [Frances’s] dishonor, but yet for her security”. Her daughter Catherine Grey, however, did at some point become one of Mary’s ladies, and Frances was successful in introducing her first husband’s niece, Margaret Willoughby, at court.
Princess Mary Tudor and Catalina of Aragon had been friends, each despising the interloper, Anne Boleyn. Their children, Frances Grey and Mary I, continued the friendship - and openly despised Anne's daughter Elizabeth. Mary I had been kind to Catherine; furthermore, Catherine was brought up to believe Elizabeth was the illegitimate daughter of an executed adulterer and traitor. And whatever Henry Grey's activities, his daughter Catherine was legitimate. Like Mary I, the Greys were very conscious of their family history, and naturally proud. Under Mary's reign, they had been encouraged to move beyond their 1553 disgrace. Now, however, they were ruled by an equally proud and disdainful queen. Elizabeth disliked her Grey cousins as much as they disliked - and feared - her. They also resented having to bow and scrape for her favor.
As early as Mar 1559, Edward Seymour had asked the duchess of Suffolk for Catherine's hand in marriage. Frances Grey agreed but counseled the young couple to be careful. Edward should seek out members of the Privy Council who would be sympathetic to their suit; Frances herself would write to Elizabeth, asking for 'her majesty's favor and good will'. As all this was going on, Elizabeth was receiving word of the Spanish plan to kidnap Catherine. Frances Grey became ill and died before the letter was sent off.
Edward seemed to get cold feet (he was also meeting another young woman and deciding whether to risk his newly-gained title); he told Frances's widower that he would let matters rest. So Catherine was left at court, serving the unpredictable Elizabeth, and wondering when her betrothed would come for her.
By early Nov 1559, Frances was setting her affairs in order. On 9 Nov 1559, she executed her will, which left all of her property in Adrian’s hands and appointed him her sole executor. She died on 20 Nov 1559, and was buried at Westminster Abbey on 5 Dec 1559. In 1563, Adrian erected a tomb to her memory. Its Latin inscription reads, as translated by the Westminster Abbey site:
“Dirge for the most noble Lady Frances, onetime Duchess of Suffolk: naught avails glory or splendour, naught avail titles of kings; naught profits a magnificent abode, resplendent with wealth. All, all are passed away: the glory of virtue alone remained, impervious to the funeral pyres of Tartarus [part of Hades or the Underworld]. She was married first to the Duke, and after was wife to Mr Stock, Esq. Now, in death, may you fare well, united to God.”
|to Bios Page|
|to Peerage Page||to Home Page|