Tudors – Twenty-eight Days to Wanstead

England's Forgotten Coup d'Etat

Alan Cornish M.Sc.

The Tudor dynasty in England ran from 1485 to 1603 - a span of 118 years. Yet the most exciting part lasted probably only about 28 days, finishing in Wanstead!

History sometimes appears like great blocks of time: years, decades, centuries. To compound these longer perspectives, in hindsight pivotal events may sometimes appear almost inevitable.

Real life simply isn't like that. From the highest to the lowliest in the land, people who were actually there lived their lives only one day at a time. And each day, they didn't know what might happen the next day. They might hope, wish or fear, but they didn't know. In real life, very little is inevitable.

This is a look at four weeks, or just twenty eight days, one at a time, as they were actually lived by individual people. The period runs from 6 July to 2 August. The year is 1553. Enormous events took place which shook the country to its chore.

A coup d'etat may be carefully planned over many months by those with apparently overwhelming force. Yet events predicted as "inevitable" may turn, resulting in total failure of what was planned. Wanstead was the unexpected scene of their conclusion in this case.

First let's just set the scene:

Henry VIII had died six years before. He was succeeded by his only son, Edward VI, at the age of nine years. In the following six years, Edward came increasingly under the influence of John Dudley, one of sixteen counsellors appointed by Henry VIII to guide his young son to maturity.

At about 6 p.m. on 6 July 1553, after a long illness, Edward VI died.

John Dudley, now Duke of Northumberland, had secretly planned and now put into motion a coup d'etat. He kept secret the king's death. Anticipating it, he had already sent urgent letters to the king's half-sisters, Mary Tudor at Hunsdon and Elizabeth Tudor at Hatfield, calling them to Greenwich on the excuse that the king wished to see them.

A more detailed analysis of these six years is contained at Annex A to these notes.

28 Days to Wanstead

 Routes of Mary Tudor and John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland

Thursday 6 July 1553

On the afternoon of Thursday 6 July, the young King Edward VI woke from a drugged sleep and began to pray. At around 6 p.m., his terrible sufferings finally ended.

Also on the evening of 6 July, travelling from her house at Hunsdon, Mary Tudor reached Hoddesdon. Here a sympathizer intercepted her on the road and warned her that the summons to Greenwich was a trap. She was advised to stay away from the court and ride north without delay to one of her East Anglian strongholds where she would be surrounded by men of her religion and the tenantry of the Howards - England's premier Catholic peers.

She did not hesitate. Hastily she scribbled two notes. The first informed her ally, the catholic Emperor Charles V, through his new ambassador in London, that her intention was to proclaim herself queen as soon as she had confirmation that the King was dead. The second was to Northumberland, informing him that she was ill and unable to travel. She then rode through the night, aiming first for Cambridge and ultimately for her castle at Kenninghall in Norfolk. She was accompanied by only two of her ladies and six gentlemen of her household. If her bid for the crown failed, then at least Kenninghall was well placed for her to escape to Flanders by sea.

Friday 7 July 1553

Back in London, Northumberland was taking stock of his position, whilst keeping the King's death a secret. There were plenty of rumours, but no confirmation.

Northumberland was in control of the treasury, the navy and the Tower of London, which housed an unequalled arsenal of weapons and the royal mint. He appeared to hold the Council in the palm of his hand, and had garrisons in strongholds throughout the shires. He also enjoyed the reputation of being 'the best man of war' in the kingdom. He now gathered about him in London a large number of lords and had Windsor Castle stocked with arms and a great quantity of provisions. He prepared for a siege, ordering that the guns of the Tower be placed at battle stations. A fleet of seven great warships had recently been refitted and were ordered to take station off the eastern coast, in case Mary should try to flee the kingdom. Access to London was restricted and, as the palace guards were doubled, the French ambassador was reminded of a secret promise of aid his country had made to Northumberland.

When Northumberland was told that Mary had fled towards Norfolk, he sent his son, Lord Robert Dudley, after her at the head of a troop of four hundred heavily armed cavalry.

Mary spent the night of 7 July at Sawston Hall near Cambridge, the manor house of John Huddlestone, a prominent Catholic gentleman who welcomed her warmly and had mass celebrated in her presence.

Saturday 8 July 1553

Next morning, after Mary had left Sawston Hall, word leaked out that she had stayed at the house. Some zealous Protestants from Cambridge then set fire to it, thinking she was still inside. Riding over a hilltop, Mary could see the blaze. Turning to a dismayed John Huddlestone, who had offered to escort her some of the way, she promised that when she was queen she would build him a better house on the site, as compensation for his loss. She then rode on to Bury St Edmunds, where she was heartened by the warm reception extended to her by its inhabitants.

That night Mary slept at Euston Hall, near Thetford, the home of her friend, Lady Burgh, a widow. Whilst there, more news of King Edward's death arrived from London. But was the news true? Or was this another bait with which to trap her? It might be that Northumberland was provoking her to declare herself queen while her brother still lived, in which case she would be guilty of high treason. She decided it would be better to keep the news to herself and continue on her way, hoping for confirmation from another source.

Back in London, Northumberland managed to keep the King's death secret for nearly two days. Then, also on 8 July, in order to quell the rumours that were circulating in the city, he summoned the Lord Mayor and aldermen of London to Greenwich and announced to them that Edward VI had died. He then swore them to secrecy and informed them that his late Majesty had appointed the Lady Jane Grey as his successor by his Letters Patent. Jane Grey was a great grand-daughter of Henry VII so of Tudor blood, a devout Protestant and only sixteen years old. She was also Northumberland's daughter-in-law, by a marriage he had arranged with his youngest son, only two months before. He told the Lord Mayor and aldermen that he had just learned Mary had 'gone towards Norfolk and Suffolk, being the coast opposite Flanders, with intent to involve the kingdom in troubles and wars, and bring in foreigners to defend her pretensions to the crown.' Intimidated by the Duke, the city fathers promised to serve Jane as their lawful sovereign. Northumberland then wrote to Elizabeth, informing her of her brother's death.

In reality, at this point probably only Northumberland himself realised just how precarious his own situation was. He knew that the success of his plan depended upon speedy, decisive action. Mary must be caught, and soon. At large she was a focus for opposition.

Although Mary had so far evaded capture, few believed that she had any real chance of prevailing against Northumberland. Mary received advice from her allies, begging her to abandon her foolhardy plans and submit. On the road to Norwich, second-largest city in England after London at that time, she was told the city had barred its gates against her. She was also warned that Lord Robert Dudley and his four hundred cavalry were closing in on her. Disguising herself as a serving maid, she rode pillion behind a man left by John Huddlestone to guide her until she was well on her way to Kenninghall. Soon she was intercepted, not by Lord Robert Dudley's cavalry, but by another courier from London, who confirmed the report of her brother's death. But he also warned her that she could not hope to prevail against Northumberland; nor could she escape from England because the way was barred by ships stationed off the east coast. She was advised to negotiate terms while there was still time. Mary answered that she wanted time to think about it.

Meanwhile, at St Paul's Cross in London on that same Saturday 8 July, the Bishop of London, on Northumberland's orders, preached a sermon in which he branded both Mary and Elizabeth as bastards. At this the people "murmured sore" and shouted so loudly in derision that the Bishop had difficulty in making himself heard.

Sunday 9 July 1553

Mary finally arrived at Kenninghall on Sunday, 9 July, having been joined by about thirty loyal gentlemen on the way. Kenninghall was a magnificent brick manor house beyond the moat of an ancient castle. The spacious accommodation included a great chamber, hung with fourteen tapestries depicting the labours of Hercules, a long gallery boasting twenty-eight portraits of 'diverse noble persons' plus an armoury well-stocked with weapons, and a chapel made resplendent with six tapestries, each nine yards square, illustrating the story of Christ's passion.

No sooner had she arrived than Mary received more news that confirmed earlier reports. Knowing that there was no longer any doubt that King Edward had died, Mary summoned every member of her household into the great chamber and proclaimed herself the rightful Queen of England.

She knew that there were almost insurmountable obstacles to overcome before she was queen in deed, as well as in title. First she informed Northumberland of her intentions by letter bearing unmistakable tones of royal command. Copies of this letter were sent to cities and towns throughout the kingdom, and to many men in public office, as well as to the Imperial ambassadors of Charles V and other envoys in London.

Back in London on the afternoon of 9 July and aware that Mary was still very much at large, Northumberland realised the urgency of having Jane proclaimed queen without further delay. The counsellors 'were afraid of Northumberland as mice of a cat' and concurred in this, having been suborned 'by terror and promises.' However, superficially they still appeared united behind him.

Monday 10 July 1553

At seven a.m. on 10 July, after Northumberland had ordered a strong military presence into the city, Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen in Cheapside and other places in London by the royal heralds. The citizens received the news stony-faced, no one cheered, and only a few voices cried "God save her!" To break the embarrassing silence, trumpeters blew resounding fanfares but failed to arouse any enthusiasm. One Gilbert Potter, who worked as a tapster in the St John's Head, an inn, openly stated that the Lady Mary should be queen. His master, Ninion Saunders, denounced him to the authorities and at 8 o'clock next morning he was set on the pillory for so speaking and had both his ears cut off. His master drowned the same evening while shooting the piers of London Bridge. People called it a just punishment and said it meant God wanted Mary to be queen.

That evening, Northumberland organized a great banquet in the Tower, where the new royal party had taken up residence. Outside, London was quiet. There was no rejoicing, as was usual upon the accession of a new monarch. During the feast, Thomas Hungate, Mary's envoy from Kenninghall, arrived with her letter, which was read aloud to the assembled company. There followed a stunned silence. Queen Jane said nothing. Northumberland was furious to learn that Mary had evaded capture. Both he and the other counsellors assured Queen Jane and each other that Mary – a woman alone, with no friends and no influence – posed no serious threat to their plans. Yet for all their bravado, the banquet had been ruined. The unfortunate Thomas Hungate was thrown into a dungeon and the counsellors speedily withdrew to draw up a document repudiating Mary's claim. Twenty-three of them appended their signatures.

Northumberland sent a messenger to the Imperial ambassadors and envoys of Charles V, formally advising them of the death of Edward VI and the accession of Queen Jane. During the day the Imperial ambassadors also received Mary's letter from Kenninghall, saying that she had decided not to take their advice, but instead advance her own claim to the throne. With her letter was a copy of the text of her proclamation speech. They were horrified at what they regarded as an impulsive and ill-judged action on Mary's part. In their opinion she could not hope to succeed. Unable to communicate, since London was already sealed by Northumberland, they could only request the Council to be lenient with Mary when she was inevitably apprehended. They subsequently wrote to the Emperor begging to be recalled without delay, since they were already under a cloud of suspicion and felt they could do nothing further on Mary's behalf. Later, when communications were restored, Charles V wrote back to refuse their request and command them to do everything in their power to urge Mary to acknowledge Jane as queen, since what she had embarked upon appeared to be a suicidal course.

Tuesday 11 July 1553

Kenninghall was surrounded by an armed camp, which grew larger by the hour as gentlemen from Norfolk and Suffolk rode in with their tenants to offer Mary their support. In many other counties, men were arming in her favour after loyal supporters had proclaimed her queen. Although Mary was known to be profoundly Catholic, Protestants also turned out, anxious to see the lawful heir restored to the throne. Yet her support was not universal. In parts of East Anglia and Cambridgeshire there was a small rising against her, which continued for several weeks.

In London on 11 July the Council formally replied to Mary's letter from Kenninghall. They pointed to the Letters Patent signed by the late King Edward VI and sealed with the great seal of England in the presence of most nobles, counsellors, judges and many others. All had assented and subscribed that the sovereign lady Queen Jane was invested and possessed right and title to the crown. They declared that by diverse Acts of Parliament, Mary had been made illegitimate and unheritable to the imperial crown of the realm. They called upon Mary "... to cease her pretence to vex and molest any of the sovereign lady Queen Jane's subjects, drawing them from the true faith and allegiance due unto Her Grace." They assured Mary that if she showed herself "quiet and obedient" she would find them ready to do her any service to preserve the common state of the realm. One who signed this letter was Richard Rich, Lord Lieutenant of Essex and a former Lord Chancellor. With typically artful lack of concern for consistency, Rich then left immediately for Essex, where he declared for Queen Mary!

Northumberland learned, to his dismay, that Mary was still at large and that Lord Robert Dudley with his four hundred cavalry had failed to capture her. He knew that each day she remained at liberty, her chances of success increased and realized that an armed confrontation was now inevitable. He began by sending a letter in the name of Queen Jane to all the lord lieutenants of the counties, urging them not only to do everything in their power to defend Jane's just title to the crown, but also to disturb, repel and resist the feigned and untrue claim of the Lady Mary, bastard daughter of Henry VIII.

He dearly wanted to lead an army against Mary himself, but dared not leave London, feeling he had insufficient forces there anyway. He spent that evening and the next day arranging a general muster of troops in Tothill Fields near Westminster, organizing the recruitment of more men "to fetch in Lady Mary, to destroy Her Grace."

Wednesday 12 July 1553

Mary now decided she should move to a larger stronghold with better fortifications. She marched her forces to Framlingham Castle in Suffolk and situated only 15 miles from the coast. Framlingham was a mighty fortress, encircled by a curtain wall forty feet high and eight thick, intersected by thirteen great towers. She had around 15,000 men, with numbers increasing daily, boosted by "innumerable small companies of the common people" armed with whatever came to hand.

That night Mary received two items of good news. First, Lord Robert Dudley with his cavalry had been routed at King's Lynn and forced to retreat to Bury St Edmunds to await reinforcements. The second news was that Norwich, which closed its gates to her five days before, had now recognized her as queen, setting an example that would speedily be followed by other cities. Men and supplies soon began arriving from Norwich.

In London on the evening of 12 July, Northumberland had mustered 2,000 soldiers, both infantry and cavalry, augmented by the yeoman of the guard, a number of Spanish and German mercenaries and thirty great guns from the Tower arsenal. He planned to place them under the command of the Duke of Suffolk, Queen Jane's father, who should lead them into East Anglia. Queen Jane however, wept and begged Northumberland – "the best man of war in her realm" - himself to lead her forces and to allow her father to remain with her in London. The counsellors backed her, and although Northumberland made loud and vociferous protest not least about his own deteriorating health, he had no choice but to obey.

It was night-time and various agents and reports were reaching him of how much of East Anglia had risen in Mary's favour; how Mary had been proclaimed in Cheshire and Devon; how Lord Robert Dudley, back in King's Lynn and unable to carry out his father's orders, had proclaimed Mary queen!

Thursday 13 July 1553

Northumberland arranged for his army to muster outside Durham House in the Strand. They were going, he told them, towards Newmarket, where he hoped to intercept Mary on her march south to London.

Meanwhile, the Imperial ambassadors had been summoned before the Council. To their surprise, they found almost half speaking in warm terms of Mary and disdainfully of Northumberland, who had not been told of this meeting. They began to realize that the tide of opinion might be turning in Mary's favour and that whilst these counsellors were still waiting upon events, it seemed obvious they wanted to declare for Mary.

Northumberland then returned to the Tower, not happy about the real loyalty to him of some of the counsellors. He feared that in his absence, they might surrender the Queen. In the council chamber, flanked by his sons and in full armour, he reminded them that both he and those who rode with him were leaving their estates and families in the hands of those who stayed in London.. He told them that God would revenge any who meant deceit. He had a "hearty confidence" in their previous loyalty and called for it again. They each assured him of their fidelity, although many dissembled.

Friday 14 July 1553

Northumberland, wearing a rich scarlet mantle and accompanied by all his sons except Robert and Guildford, rode out of London through Shoreditch at the head of his men. Silent crowds lined the streets to watch them pass. Nobody cheered. As he rode north on the Cambridge road, couriers brought him news – all of it bad. Mary had been proclaimed in four more counties. Sir William Paget, a senior minister to both Henry VIII and Edward VI, had changed sides and planned to march on Westminster. The crews of five warships anchored off Yarmouth had mutinied in Mary's favour and threatened to throw their officers into the sea if they did not join them. Around 2,000 sailors with 100 large cannon had decamped to Framlingham. A fervent Protestant bishop had urged his flock to support Mary.

Growing increasingly desperate, Northumberland tried to enlist more recruits from among the peasantry in the places through which he passed, but most men seemed to disappear. The common people had no love for the Duke of Northumberland, who they held responsible for the inflation and enclosures of Edward VI's reign. Prices had more than doubled since Henry VIII had died. Enclosures had denied many peasants their access to common land and grazing.

At Framlingham, a jubilant Mary, encouraged by the loyalty of the Yarmouth crews, was reviewing her troops, riding between massed ranks drawn up below the castle. Such was the noise that her palfrey reared in fright, so she dismounted and continued her review on foot, walking a distance of a mile from one end of the encampment to the other, thanking the soldiers for their goodwill and demonstration of love and loyalty, while her eyes brimmed with tears.

Back in London, broadsheets in support of Mary's claim began mysteriously to appear in public places. One or two culprits were caught and punished by order of Northumberland's dwindling supporters on the Council. Armed men were to be seen on the streets of London. Tales abounded that Northumberland had sent them to spy out dissidents. In fact, many were deserting because they had not been paid. All Northumberland's funds had been poured into the army that he had taken with him.

Saturday 15 July 1553

Northumberland was nearing Ware in Hertfordshire, still trying to recruit men and offering the extraordinarily high wage of 10d (4p) a day as bait. In London, divisions on the Council grew more apparent. Many lords feared that if the Duke found he could not overcome Mary, he might abandon them and declare for her. Out of self-preservation, they tried to restrict his movements, instructing him to proceed only by their warrant. The Duke in turn, was determined that his acts should be seen as having the Council's backing. He repeatedly sent messengers with requests for written approval of his decisions. All this gave Mary more time to prepare the defence of her position.

By the time Northumberland reached Ware, his slow progress was having an effect on his soldiers' morale. By nightfall men were beginning to desert in large numbers. He sent an urgent demand to the Council for more troops, which reached London by midnight. The lords hastily gathered in the council chamber that night to discuss the matter, but all they sent to Northumberland was an acknowledgement.

Sunday 16 July 1553

Reports reached London that support for Mary had strengthened. Her army numbered over 30,000 and was still growing. More towns had proclaimed for her and in the home counties there seemed widespread support for her. A placard was attached to a church door in Queenhithe, complaining that Mary had been proclaimed queen in every place but London. Queen Jane's father, the Duke of Suffolk, who now commanded the Tower, grew so worried that his daughter might be abandoned that he had a proclamation issued in her name, stressing the justness of her title and demanding the preservation of the crown "out of the dominion of strangers and papists." That night he ordered the gates of the Tower be locked. This was as much to keep his supporters in, as to keep opponents out! Many lords were beginning to realise that if Mary won, they stood to be accused of high treason, for which the penalty was death.

Northumberland meantime, had arrived in Cambridge in time to hear Dr Sandys, Vice-Chancellor of the University, preach a sermon upholding his cause. Its heartening effect was soon shattered when the Duke was informed of the mutiny at Yarmouth and given exaggerated reports claiming Mary's army was 40,000 strong. Even his own supreme confidence began to ebb. Again he wrote to the Council, in sharper terms, urging them to send fresh troops, as his men were still deserting. Then he marched on to Bury St Edmunds with an alarmingly depleted force, while people muttered against him and resolved to declare for Mary as soon as his back was turned.

Morale in Mary's camp was high. She appointed the Duke of Sussex as commander-in-chief and he set about deploying her army, drilling the ranks and making battle plans.

Monday 17 July 1553

When Northumberland neared Bury St Edmunds, he was within thirty miles of his quarry, but reports reaching him told of an enemy force far too large for him to confront with his dwindling, resentful troops. The Council had ignored his desperate pleas for reinforcements and was, if some reports were true, ready to abandon him. The bulk of his remaining army seemed ready to mutiny and when his pleas and arguments fell on deaf ears, he had no alternative but to fall back on Cambridge. There, while he himself tried to canvass support from the largely Protestant university, he sent his remaining men to scour the surrounding villages for peasants willing to fight for him. They met with refusal and retaliated with an orgy of looting and burning, which Northumberland made no effort to curb. Sickened by this, some of his chief officers then began to desert, which prompted hundreds of ordinary soldiers to slink away and join Mary.

In desperation, Northumberland sent his kinsman, Sir Henry Dudley, to Henry II in France, begging the French king to lead an army into England in return for the surrender of Calais and Guisnes, the last English possessions in France. A few days later, Sir Henry was arrested in Calais and found to have in his possession a great deal of plate and jewelry purloined from the treasury. Under questioning, he confessed what his mission involved – proof that Northumberland was a traitor to his country.

Tuesday 18 July 1553

In London, all but three members of the Council now abandoned Northumberland's coup d'etat and left the Tower. Their excuse was that they were going to meet with the French ambassador, to seek his help in obtaining aid for Northumberland. They actually went to Baynard's Castle, the luxurious London home of the Earl of Pembroke, where one gave a spirited oration in support of Mary and persuaded his colleagues to a unanimous decision formally to abandon Northumberland and declare for her. They agreed Northumberland was guilty of treason against his lawful sovereign and should be summoned back to London to account for his actions. A letter was then sent, demanding that he immediately dismiss his army and submit to the Council's decision. If he did not respond, he would be arrested. It was announced that a reward of £1,000 would be given to anyone apprehending Northumberland.

They then all went to St Paul's Cathedral to give thanks for the deliverance of the kingdom from treachery. Knowing that Mary had every reason to censure or even prosecute them, they ordered a Catholic mass to be celebrated in the cathedral, as an appeasement to Mary.

Wednesday 19 July 1553

In the Tower, Queen Jane had no idea that her reign of only nine days was rapidly coming to an end. She agreed to stand as sponsor at a christening later that afternoon, where a child was to be named after her husband, Guildford.

The counsellors went to the Guildhall to command the Lord Mayor and aldermen to proclaim Mary queen. Between five and six in the afternoon, the Lord Mayor went to Cheapside to do as he was ordered, but word had already leaked out So great was the crowd that he had to fight his way to the Eleanor Cross, where the proclamation was made. The crowd went wild as celebration began with bonfires and banqueting in almost every street. All the bells in every parish church were rung until ten o'clock that night.

Two of the counsellors left for Framlingham, to deliver the Great Seal of England to Queen Mary. They were instructed to assure her that most of the Council had remained loyal in their hearts throughout the crisis, but due to Northumberland's influence they had not dared to declare their allegiance for fear of provoking destruction and bloodshed! They hoped Mary would swallow such a lame excuse. To prove their loyalty to her, afterwards they would go to Cambridge to arrest Northumberland.

In the Tower that evening, the sound of celebrations could be heard from the windows. The royal apartments were almost deserted with only a few attendants remaining. Suddenly a group of officials led by the Duke of Suffolk, Queen Jane's father, burst into the presence chamber whilst Jane was at supper. He told her bluntly "You are no longer queen" and began to rip down the canopy of estate. He told her she must put off her royal robes and be content with a private life.

Jane took the news calmly, asking her father if she might now go home. Instead, her father left her in the Tower and within hours, guards were posted, signifying her new status as a prisoner. To preserve his own skin, he then hurried out onto Tower Hill where he enthusiastically proclaimed Mary queen. He then went with his wife to their house at Sheen.

Thursday 20 July 1553

At Framlingham the two counsellors from London arrived and were immediately admitted to Mary's presence. Falling on their knees they saluted her as queen and informed her that she had been proclaimed in London. They sought her pardon for the offence committed in the matter of the Lady Jane and symbolically held their daggers with the points towards their stomachs. Mary readily forgave them. She had been preparing to defend her position against Northumberland, who was believed to be still at Bury St Edmunds. Now she realized that an armed conflict had been avoided and she was queen by the will of the people. It was a heady, joyous moment.

Mary led her household into the chapel, where she commanded that the crucifix be openly placed on the altar for the first time in years. A Te Deum was sung, and everyone thanked God for this miraculous, bloodless victory.

Northumberland was at King's College, Cambridge that morning, where he heard that Mary had been proclaimed in London. He went out to the market square, tossed his bonnet in the air and cried out "God save Queen Mary" several times. But he was also seen to be weeping uncontrollably. He then ordered the Vice-Chancellor to celebrate mass, after which he confided "Queen Mary is a merciful woman. I look for a general pardon." The response was severe: "Be you assured, you shall never escape death; for if she would save you, those that now rule will kill you." Northumberland was silent.

At his lodgings he learned that his son Robert had been captured near Bury St Edmunds and began thinking of his escape with his remaining sons. But it was too late. The door was suddenly flung open and in strode the counsellors from Framlingham. The Duke fell on his knees. "Be good to me, for the love of God" he whimpered. "Consider – I have done nothing but by the consent of you all and the whole Council." His plea was brushed aside with the fateful words: "My lord, I am sent hither by the Queen's Majesty and in her name I arrest you."

Back in London, the Marquis of Winchester called upon Queen Jane formally to surrender the crown jewels and other property that rightfully belonged to Queen Mary, such as furs, velvet and sable mufflers, garters and portraits of Henry VIII and Edward VI. She was also made to relinquish the crown itself and moved from the royal apartments in the Tower to the half-timbered house of the Gentleman Gaoler of the Tower.

Friday 21 July 1553

Mary sent instructions to Lord Richard Rich and the Earl of Oxford, joint Lords Lieutenant of Essex, to retire with their companies and bands towards Ipswich until her pleasure should be further known.

Many men of rank or importance began to set out from London to pay their respects to Queen Mary at Framlingham and crave her pardon for their disloyalty. This she gave to all but Northumberland's staunchest supporters. Already, people were speculating on whom the Queen would marry. Nobody anticipated that, as the first female monarch to rule over England, she would attempt to rule without a husband to guide her.

Saturday 22 July 1553

Mary began making appointments to her new Council, rewarding those of her household who had been faithful to her and also those counsellors who had come to beg her pardon for their previous errors. Then she considered what to do about her brother's funeral (the late King Edward VI). She was advised to let him be buried in the faith in which he had died. However, she felt that as God had seen fit to place her on the throne, she believed it was her sacred duty to restore the true faith. She desired that he should be buried with Roman rites.

NB: On 8 August he was buried in Westminster Abbey as a Protestant. Mary absented herself as custom demanded of a monarch's successor, but then later held a requiem mass for him in private.

Sunday 23 July 1553

Astonished at the backlog of state business that had accumulated since the death of Edward VI, Mary had little leisure to think of marriage. Secretly she wrote to Pope Julius III, asking him to lift the interdict placed upon the English Church during her father's reign. She wanted to go to London, as some advised it would be best for her to return to the capital while public feeling was running high in her favour. Others advised her it would be hot and stinking there, the air was bad and the plague was about.

Monday 24 July 1553

Ignoring such advice, Mary discharged most of her great army and set out for London accompanied only by a force of a few hundred soldiers and a train of lords, ladies, supporters and servants. That night she stayed at Ipswich, where the city dignitaries presented her with a purse containing £11 in gold coins. Crowds filled the streets and a group of angelic-looking small boys gave her a solid gold heart inscribed "The heart of the people" which touched her greatly.

That same day, Northumberland and his sons left Cambridge under armed escort and were taken to London.

Tuesday 25 July 1553

At sunset, Northumberland and his sons were paraded through the streets thronged with angry, jeering crowds throwing stones, rotten eggs and excrement. Through it all, Northumberland stared haughtily ahead, or shot black looks at the crowd. He was ordered to doff first his hat, then his distinctive red cloak, for fear of being lynched. Finally he was reduced to appealing to the people, with great humility, for their pity. It was a dreadful sight. His eldest son John, Earl of Warwick, could take no more and, once his father was taken into the Beauchamp Tower, burst into anguished tears.

Wednesday 26 July 1553

Mary stayed quietly near Colchester, at the house of Muriel Christmas, who had once served Katherine of Aragon, Mary's mother

Thursday 27 July 1553

Mary arrived at Newhall, near Chelmsford. This was her most magnificent property and had been granted to her in 1548, following the death of Henry VIII. He had originally purchased it from the Boleyn family in 1516 and had spent six years renovating it to a high standard at enormous cost. Mary had always loved this splendid place, which had often been her refuge in the past.

In London, the Duchess of Northumberland was released and immediately rode to Newhall, where she intended to beg the Queen for mercy for her husband and sons. Mary refused to receive her and dejected, she rode sorrowfully away.

Friday 28 July 1553

News of Mary's accession finally reached Elizabeth at Hatfield, where she had remained since early July, throughout the crisis, avoiding commitment one way or the other. Rumours emerged that Northumberland had sent counsellors to her, offering a large bribe if she would renounce her claim to the throne. It was also rumoured that Elizabeth had refused, stating "You must first make this agreement with my elder sister, during whose lifetime I have no claim or title to resign."

Saturday 29 July 1553

Elizabeth rode into the capital accompanied by 2,000 mounted men, all armed "with spears and bows and guns" and wearing velvet and taffeta livery in the Tudor colours of green and white. Elizabeth, like her half-sister Mary, was advertising her dynastic legitimacy. She was also showing that she too was able to recruit a feudal following. But for the moment, like Elizabeth herself, her following was to be placed in the service of Mary. Elizabeth processed along Fleet Street to her new town-palace at Somerset House, where she lodged the night.

Sunday 30 July 1553

Mary left Newhall for London, staying that night at Ingatestone, the home of Sir William Petre, a former Secretary of State to Henry VIII, Edward VI and subsequently to both Mary and Elizabeth. Her last opponents were mopped up and placed under arrest.

Monday 31 July 1553

Mary remained another night at Ingatestone, then rode on to Havering-atte-Bower, dower palace of the medieval queens of England. Wherever she went, people came running to see her, cheering and calling blessings upon her.

In London and obeying Mary's command, Elizabeth rode with a great train of nobles and attendants, along the Strand, through the City, out through Aldgate and on to the Colchester road along which Mary would come, to receive her in triumph. Having publicly made her point that she also enjoyed a substantial following, Elizabeth reduced the number of her escort by half as she rode back through the City to meet her half-sister Mary.

Tuesday 1 August 1553

Mary arrived at Wanstead, to be the guest of Richard Rich, who on 21 July she had ordered to Ipswich. He had then joined her progress towards London. Although at heart a papist, Richard Rich could invariably be found on the winning side, due to his unfailing willingness to turn his coat according to changing circumstances. He always acted with the party that was uppermost.

Mary clearly wanted a conciliatory demonstration and had arranged that Elizabeth should share her triumph and ride by her side when she entered the capital. For the previous twenty years – most of her adult life – Mary had known neither security nor much happiness. Everything she loved – her mother, her religion and her friends – had been condemned and rejected. Mary had also disliked her half-sister for many reasons, not least because she sensed an innate shiftiness in Elizabeth's character. Elizabeth, Mary believed, was never to be trusted. Originally, this dislike was because of Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn, who she blamed for her own mother's tragic end, as well as the alienation of her father's affections. After Anne Boleyn's execution and Elizabeth too, was declared illegitimate, Mary found other reasons to dislike Elizabeth. Like her mother, Mary was a devout Catholic and recognized Elizabeth's lack of religious zeal. Now though, suddenly Mary's enemies seemed to have melted away and she had been carried to the throne of England on the shoulders of her cheering people. The transformation was prophetic, miraculous, messianic. Mary, at this moment of her great triumph, was prepared to be conciliatory.

Wednesday 2 August 1553

Mary and Elizabeth met at Wanstead. Elizabeth dismounted and knelt in the road, but Mary alighted from her horse, raised Elizabeth and embraced and kissed her with great warmth, holding her hand as she spoke to her. She then kissed all the noble ladies in Elizabeth's train. But how much was Mary demonstrating Tudor harmony, as distinct from true sisterly affection?

The two great ladies spent that night together at Wanstead House. This was a royal hunting lodge, recently enlarged and renovated by its new lord of the manor, Richard Rich, appointed as such by Edward VI in 1549.

In various roles, Richard Rich had already had considerable impact on the lives of both his distinguished guests. He had been instrumental in arranging the separation of Mary's mother, Katharine of Aragon from Henry VIII and the annulment of their marriage. He had drafted the Act of Succession of 1534, which declared Katherine's marriage unlawful and Elizabeth to be heir to the throne. Following the lead of his mentor Thomas Cromwell, he had also played a large part in the trial and execution of Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn. That night, he played host to both Mary and Elizabeth. We can only speculate on what the two half-sisters and their host may have discussed over dinner! But as a former Solicitor General, Speaker of the House of Commons and Lord Chancellor, Rich had attended all meetings of the Privy Council. In 1547, Henry VIII had appointed him to be an assistant to the execution of his will. By 1553, the first Baron Rich of Leighs was certainly a trusted elder statesman and perhaps saw himself as a potential kingmaker, or at least 'broker' to the Tudor dynasty. Was it at Wanstead then, that the great constitutional crisis of the 1553 succession was apparently resolved?

Thursday 3 August 1553 - Epilogue

The two great processions formed into one for the state entry into London. Elizabeth rode at Mary's side to Whitechapel, where Mary changed into ceremonial clothes. Elizabeth, dressed in white, smiling and nodding at the people, then rode behind Mary. Also in the train rode Lord and Lady Richard Rich. In the late afternoon of 3 August, the Queen's procession entered London through Aldgate, where the Lord Mayor was waiting to surrender the city's mace "in token of loyalty and homage." Mary returned it to him with a gracious speech of thanks. Trumpets sounded, guns were fired from Tower Wharf, church bells rang out, music played and throngs of citizens cheered themselves hoarse, whilst many wept for joy.

Friday 4 August 1553

The Privy Council made its formal submission to Queen Mary. Richard Rich was sworn into Mary's Council and in due course officiated at her coronation.

Saturday 5 August 1553

Queen Mary was greatly impressed by a lengthy letter sent to her by Jane, giving a full and honest account of her nine days' reign, without making too many excuses for herself. In admitting that she had done wrong, what came across to the Queen was that Jane had had no choice in the matter. In October she would be sixteen. On 14 November she and her husband were tried at the Guildhall in London on charges of high treason. They pleaded guilty and were sentenced to death. Queen Mary resolved to be merciful. Their harsh sentence was commuted - they were to remain in the Tower at her pleasure.

Tuesday 8 August 1553

The late Edward VI was buried in Westminster Abbey as a Protestant. Mary absented herself as custom demanded of a monarch's successor, but then later held a requiem mass for him in private.

Friday 18 August 1553

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, was tried before his peers for high treason at Westminster Hall and found guilty. Lord Richard Rich was one of the jurors. Five days later, on 23 August, before 10,000 onlookers, Northumberland was executed at Tower Hill.

Following her coronation on 1 October 1553, Mary began to receive delegations from Spain through that autumn. It was widely rumoured that she would marry Philip of Spain, son of the Emperor Charles V.

In January 1554, news emerged of a plot for a widespread rebellion against Mary's proposed Spanish alliance, led by Sir Thomas Wyatt. On 7 February, almost 7,000 rebels marched through what is now known as Knightsbridge, along Piccadilly and literally to the court gate of Whitehall and the Palace of Westminster. After fatally splitting their forces at St James's Park, some went down the Strand to defeat and capture near Ludgate. The rest were dispersed. Lady Jane Grey, held in the Tower since the previous November, was implicated with the rebels to a small degree, as her father was one of their leaders and had publicly declared for her. She was seen as a potential focus for a future attempted insurrection and was executed on 12 February 1554.

Elizabeth had been living in seclusion at Ashridge House in Hertfordshire. Although under great suspicion, no firm evidence of her complicity could be found. She was brought to Whitehall for several months of close interrogation, during which time she steadfastly maintained her innocence.

On Palm Sunday, 18 March 1554, Elizabeth was taken by barge to the Tower, where she endured two more months of cross-questioning about her role, if any, in the Wyatt rebellion. None emerged and on 19 May 1554, Mary agreed that her half-sister should live in close confinement at Woodstock, near Oxford. This lasted until April 1555. Elizabeth was then brought to live close to Mary at the palace of Hampton Court. On 18 October 1555, she was finally released to live in seclusion at her favourite house at Hatfield.

Mary (later dubbed "Bloody Mary" because of her execution of almost three hundred Protestants who refused to conform to her application of Catholicism), died on 17 November 1558. Elizabeth was proclaimed Queen. She reigned for the next 45 years until 1603, dying without naming a successor.

In 1557 the estate at Wanstead was bought by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. This was the best-known son of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, leader of the 1553 coup d'etat, who had been executed for treason four years before. The house was again greatly enlarged and improved. It was visited periodically by Queen Elizabeth, who was lavishly entertained there by her great favourite, the Earl of Leicester ("beloved Robin"). In following years it was considered a Royal Palace, with hunting in the surrounding forest and state business conducted from the house many times by Elizabeth and her successors, James I and Charles I.

Annex A – Lead-up to Crisis (click for a pdf file)

Thursday 6 July 1553

On the afternoon of Thursday 6 July, the young King Edward VI woke from a drugged sleep and began to pray. At around 6 p.m., his terrible sufferings finally ended.

Also on the evening of 6 July, travelling from her house at Hunsdon, Mary Tudor reached Hoddesdon. Here a sympathizer intercepted her on the road and warned her that the summons to Greenwich was a trap. She was advised to stay away from the court and ride north without delay to one of her East Anglian strongholds where she would be surrounded by men of her religion and the tenantry of the Howards - England's premier Catholic peers.

She did not hesitate. Hastily she scribbled two notes. The first informed her ally, the catholic Emperor Charles V, through his new ambassador in London, that her intention was to proclaim herself queen as soon as she had confirmation that the King was dead. The second was to Northumberland, informing him that she was ill and unable to travel. She then rode through the night, aiming first for Cambridge and ultimately for her castle at Kenninghall in Norfolk. She was accompanied by only two of her ladies and six gentlemen of her household. If her bid for the crown failed, then at least Kenninghall was well placed for her to escape to Flanders by sea.

Friday 7 July 1553

Back in London, Northumberland was taking stock of his position, whilst keeping the King's death a secret. There were plenty of rumours, but no confirmation.

Northumberland was in control of the treasury, the navy and the Tower of London, which housed an unequalled arsenal of weapons and the royal mint. He appeared to hold the Council in the palm of his hand, and had garrisons in strongholds throughout the shires. He also enjoyed the reputation of being 'the best man of war' in the kingdom. He now gathered about him in London a large number of lords and had Windsor Castle stocked with arms and a great quantity of provisions. He prepared for a siege, ordering that the guns of the Tower be placed at battle stations. A fleet of seven great warships had recently been refitted and were ordered to take station off the eastern coast, in case Mary should try to flee the kingdom. Access to London was restricted and, as the palace guards were doubled, the French ambassador was reminded of a secret promise of aid his country had made to Northumberland.

When Northumberland was told that Mary had fled towards Norfolk, he sent his son, Lord Robert Dudley, after her at the head of a troop of four hundred heavily armed cavalry.

Mary spent the night of 7 July at Sawston Hall near Cambridge, the manor house of John Huddlestone, a prominent Catholic gentleman who welcomed her warmly and had mass celebrated in her presence.

Saturday 8 July 1553

Next morning, after Mary had left Sawston Hall, word leaked out that she had stayed at the house. Some zealous Protestants from Cambridge then set fire to it, thinking she was still inside. Riding over a hilltop, Mary could see the blaze. Turning to a dismayed John Huddlestone, who had offered to escort her some of the way, she promised that when she was queen she would build him a better house on the site, as compensation for his loss. She then rode on to Bury St Edmunds, where she was heartened by the warm reception extended to her by its inhabitants.

That night Mary slept at Euston Hall, near Thetford, the home of her friend, Lady Burgh, a widow. Whilst there, more news of King Edward's death arrived from London. But was the news true? Or was this another bait with which to trap her? It might be that Northumberland was provoking her to declare herself queen while her brother still lived, in which case she would be guilty of high treason. She decided it would be better to keep the news to herself and continue on her way, hoping for confirmation from another source.

Back in London, Northumberland managed to keep the King's death secret for nearly two days. Then, also on 8 July, in order to quell the rumours that were circulating in the city, he summoned the Lord Mayor and aldermen of London to Greenwich and announced to them that Edward VI had died. He then swore them to secrecy and informed them that his late Majesty had appointed the Lady Jane Grey as his successor by his Letters Patent. Jane Grey was a great grand-daughter of Henry VII so of Tudor blood, a devout Protestant and only sixteen years old. She was also Northumberland's daughter-in-law, by a marriage he had arranged with his youngest son, only two months before. He told the Lord Mayor and aldermen that he had just learned Mary had 'gone towards Norfolk and Suffolk, being the coast opposite Flanders, with intent to involve the kingdom in troubles and wars, and bring in foreigners to defend her pretensions to the crown.' Intimidated by the Duke, the city fathers promised to serve Jane as their lawful sovereign. Northumberland then wrote to Elizabeth, informing her of her brother's death.

In reality, at this point probably only Northumberland himself realised just how precarious his own situation was. He knew that the success of his plan depended upon speedy, decisive action. Mary must be caught, and soon. At large she was a focus for opposition.

Although Mary had so far evaded capture, few believed that she had any real chance of prevailing against Northumberland. Mary received advice from her allies, begging her to abandon her foolhardy plans and submit. On the road to Norwich, second-largest city in England after London at that time, she was told the city had barred its gates against her. She was also warned that Lord Robert Dudley and his four hundred cavalry were closing in on her. Disguising herself as a serving maid, she rode pillion behind a man left by John Huddlestone to guide her until she was well on her way to Kenninghall. Soon she was intercepted, not by Lord Robert Dudley's cavalry, but by another courier from London, who confirmed the report of her brother's death. But he also warned her that she could not hope to prevail against Northumberland; nor could she escape from England because the way was barred by ships stationed off the east coast. She was advised to negotiate terms while there was still time. Mary answered that she wanted time to think about it.

Meanwhile, at St Paul's Cross in London on that same Saturday 8 July, the Bishop of London, on Northumberland's orders, preached a sermon in which he branded both Mary and Elizabeth as bastards. At this the people "murmured sore" and shouted so loudly in derision that the Bishop had difficulty in making himself heard.

Sunday 9 July 1553

Mary finally arrived at Kenninghall on Sunday, 9 July, having been joined by about thirty loyal gentlemen on the way. Kenninghall was a magnificent brick manor house beyond the moat of an ancient castle. The spacious accommodation included a great chamber, hung with fourteen tapestries depicting the labours of Hercules, a long gallery boasting twenty-eight portraits of 'diverse noble persons' plus an armoury well-stocked with weapons, and a chapel made resplendent with six tapestries, each nine yards square, illustrating the story of Christ's passion.

No sooner had she arrived than Mary received more news that confirmed earlier reports. Knowing that there was no longer any doubt that King Edward had died, Mary summoned every member of her household into the great chamber and proclaimed herself the rightful Queen of England.

She knew that there were almost insurmountable obstacles to overcome before she was queen in deed, as well as in title. First she informed Northumberland of her intentions by letter bearing unmistakable tones of royal command. Copies of this letter were sent to cities and towns throughout the kingdom, and to many men in public office, as well as to the Imperial ambassadors of Charles V and other envoys in London.

Back in London on the afternoon of 9 July and aware that Mary was still very much at large, Northumberland realised the urgency of having Jane proclaimed queen without further delay. The counsellors 'were afraid of Northumberland as mice of a cat' and concurred in this, having been suborned 'by terror and promises.' However, superficially they still appeared united behind him.

Monday 10 July 1553

At seven a.m. on 10 July, after Northumberland had ordered a strong military presence into the city, Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen in Cheapside and other places in London by the royal heralds. The citizens received the news stony-faced, no one cheered, and only a few voices cried "God save her!" To break the embarrassing silence, trumpeters blew resounding fanfares but failed to arouse any enthusiasm. One Gilbert Potter, who worked as a tapster in the St John's Head, an inn, openly stated that the Lady Mary should be queen. His master, Ninion Saunders, denounced him to the authorities and at 8 o'clock next morning he was set on the pillory for so speaking and had both his ears cut off. His master drowned the same evening while shooting the piers of London Bridge. People called it a just punishment and said it meant God wanted Mary to be queen.

That evening, Northumberland organized a great banquet in the Tower, where the new royal party had taken up residence. Outside, London was quiet. There was no rejoicing, as was usual upon the accession of a new monarch. During the feast, Thomas Hungate, Mary's envoy from Kenninghall, arrived with her letter, which was read aloud to the assembled company. There followed a stunned silence. Queen Jane said nothing. Northumberland was furious to learn that Mary had evaded capture. Both he and the other counsellors assured Queen Jane and each other that Mary – a woman alone, with no friends and no influence – posed no serious threat to their plans. Yet for all their bravado, the banquet had been ruined. The unfortunate Thomas Hungate was thrown into a dungeon and the counsellors speedily withdrew to draw up a document repudiating Mary's claim. Twenty-three of them appended their signatures.

Northumberland sent a messenger to the Imperial ambassadors and envoys of Charles V, formally advising them of the death of Edward VI and the accession of Queen Jane. During the day the Imperial ambassadors also received Mary's letter from Kenninghall, saying that she had decided not to take their advice, but instead advance her own claim to the throne. With her letter was a copy of the text of her proclamation speech. They were horrified at what they regarded as an impulsive and ill-judged action on Mary's part. In their opinion she could not hope to succeed. Unable to communicate, since London was already sealed by Northumberland, they could only request the Council to be lenient with Mary when she was inevitably apprehended. They subsequently wrote to the Emperor begging to be recalled without delay, since they were already under a cloud of suspicion and felt they could do nothing further on Mary's behalf. Later, when communications were restored, Charles V wrote back to refuse their request and command them to do everything in their power to urge Mary to acknowledge Jane as queen, since what she had embarked upon appeared to be a suicidal course.

Tuesday 11 July 1553

Kenninghall was surrounded by an armed camp, which grew larger by the hour as gentlemen from Norfolk and Suffolk rode in with their tenants to offer Mary their support. In many other counties, men were arming in her favour after loyal supporters had proclaimed her queen. Although Mary was known to be profoundly Catholic, Protestants also turned out, anxious to see the lawful heir restored to the throne. Yet her support was not universal. In parts of East Anglia and Cambridgeshire there was a small rising against her, which continued for several weeks.

In London on 11 July the Council formally replied to Mary's letter from Kenninghall. They pointed to the Letters Patent signed by the late King Edward VI and sealed with the great seal of England in the presence of most nobles, counsellors, judges and many others. All had assented and subscribed that the sovereign lady Queen Jane was invested and possessed right and title to the crown. They declared that by diverse Acts of Parliament, Mary had been made illegitimate and unheritable to the imperial crown of the realm. They called upon Mary "... to cease her pretence to vex and molest any of the sovereign lady Queen Jane's subjects, drawing them from the true faith and allegiance due unto Her Grace." They assured Mary that if she showed herself "quiet and obedient" she would find them ready to do her any service to preserve the common state of the realm. One who signed this letter was Richard Rich, Lord Lieutenant of Essex and a former Lord Chancellor. With typically artful lack of concern for consistency, Rich then left immediately for Essex, where he declared for Queen Mary!

Northumberland learned, to his dismay, that Mary was still at large and that Lord Robert Dudley with his four hundred cavalry had failed to capture her. He knew that each day she remained at liberty, her chances of success increased and realized that an armed confrontation was now inevitable. He began by sending a letter in the name of Queen Jane to all the lord lieutenants of the counties, urging them not only to do everything in their power to defend Jane's just title to the crown, but also to disturb, repel and resist the feigned and untrue claim of the Lady Mary, bastard daughter of Henry VIII.

He dearly wanted to lead an army against Mary himself, but dared not leave London, feeling he had insufficient forces there anyway. He spent that evening and the next day arranging a general muster of troops in Tothill Fields near Westminster, organizing the recruitment of more men "to fetch in Lady Mary, to destroy Her Grace."

Wednesday 12 July 1553

Mary now decided she should move to a larger stronghold with better fortifications. She marched her forces to Framlingham Castle in Suffolk and situated only 15 miles from the coast. Framlingham was a mighty fortress, encircled by a curtain wall forty feet high and eight thick, intersected by thirteen great towers. She had around 15,000 men, with numbers increasing daily, boosted by "innumerable small companies of the common people" armed with whatever came to hand.

That night Mary received two items of good news. First, Lord Robert Dudley with his cavalry had been routed at King's Lynn and forced to retreat to Bury St Edmunds to await reinforcements. The second news was that Norwich, which closed its gates to her five days before, had now recognized her as queen, setting an example that would speedily be followed by other cities. Men and supplies soon began arriving from Norwich.

In London on the evening of 12 July, Northumberland had mustered 2,000 soldiers, both infantry and cavalry, augmented by the yeoman of the guard, a number of Spanish and German mercenaries and thirty great guns from the Tower arsenal. He planned to place them under the command of the Duke of Suffolk, Queen Jane's father, who should lead them into East Anglia. Queen Jane however, wept and begged Northumberland – "the best man of war in her realm" - himself to lead her forces and to allow her father to remain with her in London. The counsellors backed her, and although Northumberland made loud and vociferous protest not least about his own deteriorating health, he had no choice but to obey.

It was night-time and various agents and reports were reaching him of how much of East Anglia had risen in Mary's favour; how Mary had been proclaimed in Cheshire and Devon; how Lord Robert Dudley, back in King's Lynn and unable to carry out his father's orders, had proclaimed Mary queen!

Thursday 13 July 1553

Northumberland arranged for his army to muster outside Durham House in the Strand. They were going, he told them, towards Newmarket, where he hoped to intercept Mary on her march south to London.

Meanwhile, the Imperial ambassadors had been summoned before the Council. To their surprise, they found almost half speaking in warm terms of Mary and disdainfully of Northumberland, who had not been told of this meeting. They began to realize that the tide of opinion might be turning in Mary's favour and that whilst these counsellors were still waiting upon events, it seemed obvious they wanted to declare for Mary.

Northumberland then returned to the Tower, not happy about the real loyalty to him of some of the counsellors. He feared that in his absence, they might surrender the Queen. In the council chamber, flanked by his sons and in full armour, he reminded them that both he and those who rode with him were leaving their estates and families in the hands of those who stayed in London.. He told them that God would revenge any who meant deceit. He had a "hearty confidence" in their previous loyalty and called for it again. They each assured him of their fidelity, although many dissembled.

Friday 14 July 1553

Northumberland, wearing a rich scarlet mantle and accompanied by all his sons except Robert and Guildford, rode out of London through Shoreditch at the head of his men. Silent crowds lined the streets to watch them pass. Nobody cheered. As he rode north on the Cambridge road, couriers brought him news – all of it bad. Mary had been proclaimed in four more counties. Sir William Paget, a senior minister to both Henry VIII and Edward VI, had changed sides and planned to march on Westminster. The crews of five warships anchored off Yarmouth had mutinied in Mary's favour and threatened to throw their officers into the sea if they did not join them. Around 2,000 sailors with 100 large cannon had decamped to Framlingham. A fervent Protestant bishop had urged his flock to support Mary.

Growing increasingly desperate, Northumberland tried to enlist more recruits from among the peasantry in the places through which he passed, but most men seemed to disappear. The common people had no love for the Duke of Northumberland, who they held responsible for the inflation and enclosures of Edward VI's reign. Prices had more than doubled since Henry VIII had died. Enclosures had denied many peasants their access to common land and grazing.

At Framlingham, a jubilant Mary, encouraged by the loyalty of the Yarmouth crews, was reviewing her troops, riding between massed ranks drawn up below the castle. Such was the noise that her palfrey reared in fright, so she dismounted and continued her review on foot, walking a distance of a mile from one end of the encampment to the other, thanking the soldiers for their goodwill and demonstration of love and loyalty, while her eyes brimmed with tears.

Back in London, broadsheets in support of Mary's claim began mysteriously to appear in public places. One or two culprits were caught and punished by order of Northumberland's dwindling supporters on the Council. Armed men were to be seen on the streets of London. Tales abounded that Northumberland had sent them to spy out dissidents. In fact, many were deserting because they had not been paid. All Northumberland's funds had been poured into the army that he had taken with him.

Saturday 15 July 1553

Northumberland was nearing Ware in Hertfordshire, still trying to recruit men and offering the extraordinarily high wage of 10d (4p) a day as bait. In London, divisions on the Council grew more apparent. Many lords feared that if the Duke found he could not overcome Mary, he might abandon them and declare for her. Out of self-preservation, they tried to restrict his movements, instructing him to proceed only by their warrant. The Duke in turn, was determined that his acts should be seen as having the Council's backing. He repeatedly sent messengers with requests for written approval of his decisions. All this gave Mary more time to prepare the defence of her position.

By the time Northumberland reached Ware, his slow progress was having an effect on his soldiers' morale. By nightfall men were beginning to desert in large numbers. He sent an urgent demand to the Council for more troops, which reached London by midnight. The lords hastily gathered in the council chamber that night to discuss the matter, but all they sent to Northumberland was an acknowledgement.

Sunday 16 July 1553

Reports reached London that support for Mary had strengthened. Her army numbered over 30,000 and was still growing. More towns had proclaimed for her and in the home counties there seemed widespread support for her. A placard was attached to a church door in Queenhithe, complaining that Mary had been proclaimed queen in every place but London. Queen Jane's father, the Duke of Suffolk, who now commanded the Tower, grew so worried that his daughter might be abandoned that he had a proclamation issued in her name, stressing the justness of her title and demanding the preservation of the crown "out of the dominion of strangers and papists." That night he ordered the gates of the Tower be locked. This was as much to keep his supporters in, as to keep opponents out! Many lords were beginning to realise that if Mary won, they stood to be accused of high treason, for which the penalty was death.

Northumberland meantime, had arrived in Cambridge in time to hear Dr Sandys, Vice-Chancellor of the University, preach a sermon upholding his cause. Its heartening effect was soon shattered when the Duke was informed of the mutiny at Yarmouth and given exaggerated reports claiming Mary's army was 40,000 strong. Even his own supreme confidence began to ebb. Again he wrote to the Council, in sharper terms, urging them to send fresh troops, as his men were still deserting. Then he marched on to Bury St Edmunds with an alarmingly depleted force, while people muttered against him and resolved to declare for Mary as soon as his back was turned.

Morale in Mary's camp was high. She appointed the Duke of Sussex as commander-in-chief and he set about deploying her army, drilling the ranks and making battle plans.

Monday 17 July 1553

When Northumberland neared Bury St Edmunds, he was within thirty miles of his quarry, but reports reaching him told of an enemy force far too large for him to confront with his dwindling, resentful troops. The Council had ignored his desperate pleas for reinforcements and was, if some reports were true, ready to abandon him. The bulk of his remaining army seemed ready to mutiny and when his pleas and arguments fell on deaf ears, he had no alternative but to fall back on Cambridge. There, while he himself tried to canvass support from the largely Protestant university, he sent his remaining men to scour the surrounding villages for peasants willing to fight for him. They met with refusal and retaliated with an orgy of looting and burning, which Northumberland made no effort to curb. Sickened by this, some of his chief officers then began to desert, which prompted hundreds of ordinary soldiers to slink away and join Mary.

In desperation, Northumberland sent his kinsman, Sir Henry Dudley, to Henry II in France, begging the French king to lead an army into England in return for the surrender of Calais and Guisnes, the last English possessions in France. A few days later, Sir Henry was arrested in Calais and found to have in his possession a great deal of plate and jewelry purloined from the treasury. Under questioning, he confessed what his mission involved – proof that Northumberland was a traitor to his country.

Tuesday 18 July 1553

In London, all but three members of the Council now abandoned Northumberland's coup d'etat and left the Tower. Their excuse was that they were going to meet with the French ambassador, to seek his help in obtaining aid for Northumberland. They actually went to Baynard's Castle, the luxurious London home of the Earl of Pembroke, where one gave a spirited oration in support of Mary and persuaded his colleagues to a unanimous decision formally to abandon Northumberland and declare for her. They agreed Northumberland was guilty of treason against his lawful sovereign and should be summoned back to London to account for his actions. A letter was then sent, demanding that he immediately dismiss his army and submit to the Council's decision. If he did not respond, he would be arrested. It was announced that a reward of £1,000 would be given to anyone apprehending Northumberland.

They then all went to St Paul's Cathedral to give thanks for the deliverance of the kingdom from treachery. Knowing that Mary had every reason to censure or even prosecute them, they ordered a Catholic mass to be celebrated in the cathedral, as an appeasement to Mary.

Wednesday 19 July 1553

In the Tower, Queen Jane had no idea that her reign of only nine days was rapidly coming to an end. She agreed to stand as sponsor at a christening later that afternoon, where a child was to be named after her husband, Guildford.

The counsellors went to the Guildhall to command the Lord Mayor and aldermen to proclaim Mary queen. Between five and six in the afternoon, the Lord Mayor went to Cheapside to do as he was ordered, but word had already leaked out So great was the crowd that he had to fight his way to the Eleanor Cross, where the proclamation was made. The crowd went wild as celebration began with bonfires and banqueting in almost every street. All the bells in every parish church were rung until ten o'clock that night.

Two of the counsellors left for Framlingham, to deliver the Great Seal of England to Queen Mary. They were instructed to assure her that most of the Council had remained loyal in their hearts throughout the crisis, but due to Northumberland's influence they had not dared to declare their allegiance for fear of provoking destruction and bloodshed! They hoped Mary would swallow such a lame excuse. To prove their loyalty to her, afterwards they would go to Cambridge to arrest Northumberland.

In the Tower that evening, the sound of celebrations could be heard from the windows. The royal apartments were almost deserted with only a few attendants remaining. Suddenly a group of officials led by the Duke of Suffolk, Queen Jane's father, burst into the presence chamber whilst Jane was at supper. He told her bluntly "You are no longer queen" and began to rip down the canopy of estate. He told her she must put off her royal robes and be content with a private life.

Jane took the news calmly, asking her father if she might now go home. Instead, her father left her in the Tower and within hours, guards were posted, signifying her new status as a prisoner. To preserve his own skin, he then hurried out onto Tower Hill where he enthusiastically proclaimed Mary queen. He then went with his wife to their house at Sheen.

Thursday 20 July 1553

At Framlingham the two counsellors from London arrived and were immediately admitted to Mary's presence. Falling on their knees they saluted her as queen and informed her that she had been proclaimed in London. They sought her pardon for the offence committed in the matter of the Lady Jane and symbolically held their daggers with the points towards their stomachs. Mary readily forgave them. She had been preparing to defend her position against Northumberland, who was believed to be still at Bury St Edmunds. Now she realized that an armed conflict had been avoided and she was queen by the will of the people. It was a heady, joyous moment.

Mary led her household into the chapel, where she commanded that the crucifix be openly placed on the altar for the first time in years. A Te Deum was sung, and everyone thanked God for this miraculous, bloodless victory.

Northumberland was at King's College, Cambridge that morning, where he heard that Mary had been proclaimed in London. He went out to the market square, tossed his bonnet in the air and cried out "God save Queen Mary" several times. But he was also seen to be weeping uncontrollably. He then ordered the Vice-Chancellor to celebrate mass, after which he confided "Queen Mary is a merciful woman. I look for a general pardon." The response was severe: "Be you assured, you shall never escape death; for if she would save you, those that now rule will kill you." Northumberland was silent.

At his lodgings he learned that his son Robert had been captured near Bury St Edmunds and began thinking of his escape with his remaining sons. But it was too late. The door was suddenly flung open and in strode the counsellors from Framlingham. The Duke fell on his knees. "Be good to me, for the love of God" he whimpered. "Consider – I have done nothing but by the consent of you all and the whole Council." His plea was brushed aside with the fateful words: "My lord, I am sent hither by the Queen's Majesty and in her name I arrest you."

Back in London, the Marquis of Winchester called upon Queen Jane formally to surrender the crown jewels and other property that rightfully belonged to Queen Mary, such as furs, velvet and sable mufflers, garters and portraits of Henry VIII and Edward VI. She was also made to relinquish the crown itself and moved from the royal apartments in the Tower to the half-timbered house of the Gentleman Gaoler of the Tower.

Friday 21 July 1553

Mary sent instructions to Lord Richard Rich and the Earl of Oxford, joint Lords Lieutenant of Essex, to retire with their companies and bands towards Ipswich until her pleasure should be further known.

Many men of rank or importance began to set out from London to pay their respects to Queen Mary at Framlingham and crave her pardon for their disloyalty. This she gave to all but Northumberland's staunchest supporters. Already, people were speculating on whom the Queen would marry. Nobody anticipated that, as the first female monarch to rule over England, she would attempt to rule without a husband to guide her.

Saturday 22 July 1553

Mary began making appointments to her new Council, rewarding those of her household who had been faithful to her and also those counsellors who had come to beg her pardon for their previous errors. Then she considered what to do about her brother's funeral (the late King Edward VI). She was advised to let him be buried in the faith in which he had died. However, she felt that as God had seen fit to place her on the throne, she believed it was her sacred duty to restore the true faith. She desired that he should be buried with Roman rites.

NB: On 8 August he was buried in Westminster Abbey as a Protestant. Mary absented herself as custom demanded of a monarch's successor, but then later held a requiem mass for him in private.

Sunday 23 July 1553

Astonished at the backlog of state business that had accumulated since the death of Edward VI, Mary had little leisure to think of marriage. Secretly she wrote to Pope Julius III, asking him to lift the interdict placed upon the English Church during her father's reign. She wanted to go to London, as some advised it would be best for her to return to the capital while public feeling was running high in her favour. Others advised her it would be hot and stinking there, the air was bad and the plague was about.

Monday 24 July 1553

Ignoring such advice, Mary discharged most of her great army and set out for London accompanied only by a force of a few hundred soldiers and a train of lords, ladies, supporters and servants. That night she stayed at Ipswich, where the city dignitaries presented her with a purse containing £11 in gold coins. Crowds filled the streets and a group of angelic-looking small boys gave her a solid gold heart inscribed "The heart of the people" which touched her greatly.

That same day, Northumberland and his sons left Cambridge under armed escort and were taken to London.

Tuesday 25 July 1553

At sunset, Northumberland and his sons were paraded through the streets thronged with angry, jeering crowds throwing stones, rotten eggs and excrement. Through it all, Northumberland stared haughtily ahead, or shot black looks at the crowd. He was ordered to doff first his hat, then his distinctive red cloak, for fear of being lynched. Finally he was reduced to appealing to the people, with great humility, for their pity. It was a dreadful sight. His eldest son John, Earl of Warwick, could take no more and, once his father was taken into the Beauchamp Tower, burst into anguished tears.

Wednesday 26 July 1553

Mary stayed quietly near Colchester, at the house of Muriel Christmas, who had once served Katherine of Aragon, Mary's mother.

Thursday 27 July 1553

Mary arrived at Newhall, near Chelmsford. This was her most magnificent property and had been granted to her in 1548, following the death of Henry VIII. He had originally purchased it from the Boleyn family in 1516 and had spent six years renovating it to a high standard at enormous cost. Mary had always loved this splendid place, which had often been her refuge in the past.

In London, the Duchess of Northumberland was released and immediately rode to Newhall, where she intended to beg the Queen for mercy for her husband and sons. Mary refused to receive her and dejected, she rode sorrowfully away.

Friday 28 July 1553

News of Mary's accession finally reached Elizabeth at Hatfield, where she had remained since early July, throughout the crisis, avoiding commitment one way or the other. Rumours emerged that Northumberland had sent counsellors to her, offering a large bribe if she would renounce her claim to the throne. It was also rumoured that Elizabeth had refused, stating "You must first make this agreement with my elder sister, during whose lifetime I have no claim or title to resign."

Saturday 29 July 1553

Elizabeth rode into the capital accompanied by 2,000 mounted men, all armed "with spears and bows and guns" and wearing velvet and taffeta livery in the Tudor colours of green and white. Elizabeth, like her half-sister Mary, was advertising her dynastic legitimacy. She was also showing that she too was able to recruit a feudal following. But for the moment, like Elizabeth herself, her following was to be placed in the service of Mary. Elizabeth processed along Fleet Street to her new town-palace at Somerset House, where she lodged the night.

Sunday 30 July 1553

Mary left Newhall for London, staying that night at Ingatestone, the home of Sir William Petre, a former Secretary of State to Henry VIII, Edward VI and subsequently to both Mary and Elizabeth. Her last opponents were mopped up and placed under arrest.

Monday 31 July 1553

Mary remained another night at Ingatestone, then rode on to Havering-atte-Bower, dower palace of the medieval queens of England. Wherever she went, people came running to see her, cheering and calling blessings upon her.

In London and obeying Mary's command, Elizabeth rode with a great train of nobles and attendants, along the Strand, through the City, out through Aldgate and on to the Colchester road along which Mary would come, to receive her in triumph. Having publicly made her point that she also enjoyed a substantial following, Elizabeth reduced the number of her escort by half as she rode back through the City to meet her half-sister Mary.

Tuesday 1 August 1553

Mary arrived at Wanstead, to be the guest of Richard Rich, who on 21 July she had ordered to Ipswich. He had then joined her progress towards London. Although at heart a papist, Richard Rich could invariably be found on the winning side, due to his unfailing willingness to turn his coat according to changing circumstances. He always acted with the party that was uppermost.

Mary clearly wanted a conciliatory demonstration and had arranged that Elizabeth should share her triumph and ride by her side when she entered the capital. For the previous twenty years – most of her adult life – Mary had known neither security nor much happiness. Everything she loved – her mother, her religion and her friends – had been condemned and rejected. Mary had also disliked her half-sister for many reasons, not least because she sensed an innate shiftiness in Elizabeth's character. Elizabeth, Mary believed, was never to be trusted. Originally, this dislike was because of Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn, who she blamed for her own mother's tragic end, as well as the alienation of her father's affections. After Anne Boleyn's execution and Elizabeth too, was declared illegitimate, Mary found other reasons to dislike Elizabeth. Like her mother, Mary was a devout Catholic and recognized Elizabeth's lack of religious zeal. Now though, suddenly Mary's enemies seemed to have melted away and she had been carried to the throne of England on the shoulders of her cheering people. The transformation was prophetic, miraculous, messianic. Mary, at this moment of her great triumph, was prepared to be conciliatory.

Wednesday 2 August 1553

Mary and Elizabeth met at Wanstead. Elizabeth dismounted and knelt in the road, but Mary alighted from her horse, raised Elizabeth and embraced and kissed her with great warmth, holding her hand as she spoke to her. She then kissed all the noble ladies in Elizabeth's train. But how much was Mary demonstrating Tudor harmony, as distinct from true sisterly affection?

The two great ladies spent that night together at Wanstead House. This was a royal hunting lodge, recently enlarged and renovated by its new lord of the manor, Richard Rich, appointed as such by Edward VI in 1549.

In various roles, Richard Rich had already had considerable impact on the lives of both his distinguished guests. He had been instrumental in arranging the separation of Mary's mother, Katharine of Aragon from Henry VIII and the annulment of their marriage. He had drafted the Act of Succession of 1534, which declared Katherine's marriage unlawful and Elizabeth to be heir to the throne. Following the lead of his mentor Thomas Cromwell, he had also played a large part in the trial and execution of Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn. That night, he played host to both Mary and Elizabeth. We can only speculate on what the two half-sisters and their host may have discussed over dinner! But as a former Solicitor General, Speaker of the House of Commons and Lord Chancellor, Rich had attended all meetings of the Privy Council. In 1547, Henry VIII had appointed him to be an assistant to the execution of his will. By 1553, the first Baron Rich of Leighs was certainly a trusted elder statesman and perhaps saw himself as a potential kingmaker, or at least 'broker' to the Tudor dynasty. Was it at Wanstead then, that the great constitutional crisis of the 1553 succession was apparently resolved?

Thursday 3 August 1553 - Epilogue

The two great processions formed into one for the state entry into London. Elizabeth rode at Mary's side to Whitechapel, where Mary changed into ceremonial clothes. Elizabeth, dressed in white, smiling and nodding at the people, then rode behind Mary. Also in the train rode Lord and Lady Richard Rich. In the late afternoon of 3 August, the Queen's procession entered London through Aldgate, where the Lord Mayor was waiting to surrender the city's mace "in token of loyalty and homage." Mary returned it to him with a gracious speech of thanks. Trumpets sounded, guns were fired from Tower Wharf, church bells rang out, music played and throngs of citizens cheered themselves hoarse, whilst many wept for joy.

Friday 4 August 1553

The Privy Council made its formal submission to Queen Mary. Richard Rich was sworn into Mary's Council and in due course officiated at her coronation.

Saturday 5 August 1553

Queen Mary was greatly impressed by a lengthy letter sent to her by Jane, giving a full and honest account of her nine days' reign, without making too many excuses for herself. In admitting that she had done wrong, what came across to the Queen was that Jane had had no choice in the matter. In October she would be sixteen. On 14 November she and her husband were tried at the Guildhall in London on charges of high treason. They pleaded guilty and were sentenced to death. Queen Mary resolved to be merciful. Their harsh sentence was commuted - they were to remain in the Tower at her pleasure.

Tuesday 8 August 1553

The late Edward VI was buried in Westminster Abbey as a Protestant. Mary absented herself as custom demanded of a monarch's successor, but then later held a requiem mass for him in private.

Friday 18 August 1553

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, was tried before his peers for high treason at Westminster Hall and found guilty. Lord Richard Rich was one of the jurors. Five days later, on 23 August, before 10,000 onlookers, Northumberland was executed at Tower Hill.

Following her coronation on 1 October 1553, Mary began to receive delegations from Spain through that autumn. It was widely rumoured that she would marry Philip of Spain, son of the Emperor Charles V.

In January 1554, news emerged of a plot for a widespread rebellion against Mary's proposed Spanish alliance, led by Sir Thomas Wyatt. On 7 February, almost 7,000 rebels marched through what is now known as Knightsbridge, along Piccadilly and literally to the court gate of Whitehall and the Palace of Westminster. After fatally splitting their forces at St James's Park, some went down the Strand to defeat and capture near Ludgate. The rest were dispersed. Lady Jane Grey, held in the Tower since the previous November, was implicated with the rebels to a small degree, as her father was one of their leaders and had publicly declared for her. She was seen as a potential focus for a future attempted insurrection and was executed on 12 February 1554.

Elizabeth had been living in seclusion at Ashridge House in Hertfordshire. Although under great suspicion, no firm evidence of her complicity could be found. She was brought to Whitehall for several months of close interrogation, during which time she steadfastly maintained her innocence.

On Palm Sunday, 18 March 1554, Elizabeth was taken by barge to the Tower, where she endured two more months of cross-questioning about her role, if any, in the Wyatt rebellion. None emerged and on 19 May 1554, Mary agreed that her half-sister should live in close confinement at Woodstock, near Oxford. This lasted until April 1555. Elizabeth was then brought to live close to Mary at the palace of Hampton Court. On 18 October 1555, she was finally released to live in seclusion at her favourite house at Hatfield.

Mary (later dubbed "Bloody Mary" because of her execution of almost three hundred Protestants who refused to conform to her application of Catholicism), died on 17 November 1558. Elizabeth was proclaimed Queen. She reigned for the next 45 years until 1603, dying without naming a successor.

In 1557 the estate at Wanstead was bought by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. This was the best-known son of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, leader of the 1553 coup d'etat, who had been executed for treason four years before. The house was again greatly enlarged and improved. It was visited periodically by Queen Elizabeth, who was lavishly entertained there by her great favourite, the Earl of Leicester ("beloved Robin"). In following years it was considered a Royal Palace, with hunting in the surrounding forest and state business conducted from the house many times by Elizabeth and her successors, James I and Charles I.

Annex: the years 1547-53 in more detail