Tudor Mary and Framlingham Castle  - Framlingham

Picture (c) by John Ashley Photography

In the summer of 1553 Tudor Mary daughter of Henry the 8th took shelter behind the thick medieval walls of the 12th century castle of Framlingham. A castle that had been given to her by her half brother Edward VI the only son of Henry 8th a brother who even now lay dying back in London, though some claim he was already dead.

Early in 1553 fifteen year old Edward who had never enjoyed good health contracted a cold, his doctors administered various potions but their efforts were in vain. Edward now in perpetual agony and knowing he was dying began to have concerns about the succession, encouraged in these concerns by those about him who were keen to further their own houses. Edward had been brought up a Protestant so it is perhaps understandable that he had no desire to be succeeded by his older half-sister, Mary. 

It was John Dudley the 51 year old Duke of Northumberland who convinced the sickly Edward 7th to disregard his fathers, Henry 8th wishes in connection with the succession. Edward was childless so the next in line for the throne should have been his older sister Mary but she like her mother before was a devout Catholic. So it was easy for John Dudley to convince the King that he should name his daughter in law Lady Jane Grey, a Protestant, as Edwards heir. Even by passing Edwards other sister Elizabeth. Who although Protestant had been declared a bastard and whose mother had of course been named a witch. 

Jane did have a claim to the throne of England through her grandmother, who had been Henry 8ths youngest sister. But she should only have succeeded (under Henry 8ths succession wishes) after Mary and Elizabeth. But her power hungry father-in-law John Dudley who with the blessing of Jane's parents masterminded Jane's accession to the throne of England. According to legend Dudley is said to have snatched the crown from Edward as he lay dying and gave it to his daughter-in-law, the Lady Jane in front of Edwards dying gaze.

Emperor Charles of Spain is said to have told Mary to give up her fight for the throne and to hope that Northumberland would be merciful. But Mary had no intention of heading this weak advice. When she received a summons to visit her sick brother she was intercepted and warned that it was a plot to capture her. Fearing for her life catholic Mary fled the capital and finally took refuge in Framlingham Castle where her supporters rallied to her flag. Soon the castle was surrounded by commoners and armed nobles who set up camp outside the castle walls, swelling the small towns numbers. Mary herself is said to have gone down from the castle and walked amongst her people and personally inspected her troops.

Edward died on 6th July 1553, his death was originally kept a secret for a few days so that preparations could be made for Jane's accession. However, word of Edwards death reached Mary at Framlingham Castle and she declared herself Queen of England and a succession of towns declared themselves to her and sent arms and men to Framlingham.

Back in London on the 10th July Lady Jane Grey wearing Tudor colours and raised shoes to give her some height, was declared queen and ruler of the English people. A young boy so bold as to hail "Queen Mary" was punished by having his ears cut off. Yet, the country remained devoted to Tudor Mary.

On 19 July, nine days after Lady Jane Grey had ascended the English throne her accession proclamation was deemed to have been made under coercion and was revoked; instead, Mary was proclaimed Queen and all support for the Lady Jane vanished. Back in Framlingham, Mary hearing this proclamation decided that her first act as Queen of England should be to order a crucifix to be set up in the parish church of Framlingham. Mary, decided that God had opened the way for her to bring back the people to the only true religion. 

Mary Tudor left Framlingham for London on 24th July she rode into the capital triumphantly and unchallenged, with her half-sister, the Lady Elizabeth, at her side, on 3 August.
The Duke of Northumberland was executed, but the Lady Jane and her father were originally spared but unfortunately six months later Mary changed her mind. 

The sentence was passed down that Jane was to either be burned alive on Tower Hill or beheaded as the new Queen pleased. Luckily for her the Queen decided on beheading, which was strange when you consider the fondness that 'Bloody Mary' had for condemning people of other faiths to the fire. By the end of Tudor Mary's fairly short five year reign she was responsible for over two hundred and seventy men, women and children being burnt to death at the stake, for heresy.

Lady Jane Grey was just sixteen when they chopped off her head with a single blow to her slender neck. She had been a wife for less than a year, a widow for a matter of hours and a Queen for just nine days. Earlier on that day Jane had watched her young husband Guildford Dudley taken from his own prison cell in the tower of London to be executed on Tower Hill. Later she saw his headless blood splattered body unloaded from a hay cart underneath her window. His head wrapped in a piece of cloth by his side. For the last six months Lady Jane Grey and her husband had both been interred in the Tower, after having been found guilty of treason. The last few weeks of her incarceration, Jane had watched the building of her own personal scaffold as it was erected outside her window in the White Tower. As she was of royal blood her execution, unlike her young husbands, was to be a more private affair with only a small crowd in attendance to witness her last minutes.

Wearing the same dress that she had worn at her trial and carrying her prayer book Lady Jane ascended the scaffold. A handkerchief was given to her to tie over her eyes, and she was heard to murmur to the masked executioner 'I pray you despatch me quickly." As she began to kneel she hesitated, and asked of the executioner if he would remove the blindfold before he killed her, to which the executioner replied "no madam".

Jane then tied the blindfold around her own head. Unfortunately she was now unable to see and could not locate the block where she should lay her head. An eyewitness account said that Lady Jane flailed around crying out "what shall I do, where is it" searching with her arms outstretched. 

Her attendants were hesitant in coming forward to help her, so in the end someone in the crowd took pity and climbed up onto the scaffold. Gently grasping the sixteen year olds flailing arms, he helped her find the block and gently assisted her in placing her head upon it. The executioner then swung his axe and severed her head from her body with one blow. Accounts say that there was so much blood it spattered many of the witnesses. The executioner then lifted her head and said 'so perishes all the queens enemies, behold the head of a traitor".
So endeth the life of Jane Grey, who went down in history as the Nine Day Queen, a poor girl used and victimized as a result of the ambitions of her parents and her in-laws. Her ghost is said to appear at the Tower of London, on the anniversary of her execution. As recently as 1957, two Guardsmen witnessed a white shape "forming itself on the battlements". The day was the 12th of February 1957, 403 years to the day that Jane had been executed.

When Mary Tudor eventually became Queen she restored the castle at Framlingham to the Howard family who had held the castle before. When the fourth Duke of Norfolk was executed for treason the castle was forfeited to Elizabeth 1 who used it as a prison for Catholic priests. 

During her reign, Mary's age and poor health led her to suffer numerous phantom pregnancies, no child, however, was born. Mary died in 1558 at the age of forty-two of influenza, uterine cancer or ovarian cancer and Elizabeth I ascended the throne. Interestingly Robert Dudley the so called lover of Elizabeth I was the son of John Dudley the Duke of Northumberland

                    (c) by John Ashley Photography