Katherine Grey of Yoxford - Suffolk

Picture (c) by John Ashley Photography

Katherine Grey is buried in the village of Yoxford, she died on 27th January 1568 at Cockfield Hall in Yoxford. Katherine was the younger sister of the ill fated Lady Jane Grey who was Queen of England for just 9 days before being beheaded by a relative Tudor Mary. Katherine's grandmother was Henry VIII s youngest sister, Princess Mary.

Katherine was only fourteen when her sister and her father were both executed. Despite her youth Katherine was already married to the son of the Earl of Pembroke. The wedding took place in May 1553, at a double ceremony with her older sister Jane, who wed the Duke of Northumberland's son Guildford. Katherine was considered the prettiest of the Grey girls, being small like Jane and with the Tudor red-gold hair and fair complexion.

After her sisters death in 1554, her father-in-law the Earl of Pembroke was keen to distance himself from the disgraced Greys and he banished poor Katherine and had the marriage to his son annulled. Despite having had her older sister killed, Tudor Mary stood by her Grey relatives and allowed Katherine's mother Frances and her two remaining children (Katherine and Mary) to remain at court. She even granted the mother Frances permission to remarry. Which she did just three weeks after her husband's execution, to her steward, Adrian Stokes, a young man fifteen years Frances's junior.

However, after the death of Tudor May, when Elizabeth the First came to the throne in November 1558, Katherine and her sister Mary were considered by many as a threat to Elizabeths rule. Like many Katherine had been brought up to believe that Elizabeth was the illegitimate daughter of an executed adulterer and traitor and therefore did not have a legitimate claim to the throne of England. Elizabeth was aware of this and for herself also disliked her Grey cousins as much as they disliked, and feared her.

So it was that Elizabeth began to curtail the two sisters privileges. Then rumours began to circulate that the Spanish wanted to marry Katherine off to one of their royal nobleman, this worried both Elizabeth and to be fair Katherine as well. So Katherine took matters into her own hands and wed Edward Seymour, without the knowledge or the authority of Queen Elizabeth. Edward and Katherine kept their marriage secret, sleeping together several times in the palaces of Westminster and Greenwich, though never spending an entire night together.

Queen Elizabeth, still un-aware of the marriage, sent Edward away to France with Thomas Cecil (eldest son of William Cecil) on a European tour to finish both their educations. Whilst Edward was away Katherine discovered she was pregnant. Unfortunately her letters to her husband, pleading for him to come home were delayed and Katherine could no longer hide her condition from the Queen. She broke down and confessed her story to Robert Dudley, a favourite of Queen Elizabeth, hoping he would intercede on her behalf with the Queen. Dudley listened to her story, promised nothing, and the next morning told everything to the Queen.

Elizabeth put the then heavily pregnant Katherine, straight into the Tower of London and this was where Katherine gave birth to her son. Edward returned home but neither he nor Katherine were able to produce evidence of their marriage, they couldn't even produce the minister. So the Archbishop of Canterbury ruled there had been no marriage and censured them both for having committed fornication.

The Lieutenant of the Tower felt sorry for the sad pair and allowed Edward access to Katherine in her prison in the Tower. The inevitable occurred and Katherine found herself pregnant again. Her second son was also born in the tower and two tower warders acted as godfathers. The Queen, who had been content to let Katherine languish in the tower indefinitely, was enraged, she proceeded to throw Edward into the tower, but took Katherine out. For the next seven years Katherine was moved around the country staying in a variety of houses under a series of wardens, she never saw her husband again. Her health which had already begun to deteriorate in the tower, became worse. In 1567 she was sent to Cockfield Hall in Yoxford, her latest keeper was Sir Owen Hopton. By now Katherine was gravely ill with tuberculosis. At nine o'clock, on 27th January 1568 aged just twenty-seven Katherine Grey died.  She was buried at Yoxford.

 Picture (c) by John Ashley Photography