Dudley, John

, son of the preceding, baron of Maipas, viscount L‘Isle, earl of Warwick, and duke of Northumberland, was born in 1502, and afterwards became one of the most powerful subjects this kingdom ever saw. At the time his father was beheaded, he was about eight years old; and it being known that the severity exercised in that act was rather to satisfy popular clamour than justice, his friends found no great difficulty in obtaining from the parliament, that his father’s attainder might be reversed, and himself restored in blood; for which purpose a special act was passed in 1511. After an education suitable to his quality, he was introduced at court in 15-23, where, having a line person, and great accomplishments, he soon became admired. He attended the king’s favourite, Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk, in his expedition to France; and distinguished himself so much by his gallant behaviour, that he obtained the honour of knighthood. He attached himself to cardinal Wolsey, whom he accompanied in his embassy to France; and he was also in great confidence with the next prime minister, lord Cromwell. The fall of these eminent statesmen one after another, did not at all affect the favour or fortune of sir John Dudley, who had great dexterity in preserving their good graces, without embarking too far in their designs; preserving always a proper regard for the sentiments of his sovereign, which kept him in full credit at court, in the midst of many changes, as well of men as measures. In 1542, he was raised to the dignity of viscount L’Isle, and at the next festival of St. George, was elected knight of the garter. This was soon after followed by a much higher instance both of kindness and trust; for the king, considering his uncommon abilities and courage, and the occasion he had then for them, made him lord high admiral of England for life; and in this important post he did many singular services. He owed all his honours and fortune to Henry VII L and received from him, towards the close of his reign, very large grants of church lands, which, however, created him many enemies. He was also named by king Henry in his | will, to be one of his sixteen executors; and received from him a legacy of 500l. which was the highest he bestowed on any of them.

After the death of Henry, which happened January 31, 1547, the earl of Hertford, afterwards duke of Somerset, who was the young king’s uncle, without having any regard to Henry’s will, procured himself to be declared protector of the kingdom, and set on foot many projects. Among the first, one was to get his brother, sir Thomas Seymour, made high-admiral, in whose favour the lord viscount L’Isle was obliged to resign; but in lieu thereof, was created earl of Warwick, and made great chamberlain of England; favours which he undoubtedly did not think a recompense for the loss he sustained; and his aversion to the protector probably may be dated from this period. Afterwards troubles came on, and insurrections broke out in several parts of the kingdom. In Devonshire the insurgents were so strong that they besieged the city of Exeter; and before they could be reduced by the lord Russel, a new rebellion broke out in Norfolk, under the command of one Robert Ket, a tanner, who was very soon at the head of ten thousand men. The earl of Warwick, whose reputation was very high in military matters, was ordered to march against the latter. He defeated them, and killed about a thousand of them: but they, collecting their scattered parties, offered him battle a second time. The earl marched directly towards them; but when he was on the point of engaging, he sent them a message, that “he was sorry to see so much courage expressed in so bad a cause; but that, notwithstanding what was past, they might depend on the king-'s pardon, on delivering up their leaders.” To which they answered, that “he was a nobleman of so much worth and generosity, that if they might have this assurance from his own mouth, they were willing to submit.” The earl accordingly went among them; upon which they threw down their arms, delivered up Robert Ket, and his brother William, with the rest of their chiefs, who were hanged, and the other rebels were dispersed.

At the end of 1549, sir Thomas Seymour having been attainted and executed for practices against his brother, and the protector now in the Tower, the earl of Warwick was again made lord high admiral, with very extensive powers. He stood at this time so high in the king’s favour, and had so firm a friendship with the rest of the lords of | the council, that nothing was done but by his advice anil consent; to which therefore we most attribute the release of the duke of Somerset out of the Tower, and the restoring of him to some share of power and favour at court. The king was much pleased with this; and, in order to establish a realj and lasting friendship between these two great men, had a marriage proposed between the earl of Warwick’s eldest son, and the duke of Somerset’s daughter; which at length was brought to bear, and the 3d of June, 1550, solemnized in the king’s presence. In April 1551, the earl of Warwick was constituted earl marshal of England; soon after lord warden of the northern marches; and in October, advanced to the dignity of duke of Northumberland. A few days after, the conspiracy of the duke of Somerset breaking out, the duke, his duchess, and-several other persons, were sent prisoners to the Tower; and the king being persuaded that he had really formed a design to murder the duke of Northumberland, resolved to leave him to the law. He was tried, condemned, and, February 22, 1552, executed; the duke of Northumberland succeeding him as chancellor of Cambridge.

This great politician had now raised himself as high as it was possible in point of dignity and power: the ascendancy he had gained over the young king was so great, that he directed him entirely at his pleasure; and he had with such dexterity wrought most of the great nobility into his interests, and had so humbled and depressed all who shewed any dislike to him, that he seemed to have every thing to hope, and little to fear. And such indeed was the case, while that king lived; but when he discerned his majesty’s health to decline apace, it was very natural for him to consider how he might secure himself and his family. This appears plainly from the hurry with which the marriage was concluded with the lady Jane Grey, eldest daughter nf the duke of Suffolk, and his fourth son, lord Guildford Dudley; which was celebrated in May, 1553, not above two months before the kin^ died. He had been some time contriving that plan for the disposal of the kingdom, which. he carried afterwards into execution, in the parliament held a little before the king’s death, he procured a considerable supply to be granted; and, in the preamble of that act, caused to be inserted a direct censure of the duke of Somerset’s administration. Then, dissolving thai parliament, he applied himself to the king, and shewed him | the necessity of setting the lady Mary aside, from the danger the protestant religion would be in, if she should succeed him; in which, from the piety of that young prince, he found no great difficulty. Burnet says, he did not well understand how the king was prevailed on to pass by his sister Elizabeth, who had been always much in his favour; yet, when this was done, there was another difficulty in the way. The duchess of Suffolk was next heir, who might have sons; and therefore, to bar these in favour of lady Jane Dudley seemed to be unnatural, as well as illegal. But the duchess herself contributed, as far as in her lay, to remove this obstacle, by devolving her right upon her daughter, even if she had male issue; and this satisfied the king. The king’s consent being obtained, the next point was to procure a proper instrument to be drawn by the judges; in doing which, the duke of Northumberland made use of threats as well as promises; and, when done at last, it was in such a manner as plainly shewed it to be illegal in their own opinions.

Edward died the 6th of July, 1553. It is said that the duke of Northumberland was very desirous of concealing his death for some time; but this being found impossible, he carried his daughter-in-law, the lady Jane, from Durham-house to the Tower, for the greater security, and on the 10th of July proclaimed her queen. The council also wrote to lady Mary, requiring her submission; but they were soon informed that she was retired into Norfolk, where many of the nobility and multitudes of people resorted to her. It was then resolved to send forces against her, under the command of the duke of Suffolk; but queen Jane, as she was then styled, would by no means part with her father; and the council earnestly pressed the duke of Northumberland to go in person, to which he was little inclined, as doubting their fidelity. However, on the 14th of July he went, accompanied by some others; but, as they marched through Bishopsgate with two thousand horse and six thousand foot, he could not forbear saying to lord Grey, “The people press to see us, but not one says, God speed us.” His activity and courage, for which he had been so famous, seem from this time to have deserted him; for, though he advanced to St. Edmund’sbury, in Suffolk, yet, finding his troops diminish, the people little affected to him, and no supplies coming from London, though he had written to the lords in the | most pressing terms, he retired back to Cambridge. The council in the mean time having escaped from the Tower, had queen Mary proclaimed. The duke of Northumberland, having immediate advice of this, caused her to be proclaimed at Cambridge, throwing up his cap, and crying, “God save queen Mary!” but all this affected loyalty stood him in no stead; for he was soon after arrested, arraigned, tried, and condemned. August the 2 1st was the day fixed for his execution; when a vast concourse of people assembled upon Tower-hill, all the usual preparations being made, and the executioner ready; but, after waiting some hours, the people were ordered to depart. This delay was to afford time for his making an open show of the change of his- religion since that very day, in the presence of the mayor and aldermen of London, as well as some of the privy-council, he heard mass in the Tower. The next day he was executed, after making a very long speech to the people, of which there remains nothing but what relates to his religion; which he not only professed to be then that of the church of Rome, but to have been always so. Fox affirms that he had a promise of pardon^ even if his head was upon the block, if he would recant and hear mass; and some have believed that he entertained such a hope to the last. Whatever truth there may be in this, it is allowed that he behaved with proper courage and composure.

Such was the end of this potent nobleman, who, with the title of a duke, exercised for some time a power little inferior to that of a king; of whom it may be said, that though he had many great and good qualities, yet they were much overbalanced by his vices. He had a numerousissue, eight sons and five daughters; of whom some went before him to the grave; others survived, and lived to see a great change in their fortunes. John earl of Warwick was condemned with his father, but reprieved and released out of the Tower; and, going to his brother’s house at Penshurst, in Kent, died there two days after. Ambrose and Robert were both very remarkable men, of whom we shall give some account; Guiklford, who married lady Jane Grey in May, 1553, lost his life, as well as his unfortunate lady, upon the scaffold, the 12th of Feb. following. (See Grey). The others, Henry and Charles, died unmarried, as did the daughters Margaret, Temperance, and Cathesine but Mary was married to sir Henry Sidney, | K. G. and another Catherine to Henry Hastings, earl of Huntingdon. The duke’s widow, after being turned out of doors, and encountering many hardships, obtained some relief from the court, on which she subsisted until her death, at Chelsea, Jan. 22, 1555. 1


Biog. Brit. History of England.