Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk in 5 Minutes

Henry Grey

Image in the public domain (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Henry_Grey.jpg)

Henry Grey was the husband of Frances Grey and father of Lady Jane Grey. His love for influence and power may have led to his downfall. It was also partially because of him that Mary I of England finally decided to execute Lady Jane Grey, commonly referred to as the Nine Day Queen.

Despite all my research into Jane Grey, I’ve barely looked at Henry other than his involvement in Jane’s marriage, coronation and downfall. It’s been interesting learning more about him now, and I hope you feel the same. I look forward to doing a lot more in the future.

The Start of Henry Grey’s Life

Henry Grey was born on January 17, 1517 and did have a connection to the English throne in a way. He was the great-grandson of Elizabeth Woodville, through her first marriage to John of Groby. Elizabeth’s elder son from her first marriage Thomas was the grandfather of this influential noble. It may not be surprising now for some that he wanted to move up the line of power.

After his father’s death in 1530, Henry became the Marquess of Dorset. In 1533, he gained permission to marry the daughter of Mary Tudor, Lady Frances Brandon. This was just a few years after he refused to marry Katherine FitzAlan, who has had previously been betrothed to.

Henry Grey Marries Frances Brandon

Henry and Frances married sometime in 1533, although the exact date of their marriage is not recorded. It is possible that they married shortly after Mary Tudor, Queen of France’s death that year. Their marriage led to five children, but only three survived infancy. They would go onto become well-known in England.

Lady Jane Grey was the first born in 1537. She was followed by Katherine Grey three years later and then Mary Grey five years after that.

Henry was a constant fixture in the court circles before Henry VIII’s death. He was even the sword bearer at Anne Boleyn’s coronation, as well as at Anne of Cleves’ arrival. It is unclear whether his wife had any views over his position at Anne Boleyn’s coronation. Mary Tudor certainly did not like the second wife of Henry VIII, and Frances may have held many of the same feelings.

The position did help Henry gain more power. He was there throughout the earlier years of Edward VI’s reign, working with Edward Seymour to make Jane the wife of the young king. As Edward started to trust his uncle less, it didn’t work out but there were other options.

Henry Grey Becomes the Queen’s Father

In 1551, Frances Brandon’s half-brothers Charles and Henry died within the hour of each other. The title and lands for the Duke of Suffolk were left empty. Edward VI agreed to pass them onto Henry Grey, considering his wife was the daughter of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. At the same time, John Dudley was made the Duke of Northumberland.

The two new dukes became very good friends. It also helped that both were of the reformed faith, and wanted to help push through more reformations. Despite Jane’s status, Henry agreed to the marriage between her and John’s fourth son Guildford Dudley. It would lead to John working closely with Edward VI to have Jane placed on the throne before Lady Mary Tudor.

As Edward feared his own death without heirs, he also feared the country would take a backwards step in religion. Leaving the country to his eldest half-sister would certainly mean Catholicism

Mary I of England

Image in the public domain (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_I_of_England#/media/File:Mary1_by_Eworth_3.jpg)

would become the main religious and protestants would be forced to hide. He also didn’t believe a woman could rule.

This did lead to an issue. There were no males close to the throne. Mary Tudor’s surviving children were both girls, and Frances had had three girls. There was hope that Jane Grey would give birth to a boy, so Edward jumped over his two half-sisters and his cousin and placed Jane as heir to the throne. Edward died on July 6, 1533 and Henry Grey found himself the Queen’s Father.

Unfortunately for Jane—and Henry—Mary I deposed the young girl and arrested her. Henry only managed to escape the Tower of London because Frances Brandon begged for mercy.

Henry Grey Executed for Treason

Henry didn’t learn from that incident. Rather than keeping his head down and working on securing the release of his daughter, he joined a protestant rebellion. Sure enough, Mary I started her change to the religion of the country, and Henry would be forced to convert, go into exile or be executed for heresy.

He joined with Wyatt the Younger in the rebellion. It was overthrown and Henry was arrested and placed back in the Tower of London. This time there was nothing his wife could do.

Lady Jane Grey was executed first, but Henry was quickly convicted of treason. He was executed on February 23, 1554.

There are many rumors about what happened to his head and body. According to Walter George Bell in the 20th century, Henry’s head was found in the Holy Trinity church vault in London in 1851. It was perfectly preserved due to the sawdust used on in the scaffold basket. Bell wrote that Frances managed to hide the head so it would not be placed on London Bridge, where traitor’s heads were placed to encourage others not to commit treason. The head was placed in St. Botolph’s Church, Aldgate in 1899 after Holy Trinity closed.

His body wasn’t with the head. That was likely thrown in an unmarked grave at St. Peter ad Vincula, where many others were buried after execution.


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