Edward VI's "Deuise for Succession" or John Dudley's?
David Starkey says in Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne, “the history of the Dudleys and the Tudors was intertwined – like a tree and, Dudley’s many enemies have said, its parasitical ivy”. But is the “Black Legend” of John Dudley and his family really true? Did he manipulate Edward into naming Jane Grey as his heir?
To start debunking this myth, let’s start with the many stages that Edward VI’s “Deuise for Succession” went through.
Edward’s “Deuise for Succession”
There are four versions of Edward’s “Deuise”.
Version one: S.T. Bindoff believed the John Dudley theory and dates version one to the time of Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley’s marriage, but there is plenty of evidence to counter the John Dudley theory.
- The document shows no sign of any advanced weakness and does not suggest that Edward believed he was dying.
- Version one left open the possibility of having children of his own and ones that might be over 18.
- The device refers to councilors “to be appointed by my last will”. Notes for that will survive and help support the theory that the will and version one could not be written earlier than April 1553. The notes cite a statute which received royal assent on 31 March 1553.
- The date is also suggested by the beginning of wedding preparations for Jane and Katherine Grey. Edward would have needed to know about these weddings or it would have made his proposed succession very unrealistic (more on this later!).
Version Three: Existed by 11 June 1553.
- 11 June 1553 is the date of a letter summoning the lawyers to receive instructions about putting it into legal form.
Version Four: It was a formal document signed by Edward on 21 June – two weeks before he died.
Was John Dudley behind version one?
If John Dudley was behind the initial changes to the succession, he failed massively. Version one of the “deuise” did not elevate Dudley or his son. Jane Grey would have to have a son first and that would be, at the earliest, the spring of 1554. This is also excluding the possibility that Jane would have a daughter. If this occurred, his chances for dominating the throne would be even more delayed. Until then, her mother, Frances Grey, would be governess of the realm. According to Edward’s wishes, Frances would have to have the approval of six councilors for what she did. Dudley was not specified as one of these six councilors.
So far it seems that, contrary to popular belief, John Dudley was not the mastermind behind the initial changes to the line of succession. But was behind the other versions? You’ll just have to wait for part two. Ooooh! The suspense!! ;)
Ives, Eric. “My Deuise For Succession.” Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. UK: Wiley- Blackwell, 2009. 137+. Print.
Starkey, David. “The Dudleys.” Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne. New York: HarperCollins, 2001. 90. Print.
If there are mistakes, it is because someone named me is really really tired!!