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August 23, 1553 – Stephen Gardiner Becomes Lord Chancellor

Stephen Gardiner by a 16th century artist (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The Lord Chancellor was the most powerful man in England (after the sovereign, of course), so this was the ultimate triumph for a man as ambitious as Bishop Stephen Gardiner.

I have been deep into a theme of reversals lately (especially in my recent post about the huge ups and downs experienced by Margaret Pole) and this fits in well with that since a month before this pinnacle Gardiner had been languishing in the Tower from a downward cycle that began late in 1546 as Henry was reaching the end of his life. As part of putting affairs in order to make things easy for his son, Henry decided that Gardiner would be too difficult for a Regency Council to manage – and cut him out of the future power structure completely (admittedly this political decision was spurred by Gardiner’s refusal to exchange lands with him … never a good idea, as Nicholas Carew learned). Gardiner had a hard time accepting this reality; he kept believing the situation would change and kept trying to keep people from finding out. As Henry lay dying, Gardiner would come every day asking to see him, then after permission was refused would wander around Whitehall pretending nothing was wrong. Things got worse under Edward VI, when Gardiner stuck to his conservative religious guns and got himself thrown into the Tower. He stayed there for two years, still rabble rousing, and might have moved on to martyrdom but then Edward VI died. When Mary I arrived in London to claim her throne, she released Gardiner (and Norfolk and Anne Seymour Somerset). This is going to be the final scene in The Boy King – the epilogue actually, since it takes place after Edward’s death.

I set the stage for this in The Path to Somerset, using a similar device: since Somerset was Edward Seymour’s story, that book ends when Seymour becomes Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset. But Stephen Gardiner was a point of view character (I get two in each book, to help the reader distinguish the truth through a more rounded narrative) and his story needed a close after Henry iced him out. So I took advantage of the fact that Gardiner officiated at Henry’s funeral to let him foreshadow the end of the saga. His final word, “Patience,” tells it all.

(Of course my next trilogy – about Elizabeth – will turn this all on its head another time. A true Tudorholic will always look for the reversals, just as a true Jets fan will aways look for the flag….)


If you like my posts, you’ll love my books! My Seymour Saga trilogy tells the gripping story of the short-lived dynasty that shaped the Tudor Era. Jane the Quene skews romantic, The Path to Somerset is pure Game of Thrones (without the dragons), and The Boy King is a noir coming-of-age. Get them now through AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and Apple, or even your local independent bookstore!

(PS Already read them? Did you love them? Then please review them – even just a stars rating! It makes a huge difference in helping new readers find them and would mean the world to me!)

August 23, 1553 – Stephen Gardiner Becomes Lord Chancellor
Published inOn This Day

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