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January 27, 1554 – Mary I’s Initial Reaction to Wyatt’s Rebellion

Wyatt Attacking London by George Cruikshank – scanned image by Philip V. Allingham.

First, the context: Wyatt’s Rebellion was an attempt to overthrow Queen Mary I of England and replace her with either her half-sister Elizabeth or her cousin Jane Grey. It was a reaction to Mary’s plans to marry Philip of Spain and return England to Catholicism. Now, the Tudor era is notable for its pendulum swings, and this is one of the most extreme examples. Remember that it had been barely six months earlier that a dying Edward VI had tried to subvert the succession away from Mary to place Protestant Jane Grey on the throne – and England had risen to proclaim Mary.

But back to the current events (“current” being a relative term of course).

The rising had been planned for April, but the rebels had to accelerate their plans when word got out. A few years, ago I posted the amazing speech Mary gave to rally her troops in London just before Wyatt actually attacked, but it is time to make clear that Mary rose to the occasion from the very beginning, with a righteous call to all her nobles to assemble men to support her cause. Each one of them received a letter reminding him that the decision to restore Catholicism had been made by Parliament – and a copy of the terms of her marriage agreement to prove the point that her marriage to Philip of Spain would increase England’s honor and surety. The letter is compelling, and classic Mary; I put in two explanatory notes (bracketed) to make clear why she is talking about Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, when the main conspirator was Thomas Wyatt – but the rest is all her. Enjoy.

By the Queen

Right, trusty and well-beloved, we greet you well. And where the Duke of Suffolk [Jane Grey’s father], and his brethren, with divers other persons, forgetting their truth and duty of allegiance which they owe to God and us, and also the great mercy which the said duke hath lately received of us [Mary pardoned him – and his daughter – for the attempt to usurp her throne], be, as we are surely informed, revolted, and maliciously conspired together to stir our people and subjects most unnaturally to rebel against us and the laws lately made by authority of Parliament for the restitution of the true Catholic Christian religion; making their only pretense nevertheless (though falsely) to let the coming in of the prince of Spain and his train, spreading most false rumors that the said prince and the Spaniards intend to conquer this our realm, whereas his said coming is for the great honor and surety of us and our said realm, as we doubt not God will in the end make a most plain demonstration to the comfort of all our good subjects. Therefore, trusting in your fidelity, valiantness, and noble courage, to serve us and our said realm against the said traitors and rebels, we require you, immediately upon the sight hereof, to put yourself in order to repress the same, with all the power, puissance, and force you can possibly make of horsemen and footmen, as well of your own servants, tenants, and friends, as others under your rule. To the levying, raising, and leading of which force we give you full power and authority by these present. Willing you further to have a vigilant eye to all such as spread these false rumors, and them to apprehend and commit to ward, to be ordered as the law requireth. And to the intent our good subjects shall fully understand how false a ground the said traitors build, and how honorably we have concluded to marry with the said prince, we send unto you the articles of our said convention of marriage. Wherefore, right trusty and well beloved, as you be a noble man, and bear good heart to us your liege lady and country, now acquit yourself according to your bounden duty which you owe to God and us. And we shall consider the same, God willing, as shall be to the good comfort of you and yours.

 Given under our signet, at our manor of St. James, the 27th of January, the first year of our reign.

Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain: From the commencement of the Twelfth Century to the Close of the Reign of Queen Mary, Volume 3


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