Skip to content

November 12, 1555 – Death of Stephen Gardiner

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

Full disclosure: I don’t really like the man. I made him the antagonist in The Path to Somerset, and found it really hard to convincingly justify the dirty tricks he played against Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and Katherine Parr (which I had to do because I gave him a voice, and we are all the heroes in our own narratives…).

I was able to completely marginalize him in The Boy King since he spent so much of Edward VI’s reign in the Tower. But then I started to write my next trilogy, Regina (which will cover Elizabeth)…and there I actually had to choose whether to redeem him. After all, during Mary’s reign he softened. He was against her marriage to Philip of Spain, and loyally negotiated a treaty and marriage contract in which it was clear that Philip would in no way be permitted to interfere in England’s government, nor to draw England into Spain’s wars (the fact that Mary ignored all those protections was not Gardiner’s fault). Too, Gardiner tried to discourage Mary from burning heretics. Perhaps not with the vehemence he should have (he did after all approve the act reviving the heresy laws), but he is on record as counseling mercy.

In the end, I kept to my hard line and decided to use the story which may or may not be true (kinda like everything during the Tudor era) about the dirty trick he tried while Elizabeth was in the Tower over Wyatt’s rebellion. Mary’s government, headed by Stephen Gardiner (he was not only Lord Chancellor, he was also the top prelate in the land – this was before the return of Cardinal Reginald Pole), had reached the point where they knew they did not have enough evidence to convict her but did not want to release her. Then Mary fell sick and Gardiner saw his chance to remove the Protestant Elizabeth from the succession. He signed her death warrant “on behalf of the Queen” and delivered it to the Lieutenant of the Tower. Thankfully, the Lieutenant followed the letter of the law and refused to carry out a warrant not signed by the monarch. When Mary recovered and found out, she released Elizabeth.


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!)

November 12, 1555 – Death of Stephen Gardiner
Published inOn This Day

One Comment

  1. Maggie Scott Maggie Scott

    I applaud your characterization of Gardiner in The Path to Somerset and The Boy King, where it made perfect historical sense, and you did an excellent job. I’ve also noticed that True Tudor Believers, especially those who lionize Elizabeth, tend to loathe Gardiner, which I can understand.

    Just for fun, however, I counter those anti-Gardiner sentiments by dancing on the graves–metaphorically speaking–of Cromwell, Parr, Askew, and Cranmer while celebrating the de la Poles, Robert Aske, Thomas More, and Bishop Fisher.

    There are always plenty of folks to love and hate amongst the Tudors and their friends and enemies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.