husband of “Queen” Lady Jane Grey
ca. 1535, the son of John Dudley duke of Northumberland and Lady Jane Guilford
25 May 1553 Jane Grey, at Durham House, London
12 February 1554 on Tower Green, London (executed)
St. Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London
uilford Dudley, a “tall strong boy with light hair,” was defined – and doomed – by his family.
Dudleys always aimed high. Grandfather Edmund, Henry VII’s finance minister, was notorious for his ingeniously ruthless taxation measures. New king, Henry VIII, boosted his own popularity by executing him. Father John rehabilitated the family, capably serving Henry VIII and rising even higher during the minority of Henry’s son, Edward VI. By 1551, John was duke of Northumberland and head of the governing council.
In 1553, Northumberland arranged a marriage between the potential royal heiress, Jane Grey, and Guilford, his only unmarried son. He then encouraged an ailing Edward VI to alter the succession in Jane’s favor. The marital relationship between Guilford and Jane is a mystery. When, however, Jane accepted the crown for herself, she adamantly refused to name Guilford king. Her comment that “the crown was not a plaything for boys and girls” must have stung, Guilford being two years her elder.
No matter what Edward wanted, most of the country remained firmly wedded to the order of succession laid down by his father Henry VIII. They all knew Edward’s sister, Mary, was meant to be queen – and, with the support of the populace, Mary did indeed take the throne. Jane, Guilford, and Nothumberland were arrested, tried and condemned. Only Northumberland was immediately executed.
The following year, however, Jane’s father joined an uprising against Mary. His daughter and his son-in-law, their death sentences now reinstated, paid the price for his failure.
The condemned Jane refused the opportunity to say farewell to Guilford, fearing it would shatter her fragile poise. Before she went to her own death, however, she watched out her window. She saw Guilford go to his execution and she witnessed the return of his lifeless, headless body.
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