John Dudley was the son of Edmund Dudley, Henry VIII's minister who was executed in 1510.
John went to court when young and became an able military commander and politician.
Unlike Somerset, whom he maneuvered out of power, he did not take the title of Lord Protector: in fact, he encouraged Edward VI to proclaim his majority and formally become king.
Nonetheless, Northumberland was effectively in power between 1550 and 1553.


Government and administration

Northumberland used the Privy Council to govern and expanded its membership to thirty-three (of whom about twenty attended regularly).

He even invited Somerset back onto the Council, but then grew suspicious that Somerset and Sir William Paget were plotting against him. Northumberland trumped up charges against Somerset, who was executed in January 1552. Paget had to retire.

"On 22 January, soon after 8 o'clock in the morning, the duke of Somerset was beheaded on Tower Hill. ... And there was a sudden rumbling a little before he died, as if it had been guns shooting and great horses coming, so that a thousand fell to the ground for fear, for they who were at one side thought no other but that one was killing another, so that they fell down to the ground, one upon another with their halberds, some fell into the ditch of the Tower and other places, and a hundred into the Tower ditch, and some ran away for fear. "
Administration and finance were entrusted to an able group of bureaucrats, including William Cecil, William Paulet (marquess of Winchester), Sir Walter Mildmay, and Sir Thomas Gresham

This skilled team began to restore confidence in the coinage and to reform financial institutions. The elaborate system of courts created by Thomas Cromwell to administer monastic land had become unnecessary, since most of it had been sold off. (Somerset and Northumberland both helped themselves liberally to monastic lands).
Sir Walter Mildmay began plans to streamline these courts, and to simplify Exchequer procedures.

1551 saw one issue of fine silver coinage, but Northumberland also minted one issue of debased coins, and did not recall the many debased coins already in circulation.
The large issue of fine coins did help to slow inflation.


Northumberland ingratiated himself with the enthusiastically Protestant Edward VI by adopting similar views. His hostility to Mary Tudor (who resented his relationship with her half-brother) aligned him firmly against the religious conservatives.
Northumberland supported John Hooper and John Knox,
John Hooper was strongly influenced by the Reformers, Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) and Heinrich Bullinger (1504-75). Too radical for Henry's church, Hooper had resided in Switzerland for a number of years before 1549. In July 1550,  Northumberland nominated Hooper to be Bishop of Gloucester and Edward VI approved the choice.

But Hooper refused to wear the prescribed (traditionally Catholic) vestments for the ceremony of consecration ("the livery of the harlot of Babylon"). Cranmer refused to consecrate Hooper unless he did wear them.

After much bickering, Hooper ended up in the Fleet prison (January 1551).
Hooper's stand was the first battle in a war over ceremonies and vestments that was to dog the Anglican church for centuries.

John Knox (1505-1572)

John Knox (1505-1572):
zealous Protestant
 and author of
The First Blast of the Trumpet against the monstrous regiment of women.

Knox opposed the Catholic interest in Scotland, was captured and spent nineteen months as a French galley slave. The English government intervened to obtain his release in February 1549.

John Knox  was a firebrand Scottish minister, who from 1549-1550 preached in Newcastle and Berwick. In 1552, he was named as one of Edward VI's chaplains.
After the Interim of Augsburg (30 June 1548) a number of foreign Protestants came to England, including Martin  Bucer, who collaborated closely with Cranmer in drawing up new Prayer Book of 1552.

This Prayer Book was the basis for all later Anglican Prayer Books. The 1552 Prayer Book was clearly Protestant in doctrine, but it was moderate on ceremonies, retaining many Roman Catholic observances (over the protests of John Knox).


Late in the reign, in June 1553 Edward VI agreed to the 42 Articles. The Articles endorsed justification by faith alone and the primacy of Scripture, while repudiating transubstantiation and purgatory. They showed the influence of Calvin and Zwingli, as well as that of Luther.


Jan van Leiden
Three of the 42 Articles attacked radical Anabaptist beliefs.
The English Protestant authorities were particularly eager to renounce these beliefs because of the "kingdom" established by the Anabaptist, Jan van Leiden in Münster  in the years 1534-5. He believed himself to be a new David, preparing for the Second Coming of Christ as King David had prepared for the first. He instituted the communal ownership of property, made marriage compulsory for women, and permitted polygamy for men.
Van Leiden's reign was ended only by military force. The socially-radical, millenarian version of Protestantism it embodied haunted the nightmares of the moderate Protestant establishment long after.


Finally, Northumberland's rule saw the drawing up (by a commission led by Cranmer) of the Reformatio legum - a reformed version of canon law. However, neither King nor Parliament instituted these revised laws, with the result that the state of ecclesiastical law remained obscure.


Society and economy

One effect of the reform of the coinage was the rise in price of English woolen cloth on the Antwerp market - this partly explained the collapse of exports in 1551.
Other problems were caused by a renewed outbreak of "sweating sickness". [This disease has not been exactly identified, but a virus may have been responsible. The symptoms included headaches, muscular pain, fever and labored breathing - it was fatal in many cases.]
The French Ambassador to the English court, Du Bellai, wrote in 1528,
"One of the filles de chambre of Madamoiselle Boleyn was attacked on Tuesday by the sweating sickness. The King left in great haste, and went a dozen miles off ... This disease is the easiest in the world to die of. You have a slight pain in the head and at the heart; all at once you begin to sweat. There is no need for a physician: for if you uncover yourself the least in the world, or cover yourself a little too much, you are taken off without languishing. It is true that if you merely put your hand out of bed during the first 24 hours...you become stiff as a poker."

Economic legislation was (as usual) ineffective in curing England's financial problems, but the slowing of inflation did help to improve social conditions.


Foreign policy

One of Northumberland's first actions was to end the wars with France and Scotland initiated by Somerset. He surrendered the besieged town of Boulogne and withdrew the English garrisons from Scotland.
Edward VI surrendered all claim to marriage with Mary, Queen of Scots.
Northumberland's foreign policy was craven but practical - he kept England out of further disastrous military adventures.


The succession

Lady Jane Grey (1537-1554)

Northumberland knew that Henry VIII's will and the normal laws of inheritance provided that Mary should succeed to the throne if Edward VI died childless.
Edward had been healthy as a child, but his teenage years saw increasing respiratory problems. By early 1553, it was clear that Edward had tuberculosis - a disease that was almost always rapidly fatal in the sixteenth century.
Northumberland began to scheme to oust Mary from the succession.
On 21 May 1553, he married his son Guildford Dudley to Lady Jane Grey. Then he persuaded Edward VI to draw up a document (in his own hand) declaring that Mary and Elizabeth were illegitimate, and excluding them from the succession. Edward disliked Mary and her Roman Catholic beliefs and probably needed little persuasion.
Edward VI died 6 July, but Northumberland kept this secret for three days while he prepared to proclaim Jane Grey queen. He did not prepare well enough.


The fall of Northumberland

The execution of Northumberland


Northumberland mismanaged the whole coup d'état. He failed to seize Mary before she got wind of the coup attempt. She fled to East Anglia and proclaimed herself queen and Lady Jane Grey an usurper.
Many Protestants supported Mary - regarding her legitimate claim to the throne as more important than religious opinion.
Northumberland soon realized that he was receiving little support. Deserted by army and navy alike, he tried to save his skin by proclaiming Mary queen (20 July), but was imprisoned along with Jane and Guildford.
He also tried to save his life by recanting Protestant beliefs ("better a live dog than a dead lion"), but he was executed 22 August 1553.
The sixteen-year-old Lady Jane and her husband were beheaded on Tower Hill, 12 February 1554


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