MARY I, Queen of England (1553-1558). Document signed ('Marye the quene'), a Proclamation addressed to the Mayor and Inhabitants of West Chester, Kenninghall, in Norfolk 'the xiith of Julie the first yere of o[u]r Reigne' , signed at the head, 25 lines written in brown ink in a secretary hand, one page, 420 x 310mm, integral address panel, docketed by the recipient on verso 'Recevyd the vxiith daye of Jullye & proclamyd ye same daye', and 2 annotations in a different hand, traces of seal (weak in folds, slightly frayed at right edge, dust-stained, repaired and silked on verso).
A HIGHLY IMPORTANT DOCUMENT, a dramatic call to arms signed six days after the death of King Edward VI, in response to the conspiracy to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne.
'It is come to O[u]r knowledge that John Dudley calling himself Duke of Northumberland like a moste horrible traytor to God and us & o[u]r Realme w[i]th a fewe other his complice hath moste trayterouslie proclaymed one Ladye Jane daughter to the Duke of Suf[fol]k for quene of O[u]r said Realme w[hi]ch he hath married to one Guildford his sonne whom he entendeth to make King contrarie to the Lawes of God and nature and this Realme'.
The Queen commands her addressees 'to raise and arme yo[u]rself and all the power and force that ye can make and therew[i]th in all haste possible to repaire unto us o[u]r man[o]r of Kenninghall or els where in o[u]r said countie of Norf[ol]k for the defence and suertie of o[u]r said p[e]rsone Roiall wh[ic]h by Goddes helpe you shall p[e]rsonallie there fynde contrarie to the brute & false surmyses spread by the said Dudley and his complices of our fleing the Lande'.
On Henry VIII's death Mary became, for the second time, heir to the throne, the terms of the succession having been laid down by Henry in parliament in the Act of Succession of 1543. When the death of the childless Edward VI appeared imminent, the infamous plot to exclude her was hatched by John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. In January 1553 Edward, his health failing, had drawn up a 'devise' excluding his sisters from succession in favour of the descendants of his father's sister, Mary, by her marriage to the Duke of Suffolk. Northumberland swiftly swiftly strengthened his hand by the marriage of his son, Guildford Dudley, to the Lady Jane Grey, one her descendants.
The attempted coup d'état took place immediately on the King's death. On 9 July Jane was taken before the Council and her accession was announced the next day when despatches were signed by her as Queen for the notification of foreign courts. On the same day Mary who had, prudently, not attended Edward's deathbed and withdrawn to Kenninghall in Norfolk where her supporters were strong, wrote to the Council as Edward's lawful successor and on proclaimed herself Queen. Nonetheless twenty-one councillors replied that the Lady Jane Grey was the lawful queen, and on 12 July the crown jewels were surrendered to her.
By defiantly issuing her own proclamation and on 12 July sending out letters, including the present document, in condemnation of Northumberland and commanding her loyal subjects to join her in Norfolk, Mary out-faced the conspirators. The royal warships on the East coast declared for her, and Northumberland's troops deserted as he moved into East Anglia. He himself surrendered a week later without a fight and Mary entered London in triumph on 3 August.
Northumberland and his fellow-conspirators were executed almost at once. Lady Jane Grey (1537-1554), recorded as being of gentle character and, according to Roger Ascham, one of the most learned women of the age, was charged with treason, imprisoned in the Tower and beheaded with her husband on 12 February 1554.