John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, 1st Earl of Warwick

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John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, 1st Earl of Warwick

Also Known As: "1st.", "Earl of Warwick", "Duke of Northumberland", "John Dudley"
Birthplace: Northumberland, England (United Kingdom)
Death: August 22, 1553 (50-51)
London, England (United Kingdom) (Executed for high treason for his part in attempting to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne)
Immediate Family:

Son of Sir Edmund Sutton Dudley and Elizabeth Dudley, 6th Baroness Lisle
Husband of Jane Guildford, Duchess of Northumberland
Father of Sir Henry Dudley, Kt.; Ambrose Dudley, 3rd Earl of Warwick; John Dudley, 2nd Earl of Warwick; Agnes Wheeler; Lady Mary Dudley and 7 others
Brother of Simon Dudley; Sir Andrew Dudley, KG; Edmund Dudley; William Dudley and Jerome Dudley
Half brother of Bridget Plantagenet; Elizabeth Plantagenet; Frances Plantagenet and Elizabeth Dudley

Managed by: Private User
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About John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, 1st Earl of Warwick

John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland (1501 – 22 August 1553) was a Tudor general, admiral and politician, who de facto ruled England in the latter half of King Edward VI's reign. At Edward's death, his attempt to displace Edward's sister and heir Mary with his own daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, failed, resulting in his being sentenced and put to death for high treason.


John Dudley was born as the first son of Edmund Dudley and Elizabeth Grey, Baroness Lisle, a descendant of Richard de Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick. His grandfather was a Knight of the Garter and Steward to King Henry V. His younger brothers were called Jerome, Oliver, William and Andrew.

Protege of Edward Guilford

When his father was attainted and executed in 1510, Edward Guilford — a partner in many of Edmund's "profitable outrages" — became guardian of the nine-year old John and one of his younger brothers (possibly Andrew, who was later made Admiral of the North Sea). The boys were then taken into the home of Richard Guilford. Within two years, in 1512, Guilford was able to persuade King Henry VIII to repeal Edmund's attainder.

In order to prosper under his new-found liberty, Dudley married Edward's daughter Jane in 1520. He took part as Guilford's lieutenant in the campaign of 1523 in France under the king's brother-in-law, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and won a knighthood on the field for gallantry after his valour at the crossing of the Somme. He was soon to gain prominence in the tournaments of the royal court and as a protégé of Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, and so joined the group whose task it was to amuse the king. In 1527, and again in 1532, he accompanied Wolsey to France.

About the time of the birth of his fifth son Robert in 1532/1533, Dudley was appointed Master of the Armoury in the Tower of London. To it he brought the reputation of being the ablest commander both by land and sea that had then been of service to the Tudors. This helped rehabilitate the name of Dudley. At the coronation of Anne Boleyn in 1533 he was invited to be a cup-bearer, and he would lead the procession at the christening of the Princess Elizabeth.

When Edward Guilford died in 1534 without male issue or a written will, the Guilford estate was disputed between Dudley (on behalf of his wife) and Guilford's nephew John. Dudley claimed the manor of Halden, and other lands in Kent and Sussex, despite John Guilford's assertion that his uncle had intended him to inherit. Five years later Dudley sold the manor with others to Thomas Cromwell, whose protégé he became after Cardinal Wolsey's fall.

Further career under Henry VIII

From 1536 he appears to have encountered some difficulties that led him to part with much of his inheritance in favour of the Midlands estate of his cousin, John Sutton, 3rd Lord Dudley; he exchanged his reversionary interest in the lands left to him by his mother to Sir Richard for life. He then made extensive purchases, especially in Staffordshire and the Welsh marches. In addition, he was given several manors by the King, including the extensive estates of Halesowen Abbey on the Dissolution of the Monasteries, so that his land base shifted to the central and west Midlands. He was elected sheriff of Staffordshire in 1536 after helping to put down the Pilgrimage of Grace.

In 1537 Dudley was sent on a mission to Spain and also began the connection with the Admiralty which, with his military commands from 1542, was to bring him to the fore during the closing years of Henry's reign. In January 1542 he resumed his seat in the Commons as one of the knights for Staffordshire, and upon his stepfather's death was created Viscount Lisle (derived from his mother) and made Lord Admiral for life, entering the Lords the following day to sit in regular attendance for the rest of the session.

Exercising his new prerogative, Dudley dispatched the French from the English Channel and stormed Boulogne-sur-Mer, for which he was to become a Knight of the Garter and was on the 23 April 1543, admitted as a member of the Privy Council. As Lord Admiral he directed the naval operations of the next two years and his presence at the third session of that Parliament was respectively shortened. To his other duties there was added in late 1544 the governorship of Boulogne. Also in 1544 he accompanied his future rival, Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford to the capture and burning of Edinburgh. A large English force, supported by a naval fleet, under Hertford's command, invaded the east coast of Scotland, sacking Leith and Dunbar and capturing Edinburgh.

After attending the first session of the Parliament of 1545 Dudley was to direct the operations of the fleet in the Battle of the Solent which frustrated the French attack on Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. He went with the embassy to Paris to ratify and conclude the peace in 1546. On his return Dudley was absent from Council meetings on the grounds of ill-health, although the imperial ambassador ascribed his retirement to a difference of opinion with Bishop Stephen Gardiner, whom he had assaulted in the Council. He returned before the King died, and was in attendance at the final session of Parliament. By 1547, the year of the King’s death, he was Lieutenant General of all His Majesty's armed forces.

Rise to power under Edward VI

Dudley was among the sixteen members of the Regency Council, Henry had appointed to govern the kingdom during Edward's minority. The new King's uncle, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, was elected Lord Protector just before the coronation. That year Dudley sought and was duly granted the right to bear the arms of the Earls of Warwick, with the distinctive badge of the Bear and the Ragged Staff.

By the end of 1549 most councillors, including Thomas Cranmer, the Earl of Arundel, William Paulet, and William Cecil, were turned against Somerset and united behind Dudley, the man with the ambition, will and determination to oust the Protector. Dudley lead the palace rebellion against Somerset in 1549, leading to Somerset's imprisonment and eventual execution in 1552.

De facto ruler of England

Unlike Somerset, whom he had outmanoeuvered, Dudley did not take the title of Lord Protector, and encouraged Edward VI to proclaim his majority. Nonetheless, Dudley effectively ruled the country by holding the two offices of Lord President of the Council and of Great Steward of the King's Household. Dudley was given the title of Duke of Northumberland in 1551.

Dudley obtained such an influence over Edward that the King was ready to make it appear that Dudley's ideas were actually his own. Whether or not it was justified, Dudley acquired a bad reputation, becoming known as a "tyrant", sometimes referred to as the merciless "bear of Warwick". Despite the differing opinion of his character, some[who?] argue in Dudley's favour that he consulted the Privy Council regularly, did not make any executive decisions, and did not use the title 'Lord Protector' that Somerset had done. Dudley also began the political education of the young Edward VI.

Domestic affairs

Already in 1549, Dudley achieved his great political victory over the Norfolk rebels in their efforts to remove the enclosure system. He was popularised, not only for his skill and courage, but for his mercy towards the prisoners. When his small troop was faced with destruction and outnumbered, he drew his sword, kissed the blade and spoke of death before dishonour. When the conflict was over, he responded to his officers' protests for revenge with: "Is there no place for pardon?" He asked "What shall we then do? Shall we hold the plough ourselves, play the carters and labour the ground with our own hands?"

In order to compensate for the economic legacy of the Duke of Somerset, Dudley ceased debasement of the coinage, although, poorly advised by economists, he did take that action one last time. Using melted church plate, the coins were revalued in 1551 and began to slow down the rapid inflation that had been ravaging the country. However, Dudley's tendency towards profiteering - allowing himself and other Privy Councillors to enrich themselves at the expense of the state when it was nearing bankruptcy - has been criticised, although there are few that believe such profiteering was required in order to ensure Councillors' support.

Vagrancy, enclosure, evictions, poverty and rising crime were all very immediate problems facing Dudley's regency. This was exacerbated by poor harvest and subsequent lack of food.

Foreign Affairs

One of Dudley's first actions after Somerset's fall was to end the wars with France and Scotland that Somerset had initiated . He surrendered the besieged town of Boulogne which, whilst weakening the English position in France, gained £200,000 for the struggling economy, liberated England from a financially burdensome territory and resulted in a defensive alliance between France and England with the Treaty of Boulogne. He also withdrew the English garrisons from Scotland.

Edward's succession

When King Edward was dying, he signed a document which barred both his sisters, Mary I and Elizabeth, the remaining children of King Henry VIII, from the throne in favour of Lady Jane Grey (who had married Dudley's youngest son Guilford only six weeks previously). The extent to which Dudley influenced the document is uncertain[citation needed], but he countersigned the King's decree.

The decision to name Lady Jane Grey as an heir was based on the lack of 'heirs male' from other royals and noble families with royal connections. The motivation to exclude the previous heir-presumptive, Mary, stemmed from a desire to prevent a Catholic succession.

Before Edward's death had been made public, the Council summoned Mary back to London, but she (informed and warned by the Earl of Arundel) refused and instead demanded to be recognised as Queen. Dudley was at his country residence having complained of illness and in his absence the council wavered. Mary, having gathered much support from the nobles and gentry of East Anglia, which soon spread into other counties, marched into London with no opposition at the head of an immense throng. This outpouring of support for Mary was due to a general dislike of Dudley, popular anger over the previous Protestant regime and over its mistreatment of Mary and genuine respect for Mary's legitimacy. The people - even many Protestants - preferred a legitimate heir over a Protestant usurper.


Dudley was forced to surrender to Mary and was arrested. He was put on trial in 1553 and was sentenced to death for high treason. In his parting words he announced to the stunned observers (who knew full well his irreligion, scheming and treachery) his repentance and return to Catholicism - and encouraged them all to do likewise. Though four of his sons were imprisoned along with him, they were soon freed, except for Guilford, who was executed.

Marriage and children

John Dudley married Jane Guilford, daughter of Edward Guilford and Eleanor West. They had twelve children.

Henry Dudley (c. 1526 – 1544/45), married Winifred Rich

Thomas Dudley (1526 – 1528)

John (before 1528 – 18 October 1554), married Anne Seymour

Ambrose (1528/29 – 21 February 1589, married first Anne Whorwood and secondly Cassandra Grey

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (1532/33 – 4 September 1588), married first Amy Robsart and secondly Lettice Knollys, and the favorite of Elizabeth I

Jane Dudley, married Henry Seymour

Mary Dudley (c. 1532 – 1586), married Henry Sidney - their children included the soldier and poet, Sir Philip Sidney, and Mary Sidney, the first recognised woman poet in English.

Henry Dudley (c. 1535 – 1557), married Margaret Audley

Guilford Dudley (1536 – 12 February 1554), married Jane Grey

Charles Dudley (1537 – 1542)

Catherine Dudley (c. 1545 – 1620), married Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon

Temperance Dudley (d. 1552)


Dudley, Dean. The Dudley Genealogies and Family Records. Boston: The author, 1848. googlebooks Accessed December 2, 2007 Retrieved December 2, 2007




Baron of Malpas, Viscount L'Isle, Earl of Warwick, Duke of Northumberland

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John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, 1st Earl of Warwick's Timeline

Northumberland, England (United Kingdom)
Northumberland, England
Of Staffordshire, England
Ely Place, London, Middlesex, England
Northumberland, England (United Kingdom)
of, Cranfield, Bedfordshire , England
June 24, 1532
Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire, England
Ely Place, London, Middlesex, England (United Kingdom)