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A Regime at Sea: The Navy and the 1553 Succession Crisis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 July 2014

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The navy occupied a significant position in the 1553 succession crisis. However, assessments of its role hitherto have been hampered by conflicting contemporary observations and a paucity of information. Not all issues of consequence can be resolved, but important fresh evidence, particularly, extensive High Court of the Admiralty documentation for one of the royal ships dispatched by the Duke of Northumberland to the East Anglian coast following Edward VI's death, permits a reappraisal of the episode and its significance for the events of that year. The evidence confirms that the Northumberland regime experienced difficulty from the outset in its attempt to establish Lady Jane Grey on the throne, and it suggests that the regime's perceived strengths—in this instance the mid-Tudor navy—were all too frequently illusory.

Research Article
Albion , Volume 24 , Issue 4 , Winter 1992 , pp. 577 - 590
Copyright © North American Conference on British Studies 1992

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1 The Accession of Queen Mary: Being the Contemporary Narrative of Antonio De Guaras, A Spanish Merchant Resident in London, ed. and trans. Garnett, R. (London, 1892), p. 93Google Scholar.

2 The account of the surveyor-general of naval victuals, 29 September 1552–1 January 1555: Public Record Office [P.R.O.], E 351/2356.

3 Ibid.; Glascow, T. Jr., “List of Ships in the Royal Navy From 1539 to 1588,” Mariner's Mirror 56 (1970): 299307Google Scholar.

4 P.R.O., HCA 13/9, fos. 172v–73v, Prob 11/37, fos. 47, 47v, 49v, 50, 50v, 52, 54.

5 Calendar of Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, Edward VI, 1547–53, ed. Brodie, R. H., 6 vols. (London, 19241929), 5: 200Google Scholar.

6 d'Anbeuf, Aubert de Vertot and Villaret, C., eds., Ambassades de Messieurs Nouailles en Angleterre, 5 vols. (Leyden, 1763), 2: 48Google Scholar. “Epicerie” was presumably a reference to the spice, or pepper, coast. The expedition was not bound for Barbary, but Windham had been there in the Lion in 1551 and 1552 on behalf of some of the London merchants who promoted the 1553 voyage. English incursions into Portuguese West Africa in the 1550s were sometimes disguised as voyages to Barbary.

7 Hair, P. E. H. and Alsop, J. D., English Seamen and Traders in Guinea, 1553–1565 (Lampeter, 1992)Google Scholar.

8 P.R.O., E 351/2356. This account was first used to illuminate the succession struggle in, Jack, S. M., “Northumberland, Queen Jane and the Financing of the 1553 Coup,” Parergon n.s. 6 (1988): 142CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Professor Jack states that the victualling evidence suggests that eleven ships were prepared during the crisis. Apparently, she arrived at this total by running together the lists of seven ships victualled in the period up to 6 July 1553 and the nine ships victualled in the period beginning on 6 July, thus producing a list of eleven different ships, without considering that the vessels were not necessarily victualled continuously throughout these periods and without observing that the preparation of the Primrose was underway independent of the political events.

9 P.R.O., E 351/2356; Glascow, “List of Ships.” In view of the evidence presented below, the ships were probably undermanned. When the Hart and Antelope put to sea under more settled conditions earlier in 1553 to pursue the pirate Strangeways they were almost ten percent under strength (P.R.O., E 351/2356).

10 P.R.O., Prob. 11/37, fos. 47–47v, 52v. Interestingly, at the conclusion of the Guinea voyage, the surviving crewmen of the Primrose submitted a wage claim for a longer period of service than the merchants were willing to accept. This may, in part, have been a consequence of a temporary diversion of the ship into the service of Northumberland's regime (P.R.O., HCA 13/9, fos. 172v–180v).

11 P.R.O., HCA 24/24/80; Calendar of State Papers, Spanish, ed. Bergenroth, G. A., et al., 15 vols. (London, 18621954), 12: 2425Google Scholar; P.R.O., E 351/2195.

12 Acts of the Privy Council of England, 1542–1628, [A.P.C.], 32 vols. (London, 18901907), 4: 416–17Google Scholar; The Dictionary of National Biography, ed. Stephen, L. and Lee, S. (London, 18851901), sv. Thomas WindhamGoogle Scholar.

13 P.R.O., Prob. 11/37, fo. 200v. There exists the possibility that the “Sir [sic] Thomas” Windham ordered to London on 25 July along with two Norfolk gentry was in fact Thomas's elder half-brother, Sir Edmund Windham. If so, that event bears no relation to the affair of the ships. For the belief that the individual in question was Sir Edmund, see Bindoff, S. T., The House of Commons, 1509–1558, 3 vols. (London, 1982), 2: 353, 3: 676Google Scholar.

14 De Guaras, pp. 93–94.

15 Calendar of State Papers, Spanish, 11: 88, 96, 107Google Scholar.

16 De Guaras, p. 94.

17 The Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary, ed. Nichols, J. G. (London, 1850), pp. 89Google Scholar.

18 Jordan, W. K., Edward VI: The Threshold of Power (London, 1970), p. 527Google Scholar.

19 The Vita Mariae Angliae Reginae of Robert Wingfield of Brantham,” ed. and trans. MacCulloch, D., Camden Miscellany XXVIII (London, 1984), pp. 258–59Google Scholar.

20 A.P.C., 4: 432.

21 Calendar of State Papers, Spanish, 11: 96, 107Google Scholar.

22 Luke, M., The Nine Days Queen: A Portrait of Lady Jane Grey (New York, 1986), pp. 294–95Google Scholar. Luke believed, wrongly, that the squadron reached Great Yarmouth and she assigned Jerningham's activity to that port. This error was common prior to the discovery of Wingfield's Vita Mariae; see the accounts identified in Tittler, R. and Battley, S. L., “The Local Community and the Crown in 1553: The Accession of Mary Tudor Revisited,” Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 57 (1984): 136CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

23 A.P.C., 4: 295.

24 For the power struggle at Great Yarmouth, see Tittler, and Battley, , “Local Community,” pp. 136–37Google Scholar.

25 P.R.O., HCA 13/9, fos. 149–49v (William Conwey, master gunner), 150 (Thomas Parkar, gunner), 150v–51 (John Grene, gunner), 151–51v (John Hurlock, master), 152–52v (Thomas Lysse, gunner), 153–53v (James Malam, gunner), 153v–54 (Thomas Parkar), 154–54v (John Grene), 195v–96 (William Conwey), 197v–98 (William Harris, master gunner's mate), 198–99 (Brian West, position unidentified). The notional complement of the Greyhound was 120 men (Glascow, , “List of Ships,” p. 302Google Scholar).

26 The Diary of Henry Machyn, Citizen and Merchant-Taylor of London, From A.D. 1550 to A.D. 1563, ed. Nichols, J. G. (London, 1848), p. 35Google Scholar.

27 A.P.C., 4: 432. Grice was apparently not accepted into Mary's service and sworn immediately upon arrival. One witness testified that Grice was first imprisoned at Framlingham (fo. 198).

28Vita Mariae”, p. 297, note 46.

29 Ibid., pp. 252, 255, 295, note 19.

30 A.P.C., 4: 295.

31 Jack, , “Financing the Coup,” pp. 142–43Google Scholar and passim.

32 A.P.C., 4: 417–18.

33 Ibid., p. 383. The Greyhound was lost upon Rye bar in a storm during the French war of 1563 (P.R.O., E 351/2199).

34 This voyage gave rise to an unrelated lawsuit against Hurlock (P.R.O., HCA 13/9, fos. 177v–78, 196–97).

35 Calendar of the Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, Elizabeth I, ed. Collingridge, J. H. and Wernham, R. B., 2 vols. (London, 1939–), 1: 27Google Scholar.

36 P.R.O., E 351/2359.

37 P.R.O., HCA 13/9, fos. 196, 198; Calendar of the Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, Philip and Mary, 1553–58, ed. Giuseppi, M. S., 4 vols. (London, 19361939), 1Google Scholar: passim. The commander of the squadron, Richard Brooke, who swore his loyalty to Mary on the same day as Grice, did receive a pardon (ibid., p. 451).

38 Calendar of Patent Rolls, Elizabeth I, 2: 208Google Scholar.

39 P.R.O., HCA 13/9, fo. 149; The Report of the Royal Commission of 1552, ed. Richardson, W. C. (Morgantown, WVa., 1974), p. 123Google Scholar.

40 P.R.O., HCA 13/9, fo. 197v; Report of 1552, p. 122.

41 Alsop, J. D., “From Muscovy to Guinea: English Seamen of the Mid-Sixteenth Century,” Terrae Incognitae 19 (1987): 6061CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

42 Braddock, R. C., “The Character and Composition of the Duke of Northumberland's Army,” Albion 6 (1974): 342–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also, Tighe, W. J., “The Gentleman Pensioners, the Duke of Northumberland, and the Attempted Coup of July 1553,” Albion 19 (1987): 111CrossRefGoogle Scholar; R. C. Braddock, “The Duke of Northumberland's Army Reconsidered,” ibid., pp. 13–17.

43 Hasler, P. W., The House of Commons 1558–1603, 3 vols. (London, 1981), 2: 226Google Scholar. I am grateful to Dr. Diarmaid MacCulloch for providing information on the East Anglian connections of the Grice family.

44 Most recently in Jack, , “Financing the Coup,” pp. 137–48Google Scholar.

45 MacCulloch, D., “Kett's Rebellion in Context: A Rejoinder,” Past and Present 93 (1981): 173CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

46Vita Mariae,” p. 258.

47 Loades, D. M., Mary Tudor: A Life (Oxford, 1989), p. 178Google Scholar.

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