In the preceding article, Dr. William Tighe has drawn attention once again to a central mystery surrounding those ill-understood weeks between the death of Edward VI and Queen Mary's triumphal entry into London which I initially commented upon in this journal in 1974. The problem involves the rapidity with which Northumberland's army collapsed. The traditional interpretation has long been that the duke's forces consisted only of unreliable mercenaries and that he lacked support from the ruling elements which could have given him the means to carry out his coup. In my article I suggested that this was not the case. Gentlemen had been willing to risk their lives in his cause, and although it was impossible to know the relative strengths of the two sides with precision, I found no evidence that contemporaries found them to be unequal. Nor did I find support for Professor Jordan's contention that Northumberland was a reluctant conspirator who really wanted to surrender power and retire to his estates. Examination of accounts in the files of the great wardrobe also led me to conclude that so far as the gentlemen pensioners were concerned, military men had supported the coup while politicians had taken the side of legitimacy. Admittedly the definitions were not precise, but in the absence of other records, it seemed to enhance understanding of the deliberations taken in those fatal days.
Since the publication of my article, other scholars have also pointed to the vigor and quality of Northumberland's leadership. Dale Hoak has recently extended the “rehabilitation” of the Duke of Northumberland begun by Barrett Beer. Hoak showed that Northumberland was far from reluctant to use force and political guile to achieve his purposes. He took control of the royal household in order to control access to the king. He also created a special household bodyguard, known as the gendarmes, to secure his coup and overawe potential troublemakers. To complete the picture of a man determined to hold on to power, Hoak showed how Northumberland had managed to manipulate the young king by planting suggestions which the boy then incorporated into his desires. Thus the alteration of the succession should be seen as Northumberland's own scheme to retain power, and not the dying king's. Although the gendarmes had proved too costly to maintain and had to be disbanded, Northumberland's plan was clear: maintain control of power by using the king's household in both its military and political aspects.