Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dudley, John (1502?-1553)
DUDLEY, JOHN, Duke of Northumberland (1502?–1553), was the son of Edmund Dudley [q. v.], privy councillor to Henry VII, and of Elizabeth Grey, daughter and coheiress of Edward Grey, viscount Lisle. His father was beheaded in the first of Henry VIII. In 1512–13 the son, being of the age of eleven, was restored in blood by act of parliament, and his father's attainder was repealed. He became known at court for his daring and address in martial exercises. In 1523 he attended the Duke of Suffolk, who landed at Calais with an army, and the same year he was knighted by his general in France. In 1524 Dudley performed, with other knights, at tilt, tourney, barriers, and the assault of a castle erected in the tilt-yard at Greenwich, where the king kept his Christmas (Hall). In 1533 he was made master of the Tower armoury; in 1536 he served as sheriff of Staffordshire; and the year after he was in Spain. In 1537 he became chief of the king's henchmen, and 29 Sept. 1538 was deputy-governor of Calais. In 1540 he was appointed master of the horse to Anne of Cleves, and at the meeting of that princess with the king on Blackheath he led her spare horse, trapped to the ground in rich tissue (Antiq. Repertory, vol. iii.). In 1542 he was made warden of the Scottish marches, raised to the peerage as Viscount Lisle, and appointed great admiral for life. He now sailed to Newcastle, where he took on board his fleet the Earl of Hertford, afterwards Duke of Somerset, who was commander-in-chief in the horrible expedition of fire and sword of that year, in which many of the southern Scottish monasteries were destroyed and Edinburgh was burned to the ground. After scouring the seas on his return the admiral passed to France, where he led the assault on Boulogne, which was taken, and entered in triumph by Henry VIII in 1544. On 23 April 1543 he was made a privy councillor and K.G. Being appointed governor of Boulogne (30 Sept. 1544), he remained there to the end of the war in 1546, performing several notable exploits by land and sea. On 18 July 1546 he was sent ambassador to Paris. In 1547 he was left by Henry VIII one of the executors of his will, as a sort of joint regent with fifteen others, but he seems to have acquiesced in the designs of Somerset, the uncle of the young King Edward VI, who turned the joint regency into his own sole protectorate. In the same year (18 Feb. 1546–7) he was created Earl of Warwick and high chamberlain of England. There was some talk of his choosing the title of Earl of Coventry. On 4 Feb. he resigned his office of great admiral to Somerset's brother, Thomas, Lord Seymour of Sudeley. He was appointed lord-lieutenant, under Somerset, of the army going into Scotland (August 1547). The great victory of Pinkie (10 Sept. 1547) was chiefly ascribed to his conduct. From 1548 to 1550 he was president of Wales. In 1549 he again served against the Scots, but the agrarian rising of Ket in Norfolk diverted his attention to a more pressing danger. He threw himself into Norwich, and in the bloody battle of Dussindale entirely defeated the rebellious peasantry.
On Warwick's return home, a meeting of his friends was held at his house (Ely Place) on 6 Oct. 1549, and it was asserted that Somerset was in open insurrection against the king and his council. Daily meetings of Warwick's supporters took place till 13 Oct., when Somerset was sent to the Tower, and all power passed into the hands of his rival. On 28 Oct. Warwick became one of the six lords attendant on the king, and for a second time great admiral. On 2 Feb. following he was appointed lord great master of the household and president of the council. On 8 April he became lord warden-general of the north, but deemed it wiser to stay at home for the present than take up an office which demanded his presence away from the court. On 20 Dec. he was allowed a train of a hundred horsemen. Next year he became earl marshal (20 April 1551), warden of the marches towards Scotland (27 Sept.), and on 11 Oct. duke of Northumberland. The contest was being renewed in vain by Somerset, the fallen lord protector, who was now charged with plotting against Northumberland's life. Northumberland attended his rival's trial (1 Dec. 1551), and, baffled by superior ability, Somerset was brought to the scaffold (22 Jan. 1551–2). The ascendency of Northumberland was thus complete. All who were suspected of hostility were roughly dealt with. On 22 Dec. the duke took the great seal from Lord-chancellor Rich, and on 22 April caused the degradation of William, lord Paget, from the chapter of the Garter. In June he went to take up his office in the north, and to repress disturbances. He was royally entertained on the journey, stopping with the Cecils at Burghley, near Stamford. He was in London again in July, having appointed Thomas, first lord Wharton, his deputy in the north. In order to increase his reputation he had a genealogical tree compiled, proving his descent from the baronial house of Sutton, alias Dudley, and purchased the family's ancestral home, Dudley Castle, Staffordshire, of John, sixth baron Dudley (Twamley Castle, Dudley Castle, 1867). The illness of Edward VI early in 1553 prompted to Northumberland's aspiring mind the design of altering the succession in favour of his own family. He procured from Edward letters patent ‘for the limitation of the crown’ (Nichols, Queen Jane, App. i.), by which the king's sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, were set aside in favour of any heir male that might be born, during the king's lifetime, of the Lady Frances, duchess of Suffolk, and aunt of the king; failing whom the crown was to go to the Lady Jane Grey, daughter of the said Frances, to whom Northumberland married (21 May 1553) one of his own sons, Guildford Dudley [q. v.] In furtherance of this scheme Northumberland showed the most furious violence, declaring himself ready to fight for it in his shirt, browbeating the judges, and compelling them and most of the council, including Cranmer, to sign the instrument (21 June). On the death of the king, 6 July 1553, he caused the Lady Jane to be proclaimed queen, and himself took the field (12 July) on her behalf against Princess Mary, whose supporters quickly gathered together in the eastern counties. The total failure of his attempt through the desertion of his forces was followed by his arrest at Cambridge, where, abandoning hope, he made proclamation for Queen Mary with the tears running down his face. On 23 July he was brought to the Tower; on 18 Aug. he was arraigned for high treason and condemned; and on the 22nd of the same month he was executed on Tower Hill, most of his confederates being pardoned or dismissed with fines. On the scaffold he blamed others for his own acts, avowed himself a catholic, and attributed all the recent troubles in England to the breach with the papacy. Extraordinary importance was attached at the time to this declaration, of which many manuscript versions are extant. It was printed officially in London by ‘ John Cawood, printer to the Quenes highnes,’ soon after his death, under the title of ‘The Saying of John, Duke of Northumberlande, vppon the scaffolde.’ Latin and Dutch translations were issued at Louvain in the same year. In 1554 there was published, without name of place of publication, a French ‘Response a la Confession du feu Duc Iean de Northumbelãde,’ from a reformed point of view.
Dudley was the ablest man of the time after the death of Henry VIII. He was a consummate soldier, a keen politician, and a skilful administrator. His nature was bold, sensitive, and magnanimous. His conduct at Norwich and Dussindale, where, before the action, he bound his hesitating officers to conquer or die by the knightly ceremony of kissing one another's swords, and where, after the fate of the day was determined, he stopped further resistance and slaughter by riding alone into the ranks of the enemy and pledging his word for their lives, is to be admired. He was as lenient after as on the day of the victory; and the severities exercised on Ket's followers were against his advice or in his absence. In the same way he spared the life of his rival, Somerset, as long as he could. On the other hand, when his own life lay under forfeit, this brave soldier manifested painful despair. He was a great man, but his character was spoiled by avarice, dissimulation, and personal ambition. He pillaged the religious houses, the chantries, and the church as unscrupulously as any, heaping on himself a vast accumulation of their spoils. He went with the Reformation merely for his own advantage. Bishop Hooper and John Knox were for a time his protégés. The latter was often in his society, and in October 1552 he endeavoured to obtain for him the bishopric of Rochester. But on 7 Dec. 1552 Northumberland wrote that he found Knox ‘neither gratefull nor pleaseable.’ Bale dedicated to him, 6 Jan. 1552–3, his ‘Expostulation … agaynste the blasphemyes … of a papyst of Hamshyre.’ Northumberland sought to foist Robert Horne into the bishopric of Durham after the deprivation of Cuthbert Tunstall.
His recantation on the scaffold destroyed Northumberland's popularity with the puritans. John Knox, in his ‘Faythfull Admonition made … to the professors of God's Truth in England’ (1554), turned upon him all his artillery of invective, likening him to Achitophel, while Ponet compared him to Alcibiades (Treatise of Politic Power), though Bale had previously discerned in him a more flattering resemblance to Moses (Expostulation), and to Sandys (Sermon at Cambr., ap. Fox) he had appeared to be a second Joshua. The indignation of writers of the other side has been excited by his rapacity, especially by his dissolving the great see of Durham, which he had formally effected when his end came. Northumberland became chancellor of the university of Cambridge in January 1551–2. According to a letter sent him by Roger Ascham at the time, he had literary interests, and was careful to give all his children a good education. His personal unpopularity, which, according to Noailles, the French ambassador, fully accounted for the ruin of Lady Jane Grey's cause, is best illustrated by the long list of charges preferred against him by one Elizabeth Huggons in August 1552 (see Nichols, Edward VI, clxvi), and by the ‘Epistle of Poor Pratte,’ printed in 1554, and reprinted in Nichols's ‘Chronicle of Queen Jane and Queen Mary.’ Several interesting letters to and from the duke appear in the ‘Calendar of the Hatfield MSS.,’ vol. i.
He married Jane, daughter and heiress of Sir Edward Guildford, by whom he had five sons and two daughters. The eldest son, John, called in his father's lifetime Lord Lisle and Earl of Warwick, married, 3 June 1550, Anne Seymour, daughter of the Duke of Somerset. What was Northumberland's object in making this alliance is not known. Edward VI attended the wedding. On 18 Jan. 1551–2 young Warwick was allowed to maintain a train of fifty horsemen, and on 28 April 1552 became master of the horse. He was remarkably well educated, and in 1552 Thomas Wilson dedicated to him his ‘Arte of Rhetorique.’ Like all his brothers, he was implicated in his father's plot in favour of Lady Jane Grey; was condemned to death in 1553; was pardoned, but died without issue in 1554, ten days after his release from the Tower. His widow married, 29 April 1555, Sir Edward Unton, K.B., by whom she had seven children. From 1566 she was insane. Three other of Northumberland's sons, Ambrose, Robert, and Guildford, are separately noticed. Henry, a younger son, was slain at the battle of St. Quentin (10 Aug. 1557). Of the two daughters, Mary married Sir Henry Sidney and was mother of Sir Philip Sidney; Catherine became the wife of Henry Hastings, earl of Huntingdon.[Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. 112, 543, and authorities cited there. There is also a life of Dudley in the Antiq. Repert., vol. iii. Many particulars are given in Blomefield's Norfolk, vol. ii., and in Tytler's Edward VI and Mary. Among general historians see Fox, Heylyn, Strype, Collier, Fuller (bk. viii.), Burnet, Lingard, Hume; of foreign historians, Thuanus, lib. xiii.; and Sepulveda's De Reb. Gest. Car. V, lib. xxix. (Op. ii. 486). Of modern works, Froude's History, vols. v. vi., and Dixon's History of the Church, vol. iii., should be consulted. See also Historia delle cose occorse nel regno d'Inghilterra in materia del Duca di Nortomberlan dopo la morte di Odoardo VI, Venice, 1558, described in authorities under Dudley, Lady Jane; Chronicle of Queen Jane and Queen Mary (Camd. Soc.), 1850; Nichols's Literary Remains of Edward VI (Roxburghe Club), 1857; Doyle's Baronage; notes supplied by Mr. S. L. Lee.]