Keys, Mary (DNB00)


KEYS, Lady MARY (1540?–1578), third surviving daughter of Henry Grey, third marquis of Dorset [q. v.], by his wife Frances, daughter of Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk, was born at Bradgate Hall, Leicestershire, probably in 1540. Her sister Lady Jane [see Dudley, Jane] and father were beheaded in 1554, and her mother died in November 1559. It would seem that Queen Elizabeth soon after her accession took the two remaining daughters, Mary and her elder sister, Catherine, who were the last representatives of the Brandon line of the Tudor house, as maids of honour into her court, that she might keep close watch over their matrimonial plans. Great was the dismay of all the ministers when, in August 1565, it became known that Lady Mary Grey had secretly married Thomas Keys, the queen's serjeant-porter (Letter of Cecil in Wright, Queen Elizabeth, i. 207). The matter was ludicrous, because Mary Grey was almost a dwarf, and Keys, who had been chosen for his office for his size, was of huge proportions. Further, there was the disparity of age and station. Keys was a native of Kent, probably related to Richard Keys of Folkestone, who received from Henry VIII a grant of the monastery of St. Rhadegund in that town. He had been twenty-two years at court, and was a widower with several children. Elizabeth showed her anger by committing Keys to the Fleet, and sending Lady Mary to the care of William Hawtrey at Chequers, Buckinghamshire. In August 1567 she was transferred to the charge of the Dowager Duchess of Suffolk, and in June 1569 to Sir Thomas Gresham. Meanwhile the luckless Keys was pestered by a lawsuit which he had on hand at the time of his committal, and pleaded vainly for release. The question of the legality of the marriage was referred to Grindal, bishop of London, who reported to Cecil that it was impossible to accept a renunciation of the marriage; if its validity was questioned, he must judge according to the evidence. Elizabeth seems to have thought it best to keep the culprits in custody. Keys was liberated from prison in 1568, but was ordered to live at Lewisham; in May 1570 he was at Sandgate Castle, whence he implored Archbishop Parker to intercede on his behalf. On 8 Sept. 1571 he died, and Gresham had to write to Cecil for permission for his widow to wear mourning. She grieved over her husband's death, expressed her determination to keep and bring up his children, and from that time forward signed herself Mary Keys. As she was then harmless to the queen, she was allowed to leave Gresham's custody in 1573, and died in a little house in London on 20 April 1578. She was buried in the church of St. Botolph Without Aldersgate. Her will is given in Strype's ‘Annals,’ ii. ii. 210–11.

[Burgon's Life of Sir Thomas Gresham, ii. 386–415; Cal. of State Papers, Dom. Elizabeth.]

M. C.