John Dudley

John Dudley was born in 1501. His father, Edmund, was hanged in the first years of Henry VIII's reign for fraudulent tax collection practises. Dudley and his brother were taken into the home of Sir Richard Guildford. In 1520, Dudley married Guildford's daughter, Jane, and went to Court determined to erase the stigma of his name.

Dudley earned the title Lord Lisle after years spent in military service abroad. When Edward VI became King, he was created Earl of Warwick and quickly rose to prominence in the Privy Council. Dudley resented the power of the Protector, Edward Seymour, who isolated the young King by forcing visitors to seek Council approval before receiving an audience. Dudley incited many of Seymour's enemies within the Privy Council, arranging secret meetings at Ely Place.

In 1551 Dudley made his move, taking Seymour into custody and imprisoning him in the Tower. It was later discovered that many of the allegations of mismanagement made against Seymour were invented at Dudley's encouragement. Seymour was beheaded in January 1552 and Dudley, now the Duke of Northumberland, abolished the Protectorate. He encouraged the King to gain his Majority three years early, so convinced was he that he held the boy in his power. Although many of his fellow councillors resented Dudley's power, Edward VI placed his complete trust in the Duke. At Dudley's insistence, the King passed over his two half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, favouring Lady Jane Grey as his successor.

Dudley was arrested while on his way to capture Princess Mary in Norfolk in July 1553. Opportunistically, he recanted his Protestant beliefs and attended Mass, thinking this may cause Mary to pardon him. He was beheaded on Tower Hill on Monday 23 August 1553. On the scaffold, Dudley told the crowd that he was an 'evil liver' of past, but was now 'worthy to die.' He asked for Queen Mary's forgiveness and said, 'I have deserved a thousand deaths.' As he knelt in prayer the bandage around his eyes slipped, causing him to hesitate before laying his head upon the block. He is buried in the Tower chapel.

Dudley's execution at Tower Hill

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