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The Tudor Tournament

Stephen Gardiner vs. Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk

The final match-up this week (we’ll take a break this Sunday and return with a big fan favorite match-up: Katherine of Aragon vs. Philip of Spain!) is the story of two men who reached very important milestones during the reign of Queen Mary I – one became her Lord Chancellor, the other lost his head. Perhaps that makes placing one’s bets on the winner a little easier in this round – but who do you think should be proclaimed the winner?

Stephen Gardiner

Stephen Gardiner, Lord Chancellor to Mary I

Date: Disputed date – November 12, 1555

Brief blurb: If Stephen had been alive to witness Jane Grey’s sound defeat of Thomas Cranmer yesterday, he probably would have been very pleased. Or, perhaps, he would have lamented a situation where either Cranmer’s or Jane’s religious beliefs would have been on display. To begin his long political career under three Tudor monarchs, Gardiner studied at Cambridge and first came to act as a commissioner for Henry VIII. He then gained an important post as Thomas Wolsey’s secretary and was used to press Pope Clement VII for the annulment of Henry VIII’s and Katherine of Aragon’s marriage. Though he was unsuccessful, he was rewarded for his efforts by being appointed as Henry VIII’s secretary. It was during this time that he acted at cross-purposes to Thomas Cranmer’s religious policy – when Edward VI became king, his opposition to Cranmer and his policies became even more pronounced.

Strengths: Gardiner’s power was great. He openly opposed Thomas Cranmer, and it was he who actively pursued Catherine Parr for heresy. Under Mary I, Gardiner was appointed Lord Chancellor and crowned Mary as queen – not a little bit ironic considering his role in the attempt to annul Henry’s and Katherine’s marriage. Indeed, Gardiner was called upon to demonstrate the Queen’s legitimacy, the validity of her mother’s marriage to her father, and to usher in the return of Catholicism – all of which he did without complaint. In negotiating the terms of Mary’s marriage to Philip of Spain, he made provisions to keep England sovereign from Spain.

Weaknesses: Gardiner was at his weakest during Edward VI’s reign. Because he was such a vocal opponent of Cranmer and the government’s new direction, he was imprisoned in both the Fleet and the Tower of London on separate occasions. He was held for most of Edward’s reign, and it was not until Mary’s reign that he made a come-back (but what a reversal in fortune it was!)

Manner of death: Natural causes

Readers shouldn't picture Grey as an old man when they think of him - Jane Grey was born to Francis Brandon and Henry Grey when they were on the edge of 20, and Henry was only 37 upon his death.

Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk

Date: January 17, 1517 – February 23, 1554

Brief blurb: Grey was a great-grandson of Elizabeth Woodville, but he really made a great marriage connection when he and Frances Brandon were wed in 1533. He enjoyed a decent amount of favor during Henry VIII’s reign, but was not highly liked by Edward Seymour, who became the Protector of England during Edward VI’s reign.

Strengths: Grey was highly ambitious. Despite Edward Seymour’s dislike, he allied himself with Thomas Seymour to marry his daughter, Jane Grey, to Edward VI. While Thomas Seymour’s downfall rocked England and became one of the most sensational stories of the time (pretty impressive if one considers the gossip-fodder that was left-over from Henry VIII’s reign), Grey was relatively unaffected by the turn of events. With the obviously eminent death of Edward VI in sight, Grey married his daughter, Jane, to the Lord Protector’s son, Guildford Dudley. When daughter Jane was named Queen of England, and subsequently lost her position after nine days, Henry Grey initially emerged without the consequence of losing his head once again – Frances Brandon Grey’s relationship with Mary I saved him from death by beheading.

Weaknesses: Henry Grey did not know when to stop when he was ahead (a joke in poor taste, I agree). Common sense should have led him to conclude that a third attempt to make his daughter the Queen of England was a dangerous one if the planning failed. Instead, he supported Wyatt’s Rebellion and was later convicted of treason. The result: execution by beheading on February 23, 1554.

Manner of death: Beheaded

Now, vote!

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