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The Tudor Tournament

Edward Courtenay vs. Gerald FitzGerald AND John de la Pole vs. Guildford Dudley

Henry VII defeated Anne of Cleves in our last match-up, while Henry FitzAlan passed by Thomas Seymour. If today’s contestants entered a high school superlative race, they would likely compete for the prize of “most likely to be accused of treason.” Read on to find out why!

Battle of the Earls: Edward Courtenay vs. Gerald FitzGerald

Edward Courtenay

Edward Courtenay, 1st Earl of Devon

Date: 1527 – September 18, 1556

Strengths: Edward’s childhood was initially a pleasant one, as he benefited from his father’s position at court and his mother’s friendship with Catherine of Aragon. The family’s imprisonment in 1538 seemed to spell doom, but Edward was released upon Mary Tudor’s rise to the throne. He became one of the queen’s favorites, and regained his family’s lost titles and lands. It was even suggested that he become a suitor to Mary I. Later on, his name was tied to Elizabeth Tudor’s name as a possible marriage match.

Weaknesses: Courtenay would lose Mary’s favor during Wyatt’s Rebellion. He was suspected of conspiring with Wyatt and of planning his own uprising. Once again, he was placed in the Tower, but he was eventually released. Luckily for him (and for Elizabeth), it was decided that there was not enough evidence to tie him to Wyatt. For the rest of his life, Courtenay would live as an exile abroad in Europe.

Manner of death: Natural, while abroad.


Carrigafoyle Castle

Gerald FitzGerald, 15th Earl of Desmond

Date: 1533 (a contemporary of Elizabeth’s) – November 11, 1583

Strengths: In the tradition of fostering, Gerald was meant to be a companion to Edward VI. Whether or not this could have affected the future of Anglo-Irish relations is not known, as the agreement fell through. Due to issues in Ireland, Gerald would find himself called to London during Elizabeth I’s reign. He was incarcerated in the Tower of London, but by placing his young son in Elizabeth’s hand, Gerald made a political promise for his good behavior. He was then allowed to return to Ireland.

Weaknesses: Ireland at this time was a political volcano: violent competition for lands and military dominance was ever present, the English government’s centralizing reforms irritated the lords, religious changes exacerbated troubles, and Spain saw the potential of the situation. Gerald was drawn into these troubles, and became a leader in the Desmond Rebellions of 1579. He was eventually forced to go on the run. Although he maintained a large following, another clan took him by surprise and beheaded him. Queen Elizabeth rewarded the clan leader for his service. She also held FitzGerald’s son, James, in the Tower of London for the next sixteen years.

Manner of death: Beheaded (by surprise)

Close to the Crown: John de la Pole vs. Guildford Dudley

Stoke Field

John de la Pole, 1st Earl of Lincoln

Date: 146(2-4) – June 16, 1487

Strengths: As a grandson of Richard Plantagenet, and as a nephew of both Edward IV and Richard III, John held a considerable amount of power. In his veins flowed royal blood, and thus he had his own claim to the throne. However, when the pretender Lambert Simnel was presented as one of the lost Princes in the Tower, John supported his claim. With Burgundian gold supplied by his aunt Margaret, he paid to land a German mercenary force of 2,000 troops in England. In Dublin, John picked up more forces and crowned Simnel as king (but not under the name of King Lambert, of course). Moving into England, John gained more supporters.

Weaknesses: Ultimately, John’s plans failed him. At the Battle of Stoke in 1487, John’s forces fell in battle, as did John.

Manner of death: In battle (and posthumously attainted)


A Victorian take on Guildford & Jane

Guildford Dudley, husband to Lady Jane Grey

Date: 1535 – February 12, 1554

Strengths: Guildford’s father was one of the most powerful men in the land when he became Lord President of the Privy Council in 1550. Guildford found himself married to Lady Jane Grey in 1553, a powerful arrangement considering how close Jane stood to the throne. Indeed, thanks to the “Device of the Succession,” he was momentarily the husband of the “Nine Days Queen.”

Weaknesses: Despite being Jane’s husband, Guildford was not made king – Jane would only consent to him becoming the Duke of Clarence. Things then took a turn for the worse when Mary Tudor raised her supporters and proclaimed herself Queen. Initially, it looked as if Mary would spare both Guildford and Jane. The crisis of Wyatt’s Rebellion in 1554, however, hardened the forgiving attitude towards the young couple. The result was an order of execution.

Manner of death: Beheaded



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