Suffolk's key role in England's turmoil

ANYONE who thinks the shenanigans and manoeuvring in politics today are something new should recall the deadly consequences of the Tudor domination of 16th century England, and the Reformation struggles surrounding the succession to King Edward VI.

Graham Dines

ANYONE who thinks the shenanigans and manoeuvring in politics today are something new should recall the deadly consequences of the Tudor domination of 16th century England, and the Reformation struggles surrounding the succession to King Edward VI.

The county of Suffolk - in those days divided into East and West units of local government with the seats of power at Bury St Edmunds and Melton, near Woodbridge - was to play an integral part in the brief resurgence of Roman Catholicism under Queen Mary.

Edward's father Henry VIII died in 1547 when Edward - the offspring of Jane Seymour - was but a child and the regency passed to the Protector, Edward Seymour. However, suspicions remain that Henry's will was forged.


You may also want to watch:


Seymour, who was to become Duke of Somerset - thus his London palace off The Strand was called Somerset House - continued the anti-Catholic Reformation of Henry and which was fervently endorsed by the infant Edward.

Somerset fell from grace in a power struggle with the Duke of Northumberland who became President of the Council and who manipulated the young Edward ­- now dying of measles and tuberculosis - into naming as his successor Lady Jane Grey, the daughter of the Duke of Suffolk.

Most Read

Rightfully, King Edward's elder sister Mary should have succeeded him but she was a devoted Catholic and the Protestant establishment were fearful of the consequences if the authority of the Pope was once again to rule the church, rather than the monarch who as Henry VIII had asserted was “defender of the faith.”

On Edward's death, the Statute for declaration of Queen Jane's Majesty was proclaimed by county assizes up and down the land. Norwich refused at first to accept her, but then recanted the next day coinciding with Mary moving into Framlingham Castle.

The sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk Sir Thomas Cornwallis received Northumberland's orders to acknowledge Jane and the leading men of the two counties gathered at Ipswich where they fell into line.. But Mary's servant Sir Thomas Pooley entered Ipswich and in the market place proclaimed Mary Queen before escaping with his life.

On July 13, Mary's arrival at Framlingham was greeted with rejoicing by the local gentry and justices. And even the arrival of six ships of the Royal Navy at Great Yarmouth with 900 men to arrest Mary failed to quell the popular support for her. But the naval captains pledged their support for Mary and the ships dispersed to Harwich.

Civil war was avoided and Mary left Framlingham on July 24 1553 to progress to London and the throne. She called at Ipswich, where she was given £11 of gold and a golden heart inscribed “The Heart of the People.”

Jane's reign had lasted but nine days and Mary was crowned later in the summer. The full Latin mass with full Catholic rites was again in the ascendancy.

Mary's revenge on the Reformation was bloody. Opponents of the 'true church' were burned at the stake. Others was hung, drawn and quartered. Spreaders of bad news had one of two punishments: either they were nailed by the ears to the pillory or their ears were cut off.

Thus Mary, who lived in Suffolk, became Queen, overcoming Jane, daughter of the Duke of Suffolk.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter