Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Marys All Over the Place. Today's Mary: Grey

Lady Mary Grey had the misfortune to be born in line to the throne of England. 

Distressingly close in line, for the comfort level of her cousin(s) on the throne at any point in her lifetime.
She was also born with the genetics that made her very small, with a spinal condition ('hunch back, crooked back' - no p.c. describing it as scoliosis back in the day) and with an 'ugly' face.
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Lady Mary Grey - diminutive but still had that Tudor nostril-flaring ability. 
Despite these points against her, Mary managed to keep going forward, 
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even though she had to take her sister's beheading, her other sister's threat of beheading while that sister was locked up in the Tower of London, and her own house arrest for several years.

The Tudors played hardball; when playing with them, it was best to wear the hard shell insert in your jockstrap.

Lady Mary Grey, born around 1545, was one of Mary Tudor's (sister to Henry VIII) grandchildren.
Frances Brandon, Mary Tudor's daughter, married the 1st Duke of Suffolk, Henry Grey and they went on to have three bouncing baby girls: Jane, Catherine and Mary.
According to the will left by Henry VIII, who likely didn't anticipate his last version to be THE version that survived him, the Grey girls were next in line to the throne after his own son and two daughters (and any of their offspring.) 

At the time of the death of Edward VI, Henry VIII's son, that was quite a far ways from the throne.
Then Edward VI, Protestant and proud of it, decided the boys born to Frances Brandon-Grey, would be a far better choice than his sisters.
Frances Brandon-Grey didn't have any sons at the time of Edward VI's death.
As ambitious courtiers would do, a group of them decided what that really meant was the eldest of Frances's daughters, Lady Jane Grey, should with all due haste, march up the aisle to marry Guildford Dudley (Dudleys being not at all shy about family promotion) and plop herself on the throne right afterwards.
Lady Jane Grey's reaction was along the lines of, "Hey - not my deal, not my throne - that's my cousin's deal."
Nobody listened.
Maybe Jane Grey realized the height of the stakes being played?

Things went not according to plan; Henry VIII's daughter, Mary, called foul and in case anybody thought she was kidding, she mustered up quite a large number of armed men who, like Mary, thought Henry VIII meant if Frances had no boys, then his own girls should take over.
Mary headed towards London.
The Privy Council agreed with Mary, and accepted her version of events.
That's how Lady Jane Grey became known as the 'nine days Queen.' 

Jane, for having had the audacity to make a claim for the throne, was locked up in the Tower.
Lady Mary Grey, an eight-or-nine year old child in an age when coddling children Just. Didn't. Happen. must have had nightmares a-plenty over the fate of older sis, Jane. 

To give Mary I, who with a quick shove of an elbow had toppled Jane off the throne, credit, Mary I didn't order Jane's execution for the treasonous act of daring to claim a throne.
Mary's scruples (and she had them, contrary to how she's been painted in the years since) didn't allow her to turn an error in ambition into a death sentence for a teen-aged cousin.
It wasn't until there was a bona-fide rebellion months later that Mary I decided to squash the rebellion she'd have to remove Lady Jane's head - and her husband's head - as well as a couple of other heads.

Go here: for more on the picture.

Once Mary I died, little Mary Grey (by then twelve years old) was serving the new queen, Elizabeth I at court as a Maid of Honour.
Elizabeth I, though, got a wee touch of the paranoid when Frances Brandon-Grey-and-also-Stokes (new hubby) died. That meant Frances, who'd not gotten around to birthing a baby boy, was out of the picture and her daughters were back in.
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Frances Brandon; daughter of Mary Tudor, bloodline most distressingly close to the throne. 
Elizabeth I had, by law, first right to refuse any marriage that either Lady Catherine Grey or Lady Mary Grey, chose to make.

That way, no pesky royal-on-both-sides-of-the-bloodline baby could elbow Elizabeth off her throne.

And it would have behooved Catherine Grey to have followed that rule, given the example of royal attitudes towards those distressingly close to the throne.
Catherine foolishly went ahead and got married without permission; she then had the misfortune to birth not one, but two (wait for it. . . .)

(Wait for it . . . )

(Wait for it. . . .)

SONS. While in captivity, and not in the same cell as her husband. 

That's some ferocious fecundity.

Not a happy time for Mary.
Perhaps determined to snatch what little joy was left in her world, Mary Grey secretly married Elizabeth I's Serjeant Porter - the guy who slept right over the entryway to the Queen's residence.
No wonder Elizabeth I had trust issues! 

When she learned of the marriage, Elizabeth separated the coosome twosome and they never saw each other again, the end, amen to their marriage.
Lady Mary Grey-Keyes (her husband's name was Thomas Keyes) was treated slightly more favorably than her husband, who was kept squashed in a teeny-tiny cell. He was estimated to be 6'8" and his incarceration effectively shortened his life.
It was the end of Lady Mary Grey's time as a Maid of Honour at court; time for little (literally; she was estimated to be around four foot nothin' and some called her a dwarf) Mary to be slogged off to an unwilling host for some serious captivity.

Lady Mary Grey next had to tolerate her sister Catherine's malaise and self-starvation that led to Catherine's early death at age twenty-eight. 
Two sisters down, none to go.
Now the paranoia fat was really in the fire as far as Elizabeth I was concerned; Lady Mary was the sole granddaughter of Mary Tudor left.
Knowing that she'd separated Mary and her husband Thomas, who died in fairly short order, Elizabeth must have also realized that Lady Mary Grey had little to no chance of ever having children of her own; the combination of domestic captivity and her questionable reproductive ability caused Elizabeth I to relax her crack long enough to spring Mary from house arrest.

Mary asked to be able to care for her step-children of her own late husband, who'd been a widower when they married.
Elizabeth thought about it thislong before refusing.

Lady Mary was, however, invited back to court to serve Elizabeth I as a Maid of Honour - but one wonders if it was a case of Elizabeth I believing 'keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.' 
Eventually, even with her reinstatement in the Queen's favor, Lady Mary Grey followed suit, just like her sisters, and lay down her head to die.
(Sure, the plague was going around at the time, but it sounds more romantic and empowering for her to have just decided to pack it in.)
Really, what was the point in going on for her?

It's a very sad story, isn't it?
Being born distressingly close to the throne, and particularly when that throne had individuals with hair-trigger fingers seated upon it. 
One sister beheaded.
One sister died by just giving up.
One sister, misshapen and called ugly, whose fortunes bounced up and down mostly out of her own control, died during a plague epidemic.

Think twice before coveting the throne upon which royalty sits. 
The cover charge can be a bitch.  
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