When we think about the Tudor dynasty, we think about the monarchs who made the dynasty, but we also pay attention to those around the king or queen who sat on the throne. There were families like the Boleyns, the Howards, and the Seymours who stood on the sidelines for a short amount of time, but one family saw the majority of the dynasty through highs and extreme lows. The Dudleys have been seen as a power-hungry family who would do anything to sit on the throne of England, but is there more to their story? In her debut book, “The House of Dudley: A New History of Tudor England,” Joanne Paul explores the lives of this extraordinary family to find the truth about their ambitions and their resilience.
This is one of those titles that I heard about from friends online, and I wanted to check it out for myself. I have followed Joanne Paul for a while now, and when I heard about her first book, I knew I wanted to read it.
Paul begins her biography about the Dudleys with the funeral of Anne Dudley, the first wife of Edmund Dudley, which occurred around the same time as the death of Elizabeth of York. Edmund Dudley would go to serve as King Henry VII’s principal tax collector, which would prove beneficial to his family and the king even if he did use underhanded methods to collect the money from taxpayers. Edmund’s strategies were so ruthless that he didn’t survive long after the death of Henry VII as his son Henry VIII had him executed for treason, leaving his young son John as the heir to the Dudley name, which was now tainted with scandals.
John Dudley took the lessons from his father’s dramatic downfall and applied them to his own life. It is how he survived the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI and earned his position as one of the most influential men in the kingdom, as the Duke of Warwick. He held influence in Edward VI’s regency council, so much so that when it came time for Edward VI to name an heir, he named John Dudley’s daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, the wife of Guildford Dudley, as his heir. The issue was this put the Dudleys in danger as Mary I marched towards the throne. There was no room for negotiations with Mary as she saw the Dudleys as a threat that must be eliminated through the executions of John, Guildford, and Lady Jane Grey.
For the remaining members of the Dudley family, the key to surviving Mary’s reign was to stay safe and make sure they had good allies, like King Philip II of Spain, Mary’s husband. With Queen Mary’s death and the rise of Queen Elizabeth I, the Dudleys were once again in the spotlight. The suave and debonair Master of the Horse, Robert Dudley, had captured the heart of the young queen, but the problem was Robert was married to Amy Robsart. Unfortunately, Amy dies under mysterious circumstances, leaving it open for the possibility of Robert and Elizabeth to wed, but it never happens.
A dazzling debut of the tragedies and triumphs of one family, “The House of Dudley: A New History of Tudor England” by Joanne Paul is one of my favorite new releases of this year so far, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.