23 February 1554 – Execution of Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk

Feb23,2013 #Lady Jane Grey
St Peter ad Vincula – resting place of Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk

On this day in history, 23rd February 1554, Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, was executed on Tower Hill following his involvement in the failed rebellion against Mary I – Wyatt’s Rebellion – and his attempt to flee the country. Suffolk’s daughter and son-in-law, Lady Jane Grey and Lord Guildford Dudley, had been executed eleven days earlier.

Here is an extract from my book On This Day in Tudor History about Suffolk’s execution:

“He was escorted to Tower Hill at 9am on 23rd February and, according to John Foxe’s account, as he climbed the scaffold Mary I’s Chaplain, Hugh Weston, attempted to follow him. Suffolk pushed him back down the stairs and a scuffle ensued, but Weston told Suffolk that it was the Queen’s orders that he speak to the crowd. Weston went ahead and preached a sermon attacking Suffolk’s Protestant beliefs. Suffolk then addressed the crowd, saying:

Masters, I have offended the queen and her laws, and thereby am justly condemned to die, and am willing to die, desiring all men to be obedient. And I pray God that this my death may be an en-sample to all men, beseeching you all to bear me witness, that I die in the faith of Christ, trusting to be saved by his blood only, and by no other trumpery, the which died for me, and for all them that truly repent, and stedfastly trust in him. And I do repent, desiring you all to pray to God for me; and that when you see my breath depart from me, you will pray to God that he may receive my soul.

Then he asked for forgiveness and knelt down, holding up his hands and looking up to heaven, saying the psalm, Miserere mei Deus. He ended by saying “In manes tuus, Domine, commendo spiritum meum” (Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit) and then stood up, took off his cap and scarf, and gave them to the executioner. The executioner asked for Suffolk’s forgiveness, but the proceedings were interrupted by a member of the crowd, a man who was owed money by Suffolk, asking how he should go about getting the money. Suffolk replied, “Alas, good fellow! I pray thee trouble me not now; but go thy way to my officers.” Then he tied a handkerchief over his eyes and knelt down once more, praying the Lord’s Prayer followed by the words “Christ have mercy upon me”. He laid his head on the block and his head was struck off with one blow. His remains were buried in the chancel area of St Peter ad Vincula, the Tower chapel.”

Notes and Sources

  • On This Day in Tudor History, 2012, Claire Ridgway
  • The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe: a New and Complete Edition with a Preliminary Dissertation by Rev. George Townsend, 1838, p545

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15 thoughts on “23 February 1554 – Execution of Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk”
  1. I actually think that was a brave and clever speech, even though he admitted he had done wrong and was justly sentenced according to the Queen and her laws, he continued by saying ‘I die in the faith of Christ, trusting to be saved by his blood only, and by no other trumpery.. ie; attractive articles of little value or use, which could be seen as a slight on how Catholics worshipped, and that he would die in his choice of faith. It was quite risky in a sense too, considering most speeches made from the scaffold were made with caution, to prevent any other family members left being put at risk of repercussions from the offended Monarch and their followers.

    As for the scuffle with Mary’s Chaplin, the man wanting to know about how he was to be paid the money owed to him, plus Suffolk’s smart remark, I don’t mean to make light of someones death,j or be disrespectful,, but I couldn’t help but smile, as it sounded like a scene from a farcical play…sorry!! but he died bravely, and I hope he is at peace.

        1. ds370,I agree a very sad when the Grey’s were put to death,I have allways had a keen interest in Lady Jane Grey,Queen For 11 Days and Dudley they were so young!! Queen Jane Grey and Dudley were just pushed together and married,so they could be used intile they found someone else,just took 11 days,OMG poor souls. Kind Regards Baroness x

      1. Sally-ann,The people did not or were not allowed to speak by the King,as in the beheading of, Sir Thomas More, was orderd not to speak and therefore he did not say anything by ,order of the King.Many were not aloud to speak,as they could of said something negative against the King or Queen. They did not want anyone speaking against them,as there were many, I am sure would have loved to tell the Kings and Queens a BIG WHAT FOR,as there were so many innocent souls put to death.I was doing some research and it was said , Henry V111 put to death some 70,000.people to death in his life time,pretty big head count don’t you think? Kimd Regards Baroness x

        1. You are quite right Baroness, some people were not allowed to speak, and I think that was more to do with the fact that the person about to be executed could raise sympathy and enlighten the wrongfulness of their sentence of death in the watching crowd, as with Thomas More, and therefore put the Monarch in a bad light, and could in extreme cases insite uprisings.
          But for those who were allowed their last speech they had to becareful and respectfull of what they said, as the King/Queen’s anger could reach further than the person being executed, their families too were at high risk…

        2. Their families could also lose their wealth and properties if they spoke out against the Crown

  2. I feel sorry for Grey (as I do anyone persecuted for their religious beliefs or politics) but at the same time if he hadn’t pulled his stupid, doomed rebellion stunt over Queen Mary’s marriage to Phillip of Spain, then she wouldn’t have killed Lady Jane and Guildford. He got his own daughter killed because he thought he was justified in all he did. I really cannot like a guy who does that sort of thing.

    1. Kyra ,I to agree with your reply if it was’ent Marys way look out,I feel the same about her father.But how sad to be pushed into the Crown as there were know heirs,both her and Dudley.Queen for 11 days then your beheaded.She and Dudley were also way to young to be used and in a matter of days both were beheaded,what a shame!! I really think they both would have made a great King and Queen,better then Mary1,that just the way I feel. Kind Regards Baroness

  3. Was Henry Grey’s head really preserved until WWll? (See The Children of Henry Vlll) If true, did anyone take a photo of it?

  4. Why wasn’t Lady Jane’s mother executed? She wouldn’t even visit her own daughter in prison and went on to be sympathetic towards Mary 1. In my own personal opinion she was the real traitor!

    1. Yes she charmed her way back into the Queens life and was able to go back to court whilst her daughter was left to her own fate, couldn’t understand the people of those times, they knew the penalty for treason was death, poor Jane was the innocent one in all this yet she was killed and her mother allowed to go free, she even married again, but then she must have mourned her daughter and husband till the end of her days.

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