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John Dudley ( 1504 - 1553 )  Category ( Historical_Figures ) [suggest a correction]

John DudleyJohn Dudley was associated closely with the courts of England's King Henry VII and that of Henry's son, the young King Edward VI. He became close to Henry during the latter part of the king's reign.

Dudley is a good example of absolute power corrupting absolutely. He did not begin life in such circumstances, though. While he was born to a highly-placed family, Dudley's father, Edmund, who was am minister at Henry VII's court, was executed by Henry VIII, leaving his wife and children in disgrace. John was eight at the time, and was immediately made a ward of Sir Edward Guildford.

Fortunately, Guildford sought to provide the boy with a nurturing environment in which to grow, and John was raised in the Guildford household itself. Guildford's daughter, Jane, became close to John, and the two later fell in love and married. The couple went on to have thirteen children together. John's position in the Guildford family helped improve his status at court, and he was appointed Vice-Admiral and Lord Admiral. During his time in the Navy, he helped to develop innovative standards in naval organization and at-sea techniques and strategies.

During this time, like many others, John Dudley became quite interested in overseas exploration. Henry VIII was also interested in matters related to the sea and shipbuilding, and Dudley gradually became one of the king's intimate friends. Dudley was also interested in religious reform, which may also have encouraged the relationship. By 1547 his star had risen high enough to receive the honor of a noble title. He was created Earl of Warwick. After this he worked to put down regional rebellions and fought in the Scottish war.

By this time, Henry had died and his young son, Edward, was now king. Henry's oldest friend, the Duke of Somerset, was appointed Lord Protector. However, the Privy Council viewed him as incompetent and in 1549 forced Somerset from office. While not officially appointed as a replacement, Dudley assumed control and in less than one year was operating as the de facto regent and protector for the boy king. Not long afterward he was created Duke of Northumberland. Within a few months, Somerset was ordered executed.

Dudley, now Lord President of the Council, ran the government. He was hands-on, involved in many long-neglected matters of court, political, and economical business. He was careful to begin a slow introduction to the young king, in order to prepare him to take on huge responsibilities later on. However, in 1553, King Edward, at age 15, became ill. Through Dudley's and others' influence, Edward wrote his two half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, out of the succession to the throne, favoring instead a cousin, Jane Grey. Jane was quite conveniently married to Dudley's son. By this time, power clearly had gone to Dudley's head. At heart, he was not a bad person, and had proven himself a capable and even talented military leader and civil servant. Ruling the country in the king's stead had created in him a desire for continued power. And it was his decision to attempt to enforce the crowning of Queen Jane -- effectively making his descendants future kings and queens -- that led to his downfall.

Within nine days of Jane's coronation, the plot had unraveled. As Mary Tudor's forces overtook what remained of the Queen Jane contingent, Dudley was arrested, tried, and executed. However, this was not the end of Dudley influence in the Tudor court. John Dudley's son, Robert, became Princess Elizabeth's favorite when both were being held in the Tower of London during their early twenties. The two remained loyal and devoted friends for most of the rest of their lives.

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