Saturday, May 19, 2018

Earl of Sussex: "Right trustie and right well beloved cousin"


With Prince Harry and Meghan Markle taking the titles of Duke and Duchess of Sussex, it made me think of a person who bore the title of Sussex and played a crucial part in the life of Elizabeth I.

His name was Thomas Radclyffe, and he was the third Earl of Sussex.



Throughout her whole life, Elizabeth turned to and trusted the relatives on the side of her mother, Anne Boleyn. Thomas Radclyffe was part of the Howard clan. Anne Boleyn's mother. Elizabeth Howard, was his aunt. 

Although Sussex signed the document agreeing to the accession of Lady Jane Grey, which was what Edward VI wanted, he was one of the courtiers who broke away early on and rode to the camp of Princess Mary, Henry VIII's oldest daughter, to offer her support in taking the throne. Mary made him her commander-in-chief during the time when it looked as if she would have to wage a battle. Sussex had Catholic sympathies and Mary's efforts to return the country to the Old Religion must have appealed.

Sussex, at that point 28 years old, became an important councilor to Mary after she'd officially ousted Jane Grey. But it was after the Wyatt Rebellion, when those who opposed Mary's marriage to the Catholic Prince Philip, that Sussex's loyalty to his cousin Elizabeth became clear as well. Elizabeth was arrested under suspicion of conspiring against Mary, and a deputation of lords that included Sussex came to take Princess Elizabeth to the Tower of London on Saturday, March 17.

Elizabeth protested being taken to the Tower, asking to see the Queen, her half-sister. She was told no. She then asked to write a letter to the Queen and that too was refused. Elizabeth was by all accounts very upset. 

But it was at that point Sussex came forward. 

Sussex fell to his knees before Elizabeth and said, "You shall have liberty to write your mind and, as I am a true man, I will deliver your letter to the Queen and beg an answer, whatsoever comes there of."

Elizabeth wrote a pleading, eloquent letter, protesting her innocence, which Sussex then took to Queen Mary. She was enraged that Elizabeth was allowed to write to her and said, "Such a thing would never have been allowed in my father's time!"

Elizabeth survived her ordeal in the Tower, when she came closest to execution than any other time in her life, and it was in part due to the intervention of Sussex. There was no hard evidence against Elizabeth, and a leading nobleman in the realm being willing to risk the Queen's wrath to support her sister may well have slowed down the movement to proceed against Elizabeth.

Sussex continued to support her throughout Mary's reign, and when Elizabeth I became Queen in 1558, he was one of her most important courtiers. Sussex always distrusted Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, but even though he vigorously opposed her marrying Dudley and criticized him at every turn, Elizabeth never punished him for it.

In her letters to him, Elizabeth addressed Sussex in a 1570 letter as her "right trustie and right well beloved cousin," and he was a key councilor for the rest of his life.

Sussex is without a doubt an admirable title.

2 comments:

  1. I had no idea that the Sussex title had a history. Yes, I thought the wedding beautiful between Prince Harry and Meghan Merkle. Still, I thought of and remembered Princess Di and Prince Charles's wedding.

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