Guildford Dudley is best known as the husband of Lady Jane Grey, the nine-day queen before Mary I took the throne of England.
He was born around 1535 to John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland and Jane Guildford.
John Dudley became Lord President of the Privy Council to King Edward VI, and he was a very ambitious and determined man, even using his son to gain his own prominence in government.
He was one of the most powerful men in England, and also served as de-facto ruler due to Edward VI’s ill health, but this was not good enough. John Dudley wanted a marriage for his son, that may find him on the throne of England.
First, he tried to marry Guildford Dudley to Margaret Clifford, a cousin of Jane Grey’s, but her father was against it. Then he colluded with Jane Grey’s parents for her to marry his son, a man Jane hardly knew. Jane was high in the line of succession to the throne, and this marriage would assist both her parents and John Dudley’s position at court.
Jane Grey did not want to marry Guildford Dudley but she was beaten by her parents and forced to accept the marriage. Lady Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley were married on 25 May 1553 in a triple ceremony with her two sisters.
Edward VI was terminally ill and John Dudley manipulated him into naming Lady Jane Grey, his own daughter-in-law as Edward’s successor, making Edward bypass his own half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth.
Edward VI died on 6 July 1553, and Jane reluctantly accepted the throne and was named queen of England on 10 July 1553. She would not however name her husband Guildford as king, only offering him the title of Duke of Clarence.
Jane and Guildford moved into the Tower of London, however her reign was only to last nine days. Mary 1, had taken the throne as the rightful queen and Guildford Dudley and Lady Jane Grey were now imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Guildford Dudley was imprisoned in the Bell Tower, separately to his wife and although he had a little contact with her at first, this was not to last.
Guildford Dudley and Lady Jane Grey were convicted of treason and sentenced to death on 12 August 1553.
On 12 February 1554 Guildford Dudley was taken to a public execution at Tower Hill. He was beheaded with one stroke of the axe. He was then taken and buried in the Tower Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.