Framlingham Castle is a magnificent late 12th Century castle in East Anglia built by the Bigods – a powerful Norman family. The first stone buildings at the site were probably the work of Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk though it was his successor, Roger Bigod, who constructed the huge stone walls that we see today.
Though its owners for over 400 years were the Earls and Dukes of Norfolk – the supreme magnates in East Anglia and rich, ambitious and influential people both at home and abroad – it isn’t those who we want to talk about in this post. Framlingham Castle has a strong connection to the first legitimate Queen Regnant of England – Queen Mary I.
When King Edward VI died in 1553, there were arguments over who would succeed him. There were two claimants to the throne and they were both women – Mary and Lady Jane Grey. The question over whether a woman could rule the country in her own right would be answered within nine days.
Mary was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and had been named as Edward VI’s Successor in Henry’s will should Edward die childless. However, citing religious differences King Edward VI had Mary removed from the line of succession and named his cousin, Lady Jane Grey, as his heir. Lady Jane became the de facto ruler of England for nine days following the death of King Edward VI.
So where is the connection with Framlingham Castle?
During her brother’s final days, Mary was summoned to London undoubtedly so she could be seized by John Dudley, an astute general and politician. Mary fled to East Anglia where she owned extensive estates and Framlingham Castle – a property that came into her hands the previous year through the disgrace of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk.
Framlingham was the ideal location for Mary to make her stand against John Dudley. She was close enough to London to threaten her opponents though Framlingham was well defended in the event that John Dudley’s army made their move.
Mary assembled her supporters on 12th July 1553 and things began to swing in her favour. Edward Mone, the tax collector of Edward VI, soon joined her forces and with the royal finances in her control and her support base growing every day, Mary was in a great position to march on her opponents.
After winning the Privy Council’s favour, Mary was proclaimed Queen on the 19th July 1553 behind the walls of Framlingham Castle.
England finally had a female ruler and the walls of Framlingham Castle had seen history being made – the first Queen Regnant of England had been proclaimed while she stood in the ancient fortress. Little did Framlingham Castle know or indeed the people of England know, Mary’s reign would be one of the bloodiest in British history.
For more information on Framlingham Castle or to plan a visit, click here.