Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess Dorset - Wars of the Roses

Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess Dorset

The first son of Elizabeth Woodville  born (1455) two years before  his younger brother Richard and by 1483, half brother to the Princes in the Tower.

Before she met and married Edward IV, Elizabeth had been married to Sir John Grey who was killed at 2nd St Albans (1461). Her mother-in-law had married a new, young, Yorkist husband and granted him a life interest in estates that Thomas was due to inherit. Elizabeth petitioned her distant kinsman, William Lord Hastings, to help her protect Thomas’s inheritance and in April 1464 agreed that Thomas would marry Hastings’ (yet to be born) daughter in exchange.

It was possibly during these negotiations that Edward IV first met and fell in love with Elizabeth. The plans for a Hastings marriage were dropped after Elizabeth’s marriage to the king and Thomas instead married Edward IV’s niece, Anne Holland, heiress to the Duke of Exeter.

Despite being the son of a Lancastrian, Thomas was just old enough to join Edward IV at Tewkesbury (May 1471) in his last major battle against the Lancastrians and found himself on the winning side.

His rise through the aristocracy was meteoric and by the age of twenty he was a Marquess and a member of the King’s Council.  This status placed him below only a Duke so he was able, with his mother, to strongly influence the Council after Edward IV’s death (April 1483).

One decision made by them was the appointment of the Queen’s brother, Sir Edward Woodville, as Admiral of the fleet, sending him to sea with much of the royal treasure, the remainder of which was divided between the Queen and Dorset.

Another decision was to request the Queen’s brother’s, Anthony, Earl Rivers, to hasten from Ludlow to Westminster with the new King, Edward V for an early Coronation.

In urging these decisions on the Council he was acting beyond his powers: the King’s Council had no legal standing after the King had died and would not until either a new King or a Protector appointed a new Council. He and his mother took the view that they were acting in the name of the new King.

Once Richard of Gloucester had taken charge of Edward V, Dorset quickly disappeared from the scene on the same day that his mother took her daughters into sanctuary (1st May).

He reappeared as part of the Buckingham Rebellion in October that year and when that failed he went to join Henry Tudor in Brittany. But he excused himself from Henry’s invasion in 1485 and was never fully trusted again.

In his personal life, his mother arranged two marriages for him, the second particularly financially beneficial. He left fourteen children and one of his great-granddaughters was Lady Jane Grey, the unfortunate ‘nine-days’ Queen.


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