Saturday, 16 November 2013

Adrian Stokes, Father of the King?

A mere three weeks after the execution of her husband Henry Grey, Frances Grey (nee Brandon) married her Master of the Horse Adrian Stokes (1519-86) in 1554, and the couple were together for four years until her death in November 1559.

Frances Brandon
As seen by the disaster of the attempt to crown Jane Grey as queen, King Henry VIII's Will still had a strong hold over the succession even years after his death. By this Will, which was made law, the descendants of Princess Mary Rose Tudor - meaning Frances and Eleanor Brandon - would inherit the throne should King Henry's children die without an heir. Queen Mary died in 1558, married but without a child, and her unmarried sister Elizabeth took the throne. As it stood Catherine Grey - Lady Jane's sister - was the heir to the throne should Elizabeth die. However, if Frances Brandon produced a son, this child would be a legitimate male heir to the throne of Elizabeth.

Frances' marriage to Adrian Stokes could be seen as scandalous considering his status was much lower than hers, however her close family seemed to have all followed the trend of marrying a man of lower status yet probably for love; her mother Mary Rose Tudor was Queen of France and married Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, her two younger daughters both made love matches and secretly married. Frances was close to her stepmother Catherine Willoughby, who also married a man who was beneath her in social status, Peregrine Bertie.

This marriage may have also had political reasons for Frances; there was rumour that she would marry Edward Courtenay - a fellow possible heir to the throne - and to avoid this marriage or any other which would bring her into the foreground of political intrigue and plots, she married Adrian Stokes. The trauma of having her eldest daughter Jane named queen and then imprisoned and executed, all due to her royal blood and an ambitious marriage, it is possible that Frances wanted to avoid going through something like that again.

Frances had three children with Adrian Stokes, but unfortunately none of them lived very long.
+ Elizabeth Stokes, stillborn on the 20th November 1554
+ Elizabeth Stokes (16 July 1555 - 7 February 1556)
+ Son Stokes, stillborn in December 1556

Had any of these children survived, they would have been considered as heir to Elizabeth, especially if it had been a son; then Elizabeth would have had a male, Protestant, Tudor heir. In 1556, at the time of her stillborn son, there were no males of the Tudor line - that were not descended from Princess Margaret Tudor - also, Elizabeth was by law illegitimate and therefore it could be argued that this Stokes-Brandon son would have a more legitimate claim to the throne of England than either of Mary or Elizabeth. In this hypothetical situation, Adrian Stokes would have transformed himself from Master of the Horse of a Dowager Duchess to the Father of the King of England.

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