A while back, I wrote a post about the myths about Frances Grey, Duchess of Suffolk. One of those I mentioned was the date of her remarriage to Adrian Stokes. Recently, as I noted, historians have leaned toward the idea that the marriage took place in 1555, instead of in 1554, just weeks after the executions of her husband and her daughter Jane.
The other day, however, I stumbled upon the inquisition postmortem that apparently is the source of the 1554 story—an inquisition that took place in Warwickshire on May 7, 1560, and of which a certified copy was made on February 14, 1600. The inquisition, as printed in the Calendar of State Papers, states, “That the Duke of Suffolk died at London, 1st Mary, and the land remained in the hands of the Duchess, when on 9 March, 1 Mary, 1554, she married Adrian Stokes; that they had issue a daughter Elizabeth, born at Knebworth, co. Herts, 16 July, 1 & 3 Philip and Mary, 1555, who lived till 7 Feb following, and then died at Knebworth. That the said Frances died at London, 21 Nov., 2 Eliz., 1559, Stokes surviving her.”
Naturally, this didn’t please me, since my novel, reflecting current thought, has Frances and Adrian marrying in 1555. So I hit the National Archives and came up with three documents mentioning Frances’s marriage. The first, found at C 142/128/91, appears to be the same inquisition referred to above, as it was taken “in the second year of the reign of Elizabeth” and involves the same lands in the county of Warwick and was taken before the same commissioners. It gives a 1554 date for the marriage:
And the same Frances, duchess of Suffolk, named in the said writ, being thus seised of the premises, on the 9th day of March in the first year of the said late Queen Mary, at Kayhoe in the county of Surrey, took as her husband Adrian Stokes, esquire, by virtue of which the same Adrian Stokes and the aforesaid Frances the duchess, his wife, were seised of the aforesaid college, manors, rectories and other premises with appurtenances in their demesne as of fee tail as in the right of the same duchess, viz of the aforesaid college and other premises with appurtenances, specified in the aforesaid letters patent, to the aforesaid duchess and the heirs of the body of the said late Henry, duke of Suffolk, and the aforesaid Frances the duchess lawfully begotten, and of the aforesaid manor of Monkeskyrby, Brockeste, Walton, Paylton, Straydeston, Newbolde, Horborough, Lawford, Eysnell, Woolvey, Copston, Rookebye and Willey, and the other premises with appurtenances to the aforesaid duchess and the heirs of her body lawfully begotten. And the same Adrian Stokes and Lady Frances, duchess of Suffolk, his wife, being thus seised of the aforesaid college, manor and other premises, as is aforesaid, afterwards had issue, viz one daughter called Elizabeth among others lawfully begotten. Which same Elizabeth on the 16th day of July in the first and third years of the reigns of King Philip and the said late Queen Mary, at Knebworth in the county of Hertford, was born and begotten and lived in the world from the aforesaid 16th day of July until the 7th day of February then next following, on which day the aforesaid Elizabeth at Knebworthe, aforesaid, died. And the said jurors say further that the aforesaid Adrian Stokes and Frances, duchess of Suffolk, being thus seised of the premises, as is aforesaid, afterwards, viz on the 21st day of November in the second year of the said now lady queen, the same Frances died at the city of London seised thereof as of estates tails, and the aforesaid Adrian Stokes survived her and kept himself within the aforesaid manor of Monkeskyrby and the other premises in Monkeskyrby, Brockest, Walton, Paylton, Streytiston, Newbolde, Horbury Magna, Horbury Parva, Lawforde, Eysenell, Wolvey, Scopton, Rougby, Newneham, Wythybroke, Marson Jubytt, Cosforde, Happesforde, Halfpathe, Brinkeley and Wylley, and in Crycke and Sharisforde, aforesaid, as tenant by the curtesy of England, with remainder thereof to the right heirs of the body of the said Frances lawfully begotten. . . . And the said jurors say further that Lady Katherine Grey and Lady Mary Grey are the daughters and next heirs both of the bodies of the said Henry, late duke of Suffolk, and Lady Frances his wife lawfully begotten and of the said Frances, duchess of Suffolk. And that the aforesaid Lady Katherine at the time of the death of the said duchess of Suffolk was of the age of 19 years. And that the aforesaid Lady Mary Grey at the time of the death of the said duchess was of the age of 14 years.
The second document (WARD 7/14/93), an inquisition “taken at Borne in the county of Lincolnshire on the 15th day of March in the 16th year of the reign of our lady Elizabeth” (March 15, 1574), simply states that “being seised in an estate tail, [Frances] took as her husband a certain Adrian Stokes, esquire, and died on around the 11th day of November in the first year of the reign of our now lady queen, after whose death the said Adrian Stokes kept himself inside as tenant by curtesy of the kingdom of England.” Note that the date of death differs from the date in the Warwick inquisition.
The third inquisition (C 142/254/2) “taken at Wincaunton in the aforesaid county [Somerset] on the third day of April in the 40th year of the reign of our Lady Elizabeth” (April 3, 1598), gives no date for Frances and Adrian’s marriage. It too gives Frances’s death date as November 11, 1559. Maddeningly, it states that “the aforesaid Adrian had issue of the body of the same Frances lawfully begotten between them,” but gives no particulars.
With the only inquisition which gives specifics stating that Frances and Adrian were married in 1554 and that they had a child in 1555, the case might appear to be closed. Inquisitions post mortem, however, aren’t infallible, as the conflicting death dates here—November 21 in the Warwick inquisition, November 11 in the ones from Lincolnshire and Somerset—neatly attest.
Moreover, Elizabeth Stokes’ birthdate is given as July 16—which happens to be Frances’s own birthdate. It’s certainly possible that Frances and her daughter shared a birthday, but this does make one wonder if there was some confusion on the part of the jurors.
Furthermore, none of the contemporary records I have found from 1554 refer to Frances as being then married to Adrian Stokes. In a letter dated from London on March 15, 1554, John Banks wrote to Henry Bullinger in eulogistic terms about the recent deaths of Lady Jane and her father, but made no mention of Frances’s remarriage, which surely would have merited a disapproving line or two had it taken place by then. An entry in the Calendar of Patent Rolls dated April 10, 1554, records that the crown granted Frances a life estate in Beaumanor and other properties; the grant makes no mention of Adrian, as would have been necessary had Frances been married to him. On May 8, 1554, Queen Mary’s privy council allowed the Duchess of Suffolk (presumably Frances and not her fiercely Protestant stepmother, Katherine Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk) to use the House of Croydon; again, no mention is made of Adrian. Indeed, as late as April 20, 1555, Simon Renard, the imperial ambassador, wrote to the emperor Charles, “It has been proposed that Courtenay [Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon, recently released from prison] might be married to the widow of the last Duke of Suffolk, who comes next to the daughter of Scotland in line of succession to the crown. If this is done, it will make Elizabeth very jealous, and would give rise to much dissention in the kingdom if the Queen died without issue.” It seems unlikely that those suggesting Frances as a possible bride for the Earl of Devon would not have heard of the matter if she had been already married the year before to Stokes. (Ungallantly, Simon Renard continued, “But I hear that Courtenay would rather leave the country than marry her.”)
All in all, then, I’m inclined to think that the Warwick inquisition postmortem got the date of Frances’s marriage, and the date of the birth of her daughter Elizabeth Stokes, wrong. In other words, I’m going to stick with writing the story that I have written. Still, I do care about historical accuracy, so if anyone runs across any further evidence supporting the 1554 date, feel free to let me know—but do it gently, please.