The Grey Sisters – Katherine & Mary (Part 2)




(public domain)

Read part one here.

Lady Mary Grey was just eight years old when her elder sister Jane and her father were executed. With the help of her mother Frances, the two sisters were soon back at court. She was still there when Queen Mary I died and was succeeded by Queen Elizabeth I. Neither of the Grey sisters attended on the Queen during the coronation. 1 Katherine was considered to be the beauty of the sisters, Mary was described as “crook-backed” and “very ugly.” 2

During this time, Katherine and Mary were considered potential heirs to the throne. In December 1560, Katherine secretly married Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, effectively ending any chance she had of becoming Queen. Elizabeth was furious, and an already pregnant Katherine was locked in the Tower. Despite this, she and Edward managed to conceive again, and they had two sons.

Meanwhile, Mary was watching it all unfold from the sidelines. Although the disastrous consequences could have served as a warning to Mary, she began to follow almost the same path. Mary had fallen in love with Thomas Keyes, a widower who was 20 years her senior. 3 She may have believed that if she married such a man, she would no longer be considered a threat. They planned to marry and did so in front of plenty of witnesses on 16 July 1565. She had a tiny gold wedding ring. 4 The news of the wedding leaked out just as the Queen was informed of another marriage, that of Mary, Queen of Scots and Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. 5 “The Sergeant Porter, being the biggest gentleman of this court, has married secretly the Lady Mary Grey; the least of all the court….the offence is very great.”6

Elizabeth ordered the couple be separated and they were held in separate prisons, in separate towns. She was forbidden from seeing anyone and going anywhere.7The first letter begging for help is dated November 1565. She wrote, “I am so unhappy a creature.” She signed her name as “Marye Graye” as if she had never married.8 Compared to Keyes, her lodgings were quite comfortable. Keyes was put into solitary confinement and even offered to agree to an annulment, but there had simply been too many witnesses. 9

In 1567, Mary was allowed to leave the Tower and went into house arrest with her step-grandmother. She was there when her sister died. She was now the last surviving sister. In 1569, she was moved to the home of Sir Thomas Gresham. She spent much time locked in her room, reading books. 10 The next May, Keyes dared to ask to live together with his wife, but no answer came from the Queen. 11 He died around September 1571, his health broken. 12

Mary took the news very hard. She begged Sir Thomas Gresham to write to the Queen to ask if she could raise Keyes’s children from his first marriage. She also asked to wear mourning. 13 Sir Thomas Gresham made it his mission to have Mary removed from his household. Mary was finally released in May 1572 but had nowhere to go. 14

Elizabeth finally gave Mary a little allowance, and she went to live with her stepfather, who had recently remarried.  15 By February 1573, she finally had enough money to set up her own household in London. She carefully avoided any controversies, and by 1577, she was appointed a Maid of Honour to the Queen.  16

She was at her own house in London when she fell ill in April 1578. It was probably the plague and Mary realised she was dying and drew up her will. She asked the Queen to determine where she should be buried. She died on 20 April 1578.

Elizabeth ordered that she be buried in Westminster Abbey with her mother. There is no marker on her grave.17

  1. Leandre de Lisle – The sisters who would be Queen p. 181
  2. Leandre de Lisle – The sisters who would be Queen p. 14
  3. Leandre de Lisle – The sisters who would be Queen p. 249
  4. Leandre de Lisle – The sisters who would be Queen p. 253
  5. Leandre de Lisle – The sisters who would be Queen p. 253
  6. Leandre de Lisle – The sisters who would be Queen p. 254
  7. Leandre de Lisle – The sisters who would be Queen p. 254
  8. Leandre de Lisle – The sisters who would be Queen p. 255
  9. Leandre de Lisle – The sisters who would be Queen p. 256
  10. Leandre de Lisle – The sisters who would be Queen p. 275
  11. Leandre de Lisle – The sisters who would be Queen p. 278
  12. Leandre de Lisle – The sisters who would be Queen p. 280
  13. Leandre de Lisle – The sisters who would be Queen p. 281
  14. Leandre de Lisle – The sisters who would be Queen p. 281
  15. Leandre de Lisle – The sisters who would be Queen p. 283
  16. Leandre de Lisle – The sisters who would be Queen p. 287
  17. Leandre de Lisle – The sisters who would be Queen p. 290-291 (UK & US)






About Moniek 1438 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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