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Portrait of Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquis of Dorset, from Doyle's 'Official Baronage'
Signature of Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquis of Dorset, from Doyle's 'Official Baronage'
Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquis of Dorset (1477-1530)

THOMAS GREY, second Marquis of Dorset (1477-1530), third son of Thomas Grey, first Marquis of Dorset, by Cicely, daughter of William Bonville, Lord Harington, was born on 22 June 1477. He accompanied his father on his flight to Brittany in 1484,1 and shared in his prosperity on his return to England. He was probably educated at Magdalen College School, Oxford, under Wolsey.2 At this time he was styled Lord Harington, and under that title was made a knight of the Bath in 1494, when Prince Henry (afterwards Henry VIII) was created Duke of York.3 He was also present at various court ceremonies, at the baptisms of the princes Arthur and Henry, and at the marriage of the former with Catherine of Arragon.4

He succeeded his father as Marquis of Dorset in September 1501, and was made a knight of the Garter in the same year.5 In 1502 he was a justice of oyer and terminer for London, and received the stewardship of the manor of Chartley. In January 1506 he was present at the meeting of Henry VII and Philip of Castile, near Windsor.6 In 1507 he had a grant of the wardship of Wyverston Forest,7 but a little later fell under the suspicion of Henry VII, and after a long imprisonment in the Tower was sent to Calais on 18 Oct. 1508.8 Here he was detained 'as longe as Kynga Henry VII lyved, and shulde have bene put to deathe, yf he had lyved longer.'9

On Henry VIII's accession Dorset was at first specially excepted from pardon,10 but must have been soon taken into favour, for on 3 Aug. 1509 he received a grant of the wardenship of Sawsey Forest.11 He quickly won the friendship of Henry VIII. His success was perhaps due in part to his skill as a jouster; in 1511 he was one of the challengers in the tournament held to celebrate the birth of a prince.12

When in 1512 Henry decided to despatch an expedition for the reconquest of Guienne, in conjunction with Ferdinand of Castile, Dorset was chosen for the command, and received his commission as lieutenant-general on 2 May.13 The expedition sailed from England in the same month, and landed in Guipuscoa on 7 June. Ferdinand as usual acted only for his own advantage, and despite the entreaties of Dorset kept making excuses for delay, while all the time he was securing for himself the kingdom of Navarre. He professed that it would be best to advance by way of Pampeluna; the English commander insisted on marching against Bayonne, in accordance with his orders. The troops were kept idle until a severe pestilence in the camp utterly demoralised them, and taking matters into their own hands they insisted on returning home.

When this news reached Henry he wrote in anger to Ferdinand to stop them by force if necessary; but his orders were too late, and the English army returned home without having effected any thing, landing at Plymouth in November.14 Ferdinand wrote to his ambassadors in England to tell the king 'that his commander-in-chief was doubtless a very distinguished nobleman, but was entirely to blame for the failure of the expedition.'15 Although Ferdinand himself had shown bad faith, his censure was in the main just, for Dorset seems to have displayed none of the qualities of a general; it is, however, fair to remember that he suffered much from sickness. At first it was contemplated bringing him and his associates, who put the blame on their chief, to trial, but it was impossible to discriminate, and eventually, at the request of the council, the matter was hushed up.16

Dorset was soon in favour once more, and next year was engaged in the French war, was present at the siege of Tournay and Battle of Spurs, and in October was one of the English ambassadors at Lille. In 1514, when a marriage between the Princess Mary and Louis XII had been determined on, Dorset was one of those commissioned to attend the princess to France, was present at the wedding, and distinguished himself in the tourney held in its honour.17 He was also at the same time associated with Suffolk in the embassy which was intended to bring about a close alliance between Henry and Louis.18 He returned to England at the end of November.19

It was some years before Dorset again appeared in a prominent position. In May 1516 he was made lieutenant of the order of the Garter. About the same time he became involved in a quarrel with Sir Richard Sacheverell and Lord Hastings, and was in danger of being brought before the Star-chamber.20 This quarrel lasted a long time, and reference is made to it as late as 1527.21 In November 1616 Giustinian writes that there was talk of sending Dorset in command of a fleet of sixty sail to attack France on the south.22 But during these years Dorset is chiefly mentioned as a jouster at tourneys,23 and as the recipient of numerous grants, and especially of the stewardship of many abbeys and churches.24 In May 1516 Dorset was removed from the privy council,25 perhaps because he was opposed to Wolsey; he was restored in 1520. He suffered from the sweating sickness in 1517, and was reported to be dead;26 this illness seems to have permanently affected his health.

In October 1518 he was one of the signatories of the treaty of universal peace, and of the treaty for a marriage between the young Princess Mary and the dauphin.27 In 1520 he was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and took part in the jousts there, and was also at Henry's meeting with Charles V at Gravelines immediately after. When in 1522 it was proposed to send a force to assist the emperor, and Henry suggested Dorset for the command, Wolsey replied that though 'the lord marquis is a right valiant and active captain, he would be more expensive than a lowerperson,' and the king acquiesced.28 Dorset was, however, commissioned to meet Charles V at Gravelines, and attend him on his coming to England in May of that year.29 On 26 Feb. 1523 Dorset was made warden of the eastern and middle marches towards Scotland, at the same time as Thomas Howard, earl of Surrey, was appointed to the chief command on the borders.30 In this capacity he took part in the incessant raids made by the English into Scotland during this year. In October Wolsey wrote to Surrey that if it was necessary to divide his forces, Dorset was to command one part.31

Dorset held no more important posts, though he was still in favour with the king, and received many grants.32 In 1526 he was one of the councillors of the Princess Mary in the marches of Wales.33 In 1528 he seems to have been in disfavour for using disrespectful language of the French king [Francis I], for Francis writes to Wolsey to beg him to intercede that the marquis may be pardoned and set at liberty.34 In 1529 he was one of the witnesses against the queen [Catherine of Aragon] in the matter of the divorce,35 and was one of the lords who signed the articles against Wolsey on 1 Dec.,36 and the letter to Clement VII on 13 July 1530, which complained of the delay in settling the king's request for a divorce. He died on 10 Oct. 1530.

Besides receiving the stewardships of various manors, Dorset was appointed warden and chief justice in eyre of the royal forests south of the Trent on 17 June 1523, master of the household to the Princess Mary in 1526, constable of Warwick Castle in 1528, and of Kenilworth Castle in 1529. Like many other prominent Englishmen of his time, he was in receipt of pensions both from the emperor and the French king.37. He was a brave soldier, but seems to have owed his position chiefly to the favour of the king, whose cousin he was, though a writer (quoted by Burke, Dormant and Extinct Peerages) says that he was 'esteemed the first general of those times for embattling an army.' The same authority continues that 'his speech was soldierlike, plain, short, smart, and material.' Dorset, as he directed in his will, was buried in the collegiate church of Astley, Warwickshire; seventy-eight years later the vault was opened, when his body was found well preserved, 'six foote, wanting foure inches, his haire yellow, his face broad'.38 There is a portrait of him in a picture at Hampton Court Palace.

Dorset married (1) Eleanor, daughter of Oliver St. John of Liddiard Tregooze, Wiltshire, and (2) Margaret, daughter of Sir Robert Wotton of Boughton Malherbe, Kent, and widow of William Medley. By his second wife he had four sons and four daughters. [He was succeeded by his eldest son, Henry, duke of Suffolk, father of Lady Jane Grey.]

1. Polydore Vergil. English History, ed. 1635. p. 552.
2. Cavendish, Life of Wolsey, pp. 4, 5, ed. Holme.
3. Letters illustrative of the Reign of Henry VII, i. 390, Rolls Ser.
4. His own statement in Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, iv. 5734.
5. Beltz, Memorials of the Garter, clxix.
6. Paston letters, James Gairdner, ed., 1895. iii. 404.
7. Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, i.5454.
8. The Chronicle of Calais 6, Camd. Soc., but Andreas says in 1507, Memorials of Henry VII, p. 100, Rolls Ser.
9. The Chronicle of Calais 6.
10. Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, i. 12.
11. ib. i. 434
12. ib. i. 1491
13. ib. i. 3217, 3989
14. Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. i. 277.
15. State Papers, England and Spain, ed. Bergenroth, ii. 68
16. For this expedition see Polydore Vergil, pp. 626-9; Grafton, Chronicles of England, ii. 244-8;
Hall's Chronicle, pp. 521-32; Herbert, History of England Under Henry VIII, pp. 20-5; Letters and Papers, i. 3298, 3313, 3355, 3476, 3584, 5745.
17. Letters and Papers, i. 5407, 5441, 5483, 5606.
18. ib. i. 5523, 5560.
19. ib. i. 5649.
20. ib. ii. 2018.
21. ib. iii. 309, 1519, iv. 3719.
22. ib. ii. 2559.
23. ib. ii. 1502-3, 1507, 3462.
24. ib. ii. App. 59.
25. ib. ii. 1959.
26. ib. ii. 3056.
27. ib. ii. 4469, 4475.
28. ib. iii. 1440, 1463, 1472.
29. ib. iii. 2288, 2368; Hall, p. 634.
30. Letters and Papers, iii. 2875.
31. On Dorset's share in these operations, see Letters and Papers, iii. 2875, 2960, 3039, 3434, 3445, 3447, 3458, 3466, 3472, 3538, 3626.
32. ib. iv. 1676, 2218, 3213, 5083, 6301.
33. ib. iii. 2331.
34. ib. iv. 4866.
35. ib. iv. 5773-4.
36. ib. iv. 6075.
37. id. iv. 1611, 3619.
38. Burton, Description of Leicestershire, p. 51.


      Kingsford, C. L. "Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquis of Dorset."
      Dictionary of National Biography. Vol VIII. Sidney Lee, Ed.
      New York: The Macmillan Company, 1908. 645-647.

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