Jane Dormer

Last updated

Jane Dormer, Duchess of Feria
Jane dormer.jpg
Portrait thought to be of Jane Dormer, by Antonis Mor
Born6 January 1538
Eythrope, Buckinghamshire
Died13 January 1612
BuriedMonastery of Santa Clara, Zafra, Extremadura, Spain
Spouse(s) Gómez Suárez de Figueroa y Córdoba, 1st Duke of Feria
Father Sir William Dormer
MotherMary Sidney

Jane Dormer, Duchess of Feria (6 January 1538 – 13 January 1612) was an English lady-in-waiting to Mary I who, after the Queen's death, married Gómez Suárez de Figueroa y Córdoba, 1st Duke of Feria and went to live in Spain, where she would become a magnet for exiled English Catholics. She maintained a correspondence with Queen Elizabeth, and also corresponded with contacts sympathetic to the Roman Catholic cause in England. Within Spain she championed the cause of exiled English fallen on hard times. On her husband's death in 1571 she took over the management of his estates. She died in Spain on 13 January 1612 and was buried at the monastery of Santa Clara in Zafra.


Early life

Jane Dormer, born at Eythrope near Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire on 6 January 1538, [1] the daughter of Sir William Dormer (d. 17 May 1575) of Wing, Buckinghamshire, by his first wife, Mary Sidney (died 10 February 1542), [2] the daughter of Sir William Sidney of Penshurst, Kent, and Anne Pakenham. She had two brothers, Thomas Dormer and Robert Dormer, and a sister, Anne Dormer, who married Sir Walter Hungerford. She was the granddaughter of Sir Robert Dormer (died 2 or 8 July 1552) and Jane Newdigate, the daughter of John Newdigate (d. 15 August 1528), esquire, of Harefield, Middlesex, by Amphyllis Neville (d. 15 July 1544). [3] [4] [5] Jane Newdigate's brother was the Roman Catholic martyr, Sebastian Newdigate. [3]

Jane Dormer was born during the reign of Henry VIII, when her family was split by the religious controversy caused by the ongoing Reformation. On the one side, her father Sir William Dormer's family (moderately prosperous Buckinghamshire landowners and wool merchants) [6] remained staunchly Roman Catholic. However, her mother Mary Sidney's family embraced Protestantism. Jane was raised broadly outside this latter influence from the death of her mother in 1542, but she spent her youth not only in the household of her paternal grandmother but also as a playmate of the young Edward VI, who, she wrote in her memoirs, was very fond of her and reportedly said after having beaten her at cards, "Now your king is gone Jane, I shall be good enough for you". [7]

Marriage and family

Jane's faith and royal connections would take her to the heart of power. Despite an age gap of over 20 years and at the age of just 16, Jane became one of Queen Mary I's closest friends and confidantes. Queen Mary was reluctant to see her married, so she could stay at court. Edward Courtenay showed interest, amongst others, but Mary deemed him unworthy. [8]

In the end she made her own Spanish match by marrying Don Gomez Suarez de Figueroa of Cordova, Duke of Feria, a close confidante of Philip II of Spain and his first ambassador to Elizabeth I's court. [lower-alpha 1] Jane and Don Gomez had first met on King Philip's arrival in England in 1554; Mary had strongly encouraged the match, but it had been postponed to await Philip's return to the country after campaigns abroad. This never occurred, and the two were not married until after Mary's death in 1558.

The Duke and Duchess of Feria's union had two sons: Lorenzo Suárez de Figueroa y Córdoba (born in 1559), who would succeed his father as Duke of Feria, and Pedro (born in 1565; lived only three months).[ citation needed ]

The Duke of Feria was quick to perceive how Elizabeth's accession would change the religious tide in England and, despite his formal role as Spanish ambassador, he refused to attend Elizabeth's coronation in a public rejection of expected Protestant elements in the service.


When the Duke of Feria was replaced as ambassador in 1559, he and Jane returned to the continent with a mixed retinue of monks and nuns, her cousin Margaret Harington, and Susan Clarencieux who was one of Mary's former ladies-in-waiting. [9]

Once in Spain, Jane became a lightning rod for exiled English Catholics. Jane kept up her correspondence with Elizabeth, but she also received letters from four popes and maintained numerous other contacts sympathetic to the Roman Catholic cause in England, and within Spain she was a champion of exiled English fallen on hard times.

On her husband's death in 1571 she took over the management of his estates. The Spanish respected her for her political understanding, and 1592 she was a strong candidate to take up the governorship of Flanders. [10]

Death and legacy

The Duchess's health never recovered from an accident in 1609, and she was bedridden from the start of 1611 – planning ahead she had already prepared a coffin which she kept in the house. At her death on 13 January 1612, she was attended by seven priests. She was buried at the monastery of Santa Clara in Zafra on 26 January. [1] [11]

Her son Lorenzo Suárez de Figueroa y Córdoba succeeded his father as Duke of Feria.


  1. Note: "Don", in this article, is used as a title, as in "Sir". It is not a first name, and is ordinarily written as "D" or "don"--i.e., D. Gomez Suarez de Figueroa y Cordova, Duke of Feria. Gomez was the Duke's first name. Gomez may also be a surname.
  1. 1 2 Rodriguez-Salgado 2004.
  2. Rylands 1909, p. 41.
  3. 1 2 Richardson 2011, pp. 254–6.
  4. Dale 1982a.
  5. Dale 1982.
  6. Fuidge 1981.
  7. Clifford 1887, p.  60.
  8. Weir 1996, p. 154.
  9. Loades 2006.
  10. Crummé 2014, p. 51.
  11. Vian 1888, p. 247.

Related Research Articles

Lady Mary Grey English noblewoman

Lady Mary Grey was the youngest daughter of Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk, and Frances Brandon, and through her mother had a claim on the crown of England.

Francis Manners, 6th Earl of Rutland English Earl

Francis Manners, 6th Earl of Rutland, KG (1578–1632) was an English nobleman. Despite a brief imprisonment for his involvement in the Essex Rebellion of 1601, he became prominent at the court of James I. He lived at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire. In 1618 three women, the "Witches of Belvoir", were accused of witchcraft for having allegedly caused the deaths of his two young sons.

Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset Duchess of Somerset

Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset was the second wife of Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, who held the office of lord protector during the first part of the reign of their nephew King Edward VI. The Duchess was briefly the most powerful woman in England. During her husband's regency she unsuccessfully claimed precedence over the queen dowager, Catherine Parr.

Sir Francis Englefield was an English courtier and Roman Catholic exile.

Sebastian Newdigate Carthusian monk and martyr

Sebastian Newdigate, was the seventh child of John Newdigate, Sergeant-at-law. He spent his early life at court, and later became a Carthusian monk. He was executed for treason on 19 June 1535 for his refusal to accept Henry VIII's assumption of supremacy over the Church in England. His death was considered a martyrdom, and he was beatified by the Catholic Church.

Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu English politician

Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu, KB, PC was an English peer during the Tudor period.

Robert Dormer, 1st Baron Dormer was a 17th-century English peer.

Anne Bassett was an English lady of the court of the Tudor period, whose charms attracted the attention of King Henry VIII.

Sir William Dormer was a Tudor knight, captain and politician. He is best known for a broken engagement to Jane Seymour, who later became the third wife of Henry VIII.

Mary Shelton English contributor to the Devonshire manuscript

Mary Shelton was one of the contributors to the Devonshire manuscript. Either she or her sister Madge Shelton may have been a mistress of King Henry VIII.

Susan White, known as Susan Clarencius, was a favourite lady in waiting and longtime friend of Queen Mary I of England.

Jane Radcliffe, Viscountess Montague British noble

Jane Browne, Viscountess Montague was an English noblewoman.

Walter Hungerford (Knight of Farley) English landowner, died c.1596

Sir Walter Hungerford of Farley was an English landowner. In his lifetime he was popularly referred to as the "Knight of Farley" for his renowned sporting abilities. In his youth he recovered the lands forfeited by his father's attainder, and was favoured by Queen Mary, whose Maid of Honour, Anne Bassett, was his first wife. In 1568 he sued his second wife, Anne, for divorce. He failed to prove the scandalous grounds he alleged against her, but chose to be imprisoned in the Fleet rather than support his wife or pay the costs awarded against him by the court.

Gómez Suárez de Figueroa y Córdoba, 1st Duke of Feria Spanish duke

Gómez Suárez de Figueroa y Córdoba, 1st Duke of Feria (1520?–1571) was a Spanish nobleman and diplomat, and close advisor of Philip II's.

Duke of Feria

Duke of Feria is a hereditary title in the Peerage of Spain accompanied by the dignity of Grandee, granted in 1567 by Philip II to Gómez Suárez de Figueroa, 5th Count of Feria.

Mary Arundell (courtier) Courtier

Mary Arundell, Countess of Arundel, was the only child of Sir John Arundell of Lanherne, Cornwall, by his second wife, Katherine Grenville. She was a gentlewoman at court in the reign of King Henry VIII, serving two of Henry VIII's Queens, and the King's daughter, Princess Mary. She was traditionally believed to have been "the erudite Mary Arundell", the supposed translator of verses now known to have been the work of her stepdaughter, Mary FitzAlan, later the first wife of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk.

Anne Hungerford was an English lady of the royal court during the reign of Queen Mary I, and poet.

Sir John Radcliffe, was the son of Robert Radcliffe, 1st Earl of Sussex, and his third wife, Mary Arundell.

Lorenzo Suárez de Figueroa y Córdoba Spanish diplomat and military personnel (1559-1607)

Lorenzo Suárez de Figueroa y Córdoba was the second Duke of Feria.

Margaret Harington an English woman in 16th-century Spain.


Further reading