An old legend tells of a Saxon lord called Dud, who built a wooden castle in the 8th century, in the region now known as Dudley, West Midlands, England. Historians, however, date the castle to the time of the Norman Conquest of 1066. The general belief among historians is that a follower of William the Conqueror built the castle in 1070. His name was Ansculf de Picquigny, and his son, William Fitz-Ansculf is recorded as the owner of the estate in the Domesday Book of 1086. The castle was first made of wood until it came into the possession of the Paganel family, who replaced the wood structure with one of stone. It was strong enough to defend an attempted siege by King Stephen's forces in 1153, but in 1173, when Gervase Paganel was involved with a failed rebellion against King Henry II, the King ordered the castle to be demolished. The Somery family owned the property in the 13th and 14th centuries and built a new stone castle there. John Somery died in 1321 and the estate was passed to his sister Margaret, Mrs. John de Sutton. Members of this family often used Dudley as a surname and in 1532, John Sutton inherited the castle but lost it to his cousin, John Dudley, who became the 1st Duke of Northumberland in 1537. Dudley lived from 1504 to 1553 and was said to be the most powerful man in the country. He was an English General and Admiral who was Chief Minister to King Edward VI, the only son of King Henry VIII and Jane Seymour. Queen Jane, Edward's mother, died from complications during his birth, less than two weeks after he was born. Edward was crowned King at the age of nine years old, upon the death of his father, King Henry VIII, and because he was still a child, the realm was governed by a "Regency Council", consisting of his uncle, Edward Seymour, at first, and then by John Dudley, 1st Earl of Warwick, from 1551. When John Dudley took over, the administration was almost bankrupt. He ended the wars with France and Scotland, and made other changes which helped the country's economy begin to recover. He introduced countrywide policing to maintain order and prevent uprisings, assigning Lord Lieutenants for each region. Dudley was Protestant and enforced the English Reformation and placed like-minded Protestant reformers in high Church positions.
England had formerly been under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, however when Pope Clement VII refused to accept Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon, a devout Catholic, Henry declared the Church of England officially separated from the Roman Catholic Church, though the Church of England continued to follow teachings of the Catholic faith. Catherine and Henry's only child was Mary and she, therefore, was heir presumptive. Henry "oversaw the legal union of England Wales with the Laws in Wales Acts of 1535 and 1542", himself descending from the Welsh Tudor Dynasty. Note: Catherine of Aragon was a daughter of the Catholic monarchs of Spain. She had been betrothed to Prince Arthur, Prince of Wales, from the time she was three years old, a plan intended to forge an alliance between the Spanish and English. They married when she was about 16, but tragically, Arthur died of a mysterious illness six months later. Her marriage to his younger brother, Henry, Duke of York, was arranged in order to renew the alliance. King Henry VIII was crowned in June of 1509. Their union produced only one child, a daughter, Mary, which displeased Henry. He lost interest in his wife and started a relationship with Anne Boleyn about 1526, and petitioned the Pope to annul his marriage with Queen Catherine. When the Pope refused, he declared the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. He married Anne Boleyn in 1533, and the birth of their daughter, Elizabeth, soon followed. Henry anxiously awaited the birth of a son to inherit the throne of the Tudor Dynasty, but after three miscarriages, Henry soon moved onto greener pastures with his third wife, Jane Seymour, with whom he finally produced a son, Edward.
The year 1553 proved to be a history changing one for the Dudley's and all of England. John Dudley's son, Lord Guildford Dudley, was married to Lady Jane Grey, first cousin 1x removed from the King, Edward VI, son of King Henry VIII. She was also known as Lady Jane Dudley, or the Nine Days' Queen after she was nominated as successor to the crown in King Edward's will in June of 1553. John Dudley was beheaded that same year, after the Privy Council changed sides and decided Mary, daughter of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, should be queen. Mary was devoted to the Roman Catholic Church and had over 280 religious dissenters burned at the stake, giving her the name "Bloody Mary". This, among other things, prompted the exodus of many English and Welsh to the New World.