Lady Jane Grey
Lady Jane Grey
Lady Jane Grey Dudley by Magdalena van de Passe and Willem van de Passe, engraving, published 1620. The origin of the image remains unknown.
Reign July 6/July 10 1553July 19 1553
Born ca. September-October 1537
Died February 12, 1554
Tower of London (executed)
Predecessor Edward VI
Successor Mary I
Consort Lord Guildford Dudley
Issue None
Royal House Tudor
Father Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk
Mother Lady Frances Brandon

Lady Jane Grey (1537February 12, 1554), a great-grand-daughter of Henry VII of England, reigned as uncrowned queen regnant of the Kingdom of England for nine days in July 1553.

Though Jane's accession, pursuant to the Will of King Edward VI, may have breached the laws of England, many powers of the land proved willing to accept her as Queen of England, even if only as part of a power-struggle to stop Henry's elder daughter, Princess Mary, a Roman Catholic, from acceding to the throne. Jane's brief rule ended, however, when the authorities revoked her proclamation as queen. The subsequent Marian régime eventually had her executed for treason.

Popular history sometimes refers to Lady Jane as "The Nine Days' Queen" (July 10July 19, 1553) or, less commonly, as "The Thirteen Days' Queen" (July 6July 19, 1553) — owing to uncertainties as to when she succeeded to the throne and when her formal deposition took place. Historians have taken either the day of her predecessor's death (July 6) or that of her official proclamation as Queen (July 10), as the beginning of her short reign.

Lady Jane had a reputation as one of the most learned women of her day, and the historical writer Alison Weir describes her as one of "the finest female minds of the century".

Early life and educationEdit

Jane was born at Bradgate Park near Leicester on an unknown date in early 1537, the eldest daughter of Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset and his wife Lady Frances Brandon. She had two younger sisters: Lady Catherine Grey and Lady Mary Grey. Jane was well educated, knowing Latin, Greek and Hebrew as well as modern languages. Through the teachings of her tutors, she became a devoted Protestant.

Jane had a difficult childhood. Frances Brandon was an abusive and domineering woman who felt that Jane was "too weak and too gentle". Her daughter's meekness and quiet, unassuming manner irritated the bold Frances who sought to 'harden' the child with regular whippings. Devoid of a mother's love and craving affection and understanding, Jane turned to books as solace and quickly mastered the arts and the languages. At the tender age of 9, she was sent to live as the ward of Queen Catherine Parr, sixth wife and eventual widow of Jane's great-uncle, Henry VIII. Queen Catherine was a warm and loving woman who took the young Jane under her wings. Having never experienced any demonstration of love from her own mother, Jane basked in the warm affection she received from her Aunt Catherine and blossomed into a fine young woman. Her spirits rose and she learned to assert herself. Unfortunately, Queen Catherine died shortly after the birth of her only child, leaving the young Jane bereft of a maternal figure again.

Catherine's husband, Thomas Seymour, attempted to marry her off to his own nephew, Edward VI, but Edward had, by this time, begun to distrust almost all of his relations. In particular, he hated Thomas Seymour for his avarice and political scheming. Edward rejected the offer of his cousin's hand in marriage due to both personal and health reasons. Frances Brandon then offered Jane to Guilford Dudley, the son and heir of John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, chief Councillor to Edward VI. Jane was alarmed at the prospect of becoming a daughter-in-law to John Dudley, a man she had learned to both fear and hate. She protested and put up a spirited fight, but Frances beat her into submissionTemplate:Dubious and had Jane, whom she was finding surprisingly difficult to handle, married off to Guilford in a hurry.

This marriage eventually had a tragic effect on her life, and events following this union led Jane to her untimely and early death.

Claim to the throne Edit

Jane's claim to the throne came through her mother, Lady Frances Brandon, the daughter of Mary Tudor (herself a daughter of King Henry VII of England) and of her second husband, Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. The will of Edward VI excluded Lady Frances (who lived until 1559), so the succession passed over her and directly to her daughter Jane.

According to male primogeniture, the Suffolks — Brandons and later Greys — comprised the junior branch of the heirs of Henry VII. The 1543 Act of Succession restored both Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession, even though the law continued to regard both of them as legal bastards. Furthermore, this Act authorised Henry VIII to alter the succession by his will. His last will re-enforced the succession of his three surviving children, then declared that, should none of his three children leave heirs, the throne would pass to heirs of his younger sister, Mary. Henry's will excluded the descendants of his elder sister Margaret Tudor, whose claims had primacy over those of the Suffolks, owing in part to Henry's desire to keep the English throne out of the hands of the Scots monarchs, and in part to a previous Act of Parliament of 1431 barring foreign-born persons, including royalty, from inheriting property in England.

Several Protestant nobles had become wealthy when Henry VIII closed the Catholic monasteries and divided the Church's assets among his supporters. John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, figured prominently among the Protestant nobility, and in the last years of Edward's reign had acted as Edward's principal advisor and chief minister. Northumberland, when it became clear that Edward VI would not survive long, led the faction that feared accession by Mary Tudor. This fear stemmed from the knowledge that Mary would certainly revoke the religious changes made during Edward's reign, and that she might reclaim from the nobility all former church and monastic properties in order to restore them to the Roman Catholic Church. Many Englishmen also expressed concern that Mary favoured for herself a Spanish marriage which might bring in Spanish nobles to rule England in place of Northumberland and his colleagues. Northumberland arranged for his son Guildford Dudley to marry the Protestant (and anti-Catholic) Jane, hoping through him to gain control over his new daughter-in-law and the reins of England. When informed by her parents of her betrothal, Jane refused to obey: she regarded Guildford as ugly and stupid. Historians do not know what made this seemingly quiet and obedient girl turn against precedent to refuse her parents' marriage arrangements. Jane's refusal notwithstanding, her parents forced her into submission.

The question of the succession had arisen as a result of the religious unrest that had occurred during the reign (15091547) of Henry VIII. When Henry's Protestant son and successor Edward VI lay dying (1553) at the age of 15, his Roman Catholic half-sister Mary held the position of Heir Presumptive to the throne. However, Edward VI named the (Protestant) heirs of his father's sister Mary Tudor (not his own half-sister Mary) as his successors in a will composed on his deathbed, perhaps under the persuasion of Northumberland. He knew that this effectively left the throne to his cousin Jane Grey, who (like him) staunchly supported Protestantism and had a very high level of education.

At the time of Edward's death, without Edward's will (which had dubious legal standing, since it ran contrary to the Act of Succession of 1543), the crown would have passed, under the terms of both the Act of Succession of 1543 and of Henry VIII's will, to Mary and her male (not female) heirs. Should Mary die without male issue, the crown would pass to Elizabeth and her male heirs. And should Elizabeth die without male issue, the crown would pass not to Frances Brandon but rather to any male children she might have produced by that time. In the absence of male children born to Frances, the crown would pass to any male children Jane might have. Jane thus did not feature in the line of succession prior to the last draft of Edward's will of June 1553. Only in the last draft did Edward finally include Jane Grey as his heir presumptive, knowing the line of succession included no Protestant-born male children. This may have contravened customary testatory law because Edward, then just 15 years old, had not legally reached the legal testatory age of 21. But more importantly, many contemporary legal theorists believed the monarch could not contravene an Act of Parliament, even in matters of the succession; Jane's claim to the throne therefore remained obviously weak.

Accession Edit

File:Lady Jane Grey (by an unknown artist).jpg

Edward VI died on July 6 1553. Northumberland had Lady Jane Grey proclaimed Queen of England on July 10 1553, just four days later — once she had taken up a secure residence in the Tower of London (English monarchs customarily resided in the Tower from the time of accession until their coronation). According to some fictional accounts, Northumberland tricked Jane into putting on the crown; however, she refused to name her husband as king by letters patent and deferred to Parliament. She offered to make him a duke instead.

Northumberland faced a number of key tasks in order to consolidate his power. Most importantly, he had to isolate and, ideally, capture Mary in order to prevent her from gathering support around her. Mary, however, advised of his intentions, took flight, sequestering herself in Framlingham Castle in Suffolk.

Execution Edit

File:Delaroche Jane Grey.jpg

The Protestant rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt in late January 1554 sealed Jane's fate, although she had nothing to do with it directly. Wyatt's rebellion started as a popular revolt, precipitated by the imminent marriage of Mary to the Catholic Prince Philip (later King of Spain, 1556–1598). But Jane's father (the Duke of Suffolk) and other nobles joined the rebellion, calling for Jane's restoration as Queen. Philip and his councillors pressed Mary to execute Jane to put an end to any future focus for unrest. Five days after Wyatt's arrest the execution of Jane and Guildford took place.

On the morning of February 12 1554, the authorities took Guildford Dudley from his rooms at the Tower of London to the public execution place at Tower Hill and had him beheaded. A horse cart carried his remains back to the Tower of London, past the rooms where Jane remained as a prisoner. Jane was then taken out to Tower Green, inside the Tower of London, for a private execution. With few exceptions, private executions applied to royalty alone; Jane's private execution occurred on the orders of Queen Mary, as a gesture of respect for her cousin. John de Feckenham, who had failed to convert Jane, stayed with her during the execution. Jane had determined to go to her death with dignity, but once blindfolded, could not find the executioner's block. She had begun to panic when an unknown hand, possibly de Feckenham, helped her find her way and retain her dignity in the end.

The "traitor-heroine of the Reformation" was merely 16 years old at the time of her execution. Apparently, Frances Brandon made no attempt, pleading or otherwise, to save her daughter's life; Jane's father already awaited execution for his part in the Wyatt rebellion. Jane and Guildford are buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula on the north side of Tower Green. Queen Mary lived for only four years after she ordered the death of her cousin.

Henry Suffolk was executed a week after Jane, on 19 February 1554. Merely three weeks after her husband's death and not even a month since her daughter's, Frances Brandon shocked the English court by marrying her chamberlein, Adrian Stokes. She was also fully pardoned and allowed to live at Court with her two surviving daughters. She is not known to have mentioned Jane ever again and was indifferent to her child in death as she was in life.

Lady Jane Grey in culture Edit

  • Fiction:
    • Lady Jane became the subject of the 1715 she-tragedy entitled Lady Jane Grey, by Nicholas Rowe, which emphasizes the pathos of Jane's fate.
    • She served as the main character in Nine Days a Queen- The Short Life and Reign of Lady Jane Grey (2005), by Ann Rinaldi.
    • Karleen Bradford's historical fiction novel, The Nine Days Queen, tells the story from Jane's perspective.
    • Alison Weir published a historical fiction novel based on Lady Jane Grey's life, Innocent Traitor, in early 2006. Some observers have praised the novel for its seeming historical accuracy.
    • Jane Grey appeared as a character in a Doctor Who short story entitled "Nine Days Queen," written by Matthew Jones for Dr Who: Decalog 2 (1995).
    • Raven Queen by Pauline Frances, in which she is the central character. This novel, aimed at readers aged 10+ is due to be published by Usborne Books on 12 February 2007, the 453rd anniversary of her execution.

External links Edit

Bibliography Edit

  • Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary - anon., edited by John Gough Nichols
  • Children of England - Alison Weir
  • Nine Days Queen of England - Faith Cook
  • Lady Jane Grey: Nine Days Queen - Alison Plowden

Template:Start box |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align: center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="2"|Preceded by:
Edward VI |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Queen of England
July 10 - July 19, 1553
(de facto reign) |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="2"|Succeeded by:
Mary I |- |- |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Queen of Ireland
July 10 - July 19, 1553
(de facto reign) |} Template:English Monarchs