Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey

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Lady Jane Grey (1537-1554 CE) was briefly declared Queen of England for nine days in July 1553 CE following the death of her cousin Edward VI of England (r. Then only 16 and never officially crowned, Lady Jane was first an unknowing and then an unwilling pawn in a political coup orchestrated by John Dudley, the Earl of Northumberland (l. 1504-1553 CE) who was, in effect, Edward VI's regent. Neither Dudley or Edward had wished to see the king's half-sister Mary become queen as she was a staunch Catholic and would undo the progress of the English Reformation and likely execute Dudley. As it turned out, both the nobility and commoners preferred a daughter of Henry VIII of England (r. 1509-1547 CE) as their queen; concern for legitimacy triumphed over religious matters. Mary I of England (r. 1553-1558 CE) imprisoned Lady Jane Grey in the Tower of London where she was executed in February 1554 CE.

Family Relations

Lady Jane Grey was born in October 1537 CE, the daughter of Henry Grey, the Duke of Suffolk (1517-1554 CE). She had a distant royal connection as Jane was the great-granddaughter of Henry VII of England (r. 1485-1509 CE) via her mother Frances, herself daughter of Mary Tudor, Queen of France (1496-1533 CE), the sister of Henry VIII. Perhaps most significantly, of all, Lady Jane became the daughter-in-law of John Dudley, the most powerful man in the kingdom, when she married his son Lord Guildford Dudley on 21 May 1553 CE. To further extend his tentacles of power, Dudley had Jane's two younger sisters, Catherine and Mary, marry two of his supporters.

The succession of Mary Tudor would mean the reversal of the Reformation & she would likely take retribution on its key supporters.

Jane was beautiful, sensitive and, tutored by the famed scholar and educational theorist Roger Ascham (l. 1515-1568 CE), she was very well-educated. Jane came under the guardianship of Thomas Seymour (d. 1549 CE), husband of Catherine Parr (c. 1512-1548 CE), ex-wife of Henry VIII. Thomas was the brother of Edward Seymour (c. 1500-1552 CE), Lord Protector and regent to Edward VI. Significantly, Jane was brought up a devout Protestant and so it was a combination of her family connections and religious convictions that ultimately sealed her strange fate to become, albeit fleetingly, the Queen of England.

The historian Nigel Jones gives the following physical description of Jane:

She was a tiny creature who disguised her small stature by wearing 'stilts' (built-up cork heels) beneath her dress…A pretty girl with auburn hair, hazel eyes, dark eyebrows, freckles, red lips and sparkling teeth, Janes was no one's fool..She too was a true Tudor. (229)

Dudley, Earl of Northumberland

John Dudley, the Earl of Warwick, had taken over from Edward's maternal uncle Edward Seymour, the Lord Protector, in October 1549 CE. Dudley had benefitted from Seymour's lack of decisive action against several rebellions, most notably the Kett Rebellion in Norfolk in 1549 CE. Dudley, in contrast, had led the army which had massacred the rebels in Norfolk at Dussindale on 26 August and was thus able to promote himself as Seymour's successor. Dudley became the most powerful man in England and regent to Edward VI in all but name. In 1551 CE Dudley made himself the Earl of Northumberland and he removed any rivals from public office, even the discredited Edward Seymour was executed on 22 January 1552 CE.

Dudley pressed on with the Reformation, which had begun with Edward's father Henry VIII, with gusto, perhaps more motivated by greed for the Church's wealth than any true religious conviction. The radical Book of Common Prayer was introduced in 1552 CE and there were further restrictions made on 'Popish' practices like the toning down of the vestments of the clergy and abolition of mass for the souls of the dead. The king and Dudley worked closely together with the earl secretly teaching Edward speeches he could deliver with finesse before the King's Council the following day. But then disaster struck. Edward contracted both measles and smallpox in the summer of 1552 CE. In 1553 CE, after a particularly harsh winter, he was showing the effects of tuberculosis and his days were numbered.

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Henry VIII had stipulated that should his son die without children of his own then Edward's elder half-sister Mary (b. Feb. 1516 CE) would become queen. Mary was a staunch Catholic, though, and her succession would mean the reversal of the Reformation and, even more seriously for Dudley, she would likely take retribution on its key supporters.

The Nine-Day Queen

To save himself first and the Reformation second, then, Dudley persuaded Edward, who was himself a keen Reformist, to nominate instead of Mary his cousin Lady Jane Grey. This document, often called the 'devise of succession', also specifically disinherited both Mary and her younger half-sister Elizabeth (b. Sep. 1533 CE), additionally declaring both of them bastards. The 'devise' contradicted the law and was not approved by Parliament, although some Protestant bishops were more than happy to go along with it. Northumberland had the support of such nobles as the earls of Oxford, Warwick, and Huntingdon, the Marquis of Northampton, and lords Clinton and Grey, others were cajoled into acquiescence, seemingly, as events would unfold, against their better judgement. Finally, Lady Jane was perhaps as surprised as anyone to be informed she would be queen - although she did not find out until the king had died - and she protested from the off that she was not perhaps the right choice.

Lady Jane Grey became one of the many famous detainees of the Tower of London, in her case, her royal palace Had swiftly become her prison.

Edward died of pulmonary tuberculosis on 6 July 1553 CE at Greenwich Palace, aged just 15. Dudley kept the death secret for a few days while he moved to install Lady Jane Grey as queen, then just 16 years of age. The king's council and Parliament accepted Edward's nomination of Jane who was declared queen on 10 July. Dudley tried to persuade Jane to name her husband as king but she refused, condescending to award him the title of Duke only.

Unfortunately for all Dudley's carefully laid plans, Mary Tudor was not about to let this opportunity slip away, and she had plenty of support she could call upon immediately. Dudley (or Edward) made the fatal mistake of not imprisoning Mary and so she fled to the security of her estates in Norfolk. Nobles and their armies quickly gathered to support Mary in her stronghold at Framlingham Castle, and on 19 July Mary declared herself queen. Eventually, a 30,000-strong force marched in Mary's name on London, and both the nobility and commoners there and elsewhere were united that Henry VIII's original wish should be honoured. The choice between a lady with only distant royal relations and a daughter of Henry VIII was an easy one to make for the public regardless of religious convictions. In addition, to accept Edward's 'devise' was to put the monarch higher than Parliament and the law, a dangerous move which could incur serious problems in the future. Dudley was duly deserted by the council and arrested at Cambridge on his way to try and capture Mary on 21 July. Dudley's army of 2,000 men vanished away like smoke in the wind; a last-minute declaration in support of Mary was not quite enough to save his neck.

Mary was met by cheering crowds in London on 3 August 1553 CE. Lady Jane Grey, who had been a reluctant participant in the whole scheme and who told Mary that she was perfectly happy to return to her normal life, was confined in the Tower of London along with her husband. Mary was crowned in Westminster Abbey and so became Mary I of England on 1 October 1553 CE.

Imprisonment & Execution

Lady Jane Grey became one of the many famous detainees of the Tower of London, in her case, her royal palace had swiftly become her prison. Jane, kept in the Lieutenant's Lodgings, rued the easily-swayed Reformists who had swung back in favour of Mary and royal legitimacy. Even her own chaplain had turned coat, as Jane noted in her diary, prior to her confinement he was a "lively member of Christ" and after her downfall, he became "the deformed imp of the Devil" (Brigden, 206). She also wrote a long letter to her queen explaining the recent events and that she accepted blame for presuming to take her crown but that she had meant no harm to Mary. As she summarised, "No one can say that either I sought it as my own, or that I was pleased with it" (Jones, 235). Even the captive Dudley exonerated Jane as an active participant in the whole debacle. Queen Mary did contemplate releasing her cousin, as she had already done with many other prisoners in the Tower, but she was warned that Jane could become a focus for rebellion.

Dudley was executed on 22 August 1553 CE. Mary, not understanding that her popularity lay in her family name and legitimacy rather than her religious convictions, was determined to return England to Catholicism. In October 1553 CE, when the queen announced her betrothal to Philip (b. 1527 CE), son of King Charles V of Spain (r. 1516-1556 CE), England's Catholic enemy number one, rebellion was in the air. There were rumours of a planned Spanish invasion of England. The volatile situation sealed Lady Jane's fate as Mary could not afford for her to become the figurehead of a plot to dethrone her. Lady Jane was tried at London's Guildhall on 13 November 1553 CE. The sentence was automatic for women convicted of treason: to be burnt at the stake. The queen signed Jane's death warrant, a document which still survives today, but commuted the method to beheading. Mary had acted wisely, for a rebel army led by Sir Thomas Wyatt marched on London in January 1554 CE and Jane's father, the Duke of Suffolk tried but failed to raise a contemporary rebellion in Leicestershire.

Lady Jane would spend six months in the Tower, her imprisonment is well-documented by one of her frequent visitors, Rowland Lee, an official of the Royal Mint which was located there. Contrary to its grim reputation, the Tower of London was really only ever used as a prison in the sense that important political or religious troublemakers were detained there. There were no cells, and detainees were, rather, confined to certain apartments. Jane was allowed four regular attendants which included a nurse. The ex-queen was even paid during her confinement: a handsome 90 shillings a week for herself and 20 shillings to pay her servants (a skilled tradesman at the time would have earned one shilling a day). She had access to books and could even stroll in the Tower's gardens. Although separated from her husband, Jane might have secretly communicated with him by letter, we know that she did so to other prisoners by concealing letters in a prayer book.

After Queen Mary sent her chaplain to enquire if Jane would be willing to renounce her Protestantism and received a definite 'no', the dreadful sentence finally came to pass. Jane refused the offer to see her husband one last time, stating they would "meet shortly elsewhere" (Jones, 242). On 12 February 1554 CE Guildford Dudley and then shortly after Lady Jane Grey were both executed by beheading. The execution was carried out within the walls of the Tower of London rather than on the usual Tower Hill as Jane was of royal blood and so there could be no outpouring of public sympathy for her. Calmly tying the customary blindfold herself and then, after struggling a little to find the block on which to lay her head, she said her last words: "Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Jones, 244). Queen Mary, meanwhile, went on to reign until 1558 CE and did indeed reinstall the Catholic Church in England but her plans were themselves reversed, this time permanently, by her own successor, her half-sister Elizabeth I of England (r. 1558-1603 CE).

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey

On February 12, 1554, 18-year-old Lady Jane Grey was beheaded after a nine-day reign as Queen of England.

To explain why, we first have to offer an all-too-brief primer on the political background of Tudor England up to this point.

Jane Grey’s grandmother was Mary Tudor, Queen of France and younger sister of England’s King Henry VIII.

Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, did not bear him a surviving son but only a daughter, Mary, born in 1516 (the year before Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Castle door). When the Pope would not sanction an annulment of the marriage between Henry and Catherine, Henry rejected papal jurisdiction over ecclesiastical affairs in England and founded the Church of England.

In 1537, King Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour, gave birth to a son, Edward. Upon the king’s death in 1547, the 9-year-old boy became King Edward VI. His Regency Council, designed to help him rule at a young age, was sympathetic to the emerging English Reformation.

Shortly before King Edward died on July 6, 1553, he and the Council amended his will (a “Devise for the Succession”) to prevent England from returning to Catholic rule under his older half-sister, Princess Mary. Edward nominated Lady Jane (his first cousin, once removed) to be the next Queen of England on July 10, 1553.

Mary, however, believed she was the rightful queen and was able to garner the popular and military support of England.

Jane’s nine-day reign as queen thus ended on July 19, 1553. She was imprisoned in the Gentleman Gaoler’s house within the Tower of London, while her new husband of two months, Lord Guildford Dudley, was held within the Beauchamp Tower. The two would never see each other again.

Queen Mary—later known by Protestant opponents as “Bloody Mary”—entered London two weeks later, in early August. She initially stayed the execution in the belief that Jane was a victim of her father-in-law, John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, along with others. It is possible that if Wyatt’s Rebellion against the queen had not taken place in late January 1554, Jane and Guildford may have remained in custody indefinitely.

Mary even allowed one of her Catholic advisers to visit Jane, who sought to persuade her of the Catholic faith in order to save her soul (even if a conversion would not have saved her earthly life).

You can get a sense of Jane’s theology and piety from reading a letter she wrote to her 14-year-old sister Katherine a day or two before her death. In it she writes:

Live to die, that by death you may enter into eternal life, and then enjoy the life that Christ has gained for you by His death. Don’t think that just because you are now young your life will be long, because young and old as God wills.

Historian J. Stephan Edwards does not share my religious beliefs, but he kindly took some time to help answer some questions on Lady Jane Grey and her execution on February 12, 1554. Edwards’s doctoral dissertation was on “‘Jane the Quene’: A New Consideration of Lady Jane Grey, England’s Nine-Days Queen,” and he runs the informative Some Grey Matter website, where he is happy to answer questions. (Note to historians: more sites like this, please!)

What led you to do your doctoral research and to focus so much of your professional interest on Lady Jane Grey?

I was drawn to her originally by the nature of the existing biographies and accounts of her life and times, virtually all of which were obviously tainted by legend and myth-building, even hero-worship. My research focuses on recovering a historical narrative based on original surviving evidence and freed of as much legend and myth as possible.

You have done extensive research on the portraits that claim to represent Lady Jane. Even though we do not have a reliably genuine portrait, if you had to choose one that comes closest to what she actually looked like, which would you choose?

I am of the opinion that the Syon House Portrait [pictured at the top of this post] is quite probably the closest we can presently come to an authentic depiction of Jane Grey. Even though it was painted in the 1610s, 60 or more years after Jane’s death, it was commissioned by the Seymour family, who were sons and grandsons of Jane’s sister Katherine Grey Seymour. At least one senior member of that family had known Jane personally and was still living when the portrait was created. Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford (son of Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector to King Edward VI) had known Jane quite well, and was even considered (before 1551) as a possible future husband for her. He lived until 1621, and may well have advised the artist on Jane’s appearance. Alternatively, the Syon Portrait may have been copied from a miniature (now lost) already in the possession of the Seymours, much like the large portrait at Syon of Jane’s sister Katherine.

Let’s focus here on her final days. Was beheading with an axe the usual punishment for treason?

Those of noble or royal status who were convicted of treason were often beheaded, whereas men of lower birth were hung, drawn, and quartered, and women of lower birth were often burned at the stake (considered more “humane” for the “weaker sex” than hanging, drawing, and quartering). The monarch’s consent was required for beheading, but it was seldom withheld. Thus Mary consented to Jane being executed by beheading with an axe.

What would she have worn to her execution? Paul Delaroche’s famous 1833 painting has her dressed in a flowing white gown. Is that accurate?

No, the angelically virginal white gown depicted in that painting is unhistorical. She would have dressed appropriately in a simple gown of somber color, usually gray or black.

Could those who were to be executed bring anything with them?

Many carried some type of religious text with them to the place of execution, often a Missal or Book of Hours (for Catholics) or a New Testament or copies of the Four Gospels (for Protestants).

Do we know what Jane carried?

She carried a book of prayers copied from the works of Jerome, Ambrose, and Augustine, each a fourth-century church father. Tudor-era Protestants recognized the value of the writings of these men though they denied their status as saints and intercessors in heaven.

What did she do with the book once she got there?

That morning, she carefully inscribed the book to her jailer in preparation for presenting it to him in her last moments. Small gifts to jailers, and even to executioners, were considered signs of humility and Christian forgiveness.

Was her execution out in the open?

Jane was executed within the relatively private walls of the Tower of London rather than in the full glare of the crowds outside the walls on Tower Hill. Executions were large public spectacles that often drew huge audiences, so a private execution was considered a great favor to the condemned.

Did the Tower of London contain a permanent execution scaffold?

No, scaffolds were built specifically for each execution, then immediately dismantled. The eyewitness accounts indicate that the scaffold for Jane’s execution was built against the wall of the central White Tower, at its northwest corner (the corner closest to the Chapel of St Peter-ad-Vincula).

Since Jane was housed in the upper story of the Gentleman Gaoler’s (Jailer’s) quarters, which still stands today, she would have seen the scaffold being built just a few yards across Tower Green. She would also have had a short walk from her quarters to the scaffold, though she would have been in full view of the many permanent residents, workers, and official visitors within the Tower that busy Monday morning. She is said by eyewitnesses to have made the walk with great dignity and without any outward signs of distress.

Did anyone accompany her to the scaffold?

Jane was accompanied by at least two of her ladies-in-waiting and by John de Feckenham.

Who was Feckenham?

Feckenham was John Howman (c. 1515-1584), a member of the Benedictine Order of Roman Catholic monks. He had been born in the town of Feckingham in the county of Worcester, and it was customary at the time for monks to drop their family surname and to use instead only their forename and the name of the town where they had been born—thus “John de (or “of”) Feckenham.”

At the time of Jane’s execution in February 1554, Feckenham was one of Queen Mary’s personal chaplains and confessors. He was, in effect, one of the Queen’s personal spiritual advisers. He famously convinced Mary to allow him to attempt to convert Jane to Roman Catholicism over the course of three days before the execution, and to have engaged in a semi-public debate with Jane on theological issues. Their debate was witnessed and transcribed and published shortly after Jane’s death, becoming known as the Feckenham Debate.

What purpose did Feckenham serve at the execution?

He was there for two reasons.

First, he was available should Jane wish to convert to Roman Catholicism in her final moments, and to offer whatever spiritual comfort he could should she chose not to convert. No Protestant preacher or pastor was allowed.

Second, Feckenham served as the personal representative of Queen Mary, ready to witness the proceedings and to recount them to her.

What did Jane do upon reaching the scaffold?

Jane, like all those condemned to die, was allowed to make a final speech. Such speeches were customarily written and memorized in advance with great care, as it was common practice for the witnesses present to write down the dying person’s last words. Scaffold speeches were often published within days of the execution and circulated widely, sometimes as political propaganda, sometimes as educational tools or warnings to others, and sometimes simply as “news of the day.” Jane would have been well aware of this practice, and her final speech, as it was published barely more than a month later, reflects a careful choice of words.

What did she say in her final speech?

Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact against the queen’s Highness was unlawful, and the consenting thereunto by me: but, touching the procurement and desire thereof by me, or on my behalf, I do wash my hands thereof in innocency before God, and the face of you, good Christian people, this day.

In other words, she stated that she was guilty of having broken the law by accepting the crown, but that she was innocent of having sought it. She acknowledged the justice of her execution, as all condemned were expected to do. Protestations of innocence at the moment of execution were paradoxically considered signs of guilt, of lack of humility, and transgressions of God’s will.

Did she ask for prayer as well?

Yes, she asked those there:

I pray you all, good Christian people, to bear me witness that I die a true Christian woman, and that I do look to be saved by no other mean, but only by the mercy of God, in the blood of his only Son Jesus Christ: and I confess, that when I did know the word of God, I neglected the same, loved myself and the world and therefore this plague and punishment is happily and worthily happened unto me for my sins and yet I thank God, that of his goodness he hath thus given me a time and respite to repent.

And now, good people, while I am alive, I pray you assist me with your prayers.

When she asked the small audience to pray for her soul “while yet I live,” her choice of words reflected her disagreement with the Catholic practice of saying masses for the dead.

She then knelt and asked the audience to recite along with her as she spoke the words of Psalm 51, the Miserere, which begins, “Have mercy upon me, O God.”

What did she do next?

Following her recitation of Psalm 51, Jane stood again to make final preparations to meet the axe.

She handed her gloves and handkerchief to one of her ladies, and she gave her small prayer-book to Thomas Bridges, the brother of the Lieutenant of the Tower. ( The prayerbook , pictured below, has survived and is sometimes displayed as part of the permanent “Treasures of the Library” exhibition at the British Library in London.)

After her attendants assisted her to loosen the neck of her gown, the executioner knelt in the customary request for forgiveness from the condemned. The executioner then asked her to stand upon the straw spread around the block to soak up the blood.

As she began to kneel, she asked the executioner whether he would take her by surprise and strike before she was ready. Assured that he would not, she tied a cloth around her head to block her eyesight.

Is it true that she couldn’t find the block where she was to lay her head for the executioner’s axe?

Yes. She felt blindly for the block, and not finding it because of the cloth over her eyes, she asked, “What shall I do? Where is it?”

It was against custom to assist the condemned to find the block, lest the person offering aid be accused of having an unjust part in a death. However, someone—usually reported as Feckenham—apparently did reach down and guide her hands to the block.

Finally finding the block, she laid her neck upon it.

What were her final words?

She repeated Jesus’s words on the cross, “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” The executioner swung his axe, and she was dead.

Here are a few biographies at different levels and from different perspectives that you may want to explore:

  • Faith Cook, The Nine Day Queen of England: Lady Jane Grey(Evangelical Press, 2005)
  • Eric Ives, Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery(Wiley-Blackwell, 2009)
  • Leanda de Lisle, The Sisters Who Would be Queen: Mary, Katherine, and Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Tragedy(Ballantine Books, 2009)
  • Simonetta Carr, Lady Jane Grey Christian Biographies for Young Readers (Reformation Heritage Books, 2012) illustrations by Matt Abraxas

For audio talks delivered to churches on Lady Jane Grey, see these by Michael Haykin and Paul Martin (+ PDF).

And here is execution scene as depicted in the 1986 film Lady Jane, starring Helena Bonham Carter:

Justin Taylor is executive vice president for book publishing and publisher for books at Crossway. He blogs at Between Two Worlds and Evangelical History. You can follow him on Twitter.

Often listed as merely an asterisk in history, Lady Jane Grey did have a part in the tale of the Tudors and in the succession of the crown. A teeeny tiny part, but a part nonetheless. Her young life and limited time on the throne may have been short, but it was long on drama. Did she end up remembered as the Nine Day Queen because of manipulation and lust for power? Whose? Was she a puppet or did she know what she was doing? The brief life and rule of this teenage royal is worth a bit of a chat, don’t you think? We did.

Jane Grey was born in October of 1537 (or perhaps in 1536) to Lord Henry and Lady Frances Grey. If you like a little title with your history, that would be the Marquees of Dorset and Frances Brandon, niece to King Henry VIII. Frances’ mother was Mary- the sister of Henry- and her father was Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and life long frat bro of Henry. Later, after his and Frances’ brothers’ deaths, Frances would inherit the titles and she and Henry would become the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk .

Jane was also born about the same time as her cousin Prince Edward, son of Henry VIII. Linking Edward to Jane was an easy move on the part of her parents. Cousins marrying was far from unheard of, and Jane was raised with this goal in mind. To add a little more incentive to the mix – as the only son of the king, Edward was next in line to the throne. They had so much in common- Edward was was raised Protestant- just like Jane. If you have paid any attention to our ongoing Tudors series (and you should, it’s very interesting) religion plays a big part in the story. (And we always explain more in our podcast than in these notes).

Jane and her sisters Katherine and Mary (yes, we have heard those names before) were educated at home, taught to read Latin, Greek, French, Italian and groomed for well placed marriages that would bring the family more power. At nine, Jane’s guardianship was given to Katherine Parr, the then-wife of Henry VIII. Upon his death, and Katherine’s subsequent marriage to Thomas Seymour (we cover this in the Four Wives podcast) Jane’s wardship was turned over to the Seymours. Why? Because it was thought that this was the best way to arrange a marriage between Jane the new king, Edward VI- a marriage that would suit all parties involved.

This portrait is often cited as being of Jane Grey, but there is much dispute that it is, in fact, of Katherine Parr. Actually, a great number of portraits that were believed to be Jane were proven to be someone else. Rather than be frustrated,we think it's fun to watch what we think was known reveal itself to be something else entirely. It's like a game!

But Katherine died in childbirth a short time later. And Thomas followed her to death when he was executed a year after that. Jane’s guardianship was up for grabs again, and who better to secure her future as queen than the chief counselor to King Edward, John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland.

Dudley was a very powerful man in a sweet position, who wanted to remain that way. He knew that if Edward produced an heir, Edward’s sisters, Mary or Elizabeth, would not rule, toss him out…or worse. But if he could marry Jane to the king- who was also in line to the throne (via her mother who was willing to let it pass to Jane) he might just be able to hold onto all that was near and dear to him. Like his head.

But his plan was flawed. Edward became very ill and it was clear he would not live to marry, let alone produce an heir.

So in a swift coordinated effort with Jane’s parent’s-Dudley married 15 year-old Jane off to his only marriageable son, Guilford. It was a hot mess of a wedding that also married off his daughter and one of Jane’s sisters to well-placed men. When Edward died very shortly afterward, Dudley did a fancy dance of deceit – badda bing, Jane is Queen. Everyone is happy.

Except just about everyone who wasn’t related to Jane. The people were scratching their heads, “Queen Who?”

Except Jane who never wanted to be Queen and was frightfully unprepared for the position.

Oh, yeah, and except for Mary who foiled a plot of Dudley’s to have her thrown in the Tower of London and knew that it was her turn to rule. Mary knew that she was entitled to the crown, and she had the support of the people behind her (We do cover all of this time in the Mary I podcast).

For nine days Jane was Queen Jane. And then Mary took care of that.

Mary tossed Jane and Guilford in the tower, where they remained for several months. It wasn’t horrible living conditions, but it was imprisonment. Rumor has it that this tribute, in the Beauchamp Tower, was carved for his wife by Guilford himself . This humanizes him a bit ( which his legacy totally needs).

Courtesy Lara E. Eakins at (see link below)

At first, Mary did not want to execute them. However, an ill-fated attempt to over-throw Mary -led by Jane’s own father- made Mary think that this decision was necessary.

On February 12, 1554, less than a year after being imprisoned, Lady Jane Grey and her husband Guilford were beheaded.

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by, Paul Delarouche (This one we know is her, her name is in the title)


An website with an easy read of her life, .

Or this one with a very lengthy description, as well as some links to outside sources (although not all the links are currently functioning) .

And finally, a really thorough one about all things Tudor,

Want to travel around through the Tower of London (and other historic places of England?) not exactly like being there, but much simpler.

Ooh, an internet museum? Love that, lots of clicking to do on this one, although it doesn’t look like it has been updated recently. But really, unless there is new information, that’s not entirely necessary, right? Lady Jane Grey Internet Museum

Tweet what, you say? We love it when we find an active twitter for one of our women- Lady Jane Grey Info.

Of course we have some book recommendations, have you just met us?

Non- Fiction: The Nine Days Queen by Mary Luke

Fiction- Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

The Sisters who would be Queen by, Leanda De Lisle (Non-fiction)

And a movie, that isn’t exactly historically accurate (are any of them?) and we dare you not to have Princess Bride quotes running in your head if you watch it!

Biography & Ancestry

Lady Jane Grey was the eldest child of Lord Henry and Lady Frances Grey, the duke and duchess of Suffolk. She was a viable heir to the English throne because of her maternal grandmother, Princess Mary Tudor. After the death of her first husband, King Louis XII of France in 1515, Mary secretly wed her true love, Charles Brandon. Brandon was her brother Henry VIII’s best friend the king’s friendship and Brandon’s service to the Crown led to his creation as duke of Suffolk in 1514. He and Mary had a son, Henry, who died as teenager.

Their next eldest child was a daughter, Frances. Under the terms of the Third Act of Succession (1544) and Henry VIII’s last will and testament (1547), the Suffolk line would inherit the throne after Henry VIII’s children died childless. In other words, the throne would pass to Henry’s son Edward if Edward died childless, it passed to Henry’s eldest daughter Mary if she died childless, it passed to Henry’s youngest daughter Elizabeth. If Elizabeth died childless, the throne passed to Lady Frances. This plan completely disregarded the children of Henry’s elder sister Margaret, the former queen of Scots. Henry did not care for Margaret and, more importantly, did not want the English throne in Scottish hands.

So it was through Princess Mary that Jane Grey was bequeathed her deadly heritage. Still, no one in the 1540s expected the Suffolk line to rule. After all, Henry VIII had left three heirs and it was unlikely all three would die childless. Of course, we know that this did occur and the Tudor dynasty died with Elizabeth I in 1603. It was only in 1552, with Edward VI’s health rapidly failing, that people realized there would be a succession crisis. According to parliament and Henry VIII’s will, Mary was Edward’s heir – but she was Catholic, in her late thirties, and never robust.

More importantly, Edward was a devout Protestant and did not want Roman Catholicism restored in England. Urged on by self-interested advisors, he removed Mary from the succession on the grounds of her illegitimacy (she was declared so by parliament in 1532.) But if he removed Mary, he also had to remove Elizabeth even though she was a Protestant Elizabeth had also been declared a bastard by parliament in 1536. In his Device for the Succession, written in his own hand, Edward wrote that they were both “illegitimate and not lawfully begotten.”

Famous Portrait Of Lady Jane Grey

Edward’s course of action removed the succession from the heirs of Henry VIII and gave it to the heirs of Henry’s younger sister, Mary. This was a tumultuous course for many reasons. For example, the king of France, Henry II, was raising Mary Stuart, Margaret Tudor’s granddaughter he planned to marry this ten-year-old queen of Scots to his son and heir, Francois. By all the accepted laws of primogeniture, she had a better claim to the English throne than her Suffolk cousins. In fact, most European Catholics believed Mary’s claim better than her Tudor cousins, Mary and Elizabeth, since both were illegitimate by acts of constitutional and canon law. However, Mary of Scotland was in France – not England also, the Suffolks were Protestant and she was not. Edward VI never considered leaving her the throne.

The above paragraph illustrates the complexity of blood ties within the Tudor family. And since Mary Tudor was half-Spanish and thus cousin to the Holy Roman Emperor, the succession crisis interested most of the major powers of Europe – France, the Hapsburg Empire, Italy (the pope hoped to bring England back to his authority), and the Protestant princes of Germany. When Edward VI died in 1553, all of these nations waited to see who would triumph. Mary…. Elizabeth…. Mary of Scotland…. Jane Grey…. Which would become queen?

Also, Europe waited to see how England would welcome a queen as their sole ruler. All of the possible candidates for the throne were women, an unprecedented occurrence. The only woman to attempt to rule England as her father’s sole heir had been Matilda in the 12th century she had been forced out of the country by popular revolt and a male cousin named Stephen of Blois became king. Now it seemed the English had no choice but to accept a woman ruler.

And because of the secret marriage of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon, the first woman to rule England in her own right would be Jane Grey.
Early Life and Education

‘I will tell you a truth which perchance ye will marvel at. One of the greatest benefits that God ever gave me is that he sent me so sharp and severe parents and so gentle a schoolmaster. For when I am in the presence of Father or Mother, whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand or go, eat, drink, be merry or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing anything else, I must do it as it were in such weight, measure and number, even so perfectly as God made the world or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yea presently sometimes with pinches, nips and bobs and other ways (which I will not name for the honour I bear them), so without measure misordered, that I think myself in hell, till time comes that I must go to Mr Aylmer, who teacheth me so gently, so pleasantly, with such fair allurements to learning, that I think all the time nothing while I am with him. And when I am called from him, I fall on weeping because whatsoever I do else but learning is full of grief, trouble, fear and wholly misliking to me.’ Lady Jane Grey to Roger Ascham, 1550

Jane Grey was not close to her parents. Henry Grey was the marquess of Dorset he became the duke of Suffolk in 1551. He married Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon’s eldest daughter Frances when she was sixteen. At the time, Grey was a ward of Brandon’s. He was also an appropriate match for a Princess’s daughter. The Grey family had an ancient and impressive lineage, originally receiving lands from Richard the Lionheart. Later, they rose to prominence under Edward IV he had married Elizabeth Woodville, the widow of Sir John Grey and mother of his two sons. When she became queen, she tirelessly promoted the interests of the Grey family. In fact, her eldest Grey son, Thomas, was created marquess of Dorset during Edward IV’s reign. His son, also called Thomas, was a companion to Charles Brandon – soldiering with him in France in 1513 and journeying there a year later to celebrate Princess Mary Tudor’s wedding to the French king. In 1530, Thomas Grey died and Brandon became his son’s guardian. The marriage between Frances and the heir, Henry Grey, was a satisfactory way to join two noble families together.

Their marriage was celebrated at Suffolk Place in London. Mary Tudor died some months later. Charles Brandon remarried, this time to an heiress called Catherine Willoughby. She bore him two sons (his son with Mary Tudor had recently died). When Brandon passed away in 1545, he and Catherine’s eldest son, called Henry after his late half-brother, became duke of Suffolk. He and his younger brother died of the dreaded sweating sickness a few years later. This left the dukedom of Suffolk vacant until 1551, when Edward VI would award it to Henry Grey.

As mentioned, Henry VIII had left the throne to his children and, if they died without issue, “to the heirs of the body of the lady Frances our niece, eldest daughter to our late sister the French Queen lawfully begotten….” This meant that the Grey children (by this time Frances and Henry had 3 daughters – Jane born in 1537, Catherine born in 1540, and Mary born in 1545) had enhanced social status. In 1547, when the will was read, no one seriously expected them to gain more. Edward was small and blond, like his long-dead uncle Arthur, lacking Henry VIII’s robust athleticism and good health. But he was expected to live, marry, and provide heirs. Therefore, any immediate interest in the Grey children centered on how Edward would favor them. Understandably, it was thought that he might marry the eldest, his cousin Jane. They were the same age, both precocious, very serious, and fervently Protestant.

Jane had been raised, with her two sisters, at Bradgate. This was the principal family home on the edge of Charnwood Forest. It was a beautiful and luxurious estate, suited to the Grey’s semi-regal status. Lady Frances was very conscious of her royal heritage and, as she grew older, became quite like her uncle Henry. She and her husband were well-known for their love of riding, hunting, hawking and gambling. They were not, however, the most interested of parents. In this, they resembled their aristocratic contemporaries. They provided very well for their three daughters. While Frances and Henry spent time in London, their daughters remained at Bradgate, in the hands of capable servants. Jane’s nurse was a woman called Mrs Ellen and would remain with her until Jane’s execution her first tutor was probably the house chaplain, Dr Harding. The first ten years of Jane’s life, from her birth in October 1537 (the exact date is not known) to her residence in Katharine Parr’s household in 1547, are not documented. It is likely she received the typical upper-class girl’s education – its primary emphasis would be on instilling good manners and the ‘feminine’ virtues of obedience and docility. She undoubtedly learned needlework and was taught dancing and how to play some musical instruments. But neither of her parents were scholars and no one in the sixteenth century expected women to be well-educated. She may have visited London, accompanying her parents to Dorset Place in Westminster she may have met her royal cousins. No one knows. But in March 1547, Lady Jane Grey finally emerges into the historical landscape. It was then that she entered the household of the dowager queen Katharine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth and last wife.

Katharine had retired from court upon Edward VI’s accession, though she remained close to London. Her dower manor, Chelsea, was in the suburbs. It was a comfortable brick home with modern amenities. Here, Katharine planned to live with the man she had longed to marry before Henry laid claim to her, Thomas Seymour, Edward VI’s uncle. She also brought with her the 13 year old Princess Elizabeth. Katharine Parr was justly celebrated for her warm and open nature she was a good stepmother to all of Henry’s children, particularly the youngest two. A few weeks after Katharine and Elizabeth settled at Chelsea, Jane Grey came to join them. She was sent to acquire polish and learn social graces, a common practice for daughters of the nobility.

Jane acquired much more than social skills at Katharine’s household. For the first time in her young life, she was truly happy. Katharine was a devout Protestant and the most intellectual of Henry’s queens. Her home was the center of the Protestant ‘New Learning’ there was instruction and frequent debates. Jane, quiet and studious by nature, thrived. And though her parents were Protestant, it was at Katharine Parr’s that she became devoutly committed to the faith. The Greys, after all, had become Protestants like many nobles – because it was a matter of political necessity. At Katharine’s, Jane became a Protestant because she truly believed in its tenets. This serious and intense study of faith would remain with her throughout her short life.

During Edward VI’s reign, the Lord Protector was Edward Seymour, duke of Somerset. Katharine Parr had married his younger brother, Sir Thomas Seymour. Thomas was very ambitious and angered that his brother had so much authority while he had to be content with a baronetcy, a seat on the Privy Council, and the office of Lord Admiral.

Thomas and Katharine Parr had planned to marry years before but Henry’s sudden interest in the twice-widowed heiress delayed their plans. Within months of his death, however, they were wed in a secret ceremony the exact date is not known but it was probably April 1547. Their whirlwind courtship offended some but Edward VI gave them his blessing. Some people remarked that the new Lord Admiral would have preferred marrying Princess Elizabeth, such was his ambition.

He certainly lacked the evangelical zeal of his new wife, always remembering important business when it was time for prayers. He possessed great charm, particularly with women and children and his desire to advance his own career led to some indiscreet behavior – notably bursting into Princess Elizabeth’s bedroom in the early morning, still in his bedclothes, to tickle her awake. This was dangerous play for an ambitious man and a thirteen-year-old heiress to the throne.

At any rate, Thomas had wed the dowager queen and she loved him passionately. Meanwhile, other supporters of his brother Edward, the Lord Protector, were also rewarded for their loyalty. John Dudley, for example, became earl of Warwick. Meanwhile, Thomas was also becoming interested in the other young heiress who lived with his wife – Lady Jane Grey. When news of Henry VIII’s will came out, he wasted no time in becoming friends with the Greys. He sent his most trusted friend and servant, John Harington, to talk to Jane’s father, Henry Grey. Harington was to use ‘all the persuasions he could’ to gain Jane Grey’s wardship and marriage rights. Later, Harington would say he never promised anything explicitly but Henry Grey remembered a guarantee that Jane would marry King Edward. On this basis, Grey sold his daughter to Seymour for the sum of £2000. Seymour paid a few hundred immediately, promising to pay the rest in installments.

In other words, Thomas Seymour was hedging his bets – if Edward VI died unexpectedly (as Tudor boys often did), he could arrange something with the Princess Elizabeth. If Edward lived, he could gain influence by marrying his ward, Jane Grey, to the king. Jane, of course, was oblivious to Seymour’s plans. She remained in Katharine Parr’s household, moving from Chelsea, to Hanworth in Middlesex, or Seymour Place in London. Her sensitive and eager mind, long starved for affection and knowledge, was finally engaged on a course of study – Latin, Greek and modern languages as well as religious instruction. As relations between the Seymour brothers deteriorated for a variety of reasons, Katharine Parr became pregnant. About halfway through the pregnancy, she happened upon a very unpleasant sight – her husband and stepdaughter, Princess Elizabeth, locked in a passionate embrace. Katharine’s reaction was a testament to her good character. She successfully averted an ugly scandal a few weeks later, Elizabeth and her household staff were sent to Cheshunt on a visit to old family friends. She parted from Katharine with real affection and sadness Elizabeth undoubtedly felt embarrassed and guilty.

Jane Grey remained with Katharine. There is no evidence she was ever particularly close to Elizabeth the gulf between nine and thirteen is great. Though they lived in the same homes for over a year, there are no surviving letters or reminisces. Perhaps Jane was grateful for Elizabeth’s departure the princess was described as proud and disdainful, not good company for a shy child. On 13 June 1548 Jane accompanied Katharine and Thomas to their Gloucestershire estate, Sudeley Castle. On 30 August Katharine gave birth to a baby daughter, Mary within a week, the dowager queen was dead, buried in the chapel at Sudeley. She was yet another victim of puerperal fever. Jane Grey, small for her age, freckled and with red hair, acted as chief mourner.

Meanwhile, her parents were becoming restless. More than a year had passed since Seymour purchased their daughter’s wardship. In that time, no match had been made with Edward VI. Also, they wondered if it would be better to marry Jane to the Lord Protector’s son. They wrote to Thomas Seymour, consoling him on the loss of his wife and remarking that, since Katharine was dead, her household would be dispersed – therefore, Jane should be sent home Seymour was not to be outfoxed. He wrote that his own mother was coming to Sudeley, to take charge of Katharine’s household (none of which would be dispersed) she would be ‘as dear unto Jane as though she were her own daughter.’ He did let Jane go home briefly in September. It was undoubtedly an unpleasant journey for the young girl. However, Seymour was able to regain her parents’ favor. He stressed his determination to wed her to Edward (the greatest prize) and agreed to pay another £500 on his bond. The Greys were chronically short of cash and wanted this grand marriage. Jane returned to the Seymour household.

But the noose was tightening around Thomas Seymour’s neck. He had been boasting about his intent to destroy his overbearing brother and he had encouraged gossip that he would marry Princess Elizabeth. This gossip was perhaps the most damaging, particularly to the eyes of the young king. Was Seymour attempting to seize the throne? John Dudley, earl of Warwick, had long waited for the opportunity to destroy the Seymour brothers. He wanted to be Lord Protector himself and was quite prepared to turn on his old friend, Edward Seymour. He used the arrogant and ambitious Thomas to destroy them both. On 17 January 1549, Thomas Seymour was arrested at Seymour Place in London. Jane Grey was immediately brought home by her alarmed parents. Because Parliament was in session, it was decided that Thomas would not have a trial – instead a bill of attainder was drawn up and passed through both houses in early March. All that was needed was for the Lord Protector to sign the bill. For about a week, Edward Seymour did nothing. He was understandably hesitant to execute his brother. Seizing his chance, Dudley urged the council to appeal to the king – flattering his authority, they asked for him to sign the bill so they could proceed without further troubling the Protector. Edward cared little for either of his uncles (the Protector kept him short of pocket money and assigned him cold-hearted tutors.) He signed the bill. On 20 March 1549, Thomas Seymour was executed on Tower Hill.

Meanwhile, Dudley moved to take control of the government. The year 1549 was marked by discontent – rising prices, high unemployment, bad harvests also, people resented the radical religious changes passed since Henry VIII’s death. There were two serious revolts, in the West Country and Norfolk, both of which alarmed the land-owning gentry. Seymour had once been popular with the common people but his execution of his own brother struck many as cold-blooded and evil. Dudley had counted on this reaction. He also counted on the support of the gentry he was a capable soldier and put down the rebellion in the West Country. This pleased the landowners and the king. Also, it allowed Dudley to gather a well-armed and experienced group of soldiers about him. On 10 October, he and his supporters captured the fleeing Edward Seymour at Windsor Castle. He was arrested and taken under guard to the Tower. Dudley became one of the six prime attendants on the King but – very intelligently – did not take the title of Lord Protector.

Dudley was on the list of sixteen executors Henry VIII had appointed in his will. In 1543 he had been appointed Lord High Admiral, a post he relinquished reluctantly to the unqualified Thomas Seymour in 1549, he regained that title. He was also a family man with several sons. But Dudley had learned from his dealings with Henry VIII he knew to treat Edward not as one of his own sons but as a king. He flattered the king, allowed him greater access to money, more physical freedom. Luckily for Dudley, his coup coincided with Edward’s own physical maturity. He became a sportsman, which Dudley encouraged, and began to travel a bit outside of London.

His cousin Jane was not so fortunate. She had returned to a home devoid of affection which also included physical abuse normal in the sixteenth-century (smacks, pinches, and the like). The Greys were discovering that their daughter had matured into a thoughtful, intelligent, and self-righteously pious young woman. She openly disapproved of their lack of piety, their devotion to material gain and social advancement, as well as their gambling. They were happy to hire a tutor, John Aylmer, to continue her education – and take her off their hands. Aylmer was a friend of Roger Ascham, the former tutor of Princess Elizabeth. On a visit to Aylmer, Ascham met Jane Grey she impressed him greatly. He preserved their meeting in his educational treatise, The Schoolmaster.

Were the Greys really such terrible parents? There is no doubt that Jane and her parents were not affectionate to one another. Yet this was normal in an age which expected children to be dutiful and obedient and that discipline built character. In fairness to them, Jane was openly critical of their pleasure-loving lifestyle. She encouraged the chaplain to deliver sermons against gambling, told visitors that she found her parents foolish and irritating, and she was very self-righteous. What parent would enjoy the company of such a devout thirteen-year-old? At home, Jane met John ab Ulmer, a Swiss Protestant and student of Henry Bullinger, chief pastor of the Protestant church in Zurich. They were both friends of Aylmer and Ascham. The four men corresponded about the education of this most pious young girl. There are many surviving letters – Jane thanking Bullinger for sending a copy of his treatise on Christian Perfection – and some reveal her as more than a pious Protestant martyr. In one, Aylmer is concerned that she is taking too much of an interest in music and her appearance. He was distressed – but what good news for the student of Jane’s life! She is human, after all.

Of course, the European reformers were hopeful that Edward VI would marry this most proper cousin. Their union would make England a most blessed Protestant realm. But Jane turned fourteen and was still not betrothed to anyone while Edward was in serious talks to wed the French princess Elisabeth.

Meanwhile, Charles Brandon’s two sons with Catherine Willoughby had died. This meant that their half-sister Frances Grey was sole surviving heir to the Brandon estates. On 4 October 1551, the title of duke of Suffolk was given to her husband in right of his wife. And on 11 October, just a week later, Dudley was made duke of Northumberland two years of Edward’s favor had sufficiently emboldened him to petition the king. He was the first man to receive a ducal title who had no ties of marriage or blood to the reigning royal family.

For Jane Grey, that week in 1551 was to have terrible consequences.

The political situation in England during Edward’s reign is fully explored in the Edward VI pages. Suffice to say, the duke of Northumberland, John Dudley, had replaced Edward Seymour as the true power behind the throne. In spring 1552, his young master fell ill. No one was especially concerned Edward VI had been ill before and recovered well enough. But this time he did not fully recover. It seemed as if his physical resemblance to the long-dead Prince Arthur went beyond their fair coloring and delicate physique – they were both consumptive as well.

This naturally terrified the Protestant lords who had prospered during his six-year reign. The Princesses Mary and Elizabeth were rarely seen at the king’s court, Mary in particular. She could no longer persuade herself that Edward was simply a misguided Protestant pawn. He had, like Henry before him, ordered her to change her religion he was king and expected obedience. He was closer to Elizabeth (only 4 years older than him) and she was suitably Protestant. But she, too, was rarely at court. His Grey family, however, was increasingly present.

When Mary of Guise, mother of Mary queen of Scots and regent of Scotland, visited England in November 1551, Mary and Elizabeth were not invited. But Frances and Henry Grey were there, bringing their fourteen-year-old daughter Jane. Mary of Guise’s two-day visit to Hampton Court was Jane’s official debut on the English political scene. In early February, Jane contracted an unspecified illness. It was serious enough to warrant mention from Aylmer (in a letter to Ascham.) After her recovery, Jane’s parents persuaded her to devote less time to study and more to social concerns. Of course, an educated and pious daughter was an asset but they also wanted a daughter who could attract a king in marriage.

On 2 April 1552, Edward became ill with the measles. As mentioned, he recovered somewhat – enough to attend St George’s Day services at Westminster Abbey. He also jousted, played on the tennis courts, and went hunting. And on 27 June, he began his most extensive progress through the south and west of his kingdom. The king enjoyed himself (he had never traveled so far outside London) but the pace was exhausting combined with the illness in April and his strenuous athletics, it wore him down. Passer-by thought he was ill he was pale, losing weight, and lost his appetite. He returned to Windsor in mid-September. By then, the tuberculosis which killed him had begun in earnest. By Christmas 1552, his condition was obvious. The holiday celebrations were unusually festive, perhaps to take notice from the king’s health. Princess Mary came to visit in February but his illness prevented their meeting for three days. Still, the king’s illness meant an increased respect for Mary, his heir under Henry VIII’s will.

The exact nature and course of Edward’s illness is discussed at the Edward VI page. It was tuberculosis, or consumption as it was then called. On 11 April 1553, Edward moved his household to his favorite residence, Greenwich Palace. He had managed to open parliament in March but those who hadn’t seen him since the holidays were shocked at his appearance he was terribly thin and, oddly, his left shoulder seemed higher than his right. It was obvious Edward was suffering terribly. Northumberland, his closest advisor, was torn – he talked of retiring from political life but this was a passing dream. He had made too many enemies – particularly the Catholic nobles and churchmen who would rally around Mary. In truth, if Mary succeeded, the best Dudley could hope for was complete financial and political ruin. More than likely, he would lose his head. He could, of course, attempt to marry Princess Elizabeth to his one remaining unmarried son, Guildford. Why didn’t he? It certainly seems less convoluted than attempting to place Jane Grey on the throne. The truth was that Elizabeth Tudor, nearly twenty years old, had seasoned political acumen – she would never be Dudley’s pawn. Dudley knew her well enough to guess as much. Therefore, only Jane Grey (fourth in line, after her mother Frances) remained. She would be amenable enough, the duke thought.

Certainly Frances and Henry were happy enough to encourage Dudley. With Edward dying, there was no possibility of Jane marrying him. They may have been put off by Dudley’s ambition he first attempted to marry Guildford to Eleanor Brandon’s only child, Margaret Clifford (Eleanor was Frances’s younger sister.) But, swayed by the prospect of wealth and power, they agreed to marry Jane to Guildford. In late April or early May, the betrothal was announced. Jane had protested the union but was persuaded by ‘the urgency of her mother and the violence of her father’ in other words, persuaded by verbal and physical abuse.

Many have argued that Jane protested because she didn’t like Guildford. That is unlikely. He was handsome enough (like most of the Dudley men), fair-haired and about her age. He was arrogant and spoilt his mother openly favored him. But he had no other documented flaws. When considered against other men of the age, he was a good match. Jane’s reservations centered on his father. She disliked and feared Dudley, as most people did. But the duke had a weapon against Jane which he would wield effectively – religion. She was a devout and committed Protestant. She didn’t want Mary as queen any more than he did. And, unlike Dudley, Jane’s desire was based on real principle, not simple greed.

So on 25 May 1553, Jane married Guildford at the Dudley’s London residence, Durham House. It was one of the great homes of Tudor England her sister Catherine was also married that day, to the earl of Pembroke’s heir. Orders, signed by the king, had been sent to the Master of the Wardrobe so that the grandest clothing and jewels could be used. Edward was supposed to attend but was far too ill. He did not watch as his cousin marched down the aisle, richly appareled in cloth of gold and silver, her red hair braided with pearls.

For many, Jane and Guildford’s marriage marks the beginning of the attempt to change the line of succession. In reality, Edward VI had been pondering the problem for months. Ever since he became ill, he had wondered how to prevent his Catholic sister from becoming queen. His reasoning was purely religious. Edward was a devout Protestant he wanted his nation, for its own sake, to remain Protestant. Just as Mary believed Catholicism was the path to righteousness, Edward believed in Protestantism. He was king, charge by God with responsibility for his people’s religious welfare. It was a sacred duty. For the sake of his immortal soul, Mary had to be prevented from leading England on the path to damnation. This necessity overcame all else. What was Henry VIII’s will when compared to divine retribution?

So in late 1552/early 1553, he first began his Device for the Succession. At first he left the throne to Lady Frances Grey and her male heirs, then to Jane Grey and her male heirs. But it was evident that Frances Grey would have no more children and none of her daughters would bear children in time. So he made a change – simple and explosive – he left the throne to ‘the Lady Jane and her heirs male.’

It was the beginning of the end for Jane Grey.

‘Jane the Queen’

Edward’s Device for the Succession was eventually issued with the title Letters Patent for the Limitation of the Crown. It disinherited Mary and Elizabeth because they were ‘illegitimate and not lawfully begotten.’ Furthermore, they were only half-sisters of the king, not entitled to succeed him, and might marry foreign husbands who would ‘tend to the utter subversion of the commonwealth of this our realm.’ But Edward’s device would have no legal validity as long as Henry VIII’s 1544 Act of Succession was still acknowledged by parliament. But there was no time to wipe that law from the statute book. Instead, Dudley planned to gain support from government and then carry out a coup so quickly that its legality would not matter.

To gain government support, he spent June 1553 persuading the Privy Council, judiciary, and various churchmen to endorse Edward’s device. The Lord Chief Justice, Sir Edward Montague, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, were uneasy but Dudley was desperate and called them traitors. Furthermore, the king ordered them to obey. So the Letters Patent for the Limitation of the Crown was endorsed with the Great Seal on 21 June. It was recognized by the Lord Chancellor, the Privy Councilors, twenty-two peers of the realm, the Lord Mayor of London, various aldermen and sheriffs, the secretaries of state (including William Cecil, Elizabeth I’s great statesman), and various judges and churchmen. King Edward VI did not live long after this triumph. After months of agony, he died in the early evening of Thursday 6 July.

Jane Grey, meanwhile, had been married to Guildford Dudley for almost six weeks. She disliked her in-laws more than she disliked her parents so, immediately after the marriage, returned to Suffolk Place at Westminster. From there, she moved to her parents’ new residence in London, a former Carthusian monastery they were converting into a grand home. Dudley’s wife, the duchess of Northumberland and Jane’s mother-in-law, was not happy with this arrangement. She informed the Greys that Edward VI was dying and Jane had been made heir to his throne she must hold herself in readiness (in other words, come to the Dudley home.) Jane later said this was the first she knew of the king’s impending death. She didn’t believe the duchess and told her as much she accused the Dudleys of lying so they could steal her away from her parents. The duchess accused the Greys of deliberating keeping Guildford and Jane apart. Such petty conflict indicated rougher waters ahead for all involved.

In the end, there was no reason Jane should not be with her husband. She went to the Dudley’s residence, Durham House, and possibly consummated her marriage. But, after only a few days, she became ill and accused the Dudleys of poisoning her. The charge was ludicrous (she was the key to their political salvation) and showed a surprising lack of logic on Jane’s part. But the Dudleys were concerned with her physical and mental state. They sent her to Chelsea, Catherine Parr’s former home where Jane had been so happy. It was there that, on Sunday 9 July, Dudley’s eldest daughter, Mary Sidney, came to visit her they were to leave Chelsea and go to Syon House, a former convent on the Thames which Dudley controlled.

At this point, it is right to question Jane’s true knowledge of Dudley’s plans. Remember, even if she knew Dudley intended to make her queen, there was nothing she could do to prevent it. She was not stupid the charge of poisoning was probably a result of nervousness and hysteria. She knew her own lineage. She knew that she was fourth in line for the English throne, after Mary, Elizabeth and her own mother Frances. She also knew that, for some reason, the Dudleys and her parents were desperate to marry her to Guildford as quickly as possible. She also watched her sister wed into another influential noble family on the same day. Something was afoot and she undoubtedly suspected Dudley’s plan. In the end, her awareness of the plot was undoubtedly a greater strain than ignorance. After all, she could do nothing to escape her family or in-laws. She was, quite literally, trapped.

When she arrived at Syon House with Mary Sidney, she found her parents, in-laws, and a variety of distinguished nobles – the earls of Arundel, Huntington, and Pembroke, and the marquess of Northampton. They greeted her very pleasantly and then knelt before her in reverence. Jane was naturally embarrassed. Dudley, in his capacity as President of the Council, then announced Edward’s death. The young king had led a ‘virtuous life’ and always cared for his kingdom – cared enough to disinherit his unworthy sisters and appointed his cousin Jane as his successor.

Jane was stunned. She may have suspected as much but the actual moment of declaration was too much for her. She muttered that she was ‘insufficient’ for the task. The Lords of the Council then took a solemn oath to shed their blood in defense of her claim. Jane murmured a quick prayer – if it was God’s will that she be queen, then she would trust in God to help her govern England for His glory.

Her reaction was not what those gathered expected. She was not openly thrilled, excited, or even pleased. She made no stirring speech to raise their spirits – she simply uttered a prayer to God. Did Jane want to be queen? That is a much-debated question, impossible to answer. But whatever her desire, she was queen and – for nine long days – ruled England.
‘Jana Regina’
On Monday 10 July 1553, the new queen, Jane Grey, was taken in full state from Syon to Westminster (this journey was along the Thames in barges.) They dined at the Dudley home, Durham House, and then journeyed by barge again to the Tower of London. It was an ancient custom that all new sovereigns must come tot the Tower and take possession of it at the beginning of their reigns. Jane and her various attendants arrived at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. There was an eyewitness account by a Genoese merchant named Baptista Spinola. He was standing with a group of spectators outside the main Tower gates, waiting to catch a glimpse of this new queen. He wrote:

She is very short and thin, but prettily shaped and graceful. She has small features and a well-made nose, the mouth flexible and the lips red. The eyebrows are arched and darker than her hair, which is nearly red. Her eyes are sparkling and reddish brown in color.

Her complexion was good, unmarked by the pox, but freckled she had sharp white teeth and a lovely smile. Because she was so short, she wore chopines these were shoes with a special cork sole designed to make her appear taller. Her gown was made of green velvet stamped with gold (the colors undoubtedly flattered her red hair.) Her husband Guildford, Spinola wrote, was ‘a very tall strong boy with light hair’ and clothed in white and silver velvet. He ‘paid her [Jane] much attention.’

Once in the Tower, Jane was installed in the royal apartments (now destroyed.) There, another rift occurred between her and the Dudleys, much more serious than the first. Jane was visited by the Lord Treasurer, the Marquess of Winchester, who brought a selection of the royal jewels for her to try on. Among them was the crown. Jane would later stress that she never asked for the crown – it was brought to her. Winchester asked her to check if it fitted properly. Jane would not. She had played at being queen for nearly twenty-four hours but this, the most sacred symbol of the monarchy, was another reminder of the danger – and importance – of her role. If she put it on, there was no turning back. This was how she viewed it. So she hesitated, would not take it from Winchester. He didn’t recognize her uneasiness. He told her to take it, remarking that another would be made to crown her husband king.

It was then Jane realized the extent of Dudley’s duplicity. He had manipulated Edward, knowing the devout Protestant king wanted the throne to go to his equally devout cousin Jane but, all along, Dudley simply wanted his own son crowned king. None of the lords cared whether England was a righteous nation no one cared about Edward’s will. Instead, her royal blood was to be used to maintain Dudley’s control of England, to make his family into royalty. She was outraged and angry. And Jane was a Tudor herself, as proud of her royal background as she had a right to be. The Dudleys, that arrogant, pretentious family, had no right to exploit her. She told those assembled that she would gladly make Guildford a duke, but he would never be king.

Guildford was present for this declaration. He rushed out and fetched his mother. The duchess, no admirer of Jane’s anyway, joined her son in an attack – Jane was an unnatural wife and behaved like a child in the end, Jane did not give in. The duchess said Guildford would be leaving with her for Syon House. When they had left, Jane called in the earls of Arundel and Pembroke. They were ordered to prevent Guildford from leaving. Jane did not like her husband – she probably pitied him for he was a pawn as well – but they had to stay together. He was the consort to the monarch and could not act like a spoiled child.

Later, Jane would tell Mary I’s officers this story, adding, ‘I was compelled to act as a woman who is obliged to live on good terms with her husband nevertheless I was not only deluded by the duke and the Council, but maltreated by my husband and his mother.’ The battle, however, had been domestic. Jane would soon have much greater problems to confront. For, later that evening, the Sheriff of London and various heralds and trumpeters, marched to the Cross in Cheapside to proclaim Jane queen. The announcement was met with silence.

For Jane’s father-in-law, the architect of the plan to make her queen, her accession had gone smoothly. He controlled London – with the Tower and armory, the treasury, and navy – and no councilors offered resistance. Jane’s only rival for the crown was Mary Tudor, thirty-seven, often ill, with no organized support or wealth. Her situation was so dire that her champion, the Emperor Charles V, urged his ambassador to be friendly with Dudley he wanted the duke’s promise to protect Mary. Every observer considered the throne won by Dudley. But none of these learned men considered the feelings of ordinary Englishmen. And they, unlike their aristocratic lords, would not gain wealth of prestige by supporting Jane or Mary. So their support was based solely on ideas of right and wrong – to them, it was wrong for Jane to be queen and right for Mary to be queen. It was that simple. (Click here to read an eyewitness account of Jane’s coronation.)

Dudley understood popular opinion. He also recognized the limits of his support – after all, most of the nobles would not stand by him if things turned ugly. But he believed that a quick coup, eliminating all opposition, was the key to success. So he had to get hold of Mary and Elizabeth. Mary, the daughter of Katharine of Aragon, was much-loved by the English people. They had always been sympathetic to her mother’s plight most believed Mary was legitimate, that Katharine had been forced aside by the king’s lust and Anne Boleyn’s ambition. Did Mary understand the importance of this support? She had been receiving regular letters from Dudley about her brother’s condition. They were accurate for Dudley wanted to remain in her good graces as long as possible. In early July, he sent summons for Mary to come to Edward’s deathbed. She set out from Hunsdon (an old palace in Hertfordshire) but had not traveled far before a message reached her – the summons was a trap. Mary, oddly for her, acted decisively and immediately turned back. With half a dozen attendants, she went to Kenninghall in East Anglia. She had friends there and, if need be, would be near the coast and safety in the Spanish Netherlands.

When he realized she had fled, Dudley sent his son Robert after her. But they couldn’t capture her and, on 9 July, he was forced to act without her in his power. The Bishop of London, Nicholas Ridley, preached at St Paul’s Cross, calling Mary and Elizabeth bastards, and specifically singling out Mary as a papist who would destroy the true religion and make England the pawn of foreign powers. The next day, of course, Jane was proclaimed queen. But it was on that day that the Council received a letter from Mary. It expressed her surprise that they hadn’t announced her brother’s death to her, his heir furthermore, they were commanded to proclaim her queen in London. They responded by reminding her of her illegitimacy and inability to inherit ‘the Crown Imperial of this realm’ she must demonstrate her obedience to the ‘Sovereign Lady Queen Jane’ and turn herself over to the authorities. It was hardly reassuring for Mary. Also, her old allies, the Spanish envoys, were not responding to her desperate pleas for help.

Jane spent little time with her lords during her nine days as queen. She sent an order to the Master of the Wardrobe for twenty yards of velvet, twenty-five ells of fine Holland linen cloth, thirty-three ells of coarser material for lining she also collected the royal jewels, a motley assortment of fish-shaped toothpicks and Henry VIII’s shaving materials. This reveals an important fact about Jane’s nine-day reign. She made no explicit political statements she was Dudley’s puppet. He was the one who met with the council, he was the one who wanted to capture Mary Tudor he was the one tried to shore up their perilous situation. When they fell from power, Jane never protested or attempted another coup. One can imagine that she felt relieved to be simply Lady Jane Grey again.

Dudley spent the nine days attempting to strengthen their position. It was imperative to capture Mary when that failed, he needed to at least track her movements. If he could reach her potential supporters first, there was a chance he could sway them to his side. Dudley undoubtedly feared that (like his father during Henry VIII’s reign), he would be the sacrificial lamb of Edward’s unsuccessful government. But he worked well under pressure, leaving Jane to fight domestic battles with her husband and mother-in-law.

Elizabeth, meanwhile, remained in the country. She was no admirer of her half-sister Mary but knew that if Jane Grey was recognized as queen, her own claim to the crown was forfeit. So she chose the safest course – she remained quiet, neither supporting nor rejecting Jane. Like all of England and most of Europe, she was watching and waiting. It became evident on 11 July, just a day after her coronation, that Jane’s hold on England was flimsy at best. Dudley had prepared a letter for circulation to all the sheriffs and lieutenants in England it announced Jane’s succession and ordered them to resist any appeal from Mary. But Dudley knew the issue would not be settled so easily. It would be decided on the field of battle. He was an experienced soldier and determined to succeed. So he ordered a muster on 12 July at Tothill Fields, offering 10 pence a day as pay (a very high rate.) Dudley intended to put Jane’s father, Henry Grey, in charge of this army and remain in London himself. He realized that most of his hold on the council was based on personal intimidation.

But the queen would not hear of it. When told that her father was going to battle, Jane burst into tears and begged the council to let him remain at home, ‘in her company.’ The councilors were already preparing to make Dudley a scapegoat for their treason. Since the queen was so distraught, they argued, it would be better for Dudley to command the army. After all, he was a great soldier, renowned for his defeat of the rebels in East Anglia (that triumph had begun his rise to power.) It was up to Dudley, the councilors said, ‘to remedy the matter.’ And Dudley had no choice but to leave. ‘Since ye think it good, I and mine will go, not doubting of your fidelity to the Queen’s majesty which I leave in your custody.’

Dudley did doubt their fidelity and he had every reason to doubt it. But he couldn’t turn back now. On 13 July he had his personal armor delivered and appointed a retinue to meet him at Durham Place. Afterwards, he addressed the councilors for the last time. They were to send reinforcements to meet him at Newmarket, he said, for he and his companions would need much support. They were leaving their wives and children behind, trusting in the loyalty of the council. And, Dudley warned, if any man thought to betray him or the queen, their punishment would be eternal. Remember, Dudley said, the oath you took ‘to this virtuous lady the Queen’s highness, who by your and our enticement is rather of force placed therein than by her own seeking and request.’ The assembled lords assured him of their loyalty one of them said, ‘If we should shrink from you as one that were culpable, which of us can excuse himself as guiltless? Therefore herein your doubt is too far cast.’ Dudley’s final words? ‘I pray God it be so,’ he said and left for battle. It was not an auspicious beginning.

Dudley did not trust the lords so he sent his cousin Henry Dudley on a secret mission to France that day, promising Calais and Ireland in exchange for immediate military assistance. He did not tell the lords of this nor did they tell him they were meeting secretly with the Imperial ambassadors. A report arrived that Buckinghamshire had declared Mary to be queen but Mary herself was still unsure. She retreated from Kenninghall to Framlingham Castle, nearer the coast. She sent an urgent message to the Imperial envoys if her cousin Charles V did not help her, she was doomed. In the midst of this confusion and treachery, Dudley had assembled an army of three thousand. Early on Friday, the 14th of July, he left Durham Place for Cambridge. The villagers he passed were silent, staring at the side of the road – ‘The people press to see us, but not one sayeth God speed us.’

As Dudley marched on, his situation became more perilous. Norwich, one of the wealthiest towns in England, declared Mary queen, as did Colchester, Devon, and Oxfordshire. Dudley had sent six royal ships to the port near Framlingham to cut off Mary’s possible escape the ships deserted Dudley and, with crews and heavy guns, proclaimed Mary queen. Meanwhile, the loyal towns were sending money, men, and supplies. The ordinary Englishman, ordered by his lord to fight in Dudley’s army, refused to go. Dudley’s own army was – understandably – racked with dissension no one wanted to be on the losing side. Once the news had reached London that the ships had deserted Dudley, the councilors decided to save themselves. They attempted to leave the Tower, where they had been stationed since Dudley’s departure. On the 16th of July, at about 7 o’clock in the evening, the main gates of the Tower were locked they keys were delivered to Jane. Jane suspected one of the lords (possibly Winchester, the lord treasurer) of trying to leave the city.

Meanwhile, she was continuing her rule – sending out letters signed ‘Jane the Quene’ which instructed her loyal subjects to suppress Mary’s rebellion. But she must have realized the futility of it all. She was just a teenage girl, inexperienced and frightened. It was simply a question of waiting for the end. On the 18th of July, most of her councilors had left the Tower on the pretext of visiting the French ambassador. In reality, they were planning a visit to the Imperial embassy. Once there, they assured Charles V’s envoys that they had always been loyal to Mary they had been kept prisoner by Dudley, forced to declare Jane queen. But now they were free and determined to proclaim Mary queen of England. They did so around 5 o’clock in the evening, on Thursday, the 19th of July. London erupted into a joyous celebration. The foreign ambassadors were astonished, with the French envoy writing: ‘The atmosphere of this country and the nature of its people are so changeable that I am compelled to make my despatches correspondingly wavering and contradictory.’ They all agreed it owed more to Providence than anything else.

Jane was terribly frightened. She had long fought with her parents but, upon becoming Dudley’s pawn, had sought support from them, particularly her father. He came to Jane as she ate supper that night and told her she was deposed. Together, they took down the cloth of estate from above her head. He ordered his men to leave their weapons and then went to Tower Hill. Those near him heard him mutter, ‘I am but one man.’ He proclaimed Mary queen and then left for his London residence. Jane was left alone in the Tower. Lady Throckmorton, one of her ladies-in-waiting, returned to the Tower for her duties but could not find Jane. She asked for the queen’s whereabouts and was told that the Lady Jane was now a prisoner, detained elsewhere in the Tower.

Jane was in the deputy lieutenant’s house, awaiting her fate. The indignities began. Her belongings were sorted through, all her money confiscated within the day, she was accused of stealing valuables from the royal wardrobe. Mary was riding to London, now accepted as queen. Dudley was arrested by his former ally, the earl of Arundel. His entire family was taken to the Tower as they were marched through the streets, the crowd pelted them with filth and insults. Even the Imperial envoy called it ‘dreadful’ and ‘a strange mutation.’ For Dudley’s fall from power had been rapid, extraordinarily so – the nine days’ progress from ruler to traitor was a confusing mix of treachery, rumor, and disgrace.

Mary did release Dudley’s wife from the Tower, almost immediately the duchess hurried to the queen to beg for her family’s release. Mary ordered her from the city. Her cousin Frances, however, was more fortunate. She had a private audience with the queen. Within days, Henry Grey (who had been arrested at his London home and sent to the Tower on the 28th) was released. On 3 August, Mary made her state entry into London. As she rode past cheering crowds, clad in purple velvet and rich jewels, Jane Grey waited in prison, along with her husband and father-in-law.

What would be their fate? All Europe pondered this, even as Jane prepared to plead her case.
‘I pray you despatch me quickly’
Jane Grey possessed the committed idealism of a religious fanatic and the events following her brief reign allowed her a place in history as a Protestant martyr. Her cousin Mary never questioned her passionate Catholicism Jane did question her own Protestantism but the quest for spiritual meaning only reinforced her already strong convictions. Had she remained queen, there is every possibility she would have persecuted Catholics with the same energy Mary persecuted Protestants (thus earning the nickname ‘Bloody Mary.’) Instead, Jane’s fate was to be executed and later celebrated as a Protestant martyr, the greatest sacrificial lamb of Mary’s misguided policies. The truth is, of course, more complex. Mary did not execute Jane because of their religious differences. Rather, she was motivated by political necessity and her own desire to marry and reinstate the Catholic church in England.

Immediately after her accession, Mary had imprisoned Jane in the Tower of London. The former queen was well-treated but undoubtedly frightened. She probably expected imminent execution for she had long since realized the severity of her crime. Since it became clear no one would intercede for her, she wrote to Mary herself. Only an Italian translation of the letter exists. In it, Jane described events since her marriage to Guildford Dudley. She was wrong for accepting the crown – she freely admitted this but she had relied on the advice of others. She knew the queen’s ‘goodness and clemency’ Mary must realize that ‘I might have taken upon me that of which I was not worthy, yet no one can ever say either that I sought it…. or that I was pleased with it.’ Mary believed her cousin, an honest, plain-spoken child, for all her heretical ways. (Click here to read Jane’s letter to Mary.)

Mary was in the midst of arranging her marriage to Philip of Spain, the son and heir of Charles V. It was the culmination of a decades-old dream. She had spent the last few years in the countryside, surrounded by a Catholic household and sympathetic nobles. Thus, she never realized the extent of Protestantism in the vital areas of London and its surrounding countryside. Mary assumed all of England wanted to return to the early 1520s, the years before Henry VIII had decided to abandon her beloved mother and break with the church of Rome. Mary assumed that the popular support which had taken the throne from Jane indicated support not simply for her rule – but for Catholic rule in general. In this misguided view, she was initially supported by her most trusted political advisor – a Spaniard named Simon Renard, the newly arrived Imperial ambassador.

Charles V had instructed Renard to guide Mary through the crucial first months of her reign. At first, signs were good – Mary attended Mass with her privy councilors but, on 12 August 1553, told her council that she would not ‘compel or constrain other men’s consciences.’ She hoped her subjects would open their hearts to the truth and, shortly thereafter, return to the religion she supported. Renard was also instructed to urge moderate punishment upon those who had supported Jane. Charles did not want his cousin to be too cruel that would hurt her reputation. He needn’t have worried. Mary was, in fact, too lenient for Renard. ‘As to Jane of Suffolk, whom they tried to make Queen, she [Mary] could not be induced to consent that she should die.’ Mary firmly believed her cousin was innocent of any intrigue Jane had never intended to be queen, but had been the unwilling dupe of Dudley. She could not put this innocent young woman to death.

Renard admitted that Jane was ‘morally’ innocent but, nevertheless, she had worn the crown of England. In times of trouble, those nine days may be used as a precedent for deposing Mary and restoring Jane. Mary was commended for her trusting nature but she must remember that kindness could be destroyed by duplicity. Renard was somewhat mollified when, on 18 August, Dudley was sentenced to die. He was convicted along with his eldest son and William Parr, marquess of Northampton. The following day a group of lesser nobles were convicted. Dudley’s execution was set for Monday 21 August but, at the last minute, Dudley announced he wanted to reconciled to the Catholic faith. Did he hope to avert his own death, appealing to Mary’s religion? Or did he genuinely wish to convert? Whatever the case, his execution was delayed for one day while he made his peace with God. At 9 o’clock the next morning, he was escorted – with his son and Parr – to St Peter ad Vincula, the church within the Tower of London grounds. There, he attended mass and, upon receiving the sacrament, Dudley addressed the crowd:

My masters, I let you all to understand that I do most faithfully believe this is the very right and true way, out of the which true religion you and I have been seduced these sixteen years past, by the false and erroneous preaching of the new preachers…. And I do believe the holy sacrament here most assuredly to be our Saviour and Redeemer Jesus Christ and this I pray you all to testify and pray for me.

He died the next morning, before a great crowd of spectators. He repeated his speech at the mass it had a great effect on the crowd.

By this point, Jane Grey knew she was safe from imminent death. She was still in the Tower but treated with increasing respect. A week after Dudley’s execution, Rowland Lea (an official of the royal mint who lived in the Tower and was the author of the Chronicle of Queen Jane) ate with her. She had a staff of four (two attendant ladies, Mrs Tilney and Mrs Jacob, one manservant, and her nurse and lifelong companion, Mrs Ellen.) The government paid them each 20 shillings a week Jane was allowed a generous allowance of 90 shillings a week. She was allowed books and spent most of her time reading and studying. When she wished it, she walked in the Queen’s garden. She no longer had to deal with her parents or her in-laws, undoubtedly a welcome relief. The gentleman gaoler, called Partridge, and his wife were kind and respectful. Lea recorded Jane’s comments on Dudley:

‘Woe worth him! he hath brought me and our stock in most miserable calamity and misery by his exceeding ambition. But for the answering that he hoped for life by his turning, though other men be of that opinion, I utterly am not for what man is there living, I pray you, although he had been innocent, that would hope of life in that case being in the field against the Queen in person as general, and after his taking so hated and evil spoken of by the commons? and at his coming into prison so wondered at [reviled] as the like was never heard by any man’s time. Who was judge that he should hope for pardon, whose life was odious to all men? But what will ye more? Like as his life was wicked and full of dissimulation, so was his end thereafter. I pray God, I, nor no friend of mine, die so. Should I, who am young and in my few years, forsake my faith for the love of life? Nay, God forbid! Much more he should not, whose fatal course, although he had lived his just number of years, could not have long continued. But life was sweet, it appeared so he might have lived, you will say, he did not care how. Indeed the reason is good for he that would have lived in chains to have had his life, by like would leave no other mean [un]attempted. But God be merciful to us, for he sayeth, Whoso denieth him before me, he will not know him in his Father’s Kingdom.’

Jane’s intense religious convictions and her hatred of Dudley are evident in this passage. She further demonstrated her religious intolerance when writing to Dr Harding, a former chaplain at her parents’ home of Bradgate and her first tutor. Harding had joined other Protestant chaplains in renouncing his reformed faith and becoming Catholic once again. Jane was completely disgusted and appalled by his cowardice:

‘I cannot but marvel at thee and lament thy case, who seemed sometime to be the lively member of Christ, but now the deformed imp of the devil sometime the beautiful temple of God, but now the stinking and filthy kennel of Satan sometime the unspotted spouse of Christ, but now the unshamefaced paramour of Antichrist sometime my faithful brother, but now a stranger and apostate sometime a stout Christian soldier, but now a cowardly runaway. Yea, when I consider these things, I cannot but speak to thee, and cry out upon thee, thou seed of Satan.
Oh wretched and unhappy man, what art thou but dust and ashes? And wilt thou resist thy Maker that fashioned thee and framed thee? ….Wilt thou refuse the true God, and worship the invention of man, the golden calf, the whore of Babylon, the Romish religion, the abominable idol, the most wicked mass?’

Such rhetoric reveals insight into Jane’s character. She was pious, devout, and kind – but she was also self-righteous and intolerant. She and Mary were more alike than many realized. Both were plain-spoken, transparently honest, and passionately believed their religion was the sole path to salvation.

While Mary prepared for her coronation, Jane remained in the Tower. The Dudley brothers were now allowed to exercise on the roof of their prison, Beauchamp Tower, though there is no evidence that Jane and Guildford saw one another. Mary did not speak of her imprisoned cousin. Her time was taken up with her coronation and impending marriage, as well as the conflict her marriage was causing. Most Englishmen did not want Mary to wed a Spaniard, for the same reasons Edward VI had excluded her from the succession – she was past middle-aged and would probably bear no children. Therefore, she would leave the throne to a Catholic husband and England would become yet another state of the Imperial empire. But as the weeks passed, Mary’s leniency began to be questioned. So Mary gave in to pressure and ordered Jane and the four Dudley sons to stand trial the order had been prepared in mid-September but Mary did not allow the trial to take place until two months later.

As they were led out of the Tower to be arraigned at Guildhall, the executioner walked before them. He carried an axe, as was the custom. Jane dressed soberly for the occasion, as befitted a proper young lady of the reformed church. She was clad all in black she wore a black cloth gown, black cape trimmed with velvet, and a black French hood trimmed with velvet. At her girdle hung a prayer book also bound in black velvet. She held a book of prayers open in her hands as she walked behind Guildford. She was attended by her two ladies, Mrs Tilney and Mrs Jacob. The proceedings were a mere formality. Jane and the four Dudleys pled guilty to the charge of high treason. Sentence was passed against them the men would be hung, drawn, and quartered and Jane would be burnt or beheaded at the Queen’s pleasure. They returned to the Tower, this time with the edge of the axe turned towards them. In this way, spectators knew they were condemned.

But the passing of the sentence was simply a formality. As Renard reported in his subsequent dispatches, ‘It is believed that Jane will not die’ and, a week later, ‘As for Jane, I am told her life is safe.’ Meanwhile, her parents had left the reformed church. Henry Grey was forced to pay a 20000 pd fine but given a general pardon. He returned to court. His wife was Queen Mary’s favorite lady and their two daughters, Catherine and Mary, were her ladies-in-waiting. In fact, Frances Grey was shown great favor at court, even gaining precedence over Princess Elizabeth. Most observers believed Jane would soon be pardoned and released, free to join her family at court. The rehabilitation of the Greys seemed complete.

However, Mary’s fervent desire to wed Philip of Spain was soon to have tragic consequences for the sixteen-year-old Jane Grey.
‘So perish all the Queen’s enemies’
The complexities of Mary Tudor’s decision to marry the twenty-six widower, Philip of Spain, are discussed at her website. They can be outlined briefly here. Mary – and most of her contemporaries – believed she must marry she needed a husband for support and guidance. No woman had ruled England in her own right before. Most Englishmen wanted Mary to wed the great-grandson of Edward IV, Edward Courtenay. He was the last of the Plantagenets, young, good-looking, and charming his high birth led him to spend most of his youth in prison. Mary was kind to him. She released him from the Tower and restored he and his mother to favor. She remembered that Edward’s parents had supported her mother during the great divorce. But she also made it clear she would not marry him. For Mary, whose life had possessed little happiness and peace after her adolescence, had always turned to her mother’s family for advice and support. And she continued to do so when she became queen. Certainly Philip of Spain, heir to the Hapsburg empire, was the most sought-after prince in Europe. But he was also the grandson of her aunt, which meant a great deal to the sentimental Mary Tudor.

Still, she did not immediately plan to marry him. She was deeply religious and had spent the past twenty years essentially alone and unloved. She was naturally fearful of marriage. She asked Renard – was Philip too young for her? would she be able to satisfy him for she was ignorant of ‘that which was called love’ ? In short, she was a deeply devout and chaste maiden and he was a twenty-six-year-old widower. Would he be happy with her? Renard assured her that Philip was delighted to wed Mary. And, he added, they would have children together, providing England with a Catholic succession. Mary replied that she had never considered marriage until God had raised her to the throne but – now that she was queen – she would lead her subjects down the path of righteousness. With the might of the Holy Roman Empire behind her, her faith would be triumphant. So she agreed to marry Philip in late October 1553 their engagement was made official.

She was faced with a hostile reaction. Both her subjects and the king of France made their anger known. Many Englishmen believed Charles V wanted to drag England into war against France, another costly and ineffectual enterprise. In truth, Charles really wanted control of that vital sea route between Spain and the Netherlands he needed to control the English coast in order for his trade route to operate at its maximum profitability. But England has always been an insular nation. With Protestant propagandists and the French ambassador spreading all sorts of rumors (from Spanish invasions to immediate wars), the people were in an uproar. Furthermore, Mary’s councilors were an ineffectual bunch and their policies were roundly criticized. It seemed that, just months into her reign, Mary was steadily falling from favor.

On 2 January 1554, Charles V’s envoys arrived to iron out the details of the marriage contract. To secure his valuable trade route, Charles was prepared to be generous. In fact, he included every provision possible to stifle English fears. But it was no use. The people didn’t want the marriage. Soon enough, word reached London of uprisings in the countryside – Carew in Devonshire, Wyatt in Kent, Crofts in Wales…. The councilors were alarmed. And then word reached them that Henry Grey, the duke of Suffolk, had disappeared from his country home, Sheen. They had planned the uprising for March when Philip was due to arrive but Courtenay, timid after years in the Tower, betrayed them. So the conspirators were forced into action. Carew could not raise his force without Courtenay’s help so he fled to France and Crofts plans fell through. But, by the end of January, Wyatt had taken Rochester and the royal ships at the Medway. The duke of Norfolk left with a force from London but many men deserted. Wyatt was encouraged and pressed on to London. For two days, the fate of the Spanish marriage hung in the balance. Londoners were undecided Mary decided to sway the balance. She went to Guildhall and made a rousing speech exhorting the Londoners to support her. She did so against the advice of her council for they feared for her safety. They needn’t have worried. When Wyatt reached London, he found the bridge closed to him.

Mary had refused to let the Tower guns be turned on the traitors. She feared the innocent citizens of Southwark would be harmed if they were fired. The rebels eventually surrendered but Mary had learned a valuable lesson – she discovered the depth of her subjects’ hatred of the Spanish marriage. But it did not cause her to change her plans. She was bewildered and angry but also hurt. She had shown mercy and forgiveness and was rewarded by rebellion. She was now particularly susceptible to Renard’s advice. Renard immediately questioned Mary’s safety as well as Philip’s – would the prince be safe when rebellions were occurring throughout the nation? The queen was exhorted to ensure his safety. She must do this by punishing the rebels so none would dare rebel again.

Renard’s advice was supported by Mary’s council. Inevitably, all her advisors urged Mary to execute Jane Grey. Wyatt had been supported by the vanished Henry Grey. When he had disappeared from Sheen, he had gone to raise an army against the Spanish marriage. But he gained little support. Grey owed his life to Mary’s kindness and he responded by seeking to overthrow her. His intent was to lead men of the midland shires and join Wyatt near London. His actual course fell far short of this goal – he fled from one county to another until he reached his manor of Astley. He apparently hid in a tree trunk or under some hay accounts vary. He was promptly arrested by the earl of Huntingdon. Later, rumors spread that he had proclaimed Jane queen during his ride through the midlands. This was untrue but it didn’t matter. Jane had once been queen and, as Mary’s advisors put it, she would be the figurehead of any Protestant plot. Once again, she was morally innocent but she was still dangerous. She had to die. To this, Renard added that Philip could not arrive until the Protestant threat had been destroyed. All the opposition to her marriage had simply made the obstinate Mary more determined to marry Philip. So the suspended sentence on Jane was revoked and she was condemned to die immediately.

The date of the execution was set for Friday 9 February 1554. Mary, who so hated executing her cousin, tried one last time to save her soul. She sent John Feckenham, dean of St Paul’s, to Jane. He was given a few days to sway Jane to the Catholic faith. Jane, long deprived of intellectual company and theological debate, was polite. But she rebutted each of Feckenham’s arguments with her own. Perhaps she relished this last chance to elucidate her precious faith. After hours of argument, she remained Protestant. But she had also come to like Feckenham very much. So she accepted his offer to accompany her to the scaffold and she promised to ‘pray God in the bowels of his mercy to send you his Holy Spirit for he hath given you his great gift of utterance, if it pleased him also to open the eyes of your heart.’

Feckenham’s work had delayed the executions until Monday 12 February. Meanwhile, Jane was also preparing to die with as much grace and dignity she could summon. She chose her dress, composed her speech, and appointed the two members of her household who would accompany her and dispose of her body. She sent a letter to her sister Catherine and one to her father (brought to the Tower on 10 February.) The latter included a remonstration that his actions had hastened her death. But she did not write to her mother nor did Frances attempt to visit her or her husband. There exists a story that Guildford asked to see Jane before they died and that Mary granted his request. Jane, however, refused to see him, waiting until they met ‘in a better place.’ But there is no evidence the story is true. In fact, Jane and her husband showed no interest in seeing one another while in the Tower.

Jane did watch her husband’s execution. He was taken from Beauchamp Tower at 10 o’clock in the morning and led to the execution area on Tower Hill. Jane stood by her window and watched as he went to his death. Guildford died with great courage and dignity and, when the cart rolled past carrying his corpse, Jane muttered his name and a comment about ‘the bitterness of death.’ Perhaps she realized that he had been a victim, too. In any case, she saw his blood-splattered body, thrown atop equally stained straw, driven to St Peter-ad-Vincula his head was wrapped in a cloth beside the body.

It was now Jane’s turn to face death. (Click here to read an eyewitness account of her execution.) She wore the same black outfit she had worn at her trial. She carried her prayer book in her hands she was escorted by Sir John Brydges, the lieutenant of the Tower. Her nurse, Mrs Ellen, and her attendant, Mrs Tylney, also accompanied her. They both cried but Jane was calm and composed. She had, after all, watched her scaffold being erected near the White Tower her rooms provided an excellent view of its construction. Since she was a princess of royal blood, her execution was private. Only a small crowd had been invited.

At the steps of the scaffold, she greeted Feckenham: ‘God grant you all your desires and accept my own hearty thanks for all your attention to me. Although indeed, those attentions have tried me more than death can now terrify me.’ She then ascended the steps and addressed the crowd. She admitted she had committed treason when she accepted the crown but ‘I do wash my hands in innocency, before God and the face of you, good Christian people this day.’ She wrung her hands and asked that they witness her death, and affirm that she died a good Christian. She ended with yet another indication of her strong Protestant faith she said, ‘And now, good people, while I am alive, I pray you to assist me with your prayers.’ Protestants, unlike Catholics, did not believe in prayers for the dead. She then knelt and asked Feckenham, ‘Shall I say this psalm?’ She read the fifty-first psalm in English and he followed her in Latin.

After the prayer, she told Feckenham, ‘God I beseech Him abundantly reward you for your kindness to me.’ She then rose to her feet and completed her final duties. She handed her gloves and handkerchief to her attendant, Mrs Tylney and her prayer-book to the lieutenant’s brother, Thomas Brydges. She then began to untie her gown as was the tradition, the executioner stepped forward. It was the custom that the victim’s outer garments became the executioner’s property. Perhaps Jane did not know this or perhaps she was simply terrified as that masked figure came toward her. She stepped back and ‘desired him to leave her alone.’ Her attendants completed the unlacing. They then gave her a handkerchief to tie over her eyes. Next, the executioner knelt before her and begged her forgiveness. This, too, was a custom and one Jane had expected. She gave her forgiveness ‘most willingly.’

Now there was nothing to do but end it all. The executioner asked her to stand upon the straw. Perhaps she saw the actual block for the first time. Her composure faltered for just a brief moment. She whispered, ‘I pray you despatch me quickly,’ and began to kneel. She hesitated and asked, ‘Will you take it off before I lay me down?’, referring to the blindfold. The executioner replied, ‘No, madame’ and so she tied the handkerchief around her eyes. She then knelt but, blindfolded, could not find the block. Her arms flailed about for several moments and she cried out, ‘What shall I do? Where is it?’ Those standing on the scaffold were hesitant – should they help her? A member of the crowd climbed the scaffold and helped her. He guided her hands to the block. She lowered her head and stretched forth her body her last words were, ‘Lord into thy hands I commend my spirit.’ The executioner swung his axe and severed her head. Blood splattered across the scaffold and many of the witnesses. The executioner then lifted her head and said, ‘So perish all the Queen’s enemies. Behold, the head of a traitor.’ It was the end of Lady Jane Grey.

Permission had to be granted for her burial at St Peter-ad-Vincula since the church had recently become Catholic again. Feckenham was forced to go to court for the permission. So Jane’s body lay exposed and unattended for nearly four hours, spread obscenely across the blood-soaked straw. The French ambassador reported seeing it there hours after the execution. Her attendants kept watch, though they were not allowed to cover the corpse. Finally, Feckenham returned and Jane’s body was laid to rest between the bodies of two other headless queens – Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. During the reign of her Protestant cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, Jane was celebrated as a martyr to her faith and she remains one of the most famous queens of England.

‘Live still to die, that by death you may purchase eternal life…. As the preacher sayeth, there is a time to be born and a time to die and the day of death is better than the day of our birth.’ Jane Grey’s message to John Brydges, lieutenant of the Tower of London, 1554

3. Jane grew up with Elizabeth I

When Jane was around 10, she became the ward of Thomas Seymour the brother of Henry VIIIs third wife, Jane and the now husband of Henry’s last wife, Katherine Parr.

Thomas was a power hungry man (as you can tell by the brother in law martial gymnastics!) and with Jane’s bump in the line of successions (following Henry VIIIs will) he wanted Jane for a potential pawn in one of his many political power plays.

So Thomas convinced Jane’s parents that if Jane came to live with him, it would help her education and transform her into an eligeable lady.

Just like that, Jane was placed into his care.

Meet notorious dick, Thomas Seymour

If you think this whole set up sounds sketchy AF… then you’d be right!

Not only was Thomas using a child for his political plotting, he was also a massive asshat!!

See Jane wasn’t the only ward under Thomas’s roof….

Princess Elizabeth was also living there, under the care of Katherine Parr. And you can bet Thomas was just as keen on using Elizabeth as he was Jane.

Princess Elizabeth (Later Queen Elizabeth I)

There are stacks of evidence that Thomas sexually abused Elizabeth. Some of this evidence suggests Elizabeth consented… but let’s remember that she was around 13 and he was one of her primary carers.

This abuse would lead to Elizabeth departing the home she shared with Jane.

Though the two had only lived together shortly Jane impacted Elizabeth’s life. Both as an academic rival and later as a tragic warning of what could easily be Elizabeth’s fate.

The Story Of Lady Jane Grey Is More Complicated Than You Thought

When I was about eight, I became obsessed with Lady Jane Grey after seeing this painting in the National Gallery. Truly, I was a gem of a child. This Victorian painting by Paul Delaroche embodies everything that has made Jane’s story stand the test of time.

The innocent teenager forced into a role she didn’t want by a power hungry family, who reigned for nine days before being stripped of her crown and thrown into prison, and finally met her end thanks to a bloody axe and a sadistic queen.


History, being a dick since the dawn of time

The doe-eyed Jane of history is a myth. A romanticized tale that, to be honest, does the real Jane a huge disservice.

So let’s discover the young women behind the myth:


A bit of a harsh one to start with… but true! England didn’t want Jane to be queen. Though Jane was twice bumped up in the line of succession, by both Henry VIII and Edward VI, nobody knew who the F she was. Jane wasn’t a regular at court. There was no gossip on her. Jane just was not a name or face that anybody non-royal would recognize. To put this in modern terms, Jane's accession to the throne would be like Lady Sarah Chatto becoming Queen.

FYI – this is Lady Sarah

Lady Sarah Chatto is the Queen's fave niece and one of the members of the Royal Family that has the most in common with the her. Still, lovely as she sounds, if Lady Sarah Chatto became Queen, there would be questions. Such as, "Who the actual fuck are you?" This was pretty much the position of the people of England: "It’s great that the previous King liked you and all…but nobody here knows you and yeah…we’re not a huge fan of someone random ruling over us."

Probable scene from Jane’s coronation…

The people of England knew Henry’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. They liked them and understandably believed that they were the rightful heirs to the throne. So it’s unsurprising that when Jane made her first speech as Queen, she was met by silence. Jane just didn’t have the support of the people, and without that, her reign could never succeed. In fact, by the end of her short time on the throne, half of the country still wasn’t aware that there’d been a new queen. Jane had just been a blip.


By all accounts, Jane was ridiculously smart. Like, ridiculously! Her parents took her education seriously and while her younger sisters were playing or picking up musical skills, Jane could always be found surrounded by books.

Like this, but with more restrictive clothes

Jane could speak around six languages and loved nothing more than a juicy philosophical debate with some of the world's scholars, many of whom were her pen pals.

You may have guessed by now that Jane was all types of precocious. Once, acclaimed writer and scholar Robert Ascham found Jane alone, nose in a book, while the rest of her family were out hunting. When he asked why she preferred to sit alone reading Plato in its original Greek, rather than being out with her family, she earnestly turned to him and said:


This may be the nerdiest parental burn in history

Soon, Jane’s intelligence was gaining all sorts of attention. There was even speculation that she was more gifted than the equally precocious Princess Elizabeth.

Kind of awkward when you find out…


When Jane was around 10, she became the ward of Thomas Seymour, the brother of Henry VIII's third wife, Jane, and after Henry VIII died, the husband of Henry’s last wife, Katherine Parr. Thomas was a power-hungry man, as you can tell by the brother-in-law martial gymnastics, and by Jane’s bump in the line of successions, following Henry VIII's will. He wanted Jane for a potential pawn in one of his many political power plays.

So Thomas convinced Jane’s parents that if Jane came to live with him, it would help her education and transform her into an eligible lady. Just like that, Jane was placed into his care.

Meet notorious dick, Thomas Seymour

If you think this whole set up sounds sketchy AF…then you’d be right! Not only was Thomas using a child for his political plotting, he was also a massive asshat.

See, Jane wasn’t the only ward under Thomas’s roof….

Princess Elizabeth was also living there, under the care of Katherine Parr. And you can bet, Thomas was just as keen on using Elizabeth as he was Jane.

Princess Elizabeth (Later Queen Elizabeth I)

There are stacks of evidence that Thomas sexually abused Elizabeth. Some of this evidence suggests Elizabeth "consented"… but let’s remember that she was around 13 and he was one of her primary caregivers. This abuse would lead to Elizabeth departing the home she shared with Jane. Though the two had only lived together shortly, Jane impacted Elizabeth’s life both as an academic rival and later as a tragic warning of what could easily have been Elizabeth’s fate.


After Elizabeth left his home, Thomas Seymour turned all his dickish attention to Jane. Tragically, but luckily for Jane, Katherine Parr died around the same time. Without a woman in the house to help care for Jane, her parents sent for her to come home.

but Thomas was a dick, so he obvs wasn’t giving up Jane that easily!

Thomas chased Jane down, eventually turning up at her parents' house. In a last-bid attempt for Jane, Thomas promised her parents that he would work to get her married to the newly-minted King Edward. It worked, and Jane was once more Thomas Seymour’s ward.

Seriously, this is like a how-to for bad parenting choices

With Jane back under his roof, Thomas doubled down on his quest for power. He became erratic, and his scheming became more and more far-fetched. Eventually, he decided that the only way he could convince King Edward to go along with his plans was if he separated Edward from his council…

So Thomas broke into Hampton Court Palace.

Don’t even try and make sense of that clusterfuck of a plan

In the dead of night, Thomas snuck into the King's quarters. As he got closer to the bedroom, a dog spotted Thomas and let out a bark. So, Thomas shot the dog. The shot drew guards and Thomas was arrested… because don’t murder dogs, you prick. With Thomas under arrest, the home he shared with Jane was ransacked for evidence of his treasonous treachery.

Jane’s parents got her back home ASAP, but it was too late. She was officially part of Thomas's treason. One of the charges raised against him was:


That daughter was of course, Jane.

Oh shit, this could go very badly!

To protect the family and Jane’s future, her dad testified against Thomas. The testimony was damning, so damning that Jane and her parents escaped any long-term consequence. Thomas wasn’t so lucky. He was beheaded for treason.

Not that I’m happy about this…but the guy was a sexual abuser who murdered a dog…

Though Jane had escaped the clutches of Thomas Seymour, don’t go thinking she was an innocent saint…you'll see.


One of the most important things in Jane’s life was her religion. This wasn’t rare. Religion was a huge, hot-button issue in Tudor England. There was a divide between Catholics and Protestants. Each group believed the other was wrong, and by that I mean they thought the other side's religious beliefs were an automatic ticket to hell. Jane made sure that her Protestant faith was at the core of all she did. And, as a precocious and crazy smart teenager, that meant a lot of arguing!

ah, to be an angry yet smart teen

As we’ve already said, Jane was pen pals with some of the leading minds of her day. All well and good, unless they had a religious slip or went and converted. Then you best believe they’d be getting a letter from Jane cussing them out. Seriously though, she straight up wrote that they’d go to hell.

But Jane’s biggest piece of dicketry was pissing off the future Mary I, the woman that would later sign off on Jane's execution.

The future Queen Mary I

Jane’s family spent Christmas 1549 with Mary. They were family after all, and though Mary was staunchly Catholic and Jane Protestant, surely they could get along for Christmas? Haha, of course not! It’s Christmas after all! In the strong tradition of families falling out over the holidays, Jane took a trip to Mary’s private chapel. There, one of Mary’s ladies curtsied to the alter, explaining to Jane that she was curtsying to "him that made us all." At this, Jane loudly scoffed:


When word of Jane's mocking outburst got back to Mary, she was, understandably, pretty pissed of that Jane had come to her home and made fun of her religious beliefs. Afterwards, it was said that Mary felt she could never truly love Jane as she had before.

But Jane wouldn’t budge on her actions…truly:


On July 6th, 1553, Jane was taken into a room where she found her family bowing to her. Then, she was told that the king was dead. She was his new heir and was now queen! All hail Queen Jane.


Jane was having none of it. She immediately proclaimed the whole thing ridiculous. Only after a lot of coaxing/forcing did Jane put the crown on her head, still making it known she was only doing it to appease her parents.

Just so much sass for one itty-bitty crown to contain

Forced into a role she didn’t want, Jane was adamant she wouldn’t be taking any more bullshit. When her husband and his mom tried to flounce out of the Tower of London, protesting he wasn’t being treated regally enough (poor baby), Jane barred their way and had the pair sent back to their rooms, tails between their legs.

But putting her mother-in-law in her place wasn’t the only way Jane was laying down the law. If she’d had it her way:


After Jane was told she was aueen and was presented with her crown, she wasn’t amused. Jane was less amused when she was told her husband, Guildford, was also getting a crown.

As soon as she was alone with Guildford, Jane explained that he would not become king. Consort? Sure. King? Not a chance in hell, buddy. This was unheard of! A female ruler was already unusual, as it hadn’t even been a possibility for hundreds of years. But Jane had made her decision. It was final. So final that when she discovered Guildford was making people call him "your grace," she shut that shit down.

Aaaaaand none for Guildford Dudley

No matter the argument, no matter how much she was pushed, Jane never backed down. If she was going to be forced to rule, then she was going to do it her own way. Alone.

Just 16 and yet so many goals.

This was really interesting! Where can I find out more? I love Crown of Blood by Nicola Tallis. It’s a great read, packed full of info and resources. I actually read it over my fifth anniversary vacation with my partner (he was thrilled!), and I swear it made my already fab holiday approx 100x more fun.

This post originally appeared on F Yeah History and is reprinted here with permission.

Header image: Paul Delaroche, The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, 1833

The Tudors – Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey was born in October 1537. She was the daughter of Henry Grey and Frances Brandon, daughter of Henry VIII’s youngest sister, Mary. She was well educated and also a devout Protestant.

At the age of 9 years she was sent to court under the protection of Katherine Parr. After the death of Henry VIII she stayed with Katherine Parr. When Katherine Parr married Thomas Seymour, Jane joined their household.

Following Katherine Parr’s death in 1548, Jane became the ward of Thomas Seymour. Seymour tried, unsuccessfully, to arrange a marriage between Jane and Prince Edward. In 1549 Thomas Seymour was executed for treason and Jane became the ward of John Dudley.

In 1551 John Dudley was created Duke of Northumberland and Edward VI’s chief councillor.

By 1552 it was apparent that Edward VI would not survive to adulthood. John Dudley realised that if Mary or Elizabeth were to take the throne he would lose his high position. Since both Mary and Elizabeth had been declared illegitimate, Jane Grey had a claim to the throne. Dudley therefore decided to marry Jane to his son Guildford. The wedding took place on 25th May 1553.

Edward VI died on 6th July 1553. He had proclaimed Jane Grey as his successor on his deathbed over-ruling the terms of the Third Succession Act of 1543 which had restored Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession.

Dudley attempted to withhold the news that Edward had died because he wanted to capture Mary and prevent her from gathering support and taking the throne from Jane. However, the plan failed and although Jane was officially proclaimed Queen on 10th July 1553, it was Mary that the people believed should be Queen.

Although Dudley attempted to raise a force against Mary, support for Mary was greater and on 19th July Mary was proclaimed Queen. Jane and her husband were imprisoned in the Tower of London. John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland was executed on 21st August 1553.

In January 1554 Thomas Wyatt led a rebellion against the marriage of Mary to Philip II of Spain. Many nobles joined the rebellion and called for Jane to be restored as Queen. Mary was pressured into authorising the execution of Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley to prevent further rebellions.

Jane Grey and her husband were executed on 12th February 1554.

This article is part of our larger resource on the Tudors culture, society, economics, and warfare. Click here for our comprehensive article on the Tudors.

Lady Jane Grey

Born – October 1537 exact date unknown
Parents – Henry Grey, Frances Brandon
Siblings – Catherine, Mary
Married – Guildford Dudley
Children – None
Died – 12th February 1554, Tower of London, executed

Lady Jane Grey was born in October 1537. She was the daughter of Henry Grey and Frances Brandon, daughter of Henry VIII’s youngest sister, Mary. She was well educated and also a devout Protestant.

At the age of 9 years she was sent to court under the protection of Katherine Parr. After the death of Henry VIII she stayed with Katherine Parr. When Katherine Parr married Thomas Seymour, Jane joined their household.

Following Katherine Parr’s death in 1548, Jane became the ward of Thomas Seymour. Seymour tried, unsuccessfully, to arrange a marriage between Jane and Prince Edward. In 1549 Thomas Seymour was executed for treason and Jane became the ward of John Dudley.

In 1551 John Dudley was created Duke of Northumberland and Edward VI’s chief councillor.

By 1552 it was apparent that Edward VI would not survive to adulthood. John Dudley realised that if Mary or Elizabeth were to take the throne he would lose his high position. Since both Mary and Elizabeth had been declared illegitimate, Jane Grey had a claim to the throne. Dudley therefore decided to marry Jane to his son Guildford. The wedding took place on 25th May 1553.

Edward VI died on 6th July 1553. He had proclaimed Jane Grey as his successor on his deathbed over-ruling the terms of the Third Succession Act of 1543 which had restored Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession.

Dudley attempted to withhold the news that Edward had died because he wanted to capture Mary and prevent her from gathering support and taking the throne from Jane. However, the plan failed and although Jane was officially proclaimed Queen on 10th July 1553, it was Mary that the people believed should be Queen.

Although Dudley attempted to raise a force against Mary, support for Mary was greater and on 19th July Mary was proclaimed Queen. Jane and her husband were imprisoned in the Tower of London. John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland was executed on 21st August 1553.

In January 1554 Thomas Wyatt led a rebellion against the marriage of Mary to Philip II of Spain. Many nobles joined the rebellion and called for Jane to be restored as Queen. Mary was pressured into authorising the execution of Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley to prevent further rebellions.

Lady Jane Grey Proclaimed Queen

The Nine Days Queen was pronounced monarch on July 10th, 1553.

Thin and freckled with sandy hair, and so short that she wore elevator shoes, Lady Jane Grey was Henry VIII’s great-niece. She was born in the same month in 1537 as his son and successor, Edward VI, and her ambitious parents, hoping to marry her to Edward one day, paid special attention to her education and brought her up a convinced Protestant. A bookish intellectual, she was quite unable to cope with the real world and with being a pawn on the political chessboard. It was an extremely dangerous chessboard.

The virtual dictator of England under the sickly young Edward was John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. By 1553 Edward was clearly unlikely to live much longer. Northumberland knew that if Edward’s sisters Mary or Elizabeth took the crown, his days in power would be over and Mary would restore Roman Catholicism. He decided to put his own family on the throne and in May he had the fifteen-year-old Jane married, against her will, to his fourth son, Lord Guilford Dudley, who was about the same age. Jane went straight back to her parents, but as the King grew weaker, Northumberland ordered the marriage to be consummated, and it was.

Northumberland persuaded the dying Edward to declare Mary and Elizabeth illegitimate and transfer the succession to the Lady Jane. The royal council, which viewed Northumberland as mice do a cat, accepted the decision, with misgivings. Jane was told, but apparently did not take it in. Mary and Elizabeth were summoned to the dying king’s side at Greenwich, where they could most easily be neutralised. Mary set out, but the shrewd Elizabeth took to her bed and said that she was ill.

Edward died on July 6th. Mary, on her way to Greenwich, was warned of the trap and rode pell mell for Norfolk. Elizabeth stayed in bed. The King’s death was kept quiet and on July 9th Jane was taken to Northumberland’s mansion outside London, Syon House at Isleworth, where the Duke, her husband and her parents were waiting with members of the council, who to her surprise treated her with immense deference. Northumberland announced that she was queen and she fainted before, with the utmost reluctance, accepting the throne ‘if what has been given to me is lawfully mine’. The following day she was proclaimed by heralds with flourishes of trumpets at various places in London, to the stony disapproval of the citizens. One man who incautiously said the Lady Mary had the better right had his ears cut off.

In the afternoon Jane arrived by barge at the Tower, tried on the royal crown, which made her feel faint again, and had a blazing row with her husband and his mother when she said she would not make him king. The banquet that evening was spoiled by the arrival of a letter from Mary to the council firmly asserting her right to the throne and demanding immediate support.

Jane continued going through the motions as queen in the Tower, but Northumberland had miscalculated badly. The Lady Mary was well liked (she had not burned anyone yet) and he was not. Mary’s support grew and she gathered a sizeable army, while Northumberland’s men deserted. So did the council in London. By July 18th only three of them – including Jane’s father – remained loyal to Northumberland. The others left the Tower on the improbable excuse of urgently needing to talk to the French ambassador and had the lord mayor of London proclaim Mary next day. Her father told Jane she was no longer queen and she said she was delighted to hear it and could she go home, please?

Poor Jane had been queen for nine days and there was no question of going home. She was held prisoner in the Tower while Northumberland was arrested and her parents hastily made their peace with Mary. Elizabeth left her bed of sickness and arrived in London on the 29th to greet the triumphant Mary, who reached Aldgate on August 3rd as trumpets blared, cannon boomed, bells rang and citizens cheered themselves hoarse.

Northumberland was executed for high treason three weeks later. Jane was considerately treated in the Tower, but when her father witlessly joined Sir Thomas Wyatt’s rebellion in January, Jane was considered too dangerous a focus of plots to be allowed to live. She and her husband went to the block on February 12th, 1554. She was sixteen years old.

Lady Jane Grey - History

One of many images at one
time called Jane Grey, but
that probably isn't of her
More Images

Proclaimed Queen: 10 July 1553

Executed: 12 February 1554
The Tower of London

Buried: 12 February 1554
Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London

It could be debated whether or not Jane should be included as a "Tudor Monarch" but her story is such a fascinating one that it bears telling.

The true tragedy of Jane Grey is that her death was through no fault of her own, but of the unfortunate fact of her heritage and of her religion. She most likely never really wanted to be Queen, but it was not something that was under her control. Her ambitious parents (Frances Brandon and Henry Grey), along with John Dudley, father of her husband, Guilford Dudley, sought to keep a Protestant monarch on the throne if Edward were to die without an heir of his body and to have that monarch under their thumbs. The best way to do that was to make their own children King and Queen.

Four days after Edward's death on July 6, 1553, Jane was proclaimed Queen of England. However, Mary, who was the rightful heir to the throne according to Henry VIII's will, was gathering support in Suffolk. She and her followers rode into London nine days later and imprisoned Jane and her supporters. Mary was the next Queen of England.

Jane and her husband were held in the Tower of London but were not executed until after a second ill-fated uprising in their name.

The Coronation of Lady Jane Grey, 1553

This account of Jane Grey’s coronation was written by Henry Machyn, a London undertaker.
Jane was the great-niece of King Henry VIII. She is famous as the ‘Nine Days’ Queen’, for she ruled for that small amount of time in July 1553. Her reign was the direct result of the duke of Northumberland’s ambition. When it was clear that King Edward VI was dying, Northumberland married Jane to his son, Guildford. As the leading Protestant nobleman, he could not accept the rule of Henry VIII’s Catholic daughter, Mary. Nor did he wish to lose the power he amassed during Edward’s reign. Under the term of Henry’s will, Mary was to follow Edward upon the throne. Northumberland urged Edward VI to write his own will, settling the succession upon his Protestant cousin Jane instead. The young king did so.

Jane and Guildford were executed in 1554.

On 6 July died the noble King Edward VI, in the seventh year of his reign, son and heir to the noble King Henry VIII. And he was poisoned, as everybody says, for which now, thanks be to God, there are many of the false traitors brought to their end, and I trust God that more will follow as they may be spied out.

On 7 July a proclamation was made that all penthouses should be no lower than 10 foot, and all private lights be condemned.

The same day an old man was set on the pillory for counterfeit, false writings.

The same day there came to the Tower the lord treasurer, the earl of Shrewsbury, and the lord admiral with others and there they discharged Sir James Croft of the constableship of the Tower, and there they put in the said lord admiral, and he took his oath and charge of the Tower, and the next day after he conveyed into all places in the Tower and… great guns, such as the White Tower on high.

On 9 July all the head officers and the guard were sworn to Queen Jane as queen of England…. daughter of the duke of Suffolk, and served as queen of….

The following day queen Jane was received into the Tower with a great company of lords and nobles of… after the queen, and the duchess of Suffolk her mother, bearing her train, with many ladies, and there was a firing of guns and chamber such as has not often been seen, between 4 and 5 o’clock by 6 o’clock began the proclamation on the same afternoon of Queen Jane, with two heralds and a trumpet blowing, declaring that Lady Mary was unlawfully begotten, and so went through Cheapside to Fleet Street, proclaiming Queen Jane. And there was a young man taken at that time for speaking certain words about Queen Mary, that she had the true title.

On 11 July, at 8 o’clock in the morning the young man was set on the pillory for speaking this, and both his ears were cut off. There was a herald and a trumpeter blowing, and he was quickly taken down. And the same day the young man’s master, dwelling at St John’s Head, whose name was Sandur Onyone, and another Master Owen, a gun-maker at London Bridge, living at Ludgate, were drowned.

On 12 July by night were carried to the Tower 3 carts full of all manner of ordnance, such as great guns and small, bows, bills, spears, morrish pikes, armour, arrows, gunpowder and stakes, money, tents and all manner of ordnance, a great number of cannon balls, and a great number of men at arms and it was for a great army near Cambridge and two days after the duke and various lords and knights went with him, and many gentlemen and gunners, and many men of the guard and men of arms towards Lady Mary’s grace, to destroy her grace, and so to Bury, and all was against him, for his men forsook him.

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Watch the video: The Story of Lady Jane Grey. Terrible Tudors. Horrible Histories