Friday, February 3, 2012

Lady Jane Grey: Royal Tragedy - Royal Pawn Part I

Lady Jane Grey was a young lass of fifteen who had the honor of being the Queen of England for a period of nine days, and was beheaded for it.

Jane was a cousin to young King Edward VI, crowned successor to Henry VIII, at the tender age of nine years. Within a very few years of his crowning,it became obvious that young Edward would soon pass from this earth due to a infirmity. Edward reigned at a time of political unrest as Henry the VIII's newly established Protestant religion sought to wrest all power and prominence from the followers of the Roman Catholic religion.

In seeking a successor for young Edward, the Protestants sought to ensure that the throne did not pass to his elder sister, Mary, a staunch Romanc Catholic, who would, it was feared, restore ascendency to the Roman Catholic church--not to mention, perhaps even going so far as to persecute and excecute the Protestants. A more acceptable heir--at least to the Protestants--was to be found in Mary's younger sister Elizabeth, a girl of only twenty, who just happened to be a Protestant.  Unfortunately, setting aside an older sister for a younger one would have been impossible, and so the Protestant nobles settled on young Jane Grey, thereby setting the stage for a tragedy.

Jane was the eldest daughter of the Duke of Suffolk, and as such was a titled lady in her own right. Through her mother, she was also a cousin to young Edward and his sisters, and had Mary and Elizabeth not existed, Jane would have been next in line for young Edward's throne. It had been initially proposed that Jane and Edward be married, but this scheme was dropped due to Edward's ill health and imminent death. Again, unfortunately for Jane, young Edward was still able to be manipulated by his guardian, the Duke of Northumberland. He persuaded Edward that Lady Jane must reign after him, for if she did not England would suffer; and Edward, who loved the Protestant religion, consented. He made a will stating that Lady Jane was to be Queen instead of his sisters Mary and Elizabeth. Of course, he had no right to do this, for a king cannot say who is to reign after him; the throne must go to the next heir. But Northumberland thought if he and all the Protestant nobles declared Lady Jane Queen, they could force the people of England to acknowledge her. To ensure that he retained power, Northumberland further persuaded Edward to consent to the marriage of Lady Jane to Northumberland's only son, young Lord Guildford Dudley.

According to legend, Lady Jane had lived very quietly up to this time; she was a gentle little girl who loved her books, and never thought of thrones and kings and queens. When she was quite young she could speak French and Italian, wrote Latin, and understood Greek, Hebrew, Chaldee, and Arabic. This was all the more wonderful because in those days ladies were not supposed to know very much; if they could do beautiful tapestry work and ride and sing a little, it was considered quite enough. When asked one time, why she read instead of joining her sisters at play, Jane is said to have replied that she loved books, and they gave her much more pleasure than the things in which people usually tried to find pleasure. When further asked, how she had managed to learn so much, she answered:

'Sir, God hath blessed me with sharp and severe parents and a gentle schoolmaster; for when I am in the presence of either father or mother, whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand, or go, eat, drink, be merry or sad, be sewing, dancing, or doing anything else, I must do it, as it were, in such weight, measure, and number, even as perfectly as the world was made, or else I am so sharply taunted and cruelly threatened—yea, presently sometimes with pinches, nips, and bobs, and so cruelly disordered, that I think myself in hell until the time come that I go to Mr. Aylmer, who teacheth me so gently, so pleasantly, with such fair allurements to learning, that I think all the time as nothing that I am with him; and thus my book hath been so much my pleasure, and bringeth daily to me more pleasure and more, that in respect of it all other pleasures in very deed be but trifles and very troubles to me.'

Lady Jane knew that her cousin Edward was ill, and it must have grieved her very much; for she was fond of him, and being just the same age, they had learnt the same lessons together.She was however, probably quite surprised to be suddenly told that she must hurriedly marry the son of his guardian, young Guildford Dudley. When Edward died, shortly thereafter, Jane was not told of it until she received a message from her father-in-law, the Duke of Northumberland, ordering her to go to his great house, not far from London. Jane obeyed, most probably, never once guessing the truth of what was going to happen or why she was wanted.  Thus, she was probably quite surprised to arrive and have Northumberland, her own father, and a group of Protestant lords kneeling before her, as they informed her her that her young cousin Edward was dead, and that she must succeed him as Queen of England. Legend tells us that poor Lady Jane was so shocked and startled that she fainted away. When she came round again they told her she must be obedient and do as they told her. She is said to have pleaded with them,claiming that Mary must be Queen, and that for herself she was so young—only sixteen; and she did not care to be Queen, but only wanted to live a quiet life with her husband, Lord Dudley. But they argued with her, and told her she was a coward; that it was for the good of England, and that if she refused she would be wicked; and so she consented.

From that moment forward, her life was changed. A beautiful barge was waiting for Lady Jane in front of Sion House, and she stepped into it, and was rowed down the river through London to the Tower. When Lady Jane entered the Tower the man who was then Lord Treasurer of England came to her, and, kneeling down, offered her the crown of England. Afterwards, Northumberland and his party lost no time in sending men all about London to cry out that Lady Jane Grey was now Queen of England.

Nine days later, young Jane was dethroned, and within a few months, both she and her handsome young husband were beheaded.

I'll share the story of Jane's imprisonment and execution on March 2, 2012.

 Compiled From Sources In The Public Domain.

Teresa Thomas Bohannon,
MyLadyWeb, Women's History, Women Authors
Regency Romance A Very Merry Chase
Historical Fantasy Shadows In A Timeless Myth.


  1. I love learning the details that fill in the facts of Lady Jane's life. I can't help but think this death was senseless since these men had to know that they were grasping at straws.

    Fascinating post!

  2. Jane's biography was one of the first non-fiction history stories that I ever read. It set me on the path to being intrigued with history in general and women's history in particular.


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