Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey
Lady Jane Grey
The Streatham Portrait, discovered at the beginning of the 21st century and believed to be a copy of a contemporary portrait of Lady Jane Grey.[1]
Queen of England and Ireland (disputed) (more...)
Reign 10 July 1553 – 19 July 1553
Predecessor Edward VI
Successor Mary I
Spouse Lord Guilford Dudley
Father Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk
Mother Lady Frances Brandon
Born 1536/1537
Died 12 February 1554 (aged 16–17)
Tower of London, London
Burial St Peter ad Vincula, London

Lady Jane Grey (1536/1537 – 12 February 1554), also known as The Nine Days' Queen,[2] was an English noblewoman who was de facto monarch of England from 10 July until 19 July 1553 and was subsequently executed. A great-granddaughter of Henry VII by his younger daughter Mary, Jane was a first-cousin-once-removed of Edward VI.

In May 1553 Jane was married to Lord Guildford Dudley, a younger son of Edward's chief minister, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. When the 15-year-old King lay dying in June 1553, he nominated Jane as successor to the Crown in his will, thus subverting the claims of his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth under the Third Succession Act. During her short reign, Jane resided in the Tower of London. She became a prisoner there when the Privy Council decided to change sides and proclaim Mary as Queen on 19 July 1553.

She was convicted of high treason in November 1553, though her life was initially spared.

Wyatt's rebellion in January and February 1554 against Queen Mary's plans of a Spanish match led to her execution at the age of 16 or 17, and that of her husband.

Lady Jane Grey had an excellent humanist education and a reputation as one of the most learned young women of her day.[3] A committed Protestant, she was posthumously regarded as not only a political victim but also a martyr.


Early life and education

Lady Jane Grey was the eldest daughter of Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk, and his wife, Lady Frances Brandon. The traditional view is that she was born at Bradgate Park in Leicestershire in October 1537, while more recent research indicates that she was born somewhat earlier, possibly in London, in late 1536 or in the spring of 1537.[4][5] Lady Frances was the daughter of Mary Tudor, Queen of France, the younger sister of Henry VIII. Jane had two younger sisters, Lady Catherine Grey and Lady Mary Grey; through their mother, the three sisters were great-granddaughters of Henry VII, grandnieces of Henry VIII, and first cousins once removed of Edward VI. Jane received a first-rate humanist education, studying Latin, Greek and Hebrew with John Aylmer, and Italian with Michelangelo Florio.[6] Through the influence of her father and her tutors, she became a committed Protestant and also corresponded with the Zürich reformer, Heinrich Bullinger.[7]

Lady Jane Grey, engraving published 1620, possibly based on an earlier painting[8]

Jane preferred book studies to hunting parties[9] and regarded her strict upbringing, which was certainly well-meant and typical of the time,[10] as harsh. To the visiting scholar Roger Ascham, who found her reading Plato, she complained:

"For when I am in the presence either 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) ... that I think myself in hell."[11]

In early February 1547 Jane was sent to live in the household of Thomas Seymour, who soon married Henry VIII's widow, Catherine Parr. Jane lived with the couple until the death of Queen Catherine in childbirth in September 1548.[12]

Contracts for marriage

Jane acted as chief mourner at Catherine Parr's funeral, and Thomas Seymour showed continued interest in her, and she was again in his household for about two months when he was arrested at the end of 1548.[13] Seymour's brother, the Lord Protector, Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, felt threatened by Thomas' popularity with the young King Edward. Among other things, Thomas Seymour was charged with proposing Jane as a royal bride.[14]

In the course of Thomas Seymour's following attainder and execution, Jane's father was lucky to stay largely out of trouble. After his fourth interrogation by the Privy Council, he proposed his daughter Jane as a bride for the Protector's eldest son, Lord Hertford.[15] Nothing came of this, however, and Jane's next engagement, in the spring of 1553, was to Lord Guilford Dudley, a younger son of John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland.[16] Her prospective father-in-law was then the most powerful man in the country.[17] On 21 May 1553, the couple were married at Durham House in a triple wedding, in which Jane's sister Catherine was matched with the heir of the Earl of Pembroke, Lord Herbert; and another Catherine, Lord Guilford's sister, with Henry Hastings, the Earl of Huntingdon's heir.[16]

Claim to the throne and accession

"My devise for the Succession" by Edward VI. The draft will was the basis for the letters patent which declared Lady Jane Grey successor to the Crown.[18] Edward's autograph shows his alteration of his text, from "L Janes heires masles" to "L Jane and her heires masles".[19]

The Third Succession Act of 1544 restored Henry VIII's daughters Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession, although the law regarded them as illegitimate. Furthermore, this Act authorised Henry VIII to alter the succession by his will. Henry's will reinforced the succession of his three children, and then declared that, should none of them leave heirs, the throne would pass to heirs of his younger sister, Mary Tudor, who included Jane (for unknown reasons, Henry excluded Jane's mother, Frances Grey, from the succession[20]). Henry's will excluded the descendants of his elder sister Margaret Tudor, owing in part to Henry's desire to keep the English throne out of the hands of the Scots monarchs, and in part to a previous Act of Parliament of 1431 that barred foreign-born persons, including royalty, from inheriting property in England.

When the 15-year-old Edward VI lay dying in the early summer of 1553, his Catholic half-sister Mary was still the heiress presumptive to the throne. However, Edward, in a draft will composed earlier in 1553, had first restricted the succession to (non-existent) male descendants of Frances Brandon and her daughters, before he named his Protestant cousin Jane Grey as his successor on his deathbed,[21] perhaps under the persuasion of Northumberland.[22] Edward VI personally supervised the copying of his will which was finally issued as letters patent on 21 June and signed by 102 notables, among them the whole Privy Council, peers, bishops, judges, and London aldermen.[23] Edward also announced to have his "declaration" passed in parliament in September, and the necessary writs were prepared.[24]

Many contemporary legal theorists believed the monarch could not contravene an Act of Parliament without passing a new one that would have established the altered succession;[citation needed] Jane's claim to the throne therefore remained weak. The King died on 6 July 1553. On 9 July Jane was informed that she was now queen, and according to her own later claims accepted the crown only with reluctance. The next day, she was officially proclaimed Queen of England after she had taken up secure residence in the Tower of London, where English monarchs customarily resided from the time of accession until coronation. Jane refused to name her husband Dudley as king by letters patent and deferred to Parliament. She offered to make him Duke of Clarence instead.

Official letter of Lady Jane Grey signing herself as "Jane the Quene"

Northumberland faced a number of key tasks to consolidate his power after Edward's death. Most importantly, he had to isolate and, ideally, capture Lady Mary to prevent her from gathering support. As soon as Mary was sure of King Edward's demise, she left her residence at Hunsdon and set out to East Anglia, where she began to rally her supporters. Northumberland set out from London with troops on 14 July; in his absence the Privy Council switched their allegiance from Jane to Mary, and proclaimed her queen in London on 19 July among great jubilation of the populace. Jane was imprisoned in the Tower's Gentleman Gaoler's apartments, her husband in the Beauchamp Tower. The new queen entered London in a triumphal procession on 3 August, and the Duke of Northumberland was executed on 22 August 1553. In September, Parliament declared Mary the rightful queen and denounced and revoked Jane's proclamation as that of a usurper.

Trial and execution

Jane and Lord Guilford Dudley were both charged with high treason, together with two of Dudley's brothers and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. Their trial, by a special commission, took place on 13 November 1553, at the Guildhall in the City of London. The commission was chaired by Sir Thomas White, Lord Mayor of London, and Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. Other members included Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Derby and John Bourchier, 2nd Earl of Bath. As was to be expected, all defendants were found guilty and sentenced to death. Jane's sentence was that she "be burned alive on Tower Hill or beheaded as the Queen pleases" (the traditional English punishment for treason committed by women).[25] However, the imperial ambassador reported to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, that her life was to be spared.[26]

The Protestant rebellion of Thomas Wyatt the younger in late January 1554 sealed Jane's fate, although she had nothing to do with it directly. Wyatt's rebellion started as a popular revolt, precipitated by planned marriage of Mary to the future Philip II of Spain. Jane's father (the Duke of Suffolk) and other nobles joined the rebellion. Charles V and his ambassadors pressed Mary to execute Jane to put an end to any future focus for unrest. Five days after Wyatt's arrest, Jane and Guilford were executed.

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, by the French painter Paul Delaroche, 1833

On the morning of 12 February 1554, the authorities took Guilford from his rooms at the Tower of London to the public execution place at Tower Hill and there had him beheaded. A horse and cart brought his remains back to the Tower of London, past the rooms where Jane remained as a prisoner. Jane was then taken out to Tower Green, inside the Tower of London, and beheaded in private. With few exceptions, only royalty were offered the privilege of a private execution; Jane's execution was conducted in private on the orders of Queen Mary, as a gesture of respect for her cousin.

According to the account of her execution given in the anonymous Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary, which formed the basis for Raphael Holinshed's depiction, Jane gave a speech upon ascending the scaffold:[27]

Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact, indeed, 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.

She then recited Psalm 51 (Have mercy upon me, O God) in English,[27] and handed her gloves and handkerchief to her maid. John Feckenham, a Catholic chaplain sent by Mary who had failed to convert Jane, stayed with her during the execution. The executioner asked her forgiveness, and she gave it.[27] She pleaded the axeman, "I pray you dispatch me quickly." Referring to her head, she asked, "Will you take it off before I lay me down?" and the axeman answered, "No, madam." She then blindfolded herself. Jane had resolved to go to her death with dignity, but once blindfolded, failing to find the block with her hands, began to panic and cried, "What shall I do? Where is it?"[27] An unknown hand, possibly Sir Thomas Brydges', then helped her find her way and retain her dignity at the end. With her head on the block, Jane spoke the last words of Jesus as recounted by Luke: "Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit!"[27] She was then beheaded.

Jane and Guilford are buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula on the north side of Tower Green. Jane's father, Duke of Suffolk, was executed a week after Jane, on 19 February 1554. Her mother, the Duchess of Suffolk, married her Master of the Horse and chamberlain, Adrian Stokes in March 1555 (not as often said, three weeks after the execution of the Duke of Suffolk).[28] She was fully pardoned by Mary and allowed to live at Court with her two surviving daughters. She died in 1559.


"The traitor-heroine of the Reformation", as historian Albert Pollard called her,[29] was merely 16 or 17 years old at the time of her execution. During and in the aftermath of the Marian persecutions, Jane became viewed as a Protestant martyr for centuries, featuring prominently in the several editions of the Book of Martyrs by John Foxe. The tale of Lady Jane grew to legendary proportions in popular culture, producing a flood of romantic biographies, novels, plays, paintings, and films, one of which was the 1986 production Lady Jane, starring Helena Bonham Carter.



  1. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (2006-01-16). "Is this the true face of Lady Jane?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  2. ^ Ives 2009, p. 2
  3. ^ Ascham 1863, p. 213
  4. ^ Ives 2009, pp. 36, 299
  5. ^ de Lisle 2008, pp. 5–8
  6. ^ Ives 2009, pp. 51, 65
  7. ^ Ives 2009, pp. 63–67
  8. ^ Ives 2009, p. 15
  9. ^ Ives 2009, p. 51
  10. ^ Ives 2009, p. 53
  11. ^ Ives 2009, p. 52
  12. ^ Ives 2009, pp. 42–45
  13. ^ Ives 2009, pp. 45–47
  14. ^ Ives 2009, pp. 47–49
  15. ^ Ives 2009, pp. 47
  16. ^ a b Loades 1996, pp. 238–239
  17. ^ Loades 1996, p. 179
  18. ^ Ives 2009, p. 137
  19. ^ Alford 2002, pp. 171–172
  20. ^ Ives 2009, p. 35
  21. ^ Alford 2002, pp. 171–172
  22. ^ Loades 1996, p. 240
  23. ^ Ives 2009, pp. 145, 165–166
  24. ^ Dale Hoak: "Edward VI (1537–1553)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, online edn. Jan 2008, Retrieved 2010-04-04 (subscription required)
  25. ^ Ives 2009, pp. 251–252, 334
  26. ^ Plowden, Alison (2004-09-23). "Grey, Lady Jane (1534–1554), noblewoman and claimant to the English throne". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198613628. 
  27. ^ a b c d e Anonymous (1997) [1850], "1554, The Execution of Lady Jane Grey and Lord Guildford Dudley", in Nichols, John Gough, Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary, The Camden Society; Marilee Hanson, 
  28. ^ Ives 2009, p. 38
  29. ^ Pollard, Albert J. (1911). The History of England. London: Longmans, Green. p. 111. 


External links

Jane of England
House of Grey
Cadet branch of the House of Tudor
Born: 1537 Died: 12 February 1554
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Edward VI
disputed Queen of England
10–19 July 1553
Succeeded by
Mary I
English royalty
Preceded by
Lady Mary Tudor
Heir to the English and Irish Thrones
as heiress presumptive under Edward VI's will
21 June – 6 July 1553
Succeeded by
Lady Catherine Grey

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  • Lady Jane Grey — Dudley (Künstler unbekannt) Lady Jane Grey (* 1537 in Bradgate in Leicestershire (Mittelengland); † 12. Februar 1554 im Tower in London, hingerichtet) beanspruchte im Jahr 1553 für kurze Zeit den Titel einer Königin von England. Seither hat sie… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Lady Jane Grey — Jeanne Grey Pour les articles homonymes, voir Grey. Jeanne …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Lady Jane Grey — noun Queen of England for nine days in 1553; she was quickly replaced by Mary Tudor and beheaded for treason (1537 1554) • Syn: ↑Grey • Instance Hypernyms: ↑Queen of England • Member Holonyms: ↑Tudor, ↑House of Tudor * * * Lady …   Useful english dictionary

  • Lady Jane Grey — Blev kåret til dronning af England i 1553. Efter blot 9 dages regeringstid blev hun fængslet på befaling af Mary den Blodige. Året efter, i 1554, blev Lady Jane Grey henrettet grundet højforræderi …   Danske encyklopædi

  • Lady Jane Grey Preparing for Execution (painting) — Lady Jane Grey Preparing for Execution is an 1835 oil painting by the American artist George Whiting Flagg which established his early fame. This fame was however to dwindle as a consequence of a decline in the role of historical painting in… …   Wikipedia

  • Lady Jane Grey — ➡ Grey (I) * * * …   Universalium

  • Cultural depictions of Lady Jane Grey — Lady Jane Grey Preparing for Execution, oil by George Whiting Flagg, 1835. Royal claimant Lady Jane Grey has left an abiding impression in English literature and romance. The limited amount of material from which to construct a source based… …   Wikipedia

  • The Execution of Lady Jane Grey — is an oil painting by Paul Delaroche completed in 1833. It is currently housed in the National Gallery in London. The painting portrays, erroneously in some regards, the moments preceding the death of Lady Jane Grey, who was executed in 1554.… …   Wikipedia

  • Lady Catherine Grey — (sometimes spelled Katherine ) ( 25 August 1540 26 January 1568), Countess of Hertford, was the second surviving daughter of Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk and Lady Frances Brandon. She was the younger sister of Lady Jane Grey and older sister… …   Wikipedia

  • Lady Jeanne Grey — Jeanne Grey Pour les articles homonymes, voir Grey. Jeanne …   Wikipédia en Français

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