Lady Jane Grey

Image long believed to be that of Lady Jane Grey, Queen for Nine Days, now thought by art historians to be Catherine Parr, 6th wife of Henry VIII.
Image long believed to be that of Lady Jane Grey, Queen for Nine Days, now thought by art historians to be Catherine Parr, 6th wife of Henry VIII.

Lady Jane Grey (October 12?, 1537February 12, 1554), was a great granddaughter of Henry VII of England, and was proclaimed Queen of England for several days in 1553. Her status as a monarch is controversial; her succession contravened an Act of Parliament, but so did the succession of several other monarchs. However, after her rule ended, her proclamation as Queen was revoked. She was also known as one of the most learned women of her day, described by the historian Alison Weir as one of "the finest female minds of the century".

She is sometimes known as "The Nine Days' Queen" (July 10 - July 19, 1553) or "The Thirteen Days' Queen" (July 6 - July 19, 1553)—owing to uncertainty as to when she actually succeeded to the throne and was deposed. 'Nine days' is the more commonly held view. The day of her predecessor's death (July 6) and that of her official proclamation as Queen (July 10) have both been considered to be the beginning of her short reign.

She was also the subject of the she-tragedy named Lady Jane Grey from 1715 by Nicholas Rowe, which emphasizes the pathos of Jane's fate.


Early life and education

Jane was born at Bradgate Park near Leicester in October 1537, the eldest daughter of Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset and his wife Lady Frances Brandon. October 12 has been suggested as a date of birth.

Jane was an older sister of Lady Catherine Grey and Lady Mary Grey.

As a girl, she was the beneficiary of the new mode of extensive education for women, and was tutored by John Aylmer, one of the circle of young Cambridge University scholars who also educated Queen Elizabeth I; like Elizabeth, she also spent time in the household of Katherine Parr, a scholar in her own right. At court, Jane and her cousin Edward VI of England had begun to fall deeply in love with each other. It is presumed Edward once brought Jane to his room and kissed her on the lips.

Claim to the Throne

The Execution of Lady Jane Greyby Paul Delaroche.
The Execution of Lady Jane Grey
by Paul Delaroche.

Her claim to the throne was through her mother, Lady Frances Brandon, who was the daughter of Mary Tudor (a daughter of King Henry VII of England) and her second husband, Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. Frances was still living but renounced her claim on the throne in favour of her daughter.

According to the notion of male primogeniture, the Suffolks (Brandons and later Greys) were the junior branch of the Heirs of Henry VII. The 1544 Act of Succession restored both Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession even though neither had been re-legitimized. Furthermore, this act authorized Henry VIII to alter the succession by his will. His last will reinforced the succession of his three children, and then declared that should none of his three children leave heirs, the Throne will pass to the heirs of his younger sister, Mary, The French Queen. His will completely ignored the claims of the heirs of his elder sister, Margaret, which were superior to those of the Suffolks.

The question of the succession had arisen as a result of the religious unrest that had prevailed during the reign of King Henry VIII of England. When Henry's heir, Edward VI, died at an early age, the next in line to the throne was his half-sister, Mary. However, Mary was Roman Catholic and looked set to overturn the religious reforms of her brother's short reign.

Fearing religious intolerance, a faction led by John Dudley, (better known as the Duke of Northumberland, a title which he appropriated for himself) who had acted as regent to Edward VI, sought a Protestant heir, and fastened on Jane, who had been married in a political alliance to one of Northumberland's sons, Guilford Dudley, during 1553. This was a desperate gamble by Northumberland, who was driven to retain the reins of power through a puppet and who greatly feared the consequences of a reversion to a catholic monarchy.

At the time of Edward VI's death, Jane was fourth in line to the Throne, after Mary, Elizabeth, and Frances. Jane's claim to the throne was therefore obviously weak, and Northumberland's other sons John, Ambrose, Henry and Robert were all subsequently imprisoned but later pardoned for their part in their father's scheme.


Edward VI died on July 6 1553. Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen of England on July 10 1553, just four days later. She was, according to some accounts, tricked into putting on the crown by Northumberland; however, she refused to name her husband as king.

In order to consolidate power, there were a number of key tasks which confronted Northumberland, the most important of which was to capture and isolate Mary in order to prevent her from gathering support around her. Mary, however, was advised of his intentions and took flight, sequestering herself in Framlingham Castle in Suffolk.


Mary proved to have more popular support than Jane, partly because of the continuing sympathy for the treatment her mother, Catherine of Aragon, had received at the hands of Henry VIII. After Jane was deposed, there seemed some likelihood that her life would be spared by Mary, who had now taken the throne. She sent John de Feckenham to Lady Jane, in an attempt to convert her to Catholicism.


The Protestant rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt, in the first months of 1554, sealed Jane's fate despite the fact that she had nothing to do with the revolt, and was not its intended beneficiary. The rebellion was precipitated by the imminent marriage of Mary to Philip II of Spain.

In its wake, Mary was in a determined and unforgiving mood, and only five days after Wyatt's arrest, Jane and Guilford were executed. In addition, Mary planned a marital alliance with Spain, and the Spaniards may have insisted on Jane's death to remove a potential threat to Mary's rule. Jane's execution took place on February 12 1554 at the Tower of London. The "traitor-heroine of the Reformation" was only 16 years old at the time.

See also

External links


Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary - anonymous primary source

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