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Elizabethan England

Lady Jane Grey: the Nine Day Queen

by Nat Deken, Erin Schmitt,
and Sly Young

Throughout the rich history of England, there have been many influential monarchs. Most kings and queens have inherited the throne. Through tradition one usually is born or married into royalty, but there are exceptions to every rule. Strangely enough, the shortest term of "office" was held from July 10, 1553 to July 19, 1553. Lady Jane Grey was the monarch of this terribly brief term between the death of Edward VI and the ascension of Mary Tudor.

Lady Jane Grey was born in a hunting lodge in October of 1537. She was the great granddaughter of King Henry VII of England, the first born daughter of Frances and Henry Grey, the Duke of Suffolk. At the time of Lady Jane's birth, Henry VIII was King and Jane Seymour had just delivered their son, Edward. Because Henry needed a male heir, he was very pleased with the birth of his son. As the birth of Edward was seen as an important event, Frances Grey named her first daughter Jane, after the Queen.

In 1546, at the age of nine, Jane was sent to court to live under the guardianship of Queen Catherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII. During this period, it was common for children of wealthy or noble families to spend time away from home.

When Jane was 15, her parents were ready for her to marry. Her parents summoned her presence and told her she was to marry Dudley, son of the Duke of Northumberland. Jane was livid, protesting her love for Edward, Lord of Hertford. She was distraught and expressed her distaste for Dudley and his family. Her parents, however, wanted her to marry Dudley and assured her that neither she nor her schooling and living status would change.

Lady Jane was married to Guildford Dudley against her will after being shunned by her parents for opposing the marriage. The wedding was held at Durham House on The Strand in London on May 25, 1553. During the wedding ceremony Lady Jane's sisters, Lady Katherine and Lady Mary, also were married. Lady Katherine was married to Lord Herbert, son of the Earl of Pembroke, and Northumberland's daughter, Katherine, to Lord Hastings. Jane's youngest sister, Lady Mary, was betrothed to her cousin, Lord Grey. The marriages allied Northumberland to three of the most powerful families at court. The wedding was done hastily and in a very carefree manner. The wedding apparel had to be borrowed from the Royal Wardrobe. Jane's costume consisted of a green velvet headdress with precious stones. Her gown of cloth was lined with gold, and she had a mantle of silver tissue. Her hair hung down her back, combed and plaited in a curious fashion.

In June of 1553, Jane was moved to Durham House where she and Dudley were to live as husband and wife. Shortly after, Jane was informed of Edward's illness. During this time, Edward's half-sister Mary was preparing to take the throne. Northumberland convinced the sick and ailing Edward to strike his Catholic sister Mary from the line of succession. Northumberland, who wanted to keep England as a Protestant nation, feared that if Mary took the throne England would no longer be Protestant. It took the approval of Parliament to change the succession. Edward's counselors were both reluctant and apprehensive.

Northumberland was cautious, since if his scheme didn't work and Mary ascended the throne, he and his cohorts would be punished for their disloyalty. Northumberland's persuasive skills got Edward approval from Parliament. He drew up a document called the "King's Device." This document, signed by Edward's council, stated that both Elizabeth and Mary were to be stricken or removed from the royal succession; furthermore, it named Frances Grey and her offspring as heirs to his dominion. Frances relinquished her right to the throne to her daughter, Jane. Although Mary was Catholic and Jane was Protestant, the people of England felt that Mary had the birthright to take the throne. The people felt that the way that Lady Jane took the throne was invalid and should be declared null and void.

After nine days of controversy, Parliament decided to remove Lady Jane Grey from the throne. Mary proceeded to take the throne. Shortly after Mary replaced Jane, an uprising of turmoil called "Wyatt's Rebellion" began. Mary suspected many people of trying to overthrow her reign. Although Mary primarily suspected her sister Elizabeth of the act of treason, she soon turned her suspicion toward Lady Jane and Sir Thomas Wyatt. Queen Mary had them both beheaded on February 12, 1554. Lady Jane was then not yet 17 years old.

Lady Jane Grey was a young lady of great strength. In the 443 years since her death, Lady Jane Grey has been seen by many people as the archetype of a Protestant martyr. She was a religious heroine whose honor and steadfast faith lead to her choice of death before desecration. She was a firm believer in her Protestant beliefs. Although she was the queen for only nine days, she made an amazing impact on the history of England.

 

Works Consulted

Halligan, Jennifer. "Queen Jane." Grolier International Encyclopedia. CD-Rom. 1996.

This article touches on the inner turmoil of Lady Jane Grey, her struggles within, and her attempt to cope with the responsibilites of the throne.

* "Lady Jane Grey." Encyclopedia Americana. 1986 ed.

This entry briefly summarizes the life of Lady Jane Grey, her rise to power and rapid dissension from the throne.

Luke, Mary. The Nine Days Queen. New York: William Morrow and Co. Inc., 1986. 1-401.

A broad, reliable basis for further study, this book is a good place to begin study of Lady Jane Grey. Luke explores the environment in which Lady Jane was raised, covering her life up until her death.

* Palmer, Alan. Kings and Queens of England. Great Britain: George Weidenfeld and Nicolson Limited, 1976. 103-105.

This book by Palmer chronicles England's royal history, including a brief overview of the reign of Lady Jane Grey.

Tittler, Robert. "Lady Jane Grey." World Book, Inc. 1994 ed.

In this excerpt, Tittler summarizes the brief period of English history during which Lady Jane reigned as Queen.

* Source for visual

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