Lady Jane Grey is best known as the ‘Nine Day Queen’.
She was born around 1537, possibly at Bradgate Park, Leicestershire, the eldest daughter of Henry Grey and Lady Frances Brandon.
Jane was given a strict Protestant education and was taught Latin, Greek, Italian and Hebrew.
In 1547 Jane was sent to live in the household of Katherine Parr, widow of Henry VIII and her husband Thomas Seymour (Edward VI’s uncle). She continued to live there until shortly after Katherine’s death in childbirth in 1548. Seymour was keen to keep Jane in his household and proposed her as a wife for Edward VI, however Seymour was charged with treason and executed in March 1549.
Following Jane’s father, Henry Grey becoming 1st Duke of Suffolk in 1551, Jane began to appear at court.
Also in 1551, John Dudley became 1st Duke of Northumberland. He was King Edward’s VI chief councillor and one of the most powerful men in England.
Jane’s parents were very ambitious, and with Edward VI being very ill and Jane being in the ascension to the throne as the great-granddaughter of Henry VII, she was to be used by her parents to elevate their position.
Her parents conspired with the Duke of Northumberland and Jane was married to Northumberland’s son, Lord Guildford Dudley on 25 May 1553, a man she hardly knew in a triple ceremony with her two sisters.
Northumberland was a devout Protestant, and Jane had been given a Protestant upbringing; Northumberland would do anything to keep the Catholic Mary Tudor from the throne.
Edward VI died on 6 July 1553 and Northumberland proclaimed Jane Queen of England on 10 July 1553. It is believed she never wanted the throne of England and accepted it only reluctantly. Jane now moved into the traditional residence of the Tower of London while she awaited her coronation.
Northumberland now had much work to do to stop Mary Tudor (Edward VI’s half-sister) gathering support for her to take the throne of England, and he and his troops left London on 14 July 1553, hoping to capture Mary Tudor, however Mary was gathering her own support while travelling with her troops to London.
Mary Tudor was popular with the people, however Northumberland’s support was to fade when he left London in pursuit of Mary.
The Privy Council (Royal Advisers), were in effect the Government of the day, and after Northumberland left London they changed their allegiance to Mary Tudor and with the support of the people proclaimed her queen on 19 July 1553.
Mary Tudor herself entered London on 3 August 1553 to great jubilation.
Northumberland had tried without success to consolidate his power, the support he believed he had deserted him and rallied around Mary Tudor. John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland was tried and executed for High Treason on 22 August 1553.
Jane and her husband Guildford Dudley were also found guilty of high treason and sentenced to death.
Mary imprisoned Jane in the Tower of London, where she was to stay. Although sentenced to death Mary seemed content to leave the fifteen year-old imprisoned and the death sentence was suspended.
Mary’s announcement of her planned marriage to the future King Philip II of Spain, caused a revolt planned against her by Thomas Wyatt in 1554. Jane’s father Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk and her brothers joined the revolt, thus sealing Jane’s fate. It was now believed that while Jane was alive, she would always be a threat to Mary’s reign.
On 12 February 1554 Guildford Dudley was taken to Tower Hill and beheaded in a public execution. He was followed later that day by Jane herself who was beheaded in the grounds of the Tower of London at Tower Green. She had been given the opportunity to convert to Catholicism, but she stayed true to her Protestant faith to the end.
Lady Jane Grey – The Nine Day Queen, has been viewed over the centuries as a protestant martyr; or was she just an innocent woman who was manipulated by other people to further their own position.
She was however a young woman executed at only sixteen or seventeen years of age who believed passionately in the Protestant faith until the very end.
She was buried along with her husband Guildford Dudley in the Chapel of St Peter Ad Vincula in the grounds of the Tower of London.