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Lady Jane Grey (c. 1537 – 12 February 1554), also known as Lady Jane Dudley (after her marriage)and as “the Nine Days’ Queen”, was an English noblewoman and de facto Queen of England and Ireland from July 10 until July 19, 1553.

Lady Jane Grey was the eldest daughter of Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk, and his wife, Frances Brandon, the second child and eldest daughter of Princess Mary, and Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. Princess Mary was King Henry VIII’s younger sister. Jane had two younger sisters, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary; through their mother, the three sisters were great-granddaughters of Henry VII, grandnieces of Henry VIII, and first cousins once removed of Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.

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Lady Jane Gray

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.

Jane received a humanist education, studying Latin, Greek and Hebrew with John Aylmer, and Italian with Michelangelo Florio. Through the influence of her father and her tutors, she became a committed Protestant and also corresponded with the Zürich reformer Heinrich Bullinger. Jane preferred book studies to hunting parties and regarded her strict upbringing, which was typical of the time, as harsh.

In early February 1547, Jane was sent to live in the household of Edward VI’s uncle, Thomas Seymour, who soon married Henry VIII’s widow, Catherine Parr. Jane lived with the couple until Catherine’s death in childbirth in September 1548. Lady Jane acted as chief mourner at Catherine Parr’s funeral; Thomas Seymour showed continued interest to keep her in his household, and she returned there for about two months before he was arrested at the end of 1548. 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 bride for the king.

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Edward VI, King of England and Ireland.

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 King’s Council, he proposed his daughter Jane as a bride for the Protector’s eldest son, Lord Hertford. Nothing came of this, however, and Jane was not engaged until the spring of 1553, her bridegroom being Lord Guildford Dudley, a younger son of John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland. The Duke, Lord President of the King’s Council from late 1549, was then the most powerful man in the country. On May 25, 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 Katherine, Lord Guildford’s sister, with Henry Hastings, the Earl of Huntingdon’s heir.

The Third Succession Act of 1544 restored Henry VIII’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, to the line of succession, although they were still regarded 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 descendants, the throne would pass to heirs of his younger sister, Mary, which included Jane. For unknown reasons, Henry excluded Jane’s mother, Frances Grey, from the succession, and also bypassed the claims of the descendants of his elder sister, Margaret, who had married into the Scottish royal house and nobility.

Both Mary and Elizabeth had been named illegitimate by statute during the reign of Henry VIII after his marriages to Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn had been declared void.

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Lady Jane Gray

When the 15-year-old Edward VI lay dying in the early summer of 1553, his Catholic half-sister Mary was still his heir presumptive. However, Edward, in a draft will (“My devise for the Succession”) 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 “Lady Jane and her heirs male” as his successors, probably in June 1553; the intent was to ensure his Protestant legacy, thereby bypassing Mary, who was a Roman Catholic. Edward’s decision to name Jane Grey herself was possibly instigated by Northumberland.

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. Edward also announced to have his “declaration” passed in parliament in September, and the necessary writs were prepared.

The King died on July 6, 1553, but his death was not announced until four days later. On July 9, Jane was informed that she was now queen, and according to her own later claims, accepted the crown only with reluctance. On July 10, she was officially proclaimed Queen of England, France and Ireland after she had taken up secure residence in the Tower of London, where English monarchs customarily resided from the time of accession until coronation.

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