Here is a picture of Jane at the age of sixteen.
Lady Jane Grey
1537 — February 12th 1554
By Ruby Jean Hopkins
Lady Jane Grey was a young girl who lived during the reign of King Henry VIII and Edward VI. She was the daughter of Henry Grey, Marquis of Dorset and Duke of Suffolk, and Lady Frances Brandon. She and her two younger sisters, Ladies Catherine and Mary, were the great-grand-daughters of Henry VII, and were thus members of the House of Tudor.
Jane was brought up a devout Protestant, and never knew any form of Catholic ritual. Her childhood was such that would not have brought pleasant memories to her in her later life, if she had had one. Her mother was cruel and abusive, and sought for perfection in her daughter, and even when it was gained in certain areas, it was never good enough. Jane was very intelligent. She learned Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic besides the contemporary languages (probably Spanish, Italian, French, German, etc.) Alfred Lord Tennyson said about her:
Peerless—her needle perfect, and her learning
Beyond the churchmen; yet so meek, so modest,
So wife-like humble to the trivial boy
Mismatched with her for policy! I have heard
She would not take a last farewell of him;
She feared it might unman him for his end.
She could not be unmanned—no, nor out-
Seventeen—a rose of grace! Girl never breathed to rival such a rose;
Rose never blew equaled such a bud!"
As Tennyson said, she was very meek, quiet, and humble. Her mother got it into her head to harden her child with regular beatings. Thus Jane lead the life of one persecuted. She said:
"For when I am in the presence of either 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 ... that I think myself in hell."
However, Jane did have one pleasant part of her childhood when she went to live with Aunt Catherine, or Queen Catherine, wife of King Henry VIII. Jane was under ten years old. She became acquainted with her cousins Mary, Elizabeth and Edward. She took great delight in living at the castle as the queen's ward. Catherine loved her, and Jane most likely loved her better than her own mother, if she held any affection for that horrid woman. King Henry the VIII died in 1547, and after his death Catherine married Sir Thomas Seymour. However, she died shortly after giving birth to her only child, Mary. When Catherine died, Jane acted as chief mourner at her funeral.
Sir Thomas Seymour had proposed marriage between Jane and his nephew, King Edward VI. However, Thomas's brother, Edward Seymour, was already arranging a match between Edward VI and Princess Elisabeth of France (the daughter of King Henry II.) The brothers both had ideas that conflicted with each other, and thus a great power struggle ensued. The marriage between Jane and Edward never took place, and the Seymour brothers were both tried for treason and executed by John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland.
Next marriage was purposed between Jane and Lord Hertford, the eldest son of the late Duke of Somerset. But Lady Frances had been corresponding with John Dudley which led to another match for Jane and Lord Guilford Dudley, son of Lord Guilford Dudley. Jane, for the first time in her life, refused to submit. She seemed to have an almost fear, mixed with hatred for the Dudley's. And the prospect of marrying into their family caused great alarm and distress on her account. She had no explanation for this feeling. Her mother beat her until she consented. The marriage was performed on May 25th, 1553.
Jane's claim to the throne came through her mother, who was the daughter of Mary Tudor, the daughter of King Henry VII. However, Edward excluded Lady Frances from his will and willed the Crown directly to Jane.
Edward VI, King of England, died on July 6th, 1553. After his death, Jane was proclaimed queen, although she would not be officially queen until her coronation. The Duke of Northumberland had planned to capture Mary to keep her from gaining support from the people of England and so endangering the reign of the Queen. But Mary, being warned of the intentions of the Duke, fled to Castle Framlingham in Suffolk. Within nine days Mary gained incredible support, and the Parliament declared her rightful queen, and denounced and revoked Jane's proclamation as coerced. Mary arrived in London in a grand procession. Jane and her husband were thrown into the apartments in the Tower of London, for high treason, although their lives were originally spared. The Duke of Northumberland was executed on August 21st, 1553.
On November 13th, a special trial took place at Guildhall in London. There, Guilford, Jane, and two of Guilford's brothers were charged with high treason. Jane was sentenced to being "Burned alive on Tower Hill or beheaded as the Queen pleases." However, the imperial ambassador reported to Charles V that Jane's life was to be spared.
A rising, however, headed by Sir Thomas Wyatt sealed Jane's fate. Although Jane didn't have anything to do directly with the rising, Philip II of Spain and Mary's councilors advised her to put an end to Jane's life, as that would also end the rising. A group of Protestants, Jane's father being among them, had caused the uprising, demanding that Jane should be given back as their queen.
The dates for Guilford and Jane's execution was set, while the other two Dudley brothers were pardoned. Mary had considered having them executed together, but decided that it would move the public too much, who were already in her favor. The separation between Jane and Guilford had been six months, and it is said that Jane's husband carved "Jane" on his cell door, perhaps pining for his wife. Guilford had obtained permission to bid his wife one last farewell, but Jane refused to see him, saying that he would not be able to bear it manfully to the end. However, she sent him many loving messages, also reminding him how short their separation would be! On the morning of February 12th, 1554, Guilford's time had come. He caught Jane's eyes from her cell window, as he was going to his death bravely. He was beheaded at Tower Green, and it is said that as Jane saw from her window his remains being carried passed, she cried out, "O Guilford! Guilford!" Then fell on her knees to pray. After this she gave a speech to the crowd. She said:
"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."
According to Mary's orders, Jane was to be executed in her private apartments, Mary said, "out of respect for her cousin." Jane recited the fifty-first psalm. The executioner fell on his knees and asked her to forgive him; this she did, asking him if he would take her blindfold off before she lay herself down. "No, madam," he answered. She then blindfolded herself, and determined to go to her death with dignity. However, as she prepared to lay her head down, she groped to find the block, and began to panic, crying out, "Where is it? O, what shall I do?" An unknown hand helped her find her way, and retain her dignity at the end. Her last words were, "Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit," and "O Grave, where is thine victory? O Death, where is thy sting?" With that, the blade descended, and Jane's short life came to an end. Another quote by Tennyson:
"Then knelt and said the Miserere Mel—
But all in English, mark you: rose again,
And when the headsman prayed to be forgiven
Said, “You will give me my true crown at last,
But do it quickly;” then all wept but she,
Who changed not color when she saw the clock,
But asked him, child-like, “Will you take it off
Before I lay me down?” “No, madam” he said,
Gasping, and when her innocent eyes were bound,
She with her poor blind hands feeling—“Where
Where is it?” —You must fancy that which fol-
If you have the heart to do it!"
Jane was buried with her husband at the chapel St. Peter ad Vincula on the north side of Tower Green.
Henry Grey was executed one week after his daughter. Lady Frances Brandon surprised and shocked everybody by marrying her chamberlain, Adrian Stokes, three weeks after her husband's death, and barely a months after Jane's. She and her daughters were also fully pardoned by Queen Mary, and returned to court. She did not mention Jane ever again, and was as indifferent to her in death as she was in life.
Queen Mary lived only four years after executing her cousin. She died in the year 1558, and was succeeded by Elizabeth.
Lady Jane inspires me as a Christian young woman to do everything with beauty, truth, and excellence, and to do all unto the Lord. Her sweet submissive spirit is impeccable, and encourages me to be the same, although I know that I could never be her equal in anything.