The title I have put above is maybe a little controversial, as the lady in question is not usually referred to in such a way, but in my view, this is the name that should be used for her.
Lady Jane Grey was born to Frances and Henry Grey around the year 1536. Her mother was the daughter of Mary Tudor (sister of Henry VIII) with her second husband, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. She had two younger sisters, Catherine and Mary.
In her youth she spent time with the royal nursery, growing up alongside Edward and Elizabeth, who were of similar ages. It is said that she was a very intelligent girl. She was also brought up in the protestant faith as were Edward and Elizabeth.
After King Henry’s death and Edward’s accession, Jane lived briefly with the Dowager Queen Catherine and her new husband Thomas Seymour.
After the death of the Dowager Queen, she returned to her family. Presumably she stayed there until her arranged marriage in 1553. This marriage was planned between her father and the Duke of Northumberland, who at that time was the most important man in the country beside the young king.
She was wed to Guildford Dudley, a younger son of Northumberland in May of 1553. It is unknown exactly how much of the reasons for this marriage that the 15 year old girl understood at the time. Being intelligent as she is claimed to be, she possibly had some inclination that her nearness to the throne had something to do with it !!
King Edward lay seriously ill and would die that July. On his deathbed, he named Jane and her heirs, and her sisters, as his heirs, effectively naming her as Queen. This went against the succession act that his father had written, which gave the throne to Edward’s sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, after Edward’s death. As King, Edward was well within his rights to change this and overrule his father’s wishes, though he was still a child and it is debateable exactly how much of the decision came from him and how much from his advisors, the chief of whom was Northumberland.
Upon his death, the council were brought together to crown the new Queen. Though some still thought it should have been Mary, including herself!
Jane is said to have been surprised when she was given the crown and named as rightful Queen. She was still only 15 years old, you can imagine that this would have been quite a shock.
Some sources claim she had to be beaten into submission to accept the crown, though evidence for this is not altogether trustworthy.
She was taken to the Tower, royal apartments, to await her coronation.
Meanwhile, Mary had raised her standard as the true Queen and was marching to London with an army in tow. Many of the council switched sides and backed Mary as Queen, some only to spite the mighty Northumberland.
Once Mary came into London, Jane’s rooms in the Tower became her prison. She had spent nine days as the declared Queen of England.
Jane and Guildford, along with Northumberland, were found guilty of treason. Northumberland was swiftly executed but Jane and Guildford were kept prisoner in the Tower instead. It is said that Queen Mary wished to one day release her young cousin, once her place on the throne was secured.
In order to secure her crown, Mary must marry and have an heir, even at her advanced age (for the time! it is not so strange to have children in your 30’s these days !).
Mary chose Phillip of Spain, which was an unpopular choice, mainly because of his Catholic faith. She had also been brought up in that faith, and was determined to return her country back to the Pope, she hoped that marrying Phillip would help her do this.
An uprising followed in the country against the marriage, aiming to place the protestant Jane back on the throne. It is not clear whether she or Guildford knew anything about this plan in their prison cells, but the mere implication that they were enemies for the crown, meant that Mary needed them to disappear.
As they had already been found guilty of treason, the obvious answer was to carry out their executions.
On the 12th February 1554, Guildford was taken to Tower Hill, where he was beheaded. Shortly after, Jane was taken to the green inside the Tower walls where she too was beheaded, a little more privately.
Their bodies were interred in the church of ST Peter ad Vincula in the Tower’s grounds.
It is interesting to wonder what might have happened if Jane and Guildford had retained the throne. There may not have been the heretical burnings for which Mary became so well known. Would they have had family? Children to follow them? We may never have had the Golden Elizabethan age. Possibilities…………….