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Lady Jane Grey was the reluctant nine-days’ Queen

Posted in Historical articles, History, Religion, Royalty on Monday, 29 April 2013

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This edited article about Lady Jane Grey originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 235 published on 16 July 1966.

Lady Jane Grey, picture, image, illustration

Lady Jane Grey waves a sad farewell to her husband from her prison, as he passes by on his way to be executed, by Peter Jackson

On July 10, 1553, a 16-year-old girl, Lady Jane Grey, was told that she was Queen of England. Her protests disregarded, she was made the unwilling victim of a power-game played out among her relatives.

Henry VIII had authorised that after his own children (Edward, Mary and Elizabeth) the crown should pass to the descendants of his younger sister, Mary Duchess of Suffolk.

The boy, Edward VI, succeeded Henry as the law demanded, but the Duke of Northumberland, head of the Regency government, knew that his power would be destroyed if his arch-enemy, Mary, succeeded as Henry VIII had willed.

Intent on securing his own future, Northumberland’s first step was to force the unwilling Lady Jane Grey, daughter of Mary of Suffolk, to marry his son, Lord Guildford Dudley: his second was to persuade the young king, Edward, to change the Law of Succession in favour of Lady Jane.

King Edward’s death on July 6, 1553, was kept secret from Mary Tudor until Lady Jane had signed a proclamation from the Tower of London, stating her accession to the throne. Orders were issued on her authority, and the Lord Treasurer surrendered the Crown Jewels to the new Queen.

When news of her brother’s death reached Mary, she prepared to face Northumberland’s attack, but so hated was he that his supporters deserted him, and Mary was everywhere proclaimed Queen.

After nine days “reign”, Lady Jane was locked in the Tower. She and her husband were sentenced to death for treason. Innocent, but feared dangerous, they were both executed on February 12th 1554, amidst widespread sympathy.

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