Jane Grey, the early years: An Outstanding Prodigy & Evangelical leader in the making

6804,Lady Jane Dudley (née Grey),by Unknown artist

There is no question that Jane Grey was for all intent and purposes a prodigy, even for her times. Today we expect children to learn the basics. But back in the sixteenth century, things were different, especially for noblewomen, who were expected to make their families proud by finding a suitable husband who’d make a powerful ally. In the case of Jane Grey, being the eldest of her sisters, meant she had to meet most of society’s expectations. Having royal blood, and being related to the King through her mother, meant that she had to work harder than Katherine and Mary, and just as hard -if not more- than her bastardized cousins, Ladies, Mary and Elizabeth Tudor.

Jane Grey HBC black and white 1

But Jane Grey exceeded everyone’s expectations, especially her father whose continual indulgence made her appreciate him more than her mother who was stricter. When her thirst for knowledge became evident, she became a ward in the Parr household. Queen Dowager Kathryn Parr had recently remarried, for the fourth and last time to her true love, Sir Thomas Seymour, Baron Sudeley. The couple’s manor, Sudeley Castle, became a safe haven for many intellectual curious girls like Jane. Among them was Jane’s cousin, and Kathryn’s favorite royal stepdaughter, lady Elizabeth Tudor. Elizabeth Tudor was nearly Jane’s equal, but after she fell from grace, Jane took her place in Kathryn’s heart.

Jane lamented the Queen Dowager’s death, and after she was returned to her parents, she berated them and begged them to send her back. She wrote how unfair they were treating her. Several historians and novelists have taken this as ‘proof’ that Jane Grey’s mother was a wicked woman and her husband, an indolent fool, or her partner-in-crime who saw their daughter as nothing more than tool in their quest to gain more power. As easy as it is to turn this into a dualistic tale of good and evil, heroes and villains and so on; the truth is that her parents were neither of these things.
Lord Henry Grey, Marques of Dorset and (after the fall of Somerset) Duke of Suffolk, and Frances Brandon, were self-serving aristocrats. This is not unusual given that a family’s number one interest was in promoting their children to other courtiers in the hopes that they would marry into equally or more powerful families to further their riches. Family mattered more than everything else, and this is where religion comes into play as well because it was believed that the best way to raise successful wives and lords, was to instill the fear of god in them. As a result, Jane’s intelligence became highly by Reformers in England and abroad.

Jane Grey black and white 3

Soon after, she became one of the leading figures in the Evangelical movement. In 1552, shortly after Somerset’s execution, her family gained more prominence. Renown Protestant figures like the pastor Michael Angelo Florio whose congregation looked after Protestant exiles, praised her and held her as an example for other Protestant women to follow. He wasn’t the only one, older women like William Cecil’s wife, Mildred Cooke, thought the same. In a letter she wrote in Greek, she compared the adolescent girl to the fourth century bishop of Caesare, Basil the Great, and gave her a copy of one of his many works. Her former tutor Bullinger introduced her to the works of Theodore Bublinger who had translated the Koran -this has led some historians to believe that she might have also been taught Arabic. As her popularity among scholars grew, Jane’s self importance also grew and so did her arrogance. Her father, by this time Duke of Suffolk, together with the Marquis of Northampton (William Parr -Katherine Parr’s brother), and John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, supported the King in his reissue of the prayer book which completely outlawed the mass and introduced more radical reforms inspired by Swiss and German reformers such as Bullinger and Ulm. There were few opponents in Edward’s council to these new reforms, but among them was Archbishop Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury who had been a good friend of the “Good Duke” (Edward Seymour) and believed these reforms were too radical and too soon to be implemented. Also in this year, Henry began to make plans for his eldest daughter and heir’s betrothal. Jane was not he first bride her father in law had in mind for Guildford. Margaret Clifford, another descendant of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon was his first choice but her father said no since Guildford was only a fourth son and in spite of his pleas and the king’s, the earl’s mind remained unchanged. As the king’s health got worse the following year, he gave his blessing to Northumberland and Suffolk to wed their four teenage offspring. In a triple marriage ceremony in May 25 1553, Jane was married to Guildford, Katherine to Lord Herbert, and Catherine Dudley to Lord Hastings. With the pieces set, it was only a matter of time before Edward’s passing led to their final move.

Sources:

  • Lisle, Leanda. Tudor. Passion. Manipulation. Murder. The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family. Public. 2013.
  • –. The Sisters who would be Queen. Harper. 2009.
  • Ives, Eric. Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. Wiley-Blackwell. 2009.
  • Whitelock, Anna. Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen. Random House. 2010.
  • Porter, Linda. The Myth of Bloody Mary. St. Martin Press. 2008.
  • Borman, Tracy. The Private Lives of the Tudors. Grove Press. 2016.
Advertisements

Cousins at War: The Lady Mary’s Final Victory

Mary i and Jane

From the 18th to 20th of July 1553, the odds fully turned in Mary’s favor when an important ally found his way into her camp. The 16th Earl of Oxford, John de Vere was a complex man. He was a Protestant and a great military leader, whose experience no doubt, gave Mary the boost she needed to issue her proclamation where it goes as follows: “By the Queen. Know ye all good people that the most excellent Princess Mary, eldest daughter of King Henry VIII and sister to King Edward VI, your late sovereign Lord, is now by the grace of God, Queen of England, France and Ireland, defender of the Faith and very true owner of the Crown and government of the realm of England and Ireland and all things thereto justly belonging, and to her and no other ye owe to be her true Liege, men…” Then she denounced Jane Grey’s usurpation, pinning all the blame on her father-in-law instead of her cousin, and declared herself the rightful queen. “… Most false traitor, John, Duke of Northumberland and his accomplices who, upon most shameful grounds, minding to make his won son King by marriage of a new found lady’s title, or rather to be king himself, hath most traitorously by long continued treason sought, and seek the destruction of her royal person, the nobility and common weal of this realm…” This is not surprising given that Mary knew the power of propaganda and she knew that a House divided, as during the Wars of the Roses with the case of the House of York, made everyone in her family look weak. And if people knew the nuts and bolts behind the usurpation, they wouldn’t blame the Duke, but instead look at Mary’s family. This would look very bad for the Tudor Dynasty. If a monarch couldn’t control her own brood, then how could she rule over a country? And it was much easier to use “bad councilors” as scapegoats rather than holding the royals accountable for their actions. Mary’s father had done it many times. Whenever he did a bad decision, someone else was blamed, be it his spouse, his in-laws, or his councilors.

Mary I Signature

The proclamation ended with a rallying cry calling all the “good people” to join “her said armies yet being in Suffolk, making your prayers to God for her success … upon the said causes she utterly defied the said Duke for her most errant traitor to God and to this realm” then she signed it as “Mary, the Quene”.

When Jane heard what happened, she was out for blood. She ordered her troops to march against the rebels in Buckinghamshire, naming William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, one of the two commanders. She gave him specific instructions to deliver “punishment or execution as they deserve.” The message was clear. Her cousin the Lady Mary Tudor might be older, more experienced and have the support of almost all the commons in the realm, but Jane Grey was no passive teenager. She was not going to give up so easily, and until her cause was fully lost, she was going to keep acting as she had done for over a week. Nobody who saw Jane, saw a timid girl, but a strong teenager who continued to carry out her duties as the unofficial queen. On the morning of the 19th, a Christening ceremony at Tower Hill where Lady Jane had been asked to stand in as godmother by one of her servants, a man named Edward Underhill. Her goddaughter was named after her husband, Guildford. Jane was too busy to attend so she sent her mother’s cousin, the Lady Throckmorton, instead. Other proxies were sent for her father and other family members, including William Herbert who excused himself from the ceremony, claiming he had to meet the French Ambassador to convince him of sending troops to fight off Mary’s common forces. In reality, William Herbert was pondering on his own future and where he would fit in all of this conspiracy if Mary won. How would she deal with the traitors? The Marquis had felt an air of unease the day before when he heard the news of Mary’s proclamation and the Earl’s defection. Although he had been given specific instructions to deal with the rebels, the Marquis chose not to comply. He and a number of other councilors gathered at Baynard’s Castle where they discussed a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Nobody wanted another civil war like the one that had split the country in two over one hundred years ago. The men gathered their things and rode to Cheapside where they declared Mary Tudor the lawful Queen and read her proclamation. The crowd went “mad with joy” the Imperial Ambassador reported. “From a distance the earth must have looked like Mount Etna.”

Jane Grey juxtaposed

Jane and her family also knew that everything was over. That same day, the council’s soldiers headed to the Tower to arrest the Duke of Suffolk. Jane’s father had heard of the council’s betrayal and rushed to tell his daughter the news. Jane did not lose her composure. Using the same irony she’d used against one of Mary’s maids when she mocked her Mass, she told her father that she was blameless and she only took the crown because he gave convincing arguments to her. If he hadn’t, she would have never done it. Her father was forced to take down the canopy of state, and other symbols that were representative of her reign, and agreed to the Council’s demands. Jane had gone from a guest at the Tower, awaiting her coronation, to a prisoner.

John Dudley

News of Mary’s victory reached Northumberland and his men that night. He felt angry and betrayed. He had suspected of the council’s betrayal since they asked him to go away to lead a small force against Mary. But he had not expected things would fall down so quickly. Realizing he was lost, and that he was going to be –not only Mary’s scapegoat- but the Greys’ scapegoat as well, he began to cry and sent someone to the new Queen, in the hopes that she would take pity on him. He told the vice-chancellor of Cambridge that their new monarch was a “merciful woman” and read her proclamation the following day, declaring her the rightful Queen. It was over. Mary had won. She was informed of her victory on the 20th. Mary, as her supporters, were overjoyed. She rode on a white horse, and made an inspection of her troops at four o’clock in the afternoon.

“An inspiring sight awaited her. The standards were unfurled, the military colors were set up and battle lines divided into two, under Wentworth and Susssex. For the first time as Queen, Mary saw her forces arrayed…” (Porter)

And like her maternal grandmother before her, she showed herself fearless, giving an inspirational speech “with an exceptional kindness and with an approach so wonderfully relaxed as can scarcely be described” that won everyone’s affections. After she finished with her inspection, she ordered a large detachment of cavalry to stream forth. The Lady Mary was delighted to hear the sounds of cavalry, and the cries of her men who did not stop cheering for their new Queen. She demonstrated an exceptional charisma, and she was ready to fight if needed be. Thankfully, it had not come to that. Lord Paget and the Earl of Arundel had come to tell her of the latest events, adding that the Duke of Northumberland had also surrendered. Bonfires were lit, people cried out to the sky, “men ran hither and thither, bonnets flew into the air, shouts rose higher than the stars, and all the bells were set a-pealing” wrote an anonymous Italian staying in London at the time, echoing the Imperial Ambassador’s words that the earth seemed to be shaking with joy.

Mary I signature Tudor

This was something unprecedented. Mary had won the throne without shedding one drop of blood. To her it must have felt like déjà vu. Her grandfather Henry Tudor, then Earl of Richmond, had won the crown through bloodshed, and he owed it largely in part to the military expertise of the 13th Earl of Oxford, another John de Vere who had always been a staunch Lancastrian and upon knowing that the royal Lancastrians were dead, he ran to Brittany to join Henry Tudor (who was considered by many, the last Lancastrian scion). While there were other factors that contributed to her grandfather’s victory, the Earl’s military expertise can’t be denied. He was there with Henry, helping him rally more men to his cause and after he won, his title was restored. Mary’s ally was Protestant unlike her, but despite this, he joined her because as his predecessor, he viewed her as the legitimate successor to Edward VI. And it was his decision to join her that became a turning point in this conflict. Mary having an army of commons was one thing, but soldiers mutinying, and an Earl who was well known for his military expertise joining her, was another. Mary thanked God, owing her victory to Him, saying that she “wanted the realm cleansed of divisive parties” and thanks to Him, she had done so. Mary’s struggles were far from over though, and so were Jane’s. The two cousins would still be pit against each other, and as Mary’s reign faced many rebellions, it became clearer that only one  of them could live.

Sources:

  • The Sisters Who Would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle
  • Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen by Anna Whitelock
  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
  • Tudor. Passion. Manipulation. Murder: The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family by Leanda de Lisle

Mary Tudor and Jane Grey: The Battle for the Crown

Jane and Mary

Between the 12th and 15th of July 1553, things in the Mary Tudor and Jane Grey camp were getting tenser. On the 12th, Jane issued a proclamation, calling everyone to fight for their rightful queen by giving them an incentive of twelve pence a day. For her part, Mary was sending messaged to the important barons in East Anglia who remained undecided. Most of these men were Protestant and they did not wish to be on the wrong side of things. Some of them had sided with Jane. As with their great ancestor, Henry Tudor, they were determined to fight to the bitter end.

The Lady Jane

Because of the high stakes, Jane to delay her coronation for another three weeks. At the same time that Jane was doing this, Mary was issuing her own proclamations, declaring herself the one and true Queen in Norfolk and Suffolk. Her tenants carried her message throughout the countryside, calling the lesser lords to side with her but many, like the nobles during the time of her great-grandfather –Henry, Earl of Richmond’s- invasion, did not wish to risk everything. What if Mary lost? Mary was without foreign support. Her cousin did not believe she could win. Henry Tudor, the Earl of Richmond had won thanks to French support and foreign mercenaries. What did Mary have besides the commons? And what if the commons were not enough? The Emperor was not going to risk a good opportunity to turn the Duke of Northumberland, whom he believed would control Jane once she was crowned, away from a French alliance. But Mary was resolute.

Mary I historical

“The miserable indecisive princess who could not quite bring herself to cut her ties with England in 1550 was nowhere to be seen. Instead, she had rediscovered the implacable girl who resisted, for three years, a king’s determination to make her deny who she was … Mary was not the sort of woman who sat in the background where matters of such importance were concerned.” (Porter)

She continued to send missives throughout East Anglia, and soon as she advanced further south, throughout the country, demanding people’s loyalty and signing her letters with ‘Mary the Quene’. In Mary, the people remembered her beloved mother, who had been so popular with the commons. They remembered the girl, as Porter pointed out, who rebelled against her father, and stayed true to her beliefs until she was forced to sign an admission that saved her from a certain death. By the time she became mistress of her own household, the kindness for which her mother had been known, had been shown to her tenants as well. She knew their names, she interacted with them at a personal level, and was godmother to most of their children. This relationship earned her a degree of success –on where she could take the crown without bloodshed. Something that was unheard of at the time.

John Dudley

Meanwhile, Jane, her father-in-law, her father and their supporters were busy making sure they were prepared for when Mary’s army came. Foreigners were so certain of Jane’s success that some, like the French Ambassador, were beginning to refer to her husband as “the new King” in their letters. The papal envoy, Giovanni Francesco, however, shows that Jane had no desire to make her husband King and that they quarreled as a result of this. After she agreed to his wishes, she changed her mind again and called the Earls of Arundel and Pembroke that she felt better if her husband were “a duke, but not a King.” Jane was showing (probably to the frustration of her would-be-controllers) that she was her own person, and that as her cousin Mary Tudor, there would be no other ruler in England but her. It could also be that the envoy might have been exaggerating things, showing the Protestant side as a house divided in contrast to Mary’s side where everyone was united. It did not help matters that there were already some rumors that the Duke of Northumberland (Jane’s father-in-law) was looking for an alternative route –in case Jane’s regime did not work- in where he would substitute Jane with another teenager, Mary, Queen of Scots. It was no secret that Dudley had always sided with the French and had actively spoken against Edward Seymour’s savage incursions into their Northern neighbor’s Southern border. After he heard that Mary of Guise had become a widow and her daughter an orphan and the new Queen of Scots, he had spoken against his (then) King, Henry VIII’s proclamation to lead a campaign to kidnap the infant queen of Scots; Dudley vehemently opposed it. The Imperial Ambassadors, pressing Dudley to side with the Emperor instead, were getting frustrated and it is very possible that they added more fuel to the rumors as Dudley showed very little interest in an Anglo-Imperial alliance. It could be during this time that they began to look more positively on Mary’s candidacy.

Suspecting that the Council might be of the same mind after they advised him to leave the city to defend the country (in case Mary thought of an escape), John Dudley gave a passionate speech on the thirteenth reminding them of “the holy oath of allegiance made freely by you to this virtuous lady the Queen’s highness” whose crown they helped her win. His message was clear ‘If I go down, you go down with me’. He ended it with a last reminder that if Jane failed, their religion failed and as a consequence, God’s vengeance would wash down on them. He then went to see his daughter-in-law who trusted him completely with the task ahead and “beseeched him to use his diligence” against Mary. Dudley promised that he would do all that he could.

Mary I and Jane Grey Nine day

The following day, on the 14th, he left London with the “the fairest band of gentlemen” and a “fearsome” artillery train. He was confident that he could still win; but at Mary had gained another ally. Lord Wentworth flocked to her side “clad in splendid armor” and he was not along, accompanied “by a not inconsiderable military force”. More counties started joining her, including some of the Protestant elite which had previously sided with Jane.

John Dudley and William Parr, the Marques of Northampton, met with other veterans at Durham House on the 15th where they planned their offensive against the Lady Mary. In London, Jane faced problems of a different sort, when she received dire news that fifteen of her ships guarding the Eastern Coast had mutinied. Unpaid and forced to work under deplorable conditions, they chose to abandon Jane to side with Mary.
Once again, history would prove that the most unlikely of contender, would win the English throne.

Sources:

  • Passion. Manipulation. Murder by Leanda de Lisle
  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
  • Sisters Who Would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle
  • Mary Tudor by Anna Whitelock

Lady Jane Grey takes possession of the Tower

Lady Jane and her husband, Guildford Dudley.
Lady Jane and her husband, Guildford Dudley.

On the 10th of July 1553, Lady Jane Dudley nee Grey and her husband, Guildford Dudley arrived at two o’clock in the afternoon at the Watergate near the Tower of London. They had traveled by barge from Westminster to Richmond Palace where she momentarily stopped to put on royal robes, then she returned to the boat where she resumed her procession. Jane had been informed of the King’s death a day before. The sudden realization that she would become the first Queen Regnant of England must have hit the teenager hard. Yet Jane was no passive victim as she’s been portrayed by Victorians. In extolling virtue, they gave the public a version of Jane where she is a shy, quiet, and religious woman who knows her place. It was the role model that Victorians intended for young women at the time. But the real Jane Grey was anything but passive. She saw herself as a leader amongst the Protestant faction. So much so, that she had received praise at an early age from many notable Protestant scholars such as Roger Ascham, Ulm and Heinrich Bullinger. While she may not have wished to be Queen, she saw it as an opportunity to preserve the religious establishment of the late king, Edward VI.

Lady Jane Grey Prevailed on to Accept the Crown exhibited 1827 Charles Robert Leslie 1794-1859 Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900
Lady Jane Grey Prevailed on to Accept the Crown exhibited 1827 Charles Robert Leslie 1794-1859 Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900

After Richmond, she traveled to Northumberland’s residence, Durham, where she dined with important courtiers. The Privy Council met afterward. What was supposed to be a successful coup, was proving to be disastrous as they Council discussed a letter they had received from the Lady Mary Tudor (who resided in Norfolk). The Lady Mary informed them that she was England’s rightful heir and by denying her the crown, they were committing treason.

The lady Mary Tudor
The lady Mary Tudor

Jane must have heard of the letter at some point during the procession, but if it unnerved her, she did not show it.

“Like Joan of Arc who defended France at the age of seventeen, she would protect her country and her faith against the threat she believed Mary poised.” (Lisle)

Her mother could not help but cry out in fear. Like their ancestress Margaret Beaufort, the Countess of Richmond -when her son had been crowned- she knew the dangers that awaited Jane if she became Queen. Her life would never be easy, and even if she succeeding in being crown and defeating Mary, there would be many who would conspire against her.

When she and Guildford set course for the Tower of London, the people could not help but be overtaken with the spectacle. The Italian merchant Baptista Spinola who was present at the event, describes it in great detail:

“This Jane is very short and thin, but prettily shaped and graceful. She has small features and a well-made nose the mouth flexible and the lips red. The eyebrows are arched and darker than her hair, which is nearly red. Her eyes are sparkling and light hazel, I stood so long near Her Grace, that I noticed her color was good, but freckled. When she smiled she showed her teeth, which are white and sharp. In all, an animated person. She wore a dress of green velvet stamped with gold, with large sleeves. Her headdress was a white coif with many jewels. She walked under a canopy, her mother carrying her train. Her husband Guildford walking by her, all in white and gold, a very tall boy with light hair, who paid her much attention … Many ladies followed, with noblemen, but this lady is very ‘heretica’ and has never heard Mass, and some great did not come into the procession for that reason.”

Spinola’s account however may be the fabrication of a New York journalist then turned novelist and later biographer. Lisle believes that there is some truth to it but that Richard Davey might have added that romantic spin to it to perpetuate the myth of Jane Grey created by Victorians.

Between four and five o’clock their procession stopped and she and Guildford took full possession of the tower. Once the gates closed, trumpets blew and the heralds cried, reading the royal proclamation of “Jane by the Grace of God, Queen of England, France and Ireland”  and ending it with “God save her” which was meant to reaffirm Jane’s right to the wear the English crown.
One boy did not believe she was the rightful queen and he shouted that Mary was the true Queen. What happened to this kid, you might ask? Well these were the Tudor times. So he was arrested and had his ears cut off the next day.

Notices were pinned across London outlining Edward’s will while elsewhere in East Anglia Mary continued to rally more supporters to her cause.

Sources:

  • Passion. Manipulation. Murder by Leanda de Lisle
  • Sisters Who Would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle
  • On This Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway

A Triple Wedding and a Coup in the making

Jane Grey played by Helena Bonham Carter and Guildford Dudley played by Cary Elwes. The movie featured a very idolized Victorian version of Jane, one where her greatest strengths are neglected.
Jane Grey played by Helena Bonham Carter and Guildford Dudley played by Cary Elwes. The movie featured a very idolized Victorian version of Jane, one where her greatest strengths are neglected.

On May the 25th 1553 a triple wedding was celebrated. The couples were Lady Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley, his sister Lady Catherine and Lord Hastings, and Jane’s sister, Lady Katherine and Lord Herbert -the son of the late Anne Parr -sister to the late Queen Dowager and Baroness Sudeley, Katherine Parr.

Lady Jane Dudley nee Grey
Lady Jane Dudley nee Grey

The wedding was a master plan in the making. Initially the ailing King, Edward VI had been considered as a potential suitor for the eldest of the Grey sisters since negotiations to continue his betrothal with Henry II’s eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth of France, were not going very well. Among the many reformers abroad who encouraged this union was Ulmer and Bulm who told their former apprentice she would flourish there. Jane’s popularity was rising and all that fame soon got to the teenager’s head. She began to make bolder statements against her cousin Mary and others who refused to follow the ‘true faith’. In Jane perspective, this was holy war, and she had become one of her faith’s greatest pioneers. But as the year 1552 came and went, it became clear to anyone that Edward’s days were numbered. He had survived a brush with death when he overcame the measles in 1551, but he wasn’t going to be so lucky this time. Edward began to draft a legal document that was more of a legal exercise that posed an important question on who would be king or queen after he died. The succession did not favor women as many people think. In fact “My Device for the succession” as it was titled, still favored male succession. It stated that if Frances failed to give birth to any male issue before he died, the throne would pass on to Jane and her sons. If Jane failed to have any sons then the throne would pass on to Katherine and her sons. And if she failed to have any sons as well, then to Mary and her sons.

To strengthen Jane’s claim and the Protestant alliance, the teenagers were married on the same day.  Not surprisingly, supporting the Evangelicals was France (whose own ambassador, Boisdauphin was present at the wedding) who were as opposed as they were to see the Lady Mary Tudor succeed her brother (since she would favor Spanish interests over French).

Lady Katherine Grey and her firstborn son, Edward Seymour. She married for a second and last time which landed her in the tower of London and then under multiple house arrests. At the time of the triple marriage, she was married to Lord Herbert, son of the Earl of Pembroke and the late Anne Parr -sister to the late Queen Dowager  and Baroness of Sudeley, Katherine Parr.
Lady Katherine Grey and her firstborn son, Edward Seymour. She married for a second and last time which landed her in the tower of London and then under multiple house arrests. At the time of the triple marriage, she was married to Lord Herbert, son of the Earl of Pembroke and the late Anne Parr -sister to the late Queen Dowager and Baroness of Sudeley, Katherine Parr.

The wedding took place in Northumberland’s London residence, at Durham House. The young couples wore “silver and gold fabrics forfeited to the King from the Duke of Somerset in 1551 and figuratively at least, marked with his blood.” (Lisle). Perhaps it was appropriate they were wearing such clothes since this wedding -albeit sanctioned by the head of their  church- was a declaration of war against their future rival, Lady Mary Tudor. The triple ceremony was attended by almost all of the nobility. They enjoyed a great number of entertainments such as masques, jousts, and a great feast. When the celebrations ended, the two Grey sisters went to their new homes with their respective fathers-in-law. Jane at Sion in Richmond, and Katherine at Bayanard’s Castle near the Thames (coincidentally the same palace one of their ancestress –Cecily Neville, Duchess of York  aka “Queen by Rights” and “Proud Cis”- had once possessed and where some historians suggest, Richard engineered his usurpation).

Edward VI. The last Tudor King.
Edward VI. The last Tudor King.

It is unclear whether the marriage was consummated or not. Some believed that it wasn’t because of her young age. But it is important to remember that in the Tudor age, the age of consent for girls was twelve and for boys fourteen. Both Jane and Guildford were well past that age range. Then again, the argument against it holds up very well too. Since she was her mother and Edward’s heir, her health was of the utmost importance. Consummating the marriage could result in a pregnancy which could result in her death or inability to have more children (as it had happened to her great-great-grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond).

Three days later, Edward VI’s doctors confirmed that he was dying. Edward had sent expensive gifts to the Grey sisters and to Catherine Dudley to congratulate them on their union. This proved his own validation for the Evangelical elite’s schemes against his sisters, and more than that, his own involvement with them. For Edward, it was imperative that England remained faithful and he believed that the only way that could be achieved was if another Evangelical succeeded him to the throne and that someone was Jane who was just as passionately Evangelical as he was.

Sources:

  • Tudor. Passion. Manipulation. Murder by Leanda de Lisle
  • Sisters Who Would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle
  • Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery by Ives
  • On This Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
  • Inglorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Caroll

Lady Jane Dudley nee Grey’s Execution.

"This famous nineteenth-century painting of Jane Grey's execution encapsulates the myth of Jane as an innocent virgin, sacrificed on the altar of adult political ambition. In reality, Jane was a religious leader and no mere victim" -Leanda de Lisle
“This famous nineteenth-century painting of Jane Grey’s execution encapsulates the myth of Jane as an innocent virgin, sacrificed on the altar of adult political ambition. In reality, Jane was a religious leader and no mere victim” -Leanda de Lisle

On Monday 12th of February 1554, both Lady Jane Dudley [nee Grey] and her husband [Guildford] were executed. The latter was the first one to be executed following by his wife who continued to sign her letters as Jane Dudley, rather than Jane Grey, giving no credence to the later myths that she resented Dudley or had been forced to marry him.

Jane was dressed in the same black gown she had worn to her trial, which was a statement of her religious piety and her intense devotion to God, as well as her belief that her faith would shelter her as it had sheltered others through their last hours. Jane had called on the people to rise against the Mass, days before, she had called the people “Return, return to Christ’s war”. This was a religious war and only one religion could come on top. Jane, closer to her father than her mother, wrote to him and told him to be cheerful for she had made her peace with God. She could have -in theory- written to her mother and her youngest sister Mary, but no letters survive so we must assume that she didn’t. Her letter to Katherine was more hostile and she told her if she accepted this material world and accepted the Catholic Faith, even if it was for survival, that she would burn in hell. She asked Katherine if she were to die or live, to die instead for there was nothing better than that.

Jane learned a lot from one of her favorite women and tutors, the late Queen Dowager and Baroness Sudeley, Catherine Parr.  Catherine was seen a role model to many young Protestant women and Jane sought to emulate her.
Jane learned a lot from one of her favorite women and tutors, the late Queen Dowager and Baroness Sudeley, Catherine Parr. Catherine was seen a role model to many young Protestant women and Jane sought to emulate her.
Jane’s other tutors and Protestant admirers like Ulm, Bullinger abroad praised her for her good dress as well as for her intellectuality. But as she had grown up, this fame had gotten to her head, and she saw herself as the leader of the Protestant Faith in England and believing that God was on her side, she wanted to look her best on her execution. So she dressed humbly to state her religious devotion and humility.

Jane’s last words were:

“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 innocence, before God, and the face of you, good Christian people this day.
I pray you all, good Christian people, to bear me witness that I die a true Christian woman, and that I look to be saved by none other means, but only by the mercy of God in the merits of his only son, Jesus Christ and I confess when I did know the Word of God I neglected the same, loved myself and the world, and therefore this plague or punishment is happily and worthily happened unto me for my sins; and yet I thank God for his goodness that he has thus given me time and respect to repent. While I am alive I pay you to assist me with your prayers.”


Before she walked to the block, she gave one message to the Lieutenant of the Tower where she told him as she had told Mary I’s chaplain that he should look to his conscience and see that death was much better than life: “There is a time to be born, and a time to die; and the day of death is better than the day of our birth. Yours, as the Lord knows, as a friend, Jane Dudley.”

Then she was blindfolded and nervously knelt down to the block but she could not find it and got frightened and said “What shall I do? Where is it?” Eventually someone stepped forward and guided her to it. As she laid her head there she said one last prayer “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit!” And then the axe was swung, and as one eye-witness recorded “she ended”.

Sources:

  • Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery by Eric Ives
  • Tudor by Leanda de Lisle
  • Sisters who would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle
  • On his day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
  • Inglorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Caroll

Jane Grey’s Farewell to her family

6804,Lady Jane Dudley (née Grey),by Unknown artist

On the eve of Jane’s execution she drafted her last letter to her father and sister, stressing that they were to advertise their innocence over the whole matter and they had been pushed by ‘others’ to accept the crown.

“Although it pleases God to hasten my death by one by whom my life should rather have been lengthened; yet can I so patiently take it, that I yield God more heartly thanks for shortening my woeful days, than if all the world had been given into my possession, with life lengthened at my own will. And albeit I am assured of your impatient dolours redoubled manifold ways, both in bewailing your own woe, and especially, as I hear, my unfortunate state; yet, my dear father (if I may without offence rejoice in my own mishaps), herein I may account myself blessed, that washing my hands with the innocence of my fact, my guiltless blood may cry before the Lord: Mercy to the Innocent!”

To her sister, she was more hostile, warning her against accepting the Catholic Faith and that she would burn in Hell if she would:

“I have sent you, good sister Katherine, a book, which though it be not outwardly trimmed with gold, yet inwardly it is of more worth than precious stones. It will teach you to live it will learn you to die … Trust not that the tenderness of your age shall lengthen your life for as soon as God will goeth the young as the old. Labour always and learn to die. Deny the world, defy the devil, and despise the flesh.”

Jane had been prepared to die. She was a fierce believer in martyrdom,, idealism over pragmatism. Katherine on the other hand, likely convinced by her mother, accepted the Catholic Faith as the remaining members of her family.

Sources:

  • Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery by Eric Ives
  • Tudor by Leanda de Lisle
  • Sisters Who Would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle

An Execution Delayed

Jane Grey Victorian Portrait

On Friday, the ninth of February 1554, both Guildford and his wife, Jane Dudley nee Grey, were sentenced to die. However the sentence was delayed after Mary I had been convinced by her personal chaplain John Feckenham, that if Jane were to accept the Catholic Mass she would no longer be a threat. Mary, to the Spanish ambassadors’ view, had been deliberating on this matter for far too long, and she needed to act now if she wanted to remain on the throne. But Mary was indecisive. She finally agreed to her chaplain’s request. Feckenham arrived to the Tower and tried to convince Jane to accept the Mass and recognize Mary’s authority. She claimed as she had done before, that she and her parents had been nothing but tools in others’ schemes (aka John Dudley who had been abandoned by his friends as soon as the going got tougher); and that she recognized Mary as Queen, but she would not submit to her authority as long as she kept the Mass. Feckenahm and her disagreed over many other things but Mary’s chaplain recognized a great thinker in Jane and was sad to see hear of her death three days later.

Jane Grey HBC1

One of the many prayers that Jane had written down and probably said before Feckenham visited her, to give her courage, not to relinquish her beliefs: “Lord, though God and father of my life be merciful unto me lest I being brought too low should despair and blaspheme thee arm me, I beseech thee, with thy armor, that I may stand fast.” She told Feckenham that she welcomed her execution, because she gladly welcomed martyrdom and it was an opportunity to repent from her sins. And told Feckenham that she would be received into Heaven while he, although a great company, would go to hell unless he changed his opinions, but that nevertheless she prayed for him so that God “in the bowed of his mercy to send you his Holy Spirit for he has given you his great gift of utterance, if it pleased him also to open the eyes of your heart.”
Sources:
  • Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery by Eric Ives
  • Tudor by Leanda de Lisle
  • Sisters Who Would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle
  • On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway