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’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”.
- 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