Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey
Reign July 6/July 10, 1553 - July 19, 1553
Predecessor Edward VI
Successor Mary I
Spouse Lord Guilford Dudley
Issue None
Royal House Tudor
Father Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk
Mother Lady Frances Brandon
Born October 12, 1537
Died February 12, 1554

Lady Jane Grey (October 12, 1537February 12, 1554), a great-granddaughter of Henry VII of England, reigned de facto as Queen regnant of the Kingdom of England for nine days in 1553.

Jane's mother, Lady Frances Brandon, was the daughter of King Henry VIII's younger sister Mary and of her second husband Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Jane's status as a monarch remains controversial as her succession contravened an Act of Parliament (although this has also occurred in the case of other English monarchs). After her brief rule ended, however, the authorities revoked her proclamation as Queen.

Popular history sometimes refers to Lady Jane as "The Nine Days' Queen" (July 10July 19, 1553) or as "The Thirteen Days' Queen" (July 6July 19, 1553) — owing to uncertainties as to when she actually succeeded to the throne and when her deposition took place. Most commonly the tag occurs as "Nine Days". Historians have taken either the day of her predecessor's death (July 6) or that of her official proclamation as Queen (July 10) as the beginning of her short reign.

Lady Jane had a reputation as one of the most learned women of her day, and the historian Alison Weir describes her as one of "the finest female minds of the century".

Claim to the throne

Jane's claim to the throne came through her mother, Lady Frances Brandon, the daughter of Mary Tudor (herself a daughter of King Henry VII of England) and of her second husband, Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. Lady Frances, who lived until 1559, renounced her own claim to the throne in favour of her daughter.

According to the notion of male primogeniture, the Suffolks (Brandons and later Greys) comprised the junior branch of the heirs of Henry VII. The 1544 Act of Succession restored both Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession, even though the law continued to regard both of them as legal bastards. Furthermore, this Act authorised Henry VIII to alter the succession by his will. His last will re-inforced the succession of his three surviving children, and then declared that should none of his three children leave heirs, the throne would pass to heirs of his younger sister, Mary. His will excluded the descendants of his elder sister Margaret Tudor (whose claims had primacy over those of the Suffolks) owing to Henry's desire to keep the English throne out of the hands of the Scots monarchs.

Several Protestant nobles had become wealthy when Henry VIII closed the Catholic monasteries and divided the Church lands and possessions among his supporters. John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, figured prominently among the Protestant nobility, and had acted as regent during the reign of Henry's son, Edward VI. Fearing a return to Catholicism (and the consequent prospect of losing his wealth and power), Northumberland led a faction that, when it became clear Edward VI would not survive long, would ensure the accession of a Protestant instead of the Catholic Mary Tudor. Northumberland hastily arranged for his son Guilford Dudley to marry Jane, hoping through him to gain control over his new daughter-in-law and the reins of England. When informed by her parents of her betrothal, Jane refused to obey: she regarded Guilford as ugly and stupid. Scholars today still scratch their heads over what made this seemingly quiet and obedient girl go completely against precedent and refuse her parents' marriage arrangements. Jane's refusal notwithstanding, her parents forced her into submission.

The question of the succession had arisen as a result of the religious unrest that had prevailed during the reign of Henry VIII (1509 – 1547). When his Protestant successor Edward VI lay dying at the age of 15, his Roman Catholic half-sister Mary held the position of Heir Presumptive to the throne. However, Edward VI named the heirs of his father's sister Mary Tudor (not his own half-sister Mary) as his successors in a will composed on his deathbed under the persuasion of Northumberland. He knew that this effectively left the throne to his favored cousin Jane Grey, who (like him) staunchly supported Protestantism and had a very high level of education.

At the time of Edward's death, without Edward's will (which had dubious legal standing, since it ran contrary to the Act of Succession of 1544), Jane stood fourth in line to the throne, after Mary, Elizabeth, and Frances. Jane's claim to the throne therefore remained obviously weak.


Painting sometimes claimed to depict Lady Jane Grey; by an unknown 16th century artist
Painting sometimes claimed to depict Lady Jane Grey; by an unknown 16th century artist

Edward VI died on July 6, 1553. Northumberland had Lady Jane Grey proclaimed Queen of England during her stay at the New Inn, Gloucester on July 10, 1553, just four days later. According to some accounts, Northumberland tricked Jane into putting on the crown; however, she refused to name her husband as king, titling him instead the Duke of Clarence. This infuriated the Dudleys, and Guilford's mother counseled him to refuse to share Jane's bed and to leave her castle. She had the castle guard stop him, and told him what he did at night did not concern her, but that during the day he belonged at her side.

Northumberland faced a number of key tasks in order to consolidate his power. Most importantly, he had to isolate (and ideally capture) Mary in order to prevent her from gathering support around her. Mary, however, advised of his intentions, took flight, sequestering herself in Framlingham Castle in Suffolk.


Mary I proved to have more popular support than Jane, partly because of the continuing sympathy for the treatment her mother (Catherine of Aragon) had received at the hands of Henry VIII. Mary amassed a body of 20,000 men at Framlingham Castle which marched to London and deposed Jane. There then initially seemed some likelihood that Mary, who had now taken the throne, would spare Jane's life. Queen Mary sent John de Feckenham to Lady Jane in an attempt to convert her to Catholicism.


The Protestant rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt in the first months of 1554 sealed Jane's fate despite the fact that she had nothing to do with it directly. Wyatt's rebellion started as a popular revolt, precipitated by the imminent marriage of Mary to the Catholic Philip II of Spain (1556 – 1598). But Jane's father, the Duke of Suffolk, and other nobles joined the rebellion, calling for Jane's restoration as Queen. Philip and his councillors pressed Mary to execute Jane to put an end to any future focus for unrest. Mary offered Jane a pardon if she would convert to Catholicism, but Jane refused. Five days after Wyatt's arrest the execution of Jane and Guilford took place.

On the morning of February 12, 1554, the authorities took Guilford Dudley from his rooms at the Tower of London to the public execution place at Tower Hill and had him beheaded. A horse cart carried his remains back to the Tower of London, past the rooms where Jane remained as a prisoner. Jane was then taken out to Tower Green, inside the Tower of London, for a private execution. (With few exceptions, private executions applied to royalty alone; Jane's private execution occurred at the request of Queen Mary, as a gesture of respect for her cousin.) John de Feckenham, who had failed to convert Jane, stayed with her during the execution. Jane had determined to go to her death with dignity, but once blindfolded, could not find the executioner's block. She had begun to panic when an unknown hand, possibly de Feckenham, helped her find her way and retain her dignity in the end.

The "traitor-heroine of the Reformation" died at the age of 16 years. No record survives to indicate that her mother made any attempt, request or otherwise, to save her daughter's life; and Jane's father already awaited execution for his part in the Wyatt rebellion. Jane and Guilford lie buried in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula on the north side of Tower Green. Queen Mary lived for only four more years after she ordered the death of her cousin Jane.

Queen Mary imprisoned but subsequently pardoned Northumberland's other sons John, Ambrose, Henry and Robert for their part in their father's scheme.

Lady Jane Grey in culture



  • Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary - anonymous primary source
  • Children of England - Alison Weir
  • Nine Days Queen of England - Faith Cook
  • Lady Jane Grey: Nine Days Queen - Alison Plowden

Preceded by:
Edward VI
Queen of England
July 10 - July 19, 1553
(de facto reign)
Succeeded by:
Mary I
Queen of Ireland
July 10 - July 19, 1553
(de facto reign)
Monarchs of England
Alfred | Edward the Elder | Ethelweard | Athelstan | Edmund I | Edred | Edwy | Edgar I | Edward the Martyr | Ethelred | Sweyn I*† | Edmund II | Canute*† | Harthacanute* | Harold I | Edward the Confessor | Harold II | Edgar II | William I | William II | Henry I | Stephen | Matilda | Henry II | Richard I | John | Henry III | Edward I | Edward II | Edward III | Richard II | Henry IV | Henry V | Henry VI | Edward IV | Edward V | Richard III | Henry VII | Henry VIII‡ | Edward VI‡ | Jane‡ | Mary I‡ | Elizabeth I‡ | James I‡§ | Charles I‡§ | Interregnum | Charles II‡§ | James II‡§ | William III‡§¶ and Mary II‡§ | Anne‡§
* Also Monarch of Denmark | † Also Monarch of Norway | ‡Also Monarch of Ireland | § Also Monarch of Scotland | ¶ Also Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland, Overijssel and Drenthe

Most of Wikipedia's text and many of its images are licensed under the
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-SA)

Return to Main Index