Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Dead 'Queen' Watch: Lady Jane Grey

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (by the French Romantic painter, Paul Delaroche, 1833, for the uncultured among you)

On the 12th February 1554, 452 years ago, a 16 year old, Lady Jane Grey was beheaded in the Tower of London as a traitor to the Crown. What did the Crown have to fear from one so young?

Well, to understand this one has to go back to the year of her birth 1537 - when another baby called Edward was also born. When he was ten, Edward became King of England after the death of his father Henry VIII but as he was so young England was really ruled by a series of 'Lord Protectors' - the last of whom was Lord Warwick - later the Duke of Northumberland. However Edward was a sickly boy and in 1553 - aged only 15 he began to fall very ill. Northumberland was a Protestant - and so was Edward - and so the search was on for a Protestant ruler to succeed Edward. The Duke of Northumberland, not wanting anyone old who might be capable of ruling without the help of a 'Lord Protector' forced Edward to pick his fifteen year old cousin - Jane - to be his successor. Jane, who was the grand-daughter of Henry VIII's youngest sister, Mary, had been brought up in the piously Protestant circle of Katherine Parr, Henry's sixth wife. To make sure he would still retain his hands on real power, Northumberland hastily arranged for his son Guilford Dudley to marry Jane, hoping through him to gain control over his daughter-in-law and the reins of England. When informed by her parents of her betrothal, Jane refused point-blank to obey because Guildford was ugly and stupid. Good for her! However, her refusal was ineffective, as her parents forced her into submission. This is a good example of why arranged marriages suck.

On the death of the young Edward in July 1553, Jane therefore became Queen. However, Northumberland had to move fast as the succession of Jane was a bit of a stitch up and really Edward's Catholic half-sister Mary had a better claim to the throne as set out in the will of Henry VIII. Jane was proclaimed Queen of England while staying at the New Inn, Gloucester on July 10, 1553, just four days after Edward's death. Jane did not want to be Crowned Queen - she must have seen through Northumberland as the scheming bastard he was - and according to some accounts, she was tricked into putting on the crown. However, in order to try and screw up the Northumberlands' plans for power, she refused to name her husband Guilford Dudley as King, titling him instead the Duke of Clarence. Genius! This insult infuriated the Dudleys, and Guilford was counseled by his mother 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 during the day, his place was by her side. In order to consolidate power, Northumberland tried to capture and isolate Mary in order to prevent her from gathering support around her. Mary, however, was advised of his intentions and took flight, sequestering herself in Framlingham Castle in Suffolk.

Mary however 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, and partly because Jane was only sixteen. Mary amassed a support of 20,000 men at Framlingham Castle and marched to London where Jane was deposed. Jane had 'reigned' for only nine days. After she was deposed, there seemed some likelihood that her life would be spared by Mary I, who had now taken the throne. She sent John de Feckenham to Lady Jane (as she was now called), in an attempt to convert her to Catholicism.

Mary I now prepared to marry the Catholic Philip II of Spain (1556–98), which sparked a Protestant rebellion under Sir Thomas Wyatt, in the first months of 1554. Jane's father, the Duke of Suffolk, and other nobles joined the rebellion, calling for Jane's restoration as Queen. Jane must have been well made up by this - being a pawn in a power game which she wanted no part of. Phillip of Spain and his councillors pressed Mary to execute Jane to put an end to any future focus for unrest. Nice guys. Mary offered Jane a pardon if she would convert to Catholicism, but all Jane really knew was the Protestant faith she had been brought up in and so she refused. Five days after Wyatt's arrest, on February 12 1554, Jane and Guilford were executed.



At 9:14 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...


thank you.

At 3:59 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was lead to believe lady jane grey was proclaimed queen from the gallery of the new inn gloucester.how much truth if any is in this tale.i myself stayed in the oak suite of the inn and even without these historical conotations found it to be a fantastic if terrifying experiance(try it for yourself if you arent scared of ghosts)


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