Queen of England
Born: ABT Oct 1537, Bradgate, Leicestershire, England
Died: 12 Feb 1554, Tower of London, London, England, beheaded
Father: Henry GREY (1° D. Suffolk)
Mother: Frances BRANDON (D. Suffolk)
Married: Guildford DUDLEY 21 May 1553, Durham House, London, England
See her at The Queen Gallery
Lady Jane's father was Henry Grey, third Marquis of Dorset, the son of Thomas Grey, second Marquis of Dorset. In 1530 he took possession of Bradgate, a mansion which combined the amenities of a hunting-palace with the comforts of a private villa. The birthplace of Jane and her sisters overlooked six miles of park and is situated five miles from the city of Leicester. A rather uncertain and hazardous existence at court and in the French wars, alternating with abortive intrigue for further favours, had given Dorset ambition without stability of purpose. He had competed for wealth and position with only moderate success. In these days of the rising "new men" he counted himself to the old nobility: for his grandfather, the first Marquess, was the son of Elizabeth Woodville and therefore the stepson of Edward IV, Henry VIII's maternal grandfather.
Three years after he succeeded, young Dorset married Frances Brandon in the chapel of his London house in Southwark. This lady's ancestry combined royal and middle-class blood and, from her husband's point of view, her kinship with the King was of incalculable value; its results were to prove fatal to every member of the family but herself.
Frances Brandon was the elder daughter of Charles Brandon Duke of Suffolk (a country gentleman ennobled by Henry VIII) and Henry's younger sister, Mary Tudor, formerly Queen of France, whose marriage to Louis XII lasted three months, leaving her free to give her hand to Suffolk as soon as her period of mourning was over. This young man, Lady Jane's maternal grandfather, was an extremely shady character. He had divorced two wives and buried a third before he married the Queen Dowager, by whom he had two daughters, Frances and Eleanor. In 1533 Mary died and about two years later, in 1535, Brandon married a fifth wife, Lady Catherine Willoughby, B. d'Eresby, by whom he had two sons.
By that time Frances and Henry Grey had been married two years and she had borne him a son who died a few months later; a daughter followed, who also died. Lady Jane was born in the same year and the same month - the exact date in Oct 1537 is not recorded - as Edward VI, Henry's son by his third wife, Jane Seymour. Although the Dorsets were disappointed at not having a son, they had important plans for Jane. From their point of view, the dynastic situation was promising, and they were bent on getting the most out of it.
Edward VI, who was to succeed Henry VIII in 1547 at the age of nine, was regarded by many and possibly by Henry himself as his only rightful heir; for his half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, had both been declared illegitimate. Some years before Henry died he caused Parliament to pass an Act which enabled him to leave the crown by will and thus, if he saw fit, to cut out his two daughters. In fact, he did not do so. In his will he left the crown to Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, in that order. In the event of none of them having any heirs the succession came to Frances Dorset and her children, and then to her younger sister Eleanor, and hers. So in 1547 Jane was, presumptively, fifth in line for the English throne. (Henry cut out the descendants of his elder sister, Margaret Queen of Scotland, for reasons that have never been explained. But his war with Scotland and the Franco-Scottish alliance may have been the cause).
Jane's parents brought her up, not only with the rather remote possibility of her becoming Queen Regnant in view, but also with the idea that she might marry her Cousin Prince Edward - for althoug Henry VIII was negociating a foreign alliance for him within a few months of his birth, none of these schemes materialized. And so, during the last years of Henry's reign, the Dorsets' hopes for Jane rose very high, and her education was conducted accordingly. Intellectually, she was trained as if she had been a boy; but her parents' treatement of her destroyed much of the happiness she might have derived from such a training; for Frances Dorset was a harsh, grasping, brutal woman who dominated her capricious husband. That these characteristics were shown comparatively early is proved by her attitude towards Jane and her sisters - Catherine was born in 1539 and Mary four years later - whose sex she could not forgive.
It was inevitable that such a woman should rule, even if discreetly, the husband whom his contemporaries described as "young, lusty and poor...with little or no experience" and "a senseless creature", although others praised his love of learning, his generosity and his lack of pride. But Dorset was as casually selfish as his wife was cunning and predatory; and their care for their daughters' education sprang, not from aesthetic or intellectual standards, but from their obsession with material advantages and a desire to be in fashion. Frances ambitions were political, and her temperament was that of a restless, permanently dissatisfied schemer. She was constantly on the move, in order to keep in touch with her richer friends and her Tudor relations. she was much more fitted than Dorset to adapt herself to the ever-changing patterns of religious and political movements controlled by Henry VIII.
In the years immediately before and after Lady Jane's birth these patterns followed a course which was to affect her whole career: By the end of the 1530s, religio-political dissension had divided the ruling classes in three parties, who were striving with one another. The first was that of the papalist, who had condemned the nullity suit brought by Henry against Catalina de Aragon and had tried to withstand Parliament's declaration of his supremacy over the Church, this party was in a minority. The second, the largest and most powerful, was that of the Henricians; they had approved the nullity suit and the king's second marriage and were Catholic in everything but obedience to the Pope. The third party, which was beginning to form when Jane Grey was born and was not described as Protestant till her tenth year, became effective as she grew up. It was of course looked on as heretical and criminal by the other two, although Henry himself patronized some of its leaders; it attracted those interested in the New Learning (of which Jane was to become so famous an example), including her tutors; it put her and her parents in touch with continental and Calvinist intellectuals.
Meanwhile the King, who burnt heretics and hanged or beheaded those denying his supremacy, controlled all three parties through ruthlessness, subtlety and prescience.
As the moods and tenses of Henry's policy were reflected in the
actions, so Jane's education and point of view were gradually and indirectly
affected by such events as the redistribution of monastic lands, the translation
of the Bible, the failure of the King's fourth and fifth marriages and the
installation of his last wife. Catherine
Parr's influence indeed was one
of the most important influences in Jane's life; but she did not come under it
until her tenth year. Before then - by the age of five - she had acquired some
social experience, and was being trained in public behaviour.
Henry and Frances Dorset were robust and energetic. They spent a great deal of time out of doors and lead a healthy, busy life. The routine that suited them was sometimes too strenous for their daughters, of whom much was required, with the result that both Catherine and Jane were apt to succumb to nervous exhaustion. Mary's birth amounted almost to a disaster: she was a hump-backed dwarf and was very ugly. but although she might prove, in spite of her Tudor blood, to be unmarriageable, they did their best for her by giving her the same education as her sisters and took her about with them. But her futur remained a problem.
Catherine was the beauty of the family. Jane was small, light-haired and neatly made. Her skin was very fair and soon became permanently freckled. But as soon as she passed the first stage of her education she showed herself to be gifted in so many ways that her freckles were overlooked.
Jane was treated as a princess. She and her sisters took their mother's rank; she was adressed as "the Lady Jane", met the King's daughters on equal terms and received the same training. Her background and way of life were more luxurious than those of Mary and Elizabeth, who were brought up economically and sometimes in real hardship. Bradgate was palatial. Its interiors reflected the magnificence, and the modernity, of its outward planning. Dorset's father had been one of the pioneers of the new architecture which provided homes built for the enjoyment of wealth and ease, without regard of defence.
Those who, like the Dorsets, had resident physicians and were able to consult the King's doctors if they wished, were in fact less fortunate than the poorer classes with their homeopathy and herbal remedies. For English medical standards were very low. This may partly have accounted for the tuberculosis which killed Catherine at twenty-eight, and for Jane's nervous debility.
Yet the time-table they began to follow as soon as they could read - from the age of three or four - was not really taxing, for they kept early hours and had plenty of sleep. In country-houses the day began with prayers at six, followed by a breakfast of bread, ale and meat. The young people, having visited their parents, then worked at Greek and Latin till dinner-time. Music, modern languages and classical or Biblical reading lasted till supper; then the girls danced or sat down to their needlework before going to bed at nine. Once or twice a week this programme might be set aside for a whole day's hunting, hawking, or an expedition into Leicester, to be entertained by the mayor and the local gentry.
In her sixth year Lady Jane can be visualized as a girl of twelve or thirteen would be today, able to interchange a few simple Latin phrases and to read Miles Coverdale, Bishop of Exeter's Bible to herself. Her nurse, Mrs Ellen, was now her attendant, and helped her other maids to dress her in clothes which exactly copied her elders. In the 1540s these were very elaborate. her favourite hobby was music. She would have liked to practise lute, harp and cithern for more hours than were allowed, and became interested in composition. In her seventh year her first tutor, Dr Harding, began her Greek, Spanish, Italian and French lessons; these had to be fitted in with the writing-master's visits and the time spent learning, not only the Court galliards and pavanes themselves, but the symbolism underlying their movements. It was a full life and, in spite of Frances' harshness, perhaps even a happy life. Then, between her eighth and ninth birtdays, the pattern changed. Her parents' plans for her future materialized. She was sent away from home for two years.
The English custom of boarding out young children consisted of sending those children to larger and wealthier establishments so that they might acquire the habits of the fashionable world. As the Dorsets' position was one of the highest, the only way of raising Jane's social status was to place her with Queen Catherine Parr. They therefore brought her to the notice of the King as soon as it was feasible. The Lady Frances, who was frequently at Court, made it her business to be on friendly terms with the Queen. By the time Henry VIII's health began to fail, and he withdrew from the bustle of Westminster and Whitehall to the comparative seclusion of Windsor and Hampton Court - between the spring of 1546 and his death in Jan 1547 - the tenor of life in his palaces had so changed that it would have been difficult to introduce his great-niece into the Queen's household. Although it is not clear when Jane left Bradgate, she became known to the Queen, Prince Edward and the Princesses before Henry died. By the time the boy King succeeded and his step-mother had taken up partial residence at Chelsea Palace, Jane had joined her household, and was given precedence of all but her cousins as a princess of the blood.
Her education was thenceforth set in a mould which suited her so well that she never diverged from it. Her establishment in the Queen's circle came at the impressionable age of nine and a half, and its influence prevailed on throughout her life. Catherine Parr, one of the most intelligent and charming women of her day, was, temperamentally, the antithesis of Jane's mother Frances. That Jane became attached to her is obvious, if only her letters and conversation were to reflect those of her kind and gentle patroness, whose character and career were a typical product of the English Reformation.
When she married Henry VIII in Jul 1543, Catherine Parr. Childless, elegant, wealthy and accomplished, she was an ideal wife and stepmother. She was converted to Protestantism, and her house at Wimbledon became the center of an advanced and learned coterie which included Coverdale, Cranmer and Anne Askew. During this time Catherine was courted by and fell in love with Thomas Seymour, Lord High Admiral of England and the brother of the late Queen Jane Seymour, Edward VI's mother. Catherine had been on the point of accepting him when Henry VIII required her hand. So the Admiral, whose career was disastrously intermingled with that of Lady Jane, had to be dismissed. Although he was attached to the Court and well-treated by the King, his position and power counted as nothing beside those of his elder brother, Edward Seymour, who, at his nephew's accession, became Duke of Somerset and Protector of the realm.
Under Somerset's dictatorship, which lasted from 1547 to 1550 - from Jane's eleventh to her fourteenth year - the Protestants, or Reformers, as they preferred to be called, suddenly came into their own, and the pattern of Jane's religious beliefs was accepted and put forward by a number of distinguished and successful persons, including Cheke, Ascham, her future father-in-law John Dudley and several other members of the Council. Although Protestantism then made little or no appeal to the bulk of the English people, its impact on such young and enthusiastic intellectuals as Jane was immediate, violent and lasting. Apart from its denial of certain long-established dogmas, of which the most vital was the Real Presence in the Host, part of its power appears to have lain in its promotion of practical, non-mystical contact with the Deity. In Jane's spiritual life the question of losing herself in God did not arise. He seems, not so much to have spoken through her, as to have always been available for direct communication and instruction when called upon, with the result that her approach was not ecstatic, but confident and serene. The process of establishing the divine nearness was comparatively simple, requiring no intermediary.
This attitude was apt to breed a certain arrogance (very marked in Lady Jane), contempt for and horror of those who preferred the old ways, and, in the case of most young persons brought up as she was on the classics instinctive association of the platonic theories with the Protestant outlook. The Phaedo became Jane's favourite Dialogue after she left Catherine Parr's circle; some of its key passages exactly reflect her and her contemporaries' opinions about death, as expressed by Socrates before taking the hemlock from the hands of the executioner. "I ought to be grieved at death," he is reported to have said, "if I were not persuaded...that I am going to other gods who are wise and good...and therefore I do not grieve...The real philosopher has reason to be of good cheer when he is about to die...After death he may be able to obtain the greatest good in the other world...When I come to the end of my journey I shall obtain that which has been the pursuit of my life".
This immunity from terror was strengthened by the vision of an absolutely concrete heaven. There was hell too, of course, But, for the Protestants, no disagreeable interval of purgatory. And for such as Jane, the temptations to stray from righteousness and thus risk damnation were very few. Indeed they hardly occurred. Her interests were aesthetic and literary, she was neither worldly, grasping nor carnally minded. All she had to do therefore, in order to prepare for paradise, was to abjure and, when occasion required, to inveigh against the idolatry of the Mass and follow the teaching of those she admired most, while regarding herself a sinner who could yet count on admittance to the celestial city. With this ineffable rapture ahead and the newly discovered intoxication of philosophic inquiry to feed on while waiting for it, mundane pleasures were easily rejected.
So the education of this remarkable girl intensified its pressure, hardening and crystallizing her outlook. Demure, retiring but not shy, Lady Jane listened and learned, finding the happiness and warmth in the Queen Dowager's company she had never been given at home. Then the pleasant rhythms of life at Chelsea and Whitehall - where Catherine had a suit of rooms next to the King's privat rooms - were suddenly destroyed. Intrigue and passion broke up the household, and at the age of eleven Jane lost the first person who had ever been kind to her...
A few weeks after the death of Henry VIII the Lord Admiral reappeared in Catherine Parr's life. Very soon he was visiting her secretly at Whitehall and in her country palace of Chelsea. Jane was now a member of the Court circle: a silent, background figure, she yet had importance, not only because of her status but because her intellectual powers were already apparent. She was considered extraordinarily advanced for her age. No one then, least of all the King's tutors, would have admitted that she surpassed him - her development shows that she did, and also that she might be a match for him in more than one sense.
It now ocurred to the Admiral that he was the very person to arrange an alliance between the cousins. His doing so woul diminish the prestige of the Protector, who was carrying out the late King's policy of obtaining a french or Spanish princess for his nephew. Seymour consulted Dorset, and they agreed to work together on the scheme.
Meanwhile, the Admiral pursued a number of his own: the first was to ruin the Protector, of whom he was bitterly jealous. The second was to find an heiress for himself. He proposed marriage to Anne of Cleves, the Duchess of Richmond, the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth, and Catherine Parr. Catherine's love for him had never died and she encouraged his advances. The Admiral then set about subjugating the King - an easy matter for Somerset was over-strict with him - and began to form a party against his brother. So Jane was plunged in the midst of a palace intrigue spun around herself, the Queen Dowager and the boy King by Seymour and his allies, of whom the principal was her own father.
Thomas Seymour was high-spirited, violent, bold and unscrupulous. To be successful, such persons must have good looks, accomplishments and immense physical vitality. The Admiral had all these, in addition to many of the graces, without the qualities, of a fine gentleman. His boisterous humour was combined with an instinctive realization of what people wanted. If it suited him, he provided it. To Edward VI, who complained that his elder uncle kept him short of money, he gave presents of money, he made Catherine feel both royal and desirable by the mingled courtliness and fervour of his approach, he excited Elizabeth by his charm, and for Lady Jane, who had never known parental love, he seems to have produced the warmth and gaiety, perhaps even the spoiling ways of an indulgent uncle. Edward, less intellectually advanced but more acute in his judgment of people than his cousin, soon perceived the Admiral's falsity. Jane did not, as will presently appear.
When Jane had been with the Queen Dowager for some months, Dorset, who seems to have been pushing his interests from his London house, began to grow impatient. He talked of removing Jane from the Admiral's household if nothing were done about the marriage. At last, Seymour sent one of his gentlemen, Harington, to reassure him. Still nothing happened. Finally Dorset went to the Admiral's house in Seymour Place and had a talk with him in the garden, out of the hearing of the servants. Seymour was full of promises and schemes. But if Dorset was so foolish as to remove the Lady Jane, they would never be realized. He must have her guardianship - and he was willing to pay for it. What Dorset later described as "certain covenants" were then agreed upon. They resulted in Seymour's paying Dorset some hundreds on account of the £2,000 that would be his if Jane was officially contracted to Edward VI. But the Admiral took no practical steps, for the Protector, as Edward's Governor, was in absolute control. It would not do for Dorset to know this, however. He continued to make Dorset "fair promises", and Jane stayed on.
Till Jane came under the Queen Dowager's care, she had been neither praised nor loved. (The famous eulogies of ascham and others were still to come) Now her situation changed. Catherine grew very fond of her; she and Edward, exactly of an age, found many tastes in common. And as the rumours of her being married to him began to spread, she received a great deal of admiration and flattery. This atmosphere of adulation may have been enhanced by the fact that the Protector, from whom his brother's schemes had so far been concealed, was considering a marriage between Jane and his eldest son Edward, Lord Hertford. But Edward's mind was set, either on a continental alliance or on his father's plan of contracting him to the five-year-old Queen of Scots, Mary Stuart.
Meanwhile Catherine was persuaded by the Admiral to marry him secretly. They confided in the King, whose approval and support would protect them from the wrath of Somerset and the Privy Council. By the end of May 1547 all was known, and the Protector, although much displeased, had forgiven his younger brother. A year passed happily and uneventfully for Jane, perhaps because Seymour's plans for her marriage to his nephew did not materialize, and she moved with the Queen Dowager from one splendid palace to another - Hanworth, Chelsea, Whitehall. In the summer of 1548 she retired with Catherine to the Admiral's property of Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire. There the Queen gave birth to a daughter and died eight days afterwards of puerperal fever. Then the clouds began to gather round Lady Jane.
Although the Admiral had ceased to make any pretence of affection for the wife who had risked so much for him already several months before her death, she left him all her possessions wishing "that they had been a thousand times more than they were". So did the Admiral; for he was always short of money and now his situation had become really desperate. He was no nearer his combined scheme of ousting the Protector and marrying Lady Jane to the King. He left Gloucestershire before the funeral, hurrying back to London to get in touch with Edward, and Jane was chief mourner at the ceremonies in the Chapel of Sudeley Castle.
As soon as he heard of the Catherine's death, Dorset sent for Jane to his London house, and Seymour seemed rather relieved that she should go. At any rate, he consented to her departure and she remained with her parents for a little while. The letters that passed between them and the Admiral during the next few weeks make it clear that they had perceived a change in her. She was no longer the docile, little creature they had known at Bradgate. Dorset did not like this development and neither did his wife. What concerned them much more, however, was the Admiral's failure to arrange her marriage, and they decided to cut their losses and remove her permanently from his charge. Seymour then visited them and insisted that all would yet be well, if they would let her come back to him. "As he would have no nay," said Dorset afterwards, "we were contented she again return to his house," and Lady Jane and her attendants accompanied the Admiral to Hanworth. Seymour wanted to keep her indefinitely while doing nothing about her marriage. She was an asset. Her presence in his household raised his status. To Parry, Princess Elizabeth's treasurer, he confided a secondary scheme. "There hath been a tale of late," he said, "they say now I shall marry my Lady Jane," adding with his great laugh, "I tell you this but merrily - merrily".
Seymour might have succeeded in putting off Dorset, but Frances was not so easily satisfied. She began to worry too, about her daughter's position - who was chaperoning her? Seymour answered her objections in a soothing latter to her husband. He was keeping on all his wife's maids and could therefore provide suitable attendants for Jane. Also, his mother, old Lady Seymour, had arrived, "who will, I doubt not, be as dear to Jane, as though she were her own daughter." He added that he and the Dorsets must meet to discuss the matter as soon as he returned from Court. When they did so, Seymour renewed his promises. At first, Dorset did not whish to leave Jane with the Admiral, then he hesitated. At least Frances Dorset wrote, thanking Seymour for his offer. They would continue to take his advice about Jane's future - i. e. her marriage with the King, but he must trust her as "his good sister" to know what was best for their own child. Once more the Admiral had to plead for her guardianship. Dorset replied with a description of her development. In fact, Dorset thought that Jane had been spoilt and was becoming unmanageable. It seems that Lady Jane had changed, from the Dorsets' point of view, for the worse. Perhaps the strength of character which was to surprise so many was now apparent beneath her quiet exterior.
Again, she returned to her parents. And before they were again persuaded by
Harington and Seymour to give her up, she herself wrote to the Admiral,
formally, as the occasion required, yet beneath the stiff phrases the desire for
his company is clearly seen.
She returned to the Admiral's care at about the time of her twelfth birthday. BEF she did so Dorset received another five hundred pounds. The Dorsets were now committed to the Admiral's cause. they found themselves involved in a conspiracy to overthrow the government and seize the person of the King. Among the plotters was Sir William Sharington, Master of the Mint, who by issuing worthless coins supplied some of the funds. Another was the late Queen's brother, William Parr, now Marquess of Northampton, to whom the Admiral said, "There will be much ado for my Lady Jane. My lord Protector and my lasdy Somerset will do what they can to obtain her of my Lord Marquess Dorset for my Lord of Hertford. But they shall not prevail therein," he went on, "for my Lord Marquess hath given her wholly to me..."
The Admiral was now determined to raise the country against his brother - why did not Dorset join him? Dorset did not follow Seymour, preferring to fall back on the Protector's half-promise that Lord Hertford should marry Jane.
Between the autumn of 1548 and Jan of the following year the Admiral's schemes became more daring and widespread. He ignored all warnings, including those of his friends on the Privy Council. But the Admiral would not accept that the King had seen through him - it was his brother's fault that he could not obtain access to His Majesty. By this time Sharington had collected £10,000 and the rising was planned - in the Admiral's brain, at least. Still nothing happened. No one would join him in the first move. At last, maddened by the King's withdrawal and his allies' pusillanimity, Seymour broke into the King's bedchamber, apparently with the intention to kidnap him. He was seized, atteinted, and executed a few weeks later. As soon as he was arrested the Dorsets removed Lady Jane to Bradgate, having supplied the Privy Council with all the evidence they needed and thus exculpating themselves.
For the next three years Jane remained with her parents. In their eyes she was now a symbol of failure and a wasted effort - and they treated her accordingly.
In the winter of 1553, when Lady Jane had been living
at home for a year, Roger Ascham's tutorship of the Princess Elizabeth
came to an end, and he was sent to the Low Countries as secretary to Sir
Richard Morison, Edward VI's Ambassador to
Carlos V. Ascham was
thirty-five, and his book Toxophilus had made his name in Protestant and
intellectual circles. Among his many friends were Haddon, now the Dorsets' chaplain, and
Aylmer, their daughters' new tutor. BEF leaving
England, Ascham accepted an invitation to stay at Bradgate.
Riding across the park , he observed that the Dorsets and their household were out hunting. In need of rest after his journey, he went on to the house and asked if anyone was at home. Only my Lady Jane was within doors, he was told; and he was ushered into her room.
Then followed one of the most famous conversations in English history, recorded by Ascham in the vivid, informal style which made his work popular. He recalled his conversation with Lady Jane Grey in The Scholemaster (The Schoolmaster):
"Before I went into Germanie, I came to Brodegate in Lecetershire, to take my leaue of that noble Ladie Iane Grey, to whom I was exceding moch beholdinge. Hir parentes, the Duke and Duches, with all the houshould, Gentlemen and Gentlewomen, were huntinge in the Parke: I founde her, in her Chamber, readinge Phadon Platonis in Greeke, and that with as moch delite, as som ientleman wold read a merie tale in Bocase. After salutation, and dewtie done, with som other taulke, I asked hir, whie she wold leese soch pastime in the Parke? smiling she answered me: I wisse, all their sporte in the Parke is but a shadoe to that pleasure, that I find in Plato: Alas good folke, they neuer felt, what trewe pleasure ment. And howe came you Madame, quoth I, to this deepe knowledge of pleasure, and what did chieflie allure you vnto it: seinge, not many women, but verie fewe men haue atteined thereunto. I will tell you, quoth she, and tell you a troth, which perchance ye will meruell at. One of the greatest benefites, that euer God gaue me, is, that he sent me so sharpe and seuere Parentes, and so ientle a scholemaster. For when I am in presence either of father or mother, whether I speake, kepe silence, sit, stand, or go, eate, drinke, be merie, or sad, be sowyng, plaiyng, dauncing, or doing anie thing els, I must do it, as it were, in soch weight, mesure, and number, euen so perfitelie, as God made the world, or else I am so sharplie taunted, so cruellie threatened, yea presentlie some tymes, with pinches, nippes, and bobbes, and other waies, which I will not name, for the honor I beare them, so without measure misordered, that I thinke my selfe in hell, till tyme cum, that I must go to M. Elmer, who teacheth me so ientlie, so pleasantlie, with soch faire allurementes to learning, that I thinke all the tyme nothing, whiles I am with him. And when I am called from him, I fall on weeping, because, what soeuer I do els, but learning, is ful of grief, trouble, feare, and whole misliking vnto me: And thus my booke, hath bene so moch my pleasure, & bringeth dayly to me more pleasure & more, that in respect of it, all other pleasures, in very deede, be but trifles and troubles vnto me. I remember this talke gladly, both bicause it is so worthy of memorie, & bicause also, it was the last talke that euer I had, and the last tyme, that euer I saw that noble and worthie Ladie. "
Ascham also described Jane Grey in his letter of 1550.
For four hundred years Lady Jane's celebrated attack on her parents has been used as an example of the harshness shown by sixteenth-century parents toward their children. What had she done - or not done - to arouse this brutaslity? In that age, young people of both sexes and all classes were flogged and knocked about, either for neglecting their lessons, or for disobedience, or for lapses of manner. Lady Jane could never have been guilty of laziness: by her own and her tutors' showing, her lessons absorbed her. She had been carefully trained at home and by Queen Catherine Parr in the social graces, and her piety demanded submission to her elders. Her vehement condemnation of her parents makes it clear that she was a burden to them, one they so bitterly resented as to be unable to let the smallest deviatin pass without turning upon her in an access of irritation. Apart from the fact that the plans for her marriage with the King were held up, in what other ways did she remind them, if only tacitly, that their ambitions were frustrated and their schemes destroyed? The answer seems to lie in Dorset's letter to the Admiral, written the year before ascham's visit to Bradgate. "She should...take too much her head...I seek the addressing of her mind to humility, soberness and obedience." Was he now seeking it in vain?
Three years later, Jane's refusal to give in over matters of principle showed an
endemic resistance to pressure: and this resistance, not unnaturally regarded by
her parents as obstinate and undiutiful, was already making itself felt.
Lady Jane gave Ascham a horrible picture of her home life. Yet her contribution to those ugly scenes must be considered: The Dorsets were great gamblers, and all the members of the household followed their example. Haddon and Aylmer protested in vain. And the quarrel continued as long as they remained under the Marquess' roof. Lady Jane, who modelled her conduct on her tutor's, must have allied herself with him against her parents.
Although Jane had been brought up in a sporting, games-playing family, all her tastes lay in the opposite direction. Reading, writing, music, were her passion. It may be that her withdrawal from outdoor pursuits, emphasized by the force of her personality and her powers of self-expression, was neither forgiven nor forgotten. Her way of life, admirable in the eyes of Roger Ascham and his friends, was not only antipathetic to the Dorsets, but in itself an act of defiance.
As her parents disliked and abused her, Jane avoided them and shut herself up
with her books. As their annoyance increased, so did her determination, and her
dependence on the learning and the culture which they had provided because it
was customary and, in a more worldly sense, beneficial.
That a girl of the mid-16th-century should be fascinated by philosophic inquiry, and especially by that branch dealing with the spiritual life, was very natural. Lady Jane's generation and type were not interested in narrative, or in personalities. Analysis, speculation (particularly on theological lines) and comparison of the classical with the Christian theories about survival after death and the way to salvation were, to her, more absorbing than any relation of fact. They led into the basis of her whole existence in this world and the next. She studied her faith - first through the Bible and then through the works of the fathers.
The standards and tastes of Lady Jane and her equals, derived from such thinkers and humanists as Erasmus and Sir Thomas More, had led them to a culture never yer equalled in the history of mankind, that of ancient Greece and Italy. The teachers patronized by the Tudors and the Dorsets had the gift of making learning exciting to young people. they followed Thomas Elyot's precept, that children should not "be enforced by violence to learn...but sweetly allured thereto with praises and pretty gifts".
Through Ascham, Aylmer and Haddon, Lady Jane began to correspond with Bucer, Zeingli, Ulmis and other German Calvinist and Zwinglian ministers, some of whom had lectured at Cambridge and were now her father's pensioners. Their first letters were to Dorset. But somehow, he was always occupied, or away. And so his eldest daughter took his place. It was still hoped by all these men that Jane's marriage with the King would be brought about and so they wrote to her as to a future Queen, in ecstatic admiration. She replied deprecating her intellectual unworthiness, but in the same strain. The Zürich Letters, as they came to be called, describe a mutual admiration society revolving around a lonely girl, whose principal outlet was this heady yet esoteric interchange.
Meanwhile, the disputes about gambling had caused an
uproar. The Dorsets were so annoyed about Haddon's interference with their
pleasure that he had to give in. Haddon told Bullinger: "I bear with
this out of compulsion...and deal tenderly with them".
This part of the correspondence reveals an important aspect of Jane's character. She was of the stuff of which the Puritan martyr is made: self-examinating, fanatical, bitterly courageous, and utterly incapable of the art of compromise in which the Tudors specialized. Jane, intellectually the most brilliant of an extraordinary dynasty, never developed the kind of sensitivity to the feelings of others which leads to a change of fronts. This disability was enhanced, if it had not been actually created, by the combination of her parents' dislike and her tutors' adulation. Alternately abused and toadied, caring only for the things of the mind, she developed a capacity for self-isolation highly uncharacteristic of her day, with the merciless intolerance which was its most unpleasant expression.
Once, on a visit to Henry VIII's daughter Mary, Jane openly disparaged Mary's Catholic beliefs. Although Mary was hurt, she later sent Jane a pretty velvet dress to wear to court. Jane, who thought fine clothes were sinful, tried to refuse the gift, saying it would be "a shame to follow my Lady Mary against God's word," but her parents insisted she wear it in the hope that it would impress the King. Many people expected Edward to marry Jane, but he wanted to marry Mary, Queen of Scots, or some other foreign princess.
By the time her days of study were over and she was forced to re-enter the world in which she had already failed, she was guided by a single ideal - the triumph of Protestantism over the old faith - and aware of one political factor, that she might one day become Queen of England. She was a Tudor first, a Grey afterwards, and a Protestant all the time.
By the time Jane was fifteen, her parents had abandoned their dream of marrying her to King Edward. Jane now believed that she was betrothed to the Duke of Somerset's son, Lord Hertford. But Somerset was imprisioned and his place taken by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, afterwards Duke of Northumberland. She was stunned when her parents informed her that she was instead to marry Guildford Dudley, the youngest son of the Duke of Northumberland. Guildford was a handsome young man, one year Jane's senior, but it seems Jane didn't like him very much. She refused to marry him, and went on refusing until her mother literally beat her into submission. The Dorsets were now "friends" of Northumberland, and the Marquess was elevated to the Dukedom of Suffolk, the title of his father in law.
Jane married Guildford Dudley in May of 1553. The marriage was consummated the following month at Northumberland's command, but the couple continued to live apart. Jane's new mother-in-law visited her on Jul 3 and told her, "His Majesty hath made you heir to his realm." Jane said later that this unexpected news "greatly disturbed" her.
Three days later the King died. Northumberland kept the death secret for several days to prevent Edward's sister Mary from claiming the crown. But on Jul 9 Mary, who was in Norfolk, heard the news and proclaimed herself Queen. On the same day Jane was takenby her sister -in-law, Mary Dudley, to Northumberland's house, the old monastery of Syon and led to a throne. Everyone bowed or curtsied to her. Realizing what was happening, Jane began to shake. Northumberland made a speech announcing that Jane was the new Queen, at which Jane fell on the floor in a brief faint. No one came to her assistance and she remained on the floor, sobbing.
Finally she got to her feet and announced, "The crown is not my right, and pleaseth me not. The Lady Mary is the rightful heir".
When her parents, husband, and father-in-law remonstrated with her, Jane dropped to her knees and prayed for guidance. She asked God to give her "such spirit and grace that I may govern to Thy glory and service, and to the advantage of the realm" Then she took her seat on the throne and allowed those present to kiss her hand and swear their allegiance to her.
The next day Jane made her state entry into London for her proclamation. Most people felt that Mary was the rightful heir to the throne, and very few cheers greeted Jane. She was taken to the Tower of London, as was traditional. She protested when the Lord High Treasurer, the Marquis of Winchester, brought her the crown, but after a while she agreed to wear it. When the treasurer said that another crown would be made for her husband, Jane was displeased. Despite Guildford's rage and tears, she insisted that she would not permit him to be King.
For a few days Northumberland stayed close to Jane, bringing her documents to sign and generally telling her what to do. Despite Jane's objection to making Guildford King, Northumberland announced that both she and her husband would be crowned in two weeks. Then Northumberland left with an army to capture Mary, who was marching toward London with an army of her own. While he was gone the nervous royal council decided to proclaim Mary the rightful Queen. The proclamation was made on Jul 19. The people of London were jubilant. Determined to save himself, Jane's father signed the proclamation making Mary Queen, then went to his daughter's apartments and tore down her canopy of estate, telling her she was no longer Queen.
"Out of obedience to you and my mother I have grievously sinned," Jane said quietly. "Now I willingly relinquish the crown. May I not go home?"- her quote on Wed 19th Jul when Suffolk came for her. Her father left without answering her.
Jane's arrival at the Tower was later recorded by a spectator, Baptisa Spinola, who also described her.
Jane remained in the Tower, where she and Guildford soon became prisoners. Her father and Northumberland were also arrested and brought back to the tower. Henry Grey was released after a few days. He and Frances did not write to Jane or try to save her life. Jane sent a letter to the Queen, giving a full and honest account of her nine days' reign. Although Northumberland hastily converted to Catholicism and spoke of his desire to live and kiss Mary's feet, he was executed in Aug.
On Nov 13 Jane and Guildford were tried and sentenced to death. Jane wasn't worried, however, because she had been told that the Queen would pardon her.
Then, in Feb of 1554, Sir Thomas Wyatt raised a revolt against Mary. On 2 Jan 1554, Carlos V's envoys arrived to iron out the details of a marriage contract to the Queen. But the people didn't want Mary married Felipe of Spain, Carlos son. Soon enough, word reached London of uprisings in the countryside - Carew in Devonshire, Wyatt in Kent, Crofts in Wales... The councilors were alarmed. And then word reached them that Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, had disappeared from his country home, Sheen. They had planned the uprising for Mar (when Felipe was due to arrive) but Courtenay, timid after years in the Tower, betrayed them. So the conspirators were forced into action. Carew could not raise his force without Courtenay's help so he fled to France and Crofts plans fell through. But, by the end of Jan, Wyatt had taken Rochester and the royal ships at the Medway. The Duke of Norfolk left with a force from London but many men deserted. Wyatt was encouraged and pressed on to London. For two days, the fate of the Spanish marriage hung in the balance. Londoners were undecided; Mary decided to sway the balance. She went to Guildhall and made a speech exhorting the Londoners to support her. She did so against the advice of her council for they feared for her safety. They needn't have worried. When Wyatt reached London, he found the bridge closed to him.
Mary had refused to let the Tower guns be turned on the traitors. She feared the innocent citizens of Southwark would be harmed if they were fired. The rebels eventually surrendered but Mary had learned a valuable lesson - she discovered the depth of her subjects' hatred of the Spanish marriage. But it did not cause her to change her plans. She was bewildered and angry but also hurt. She had shown mercy and forgiveness and was rewarded by rebellion. She was now particularly susceptible to Renard's advice. Renard immediately questioned Mary's safety as well as Felipe's - would the prince be safe when rebellions were occurring throughout the nation? The Queen was exhorted to ensure his safety. She must do this by punishing the rebels so none would dare rebel again.
Renard's advice was supported by Mary's council. Inevitably, all her advisors urged Mary to execute Jane Grey. Wyatt had been supported by the vanished Henry Grey. When he had disappeared from Sheen, he had gone to raise an army against the Spanish marriage. But he gained little support. Grey owed his life to Mary's kindness and he responded by seeking to overthrow her. His intent was to lead men of the midland shires and join Wyatt near London. His actual course fell far short of this goal - he fled from one county to another until he reached his manor of Astley. He apparently hid in a tree trunk or under some hay; accounts vary. He was promptly arrested by the Earl of Huntingdon. Later, rumors spread that he had proclaimed Jane Queen during his ride through the midlands. This was untrue but it didn't matter. Jane had once been Queen and, as Mary's advisors put it, she would be the figurehead of any Protestant plot. Now he wrote to Jane and asked for her forgiveness. She wrote back, "Although it hath pleased God to hasten my death by you, by whom my life should rather have been lengthened, yet can I patiently take it, that I yield God more hearty thanks for shortening my woeful days." Once again, she was morally innocent but she was still dangerous. She had to die. To this, Renard added that Felipe could not arrive until the Protestant threat had been destroyed. All the opposition to her marriage had simply made the obstinate Mary more determined to marry Felipe. So the suspended sentence on Jane was revoked and she was condemned to die immediately.
The date of the execution was set for Friday 9 Feb 1554. Mary, who so hated executing her cousin, tried one last time to save her soul. She sent John Feckenham, dean of St Paul's, to Jane. He was given a few days to sway Jane to the Catholic faith. Jane, long deprived of intellectual company and theological debate, was polite. But she rebutted each of Feckenham's arguments with her own. Perhaps she relished this last chance to elucidate her precious faith. After hours of argument, she remained Protestant. But she had also come to like Feckenham very much. So she accepted his offer to accompany her to the scaffold and she promised to 'pray God in the bowels of his mercy to send you his Holy Spirit; for he hath given you his great gift of utterance, if it pleased him also to open the eyes of your heart'.
Feckenham's work had delayed the executions until Monday 12 Feb. Meanwhile, Jane was also preparing to die with as much grace and dignity she could summon. She chose her dress, composed her speech, and appointed the two members of her household who would accompany her and dispose of her body. She sent a letter to her sister Catherine.
The latter included a remonstration that his actions had hastened her death. But she did not write to her mother (nor did Frances attempt to visit her) or her husband. There exists a story that Guildford asked to see Jane before they died and that Mary granted his request. Jane, however, refused to see him, saying that they would meet in a better place, where friendships were happy. But there is no evidence the story is true. In fact, Jane and her husband showed no interest in seeing one another while in the Tower.
On Feb 11 Jane did watch from a window her husband's execution. He was taken from Beauchamp Tower at 10 o'clock in the morning and led to the execution area on Tower Hill. Jane stood by her window and watched as he went to his death. Guildford died with great courage and dignity and, when the cart rolled past carrying his corpse, at which she cried and muttered, "Oh Guildford! Guildford! Oh, the bitterness of death!' Perhaps she realized that he had been a victim, too. In any case, she saw his blood-splattered body, thrown atop equally stained straw, driven to St Peter-ad-Vincula; his head was wrapped in a cloth beside the body.
Jane watched as her husband walked to Tower Hill to be executed; later she saw his headless body being brought back to the Tower.
It was now Jane's turn to face death. She wore the same black outfit she had worn at her trial. She carried her prayer book in her hands; she was escorted by Sir John Brydges, the lieutenant of the Tower. Her nurse, Mrs Ellen, and her attendant, Mrs Tylney, also accompanied her. They both cried but Jane was calm and composed. She had, after all, watched her scaffold being erected near the White Tower (her rooms provided an excellent view of its construction). Since she was a princess of royal blood, her execution was private. Only a small crowd had been invited.
At the steps of the scaffold, he greeted Feckenham: 'God grant you all your desires and accept my own hearty thanks for all your attention to me. Although indeed, those attentions have tried me more than death can now terrify me.' She then ascended the steps and addressed the crowd. She admitted she had committed treason when she accepted the crown but 'I do wash my hands in innocency, before God and the face of you, good Christian people this day.' She wrung her hands and asked that they witness her death, and affirm that she died a good Christian. She ended with yet another indication of her strong Protestant faith; she said, 'And now, good people, while I am alive, I pray you to assist me with your prayers.' (Protestants, unlike Catholics, did not believe in prayers for the dead.) She then knelt and asked Feckenham, 'Shall I say this psalm?' She read the fifty-first psalm in English and he followed her in Latin.
After the prayer, she told Feckenham, 'God I beseech Him abundantly reward you for your kindness to me' She then rose to her feet and completed her final duties. She handed her gloves and handkerchief to her attendant, Mrs Tylney and her prayer-book to the lieutenant's brother, Thomas Brydges. She then began to untie her gown; as was the tradition, the executioner stepped forward. It was the custom that the victim's outer garments became the executioner's property. Perhaps Jane did not know this; or perhaps she was simply terrified as that masked figure came toward her. She stepped back and 'desired him to leave her alone'. Her attendants completed the unlacing. They then gave her a handkerchief to tie over her eyes. Next, the executioner knelt before her and begged her forgiveness. This, too, was a custom and one Jane had expected. She gave her forgiveness 'most willingly'.
Now there was nothing to do but end it all. The executioner asked her to stand upon the straw. Perhaps she saw the actual block for the first time. Her composure faltered for just a brief moment. She whispered, 'I pray you despatch me quickly,' and began to kneel. She hesitated and asked, 'Will you take it off before I lay me down?', referring to the blindfold. The executioner replied, 'No, madame' and so she tied the handkerchief around her eyes. She then knelt but, blindfolded, could not find the block. Her arms flailed about for several moments and she cried out, 'What shall I do? Where is it?' Those standing on the scaffold were hesitant - should they help her? A member of the crowd climbed the scaffold and helped her. He guided her hands to the block. She lowered her head and stretched forth her body; her last words were, 'Lord into thy hands I commend my spirit'. The executioner swung his axe and severed her head. Blood splattered across the scaffold and many of the witnesses. The executioner then lifted her head and said, 'So perish all the Queen's enemies. Behold, the head of a traitor'. It was the end of Lady Jane Grey. See an account of her execution from the anonymous Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary.
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