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A Tragic Anniversary

60 years ago today on the morning of 13th July 1955, Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain met her tragic end in Holloway Prison.

This event was to prove instrumental in changing attitudes on the punishment of women offenders and how the law dealt with them.

The murder of playboy racing driver David Blakely outside the Magdala public house in London’s fashionable district of Hampstead, shook a respectable neighbourhood to its core. It followed a very recent murder incident in the leafy suburb, which must have left residents thinking is it safe to live here?  The repercussions of this case resulted eventually in the abolition of the death penalty.

On the evening of 10th April 1955, David Blakely had been staying with his friends Anthony and Carol Findlater in their home a short walk from the Magdala when David and his pal Clive Gunnel went down the hill to the pub to get some more drink.

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Ruth Ellis it seems, suspected that Blakely had spent the weekend with a rival lover out in Berkshire, before returning to the Findlaters’ apartment. She had been waiting nearby for Blakely to appear. Only a couple of weeks earlier Ruth who had been pregnant with Blakely’s child had been badly beaten up by him whilst in a terrible rage, causing her to miscarry. Goaded by her rival suitor, a man called Desmond Cussen, Ruth had probably been driven to Hampstead by him, possibly in his privately owned taxi. Cussen is thought to have bought the taxi as a novel mode of transport.

Ruth Ellis had spent the previous Friday with Cussen and her son Andre on a practice mission in Epping Forest being shown how to handle Cussen’s ex-service revolver. A fruitless mission it seems, according to the young Andre, who would say that she failed not only to hit the target pinned to a tree, but couldn’t even hit the tree.

Realising that Blakely had gone down to the Magdala she followed in the taxi to  confront him. Armed with Cussen’s Smith and Wesson .38, she stopped him as he emerged from the pub. Ellis pointed the gun at him and fired. She missed, but as Blakely tried to take cover behind a parked car, another shot rang out, then another and another. All in all, five shots were fired and Blakely collapsed in a pool of blood. Unfortunately one of the bullets ricocheted and hit a passing woman on the finger, ironically this was to prove fatal for Ruth Ellis, as the fact that an innocent bystander was hit was enough for the judge to order the jury to convict and sentence her to death.

Ruth Ellis’s executioner was Albert Pierrepoint. He had been responsible for despatching over 460 condemned prisoners, but this event was one of the last he was to carry out. Siting a lack of payment over a later execution, he then retired. Some nearly seventeen years later, when visiting Ruth’s relocated grave during a press publicity stunt he broke down in tears over her grave.

Questions over the whole affair remain unanswered. Maybe they will never be answered. Was the whole affair an attempt by the “Establishment” to cover up a more important issue concerning the British Secret Services? There are strong suggestions that this may have been the case.  Did Ruth actually fire all the shots herself, or were they fired by someone else? From a parked vehicle perhaps? These questions were never examined at her trial. One woman who is tirelessly investigating the affair trying to seek the answers to those questions to this very day is author Monica Weller.

Monica co-wrote the autobiography of Ruth’s older sister Muriel Jakubait and has spent the last 12 years continuing to unearth clues as to the real happenings of that April day sixty years ago. The results have been staggering, truly mind boggling. Government secrets, MI5, spies and a famous espionage scandal that continued into the 1960’s. Monica has and continues to piece together the jigsaw which when the last piece is inserted, will present a completely different picture of the whole affair.

Learn more

If you would like to learn more about Monica’s findings we recommend her book and blog and if you would like to be notified of a very special event that London and UK Taxi Tours are organising with Monica Weller later this year then sign up to our newsletter here

In the meantime why not get a few friends together and tour the sites connected with this and other 20th Century crimes on one of our Murder Mystery Tours.

Ray Coggin is both a qualified Taxi Guide and a qualified City of Westminster Guide and leads both walking tours and taxi tours (both highlights tours and themed tours) around Central London and further afield. Details of his taxi tours can be found here.

The Children’s Magical Taxi Tour Charity Guided Walks

You may know that in addition to being a qualified Taxi Guide I am also a City of Westminster Guide and this July I will be leading  a pair of charity guided walks. The theme and purpose of these walking tours is not only to entertain you, but to raise funds for The Children’s Magical Taxi Tour to Disneyland Paris. This year, this wonderful event will take place for the 22nd year running.

This most worthy of causes is now an annual event that sees approximately one hundred London taxis take sick children from London on the trip of their lifetime to see the wonders of Disneyland. Many of these children are suffering from terminal diseases such as cancer and other such terrible afflictions.

London taxi drivers (via The Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers) organise many different charitable events each year like trips for veteran soldiers and other groups deemed in need of a bit of help.

A very hard working and dedicated group of London’s licensed taxi drivers, toil all throughout the year in order to make this happen. A large amount of money has to be raised to fund the trip, which last year cost in the order of £1400 per cab. These sums are raised by means of sponsorships and events held over the course of the year, in order to put very sick but very happy children in a cab and onto the ferry across the Channel to France.

The organisation of the trip is an enormous, but well perfected operation. The one hundred taxis are accompanied by support crews, which include ambulances, medical staff, The AA, technicians from taxi manufacturer London Taxi International, and at least fifteen Police officers from the City of London Police and the French Gendarmerie. All these people give up their time to assist on the trip.

Leaving London, the convoy has to be seen to be believed. On the Motorways it’s over three miles long. The snakelike procession makes its way inexorably through Kent on its way to Dover, only to be swallowed whole by a P&O ferry, before being disgorged into France.

On the French Autoroutes the convoy is escorted through the Toll Plazas and rolls on without delay as the City of London Police motorbikes hold up traffic under the authority of the Gendarmerie to allow unhindered progress. Of course the Police have no official authority in France, but they are respected just the same, often lying to motorists with “deux minutes s’il vous plaît”, knowing it’s more likely to take “dix minutes” to pass.

Along the way the children are met with cheering well-wishers, all waving them on and on arrival Disney characters line the streets to greet them. Throughout the stay, the children are entertained by the Disney characters and the kids’ faces tell their own story.

On the Saturday the children have the run of Disneyland, special arrangements having been made to avoid the long queues, so that the kids can get on as many rides as possible.

Even the anti-climax of the trip home is the whole logistical miracle in reverse as fuel and comfort stops are made with the precision not far short of a formula one team.

I will be leading two guided walks and all money raised from these walks will be donated to The Magical Taxi Tour charity (registered charity 1026395).

Walks with qualified Westminster Guides normally cost around £10 each.  As this is all about raising money for this most worthwhile of causes we would very much appreciate it, on behalf of the children, if you could donate a minimum of £8 per person.

Saturday 4th July 2pm to 4pm – The Reluctant Banqueteers and a Head on a Stick Charity Guided Walk – a guided walk around Victoria (more details on the link)

Saturday 25th July 2pm to 4pm – Sharks Teeth, Peter Pan and More of Secret Bayswater Charity Guided Walk  – a guided walk around Bayswater (more details on the link)

This is a unique opportunity not only to donate to a very worthy cause but also to be entertained for a couple of hours in two of the most famous but contrasting areas of London.

Ray Coggin is both a qualified Taxi Guide and a qualified City of Westminster Guide and leads both walking tours and taxi tours (both highlights tours and themed tours) around Central London and further afield. Details of his taxi tours can be found here.

Peter Stringfellow supports licensed taxis

Nightclub owner Peter Stringfellow today expressed his desire to help London’s licensed taxi trade in their fight for survival.

The screencaps below tell the story including his reply to me.   Follow him on Twitter to find out how he gets on.

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Comedian Ross Noble uses London and UK Taxi Tours from Heathrow

Amongst the furore of controversy that has beset the London taxi trade this year, with all the daily bile directed, quite justifiably against the regulating body Transport for London and the anger and frustration that they have caused, how refreshing that one of TV’s most popular comedians, Ross Noble, decided to take a licensed taxi after flying into Heathrow’s Terminal 5 from his home town of Newcastle.  Ross resisted the rows of touts in the terminal and the temptation of using a hailing app, making his way down to the rank to climb into one of the waiting taxis.

Luckily for yours truly, I was next in line when Ross in an almost apologetic tone, asked if it would be possible to take him to somewhere in Kent. I can tell you now that there wasn’t much in the way of resistance on my part. Ross had been inflicted with a bit of a croaky voice and gave me the address details before we moved off as he feared he wouldn’t be able to speak in the cab.

Needless to say the trip went without incident or delay and we arrived at Ross’s not inconsiderable country pile where he was magnanimous enough to pose for this picture before leaving the cab.

Ross Noble



100th Anniversary of The Sinking of RMS Lusitania

The Lusitania Disaster 7th May 1915.

During the few days before she was due to sail from New York to Liverpool the German Government had issued adverts in the press warning the public as to the dangers of travelling on the RMS Lusitania through a war zone.

Despite this the public chose to ignore the warnings in large numbers and she set sail on May 1st with 1266 passengers and a crew of 696. Although this was well short of her capacity of 2198 passengers and 850 crew, she was still well patronised despite the warnings.

This warning was published in American newspapers.


TRAVELLERS intending to embark on the Atlantic voyage are reminded that a state of war exists between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and her allies; that the zone of war includes the waters adjacent to the British Isles; that, in accordance with formal notice given by the Imperial German Government, vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of her allies, are liable to destruction in those waters and that travellers sailing in the war zone on the ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk.


Washington, D.C., April 22, 1915.

Built for the Cunard Line about five years before her rival White Star Line’s Olympic class ships, which included Titanic, Lusitania was a little smaller and was fitted with the new Steam turbine engines, whilst the White Star company fitted their ships with slower triple expansion engines, making the RMS Lusitania and her sister ship RMS Mauritania faster ships.

She had steamed event free for 5 days but it was feared that as she approached Europe that she should be afforded some protection from U-boat attack. No such cover was provided by the British.

The Germans viewed the ship as a hostile warship. She was carrying munitions and supplies destined for the Woolwich Arsenal and her decks had been modified with gun emplacements. Both Governments had defied the protocols put in place concerning commercial shipping, the Germans for attacking a passenger vessel and the British for loading it with munitions.

Only 240 miles from Liverpool and a bit over ten miles off the Old Head of Kinsale she ran across the path of U-20 at about 2.10pm. The U-boat captain, having been informed by his Government that the ship was a legitimate target, fired a single torpedo at the bow of the ship. This was a common tactic to stop commercial vessels, allowing time to take to the boats before sinking the target. On this occasion following the explosion at the starboard bow, a secondary explosion occurred from within the hull. This caused the ship to suddenly list to starboard and rapidly progressed the sinking process., with the loss of 1191 lives. Of the rescued survivors 3 died ashore from their injuries.

The subsequent inquiry is regarded as a cover up and did its best to pin the blame on the Lusitania’s captain. Winston Churchill the First Lord of the Admiralty at the time had only a few days earlier stated that it would be advisable to encourage foreign shipping into British waters, knowing that any attacks might expedite America’s entry into the war. At the time of the crisis he had taken himself off to Paris for the weekend and was unable to be contacted. No orders were given to provide escort, the rest is history

The effect of the tragedy was that public opinion in the USA swayed against the Germans but it was to be another two years before America joined the Great War.

Debut for Westminster Guide

I did something last Wednesday that I had spent a year in training for but had never actually carried out, owing to being too busy on other projects. However, it proved to be both an enjoyable and fulfilling experience leading a group of oil company executives on a tour of the Victoria/St. James’s area of Westminster.

We began at the St. James’ Court hotel in Buckingham Gate and spoke about the Emmanuel Hospital that had stood on the site for three hundred years until it was cleared to make way for the hotel, with the founding family’s Coat of Arms still represented on the gates of the hotel. One of my guests for the walk happened to be from Japan and his colleagues seemed a bit stunned as I spoke a bit of Japanese to him as we begun our tour. It was a bit of a bonus for me too as I have been getting less and less practice with the lack of Japanese tourists in London. I think due to the unfavourable exchange rate for Japanese people. Of course in reverse it is a great opportunity for us to go to Japan as it’s very affordable for us right now.

Our walk took in some of London’s most iconic tourist spots like Buckingham Palace and Westminster Cathedral and the Abbey. Not often walking guides’ most favoured stops, as some seem to think “leave it to the bus tours”! However, I think it would be daft to ignore them as you walk past provided that you can spin an interesting anecdote along with a bit of the history.

Westminster Cathedral

Our stroll around the St. James’s and Victoria area in this case, was scheduled for one and a half hours and I’m pleased to say that we were able to keep to the schedule.

The Sanctuary SW1

The Sanctuary SW1

Descriptions of the buildings and surrounds were accompanied by some anecdotes about characters associated with them, hopefully a bit of humour and salacious tales of outrage and intrigue thrown in too.

Mindful of my guests needing to be at their restaurant tables for 7.30pm we arrived on time with a few minutes to speak about the restaurant and its predecessors before my smiling guests went off to enjoy their meals.

Having been asked to stand in for a colleague at rather short notice, I surprised myself by actually quite enjoying the experience. So much so that I have decided to include a few walks in our tour schedules now, so look out for some announcements in that regard.


Magdala – What’s in a name?

On the 10th April 1868 Lieutenant General Sir Robert Napier led a British expeditionary force on a successful raid on Magdala, Ethiopia.

The Emperor, Tewodros II of Ethiopia angered at Britain’s lack of response to his request for military aid, had imprisoned some British protestant missionaries, keeping them in chains and subjecting them to vicious beatings. Two British diplomats had been sent to negotiate the safe release of the hostages, but Tewodros subjected them to the same fate as the missionaries, which infuriated the British Government.

On 2nd January 1864 Tewodros, known to the British as Theodore, had seized the British envoy Charles Cameron along with his staff and all efforts to secure their release had failed. Indeed it seems that any further attempts to send negotiators ended with the same result. Eventually the British government decided that stronger action was needed so with the usual British expediency a punitive expedition was decided upon by August 1867.

The main form of defence in the region was the naturally mountainous and prohibitive, roadless terrain. No invading force had attempted to take Ethiopia in centuries. The logistics of the British expedition gives some indication as to the size of the task that lay before them.

Napier had been in command of the British Indian Army in Bombay and had set sail from there. His force consisted of thirteen thousand British and Indian soldiers, along with twenty thousand camp followers, over forty thousand animals, horses, mules and those for food, included were forty six elephants to pull the heavy guns. Railway equipment with rolling stock, locomotives and enough material to lay twenty miles of track, plus hundreds of tons of equipment, artillery, ammunition and supplies.

Napier’s force had landed by October 1867 and after building themselves a port to land the equipment began the long and arduous trek to Magdala. Local opposition was smoothed both by diplomacy and the large amount of local currency that the British had bought direct from the mint in Vienna.

By the 9th April, Napier was camped on the outskirts of Magdala and lay siege the next day. 10th April. The battle ended with the defeat of nine thousand Ethiopian troops for the loss of two British.

Sir Robert Napier was elevated to the peerage as Baron Napier of Magdala by the following July.  A commemorative bronze equestrian statue of Robert Cornelis Napier, first Baron Napier of Magdala (1810-90), that once stood in Waterloo Place, now stands at the north end of Queens Gate near Kensington Gardens.

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By astonishing coincidence on the 87th anniversary of the battle, outside a pub in north-west London called The Magdala after the battle, a tragic event occurred. This event was a significant contributor to one of the most important changes to the judicial system of this country, the abolition of capital punishment. Unfortunately the main protagonists were both to lose their lives, Ruth Ellis shot her lover David Blakely, Blakely died at the scene and Ruth Ellis became the last woman to be hanged in this country.

magdala bullet

In reality the story of Ruth Ellis and the murder of Blakely is so much more complex than that which we have always been led to believe. A simple story of a jealous and revengeful lover, in an act of retribution, resulting in swift justice through judicial process? Not according to author Monica Weller. During the process of ghost writing the story of Ruth by her sister Muriel Jakubait, Monica Weller uncovered a story of intrigue, espionage and the now it seems commonplace cover-ups. Files hidden from the public, files gone missing, long term secrecy orders, these seem to indicate all was not as it seems.

Ruth Ellis had unwittingly found herself embroiled in the company of those involved in the secret services that operate in the name of Britain’s state machinery.

Whilst reading the story the first name that stunned me was that of Stephen Ward, Ward was one of the central figures of the scandal known as the “Profumo Affair” that rocked Britain in 1963. It was a scandal that eventually brought Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government to its knees. It was this involvement of Ward and his associates that got me thinking, this is far bigger than the story I had heard in the past.

The actual scene of the murder is even more intriguing than you can imagine. Only a few months beforehand a murder was committed by another female within metres of the pub, so close that you can see the crime scene from the entrance to the pub. When he spoke of the Ruth Ellis hanging executioner Albert Pierrepoint said, no one ever mentions the second last woman to be hanged because she wasn’t glamorous like Ruth.

If you want to know the full story I can heartily recommend “Ruth Ellis: My Sister’s Secret Life” by Muriel Jakubait with Monica Weller.

Want to see the sites involved and hear the story on the spot? We tell it on our Murder Mystery and Espionage tour.



The Battle of Copenhagen 2nd April 1801

Formerly aligned with Britain, the Russian navy was hemmed in its home ports by the winter ice in the Baltic. Britain during one of her many spats with Napoleon’s France had begun intercepting any foreign vessels that it suspected of trading with France. Russia meanwhile had joined with Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Prussia in forming an alliance against Britain, calling itself the League of Neutrality. The League was determined to force free trade with France, but the existence of the League of Neutrality threatened the supply of high quality oak and the tall pines suitable for ships’ masts. Britain saw this as an act of aggression and felt compelled to act.

Post-revolutionary France under Napoleon Bonaparte had probably the strongest army in Europe, but Britain held supreme on the high seas. The British fleet was under the command of Sir Hyde Parker. He was the son of Sir Hyde Parker and also the father of yet a third Hyde Parker, all with illustrious careers in the Royal Navy; all becoming Admirals, with the third becoming First Sea Lord.

Second in command was Vice Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson, probably Britain’s greatest ever naval commander.

However, Nelson’s reputation at this time had become somewhat sullied in the eyes of the British public, owing to his ménage a trois with Lady Emma Hamilton. For his part the 61 year old Parker had just married the 18 year old Frances and found it difficult to motivate himself to leave the port of Great Yarmouth. To Admiral Parker though, Nelson was his outstanding subordinate, extremely capable of not only carrying out a battle plan, but also possessing the ability to think on his feet.

Prompted by the frustrations of Nelson, who had muttered in private about the lack of activity, Parker was ordered to sail for Copenhagen. On arrival, he was to secure the separation of Denmark from the league, either by diplomacy or if necessary force.

Parker’s fleet lay at anchor, off the shore of Copenhagen on the night of 31st March. Due to the lack of reliable charts of the approaches to shore, Captain Thomas Hardy, another hero of the later Trafalgar campaign, took depth soundings along the channel. The waters were to prove to be very shallow except for a deeper channel that made it possible for lighter ships to navigate.

It was decided that Nelson would lead an inshore attack with all the lightest vessels, better suited to the shallower waters, while Parker remained in the deeper water with his heavier ships.

Denmark’s allies in the League of Neutrality, failed to come to her aid with any effect. The reluctant Swedes were too slow to act. Prussia had no effective navy and the Russians were still in port.

Battle of Copenhagen

The Danish fleet, which was generally not in good shape, were lined up along the shoreline, along with some old hulks forming a powerful gun battery along with shore based batteries. Hostilities began a little after 10am and by 11.30 am a battle lasting until shortly after 1pm was in full swing.

On the approach to the battle three British ships were grounded, one of which was HMS Agamemnon that took no further part. The other two continued but were severely disabled.

As the battle raged on, Parker from his withdrawn position could not see the signals of his ships because of the smoke of gunfire. Seeing the distress signals from the Agamemnon, he signalled for the withdrawal of his ships. Nelson was told of the signal, but turned to his flag captain Thomas Foley saying, “You know Foley, I have only one eye, I am entitled to be blind sometimes”. It is thought that he put his telescope to his blind eye and said “ I really do not see the signal”.

Nelson fought on and by about 2pm most of the Danish guns had fallen silent.

Between 1600 and 1800 Danes were killed, wounded or captured. 264 British were killed and 689 wounded.

Following the battle Nelson ordered the destruction of most of the remaining Danish fleet and within a week had secured the objective of Denmark’s withdrawal from the League.

News had reached the Admiralty of Parker’s reticence in the affair and he was summoned back to London being replaced in command by Nelson.

Unfortunately the battle was repeated later in 1807 with the second Battle of Copenhagen by which time of course Nelson was dead.

If you want to learn more about Nelson and his life why not book our Nelson’s Column to his Flagship Taxi Tour

Our recommended friends

Hello Everyone,

This time I would like to mention that apart from obviously ourselves, there are actually other attractions available in this great city of ours. I know, I know, we should be talking about London and UK Taxi Tours exclusively and telling you all just how wonderful we are and what a great time you would have with us.  All this is of course very true! However, to let you know how even more wonderful than you already think we are, I am going to let you know about some of our great colleagues that offer some alternative fun things to do.  You should also check back on this page to get updates on what’s new or simply great.

First up is walking tour guide Joanna Moncrieff.  Joanna is one of our own main researchers and might even answer an email or two for us if we are sinking under the weight of enquiries, so I think it’s only fair to tell you all about the great foodie based walks, amongst other things that Joanna offers. You can read all about them on her cute website here

Another of our associated guides is the wonderful Sandy Rhodes. Sandy does our personal tours of Hampton Court, where she is an official guide, so we know just how brilliant Sandy is. She is also a qualified Westminster guide and does her own walking tours in Westminster. You can visit her site for information here

Our expert on the Marylebone area, is none other than the delightful Susie Fairfax Davies. Susie will always make sure her infectious character gives you a warm welcome to her guided walks.  Susie is a resident of Marylebone so who better to describe its marvels to you than herself. So we have no hesitation in recommending that you give her website a look. Please follow the link

Are you are a fan of books? You could enhance your stay in London by attending a walk guided by a lifelong collector of books Anthony Davis. Anthony’s love for books is manifested in a collection of rare and early editions. His guided walks will enthrall you with his great knowledge. Also you may be tempted to attend one of Anthony’s various lectures. Please check out his website for more information.

Another guide that we like is Cemetery Club member and all round nice guy Sheldon Goodman. Sheldon is also a Westminster guide and an expert on many things related to London’s many and extremely interesting cemeteries. Do you want to say “Hi” to people like I.K. Brunel or Wilkie Collins, or maybe a film star from the past? Famous authors, playwrights, engineers, even royalty? Sheldon is on first name terms with many of them and would be only too willing to introduce you. Check him out either through this site or through our website.

When visiting London, you could do worse than look up London’s best and most varied website to do with many London related activities. It really has become one of London’s most important information websites, with loads of articles and quirky things to do. It ‘s a free online magazine that I know you will enjoy and find most useful. See it here

Everyone needs to eat right? Not everyone is well-heeled enough to dine in some of London’s great and famous restaurants, with their celebrity chefs and gorgeously expensive menus. If you are so comfortably off that it’s one of your main London treats, then my number’s in the contact section (my tastes are very reasonable). If though, you would still love to have great dining experiences and would love to know where you can rub shoulders with me, while my rich friends have taken up my previous offer, you could always try restaurants and their deals section You could be waving across the tables at me, while you chomp into Champagne and Oysters for under £40, while I try not to get too embarrassed at my host’s bill.

Then I suppose the fact that you are already here means that you have secured a decent bed for the duration of your stay? If you haven’t got that far try this one for size. I’ve stayed in a top rated Marriott hotel in London for £110 for a double room. You can get your bargains here.

Finally for now, if you’re a bit of a history fan and want to gobble up as much of it as you can while you’re here, how about popping into one of London Historians’ monthly pub meetings. There’s no need to become a member, although you may feel you want to join afterwards.  Introduce yourself and find a warm welcome amongst people that really know London, details here.

Teen Queen that might have been

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Yesterday (12th February) was the Anniversary of the death of Lady Jane Grey

Jane Grey was the daughter of Henry Grey the 1st Duke of Suffolk and his wife Lady Francis Brandon. Opinion differs on her birthdate, some think 1536 others 1537, but there can be no dispute over the date of her death. It was 12th February 1554 at Tower Green in the Tower of London.

She was regarded as one of the cleverest and best educated young women of her day and it is hard to believe that one so young should fall victim to the political shenanigans of Tudor England.

The young Jane who spent her educative years studying hard and excelled at languages . She would read the Greek classics like Plato, but regarded her own upbringing as both strict and harsh. She wrote:

“For when I am in the presence either of father or mother, whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand or go, eat, drink, be merry or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing anything else, I must do it as it were in such weight, measure and number, even so perfectly as God made the world; or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yea presently sometimes with pinches, nips and bobs and other ways (which I will not name for the honour I bear them) … that I think myself in hell”.

At the age of about eleven she had been sent to live with Edward Seymour who was about to marry Henry VIII’s widow Catherine Parr. She remained with the couple until Catherine died in childbirth. Seymour was in fact planning for Jane to remain within his household until he himself was arrested and eventually executed.

The young King Edward VI having been brought up by his father Henry VIII as a Protestant didn’t want the throne to accede to his sister Mary, a devout Catholic. As he lay dying at Greenwich he changed the line of succession in his will to exclude his sisters Mary and Elizabeth, who were regarded in law as illegitimate. Instead he named his first cousin once removed as his successor in an attempt to prevent his Catholic sister taking the throne.

Lady Jane Grey was named as Queen of England on 10th July 1553. Certain members of the Privy Council were unhappy at the boy king’s decision to alienate his sisters from the line of succession. Within nine days of her reign Jane was arrested and sent to the Tower of London. Charged and convicted of Treason, for which the sentence was death. The treason involved signing a number of documents as “Jane Quene of England”. The death sentence wasn’t initially carried out and she remained imprisoned in the Tower until February 1554.

Unfortunately a Protestant revolt lead by Thomas Wyatt against the newly installed Queen Mary, which had no connection to Jane at all, sealed her fate and she was beheaded on Tower Green on the morning of 12th February 1554. She had not only lost her throne but her head as well in the violent tradition of her day.