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.