Though her reign is disputed by many, Lady Jane Grey is undoubtedly this country’s shortest reigning monarch. Jane is popularly known as the ‘Nine Days Queen’ because of her curtailed reign. It is often a view of many she was a victim of her cousin, Edward VI’s, plans to keep his Catholic half-sister Mary off the English throne.
But just what happened in that period that barely covered a week? Here we profile Lady Jane Grey’s nine days as Queen.
Lady Jane Grey arrives at the Tower of London where she is taken to the presence chamber and takes her place under the State Canopy. The 2nd Marquess of Winchester, John Paulet, soon joins Lady Jane carrying a selection of jewels and also the Imperial Crown of the Realm. Whilst Lady Jane initially refused the crown, Winchester countered her argument by saying he only wished her to wear the crown to see how it suited her. The young girl eventually relented and thus Lady Jane Grey was crowned Queen of England. Jane’s husband, Lord Guildford Dudley, asked his wife to declare him King, a request that Jane harshly rebuked causing a fierce argument between the pair. Jane told her councillors, “I would be content to make my husband a Duke but I will never consent to make him a King.” While Guildford and his mother were intent on changing Jane’s decision, she never relented and though her reign was short as Queen, her husband was never King.
Queen Jane attends a sermon at St Paul’s that supports her as Queen and declares Princesses Mary and Elizabeth as bastards and thus unfit for the throne. On the same evening that Jane attended the sermon, a letter arrives at the tower from Princess Mary in which she declares herself as Queen and asks that violence be avoided. After hearing the entirety of the letter, Jane Grey said nothing though it was later decided that The Earl of Warwick and Lord Robert Dudley would go and meet with Mary.
July 12th saw Warwick and Dudley head for that meeting with Mary though they were diverted from her attention that was lucky for the pair as Mary now led an entire army that was bound for London. On Jane’s third day as Queen, the evening was spent organising Government forces in anticipation of the arrival of Mary and her troops. Word was sent to Charles V that Lady Jane was Queen and that Mary posed no threat to Jane’s throne.
The fourth day of Queen Jane’s reign wasn’t a great one for the young Queen. Jane spent most of this day laid up with illness, an ailment that Jane thought was being caused by being poisoned by he husband’s mother, the Duchess of Northumberland. No evidence has ever been found to suggest this was the case. It is more likely that the Queen’s illness was caused by worry, anxiety or the uncovered moat around the Tower of London!
By July 13th, it became apparent that Jane faced serious problems in regard to her role as Queen. It was becoming apparent that the people of England did not support Jane as Queen and wanted her Catholic cousin, Mary, in her place. It was decided by Mary’s council that her father, the Duke of Suffolk, should lead the troops against Mary though Jane disagreed with this and became very distressed about the idea. With Jane alarmed for her own safety in addition to the Duke of Suffolk’s old age and ill health, Dudley was sent to warn off Mary.
Lord Dudley set off with a troop of 600 carrying an assortment of weapons that had only been acquired the day before. As Dudley began his journey, Mary was continuing hers, gathering support along the way whilst a defeated attitude was looming over the Tower of London. Jane’s people began to revolt, crying for Mary to be made Queen and causing Jane to order the gates of the tower to be locked and the keys be brought to her.
The revolt against Jane was gathering momentum and a handful of Jane’s council had switched their allegiance to Mary, who it seemed ever likely would soon become Queen. Mary and her army were still on course for London.
Queen Jane spent most of the eighth day of her reign crying after a terrible fight had broken out between the Duchess of Northumberland and her father, the Duke of Suffolk. The argument happened because the subject of Guildford becoming King had once again arisen. To make matters worse for Jane, the peasants in the country were refusing to take arms against Mary.
The last day of Jane’s tragic reign came on July 19th and it was apparent that the Queen’s cause was now hopeless. All but two of her Privy Council had betrayed her and joined Mary, her father and Cranmer, though Cranmer did leave her later in the afternoon. It was around 6pm that Mary was proclaimed Queen at the Cross in Cheapside by four trumpeters and two heralds and it was around the same time nine days earlier that it had been announced that Lady Jane would be coroneted. The people of England were joyful that their Tudor Queen was now Mary and expressed this joy by ringing church bells, lighting bonfires and drinking to the health of Queen Mary I.
As the celebrations continued across the country, Lady Jane was alone in the Tower of London. When her father found her seated under the Canopy of State, she rose and asked “Can I go home.”
For those who know the story of Lady Jane Grey, you will know the answer to this question. Isn’t it sad to think that this innocent young girl thought that it would be so simple, she had effectively usurped Mary’s throne and yet thought that it all be forgiven? Alas, it was not.
What do you think? Did Lady Jane Grey know what she was doing or was she just a victim of King Edward VI’s plans to keep Catholic Mary off the throne?