How do you solve a problem like Jane Gray?

12299397_187064858302271_8397864606002230378_nGod was smiling on Mary Tudor. After the Duke of Northumberland’s attempt to put his daughter in law, the former Lady Jane Grey, on the throne, everyone thought she was done for. Even Charles V of Spain, her most ardent partisan, sent greetings on the ascension of Queen Jane and his envoys advised Mary not to press her claim. Obstinate is ever, Mary did not listen, and sent Jehan Scheyfve and Simon Renard, the Imperial ambassadors from Charles V, a copy of her proclamation speech. They were all horrified and urged Mary to accept she was beaten and accept Jane as queen and hope the Privy Council would be lenient with her. Mary did exactly the opposite.

Mary marched with her forces to Framlingham Castle and prepared to take London. England turned out en masse for Henry’s daughter and Mary was proclaimed Queen all through the country. Nobles and commons alike flocked to her banner. Northumberland was rapidly being deserted. On July 19, 1553, Mary entered London and the city went mad for her. Church bells rang, bonfires were lit, and people ran everywhere crying ‘The Lady Mary is proclaimed queen!” One Italian observer remarked “from a distance, the earth must have looked like Mount Etna.”

Jane and her husband Guilford and her attendants were locked safely in the Tower of London. They were soon joined by the Northumberland, who was arrested soon after, and his many sons. In August, the Privy Council made its formal submission to Mary and acknowledged her as queen. Jane wrote a letter to the Queen, giving her account of the nine days of her reign. She admits her wrong doing, but it is clear to anyone reading that Jane had no choice in the matter. Jane wrote:
“No one can ever say that I sought it or that I was pleased with it. All these things I have wished to say for the witness of my innocence and the disburdening of my conscience.”

Mary was moved by Jane’s honesty and swore to be a “merciful princess”. However, her Imperial advisers did not agree.

Charles V, through Scheyfve and Renard, advised Mary to put to death all traitors. In November of that same year, Lady Jane, Lord Guilford Dudley, all of the Dudley brothers and Archbishop Cranmer were tried for treason. The accused all plead guilty and were sentenced to death. Jane took the news stoically, but her servants wept on her return to the Tower. Mary toyed with only executing the men involved, and letting Jane go free, which displeased Scheyfve and Renard. Mary would only say that she would watch Jane carefully to make sure she was not a focus for any additional rebellion. Until Mary made up her mind, all the prisoners would remain in the Tower.

Mary wanted to wait until she was married and had a heir in the Old Faith before she made good on her promise of mercy, but her chosen husband was not willing to wait. Of all the names that were bandied about for Mary’s hand, she had her heart set on Phillip of Spain, Charles V’s son. She had seen a portrait of him, and fancied herself “half in love with him.” What was more, he was from an old royal family, related to her mother, and of the Roman Catholic faith. The rub in the matter was Philip would not consent to coming to England for the marriage until all threats to Mary’s throne were neutralized.

In March 1554, Sir Thomas Wyatt tried to raise the men of Kent to stop Mary from marrying Philip. There were whispers of Wyatt wanting to put Mary’s sister Elizabeth on the throne. The deathknell for Jane was her father, the Duke of Suffolk, had risen to put her back on the throne. Charles V wrote, “Let the Queen’s mercy be tempered with a little severity” and reiterated that Philip could not come to England until Jane was gone. There was no way Mary could be merciful now. It was over for little Jane.

Mary did not give up on her yet. She sent Richard Feckenham, the Abbot of Westminster, to try and convert Jane back to the Catholic faith. If she converted, Jane would be allowed to live. Feckenham was a kind man, and Jane seemed to warm to him, but she was too ardent a Protestant to turn her back on her faith. She prepared to “end her woeful days” at the age of sixteen.

On February 12, 1554, Jane walked to Tower Hill and delivered her last words, “Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact, indeed, against the Queen’s HIghness was unlawful, and the consenting thereunto by me: but touching the procurement and desire thereof by me, I do wash my hands in innocency before God and the face of you, Good Christian people.” Her courage deserted her some and she wrung her hand in nervousness, then she continued, “I pray you all to bear me witness that I die a true Christian woman. And now, good people, while I am alive, I pray you assist me with your prayers.” Then she prayed with Feckenham, who accompanied her to the execution, and kissed him goodbye. She bid goodbye to her beloved Mrs Ellen, who helped her little mistress blindfold herself. She forgave the executioner and knelt. Then her preternatural calm deserted her. She felt for the block and it was not there. “What shall I do? Where is it?” She groped for the block in a twisted version of blindman’s bluff as the crowd watched in shock. Finally, some unidentified kind soul guided her hands to it and she lay her little head down. The ax swung, and she was gone.

Thus ended the life of a would be queen, and certainly a sad child.

ER