England,  ER,  Western Europe

Lady Jane Grey and the Crown

Jane Grey Photo credit- National Portrait Gallery
Jane Grey Photo credit- National Portrait Gallery

Death of Edward VI sent all of England into mourning. He had been a sickly boy, but had been the leader of the new Protestant Revolution. Some of the counselors under his command had grown rich on the dissolution of the monasteries while others had gotten drunk on religious fervor. They had hailed him as “young King Solomon” come to end “heathen rites and detestable idolatory”, but now their King Solomon was failing too young. Henry VIII’s will stipulated the next in line for the throne was Mary, as ardent a Catholic as Edward was a Protestant. The counselors muttered amongst themselves. This would undo all their gains. Something must be done.

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, had an ace in the hole. His son Guilford was married to Jane Grey, the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister Mary and Charles Brandon. As per the times, the fact that Jane had not wanted to marry Guilford had not come into the matter. Left to her own devices, she would have remained unmarried and pursued her studies, but understood the burdens of a princess of the blood. However, when she was told by her parents that she was to marry Guilford she protested and refused. This defiance drew the ire of her parents, who berated and bullied her and finally whipped her until she gave her reluctant consent. This was nothing new. Jane had endured vile treatment from her parents all her life. Roger Ascham, Elizabeth Tudor’s tutor, describes meeting Jane in his book The Schoolmaster. She described her treatment at the hands of her parents as being “sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yea, presented with pinches, nips, bobs, and other ways – which I will not name for the honour I bear them – so without measure misordered, that I think myself in hell”. Her only consolation was her governess, Mrs. Ellen, her tutor, John Aylmer, and her studies.

Such a girl already used to being bullied and bent to another’s will was a Godsend to Northumberland. After some persuasion, he convinced the dying Edward VI to “save his church” and cut his half sisters out of the succession and put Jane Grey on the throne. The fact that it also put his son on the throne was surely happenstance. In his trembling hand, Edward copied at the will Northumberland had drawn up called “My Devise for the Succession” and named his sisters both “illegitimate and not lawfully begotten” and unable to take the crown.

After Edward’s death, Northumberland took Jane into the Chamber of Estate. When the lords assembled there began to do homage, the poor fifteen year old girl passed out. When she came to, she announced “The crown is not my right and pleaseth me not. The Lady Mary is the rightful heir.” Northumberland scrambled, but Jane was having none of it. She fell to her knees and begged God to tell her what to do. God was silent, and she took that silence as a sign she should obey her parents and father in law as scripture said. With knees that must have been shaking, she rose and seated herself on the throne. The next day, Jane processed into London to stay at the tower and was proclaimed Queen. The citizens were less than thrilled and only a few “God save her!” broke the morning air. Trumpeters tactfully blew fanfares to cover the silence.

The answer from Mary Tudor remained to be seen.

Part II-   http://www.historynaked.com/solve-problem-like-jane-gray/