The Tragic Life of Lady Jane Grey

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Historical essay about the shortest reigning monarch in british history Lady Jane Grey ruled as queen for 9 days


Lorraine Hein 1101 D Street Apt. A2 Lincoln, NE 68502

The Heart of a Queen: The Tragic Life of Lady Jane Grey Born in 1537 near Leicester, England Lady Jane Greys life seemed doomed from birth. Born Protestant in a country writhing in religious turmoil, and to cold, heartless parents who thought Jane too weak and too gentle; therefore, she received frequent beatings to harden her. In spite of this, there was a brief happy period in Janes life when she went to live with Catherine Parr, widow of Henry VIII, in 1543. Under the guidance and love of Catherine, Jane blossomed. She became an excellent student mastering three languages; and, historians often refer to her as one of the greatest female minds of the era. Sadly, Jane returned to her parents home when Catherine died shortly after giving birth. She would never know happiness again. In May of 1553, Janes parents informed her that she would be married to Guilford Dudley, the son of the Duke of Northumberland. She, however, refused because she wished to marry the Earl of Hertford. Her parents beat her mercilessly and forced her to marry Guilford. As the custom of those days, Jane went to live with her husbands family. She detested Guilfords father, the Duke of Northumberland; and, thought the entire family despicable and traitorous. Shortly after arriving in the home Jane became ill and believed that her new family was poisoning her; but this was not the case because, in reality, she had suffered a nervous breakdown. Although, at first, she thought her husband to be as deceitful as the rest of his family, she soon learned Guilford was also a pawn in his fathers ambitions and found herself falling in love with him. After only two months of marriage, an event occurred that would forever change her and Guilfords fate. On July 6, 1553, King Edward VI died. Although Jane had a claim to the throne because her mother was the daughter of Henry VIIIs sister, she was not the rightful successor. Edward, a Protestant, skipped his sisters, the Catholic Mary and Elizabeth, in favor of Jane and willed his crown to her. On July 9, Jane became Queen. She fainted at the news and became even more distraught when her mother and mother-in-law bowed before her. They took Jane to the Tower of London, a normal residence for monarchs during accession, to await her coronation. During this time, she signed a few documents, dined in state, and made appointments. Although Janes mother viciously demanded for her to name Guilford King, she refused opting instead to name him Duke of Clarence. For nine days, Jane reigned as Queen. England at the time of Jane was inflamed with religious turmoil and many people favored the Catholic Princess Mary. Even though Janes father-in-law attempted to capture and imprison Mary he failed; and, on July 19, Mary triumphantly rode into London and replaced Jane as Queen. Arrested and charged with high treason, Jane and Guilford remained in the Tower of London as prisoners. A trial by special commission convened on November 13, 1553 and both were found guilty and sentenced to death. Queen Mary decided Janes sentence would be beheading as a gesture of respect for her cousin. However, some reports stated that Janes life might be spared, that is, if she renounced her faith and converted to Catholicism; Jane refused. Everyday a priest visited Janes apartment in the Tower and everyday she turned him away. Although, Jane had refused to abandon her religion, Mary was still reluctant to execute her cousin. That is, until a rebellion in the name of Jane took place forcing Marys hand and sealing Janes fate. On February 12, 1554, the execution of Jane and Guilford took place. Guilfords execution took place first and, from her apartment in the Tower, Jane

watched as they carted his headless body away. It was then her turn. Guards escorted her from her apartment down to the Tower Green, inside the walls of the Tower of London, for private execution. Upon climbing the scaffold, she was quoted as saying: Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact, indeed, against the queens highness was unlawful, and the consenting thereunto by me: but touching the procurement and desire thereof by me or on my behalf, I do wash my hands thereof in innocency, before God, and the face of you, good Christian people, this day. She then recited a psalm and handed her bible and neckerchief to her lady in waiting. She asked the axe man to slay her quickly and then placed a blindfold over her eyes, asking her executioner if he would remove it before he swung his axe. He promised her that he would not. She knelt before the block and became distressed only when she could not find it with her hands crying What do I do, where is it! The priest who had come to Janes apartment and been turned away, grabbed her hands and swiftly guided her to the block. She regained her composure and asked the axe man to continue. With one quick strike, the life of Lady Jane Grey ended at the age of sixteen. How sad the life of such a remarkable woman was so senselessly cut short. Lady Jane Grey stood by her faith and her convictions. Although, for most of her life, she was the target of unimaginable abuse she rose above the sorrow and pain. Focusing her heart on only doing what she felt was right and reflecting love to all those who surrounded her. Smart, strong, and beautiful Lady Jane Grey ruled England for nine short days; but she lived and died with the dignity and heart of a true queen. Works Cited Grey, Lady Jane Whos Who in British History. 1998. H. W. Wilson Company. 19

September 2007 Meroff, Deborah. Coronation of Glory: The Story of Lady Jane Grey. United Kingdom: Inheritance Publishers, 1998 Wikipedia. Lady Jane Grey. Wikipedia. 18 September 2007. 19 September 2007


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