Lady Jane Grey, claimant to the thrones of England and Ireland
Lady Jane Grey (October 12?, 1537–February 12, 1554), was a great granddaughter of Henry VII of England, and was proclaimed Queen of England for a few days in 1553. Jane is not normally counted in the list of British monarchs and some uncertainty relating to her status as a Queen exists. Her succession (like the succession of many other monarchs) contravened an Act of Parliament, and her proclamation as Queen was later revoked. She was also known as one of the most learned women of her day, described by the historian Alison Weir as one of "the finest female minds of the century".
She is sometimes known as "The Nine Days' Queen" (July 10 - July 19, 1553) or, alternatively, "The Thirteen Days' Queen" (July 6 - July 19, 1553)—owing to uncertainty as to when she actually succeeded to the throne and was deposed, nine days is the more commonly held view. The day of her predecessor's death (July 6) and that of her official proclamation as Queen (July 10) have both been considered the beginning of her short reign.
She was also the subject of the she-tragedy named Lady Jane Grey from 1715 by Nicholas Rowe, which emphasizes the pathos of Jane's fate.
Early life and education
Jane was born at Bradgate Park near Leicester in October 1537, the eldest daughter of Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset and his wife Frances Brandon. October 12 has been suggested as a date of birth. As a girl, she was the beneficiary of the new mode of extensive education for women, and was tutored by John Aylmer, one of the circle of young Cambridge University scholars who also educated Queen Elizabeth I; like Elizabeth, she also spent time in the household of Katherine Parr, a scholar in her own right.
Claim to the Throne and execution
Her claim to the throne was through her mother, who was the daughter of Mary Tudor (a daughter of King Henry VII of England) and her second husband, Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. Frances was still living but renounced her claim on the throne in favour of her daughter. The question of the succession had arisen as a result of the religious unrest that had prevailed during the reign of King Henry VIII of England. When Henry's heir, Edward VI, died at an early age, the next in line to the throne was his half-sister, Mary. However, Mary was Roman Catholic and looked set to overturn the religious reforms of her brother's short reign. Fearing religious intolerance, a faction led by the Duke of Northumberland sought a Protestant heir, and fastened on Jane, who had been married in a political alliance to one of Northumberland's sons, Guilford Dudley, during 1553. His other sons John, Ambrose, Henry and Robert were all subsequently imprisoned but later pardoned for their part in their father's scheme.
Mary proved to have more popular support than Jane, partly because of the continuing sympathy for the treatment her mother, Catherine of Aragon, had received at the hands of Henry VIII. After Jane was deposed, there seemed some likelihood that her life would be spared by Mary, who had now taken the throne. She sent John de Feckenham to Lady Jane, in an attempt to convert her to Catholicism.
The revolt of Sir Thomas Wyatt, in the first months of 1554, sealed Jane's fate, even though she had nothing to do with the revolt, and was not its intended beneficiary. In its wake, Mary was in a determined and unforgiving mood, and only five days after Wyatt's arrest, Jane and Guilford were executed. In addition, Mary planned a marital alliance with Spain, and the Spaniards may have insisted on Jane's death to remove a potential threat to Mary's rule. Jane's execution took place on February 12 1554 at the Tower of London. The "traitor-heroine of the Reformation" was only 16 years old at the time.