Lady Jane Grey, also known as ‘Lady Jane Dudley’, ‘the Nine-Day Queen’, or ‘Tragic Lady Jane Grey’, was the Queen of England and Ireland for nine days, making her the monarch with the shortest reign in British history.
Lady Jane Grey was the great-granddaughter of Henry VII and the first cousin once removed of King Edward VI.
King Edward VI was the only son of Henry VIII and was the first English monarch to be raised as a Protestant. He succeeded the throne in 1547, following his father’s death, when he was only 10-years-old. At 15, Edward VI fell ill, and after it was concluded that his sickness was terminal, he and his Council drew up a “Devise for the Succession” in order to decide how they could manipulate the politics of the throne so that it would be in the hands of a Protestant monarch. His last wish was certainly not for England to return to Catholicism.
Lady Jane Grey was the eldest daughter of Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk, and his wife, Lady Frances Brandon who was the first born child of King Henry VIII’s sister, Mary. Grey was considered to be one of the most educated and smart persons of her time. She was tutored by the Greek scholar John Aylmer who, along with Greek, also taught her Latin and Hebrew; she was also fluent in French and Italian. She was considered to be quite charming.
In 1553, less than a month before becoming queen, Jane married Lord Guildford Dudley, the son of John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, who was the most powerful man in the country at the time. John Dudley was the protector to King Edward VI and supported the King’s decision to will the crown to his daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey. After the death of King Edward on 6th of July 1553, at the age of 16, Jane was proclaimed Queen of England and Ireland.
However, the country wasn’t content with the decision and preferred the direct and genuine royal line. So, after only nine days, the Council proclaimed Mary I, King Edward’s half-sister and the daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, as the new Queen. Almost immediately, Mary reversed Edward’s Protestant reforms, while Jane was convicted of high treason and was to await her death sentence, but her life was initially spared.
Unfortunately for Jane, however, her father became involved in the Wyatt rebellion in early 1554, against the marriage of Mary I to Phillip of Spain. After the rebellion was defeated, Lady Jane and her husband were once again convicted of high treason and beheaded on 12th February 1554.
It is said that Lady Jane acted very bravely before she was executed. She was taken to Tower Green, a part of the Tower Hill in London, and as she approached the scaffold, Jane said to the executioner “I pray you dispatch me quickly”. She tied her kerchief around her eyes and asked to be guided to the block where she lay down her head. Her last words were, “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit”.
Lady Jane Grey was the Queen of England from 10th of July 1553 until the 19th of July 1553, which marks hers as the shortest reign of any monarch in England ever before or since.