Lady Jane Grey
The “Nine Days Queen of England”
1537 – 1554
Lady Jane Grey was born at Brodgate, Leicestershire, England, in October, 1537. She was the eldest daughter of Henry Grey, Marquis of Dorset, who in 1551 became Duke of Suffolk, and of Lady Francis Brandon.
Lady Jane was brought up rigorously by her parents, every petty fault punished with “pinches, nips and bobs”; but Aylmer, her tutor, afterwards bishop of London, endeared himself to her by his gentleness, and under him she made great progress, especially in languages – Latin, Greek, French, Italian, and Hebrew.
Roger Ascham tells how in December, 1550, he found her reading Plato’s Phado in the original, while the rest of the family were hunting. She also sang and played well, and was versed in other feminine accomplishments.
In 1553, after the fall of the Duke of Somerset, the Duke of Northumberland, foreseeing the speedy death of the boy-king Edward VI, determined to change the succession and secure it to his own family. Lady Jane, not sixteen years old, was therefore married, strongly against her wish, to Lord Dudley, Northumberland’s fourth son, on May 21, 1553; and on July 9, three days after Edward’s death, the council informed her that she was named his successor.
On the 19th, the brief usurpation over, she found herself a prisoner in the Tower and four months later, pleading guilty of high treason, she was sentenced to death. She spurned the idea of forsaking Protestantism for love of life, and bitterly condemned Northumberland’s recantation. This, together with her father’s participation in Wyatt’s rebellion, sealed her doom and she was beheaded on Tower Hill, February 12, 1554.
From the scaffold she made a speech in which she said: “The fact, indeed, against the queen’s highness was unlawful, and the consenting to by me; but touching the procurement and desire thereof by me or on my behalf, I do wash my hands thereof in innocency…I die a true Christian woman.”
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence, and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World published by the King-Richardson Co. in 1903.