The Life of Lady Jane Grey (Part Three)

We ended Part Two of the series with the death of Edward VI on the 6th of July 1553. In this, the final article in the series, we will observe the short reign (13 days, not 9) of Queen Jane and discuss her execution.

If you’d prefer to listen to me discuss the topic you can do so here:

Heir to the Throne

On the 21st of June 1553, the Letters Patent was signed by 102 noblemen, London aldermen, bishops, archbishops and councillors – this was pretty much every politician that was available.¹ These letters patent were issued stating that King Edward VI’s heir would be Lady Jane Grey, the daughter of Frances Brandon. Frances was the daughter of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon. But before we go too deep into that let’s look at what had happened before Edward became King of England.

Will of Henry VIII

In the Will of Henry VIII it was laid out exactly how the King wished for it to be for his son as a young monarch. It was obvious that he wanted his son to have the best, and to continue on with the Tudor dynasty.

Here is the succession part of his will:

As to the succession of the Crown, it shall go to Prince Edward and the heirs of his body. In default, to Henry’s children by his present wife, Queen Catharine, or any future wife. In default, to his daughter Mary and the heirs of her body, upon condition that she shall not marry without the written and sealed consent of a majority of the surviving members of the Privy Council appointed by him to his son Prince Edward. In default, to his daughter Elizabeth upon like condition. In default, to the heirs of the body of Lady Frances, eldest daughter of his late sister the French Queen. In default, to those of Lady Elyanore, second daughter of the said French Queen. And in default, to his right heirs. Either Mary or Elizabeth, failing to observe the conditions aforesaid, shall forfeit all right to the succession.

Edward’s Devise for Succession

When Edward VI created his “Devise for Succession” he wasn’t trying to overthrow his father’s 1544 Act, he was merely trying to follow in the footsteps of his father, Bluff King Hal. 

Edward’s “Devise for Succession” had been sent to Parliament, just as his father’s had, unfortunately there would not be enough time for it to be passed prior to his death. If it had been passed things may have turned out differently.

Here is Edward’s “Devise for the Succession”: Grey Inheritance

  1. For lack of [male] issue of my body to the male issue coming from this female, as I have after declared. To the Lady Frances’ male heirs if she have any such issue before my death, to the Lady Jane and her male heirs, to the Lady Katherine’s male heirs, to the Lady Mary’s male heirs, To the male heirs of the daughters which she shall have hereafter. Then to the Lady Margaret’s male heirs. For lack of such issue, to the heirs male of the Lady Jane’s daughters. To the heirs male of the Lady Katherine’s daughters, and so forth until you come to the Lady Margaret’s daughters’ heirs males.

There are four more paragraphs, if you’re interested in reading more I recommend using Google and searching “Devise for Succession” and you will fin your way around.

It wasn’t even clear that Edward even had the authority to alter his father’s will, particularly as Parliament had granted Henry the right to dispose of the crown. Even the Chief Justice, Sir Edward Montague, had a hard time believing that Edward’s devise would overthrow his father’s 1544 Succession Act – however, with a bit of royal and political pressure Sir Edward Montague was convinced to change his mind, and was given a pardon for his attempt to stop the King’s wishes.

Reluctant Queen

When the Duke of Northumberland informed Lady Jane Grey that Edward VI had died and that she would be his successor, Jane collapsed weeping and declared “The crown is not my right and pleases me not. The Lady Mary is the rightful heir.”  Northumberland and Jane’s parents explained Edward’s wishes to their anguished daughter; Jane accepted the crown as her duty: “Declaring to them my insufficiency, I greatly bewailed myself for the death of so noble a prince, and at the same time, turned myself to God, humbly praying and beseeching him, that if what was given to me was rightly and lawfully mine, his divine Majesty would grant me such grace and spirit that I might govern it to his glory and service and to the advantage of this realm.

Mary Tells the Council She is Queen

Here is part of the letter from the Lady Mary that is dated the 9th of July 1553, and it was sent to the Lords of the Council but arrived to them on the 10th. At the beginning she discusses that she had heard of the death of her brother, the King and how much it saddened her. Then she dives right into the issue:

But in this so lamentable a case,/ that is to write, now/ after his Majesty’s departure and death, concerning the Crown and governance of this realm of England/, with the the title of France/, and all things thereto belonging, what hath been provided by Act of Parliament and the Testament and last will of our dearest Father, besides other circumstance advancing our right, you know, the realm, and the whole world knoweth, the rolls and records appear by the authority of the king our said Father, and the king our said brother, and the subjects of this realm, so that we verily trust that there is no good true subject, that is, can or would pretend to be ignorant thereof, and of our part we have ourselves caused, and as God shall aid and strength us, shall cause our right and title in this behalf to be published and proclaimed accordingly.

Queenly Proclamation

Unfortunately, for Mary the preparations for Jane’s proclamation were already under way and the following day Jane was proclaimed queen.

It was between four and five in the afternoon, Lady Jane Grey, her husband, Guildford Dudley, her parents and mother-in-law arrived by barge to the Tower of London. As the large Tower gates closed behind them, a blast of trumpets grabbed the crowd’s attention.  It was there, that two heralds then proclaimed that Lady Jane Grey was Queen of England.

A Genovese merchant by the name of Sir Baptista Spinola, described the situation as such: Jane was wearing a green gown embroidered with gold, large sleeves and a very long train. Jane’s headdress was white and heavily jeweled. By her side was her young, tall and blonde husband, Guildford Dudley, dressed in white and gold – he appeared attentive to Jane’s needs. Spinola was apparently close enough to notice that Jane had small features and a well-made nose, the mouth flexible and the lips red. The eyebrows are arched and darker than her hair – which is nearly red. He also described her as thin and very small even though she was wearing platform shoes to increase her height. He was so close that he stated her eyes were “sparkling and reddish-brown in color.” It’s almost like he was standing right next to her. Unfortunately for all of us, that description by Sir Baptista Spinola was a work of fiction – literally. The first evidence of this observation goes back to a book by Richard Davey and Patrick Boyle in 1909 – men who were obviously not present at the time of the event. Because of that statement many portraits have been modeled after his fictional description.

Leanda de Lisle, author of “The Sisters Who Would be Queen”  says that actual witnesses at the event reported that Guildford walked by Jane with his cap in his hand and that her mother was carrying her train.

I need to take a minute to address the train carrying. It was highly unusual for someone with the pedigree of Frances Brandon to carry the train of her own daughter. What on earth did Frances Grey do to upset both Henry VIII and Edward VI –  to be removed from the succession and be replaced by your daughter? I have no idea…if you know, let me know, because I don’t know.

After making the announcement at the Tower, the heralds then moved on to proclaim their message throughout London. From the beginning, there were many who felt an injustice had been done.

A boy lost both of his ears when he shouted out that it was Mary who was the rightful queen and not Jane. The reception Jane received was a cold one, for the most part, after the proclamation was read.

Here is part of the proclamation:

Jane by the Grace of God Queen of England, France and Ireland, defender of the faith, & of the Church of England, & also of Ireland under Christ in earth the supreme head. To all our most loving, faithful, and obedient subjects, and to every of them greeting. Where our most dear cousin Edward the Sixth, late King of England, France and Ireland, defender of the faith, and in earth the supreme head under Christ of the Church of England and Ireland, by his letters patent signed with his own hand, and sealed with his great seal of England, bearing date the 21st day of June, in the 7th year of his reign, in the presence of the most part of his nobles, his councillors, judges, and divers others.

It then goes on to explain the legitimacy, or lack there of for both Mary and Elizabeth. The truth was that Mary was a Catholic and Edward and his men had done all they could to rid England of Catholicism during his reign. Allowing Mary to inherit the throne after his death was seen unfavorably.

All throughout London, notices were hung to announce the new Queen for those who were not present for the hearld’s announcement.

In “The nine days’ queen, Lady Jane Grey, and her times” by Richard Davey and Patrick Boyle – it says:

“From every point of view, Queen Jane’s proclamation was ill-advised. It was very long-winded, even for that period, and the manner  in which it dealt with the claims of Mary and Elizabeth, brutal in frankness, was well calculated to offend the Catholic powers, and cruelly wound the personal feelings of the late king’s sisters.”

As we continue with this timeline we cannot forget the Spanish – they were, of course, very interested in how things played out in England. Dated the 11th of July 1553, a letter was sent from the ambassadors in England for the Emperor – it said:

By way of news received since our last letter, we have heard that the Lady Mary, in spite of the considerations we submitted to her, has caused herself to be proclaimed Queen in Norfolk, and is continuing to do so in the neighbouring districts, both verbally and by means of letters. She has also written letters to the Council, which they received yesterday, declaring herself Queen. We have been told that when the letters arrived the Council were at the table, and were greatly astonished and troubled. The Duchesses of Suffolk and Northumberland, it is said, began to lament and weep. The Council commanded my Lord Grey to go and bring in the Lady Mary. They told him he would ride out the following day with a good number of horses.”

As we now know, Jane’s father did not go – he grew ill with “fits” that would weaken him for months – it is believed he suffered from stress and anxiety.  I also need to address the part about the duchesses of Suffolk and Northumberland is most likely a made up story, as they would have never been allowed into the meeting.

The Council Pushes Back

The Council then responded to Lady Mary’s letter on the 11th of July by saying:

Madam, we have received your letters the ninth of this instant, declaring your supposed title, which you judge yourself to haue to the Imperial crown of this Realm, & all the dominions thereunto belonging. For answer whereof, this is to advertise you, that forasmuch as our sovereign Lady Queen Jane is after the death of our sovereign Lord Edward the sixth, a prince of most noble memory invested and possessed with the just and right title in the Imperial Crown of this Realme, not onely by good order of olde ancient laws of this Realme, but also by our late soveraigne Lordes Letters patentes signed with his own hand, and sealed with the great seal of England in presence of the most part of the Nobles, Counsellors, Judges, with divers other graue and sage personages, assenting & subscribing to the same: We must therefore as of most bo?nd duty and allegiance assent unto her said Grace, and to none other, except we should (which faithful subjects can not) fall into grievous and unspeakable enormities. Wherefore we can no lesse do, but for the quiet both of the realm and you also, to advertise you, that forasmuch as the divorce made between the king of famous memory K Henry the 8 & the Lady Katharine your mother, was necessary to be had both by the everlasting lawes of God, and also by the Ecclesiastical lawes, & by the most part of the noble & learned.”

Crown Jewels and Coronation

The following day, on the 12th of  July 1553, Mary traveled roughly thirty miles moving from Kenninghall to Framlingham Castle. It was at Framlingham that she really began to rally support.  On that same day, the Lord Treasurer William Paulet, brought Jane the crown jewels, even though she claimed she never asked for them. It was decided that her coronation would not be for at least a couple of weeks, so there was no need. at the moment, for her to have the crown jewels in her possession.

It makes me curious, why would the Duke of Northumberland not push Jane for a quicker coronation. Had the ceremony been performed immediately there would have been no question who the Queen was – she may have been considered a usurper but she would have been anointed by God. When Matilda, daughter of King Henry I, inherited the crown of England it took her so long to return to England from the continent that her cousin Stephen jumped at the chance and was crowned King Stephen before she had the opportunity to claim it. Things like that actually happened. This is the very reason the Duchess of Northumberland wanted Jane in London while the king was dying, so she would be ready. Why didn’t Northumberland schedule an immediate coronation? It makes me curious. With that question in mind I contacted my friend Claire at The Anne Boleyn Files – Claire knows a lot about the time period and it generally my go to person when I have nagging questions. Claire said that a coronation took much time to plan and that is why she believed it wasn’t done immediately. In my opinion, if they were worried, they could have rushed the plans and made it less of a spectacle.

While the stories we are often told of Jane are of her weeping at the thought of being queen, the truth is that she was performing the duties of a monarch. And every day,Jane signed letters and papers with her name – “Jane the Quene” If she was reluctant I do not believe she would have signed it as such. I’ve always believed that she may not have wished the role at the beginning, but once she was in it she would fulfill her duties properly.

Jumping Ship

For the next three days  Mary’s supporters and forces grew. She gained support from men such as Sir Edward Hastings; Henry Radclyffe, Earl of Sussex; Sir Thomas Cornwallis; Thomas, Lord Wentworth; Sir Henry Bedingfield; John de Vere, Earl of Oxford. These men are big names for Mary to have on her side. In addition to them were many prominent families of eastern England. Mary was proclaimed Queen in various counties and towns due to her efforts.

On the 15th of July the tide really began to turn against Jane when the royal ships guarding the Eastern coast for ‘Queen Jane’ swapped their allegiance to ‘Queen Mary’. Their crews had not been paid, and they received a visit from Sir Henry Jerningham (grandson of William Kingston – that name should sound familiar) asking them to support Mary instead, so it was an easy decision. It makes one wonder why they hadn’t been paid.

Now, you are probably interested in hearing more about these ships and what happened:

A man by the name of Robert Wingfield accompanied Jerningham who had heard about the ships off the coast by a drunken sailor, and the following morning (15th) found the ship beached at Landguard Point. Wingfield documented what happened:

“Very early the next day Jerningham, accompanied by Tyrrell and Glemham, rode up to inspect the ships thus brought to the haven by a lucky tide and wind, as they say. When they had reached the haven he ordered Richard Brooke, the squadron’s commander, a diligent man and skilled in seamanship, to be called to him, and took him to Framlingham castle to bring news of this happy and unexpected arrival to the queen.”

I don’t know anymore than that. They brought the commander of the ship to see Mary and then the ships switched allegiance. Could it have been because Mary paid him the money that had been owed by Queen Jane’s establishment? Or maybe she just offered to pay in the future. Either way, they turned sides.

The Spy Talks

On the 15th of July 1553, a letter was sent from a spy in France to the Emperor. The emperor had great interest in the events at English court. His cousin, Mary, was supposed to be Queen. France was looking at aiding the Duke of Northumberland in securing Jane.

The letter² said:

“The present courier, who is returning in haste to Italy, will only give me time to write a few words; but it will be enough if your lordship learns the most important news. The King of England died on the 7th, and the wife of the son of the man who was formerly governor (i.e.Northumberland) was suddenly elevated to the throne, and took possession of London Tower with great pomp. The Emperor’s cousin retreated to some place in England. The said governor’s son followed her with 300 horse; and it is thought he will arrest her if he can. The said governor has written post-haste to the King here, and if there is trouble in England I am sure the King will not fail to help him with all his forces, both from here and from Scotland. Within two days’ time he is going to send M. de Gyé (the French ambassador) and the Bishop of Orleans to encourage the said governor, and offer him all the help he may need. There is some hope that this sudden change may give rise to an alteration for good in religious matters. God grant it may be so!”

Jane Fights Back

In the meantime, Jane continued to send letters to sheriffs and Justices of the peace and demanded their allegiance, saying: “Remain fast in your obeisance and duty to the Crown Imperial of this realm, whereof we have justly the possession.” Jane was determined to maintain her role.

The Chronicle of Queen Jane also reports that at around 7pm on 16th of July “the gates of the Tower upon a sudden were shut, and the keys carried up to the Queen Jane”. Jane had ordered guards to be setup all around the Tower to help her maintain her possession of it.

A couple of days later, on the 18th Queen Jane began to raise more troops. She had been upset and sent letters to those who would betray. She was sure that these rebels lacked the heart to continue on with their mission. She said these men should receive ‘such punishment and execution as they deserve’. But unfortunately her show of force was too little too late, the tide had turned and all appeared lost.

A Change From Within

While the Duke of Northumberland, and his army made their way from Cambridge to Bury St Edmunds to stand against Mary’s men, the Earls of Pembroke and Arundel called a council meeting and then betrayed Northumberland and Queen Jane. The men persuaded many council members that Mary’s claim to the throne was legitimate.

It was after the council had turned that men began to run through the streets shouting, “the Lady Mary is proclaimed Queen!”

Enemies of the State

With Mary now considered Queen of England, Jane, her father, the Duke of Northumberland and Guildford Dudley were now enemies of the state. There had to be consequences for usurping the throne.

So the Council’s soldiers arrived at the Tower, and Jane’s father, Henry Grey was there to speak with them. They informed him that all was lost and that he must have his Tower guards put down their weapons. Grey complied. They also told him to he must ‘remove’ himself from the Tower at once. Also, if he did not read the proclamation that Mary was his Queen in public he would be arrested. Henry Grey once again complied.

Queen No More

Grey had the unfortunate duty of informing his daughter that all was lost and that she was no longer Queen of England. Jane gracefully held her composure and reminded her father that it took much convincing at the beginning for her to accept the crown.

The Duke of Northumberland was quick to pledge his allegiance to the merciful Queen Mary as well. If this had been Mary’s father, all those involved would have easily been executed for treason.

Jane was moved from the royal apartment to a small house next to the royal apartments within the Tower. Her husband was placed in the Beauchamp Tower close by.

Northumberland may have believed himself safe but on the 25th of July 1553, he and his sons Ambrose and Henry arrived at the Tower. The following day his son Robert Dudley and William Parr both arrived as well. On the 27th of July, Jane’s was saddened to see her father arrive at the Tower – they had all hoped that Northumberland would take the fall for the entire event.

Fighting for her Family

On the 29th of July, Jane’s mother and cousin to the Queen, Frances Brandon paid a special visit to Queen Mary. It was at this meeting that Frances pleaded with Mary that her family were the victims of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. Mary agreed to release Henry Grey the following day, but Jane was charged with treason had to stay in the Tower – it was too dangerous for Mary to release her.

Queen Mary

On the 3rd of August, Queen Mary made her formal entry into London. With her procession of nobles and courtiers took claim of the Tower of London.

While this battle for the throne was shrouded in religion, Queen Mary made a point of issuing a conciliatory proclamation which promised a settlement of religion ‘by common consent’ – and said that people, in the meantime, should live under the religion ‘they thought best’. This was a smart move by Mary. Most people were terrified that she would immediately return England to Catholicism.

Treason Trial

On the 13th of November, Jane, her husband Guildford and his brothers Ambrose and Henry were tried for treason. The trial was public and was held at London’s Guuildhall. Jane Guildford were charged with high treason for taking possession of the Tower and proclaiming Jane as Queen. Jane was also charged with signing her name as Queen.

They were all found guilty as charged. The men were to be hanged, drawn and quartered and Jane was to be burned alive or beheaded.  It was reported that Jane remained calm during her trial and sentencing. Jane was determined that her death would have meaning. During her time in the Tower as a prisoner she truly devoted herself to her religion and found comfort in it.

Eric Ives states in his book (Lady Jane Grey – A Tudor Mystery) that:

“Jane faced imprisonment in the Tower positively. The loss of liberty was irksome, but the more she could, by God’s grace, triumph over hardships, the more confident should be be of her eternal destiny.”

Even though Jane had been condemned to die there was no date given for her execution. It appeared at the time that her cousin, the Queen, might spare her life.

Wyatt’s Rebellion

Unfortunately for Jane, the year 1554 brought trouble, by way of Thomas Wyatt and Wyatt’s Rebellion. The point of the rebellion was to remove Mary from the throne and win it for Elizabeth (another Protestant) because Mary was looking at marrying a foreign prince, Philip of Spain. However, many believed at court that the intent was to place Jane back on the throne of England. But, as history tells, Wyatt’s Rebellion a failure – the only thing it succeeded in was the execution of Jane and her husband.


A resident in the Tower wrote this about the day of their execution:

“The Monday, being the 12th of February, about ten of the clock, there went out of the Tower to the scaffold on Tower hill, the Lord Guildford Dudley, son to the late Duke of Northumberland, husband to the Lady Jane Grey, daughter the Duke of Suffolk, who at his going out took by the hand sir Anthony Brown, master John Throckmorton, and many other gentlemen, praying them to pray for him.”

Guildford was led to the scaffold, where he said few words, kneeled down and said his prayers.

“Then holding up his eyes and hands to God many times, and at last, after he had desired the people to pray for him, he laid himself along, and his head upon the block, which was at one stroke of the axe taken from him.”

The same witness made account of Jane’s execution as well:

“First, when she mounted upon the scaffold, she said to the people standing thereabout: ‘Good people, I am come hether to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact, in deed, against the queen’s highness was unlawfull, and the consenting thereunto by me: but touching the procurement and desire thereof by me or on my half, I do wash my hands thereof in innocence, before God, and the face of you, good Christian people, this day’, and therewish she wrung her hands, in which she had her book. Then she said, ‘I pray you all, good Christian people, to bear me witness that I die a true Christian woman, and that I look to be saved by none other mean, but only by the mercy of God in the merits of the blood of his only son Jesus Christ; and I confess when I did know the word of God I neglected the same, loved myself and the world, and therefore this plague or punishment is happily and worthely happened unto me for my sins; and yet I thank God of his goodness that he hath thus given me a time and respite to repent. And now good people, while i am alive, I pray you to assist me with your prayers.’

After reading a psalm from her book she stood up, and gave her gloves and handkerchief to Elizabeth Tilney, and her prayer-book to Master Thomas Bridges. She then untied her gown. The executioner went to assist her but she adamantly declined his offer and turned to her ladies. It was after all that that her eyes were covered with a blindfold.

The executioner then knelt down and asked for her forgiveness in which she willingly forgave the men for what he must do. She said to him, “I pray you dispatch me quickly”.

Blindfolded, Jane was unable to locate the block in front of her.  She had a moment of panic and said, “what shall I do?’ ‘Where is it?’ A person nearby (it does not say whom) guided the frightened young woman to the block.

Her final words were, “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit!”


²’Spain: July 1553, 11-15′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11, 1553, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1916), pp. 80-90. British History Online [accessed 18 March 2018]


De Lisle, Leanda. ‘Three Sisters Who Would Be Queen‘.
Ives, Eric. ‘Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery‘.
Tallis, Nicole. ‘Crown of Blood’.
Jane Grey – The Tudor Society Monarch Series (Book 4)
Green, Mary Anne Everett Letters of royal and illustrious ladies of Great Britain, from the commencement of the twelfth century to the close of the reign of Queen Mary; Published 1846
Nichols, John Gough  The chronicle of Queen Jane, and of two years of Queen Mary, and especially of the rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt
Letters of royal and illustrious ladies of Great Britain, from the commencement of the twelfth century to the close of the reign of Queen Mary; by Green, Mary Anne Everett; Published 1846; pages 274-279
Tudor Society: Edward VI Chooses Lady Jane Grey as Heir

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The Life of Lady Jane Grey (Part Two)

We ended Part One with the execution of the man who Jane lived with for 18 months – she even considered him a father-figure, Thomas Seymour. In this article we’ll look at her life after her wardship.

In order to continue with the life of Lady Jane Grey we really need to look at the events occurring in England at the time, and delve a bit further into the relationship between Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and John Dudley.

To keep all these people straight while telling this story, going forward, I will try to refer to Edward Seymour as ‘Somerset’,  John Dudley as either Dudley or Northumberland, Thomas Seymour as both Thomas and Sudeley.

Listen to Part One HERE

Don’t want to read this all? Listen to Part Two HERE

Where it all Went Wrong

Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset would soon discover that his involvement in the downfall and execution of his brother Thomas would be his own undoing. Was it Dudley who created a division between the brothers to pave way for his own ambitious plans? Did he hold a grudge against Somerset for stripping him of the title, “Lord High Admiral”? Not only stripped him of it, but Somerset gave the title to his younger brother, Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley. Was that the so-called move that Somerset made to gain such vengeance from Dudley?

Sudeley had always been an ambitious man, with ideas of what he saw as fair. The life he lived turned him into a well-liked, attractive man who behaved as a middle child would behave- always wanting more and striving to be noticed. As a middle child I can attest to this.

Is being ambitious so bad? Nowadays one would be applauded for being so driven, but history has not been so nice to Thomas Seymour.

If Dudley instigated any strife between the Seymour brothers I do not know, but his actions later definitely show that he was on a mission to be the most powerful man in England – what would stop him from getting everything he wanted?

Betrothal to Somerset’s Son?

In February 1549, Somerset was in discussions with Henry Grey about a possible marriage between his son, Edward, Earl of Hertford and Grey’s daughter Jane. While Somerset still alive it would have seemed an invaluable match to Grey, however, after his execution a match with Somerset’s kin seemed less appealing to Dudley. Around this time a match was made with Northumberland’s son, Guildford Dudley and Lady Jane Grey. A match that would benefit both families.

Initially, for Northumberland, a marriage with Lady Jane Grey meant that his son would be able to secure the dukedom of Suffolk after the death of Jane’s father. At that point in the plan it doesn’t appear to be all about making Jane Queen of England.


After the execution of his friend Sudeley, Henry Grey aligned himself with Dudley. What was it that Dudley had said to him to get him to ally himself against the Lord Protector? Did he say that Somerset had lost all his power? Did he tell him of his plans to be Lord Protector himself? Did he go so far as to tell him that he wished for Jane to be Queen? — We know that Henry and Frances Grey were thrilled when Sudeley offered a marriage between Edward VI and their daughter – making her a queen consort and raising the station of their family. What would stop them from being motivated to make their daughter a queen regnant instead?

Religion played a big part in this all. The idea of a Catholic on the throne was terrifying to the Protestants and they did whatever it took to ensure Mary Tudor would never became queen of England.

On the 29th of November 1549, Henry Grey’s relationship with Dudley became beneficial to them both. Dudley with the persuasion and power he had was able to get Henry Grey appointed as a privy councillor. This appointment shifted the balance of the council in favor of those who agreed with Dudley.

In February of the following year (1550), Henry Grey was appointed as one of the six lords who was personally responsible for the king. With this new appointment, the Grey family was now living at the court of Edward VI.

Downfall of Somerset

The fate of Somerset became similar to that of his late brother, Sudeley, who was executed in 1549. Somerset had been surrounded by men who were whispered in his ear and warned him of his brother’s behavior. They convinced him that he had no other choice than to sign his brother’s death warrant, if he did not his own safety and the safety of the king would be in jeopardy.

Four months after Sudley’s execution, a rebellion broke out in East Anglia. The commoners were protesting against the enclosure of land and the misuse of power by their landlords. —- In July 1549, a group of rebels destroyed newly built fences that were placed there by the wealthy landowners. One of the landowners was a man called Robert Kett. Kett chose to agree to the rebel demands instead of fighting against them. He then offered to lead the men.

In July 1549, Paget wrote to Somerset: “Every man of the council have misliked your proceedings … would to God, that, at the first stir you had followed the matter hotly, and caused justice to be ministered in solemn fashion to the terror of others …”.[46]

It was Somerset’s reaction to the rebellion that cost him favor — after the rebels managed to occupy Norwich, Somerset wrote letters where he sympathized with the rebels and offered them pardons -he even stated he would bring up their grievances in Parliament. Unfortunately for Somerset, a man who was trying to compromise with the rebels, the king’s privy councilors were outraged by his actions. It was decided that Dudley, a seasoned-soldier,  would lead an army against the rebels. He did, and on the 27th of August stopped them in their tracks. Dudley did what Somerset could not.

Somerset had become a huge liability to the country. With multiple rebellions and the cost of war with Scotland, the rest of the council had lost faith in him.

By the beginning of October 1549, Somerset could see the power dwindling from his fingertips and feared the worst. Looking for support he sent letters asking men to take up arms and head to Hampton Court Palace – the King needed protection. Somerset then took the King and moved to what he believed to be a safer location, Windsor Castle. It was noted by Edward in the King’s diary that “Me thinks I am in prison.”[47]  

The council needed to act quickly, and formed a united front against Somerset – the group of men who had once been his allies and had approved him to become Lord Protector, now placed all the blame directly on him for all the events of the last year. They realized that, like Henry VIII used to do, they could make men and break them. That is indeed what they did to Somerset.

On the 11th of October, Dudley was raised to Duke of Northumberland and Henry and Frances Grey were created Duke and Duchess of Suffolk (finally inheriting her father’s title after the death of her brother) – Five days later, on the 16th of October, Somerset and dozens of his supporters were arrested.

“…the Council had Somerset arrested and brought the king to Richmond. While looking at the charges against his uncle, King Edward had this to say about them: “ambition, vainglory, entering into rash wars in mine youth, negligent looking on Newhaven, enriching himself of my treasure, following his own opinion, and doing all by his own authority.”

After his arrest, Somerset was no longer Lord Protector.

Historian Eric Ives did not believe that the downfall of Somerset was by the plan of Dudley. The fact that Dudley gained power was merely a coincidence. While I respect the late historians views I do not agree with him. In my opinion, Dudley wanted more power from the get-go. After the death of Henry VIII he found a way to wedge himself between the two Seymour brothers, the uncles of the king, and became instrumental in the downfall of those men.

After the “dethroning” of Somerset (so to speak), Dudley made peace with him. This was an intelligent move by Dudley because the Duke of Somerset was still the most senior duke in all of England. Somerset still wielded a lot of power and money — with those two things he was able to hatch a plan to retrieve his title.

As with Mary, Queen of Scots and her long battle for her queenship, Somerset always believed it was his right to watch over his nephew and no one else. That is what became his downfall. It is also what caused Mary’s demise as well. Both lost their head for their pride.

As soon as Somerset fell from favor, Henry Grey immediately joined sides with Dudley and helped to bring down his former friend.

Somerset was executed on largely fabricated charges, three months after Dudley had been raised to the Dukedom of Northumberland in October 1551.

“Somerset had never ceased to be popular among the general populace, his execution in January 1552 went down as cold-blooded judicial murder by a newly elevated rival who was determined to secure unfettered power.”

In all reality, Somerset only had himself to blame for his downfall – if he had not rebelled against Northumberland (Dudley) he may have had a much longer life. With that being said, Northumberland later admitted that the charges against Somerset were flimsy at best, but he knew how to massage them to get the result he wanted. This was a popular method in Tudor England.

Since Somerset never ceased being popular with the general populace, it was Northumberland who had an uphill battle to climb to gain a positive reputation after Somerset’s execution. His reputation had gotten so bad that the Spanish were claiming that he was planning to marry the Lady Elizabeth.

Side Note: The death of Somerset saw Jane’s family gaining a new home, at the Charterhouse at Sheen.

Northumberland’s Plan

Edward Montagu, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas once said this about the rule of the young King Edward and how Northumberland actually did the ruling:

Who put the king in mind to make the said articles, or who wrote them, or any of them, or by whose procurement or counsel they were made, or by what means he and others were called unto this matter, he knows not; but he thinks in his conscience the king never invented this matter of himself, but by some wonderful false compass.

A contemporary English historian had this to say about the situation:

The unhappy king – born to disaster, and subject to abuse and plunder from both his guardians, first by his dearest uncle, the duke of Somerset, then as if from the frying-pan into the fire, by Northumberland – dared not make any protest, but fell in with the duke’s wishes; he soon ordered the most skilled lawyers to be called to note his will, or rather that of Northumberland, and to write it with all the ancient legal elaboration.

Northumberland’s plan was to use the same method as Sudeley – convince the young king that he should outright and flatter him with lots of decision-making.

Although Northumberland overthrew Somerset, it was the method of the King’s other uncle, Sudeley,that Northumberland modeled after with the young King. I’ve always believed that King Edward was sheltered from his role as King by his uncle Somerset, and Sudeley saw it and tried use it to his benefit.

King’s Health

When the King’s health began to fail Northumberland knew, if he wished to keep his powerful position he had to find a way to protect himself in the event the young king should die.

Guildford Dudley Betrothal and Marriage

A warrant dated  the 24th of April 1553 is the first indication we have of a betrothal between Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley. The warrant was for ‘wedding apparel’ to be delivered to both the bride and groom.

On the 25th of May 1553, Durham House, Northumberland’s residence in London was witness to a triple wedding. Jane Grey to Guildford Dudley, Katherine Grey to Henry, Lord Herbert (who had been brought from his sick bed to wed Katherine) and Katherine Dudley to Henry Hastings. All three marriages were advantageous for the Dudley clan and either brought them closer to the Grey family or other noble families in the realm.

The weddings were quite the spectacle to be seen and a majority of English nobility showed up to witness them. There were jousts, a feast and two masques performed.

We don’t know for certain how Jane felt about a marriage with Guildford. He had been described as ‘a comely, virtuous and goodly gentleman’.

Whether or not Jane fought against the marriage is a grey area – some have said she fought against it, while others say that went along with the process because she knew it was her duty.

The marriage would join the two prestigious families of the Greys and Dudleys, and would be celebrated in all the glory as one should if they had royal blood. Unfortunately, the King was ill at the time and was unable to attend. In his place he sent gifts of ‘rich ornaments and jewels’.

The imperial ambassador wrote that the wedding was being ‘celebrated with great magnificence and feasting at the duke of Northumberland’s house in town’ and it extended over two days.

After the wedding feast, several attendants, including the bride and groom, fell ill from food poisoning. The source of the food poisoning is believed to have been a salad. It is said that the cook, “plucked one leaf for another”.  Jane Grey suspected her mother in law was responsible for the food poisoning.

The coupled lived apart for a while after their wedding. But, by the time Jane became Queen of England they were living together at Durham House and had certainly consummated their marriage.

Was the rush of their wedding because the Edward’s ‘devise for succession’ only named male heirs? All that remained were women and they need to have a son….and fast.

Jane’s relationship with Guildford appears to be a very interesting one. They were both young and Guildford was still a mama’s-boy. I believe, from all that I’ve read, that Jane did care for and maybe even loved, Guildford.

Dying King

There were already rumors that King Edward was dying, but on the 28th of May 1553, Edward’s doctor privately informed Northumberland that the King would not survive past autumn.

It was not long after Northumberland was made aware of the poor health of the King that the French showed their support to stop the succession of Mary. The death of the English king was on everyone’s mind — Edward’s successor could easily throw off a balance of power in the world.

Everything appeared to be playing out just as Northumberland had planned. King Edward adjusted his will to pass over Frances Grey (since she had not had male heirs) to her daughter Jane and her heirs male. This wasn’t the first time that Frances Grey was overlooked – Henry VIII had done the same thing to the daughter of his favorite sister.

According to the papal envoy (Giovanni Francesco Commendone), Northumberland was the one who informed Jane that she was now heir to the throne of England. Jane, understandably, was upset – not so much that she was taking away something from her cousin, Mary, but that her own mother was overlooked in favor of Jane.

Upset, Jane requested to go back to Suffolk Place to see her mother, however, the Duchess of Northumberland denied her request since she needed to be immediately available upon the death of the king.

Jane had found her voice over her short years and wasn’t about to allow the mother-in-law she did not like to dictate what she could and couldn’t do, so Jane snuck out of Durham house and took a boat on the Thames to see her mother at Suffolk Place. While Frances consoled her young daughter who would soon be queen of England, Guildford’s mother was furious that Jane had snuck out. She threatened to keep her son away of Jane if she did not immediately return. Such action would be cause for a public scandal. The two families came to some type of compromise and Jane returned to her husband’s side.

It wasn’t only Jane who was upset that her mother was passed over, Henry Grey was livid about what had just transpired and was now convinced that Northumberland merely wanted to have his son on the throne all along.

While all this drama was playing out, King Edward VI slowly prepared for his death. On the 21st of June, after a long time of considering who would succeed him he declared that his ‘half blood’ sisters were still illegitimate and would not be eligible to succeed him –  his successor would be the Protestant Jane Grey.

On the 27th of June, after rumors had spread that the King was dead, Edward VI made a point to show himself at a window. This was the last time his subjects (outside the building) would see him alive.

Only six weeks after her arranged marriage with Guildford Dudley, Edward VI had died and Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed (by Northumberland) Queen of England.



De Lisle, Leanda. ‘Three Sisters Who Would Be Queen‘.

Ives, Eric. ‘Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery‘.

Tallis, Nicole. ‘Crown of Blood’.

Scard, Margaret. ‘Edward Seymour: Lord Protector’

Skidmore, Chris. ‘Edward VI’

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