This history of Sudeley Castle goes back centuries. It’s majestic gardens were once visited by the likes of Richard III, Jasper Tudor, Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Katherine Parr and Lady Jane Grey.
It 1469, King Edward IV forced a Lancastrian supporter (his enemies) to sell the castle to the crown. Edward IV then granted it to his younger brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester (future Richard III) who held it for nine years and then it reverted back to the crown because he exchanged it for another castle.
When Richard became King of England he once again held ownership of Sudeley Castle.
After Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1483, one must assume that the castle became the property of King Henry VII since he now wore the crown. The following year he granted the castle to his uncle, Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford who held it until his death in 1495. The castle was once again the property of the crown.
Forty years later (1535) the castle must have still been in good condition because Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn stopped there on their tour. The King and Cromwell met at Winchcombe Abbey and planned further dissolution of monasteries together. During this visit to Sudeley Anne Boleyn is also noted to have investigated the “Blood of Christ” at Hailes Abbey which, if I remember correctly, turned out to be duck’s blood.
In 1547, when Thomas Seymour was raised by his nephew Edward VI to Baron Seymour of Sudeley he obtained the sprawling castle in need of desperate up keep. It is unknown how much Seymour spent on renovations on the castle but one can imagine it was a small fortune; He was preparing for a dowager queen to be present and their home together to be like a second court.
In August of that same year Parr gave birth to a daughter, Mary Seymour and unfortunately died of puerperal fever about five days later. Her funeral was the first Protestant funeral in England with Lady Jane Grey leading as Chief Mourner. She was buried in the chapel that Seymour built. Seymour was not present at the funeral, which was common for the time but was noted by a friend as being extremely upset by the loss of his wife. (Once I locate the quote again I’ll post it here.)
Eventually, due to his reckless behavior and fear from his brother the Lord Protector, Thomas Seymour was arrested on 33 counts of treason and convicted without trial. He was executed on the 19 March 1549, afterwhich the castle once again reverted to the crown.
Sir Thomas Wyatt is usually best known as the son of Sir Thomas Wyatt, the Elder and Poet. Today, we look at the event that caused his death – Wyatt’s Rebellion. You see, Wyatt thought having the Protestant Lady Jane Grey on the throne was best for England, but when that didn’t last more than a week, his next battle was stopping Queen Mary from wedding Philip of Spain. Wyatt, along with others, worried that having the Queen wed a foreign prince would in turn make that prince their ruling sovereign. They were also very concerned (and rightfully so) that Queen Mary would return England to Rome and Catholicism.
The rebels themselves explained that they were rebelling in order “to prevent us from over-running by strangers.”
“This was a rebellion led by nobles – principally Sir Thomas Wyatt from Kent, Sir Peter Carew from Devon, Sir James Croft from Herefordshire and the Duke of Suffolk from Leicestershire. However, it had one major weakness – it did not have the popular support of the people across the land and was doomed to failure.”
Their plan was to coordinate a series of uprising that would occur in the south, southwest, the Welsh Marches and the Midlands – from there the men would march on London. Once in London their mission was to remove Queen Mary and replace her with her Protestant sister, Elizabeth. The plan then was to have Elizabeth marry Edward Courteney.
Unfortunately for Wyatt and his men, Simon Renard, the Imperial Ambassador, heard rumors that such a plot existed and immediately informed the Lord Chancellor, Stephen Gardner. Gardiner hauled in Edward Courteney for questioning.
Meanwhile, word of Wyatt’s Rebellion spread to the Queen. Mary attempted to reason with Wyatt – she asked him what he wanted in return for ceasing the uprising. Wyatt stated that he should have the Tower of London handed over to him and that she should be in his charge. Clearly this was not something that Mary was willing to do.
On the 1st of February 1554, Queen Mary made an inspiring speech to Londoners and won over their support:
‘I am your Queen, to whom at my coronation, when I was wedded to the realm and laws of the same (the spousal ring whereof I have on my finger, which never hitherto was, not hereafter shall be, left off), you promised your allegiance and obedience to me…. And I say to you, on the word of a Prince, I cannot tell how naturally the mother loveth the child, for I was never the mother of any; but certainly, if a Prince and Governor may as naturally and earnestly love her subjects as the mother doth love the child, then assure yourselves that I, being your lady and mistress, do as earnestly and tenderly love and favour you. And I, thus loving you, cannot but think that ye as heartily and faithfully love me; and then I doubt not but we shall give these rebels a short and speedy overthrow’.
Because of the Queen’s speech she had won over her people, and they in turn jumped into action to protect the Queen from this uprising.
The rebellion failed miserably after Edward Courteney spilled the beans on all the plans to Stephen Gardiner during questioning. When Wyatt’s men had a difficult time getting into London they found another way across the Thames through the southwest end of the city. Unfortunately they would not succeed. Wyatt surrendered. So many men were arrested from this uprising that the they had to house the overflow in area churches.
In total about 90 rebels were executed, including Wyatt and Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk. Wyatt was severely tortured (in the hope of extracting a confession implicating Elizabeth) and on the 11th of April 1554, was beheaded at Tower Hill and his body then quartered. This event was also the nail in the coffin for Lady Jane Grey and her husband, Guildford Dudley. Their fates had been undetermined until this uprising occurred, and then it was obvious to the Council and the Queen that she would never be safe as long as Jane lived.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol11/pp80-90 [accessed 18 March 2018]
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.
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 …”.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
In this new series I have chosen to focus on the life of Lady Jane Grey. Recently I finished reading ‘Crown of Blood’ by Nicola Tallis and ‘The Sisters Who Would Be Queen’ by Leanda DE Lisle, as well as referencing Eric Ive’s biography on Jane. Along with my fascination of Thomas Seymour, Jane Grey’s life nicely intertwined with that of his and is a fantastic story to share with all of you.
As granddaughter of Mary Tudor, dowager queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk, Lady Jane Grey was born with royal blood flowing through her veins. As the eldest surviving child of Frances Brandon and Henry Grey she received the education that normally would have been given to the eldest son. Some even believe Jane was better educated than Elizabeth Tudor.
Born in the latter half of 1536, Jane Grey was named after Queen Jane Seymour, who was most likely also asked to stand as godmother to the child.1
Those Who Cared For Jane
As is usual with royal children, Jane was cared for by a wet nurse. It was considered unfashionable, and frowned upon, for a woman of royal status to breastfeed her own children. Choosing the perfect wet nurse was of utmost importance to Frances Grey – she was the daughter of a Tudor princess and a dowager queen, and so her daughter Jane was royal. It is unknown who Jane’s wet nurse was but it is highly likely that whomever it was had been chosen by Frances Brandon herself.
Jane was not only suckled by a wet nurse but she also had a nursery staff which included rockers. A rocker’s job was to rock the infant to sleep and to soothe the child when necessary.
Until watching PBS Masterpiece series on Queen Victoria I had been unaware of the tradition of “churching” – maybe unaware is the wrong word…I didn’t understand it. In modern day this seems utterly ridiculous, but back in 16th century England this was commonplace. Churching allowed a woman to return to her normal activities in society. It was a purification ceremony that took place forty days after giving birth.2
“The custom of blessing a woman after childbirth recalls the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary mentioned in Luke 2:22. The Jewish practice was based on Leviticus 12:1-8, which specified the ceremonial rite to be performed in order to restore ritual purity. It was believed that a woman becomes ritually unclean by giving birth, due to the presence of blood and/or other fluids at birth.”
Here is the quote from Leviticus:
A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over. If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean, as during her period. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding.
With Jane being born in the latter half of 1536 she would have only known an England that did not include Anne Boleyn, as well as not knowing religion that included the Pope. She was raised Protestant, like her cousin Elizabeth – it was the only religion either ever knew.
Education played a very important role in Jane’s life. It was of greatest importance to her father, who had been well educated himself, that his daughters learned all that he was taught and more.
In this new England it was not frowned upon for girls to be educated. At five years old Jane began her formal education.
In the beginning she began like most of us, learning her alphabet which lead to reading and writing. She would have also learned and memorized the Lord’s Prayer, in English – this was of utmost importance – education was not only learning to read and write but to build a strong relationship with the Lord.
Jane proved to be a enthusiastic student who loved to learn and was eager to be taught. This was something her first teacher, Dr. Thomas Harding would have noticed immediately.
It was around 1541 that the well-known tutor John Aylmer joined the household at Bradgate as tutor and chaplain – he had been invited by Jane’s father.
Aylmer once commented on Jane’s intellect by saying, “God has fit to adorn with so many excellent gifts”. Jane flourished under the guidance of her new tutor and everyone, including her parents were pleased with her progress.
Aylmer once said:
It has always indeed been my disposition not only to set the highest esteem upon all kinds of learning, but to regard with the greatest affection those who cultivate and profess it. For I well know how brutish this life of our would be, were not the understanding of mankind cultivated by useful learning and liberal pursuits.
It was under Aylmer that Jane’s enthusiasm for religious reform grew. But as always it wasn’t only learning from books and religion that Jane learned, but also the traditional forms of education to prepare woman for Tudor court – she would have learned etiquette, how to sew or embroider, how to dance and play musical instruments.
Jane excelled at history and learning languages. She spoke Greek and Latin, as well as Italian and Hebrew. She also learned French as well as other languages.
For Jane, books filled the void from the lack of age appropriate companionship at Bradgate. Her sisters Catherine and Mary were younger than her and Jane was happiest when she was inside reading. While her sisters preferred to play outside.
As with any noble, or aristocratic child, Jane approached adolescence and needed to further her education within a household of an equal or someone of superior nobility. Henry Grey had indicated that his eleven year old daughter became the ward of Sir Thomas Seymour in February 15473 and was sent to Seymour Place in London- this was not long after the death of King Henry VIII and prior to Seymour’s marriage to the dowager queen, Kateryn Parr. Historian, Eric Ives believed that Jane’s parents were aware of Seymour’s intentions to wed Parr and that they were pleased with the arrangement.
Sir Thomas Seymour had proposed to purchase Jane’s wardship from her parents Frances Brandon and Henry Grey. Grey and Seymour were well acquainted. Seymour attempted to entice the couple by offering them 2,000£ for Jane’s wardship. When that didn’t seem to do it he said he would also arrange a marriage between Jane and Edward, the king.
Jane’s parents jumped at the chance for their daughter to be queen consort and allowed Seymour to purchase the 2,000£ wardship. They would have also seen the benefit of their daughter being in the presence of the dowager queen, who was a Protestant. Parr was already known for her care and education of the Lady Elizabeth. Elizabeth had the best tutors and mentors around – the same would be fore Jane. This offer from Seymour was in stark contrast to an offer made by the Lord Protector and his wife. The Somersets had attempted to arrange a marriage between their son and Jane. It seems both Seymour men, Thomas and Edward, understood how powerful of a chess piece young Jane could be.
It was in her new household that Jane appeared able to spread her wings – she felt a freedom with Seymour and Parr that she had not experienced under the wings of her parents, as any child would feel being removed from their parents in their youth. She also was able to enjoy the company of the beautiful Parr. With Parr as a role model, Jane grew fond of beautifully styled hair and fine clothes, as well as a love of music. These were things that her tutor Ascham would later inform her were not of the Protestant way.
It was in this household that Parr had arranged the best tutors for Jane and she thrived in her studies on religion and became more convicted in her reformed views.
Jane’s parents, after a while, were concerned that progress was not being made in a marriage between Jane and the King since the Lord Protector had blocked both Seymour and Parr from seeing him. Seymour reassured them that he was indeed the King’s favorite uncle and that all would be well in due course.
Jane, under the care of Seymour and Parr would have come across her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth was a few years older than Jane and so she was not as interested in interacting with her, not to mention that Elizabeth had always understood how precarious her position in the line of succession was since she was still considered the illegitimate daughter of the late king. Jane may have seemed to be a threat to Elizabeth’s future.
The Lady Elizabeth
Even though they had not spent much time together, Jane would most likely have been witness to Seymour’s attention toward the Lady Elizabeth. Once can wonder what Jane’s feelings were on the matter.
Death of Parr
Jane Grey spent a total of a year and a half under the wardship of Seymour, but it all came to an end when Parr succumbed to childbed fever after giving birth to a daughter, Mary. At the service, Jane became the Chief Mourner in the first ever Protestant funeral in England.
After the death of his wife, the grief-stricken Seymour chose to disband the household and to send Jane back to her parents at Bradgate.
Return to Bradgate
It was after Jane returned to her parents at Bradgate that Thomas Seymour realized he had made a hasty decision. He wrote to Jane’s father on the 17th of September pleading with him to return Jane to his care. He explained that he understood Jane’s mother would be concerned that her daughter no longer had a strong female influence in her life, so Seymour reassured her that all the ladies and maids of honor of the dowager queen would be kept on at Sudeley – continuing with the theme that Sudeley Castle was home to the second court as when Parr was still living. He insisted that everyone would be ‘as diligent about [Jane], as yourself would wish’.4 He also reassured them that Jane would return to Sudeley under the supervision of himself and his aged mother, Margery Wentworth and that he would care for her as she was his own daughter.
During these new negotiations Jane replied to a letter that Seymour had written her:
‘Right Honourable and my singular good lord, the Lord Admiral’:
My duty to your lordship in most humble wise remembered, with no less thanks for the gentle letters which I received from you.
Thinking myself so much bound to your lordship for your great goodness towards me from time to time that I cannot by any means be able to recompense the least part thereof, I purposed to write a few rude lines unto your lordship, rather as a token to show how much worthier I think your lordship’s goodness, than to give worthy thanks for the same; and these, my letters, shall be to testify unto you that, like as you have become towards me a loving and kind father, so I shall be always most ready to obey your godly monitions and good instructions, as becometh on upon whom you have heaped so many benefits. And thus, fearing lest I should trouble your lordship too much, I most humbly take my leave of your good lordship.
Your humble servant, during my life,
Endorsed: “My Lady Jane, 1st October 1548”
Jane’s parents were not convinced that sending their daughter back to Sudeley was the best course of action. With the death of the dowager queen Seymour’s status had dropped dramatically.
Seymour, never happy to accept no as an answer, grabbed a horse and his friend William Sharington and they both headed to Bradgate. Thomas Seymour knew that he was very convincing in person. Once at Bradgate, Seymour and his friend Sharington used their wits and charms to the best of their abilities and convinced the couple that he would make good on their initial agreement. His only obstacle was access to the King. The Greys were convinced and (probably against their better judgement) sent their daughter back to Sudeley Castle under the care of Thomas Seymour.
Return to Sudeley Castle
The Sudeley Castle that Jane returned to after the death of Katheryn Parr’s had a heavier feeling in the air than before . There was a noticeable change in the mood at the castle and it appeared that Seymour had not yet accepted her death. He had often spoken about presenting a Bill to Parliament that would stop people from slandering his late wife’s name. It was her marriage to Seymour that tarnished her reputation.
Around this time there were rumors that Seymour was looking to remarry. Some believed he would try and wed the Lady Mary, or even Jane herself. Others believed he was after a marriage with the Lady Elizabeth, which he replied that he had heard his brother would lock him away in the Tower if he should marry her, but that he did not see anything wrong with a marriage with the Lady Elizabeth if she were to agree to it.
The further Seymour moved toward a possible marriage with the Lady Elizabeth the more concerned those around him became. His friends and those who served him tried to change his mind – that it was against all that was decent for a man of his birth to go after an heir to the throne of England. One even warned him saying, “It were better for you if you had never been born, nay, that you were burnt to the quick alive, than that you should attempt it.” Seymours plan not only risked his life but also the reputation and life of the Lady Elizabeth.
It wasn’t long after that Jane witnessed her father arriving at Sudeley to have secret meetings with Seymour. Henry Grey may have believed after these meetings that there would be a double wedding in the near future: His daughter to the King and Seymour to the Lady Elizabeth.
When the arrests of those involved in Seymour’s plan began Jane was returned to Dorset House – her parent’s home in London. It was there she would have tried to wrap her head around all the accusations against the man who she had known as a father.
It didn’t take long for Seymour to be railroaded and found guilty of treason, and on the 20th of March he was executed by beheading.
That’s where we will end for this week. We will continue on with her story in Part Two of the series on Lady Jane Grey.
1Tallis, Nicola. “Crown of Blood” pg. 17 2Wikipedia. “Churching of Women” – History 3Ives, Eric. “Lady Jane Grey – A Tudor Mystery’. pg. 44 4 De Lisle, Leanda. The Sisters Who Would Be Queen. Pg 46
Lady Jane Grey was queen for only nine days yet many do not consider her queen because she did not have a coronation – however, Edward Plantagenet (son of Edward IV) was given the title of Edward V even though he did not have a coronation. So why don’t we refer to Jane as Queen Jane I of England? Both monarchs “reigned” for a very short period of time before they died. Edward’s death is a mystery while Jane’s death was ordered by Queen Mary I after she had no choice but to execute her “rival”.
In this article we focus on what Jane Grey looked like and which of the portraits available to us may closest resembles the “Nine Day Queen” we’ve been described.
‘Today I saw Lady Jane Grey walking in a grand procession to the Tower. She is now called Queen, but is not popular, for the hearts of the people are with Mary, the Spanish Queen’s daughter. This Jane is very short and thin, but prettily shaped and graceful. She has 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. Her eyes are sparkling and reddish brown in colour. I stood so near her grace that I noticed her colour was good but freckled. When she smiled she showed her teeth, which are white and sharp. In all a gracious and animated figure. She wore a dress of green velvet stamped with gold, with large sleeves. Her headdress was a white coif with many jewels….The new Queen was mounted on very high chopines to make her look much taller, which were concealed by her robes, as she is very small and short.’ – Baptisa Spinola, 10 July 1553
“Yet I cannot pass over two English women, nor would I wish, my dear Sturmius, to pass over anything if you are thinking about friends to be borne in mind in England, than which nothing is more desirable to me. One is Jane Grey, daughter of the noble marquis of Dorset. Since she had Mary, queen of France as grandmother she was related very closely to our King Edward. She is fifteen years of age. At court I was very friendly with her, and she wrote learned letters to me: Last summer when I was visiting my friends in Yorkshire and was summoned from them by letters from John Cheke that I should come to court, I broke my journey on the way at Leicester where Jane Grey was residing with her father. I was straightway shown into her chamber: I found the noble young lady reading (By Jupiter!) in Greek, Plato’s Phaedo, and with such understanding as to win my highest admiration. She so speaks and writes Greek that one would hardly credit it. She has a tutor John Aylmer, one well versed in both tongues, and most dear to me for his humanity, wisdom, habits, pure religion, and many other bonds of the truest friendship. As I left she promised to write to me in Greek provided I would send her my letters written from the Emperor’s court. I am awaiting daily a Greek letter from her: when it comes I will send it on to you immediately.”
Of the above images, which do you believe resembles Jane the best from the description given?
Next, let’s compare the images of Jane with her sisters, Catherine and Mary. I picked the one I believed has the most similar features – you may believe otherwise and that is okay.
In 2007, Historian David Starkey believed he identified the only contemporary image of Lady Jane Grey.
Dr. Starkey, a Tudor specialist, claimed that he was “90 per cent certain” that he had succeeded in identifying the first contemporary portrait of Jane Grey, the pious Protestant pawn who was queen for nine days in 1553 before being beheaded at the Tower of London.
The portrait, less than two inches in diameter, belongs to an American collection and is known to date from the mid-16th century. The sitter has never before been named, but Dr Starkey said that he had identified her as Jane Grey from a brooch on her dress and a highly symbolic jewellery spray of foliage behind it, linking her to her husband.
Here is another portrait of Jane’s sister Catherine Grey that I’ve put next to the image that Startkey identified – do you see similarities?
Lastly, we’ll look at the most commonly used image of Jane, the Streatham” portrait from the 1590s is believed to be a later copy of a contemporary portrait of Lady Jane Grey. From the first description, this one does seem to cover all the bases: “small features, a well-made nose, the mouth flexible, lips red, eyebrows arched and darker than her hair, which is nearly red. Her eyes are sparkling and reddish brown in colour.” Would you agree that this would be the most likely portrait of Jane Grey?
We may never know for certain what many of the Tudor figures looked like – paintings are not pictures and contemporary accounts of these people are by people. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? With all this being said, from the description of Jane at the beginning of the piece and comparison with her sisters I still believe the Streatham portrait is most likely the only true image we have of Jane.
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