We truly have a rich history but sadly there incidents and events that reveal a darker, abusive, cruel side to English and British history. My last post was on the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, this was one such example of this darker history; another is the theme of today’s post, the abuse and cruel treatment of Lady Jane Grey and her husband Lord Guildford Dudley.
Today the 12th February is the anniversary of the execution of the young married couple at the Tower of London in 1554. If you thought stage children had pushy parents they you have never read the background to Lady Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley.
Firstly it is important to establish what claim, Lady Jane Grey had to the English throne at the time of the death of her cousin Edward VI. Our ill used heroine was of royal decent through her mother, Francis Brandon, Daughter of Mary Tudor Dowager Queen of France and Sister of Henry VIII and daughter of Henry VII thus making her the Great Grand Daughter of Henry VII and the first cousin once removed from all the children of Henry VIII, Mary, Elizabeth and of course Edward VI.
But why would Edward VI, choose his female cousin as heir to the English throne rather than one of his sisters? This decision was of course both politically and religiously motivated. Mary, Edward’s eldest sister and daughter of Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII, was Catholic. Edward was, and ruled England under a hard line protestant reformist ideology. By naming Mary as his heir, Edward and his councillor’s reformist ideals would be over turned and England would return to the church in Rome and that is why he did not name Mary as the heir.
Elizabeth like Edward was reformist in her religious views but he believed that her mother, Anne Boleyn, had been guilty of the crimes she was executed for and thus Elizabeth as her daughter was not a suitable candidate for the throne. In comparison Lady Jane Grey was related to him through their great grand father Henry VII and was of the same reformist thinking as he.
What do we know of the young girl who was pushed into power? Well we know that she was highly educated in the humanist fashion and it has been noted that she had one of the finest minds of her time rivalling that of her first cousin once removed Elizabeth.
Jane was also bartered like a prize heifer by her father and history knows of at least 2 engagements or associations before she was finally formally engaged to Lord Guildford Dudley. The First of which was a potentially very dangerous match with non other than Thomas Seymour. From February 1547 Jane had been part of Seymours household. Jane was Chief Mourner at the funeral of Seymour’s wife Catherine Parr, Dowager Queen of England and widow of Henry VIII. Lady Jane remained at the house after Catherine’s death. At his arrest one of the crimes Seymour was accused of and eventually executed for was proposing to marry Jane who was of royal blood. The fact that her father escaped any sort of punishment for this accusation in my eyes means that there was pretty flimsy evidence for such an allegation. However I could believe it of her father.
The second person whom she has been associated with is the eldest son of Lord Hertford. We know of this as Grey declared this at a council privy meeting possibly to stop the association with the now executed Seymour. Regardless of whether this was true or not, nothing came of it.
Jane was eventually to marry into the family of the most powerful man in England; her father in law was, John Dudley, first duke of Northumberland. She married Lord Guildford Dudley on 21st May 1553 less than 9 months later the couple were to be executed at the Tower of London.
Less than 2 months later King Edward VI died on 6th July 1553 possibly of acute bronchopneumonia with secondary problems such as septicaemia (blood poisoning), and kidney and lung failures. Jane was informed that she was the Queen of England on 9th July, to her surprise as well as feeling unenthusiastic about this new role in her life. It was pronounced to rest of the country on 10th July 1553 after she had been brought to the safety of the Tower of London.
In order for Jane’s Father and father in laws plan to succeed the next part needed to work well, they need to capture Jane’s rival for the throne, Mary Tudor. Mary however had inside knowledge and upon confirmation of the death of her brother, the king, she headed to words east England to gather support. Northumberland raised troops and left London on the 14th July and while he was chasing Mary, the rest of the Privy Council abandoned Queen Jane for Queen Mary. A mere nine days after Queen Jane had been proclaimed Queen, Mary took the crown before entering the city 16 days later on the 3rd of August 1553.
Both Jane and Guildford were held in the Tower now as prisoners rather than reigning monarchs. Lord Guildford Dudley’s father was lead to the scaffold on the 22nd August and rightly so however Jane’s father managed to escape despite his plotting and planning with Northumberland to get there offspring to the throne. Northumberland’s error was leading an army out against King Harry’s daughter, Mary.
Jane and Guildford found themselves on trial on the 13th November 1553. They were joined by the Dudley brothers, and the former resident of Lambeth Palace and Arch Bishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. They were tried in the magnificent Guildhall London. Needless to say that they were all found guilty of High Treason, which was a capital offence.
It has been recorded that Mary promised Jane that she would not sign the death warrant as long as she was not involved in any more schemes to take the throne. Bear in mind Jane is 16 years old. Jane’s mother was also said to have been on good terms with the new queen and was an influence in this decision.
Then disaster struck. A protestant rebel fearful of the marriage of Mary Tudor to Philip II of Spain decided to over throw Mary and either put Jane back on the throne or to put Elizabeth I in her sister’s place – this still debated today. Either way the consequence of this half baked plan was to effect both Elizabeth and Jane.
Jane’s Family took a major role in the rebellion. It became very clear that it was going to fail quite early on and after being refused entry into Coventry, Jane’s father handed himself in. However it was clear that if Mary was to marry Phillip II she would have to execute Jane and greatly restrict Elizabeth’s movements to keep her throne.
Jane meet her death on 12th February 1554 within tower green after her husband lost his head on Tower Hill. The true tragedy is that Jane, girl of just 16, was manipulated, used and abandoned in order to fulfil other people ambitions. She had no control over who she was born to or what family or position she was to hold. For me this was one of the biggest injustices within our past, we should never forget this innocent, abused child with feckless parents.