Lady Jane Grey Executed
The Duke of Northumberland had by his influence, bullying and even it is thought forgery of part of Edward VI’s will seen Lady Jane Grey proclaimed queen on 10th July 1553 .
Jane had been forced to marry Guilford Dudley, Northumberland’s son, two months earlier. As Queen, however, Jane showed some fight, refusing to name her husband king, merely offering him the royal title of Duke of Clarence.
The couple were lodged in the Tower , as was usual for monarchs before their coronation, but also perhaps to ensure Jane was well observed and controlled.
Within days it was obvious, however, that the country would not accede to Northumberland’s plans. Mary’s mother, Catherine of Aragon , had been well-loved and well-regarded through all of Henry VIII ’s mistreatment of her. The stronger wing of the Protestant cause espoused by Edward VI through conviction and by Northumberland for gain did not have mass support, a broadly Catholic religious spirit holding general sway still in England.
On 19th July Mary rode into London to general acclaim. Jane’s own father had already by then defected to Mary. Parliament rapidly nullified the proclamation of July 10th, and Mary was Queen.
Jane and her husband were switched to the Gentleman Gaoler’s apartments in the Tower, but they were well treated. Northumberland was hastily despatched, executed on August 21st 1553. The couple were tried for treason in November, and not unsurprisingly found guilty, Jane’s sentence either burning at the stake or decapitation, according to the new Queen’s wish. But Mary showed clemency, sparing her young cousin and her husband until Sir Thomas Wyatt’s Protestant Rebellion in January 1554 made their deaths expedient.
On February 12th 1554 Guilford Dudley was taken to Tower Hill outside the Tower’s confines and beheaded publicly. Jane saw his body return to the tower on a cart before she was ushered to Tower Green within the Tower to die a royal death, in private, at the insistence of Mary.
Jane is supposed to have made a brief speech accepting the justice of her fate, but denying she had been a willing participant in Northumberland’s schemes. She then recited a psalm asking for God’s mercy, forgave the executioner and begged him for a swift death, and was beheaded. “Jane of the nine days” was just 17. She and her husband are buried in a chapel at one side of Tower Green.
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