Lady Jane Grey proclaimed Queen of England
The 10th of July 1553 AD
Lady Jane Grey has become one of the great romantic figures of English history. Her beauty and precocious learning – she had been tutored in Hebrew, Greek, Latin and various modern languages - the ill-treatment she received from all who used her for political ends, and of course her death aged just 16 all contribute to that view.
Jane, born in 1537, was the great grand-daughter of Henry VII , thus a Tudor , through her mother’s line. As Edward VI was slowly and inevitably dying, probably of TB, his regent the Duke of Northumberland faced the prospect of losing his power, the greater part of his wealth, and very probably his life if Edward’s sister Mary succeeded to the throne, as the Third Act of Succession and Henry VIII’s will dictated.
Mary was a staunch Catholic, who was expected to recover for the church the lands and property distributed by Henry VIII to his closest supporters during the dissolution. Northumberland had benefited hugely from that land-grab. She had also signalled a wish to build an alliance with Catholic Spain by marrying Spanish Prince Philip, who in all likelihood would have pushed Northumberland and his friends out of all positions of power. Northumberland had grasped power ruthlessly, and the families of those like the Seymours who had died through his influence would have threatened him as soon as his power waned.
The bold and desperate Northumberland took drastic measures. He pushed the dying Edward to signal that Mary and her sister Elizabeth could be considered illegitimate, and to write a will making the king’s cousin Lady Jane Grey, a strongly Protestant thinker, heir-apparent. It is likely that the will was in part forged, having been intended to pass the crown to the future male heirs of Jane Grey. Jane was hastily married to Lord Guilford Dudley, Northumberland’s son, in May 1553, much against her wishes - he was said to be both ugly and foolish, and she was clever enough to see she was a pawn in their dangerous game.
Edward VI died on 6th July 1553. Northumberland forced the judges and Council to declare Jane Queen, even threatening to “fight in his shirt” anyone who went against him.
By sheer force of will, and in the face of close allies like Lord Chancellor Rich abandoning him, Northumberland seemed to have achieved success. On July 10th the proclamation went out: Lady Jane was now declared Queen Jane. But one vital element in the plan was bungled. Mary had evaded capture, seeking the safety of Framlingham Castle in Suffolk , with the respite to organize her counter-coup.
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