Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fragments ~ Lady Jane Grey

On July 10, 1553, Lady Jane Grey, granddaughter of Henry VIII’s youngest sister Mary, assumed the throne of England during a succession battle following the death of Henry’s son Edward VI. 

Edward, whose mother was Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour, had named Lady Jane as his successor in his death-bed will, thus by-passing his older, “illegitimate” half-sisters, Mary, the Catholic daughter of Henry’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon, and Elizabeth, daughter of Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn.

Lady Jane Grey
The Streatham Portrait
From Wikipedia

Jane was a reluctant queen whose succession had been promoted mostly by her mother, Lady Frances Brandon, her father, Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, and John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. An initial scheme that involved marrying Jane to Edward fell through. But in any event, Edward was not expected to live, meaning that the door to the throne would eventually reopen for Jane. Henry’s widow, Catherine Parr, reputedly brokered a match between Jane and Northumberland’s son, Guildford Dudley. At first, the Greys were not sold on this marriage because it meant that the throne could pass to Northumberland. They eventually gave in when Northumberland, the newly denominated Lord Protector, convinced them that the had Edward’s support for the match. It was, of course, Northumberland's influence that led to the deathbed will naming Jane as heir.

When Edward died, Mary immediately set out to gather support among Catholic loyalists. Northumberland immediately set out to intercept Mary. While he was gone, the Privy Council switched allegiances. Thus, Jane’s reign lasted only 9 days, until Mary entered London. Northumberland was executed shortly thereafter.  Jane and her husband were both convicted of treason – Jane’s alleged disloyal actions having been to sign her name on various documents as “Quene.” They were originally sentenced to death, but the pious and oddly sentimental Mary decided to spare her young cousin’s life.

In the meantime, Mary’s proposed marriage to the heir to the throne of Spain (later Philip II) caused a Protestant uprising in England called Wyatt’s Rebellion. Jane’s father and uncles – apparently having learned nothing from Northumberland’s demise -- joined the rebellion, and Mary was compelled to carry out the sentences against Jane and Dudley in order to remove Jane as a threat to her job security.

When Lady Jane Grey and her husband were executed on February 12, 1554, Jane was approximately 17 years old.  Jane’s father was also executed, exactly one week later, for his role in the rebellion.  Jane’s mother, however, was spared. Lady Frances subsequently married her horse master and lived the remainder of her life at Court with her surviving daughters, Lady Catherine Grey and Lady Mary Grey.

Given Mary's extraordinary forbearance toward these two cousins, it is hard to see exactly how executing Jane Grey constituted removal of the threat posed by the sisters Grey.  The soft-hearted Mary eventually would show even greater forbearance when it came to her half-sister Elizabeth, who was an even greater threat.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, did not show similar forbearance for her cousin, Mary Stuart (Mary, Queen of Scots), granddaughter of Henry’s other sister, Margaret. In that way, Elizabeth was much more like her father and perhaps even her mother.

And on such seemingly small details as sentiment of the heart, or lack thereof, history often turns.

The information for this post was found at Wikipedia.

No comments:

Post a Comment