Lady Jane Grey is remembered as the shortest serving Queen of England; she ruled for nine days. She rose to the throne after the death of her cousin King Edward VI even though she was fifth in line. Edward VI had made it clear that she should take his place when he is dead because they were both Protestants. The first in line of the throne was Edward’s half-sister known as Mary who being a devout Catholic had fallen out of favor with the king. Edward wanted England to remain under the Protestants but he feared that should Mary take the throne, she would turn England back to the Catholic Church.
The Duke of Northumberland, John Dudley protected the wishes of the King and he supported his decision to make Lady Jane Grey his personal choice. Lady Jane Grey also happened to be the daughter-in-law to the Duke. When Edward died, Lady Jane was just in her sixteen and she ascended to the throne with her husband lord Guildford Dudley. It could be said that she had all it takes to be a Queen; she was intelligent and beautiful, had a good mastery of Italian, Hebrew, Latin and French languages. The only thing which messed her reign was that, she was not the one next in line.
The country rose and called for the royal family to obey and follow true and direct royal line leading to Lady Jane Grey’s reign ending only after nine days. Many conspiracy theories, besides the fact that she was fifth in line, emerged since then on the reasons why the reign did not last. In discussing the nine days Queen, it is important to look at the things that led to the declaration of Lady Jane as the Queen
Edward rule England for six years. He was brought up as a protestant after his parents were reformed from the catholic faith. He was the son of Edward VIII and Jane Seymour. Edward became a King at the age of nine and one of his initial advisors was his uncle, the Duke of Somerset. Somerset was the protector of Edward for the first two years before he was replaced by the Duke of Northumberland. The advisors were very instrumental in the decisions that the King made including issues of religion. The advisors convinced the king that the Catholic Church was not the best for England and that he should leave the throne to a fellow protestant.
Edward made numerous changes in the church replacing the rich colors and decorations with plain and basic furniture.
The church services became simple and could be understood by everybody including the common person. Holy Communion was conducted in English; priests were allowed to marry and exempted from the bright clothing. They also remained the head of the church during Edward’s reign. All these changes led to the birth of a new church; the Church of England. Lady Jane Grey becomes part of the radical changes observed during this time and her father-in-law convinced the King that she would make the best ruler after him. Edward ensured that his personal choice was recognized and his wishes of having her as the Queen obeyed. He had set everything in motion for the reign of Lady Jane Grey.
Edward started influencing the life of Lady Jane long before the issue of throne even came about. Her parents wanted her to marry Edward someday and they decided to prepare her for the throne. They gave much priority to her education and exposed her to protestant teaching so that she could have the same beliefs as her cousin Edward. She loved books and was never liked publicity hence when she was chosen to be the pawn; it was clear from the start that it would not end well. When Edward got ill and could not carry out his duties as required, John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland acted on his behalf. He was a dictator who terrorized the subjects and advised the ailing king wrongly.
When it became clear that Edward VI was not going to live much longer, Northumberland decided to look for a way to ensure that Edward’s sisters; Mary and Elizabeth do not become the next rulers of England. He did not want England to be ruled by a catholic because that would mean that England is restored back to Roman Catholic. He convinced Edward to name Lady Jane as his preferred successor and also forced the marriage between Jane and his son, Lord Guilford Dudley.
Jane was never happy with the arranged marriage hence, she went back to stay with her parents. Edward grew weaker and Northumberland consummated the marriage between his son and the would-be Queen. Edward had declared his two sisters as illegitimate and made Jane his successor, a decision he made out of persuasion from John Dudley. Edward may not have pulled strings in all occasions but he was in center of all events that lead to the execution of Lady Jane Grey. They never ask her of her opinion regarding the throne and the first time she heard that she was the Queen, she fainted. Edward’s administration worked out all the schemes and plans to block Mary out of what was rightfully mine. Edward and his advisors are the main reasons why Lady Jane Grey ended up being executed.
She was supposed to be the Queen after Edward VI died but her throne was taken from her by schemers who wanted to control the country through young Lady Jane. Mary was from a different mother form Edward’s and she was a staunch catholic believer. Her half-sister Elizabeth was of Protestants faith but was much younger than her. When Edward died, the throne was supposed to go to the next in line, but he did not want to leave the throne in the hands of a Catholic faithful. Elizabeth could have been considered but she was too young and was already declared illegitimate child, same to Mary.
Many would agree that Mary had every reason to be angry at her cousin Lay Jane because she had tried to take away her right of being a Queen. Mary would have wanted to revenge against her because she did not reject the throne knowing very well that Mary was the next in line. Lady Jane’s execution was inevitable even without Mary’s involvement. Mary also knew that Lady Jane would be a constant reminder of rebellion during her reign; she could be swayed by other rebellious people to take the throne from her cousin.
Mary feared that having Lady Jane alive could lead to more rebellions such as the Wyatt’s rebellion of 1554. It was said that the rebellion was mainly to prevent Spanish marriage to the Queen of England, but conspiracy theories also pointed out the rebellion was a move by pro-protestants to have one of their own as the queen of England. Lady Jane had once again emerged as possible candidate to replace Mary.
When Mary challenged Lady Jane’s position to be the Queen, she received an overwhelming support. It turned out that the royal council had received the decisions to have Lady Jane as the Queen with misgivings. Mary’s challenge was readily accepted and within a short time, she had a small army of soldiers who were loyal to her. People around Lady Jane were quick to declare their support and loyalty to Mary. Mary’s decision to challenge the reign of her cousin led to Lady Jane losing the throne. Lady Jane was not so much attached to the throne and losing it was not much of a problem to her. She requested to be allowed to go back home and be with her family but the new administration refused her request. She was detained, charged with treason and kept in a tower. Mary’s administration showed no mercy to the young gullible Jane and detained her against her wish, and executed her later.
Mary faced a hard task of deciding between keeping her cousin alive and losing her love, Philip II. Philip had categorically said that he was not ready to marry Mary if her country was politically unstable. He had also insisted that Lady Jane be executed to ensure that he and Mary have a peaceful marriage, her being alive could cause more problems even between the two of them and Mary had to choose faster.
Executing Lady Jane was a sure way of attaining stability and having the country firmly under control of the Catholic Church. Mary still showed her reluctance to execute her cousin because she subjected her to a pregnancy test with an aim of pardoning her should she be pregnant. She was also given the option to convert to Catholic and remain alive but she refused. After trying her best to eradicate the possibilities of Jane being a threat, Mary finally gave in to the calls for execution of Lady Jane and Guildford.
It could be said that at first, Mary had no intention of executing her cousin. When Lady Jane’s supporters left her in 19th July and joined Mary, Lady Jane’s reign came to an abrupt end and was charged for treason. Mary wanted to reprieve Lady Jane of the charges but the actions of Lady Jane’s father made the situation very difficult. He had joined rebel groups instead of pleading with Mary to have mercy on his daughter. Mary and Jane had always been good friends since childhood and Mary would have easily reprieved Jane or the treason charges, the throne was not going to come between the relationships the two cousins had.
To understand Mary’s predicament with the situation Lady Jane had put her into, one has to consider how Mary treated Lady Jane’s siblings. She was fond of them and loved them as her own sisters, the problems she had with Jane did not make her bitter towards her sisters. When Mary amounted her success to get the throne back from Lady Jane, all her accusations were directed towards Northumberland and his selfish ambitions to have his son as a king. He blamed him for being too much self-centered even when his actions could destroy the lives of people like Lady Jane Grey and her husband.
Queen Mary’s final decision to have her cousin and all the people involved in the selfish ambition of denying her the throne was arrived at after thorough considerations. Her resolve to restore England as a catholic nation, the Wyatt rebellion and the need to stop protestant reformations are some of the reasons why Mary allowed the execution of Lady Jane Grey.
Another line of argument of the reasons that could have let to Mary executing Lady Jane would be the relationship between Mary and Edward. Edward had not been fair to Mary; he declared Mary and Elizabeth illegitimate children and were not supposed to inherit the throne.
Mary only become eligible for the throne after she was restored by the succession act of 1544.This act showed that Edward would have wanted one of her sisters to succeed him if not for the religion differences and the bad advisors he had. Even though Edward was already dead by the time Mary took over the throne, Mary could still have needed to pass the message to the supporters of Edward. She used Jane to prove to others what she was capable of doing when anyone goes against the Queen.
Lady Jane’s case also presented Mary with the chance to prove to England that she was strong enough not to let emotions get in the way of her judgment. A Queen needed to be somebody who puts the interest of her kingdom above her own interests. Jane was already charged with treason and the best way to deal with such a situation was to obey the law. The Queen is the symbol of the laws of the land and must be ready to protect the laws no matter the circumstance. This might be tough sometimes but tough times calls for tough measures. She proved to the subjects that defending the laws of the land are her priority. Her advisors are pointed out as one of the people who might have swayed her to execute her cousin, but it must be remembered that the final decision was hers.
Ambition to Ensure the Country Becomes Catholic
When Mary took over the throne, her priority was to make England Catholic again. She planned to do all the changes without interferences from any of her subjects or members of the royal family. Immediately after her confirmation as the Queen of England, Mary had stopped the reformation of Protestants and started the conversation of England back to a Catholic nation. In 1553, the parliament passed its first statute of repeal. She ordered that the Catholic Church be returned to the way it was during the reign of Henry VIII.
Queen Mary ensured that all the religious legislations passed during Edward VI were repealed. The priests were not allowed to marry; those that had married were to leave their families for good if they intended to remain as priests. It was during Mary’s reign that the Latin mass was restored back and people who could not understand the language were once again disadvantaged.
The outspoken cardinal Reginald Pole who had stood against the changes brought by Henry returned to England. Pole had left the country when his life was endangered because of her opposition to the King. The king had managed to kill all members of his family and when he heard that a devout catholic was the Queen, he decided to come back to help with the conversion. Being one of the advisors and a man who had lost his family to because of protestant reformation, he played a huge role in convincing Mary to execute her cousin.
Pole had a big influence of the Mary and the work relationship was too strong. Mary had rejected Pope Paul IV request to have Pole returned to Rome and be charged with heresy. She allowed the Pope to be the head of church in England but refused to let him dictate the affairs of the church.
Her methods of dealing with her opponents were described by many as brutal. She earned the name “bloody Mary” because of how she punished her opponents. She had re-instated the heresy laws and people who were found guilty of heresy were burnt. She took it upon herself as a catholic Queen to bring punishment to those considered heretics and enemies of spiritual progress. Unfortunately for her, her cousin Lady Jane was under this category of the people who a danger to the spiritual wellbeing of the nation. Several executions of the Protestants happened during her reign leading to many people going into exile in the neighboring countries.
All the prosecutions were recorded in the Book of Martyrs. The book contributed in Mary gaining the name of bloody Mary and the Catholic Church faced a lot of criticism because of the recorded execution. Many of these executions of the Protestants happened after the execution of Lady Jane Grey. Mary followed was determined to deliver England safely in the hands of Roman catholic and not even her cousin could have stopped her.
She acted as a guardian of the Roman Catholic because she believed in the doctrines of the church. It was her duty to ensure that nobody makes a mockery of what she believed in. While encouraging the conversion of people into catholic and stopping protestant reformation, she also ensured the Protestants saw what was done to their fellows. Her first act of executing the Wyatt rebels and her cousin Jane were meant to pave way for the many religious changes she planned to bring to the church in England.
The story goes that Mary was happy being single and would have preferred to remain so if not for the purposes of the throne. When her chance came to be the Queen she decided to have a fellow catholic as her husband to help her rule the England. After considering all the eligible contenders, she failed to find anyone in England who matched her preferences of a husband. She had decided to choose Philip from Spain and her determination to marry the man was too strong than the opposition of some of her subjects. The silent disapproval of her choice of a husband led to what later become a full-bow rebellion.
The leader of the rebellion was called Sir Thomas Wyatt; hence the rebellion was named after him. Wyatt had insisted that he was not the first in command and only came a distant fifth; nevertheless, he was the face of the rebellious outfit. The rebellion started in Devon, Kent, Midlands and Welsh borders. The group then later converged in the capital of England; London. In 25th, January 1554, Wyatt signaled his troop and staged the first rebellion in the city. During this time, Mary was the Queen and Lady Jane was behind closed doors but the rebellion pointed more towards her gaining supporters.
Mary’s father was already involved with the rebelling group and it was easy to conclude that the riots were carried out on her behalf or to benefit her. Wyatt and his group had tried to force their way past the royal guards in London but they were defeated and Wyatt surrendered, perhaps hoping to be pardoned by Mary.
Lady Jane remained the famous victim of this rebellion as it made Mary more inclined towards having her persecuted. On February 12 1554, Lady Jane Grey was executed; Mary’s sister who was also suspected to have been involved in the rebellion was taken to a secure lodging at Whitehall. Wyatt did not get the pardon he expected, but instead he was executed on April 11th while Lady Jane’s father was executed on February 23rd 1554.
Looking at the events during and after the Wyatt rebellion, one could judge that Lady Jane was gaining influence and was going to cause civil unrest within England. Wyatt and his men might have had other issues such as the marriage of their Queen to the Spaniard, but Jane was seen as the potential source of motivation for the protestant rebels. The actions of both Mary and Edward led to the execution of Lady Jane. Unknown to both Edward and Mary, their actions were condemning a young innocent girl to an early death. The religious differences between Mary and Edward led to the death of their cousin, whom they loved. The religious changes and beliefs during the reign of Edward VI brought Jane to the limelight; put her in a position that made Mary’s administration to have her executed for treason.
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 Diarmaid, MacCulloch. The boy king: Edward VI and the protestant reformation. Univ of California Press, 2001.
 Jean, Marsden, I. “Sex, Politics, and She-Tragedy: Reconfiguring Lady Jane Grey.” SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 42, no. 3 (2002): 501-522.
 John, Strype. Ecclesiastical Memorials: Relating Chiefly to Religion and the Reformation of It, and the Emergencies of the Church of England, Under King Henry VIII, King Edward VI and Queen Mary the First…: in Three Volumes. With a Large Appendix to Each Volume, Containing Original Papers, Records, &c. Vol. 3. John Wyat, 1721.
 Alison, Plowden. Lady Jane Grey. The History Press, 2011.
 Nicholas, Rowe. Lady Jane Gray. Vol. 16. proprietors, under the direction of John Bell, British Library, Strand, Bookseller to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, 1791
 Anna, Whitelock. Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen. Random House, 2010.