Tragic Lady Jane Grey is remembered in British history as the monarch with the shortest reign… just nine days.
Why was Lady Jane Grey’s reign as Queen of England so short?
Lady Jane Grey was the eldest daughter of Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, and she was the great-grand-daughter of Henry VII.
She was proclaimed Queen after the death of her cousin, the protestant King Edward VI, son of Henry VIII. She was actually fifth in line to the throne, but was his personal choice as she was a Protestant.
Edward’s half-sister Mary Tudor, Henry VIII's daughter with Catherine of Aragon, was actually next in line for the throne but as a devout Catholic, was out of favour.
Edward wanted to keep England firmly Protestant and he knew that Mary Tudor would take England back into the Catholic faith.
John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, was Protector to King Edward VI. He persuaded the dying young king to will his crown to Lady Jane Grey, who by coincidence just happened to be the Duke’s daughter-in-law.
Lady Jane Grey - portrait by an unknown artist
Edward died on 6th July 1553 and Lady Jane ascended to the throne with her husband Lord Guildford Dudley at her side - she was just sweet sixteen.
Lady Jane was beautiful and intelligent and had ambitious plans to rebuild the English economy and return land to the farmers who had been dispossessed by King Henry VIII.
But the country rose in favour of the direct and true royal line and the Council proclaimed Mary Tudor queen some nine days later.
Unfortunately for Lady Jane, her advisors were grossly incompetent, and her father was partly responsible for her untimely execution as he was involved in an attempted rebellion.
This was the Wyatt rebellion, named after Sir Thomas Wyatt, who was an English soldier and a so-called ‘rebel’.
In 1554 Wyatt was involved in a conspiracy against the marriage of Mary Tudor to Phillip of Spain. He raised an army of Kentish men and marched on London, but was captured and later beheaded.
After the Wyatt rebellion was quashed, Lady Jane and her husband, who were lodged in the Tower of London, were taken out and beheaded on Tower Green on 12th February 1554.
Lady Jane’s husband was executed first, and she was led past his body on her way to the block.
She died, it is said, very bravely …on the scaffold she asked the Executioner, ‘Please despatch me quickly’.
She tied her kerchief round her eyes and felt for the block saying, ‘Where is it?’ One of the onlookers guided her to the block where she laid her head down, and stretched out her arms saying, ‘Lord, into thy hands I commit my soul.’
And so she died …she had been Queen of England for just nine days …10th to 19th July 1553.
The shortest reign of any English monarch, before or since.
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