Reigned: 10-19 July 1553
To ensure that he would retain a hold on power, Northumberland arranged for his
son, Guilford Dudley, to marry Jane. The match was supported by her family and
Jane’s mother, who was still alive and before Jane in the line of succession,
relinquished her claim to the throne in favour of her daughter. With Mary and
Elizabeth disinherited, this made Jane the heir to the crown, as Henry’s will had
excluded from the succession the descendants of his eldest sister, Margaret, Queen
of Scotland. By right of birth, the next in line after Mary and Elizabeth should have
been the young Mary, Queen of Scots.
King Edward died on 6 July 1553, and four days later, on 10 July, Jane was officially proclaimed Queen. Henry VIII’s daughter, Mary, immediately challenged the declaration and, with the support of her forces, and the privy council who changed their allegiance to her in Northumberland’s absence, she managed to defeat the Protector and successfully depose Jane on 19 July 1553. Jane was imprisoned in the Tower of London, as was Northumberland, her husband, his brothers, and her father, Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk. However, Northumberland was the only one to be executed that year. Frances, Jane’s mother, successfully managed to receive a pardon for her husband and he was released from prison. Jane and her husband were not released, but as Mary believed Northumberland was solely responsible for the coup, she did not have them executed, although they were kept apart.
The execution of Lady Jane Grey
It was a rebellion by Thomas Wyatt in the January of 1554 that sealed Jane’s fate. He
wished to depose Mary in favour of her Protestant half-sister, Elizabeth, and Jane’s father
foolishly supported the revolt. It was now considered too dangerous for Jane and
her husband to live so the Queen, reluctantly, consented to their execution. They
were beheaded on 12 February 1554 at The Tower of London. Jane’s father was
executed eleven days later.
Jane was a gifted girl, clever and sensitive, and it is a tragedy that she became a political pawn for her ambitious family and paid the ultimate price.