On this day in history : 12th February 1554 – The executions of Lady Jane Grey – also known as ‘The Nine Days Queen’ – and of her husband Lord Guildford Dudley….
Jane was the great-granddaughter of King Henry VII (through his daughter Mary) and cousin to King Edward VI…. Her parents were proud of this royal heritage – and being the committed Protestant family that they were – swore their allegiance to King Edward and renounced the Catholic faith….
In May 1553 a triple wedding took place at Durham House, the London Town house of the Bishop of Durham…. 16-year-old Lady Jane married a 19-year-old Lord Guildford Dudley, an English nobleman – her sister, Catherine, married Lord Herbert and Lord Guildford’s sister, Katherine, tied the knot with Henry Hastings…. The wedding breakfast that followed afterwards must have been quite a celebration!
Edward VI, the son of King Henry VIII, had been crowned King of England at just 9 years of age…. The Third Succession Act 1544 restored Henry’s daughters’, Mary and Elizabeth, rights to be in line for succession to the throne – even though technically they were still regarded as being illegitimate (on account of the father’s marriages to their respective mothers being annulled)….
In January 1553 the now 15-year-old Edward became unwell with a fever and cough – which continued to worsen…. Edward wanted to protect the reformed Church of England – he didn’t want the crown to fall into the hands of his Catholic half-sister Mary Tudor…. In fact he didn’t want either of his illegitimate sisters to take the throne should anything happen to him….and so he decided to change his will…. He nominated his cousin Lady Jane Grey – and her male heirs after her – as successors to the throne….
Edward died on the 6th of July 1553, although his death was not announced until 4 days later – his cause of death was probably tuberculosis…. Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen of England on the 10th of July – something she was not overly happy about, she was reluctant to accept the crown and refused to name her husband King – making him Duke of Clarence instead….
Of course, Mary Tudor was not going to take all this lying down – as soon as news broke of Edward’s death she began to muster her supporters…. She was in fact the popular choice of the people – and it wasn’t long before the Privy Council (the then body of advisers to the Sovereign) switched their allegiance to Mary…. On the 19th of July Mary Tudor was proclaimed Queen of England….
Jane and Guildford were imprisoned at the Tower of London – she in the Gentleman Gaoler’s quarters and he in Beauchamp Tower….
At the trial Jane was referred to simply as Jane Dudley, wife of Guildford…. She was charged with high treason, as was her husband, two of his brothers and former Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer…. All were found guilty – and all were sentenced to death…. Her crime being that she had assumed the title and power of Monarch….the evidence – documents she had signed ‘Jane the Quene”…. I’ll bet she didn’t half curse Edward!
On the morning of the 12th of February Guildford was taken to Tower Hill to be publicly beheaded…. Lady Jane would have seen his departure from her rooms….just as she would have seen the horse and cart arrive back with his headless corpse…. It is said that she cried out “Oh Guildford, Guildford!” …. Then she was taken out to Tower Green to meet the same fate….