Queen for a Week

On July 10, 1553, 16-year-old Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen of England, four days after the death of her cousin, Edward VI. The reign, as I’m sure you all know, didn’t go well.

Jane’s claim to the throne was through her grandmother, Mary Tudor, the sister of Henry VIII. Mary married Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and one of their daughters was Jane’s mother. Her ambitious parents set their sights higher than a duchy, so they started scheming to place Jane on the throne, aided by the Duke of Northumberland. They married her off to Northumberland’s son, Guilford Dudley, in May 1533. The marriage was not a great success, but it did ally the two families.

Once united through marriage, the Greys and the Dudleys started to work on the ailing king, telling him what a disaster it would be for his Catholic half-sister Mary to take the throne of his newly protestant country. Edward signed a will naming Jane his heir ahead of his two half sisters, Mary and Elizabeth. Jane took up residence in the Tower of London shortly before being officially proclaimed queen. Although Guilford and his mother nagged her, Jane refused to name him king, instead offering him the royal title Duke of Clarence.

The reign lasted all of nine days; by that time, her father-in-law had failed to rally sufficient support to allow her to continue to sit on the throne, and Mary’s supporters had rallied to the Tudor princess’s cause. With Northumberland away, the Privy Council switched sides and named Mary queen on July 19. Jane and Guilford were imprisoned in the Tower and Mary entered the city in triumph on August 3. Northumberland was beheaded on August 22.

Jane and her husband, together with two of his brothers, were charged with high treason and tried on November 13 at the Guildhall. Jane and Guilford were both found guilty, but Mary was reluctant to put her young cousin to death. When Thomas Wyatt raised a rebellion in January 1554, however, Mary felt forced to act. Both Jane and Guilford were executed on February 12, 1554.

 



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