Today, we remember one of England’s most tragic (and shortest reigning) monarchs: Lady Jane Grey, also known as the Nine Days’ Queen, who ruled England for just over a week and was executed at the age of 16 in 1554.
As the granddaughter of Mary Tudor (sister to Henry VIII) and Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, Jane was in the direct line of succession. According to Henry VIII’s will, the crown would pass to Jane’s mother, Lady Frances Brandon, if all three of his children died without issue. The crown would then go down through Frances’s family, of which Jane was the eldest child. Jane received an excellent education, and she was highly intelligent. Her studies were one of the few things in her life that made her happy: her parents were difficult, scheming social climbers who bullied and abused their daughter when they weren’t using her to get ahead in the world.
Jane’s ambitious parents first schemed to marry her to her cousin, King Edward VI. This came to nothing, and Jane was instead betrothed to Guilford Dudley, a younger son of the 1st Duke of Northumberland, one of the most powerful men in England. Although Jane had no interest in marriage, the ceremony went ahead in 1553.