Lady Jane Grey (c. 1537 – 12 February 1554), later known as Lady Jane Dudley (after her marriage) and as the “Nine Days’ Queen”, was an English noblewoman who claimed the throne of England and Ireland from 10 July until 19 July 1553. Her nine-day reign as Queen is the shortest reign in British history.
Lady Jane Grey was the eldest daughter of Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk and she was the great-granddaughter of Henry VII through his younger daughter Mary, and was a first cousin once removed of Edward VI, the only son and heir of King Henry VIII.
On May 1553, she married Lord Guildford Dudley, a younger son of Edward’s chief minister John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, who was Protector to Edward VI. In June 1553, after Dudley’s persuasion, Edward VI wrote his will, nominating Jane and her male heirs as successors to the Crown, in part because his half-sister Mary was Catholic, while Jane was a committed Protestant and would support the reformed Church of England, whose foundation Edward laid. The will removed his half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, from the line of succession on account of their illegitimacy, subverting their claims under the Third Succession Act.
Edward’s half-sister Mary, Henry VIII’s daughter with Catherine of Aragon, was 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 would take England back into the Catholic faith.
After Edward’s death, Jane was proclaimed queen on 10 July 1553, and awaited coronation in the Tower of London. Jane’s father-in-law, the Duke of Northumberland was one of Jane’s primary supporters and upon Edward’s death he moved quickly to quell any support for Mary by isolating and, ideally, capturing Mary Tudor to prevent her from gathering support.
However, support for Mary grew quickly, and most of Jane’s supporters abandoned her. The Privy Council of England suddenly changed sides, and proclaimed Mary as queen on 19 July 1553, deposing Jane. The Duke of Northumberland was accused of treason and executed less than a month later. Jane was held prisoner in the Tower, and was convicted of high treason in November 1553, which carried a sentence of death.
Mary initially spared her life; however, Jane soon became viewed as a threat to the Crown when her father, Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk, became involved with Wyatt’s rebellion against Queen Mary’s intention to marry Philip of Spain. Jane and her husband were executed on 12 February 1554. At the time of her death, Jane was either 16 or 17 years old.
Written by: Ryan Hearn, Volunteer Researcher and Archivist