A Tudor Poisoned Chalice – Lady Jane Grey & the English Crown

10th July 2015
On this day in history in 1553, according to the old style calendar in use in Tudor England, the fifteen-year old Lady Jane Grey was crowned Queen of England. Her claim was based on flimsy grounds. There was pressure from her family to proceed, and a lot of dubious 'politicking.' This included the alteration of various documents of state at the behest of the leading privy counsellor of the day, the Duke of Northumberland. It was the ultimate poison chalice for Jane. Most historians believe she did not expect to be proclaimed. They believe she accepted the precarious role as Queen only with the greatest reluctance.

Jane Grey - a swift ending

Jane was already staying in the Tower of London at the time of the proclamation. She never left it again. Her execution followed early the next year when the rightful Queen by succession, Mary, was compelled by a combination of various uprisings at home and pressures from overseas to dispatch her.
Tudor styled young woman, Lady Jane Grey, in long gown, man kneeling
A Victorian depiction of events: 'Lady Jane Grey declining the Crown' by H.K. Bourne.
And here is how the scene is described in my Tudor novel 'Virgin and the Crab'
     Outside in the hot, stifling streets of London, the heralds go their rounds, proclaiming now, and in fullest voice, Jane Grey as Queen. Un-typically, there seems to be no great response. Few cry ‘God Save Her!’ and even fewer seem to be in the least bit interested. Perhaps it is the heat, the lethargy of the dry, dusty air that hangs so still within the narrow alleyways and streets. But as the afternoon drifts towards evening, the city takes on a restless and unsavoury atmosphere - an atmosphere that seems to permeate every crevice of every building, a heavy foreboding kind of heat that threatens more than just a storm. And as the crowds begin to gather in Cheapside, it becomes apparent that many among them, young, old, rich and poor alike, are most displeased.

     Dudley’s scheming is obvious to all - Dudley, that most hated upstart and adventurer. His father, a tax collector, a man disgraced and reviled even by Henry the Eighth, he has with cunning and guile clawed his way back over the years, restored the family name to prominence, gaining favour, buying friends, bit by bit, to become first an Earl, then a Duke and now this: with nothing short of royalty itself within his sights. The sheer audacity of it! A budding tyrant in the making, already he has sent out his own troops to patrol the streets, and when one young vintner’s apprentice, whether in error or genuine disaffection, has the audacity to cry ‘God Save Queen Mary,’ he is arrested and nailed by his ears to the nearest pillory.

(Not the most auspicious of beginnings for poor Queen Jane.)
small image of Tudor book cover with young woman in bonnet, purple background
Authored by Robert Stephen Parry

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