Lady Jane Grey: The Queen Who Ruled for Nine Days

It's Friday, and you know what that means: fan mail! SYMHC listener Kendra wrote to us about Lady Jane Grey, specifically, whether Lady Jane really had a nine-day reign.

Jane Grey (1537-1554), grandniece of Henry VIII, was named after Jane Seymour, who gave birth to Henry's long-awaited male heir, Edward. When she was nine years old, she went to live at court to study under Queen Catherine Parr. Lady Jane was noted for her acute intelligence and steadfast devotion to her Protestant faith. While at court, she became acquainted with the duke of Northumberland and lord chamberlain, John Dudley. The lord chamberlain, like Jane and the reigning monarch -- Edward VI -- was Protestant. With Edward so sick, it was a very real possibility that Henry VIII's daughter Mary Tudor, a Catholic, would become queen.

So the lord chamberlain hatched a plan. Ingratiating himself with Jane's parents, he arranged for his son, Guildford Dudley, to marry Jane (who, not coincidentally, was in line for the throne). John Dudley persuaded the ailing Edward that he should appoint a Protestant to the throne if he wanted to be dutiful to his father and to God. Jane, completely unaware of the arrangements being made on her behalf, was effectively rendered a tool through which the lord chamberlain could control the throne. He was a pretty frightening man -- even winning over Parliament with his threats of certain death should Catholic Mary become queen.

Jane was shocked to receive the crown, but she humbly accepted her post, believing it was God's will. That is, until the pieces came together and she realized she'd been duped by her father-in-law. By this time, the lord chamberlain had made a few political enemies in the council, and he was declared a traitor. Mary became the rightful appointee to the throne, and consequently, Jane was sent to the Tower of London to await death for treason. Her reign had lasted only nine unhappy days when both she and Guildford were beheaded.

Moral of the story: Beware of eager fathers-in-law bearing the crown jewels.

For more, read:

Top 10 Heads That Rolled During the Reign of Henry VIII How Dying Works How Royalty Works