Saturday, October 2, 2010
The Enigma of Lady Jane Grey
I became interested in Lady Jane Grey because I looked at lots of images of impending executions when researching The Lady's Slipper. I became fascinated in how people face an inevitable death as this happens to one of the characters in my book.
This gorgeous work by Delaroche shows the last moments of the seventeen year old Jane, clad only in a chemise, about to put her head on the block. Behind her the waiting women clutch her gown, and give way to their grief. It is hard to imagine how a seventeen year old girl today would be able to cope with an impending execution, but obviously tudor women were used to and perhaps somewhat immune to, the culture of rapid and violent deaths. Still, to face one's own execution for a crime of birth rather than of one's own fault must be doubly horrific. Many other artists have painted the innocent Lady Jane who was Queen for only nine days.
Lady Jane Grey was at one time considered as a bride for Edward VI of England, but he died early, before any marriage was consummated. Instead, it was arranged for her to marry Lord Dudley, the son of the Duke of Northumberland, who, against her wishes, proclaimed her Queen of England.
This was to prevent Mary, the eldest daughter of Henry VIII - a Roman Catholic, from assuming the throne, but the plan back-fired and Jane was tried for treason. She was sentenced to death, but was spared by Queen Mary, who was fond of her cousin, and did not blame her for the rebellion. The following year, another rebellion occurred which again had the object of placing Lady Jane on the throne. In spite of her personal innocence, Lady Jane was executed along with all of the other conspirators.
"Well, her death was an awful business, and Jane met it with great bravery – but, despite her tender years, she was a religious fanatic even by the impressive standards of the day. In the Tower, she wrote to a Protestant clergyman who had reverted to Catholicism, informing him that he was “now the deformed imp of the devil”, his soul “the stinking and filthy kennel of Satan” and compared the reception of the Blessed Sacrament to an act of satanic cannibalism. Gentle Jane, my foot: she could have given the Taliban lessons in bigotry."
This quotation from the Daily Telegraph shows a quite different view of Lady Jane - a religious fanatic intent on suppressing Catholicism.
How good a Queen would she have been, I wonder?
An excellent book I can recommend that will stay with you about this whole era is "The Sisters who would be Queen" by Leanda DeLisle. Do you know of others? I would be interested to hear of other recommendations for this period.
Posted by Deborah Swift at 12:00 AM
Labels: Deborah Swift, Execution, Lady Jane Grey, Leanda DeLisle, The Sisters Who would be Queen, Tudors
Word addict, book addict. Nature, art and poetry fan, and writer of thought-provoking historical fiction, published by Macmillan/St Martin's Press/Endeavour Press Creative writing tutor and writing mentor. www.deborahswift.com @swiftstory