Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Question from Stephanie - Jane Grey's claim to the throne and execution

I am having a hard time understanding how exactly the monarchy went to Lady Jane Grey. Also, why did they execute her? Just because of an uprising? (I know that is a "good enough" reason in Tudor Times... it just seems a little odd) A little more insight about Jane Grey would be appreciated. Did she have any kids?


PhD Historian said...

You can read all about it in Leanda de Lisle's The Sisters Who Would Be Queen, the best book currently in print dealing with Jane Grey.

A proper answer to your question would be long and complicated, so I will try the short answer:

Edward VI wanted to keep his half-sister Mary from becoming queen because she was Catholic (Edward was Protestant). To keep Mary off the throne, he also had to keep Elizabeth off the throne, since they were sisters (can't let one inherit but not the other). The next hieress was Edward's cousin Frances Brandon Grey, but she had no sons, and she was too old to have more children. But her oldest daughter Jane was young, newly married, and had many years left to provide sons. So Edward tried to use the terms of the Act of Succession of 1544 that allowed Henry VIII to pass the crown on through his last will and testament. The people, however, favored Mary, even though she was Catholic.

Jane was executed in February 1554 because the Spanish insisted on it before they would allow their prince, Philip, to marry Mary. As long as Jane was alive, rebellions could arise trying to remove Mary and to put Jane back on the throne. Even the possibility of another rebellion was unacceptable to Philip and his advisors, so Mary was basically forced to allow Jane to be executed so that Philip would marry her.

Jane was married for only 2 months before she was put in prison in the Tower, so she had no children.

Dana Riel said...

PhD Historian has offered a succinct and accurate answer to Stephanie's question. However, I think it should also be noted that while Edward VI wanted to keep his Catholic, half-sister, Mary, from the throne, it was no small coincidence that Lady Jane Grey married the son of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland and Edward's chief minister. While there is debate as to whether the idea to substitute Jane Grey for her mother as the heir was Northumberland's idea or Edward's, both were enthusiastic supporters of it.

Sarah said...

Another good novel to read to help explain the life of Jane Grey to you is Alison Weir's 'Innocent Traitor' or the film 'Lady Jane' starring Helena Bohnam Carter. In my opinion, Jane Grey was a pawn in her father in law's ambition. The Duke of Northumberland assumed Lord Protector after the execution of Lord Somorset, the Kings Uncle. He married his son to Jane Grey to keep the throne within his grasp, Jane would be more a figurehead than a actual ruler. Northumberland would also not want the throne to go to Mary - She was catholic and had deep suscipions about him, who was strictly protestant. Hope this helps