Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dudley, Jane
DUDLEY, Lady JANE (1537–1554), commonly called Lady Jane Grey, was eldest surviving daughter of Henry Grey, marquis of Dorset, afterwards duke of Suffolk, by Frances, daughter of Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk, and of Mary, younger sister of Henry VIII. She was thus the cousin of Edward VI, and about the same age, being born at Bradgate, Leicestershire, in October 1537. She had two younger sisters, Catherine and Mary. The beauty of her person was equalled by that of her mind and character; and her learning and acquirements were remarkable. Fuller states that her parents treated her with great severity, ‘more than needed to so sweet a temper.’ John Aylmer [q. v.], afterwards bishop of London, was employed by her father as his children's domestic tutor, and Lady Jane proved an exceptionally apt pupil. When barely nine she entered the household of Queen Catherine Parr, and until Queen Catherine's death, in September 1548, was much in her society. The child was chief mourner at her mistress's funeral. Queen Catherine's second husband, Lord Thomas Seymour of Sudeley, purchased Lady Jane's wardship of her parents soon after he became a widower, and she stayed with him at Hanworth or Seymour Place till his fall in January 1548–9. He had promised Lady Jane's father that he would assist him in marrying the girl to her cousin, the young king. But Seymour's brother, the protector Somerset, was planning a union between Edward VI and his own daughter Jane, while he destined Lady Jane for the hand of his son, the Earl of Hertford. The complications which followed these opposing schemes partly account for Seymour's tragic fate, for while Lady Jane remained in Seymour's custody Somerset was powerless to pursue his own plans. After her guardian's execution Lady Jane returned to Bradgate to continue her studies under Aylmer. In the summer of 1550 she was visited there by Roger Ascham [q. v.], who relates how he found her reading Plato's ‘Phædo’ while the rest of the family were hunting in the park (Schoolmaster, ed. Mayor, pp. 33, 213). To him she rehearsed the severity of her parents, who requited ‘with pinches, nips, and bobs’ the defects of her deportment or of her embroidery needle; and the relief which she felt in the gentleness of her tutor Aylmer, who opened to her the treasures of the ancient world. On 14 Dec. 1550 Ascham wrote to his friend Sturm of her almost incredible skill in writing and speaking Greek. She promised to send Ascham a Greek letter, and he wrote to her from Germany (18 Jan. 1550–1) expressing anxiety to receive it. At fifteen she was adding Hebrew to Greek, Latin, Italian, and French, and corresponding with Bullinger, the learned pastor of Zurich. Her three letters to Bullinger are now preserved in Zurich Library. With them was originally sent a piece of embroidery worked by herself, but this is now lost. Her feminine accomplishments were no less celebrated than her graver studies. John Ulmer, or ab Ulmis, a Swiss pupil of Bullinger whom Lady Jane's father protected in England, wrote admiringly to his friends abroad of her learning and amiability, and confidently predicted in 1551 her marriage with Edward VI. In the autumn of 1551 Lady Jane's father became Duke of Suffolk. Thenceforth she was constantly at court and in the society of the Princess Mary as well as of the king. She was in attendance (in October 1551) on Mary of Guise, queen-dowager of Scotland, on her visit to London.
After the fall of Somerset, the Duke of Suffolk allied himself with John Dudley [q. v.], duke of Northumberland. In 1553 he brought his family to his house at Sheen, in close proximity to Sion House, the residence of the Dudleys. A marriage between Lady Jane and Guildford Dudley [q. v.], fourth son of Northumberland, was proposed as part of the well-known plot for altering the succession from the Tudors to the Dudleys upon the decease of Edward VI. The young king was the readier to accede to this project, which set aside his sisters, because of his attachment to Jane. The marriage took place on 21 May 1553 (Whitsunday) at Durham House, the Dudleys' London house. At the same time and place Lady Jane's sister Catherine married Lord Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke's son, and Lord Guildford's sister Catherine married Lord Hastings, the Earl of Huntingdon's son. According to a Venetian visitor to England, Lady Jane had vehemently resisted the match, and only yielded to the personal violence of her father. It has been urged that Lady Jane's intercourse with her husband before marriage produced something like affection, but no evidence on the point is accessible. It had been suggested that after the marriage Lady Jane should continue to reside with her mother, but her husband's family insisted on her residing with them, and she soon came to regard her husband's father and mother with deep detestation. The mental distress which she suffered in the month after her union led to a serious illness which nearly proved fatal.
On 6 July Edward VI died. No public announcement was made till 8 July. On the evening of the 9th Northumberland carried Lady Jane before the council, and Ridley preached in favour of her succession at St. Paul's Cross. Lady Jane swooned when informed by the council that she was Edward's successor. On 10 July she was brought in a barge from Sion House to the Tower of London, pausing on her way at Westminster and Durham House. After taking part in an elaborate procession which passed through the great hall of the Tower, Lady Jane retired with her husband to apartments which had been prepared for her. Later in the day she signed a proclamation (printed by Richard Grafton) announcing her accession, in accordance with the statute 35 Henry VIII and the will of the late king, dated 21 June. Orders were also issued to the lords-lieutenant making a similar announcement, and despatches were sent to foreign courts. These were signed ‘Jane the Quene.’ Public proclamation of her accession was, however, only made at King's Lynn and Berwick. On 9 July the Princess Mary wrote to the council declaring herself Edward VI's lawful successor. On the 11th twenty-one councillors, headed by Northumberland, replied that Lady Jane was queen of England. On 12 July Lord-treasurer Winchester surrendered the crown jewels to the new queen Jane (see inventory in Harl. MS. 611), and on the same day she signed a paper accrediting Sir Philip Hoby as her ambassador at the court of Brussels. Lord Guildford Dudley, Lady Jane's husband, claimed the title of king; but Lady Jane declined to admit the claim, and insisted on referring the matter to parliament.
Meanwhile Mary's supporters were in arms in the eastern counties. On 12 July it was proposed that Lady Jane's father should lead the force which was to be despatched against them; but by Lady Jane's express desire the Duke of Northumberland took Suffolk's place. On 16 July Ridley preached again in Lady Jane's favour, but the end was at hand. Three days later Mary had been proclaimed queen throughout the country. Northumberland's failure was complete. Suffolk, perceiving that resistance was useless, himself proclaimed Mary at the gates of the Tower (19 July). He told his daughter, whose health had suffered greatly from the excitement of the earlier part of the week, that she was a prisoner, and that her reign was over. She expressed herself resigned to her fate, and desirous of retiring into private life. Mary was doubtful how to treat Lady Jane. She pardoned her father and mother, and when the imperial ambassador pressed on her the necessity of summarily executing Lady Jane she denied the necessity. Lady Jane appears to have been confined in the house of the lieutenant of the Tower, Sir John Brydges [q. v.], and on 27 July an anonymous visitor dined with her there, and recorded her conversation. She spoke with respect of Mary, but with great bitterness of her father-in-law. In the following autumn she had liberty to walk in the queen's gardens and on the hill within the Tower precincts. She was arraigned at the Guildhall for high treason 14 Nov. in company with her husband, his brothers Ambrose [q. v.] and Henry, and Archbishop Cranmer. She walked to the hall wearing ‘a black gown of cloth, a French hood, all black, a black velvet book hanging before her, and another book in her hand, open’ (Chron. of Q. Jane, p. 32). To the charge of treason she pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to death. Execution, however, was suspended, and, like most of the Dudleian party, she might have received mercy but for the dangerous outbreak of Wyatt in the following winter, in which her father, Suffolk, was weak enough to participate. Friday, 9 Feb. 1553–4, was the date first fixed for her own and her husband's execution, but a respite till Monday the 12th was finally ordered. On the Friday Lady Jane was visited by John Feckenham, dean of St. Paul's, and discussed religion with him, strongly enforcing her protestant views. She refused to see her husband on the day of her execution, lest the interview should disturb ‘the holy tranquillity with which they had prepared themselves for death’ (Heylyn). Her last acts were to write pathetic letters to her father and sister Catherine, and to present to the lieutenant of the Tower an English prayer-book (now in the British Museum, Harl. MS. 2342) in which she had written an affecting farewell. Husband and wife were both beheaded on Tower Hill on 12 Feb. 1554, the young bride beholding the bleeding body of her husband as she herself went to the scaffold (see the pathetic account of her execution in Chron. of Q. Jane, p. 55). This ill-advised severity first stained the fame of Queen Mary. From the scaffold Lady Jane made a speech asserting that she had never desired the crown and that she died ‘a true christian woman.’ With her husband she was buried in the church of St. Peter ad Vincula within the Tower. The Lady Jane, like her father, was as strong adherent of the reformed opinions, probably a Calvinist, and pertinaciously defended her views against the Roman Anglican divines who visited her in prison.
The works attributed to Lady Jane are as follows: 1. Her proclamation referred to above, first printed by Richard Grafton, 1553, reprinted in ‘Harleian Miscellany’ and Somers Tracts. 2. ‘A Conference, Dialoguewise, held between the Lady Jane Dudley and Mr. Jo. Feckenham four days before her death,’ London, 1554, 1569 (?), and 1625, reprinted in Foxe's ‘Acts and Monuments’ and Heylyn's ‘Church History;’ translated in Florio's ‘Historia.’ 3. ‘An Epistle of the Ladye Jane, a righte vertuous woman, to a learned Man of late falne from the Truth of God's most holy Word for fear of the Worlde,’ 1554, together with Feckenham's dialogue, Lady Jane's letter to her sister Catherine, and her speech on the scaffold. This book is stated by Strype to have been printed at Strasburg. The ‘Epistle,’ according to Strype, was addressed to Harding; but this is an error, since Harding's apostasy did not take place in Lady Jane's lifetime. 4. Three letters to Bullinger, published at Zurich in 1840, with a facsimile of the second letter; also in ‘Original Letters’ of the Parker Society. These pieces, together with a letter to her father in Harl. MS. 2194, f. 23, were collected by Sir H. N. Nicolas in 1825, and issued with a memoir. Those numbered 1, 2, and 3 also appear in Foxe's ‘Acts and Monuments.’ A Latin elegy by Sir Thomas Chaloner the elder [q. v.] was published in his ‘De Rep. Anglorum instauranda,’ 1579.
Portraits described as those of Lady Jane Grey are fairly numerous. One, doubtfully attributed to Holbein, and formerly in the collection of Colonel Elliott of Nottingham, is engraved in Holland's ‘ Herωologia,’ in Fuller's ‘Holy and Profane State,’ in Howard's ‘Life,’ and Sir H. N. Nicolas's ‘Remains.’ Another, attributed to Lucas de Heere [q. v.], now at Althorpe, was engraved in Dibdin's ‘Ædes Spencerianæ.’ Attempts have been made to show that this is merely a religious picture, representing St. Mary Magdalene; but there seems no valid reason to doubt its genuineness. Colonel Tempest owned a third portrait, attributed to Mark Garrard. A fourth is in the Bodleian Library, and a fifth belongs to Lord Houghton. Lodge engraved a portrait formerly in the possession of the Earl of Stamford (cf. Notes and Queries, 1st ser. vi. 341, 3rd ser. x. 132, xii. 470, and Catalogue of National Portrait Exhibition of 1866).[The Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary, ‘written by a resident in the Tower of London,’ who has not been identified, was edited, with valuable notes and documents, for the Camden Society by Mr. J. G. Nichols in 1850. It is the leading authority for the events of Lady Jane's nine-days' reign. The original is in Harl. MS. 194. In an appendix is a list of the State Papers of the reign, a few of which are printed at length in Ellis's Original Letters. The Greyfriars' Chronicle (Camd. Soc.) covers similar ground. Another valuable authority is the Italian ‘Historia delle cose occorse nel regno d'Inghilterra in materia del Duca di Nortomberlan dopo la morte di Odoardo VI,’ first issued ‘Nell' Academia Venetiana, MDLVIII.’ This was a surreptitious compilation by a Ferrarese named Giulio Raviglio Rosso from the despatches of Giovanni Michele, Venetian ambassador in England 1554–7, and Federigo Badoaro, Venetian ambassador to Charles V. It is dedicated to Margaret of Austria by Luca Contile, Academico Venetiano. Equally important is the rare Italian ‘Historia de la Vita e de la morte de l'Illustriss. Signora Giovanna Graia,’ by ‘Michelangelo Florio, Fiorentino gia Predicatore famoso del Sant' Euangelo in piu cita d'Italia et in Londra.’ The title-page concludes with ‘Stampato appresso Richardo Pittore nel'anno di Christo 1607.’ Most of the letters and works attributed to Lady Jane are translated into Italian at the close of Florio's biography. Girolamo Pollini, in his ‘L'Historia Ecclesiastica della Rivoluzion d'Inghilterra, Roma’, 1594, prints some documents. Miss Strickland has made some use of these authorities in her notice of Lady Jane in Tudor Princesses (London, 1868). Lady Jane Grey and her Times, by George Howard, 1822, and Sir H. N. Nicolas's memoir prefixed to his collection of Lady Jane's writings, are both useful. See also Foxe's Acts and Monuments; Holinshed's Chronicle; Grafton's Chronicle; Stow's Chronicle; Fuller's Holy and Profane State (1652), 294–8; Heylyn's Reformation; Strype's Annals and Life of Aylmer; Nichols's Leicestershire, iii. 667; J. G. Nichols's Literary Remains of Edward VI (Roxburghe Club); Ascham's Letters, ed. Giles. Two tragedies—The Innocent Usurper (1683), by John Banks, and Lady Jane Grey, by Nicholas Rowe (1715)—deal with Lady Jane's history. The Rev. Canon Dixon has supplied notes for this article.]