Lady Jane Grey Dudley ruled England from July 10 – July 19, 1553. One of the best biographies of her life and reign that I have ever read, Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery, was by the incomparable Eric Ives and I strongly, strongly recommend it.
Queen Jane was named as the heir to the throne by her cousin, Edward VI, in his will. Edward had been crowned king as a child, and was the lawful ruler of England. His will was the only will that mattered. The wills of past kings, including Henry VIII, were defunct after Edward became the monarch.
Therefore, Queen Jane was the lawful and right queen of England.
Nevertheless, the pro-Catholic faction sprang into action to put Mary Tudor on the throne based on the will of Edward’s father, Henry VIII. Jane was a hard-core protestant, and I don’t blame the Catholics from being worried that they would be subject to persecution for their faith. However, I do blame them for the fact that they wanted power in order to persecute protestants for THEIR faith.
With an army to back her, Mary Tudor usurped the throne of the rightful queen. Both Jane and her husband Guildford Dudley were imprisoned for the crime of being named heir in a legitimate, legally binding will. If Queen Mary I had stuck to that, it would have been wrong but not awful. Power plays happen. It was life in the 16th century. I can even see why she executed John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, since she blamed him for her brother’s decision to declare her illegitimate.
Mary kept Jane and Guilford apart in the Tower. I suspect she was afraid Jane would get pregnant with a rival heir to Mary’s heirs, the children Mary was sure that she would have. Okay, fair enough. However, Mary would need to go further to secure her throne.
Mary’s protestant subjects were unhappy with her coup. They were driven to revolt by the information that Mary would wed Prince Phillip of Spain. Even her Catholic supporters disliked the fact she would be marrying a foreign noble and perhaps subject England to foreigner’s rule.
That’s when, to me, Mary earned her sobriquet of “Bloody”. She not only executed 100 of the the actual rebels (pardoning 400 others, which was very good PR and a decent thing to do), she decided to execute Jane and Guilford Dudley because they might be the focal point of other plotters in the future. They didn’t have anything to do with the rebellion, mind you. It’s just that they were alternatives to Mary and she felt more secure with them dead. There was also one other motive”: Phillip of Spain said he wouldn’t come to England to tie the knot with Mary until she had disposed of her rivals.
On February 12, 1554 the Lady Jane Grey, rightful queen of England, and her husband Guilford were murdered under the orders of the usurper Mary I.
Jane was at most 17 years old. Her husband was approximately 19 years old.
Bloody Mary would reign for less than six years before she died in November of 1558. She had almost three hundred protestants burned at the stake during her rule.