The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche, 1833
When the young King Edward VI died on July 6,1553, England believed the next monarch would be Edward’s half-sister Mary Tudor. She was the daughter of Henry VIII and named in the Succession Act and King Henry’s will as Edward’s heir. But Edward was determined not to leave the crown to his Catholic half-sister.
With the help of John Dudley, president of the Council, Edward created a “Devise for the Succession” to rewrite history and choose his successor. Four days after Edward’s death, Lady Jane Grey Dudley—Dudley’s teenage daughter-in-law—was proclaimed queen. Mary did not agree. For several days, two women considered themselves the ruler of England.
This was a watershed moment for the Tudor dynasty and the English monarchy. Jane appeared to be in control, and most European rulers believed she would retain that hold. But once she was installed as queen, Jane’s reign lasted less than two weeks.
Who was Jane Grey, the woman at the heart of the conflict? Tudor scholar and historian Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger explores the events of July 1553. She considers the life and character of Jane and the powerful men around her and traces her path from noblewoman to young wife to queen.
Lloyd-Stanger analyzes how the young monarch’s hold on power unraveled. She examines the political and personal forces at play in Tudor England, what convinced the most powerful nobles in the land to shift their support from Jane to Mary, and how Mary was able to leverage her supporters to gain the upper hand. Lloyd-Stanger reveals Mary’s complicated relationship with Jane and why it was necessary for one of them to lose her life. Finally, she explores the impact of Jane’s reign on the Tudors and the way we understand the dynasty.
Lloyd-Stanger is former manager of visitor education at the Folger Shakespeare Library.