July 10th, 1553 – The Nine Day Reign of Lady Jane Grey


Lady Jane Grey (1536/1537 – February 12th, 1554), also known as Lady Jane Dudley or The Nine Day Queen, was an English noblewoman and de facto monarch of England from July 10th, 1553 until July 19th 1553 . . . only nine days, but why?


The great-granddaughter of Henry VII through his younger daughter Mary, Jane was a first cousin once removed of Edward VI. In May 1553, she was married to Lord Guildford Dudley, a younger son of Edward’s chief minister, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland.

King Edward VI

King Edward VI

When the 15-year-old King Edward VI lay dying in the early summer of 1553, his Catholic half-sister Mary was still the heiress presumptive to the throne. However, Edward, in a draft will composed earlier in 1553, had first restricted the succession to (non-existent) male descendants of Frances Brandon and her daughters, before he named his Protestant cousin Jane Grey as his successor on his deathbed, perhaps under the persuasion of Northumberland. Edward VI personally supervised the copying of his will which was finally issued as letters patent on June 21st, and signed by 102 notables, among them the whole Privy Council, peers, bishops, judges, and London aldermen. Edward also announced to have his “declaration” passed in parliament in September, and the necessary writs were prepared.

The King died on July 6th, 1553. On July 9th, Jane was informed that she was now queen, and according to her own later claims, accepted the crown only with reluctance. The next day, she was officially proclaimed Queen of England after she had taken up secure residence in the Tower of London, where English monarchs customarily resided from the time of accession until coronation. Jane refused to name her husband Dudley as king by letters patent and deferred to Parliament. She offered to make him Duke of Clarence instead.

6804,Lady Jane Dudley (née Grey),by Unknown artist

Queen Jane

Northumberland faced a number of key tasks to consolidate his power after Edward’s death. Most importantly, he had to isolate and, ideally, capture Lady Mary to prevent her from gathering support. As soon as Mary was sure of King Edward’s demise, she left her residence at Hunsdon and set out to East Anglia, where she began to rally her supporters. Northumberland set out from London with troops on July 14th; in his absence the Privy Council switched their allegiance from Jane to Mary, and proclaimed her queen in London on July 19th among great jubilation of the populace. Jane was imprisoned in the Tower’s Gentleman Gaoler’s apartments, her husband in the Beauchamp Tower. The new queen entered London in a triumphal procession on August 3rd, and the Duke of Northumberland was executed on August 22nd, 1553. In September, Parliament declared Mary the rightful queen and denounced and revoked Jane’s proclamation as that of a usurper.

Lady Jane Grey execution 680

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, by the French painter Paul Delaroche, 1833

Lady Jane Grey had an excellent humanist education and a reputation as one of the most learned young women of her day. A committed Protestant, she was posthumously regarded as not only a political victim but also a martyr.


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