"Lady Jane Grey" is how the woman who was Queen of England for nine days is usually referred to in history. When Edward VI was very ill in 1553, some English Protestants worried that the next person in line for the throne, Edward's older half-sister Mary, would forcibly reconvert the country to Catholicism, the religion their father Henry VIII had left so that he could marry again after Mary's mother Catherine of Aragon. John Dudley, Earl of Warwick and Duke of Northumberland, who had served as Protector while Edward reigned, induced Edward to name 15-year-old Jane as heiress to the throne a few days before his death. Jane was the granddaughter of Henry VIII's sister Mary, and had less of a claim to the throne than Edward's half sisters Mary and Elizabeth, several descendants of Henry VIII's other sister Margaret, and Jane's own mother.

Jane herself was reluctant to take the throne, but Northumberland, who had earlier manipulated a marriage of Jane to Northumberland's 16-year-old son Guilford, persuaded her to be crowned queen on 10 July 1553 (though she refused to have her husband crowned with her, a surprising example of stubbornness from someone railroaded into this whole situation). Nine days later, she was deposed by nobles who wanted someone with a more rightful claim to the throne (and not someone under Northumberland's thumb); the people of England also generally supported Mary. Northumberland was beheaded by Mary after she became queen, and Jane and Guilford were imprisoned for a while. Though they had been pressured into the whole mess by family, Mary finally came to the conclusion that for her own safety, the two had to be executed, which took place on 12 February 1554.

Before I went into Germany I came to Broadgate, in Leicestershire, to take my leave of the noble Lady Jane Grey, to whom I was exceeding much beholding. her parents, the Duke and Duchess, with all the household, gentlemen and gentlewomen, were hunting in the park. I found her in her chamber reading Phædon Platonis in Greek, and this with as much delight as some gentlemen would read a merry tale in Boccaccio. After salutation and duty done, with some other talk, I asked her 'why she would lose such pastime in the park?' smiling she answered me, 'I wisse all their sport in the park is but a shadow to that pleasure which I find in Plato. Alas! Good folk, they never felt what true pleasure meant.'

-- Roger Asscham, the famous educationalist. Jane was 13 at this time.

For a heartfelt appreciation of what the loss of this supremely gifted girl meant, see dannye's explication of the song Queen Jane Approximately.

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