Grey, Lady Jane

, was an illustrious personage of the blood royal of England by both parents: her grandmother on her father’s side, Henry Grey marquis of Dorset, being queen-consort to Edward IV.; and her grandmother on her mother’s side, lady Frances Brandon, being daughter to Henry VII. queen-dowager of France, and mother of Mary queen of Scots. Lady Jane was born, 1537, at Bradgate, her father’s seat in Leicestershire, and very early gave astonishing proofs of the pregnancy of her parts; insomuch that, upon a comparison with Edward VI. who was partly of the same age, and thought a kind of miracle, the superiority has been given to her in every respect. Her genius appeared in the works of her needle, in the beautiful character in which she wrote; besides which, she played admirably on various instruments of music, and accompanied them with a voice exquisitely sweet in itself, and assisted by all the graces that art could bestow. These, however, were only inferior ornaments in her character; and, as she was far from priding herself upon them, so, through the rigour of her parents in exacting them, they became her grief more than her pleasure.

Her father had himself a tincture of letters, and was a great patron of the learned. He had two chaplains, Harding, and Aylmer afterwards bishop of London, both men of distinguished learning, whom he employed as tutors to his daughter; and under whose instructions she made such a proficiency as amazed them both. Her own language she spoke and wrote with peculiar accuracy: the French, Italian, Latin, and it is said Greek, were as natural to her | as her own. She not only understood them, but spoke and wrote them with the greatest freedom: she was versed likewise in Hebrew, Chaldee, and Arabic, and all this while a mere child. She had also a sedateness of temper, a quickness of apprehension, and a solidity of judgment, that enabled her not only to become the mistress of languages, but of sciences; so that she thought, spoke, and reasoned, upon subjects of the greatest importance, in a manner that surprized all. With these endowments, she had so much mildness, humility, and modesty, that she set no value upon those acquisitions. She was naturally fond of literature, and that fondness was much heightened as well by the severity of her parents in the feminine part of her education, as by the gentleness of her tutor Aylmer in this: when mortified and confounded by the unmerited chicling of the former, she returned with double pleasure to the lessons of the latter, and sought in Demosthenes and Plato, who were her favourite authors, the delight that was denied her in all other scenes of life, in which she mingled but little, and seldom with any satisfaction. It is true, her alliance to the crown, as well as the great favour in which the marquis of Dorset her father stood both with Henry VIII. and Edward VI. unavoidably brought her sometimes to court, and she received many marks of Edward’s attention; yet she seems to have continued for the most part in the country at Bradgate.

Here she was with her beloved books in 1550, when the famous Roger Ascham called on a visit to the family in August; and all the rest of each sex being engaged in a hunting-party, he went to wait upon lady Jane in her apartment, and found her reading the “Phaedon” of Plato in the original Greek. Astonished at it, after the first compliments, he asked her, why she lost such pastime as there needs must be in the park; at which smiling, she answered, “I wist all their sport in the park is but a shadow to that pleasure that I find in Plato. Alas, good folk, they never felt what true pleasure meant.” This naturally leading him to inquire how a lady of her age had attained to such a depth of pleasure both in the Platonic language and philosophy, she made the following very remarkable reply: “I will tell you, and I will tell you a truth, which perchance you will marvel at. One of the greatest benefits which ever God gave me is, that he sent me so sharp and severe parents, and so gentle a schoolmaster. For | when I am in presence either of father or mother, whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand, or go, eat, drink, he merry or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing any thing else, I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yea presently sometimes with pinches, rips, and bohs, and other ways (which I will not name, for the honour I bear them), so without measure misordered, that 1 think myself in hell, till time come that I must go to Mr. Aylmer, who teachfcth me so gently, so pleasantly, with such fair allurements to learning, that I think all the time nothing while I am with him; and, when I am called from him I fall on weeping, because whatsoever I do else but learning is full of grief, trouble, fear, and wholly misliking unto me. And thus my book hath been so much my pleasure, and bringeth daily to me more pleasure and more, and that in respect of it all other pleasures in very deed be but trifles and troubles unto me” What reader is not melted with this speech What scholar does not envy Ascham’s felicity at this interview He was indeed very deeply affected with it, and to that impression we owe the discovery of some farther particulars concerning this lovely scholar.

At this juncture he was going to London in order to attend sir Richard Morrison on his embassy to the emperor Charles V. and in a letter wrote the December following to Sturmius, the dearest of his friends, having informed him that he had had the honour and happiness of being admitted to converse familiarly with this young lady at court, and that she had written a very elegant letter to him, he proceeds to mention this visit at Bradgate, and his surprise thereon, not without some degree of rapture. Thence he takes occasion to observe, that she both spoke and wrote Greek to admiration; and that she had promised to write him a letter in that language, upon condition that he would send her one first from the emperor’s court. But this rapture rose much higher while he was penning a letter addressed to herself the following month. There, speaking of this interview, he assures her, that among all the agreeable varieties which he had met with in his travels abroad, nothing had occurred to raise his admiration like that incident in the preceding summer when he found her, a young maiden by birth so noble, in the absence of her tutor, and in the sumptuous house of her most noble father, at a time too when all the rest of the family, both male and female, were regaling themselves with the | pleasures of the chace; “I found,” continues he, “a Zw Km Eoi, O Jupiter and all ye gods I I found, I say, the divine virgin diligently studying the divine ‘ Pbaedo’ of the divine Plato in the original Greek. Happier certainly in this respect than in being descended, both on the father and mother’s side, from kings and queens.” He then puts h.er in mind of the Greek epistle she had promised; and prompted her to write another also to his friend Sturmius, that what he had said of her, whenever he came, might be rendered credible by such authentic evidence.

If lady Jane received this letter in the country, it is probable she did not stay there long after, since some changes happened in the family which must have brought her to town; for, her maternal uncles, Henry and Charles Brandon, both dying at Buckden, the bishop of Lincoln’s palace, of the sweating sickness, her father was created duke of Suffolk, October 1551. Dudley earl of Warwick was also created duke of Northumberland the same day, and in November the duke of Somerset was imprisoned for a conspiracy against him as privy-counsellor. During this interval came the queen-dowager of Scotland from France, who, being magnificently entertained by king Edward, was also, among other ladies of the blood royal, complimented as her grandmother, by lady Jane, who was now at court, and much in the king’s favour. In the summer of 1552 the king made a great progress through some parts of England, during which, lady Jane went to pay her duty to his majesty’s sister, the lady Mary, at Newhall, in Essex; and in this visit her piety and zeal against popery prompted her to reprove the lady Anne Wharton for making a curtesy to the host, which, being carried by some officious person to the ear of the princess, was retained in her heart, so that she never loved lady Jane afterwards; and, indeed, the events of the following year were not likely to work a reconciliation.

The dukes of Suffolk and Northumberland, who were now, upon the fall of Somerset, grown to the height of their wishes in power, upon the decline of the king’s health in 1553, began to think how to prevent thui reverse of fortune which, as things then stood, they foresaw must happen upon his death. To obtain this end, no other remedy was judged sufficient but a ciiange in the succession of the crown, ‘and transferring it into their own families. What other steps were taken, preparatory to this bolU | attempt, may be seen in the general history, and is foreign to the plan of this memoir, which is concerned only in relating the part that was destined for lady Jane to act in the intended revolution: but this was the principal part; in reality the whole centered in her. Those excellent and amiable qualities, which had rendered her dear to all who had the happiness to know her, joined to her near affinity to the king, subjected her to become the chief tool of an ambition, notoriously not her own. Upon this very account she was married to the lord Guilford Dudley, fourth, son to the duke of Northumberland, without being acquainted with the real design of the match, which was ceJebrated with great pomp in the latter end of May, so much to the king’s satisfaction, that he contributed bounteously to the expence of it from the royal wardrobe. In the mean, time, though the populace were very far from being pleased with the exorbitant greatness of the duke of Northumberland, yet they could not help admiring the beauty and innocence which appeared in lord Guilford and his bride.

But the pomp and splendor attending their nuptials was the last gleam of joy that shone in the palace of Edward, who grew so weak in a few days after, that Northumberland thought it high time to carry his project into execution. Accordingly, in the beginning of June, he broke the matter to the young monarch; and, having first made all such colourable objections as the affair would admit against his majesty’s two sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, as well as Mary queen of Scots, he observed, that, “the lady Jane, who stood next upon the royal line, was a person of extraordinary qualities that her zeal for the reformation was unquestioned that nothing could be more acceptable to the nation than the prospect of such a princess that in. this case he was bound to set aside all partialities of blood and nearness of relation, which were inferior considerations, and ought to be over-ruled by the public good.” To corroborate this discourse, care was taken to place about the king those who should make it their business to touch frequently upon this subject, enlarge upon the accomplishments of lady Jane, and describe her with all imaginable advantages: so that at last, the king’s affections inclining to this disposition of the crown, he consented to overlook his sisters, and set aside his father’s will. Agreeably to which, a deed of settlement being drawn up | In form of law’ by the judges, was signed by his majesty^ and all the lords of the council.

This difficult affair once accomplished, and the letters patent having passed the seals before the close of the month, the next step was to concert the properest method for carrying this settlement into execution, and till that was done to keep it as secret as possible. To this end Northumberland formed a project, which, if it had succeeded, would have made all things easy and secure. He directed letters to the lady Mary in her brother’s name, requiring her attendance at Greenwich, where the court then was; and she had got within half a day’s journey of that place when the king expired, July 6, 1553; but, having timely notice of it, she thereby avoided the snare which had been so artfully laid to entrap her. The two dukes, Suffolk and ^Northumberland, found it necessary to conceal the king’s decease, that they might have time to gain the city of London, and to procure the consent of lady Jane, who was so far from having any hand in this business, that as yet she was unacquainted with the pains that had been taken to procure her the title of queen. At this juncture, Mary sent a letter to the privy council, in which, though she did not take the title of queen, yet she clearly asserted her right to the crown; took notice of their concealing her brother’s death, and of the practice into which they had since entered; intimating, that there was still room for reconciliation, and that, if they complied with their duty in proclaiming her queen, she could forgive and even forget what was past: but in answer to this they insisted upon the indubitable right, and their own unalterable fidelity to queen Jane, to whom they persuaded the lady Mary to submit.

These previous steps being taken, and the tower and city of London secured, the council quitted Greenwich and came to London; and July 10, in the forenoon, the two last mentioned dukes repaired to Durham-house, where the lady Jane resided with her husband, as part of Northumberland’s family. There the duke of Suffolk with much solemnity explained to his daughter the disposition the late king had made of his crown by letters patent; the clear sense the privy-council had of her right; the consent of the magistrates and citizens of London; and, in conclusion, himself and Northumberland fell on their knees, and paid their homage to her as queen of England, The | poor lady, somewhat astonished at their discourse, but not at all moved by their reasons, or in the least elevated by such unexpected honours, returned them an answer to this effect: “That the laws of the kingdom and natural right standing for the king’s sisters, she would beware of burdening her weak conscience with a yoke which did belong to them that she understood the infamy of those who had permitted the violation of right to gain a sceptre that it were to mock God and deride justice, to scruple at the stealing of a shilling, and not at the usurpation of a crown. Besides,” said she, “I am not so young, nor so little read in the guiles of fortune, to suffer myself to be taken bjr them. If she enrich any, it is but to make them the subject of her spoil; if she raise others, it is but to pleasure herself with their ruins what she adored but yesterday is to-day her pastime and, if I now permit her to adorn and crown me, 1 must to-morrow suffer her to crush and tear me to pieces. Nay, with what crown does she present me! a crown which hath been violently and shamefully wrested from Catharine of Arragon, made more unfortunate by the punishment of Anne Boleyn, and others that wore it after her: and why then would you have me add my blood to theirs, and be the third victim, from whom this fatal crown may be ravished with the head that wears it But in case it should not prove fatal unto me, and that all its venom were consumed, if fortune should give me warranties of her constancy, should I be well advised to take upon me these thorns, which would dilacerate, though not kill me outright; to burden myself with a yoke, which would not fail to torment me, though I were assured not to be strangled with it My liberty is better than the chain you proffer me, with what precious stones soever it be adorned, or of what gold soever framed. I will not exchange my peace for honourable and precious jealousies, for magnificent and glorious fetters. And, if you love me sincerely and in good earnest, you will rather wish me a secure and quiet fortune, though mean, than an exalted condition, exposed to the wind, and followed by some dismal fall.

However, she was at length prevailed upon, by the exhortations ofher father, the intercession of her mother, the artful persuasions of Northumberland, and above all, the earnest desires of her husband, whom she tenderly loved, to yield her assent to what had been and was to be | done. And thus, with a heavy heart, she suffered herself to be conveyed by water to the Tower, where she entered with all the state of a queen, attended by the principal nobility, and, which is very extraordinary, her train supported by the duchess of Suffolk, her mother, in whom, if in any of this line, the right of succession remained. About six in the afternoon she was proclaimed with all due solemnities in the city; the same day she also assumed the regal, and proceeded afterwards to exercise many acts of sovereignty; but, passing over the transactions of her short reign, which are the subject of general history, it is more immediately our business to conclude this article with her behaviour on her fall. Queen Mary was no sooner proclaimed, than the duke of Suffolk, who then resided with his daughter in the Tower, went to her apartment, and, in the softest terms he could, acquainted her with the situation of their affairs, and that, laying aside the state and dignity of a queen, she must again return to that of a private person to which, with a settled and serene countenance, she made this answer “I better brook this message than my former advancement to royalty out of obedience to you and my mother, I have grievously sinned, and offered violence to myself. Now I do willingly, and as obeying the motions of my soul, relinquish the crown, and endeavour to salve those faults committed by others (if at least so great a fault can be salved) by a willing relinquishment and ingenuous acknowledgement of them.

Thus ended her reign, but not her misfortunes. She "saw the father of her husband, with all his family, and many of the nobility and gentry, brought prisoners to the tower for supporting her claim to the crown; and this grief must have met with some accession from his being soon after brought to the block. Before the end of the month, she had the mortification of seeing her own father, the duke of Suffolk, in the same circumstances with herself; but her mother, the duchess, not only remained exempt from all punishment, but had such an interest with the queen as 10 procure the duke his liberty on the last day of the month. Lady Jane and her husband, being stiil in confinement, were Nove’mber 3, 1553, carried from the Tower to Guildhall with Cranmer and others, arraigned and convicted of high treason before judge Morgan, who pronounced on them sentence of death, die remembrance of which afterwards affected him so far, that he died | ravingHowever, the strictness of their confinement was mitigated in December, by a permission to take the air in the queen’s garden, and other little indulgences. This might give some gleams of hope; and there are reasons to believe the queen would have spared her life, if Wyat’s rebellion had not happened; but her father’s being engaged in that rebellion gave the ministers an opportunity of persuading the queen, that she could not be safe herself, while lady Jane and her husband were alive: yet Mary was not brought without much difficulty to take them off. The news made no great impression upon lady Jane the bitterness of death* was passed she bad expected it long, and was so well prepared to meet her fate, that she was very little discomposed.

But the queen’s charity hurt her more than her justice. The day first fixed for her death was Friday February the 9th; and she had, in some measure, taken leave of the world by writing a letter to her unhappy father, who she heard was more disturbed with the thoughts of being the author of her death than with the apprehension of his own*. In this serene frame of mind, Dr. Feckenham, abbot of Westminster, came to her from the queen, who was very -desirous she should die professing herself a papist, as her father-in-law had done. The abbot was indeed a very fit instrument, if any had been fit for the purpose, having, with an acute wit and a plausible tongue, a great

*

There is something so striking in this letter, and so much above her years, that we cannot debar the reater from it. It is in these terms: “Father, although it pleaseth God to: hasten my death by you, by whom my life should rather have been lengthened; yet can I so patiently take it, as I yield God more hearty thanks for shortening my woeful days than if all the world had been given into my possession with life lengthened to my will. And albeit I am well assured of your impatient dolors, redoubled many ways, both in bewailing your own wo, and also, as I hear, especially my unfortunate estate; yet, my dear father, if I may without offence rejoice in my mishaps, methinks in this I may account myself blessed that, washing my hands with the innocency of my fact, my guiltless blood may cry before the Lord, mercy to the innocent, and yet, though I must needs acknow­ ledge, that being constrained, and, as you well know continually assayed in taking the crown upon me, I seemed to consent, and therein grievously offended the queen and her laws yet do I assuredly trust, that this my offence towards God is so much the less, in that, being in so royal an estate as I was, mine enforced honour never mixed with my innocent heart. And thus, good father, I have opened my state to you, whose death at hand, although to you perhaps it may seem right woful, to me there is nothing that can be more welcome than from this vale of misery to aspire to that heavenly throne of all joys and pleasure with Christ our Saviour; in whose stedfast faith, if it be lawful for the daughter to write so to her father, the Lord, that hitherto hath strengthened you, so continue you, that at last we may meet, in heaven, with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” Fox’s Acts and Monuments.

| tenderiless in his nature. Lady Jane received him with much civility, and behaved towards him with so much calmness and sweetness of temper, that he could not help bein overcome with her distress: so that, either mistaking or pretending to mistake her meaning, he procured a respite of her execution till the 12th. When he acquainted her with it, she told him, “that he had entirely misunderstood her sense of her situation; that, far from desiring her death might be delayed, she expected and wished for it as the period of her miseries, and her entrance into eternal happiness.” Neither did he gain any thing upon her in regard to popery; she heard him indeed patiently, but answered all his arguments with such strength, clearness, and steadiness of mind, as shewed plainly that religion had been her principal care *. On Sunday evening, which was the last she was to spend in this world, she wrote a letter in the Greek tongue, as some say, on the blank leaves at the end of a testament in the same language, which she bequeathed as a legacy to her sister the lady Catharine Grey; a piece which, if we had no other left, it is said, were sufficient to render her name immortal. In the morning, the lord Guilford earnestly desired the officers, that he might take his last fare well of her; which though they willingly permitted, yet upon notice she advised the contrary, “assuring him that such a meeting would rather add to his afflictions then increase his quiet, wherewith they had prepared their souls for the stroke of death; that he demanded a lenitive which would put fire into the wound, and that it was to be feared her presence would rather weaken than strengthen him that he ought to take courage from his reason, and derive constancy from his own heart that if his soul were not firm and settled, she could not settle it by her eyes, nor conform it by her words that he should do well to remit this interview to the other world that there, indeed, friendships were happy, and unions indissoluble, and that theirs would be eternal, if their souls carried nothing with them of terrestrial, which might hinder them from rejoicing.” All she could do was, to give him a farewell out of a window, as he passed to the place of his dissolution, which he suffered on the scaffold on

* The particulars that passed be- dispute with him about the real pretwixt her and Feckenham are well sence is printed in the “Phoeiix,

worth the reader’s perusal in Fox j and Vol. II. p. 28. an account drawn up by herself f her | Tower-hill with much Christian meekness. She likewise beheld his dead body wrapped in a linen cloth, as it passed under her window to the chapel within the Tower*.

And, about an hour after, she was led to a scaffold: she was attended by Feckenham, but was observed not to give much heed to his discourses, keeping her eyes stedfastly fixed on a book of prayers which she had in her hand. After some short recollection, she saluted those who were present, with a countenance perfectly composed: then, taking leave of Dr. Feckenham, she said, “God will abundantly requite you, good Sir, for your humanity to me, though your discourses gave me more uneasiness than all the terrors of my approaching death.” She next addressed herself to the spectators in a plain and short speech; after which, kneeling down, she repeated the Miserere in English. This done, she stood up and gave to her women her gloves and handkerchief, and to the lieutenant of the Tower her Prayer-book. In untying her gown, the executioner offered to assist her; but she desired he would let her alone; and turning to her women, they undressed, and gave her a handkerchief to bind about her eyes. The executioner, kneeling, desired her pardon, to which she answered, el most willingly.“He desired her to stand upon the straw; which bringing her within sight of the block, she said,” I pray dispatch me quickly;“adding presently after,” Will you take it off before I lay me down“The executioner answered,” No, madam.“Upon this, the handkerchief being bound close over her eyes, she began to feel for the block, to which she was guided by one of the spectators. When she felt it, she stretched herself forward, and said,” Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit;" and immediately her head was separated at one stroke.

Her fate was universally deplored even by the persons best-affected to queen Mary; and, to a woman of any

*

After this sad sight, she wrote three short sentences in a table-book, in Greek, Latin, and English, to this purport. In Greek: “If his slain body shall give testimony against me before men, his most blessed soul shall render an eternal proof of my innoccrice in the presence of God.” In Latin to this effect: “The justice of rnn took away his body, but the divine mercy has preserved his soul.” The English ran thus: “If my fault deserved punishment, my youth at least and my imprudence were worthy of excuse. God and posterity will shew me favour.” This book she gave to sir John Bridges, the lieutenant of the Tower, on the scaffold, at his intreaty to bestow some memorial upon him, as an acknowledgement of his civility. Heylin.

| feeling, it must certainly have given much disquiet to begin her reign with such an unusual effusion of blood; especially in the present case of a near relation, one formerly honoured with her friendship and favour, who had indeed usurped, but without desiring or enjoying, the royal diaclem which she assumed, by the constraint of an ambitious father and an imperious mother, and which at the first motion she chearfully and willingly resigned. This made her exceedingly lamented at home and abroad; the fame of her learning and virtue having reached over Europe, excited many commendations, and some express panegyrics in different nations and different languages. Immediately after her death, there came out a piece, entitled, “The precious Remains of Lady Jane Grey,” in 4to.

Besides the pieces already mentioned, there are three Latin epistles to Bullinger printed in the “Epistolae ab Ecclesiie Helvetica; reformatoribus vel ad eos scriptae,1742, 8vo, and the letter she wrote the night before her death to her sister Katherine which is here printed in Latin. Of her writing also are four Latin verses from her prison, and her speech on the scaffold. Holinshed and Baker say she wrote other things, and Bale mentions “The Complaint of a Sinner,” and “The Devout Christian.” A letter to Harding, her father’s chaplain, on his apostatizing to popery, is in the “Phcenix.” Other notices respecting fragments of her writing may be seen in our authorities. 1

1

Biog. Brit. -Fox’s Acts and Monuments. Ballard’s Memoirs. —Strype’s Cranmer, p. 295, 303. Park’s edition of Walpole’s Royal and Noble Authors. Arcbseol. vol. XIII. See also Nichols’s Leicestershire, under Bradgate Park.