Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Jane Grey: Lady or Queen?

Lady Jane Grey
NPG D21393
A recent post of mine brought questions to the forefront regarding Lady Jane Grey's status as a Tudor queen. I included her in my list of monarchs but noted that she is not always included in others. This list, for example, mentions her only parenthetically. Jane is referred to as a ruler by Royal.UK, but is still listed by the name Lady Jane Grey. In fact, we most commonly refer to her as Lady Jane Grey rather than Queen Jane.

Why is that? She had not had a coronation, but there are other examples of monarchs who have been accepted as such despite the lack of this ceremony. Edward V is a notable example quite close to Jane's time. Little Edward is never left out of discussions of England's kings though he ruled even less than his distant cousin Jane did.

Jane was proclaimed and deposed with lightening speed, causing some to refer to her as an unsuccessful usurper rather than a legal queen. Yet she had been accepted by Edward VI's council. They called her before them on July 9, 1553, three days after Edward's death, to inform her that she was her cousin's choice of successor.

On July 10, 1553, Jane was proclaimed queen by her father-in-law, John Dudley duke of Northumberland. Thinking this family affair was neatly wrapped up, they did not count on the bold actions of Mary Tudor. It took only nine days for Mary to proclaim herself queen and defeat the poor resistance put forward by Northumberland on Jane's behalf. Jane was officially deposed on July 19th, causing her to become known throughout history as the Nine Day Queen.

Edward VI's
Devise for the Succession
Edward's Devise for the Succession may have been his will as king, but it was not the law of the land. His father, Henry VIII, had implemented a series of laws that secured the line of succession well beyond his own death. Henry's Third Act of Succession was accepted during the Parliament of 1543/44, reestablishing both Mary and Elizabeth as heirs after their younger half-brother. The Treason Act of 1547 further established this law by making it high treason for anyone, including Edward VI, to interrupt this line of succession. Henry's will again confirmed his desire for these laws to be followed. Both Henry's will and Edward's bypassed Jane's mother Frances in the succession.

The misunderstanding that often takes place is that Henry's will simply took supremacy over that of Edward. That is an oversimplification, however. It was not only Henry's will that created the legal line of succession, it was Parliamentary law. Had Edward acted upon his desire to name Jane as his heir earlier and had time to pass laws to counter those of his father, there is a chance that Jane may have enjoyed a long and happy reign. Simply putting his requests within his will was not enough.

 Queen Mary I
NPG 428
Had the laws been changed, there is still no guarantee that Mary would have been content to let Jane rule. Mary had been raised to rule and had been crushed when her father changed his mind and made her a bastard. Though she had been willing to accept her brother's place above her own, there is no indication that she questioned her own right over Jane's.

So, was Jane a queen? Again, I say yes, and technically I believe I am correct. She was proclaimed and acted as queen officially for nine days. However, history seems to have relegated her to always being simply a Lady, which I suppose is better than the title of usurper.

9 comments:

  1. Interesting essay, Samantha. I suppose you're right. Maybe we should start calling her Queen Jane. Imagine if she had ruled!!

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    1. Jane showed every sign that she would have been a competent ruler, maybe better than any other Tudor! Certainly she was more level-headed rather than being ruled by emotion as much of her extended family is famous for.

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  2. Hi, Samantha! It's interesting that Mary's and some later governments had problems with Edward's will. I discuss this in my book about John Dudley: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01BT0C016

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    1. Looks interesting! Thanks for the heads up. Send me a message if you are interested in writing a guest blog featuring the infamous Duke of Northumberland.

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  3. Another good point was made in the Facebook discussion of this post. An important element in whether or not someone is considered a monarch is their treatment by contemporaries and immediate successors. While Henry VII had good reasons to emphasize that Edward V was a king allegedly killed by his uncle Richard, Mary and Elizabeth had no reason to regard Jane as a queen.

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    1. I don't understand why Henry VII had anything to gain from acknowledging Edward V as king. All of his followers would have seen Edward as king. His problem post Bosworth was that he had to recognise Richard as the king, so that his claim to gain the crown by conquest would be valid. That has been suggested as the reason why the epitaph he ordered for Richard's tomb was quite evenhanded.

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    2. Thank you for your comment. Henry had several reasons to recognize Edward V as king. Though he made his claim by conquest, it was also in his interest to bolster the legitimacy of his wife, Elizabeth of York. The Act illegitimatizing her and her siblings was quickly reversed by Henry, recreating Elizabeth as a royal princess and her brother as a king. He was also welcomed more heartily as king if he were replacing an evil usurper, though he had to tread carefully here for the sake of instilling peace. Recognizing Edward as king cost Henry nothing as he was likely dead, but it quietly accused Richard of the killing. Henry had to walk a fine line to establish his claim, welcoming those who accepted his rule for love of his wife and her family, while also establishing that his claim was his own.

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  4. hi Samantha if jane had been crowned don't you think there was some powerful people pulling her strings such as the duke of Northumberland or even her own father who plotted to put her on the throne in the first place she may have even been persuaded to make her husband Guilford king

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Alan. Northumberland's plan was certainly to control Jane as he had Edward with much success. However, as Edward was beginning to flex his muscles and take over some control before he fell ill, Jane was likely to be less submissive than the duke hoped. From what we know of her character, she was bold and unafraid to stand by what she believed to be right. One of Northumberland's first disappointments was that Jane refused to have Guildford named king and co-monarch. With sass that is reminiscent of her Tudor cousins, she offered him the title of Duke of Clarence instead.

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