Lady Jane Grey
Jane was born at Bradgate Park near Leicester on an unknown date in early 1537, the eldest daughter of Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset and his wife Lady Frances Brandon. She had two younger sisters: Lady Catherine Grey and Lady Mary Grey. Jane was well educated, knowing Latin, Greek and Hebrew as well as modern languages. Through the teachings of her tutors, she became a devoted Protestant.
At the time of Edward's death, without Edward's will (which had dubious legal standing, since it ran contrary to the Act of Succession of 1543), the crown would have passed, under the terms of both the Act of Succession of 1543 and of Henry VIII's will, to Mary and her male (not female) heirs. Should Mary die without male issue, the crown would pass to Elizabeth and her male heirs. And should Elizabeth die without male issue, the crown would pass not to Frances Brandon but rather to any male children she might have produced by that time. In the absence of male children born to Frances, the crown would pass to any male children Jane might have. Jane thus did not feature in the line of succession prior to the last draft of Edward's will of June 1553. Only in the last draft did Edward finally include Jane Grey as his heir presumptive, knowing the line of succession included no Protestant-born male children. This may have contravened customary testatory law because Edward, then just 15 years old, had not legally reached the legal testatory age of 21. But more importantly, many contemporary legal theorists believed the monarch could not contravene an Act of Parliament, even in matters of the succession; Jane's claim to the throne therefore remained obviously weak.
Edward VI died on July 6, 1553. Northumberland had Lady Jane Grey proclaimed Queen of England on July 10, 1553, just four days later — once she had taken up a secure residence in the Tower of London (English monarchs customarily resided in the Tower from the time of accession until their coronation). According to some fictional accounts, Northumberland tricked Jane into putting on the crown; however, she refused to name her husband as king by letters patent and deferred to Parliament. She offered to make him a duke instead.
Northumberland faced a number of key tasks in order to consolidate his power. Most importantly, he had to isolate and, ideally, capture Mary in order to prevent her from gathering support around her. Mary, however, advised of his intentions, took flight, sequestering herself in Framlingham Castle in Suffolk.
Mary I proved to have more popular support than Jane, largely because the English people regarded her as the rightful heiress, but perhaps partly because of the continuing sympathy for the memory of her mother, Catherine of Aragon (Henry VIII had had his own marriage with Catherine annulled). At Framlingham Castle Mary amassed a force of 20,000 men, which marched to London and deposed Jane. There then initially seemed some likelihood that Mary, who had now taken the throne, would spare Jane's life. Queen Mary sent John de Feckenham to Lady Jane in an attempt to convert her to Catholicism.
On the morning of February 12, 1554, the authorities took Guildford Dudley from his rooms at the Tower of London to the public execution place at Tower Hill and had him beheaded. A horse cart carried his remains back to the Tower of London, past the rooms where Jane remained as a prisoner. Jane was then taken out to Tower Green, inside the Tower of London, for a private execution. With few exceptions, private executions applied to royalty alone; Jane's private execution occurred at the request of Queen Mary, as a gesture of respect for her cousin. John de Feckenham, who had failed to convert Jane, stayed with her during the execution. Jane had determined to go to her death with dignity, but once blindfolded, could not find the executioner's block. She had begun to panic when an unknown hand, possibly de Feckenham, helped her find her way and retain her dignity in the end.
The "traitor-heroine of the Reformation" died at the age of 16 years. No record survives to indicate that her mother made an attempt, request or otherwise, to save her daughter's life; and Jane's father already awaited execution for his part in the Wyatt rebellion. Jane and Guildford lie buried in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula on the north side of Tower Green. Queen Mary lived for only four years after she ordered the death of her cousin.