Helen Castor tells the story of Lady Jane Grey, the first reigning queen of England. Edward cuts sister Mary out of the line of succession and leaves the throne to his cousin Jane.
Browse content similar to Episode 1. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
The Tudors are historical superstars,
our most famous royal dynasty.
But there is one Tudor monarch who's been all but forgotten.
Lady Jane Grey was a teenager thrust on to the throne,
only to lose her crown after just nine days.
She was the first woman to be proclaimed Queen of England,
but few would recognise the name Queen Jane.
I'm Helen Castor, and over three episodes,
I'm going to take a forensic look at Jane's story.
It's a Tudor thriller, an epic tale of family conflict...
..ambition, and betrayal.
The death of a king covered up...
..and a country torn between two faiths.
Our protagonists include the manipulative duke...
..the wronged princess...
..and the God-fearing 15-year-old
who finds herself caught between them,
and pays with her life.
I'm going to track down original sources,
written as the drama unfolds...
This is the really exciting bit of the job.
..I'll talk to expert colleagues...
I've been in this game for 40 years, and I have to tell you,
there is no trickier Tudor subject that Jane Grey.
..and I'll visit the places where Jane once walked
during the nine days that she reigned.
In this episode, I want to explore
just how this teenage girl became queen,
and as a result, led England to the brink of civil war.
Jane's journey to the throne begins
with the sudden illness of the 15-year-old Tudor king, Edward VI...
..the only son of Henry VIII.
If Edward dies childless,
his sister, Mary, will inherit the throne.
But she's a woman, and worse,
she's a Catholic, an abomination to Edward,
who is fiercely Protestant.
It's a time bomb that will throw the country into chaos.
Catholic or Protestant,
the future of the country depends on Edward's survival.
As the young king lies on his sick bed at Greenwich Palace,
secret dispatches from the Imperial ambassador, Jean Scheyfvre,
described the Protestant king's rapid and brutal decline.
"The king of England is still confined to his chamber,
"and seems to be sensitive to the slightest indisposition or change.
"He suffers a good deal when the fever is upon him,
"especially from a difficulty in drawing his breath."
There may be a lot of gaps in the record,
but the king's health was a subject of intense scrutiny.
We have every grim detail.
"The matter he ejects from his mouth
"is sometimes coloured a greenish yellow and black.
"He is beginning to break out in ulcers."
The illness seemed to take hold and progress frighteningly quickly.
A procession of the best doctors came and went,
but the king was not getting better.
"They feel sure that the king has no chance of recovery,
"unless his health improves during the next month."
As the days pass, rumours of the king's illness
begin to seep through the court, through the capital,
and out into the counties beyond.
Stories of the king's illness were played down,
but here at Greenwich in the corridors of power,
there was growing concern.
People began to speculate about what the death of the king might mean.
That feeling of just terror,
that the entire world was going to devolve into chaos,
must've just been enormous for them.
The most powerful nobles in the country know that they stand to lose
everything in a Catholic regime.
The question of how to hold on to power and keep Mary from the throne
preoccupies the key players at court.
First among them is the Duke of Northumberland.
Northumberland was a soldier, a leader in battle, a politician,
principal adviser and confidant to the young king.
During the dissolution of the monasteries, of course,
Henry VIII seized all of that property
from the Roman Catholic Church,
and used it as a revenue-generating system, and as a reward system.
To what extent was Northumberland personally invested in Protestantism
by Edward's reign?
Northumberland was one of those that enriched himself
enormously through this system.
In 1553, Northumberland was the power behind the throne.
He had been Henry VIII's Lord Admiral.
And now, as head of the Privy Council,
he knows that if Edward dies,
there's a big problem with the succession.
This is the Tudor family tree.
Henry VII had three surviving children.
Henry, as the only boy, became king as Henry VIII.
And he too had three children.
And Edward was the only boy, so he became king when his father died,
as Edward VI.
But what would happen if Edward died?
He had two sisters, Mary and Elizabeth.
But were there are other options elsewhere on the family tree?
Margaret had married the King of Scotland, and she'd had a son,
but he was already dead.
Leaving a daughter, Mary Queen of Scots.
Mary had had two daughters.
Frances had three daughters - Jane, Katherine...
..and Mary, and Eleanor had one, Margaret.
So, if we look around this family tree,
we see that our options are pretty limited.
Eleanor was already dead, but otherwise,
there's Mary, Mary, Elizabeth,
Frances, Jane, Katherine, Mary, and Margaret.
Eight women, not a man in sight.
It was entirely understood that the heir to the throne should be male,
And when you're left with the first eight heirs to the throne
being female, the question wasn't "how do we deal with this?"
It was "how do we avoid it?"
So, in 1553, we're talking about a very live political question -
can a woman rule or not?
And you're arguing that Edward's answer is no?
He shared his father's abhorrence of the notion
of a woman ruling the realm.
The issue of a woman ruler was only part of the problem.
Although Henry VIII had made the break with Rome,
it was his son, Edward, who made sweeping changes
to ordinary people's experience of worship.
He got rid of candles, images, rosaries,
and outlawed the Latin mass,
threatening anyone who stepped out of line with imprisonment.
religious conflict had erupted into battles
between Catholics and Edward's men, as described in Edward's own diary.
"The rebels besieged Exeter, where there were many pretty feats of war.
"They gathered at Launceston,
"where the Lord Privy Seal went and overthrew them,
"taking their chiefs and executing them."
But by 1553, one of the greatest champions of Catholicism was Mary,
Henry VIII's eldest child, and the heir to Edward's throne.
Aged 37, Mary was an unrepentant Catholic.
Before her brother's illness,
she had held regular illegal masses at her home.
This act of defiance enraged Edward,
and hardened his resolve that she should never be queen.
The fact that the heir to the throne was Catholic
was a frightening prospect, not only for Edward,
but for the Duke of Northumberland.
Next in line was Henry's 19-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.
And although she was Protestant, like Mary,
she was technically illegitimate.
But as Edward's illness progresses,
a secret document is hastily produced in his sick room.
What was Edward planning, and why?
This is Edward's device for the succession.
It's in his own handwriting,
which was never the most beautiful handwriting in the world,
but it's looking scrappier than it had been,
perhaps because he was already becoming ill.
It's clearly a document written by a teenage boy.
The handwriting isn't very sophisticated,
and neither actually is the language.
"My device for the succession," it says at the top.
And the essence of Edward's plan is clear in the first paragraph,
where one word gets repeated over and over again.
"Male, male, male, male, heirs male."
The problem Edward has is that there aren't any.
He's having to talk about possible heirs male
who might be born in the future.
Obviously, he hopes he'll have a son of his own,
but just in case,
he's decided on a particular female line
through which the crown should pass,
and that's where we come to Jane Grey.
She isn't the first name on the list - that's her mother, Frances.
"For lack of issue with my body, to the Lady Frances's heirs male."
But Lady Frances Grey only had daughters.
So, then after her,
"for lack of such issue before my death
"to the Lady Jane's heirs male,"
and then, on to her sisters, to the Lady Katherine's heirs male,
to the Lady Mary's heirs male.
Edward then goes on to an elaborate plan
about what should happen if those baby boys
haven't been born by the time he dies.
But the basic principle is clear,
Edward wants a Protestant king to rule after his death.
There are still questions - it's Edward's handwriting,
but we don't know if it was Edward's idea.
Whether he was under pressure,
or whether this was exactly what he wanted.
As leader of the Privy Council,
the Duke of Northumberland was Edward's closest adviser.
There's a possibility that he had a hand in this document
for his own very personal reasons.
The Grey family has now become the focus of Edward's plans
for the succession.
The device names Jane, Katherine, and Mary Grey,
and their mother, Frances.
Until one of them produces a son, Frances would be a caretaker,
and the throne of England would remain empty.
So, if he died, the throne was going to be empty.
Frances was going to be Governor, working with the Privy Council.
Big problem, terrifying.
You've got out there, you've got the sharks out there, of Charles V,
you know, the King of France...
They might want to put their own candidates on the throne.
So, what's the solution to the difficulty of that empty chair?
Well, I think their immediate solution is to have
a round of marriages,
in the hopes that someone will produce a son before Edward dies.
Basically, everyone of royal blood is married off.
Katherine, who's only 12,
who's going to be married to the son of the Earl of Pembroke,
his son, who's only, I think, 15,
is taken from his sick bed to be married,
sort of bright green in the face.
And you have little Mary Grey, who's eight years old and undersized,
and she is betrothed to a middle-aged man,
Lord Grey of Wilton, who's one of the great warriors of the time.
Hideously disfigured by a sort of pike
that had been thrust through his face.
Of all the royal descendants,
the greatest prize is the eldest of the Grey sisters, 15-year-old Jane.
Growing up in Leicestershire,
Jane Grey's early life gave no indication of what was to come.
Aged around 11, she moved to London,
to live under the wardship of the king's uncle, Thomas Seymour.
It was here that she advanced her education
with the best Protestant tutors the country had to offer.
Jane's education is special.
She's educated to a greater degree even than someone like Princess Mary
or Princess Elizabeth, largely because she has no brothers.
So she becomes the sole recipient, I suppose, of the family resources,
as well as the family ambition.
She is receiving a humanist education.
So she knows Latin, Greek, Hebrew, she's also learning Italian.
She's really, in some ways,
being seen as the future of the Protestant Reformation in England.
Jane's education was facilitated by her father, Henry Grey,
who was a senior nobleman and a member of the Privy Council.
He was close to Northumberland, and together,
they agreed to plan for the marriage of Jane to Northumberland's son,
Guildford, who was also about 15 years old.
For Northumberland, Jane was his route to the power of the crown,
through his son.
He arranged their wedding at one of his lavish London residences,
Durham House on the banks of the Thames.
It was just over there.
Today, it's Victoria Embankment Gardens,
just across from the South Bank.
But in the 16th century,
this was one of the most upmarket addresses in London.
Edward was confined to his sick bed, and unable to attend the marriage.
But a royal warrant was issued,
providing extravagant clothes for the wedding party.
Jane was really quite reluctant to enter this marriage, I think.
I think you can document that in the sources.
She agreed to do it because her parents sort of pushed her into it.
In Richard Davey's 1909 book, The Nine Days' Queen,
we have the following passage...
"Her parents ordered her to marry the young gentleman,
"and according to an Italian chronicler,
"she at first stoutly refused.
"The Duke harshly reiterated his command,
"and according to the chronicler,
"even struck his daughter several hard blows."
Whether or not there was violence,
Jane was certainly put under pressure to be married,
and with good reason. The king's health was failing.
As the weeks tick past, and Jane embarks on married life,
Edward shows no sign of recovery.
The realisation dawns that there's no prospect
of any male heirs being born in time.
We don't know the date or the precise details,
but some time in the weeks before his death,
a final and critical change is made to the device.
It's a change that will have a devastating impact
on the life of Lady Jane Grey.
Two small words have been added in Edward's own handwriting.
Two words that would change the course of England's history.
Before, it said, the Lady Jane's heirs male.
Now after this change, it says the Lady Jane and her heirs male.
They were suddenly faced with the fact that a woman
simply was going to have to inherit the throne,
whether any of them liked it or not.
And the only woman available for that, at that moment, was Jane Grey.
You also have to remember, I'm really sorry to have to say this
in the 21st century, but she's a woman, and she's a young woman.
And in the 16th century, there were no equal opportunities.
Women were considered to be creatures of emotion,
rather than of reason.
It was considered that a woman couldn't hold the throne of England.
So, this decision to make Jane queen was absolutely transformational.
It was about to propel her from being a minor member
of the royal family, to the English throne.
And she knew nothing about it.
The device is an incendiary document.
Northumberland knows that once Edward's sister, Mary,
discovers that she's been cut out of the succession,
it could start a civil war.
For now, he needs to keep the device under wraps.
So, he bides his time,
and gathers a tight-knit group of counsellors around him.
Mary, Jane's rival for the throne,
had been growing increasingly suspicious
that all was not well at court.
Just a few days before Edward's death,
Northumberland had tried to lure her to London.
She gets a tip-off from someone at court,
a warning that Edward is dying,
and that the summons to court that she's received
shouldn't be followed,
that she shouldn't go back to court, she shouldn't respond to it,
because there is a plan to capture her when she comes to court
on the pretence of coming to see her dying brother.
Fearing that Northumberland will try to capture or even kill her,
Mary goes into hiding.
She's got to get ahead,
she's got to get some miles between her and Northumberland.
Because of course, she's been summoned to court,
and she hasn't gone to court.
You know, the assumption is therefore that Northumberland
or someone will come out and get her.
On the 6th of July, at about 8pm,
the 15-year-old king says he feels faint.
A few minutes later, he dies.
For Northumberland, the game is on.
He needs to consolidate his position, and place Jane,
now his daughter-in-law, on the throne before Mary finds out.
Immediately, the Council sprung into action
to do what needed to be done to effect a new reign.
Just rapid, furious movement, I'm sure,
as people began to consolidate and solidify positions,
and get everyone into place.
That night, there's no announcement that the king is dead.
Nor the next day.
The public don't know.
Not even Jane is aware of her new role as Queen of England.
At first light, Northumberland sends his son, Robert,
and 300 soldiers to catch Mary
before she has time to gather support.
Mary's been in hiding with Catholic supporters, and that same day,
word reaches her that her brother is dead.
Robert Raynes, a London goldsmith who'd worked for Mary,
heard the story that the king was dead and immediately fled the city,
riding 80 miles at breakneck speed to Mary in Norfolk.
He did so to make sure she'd heard the news.
With Mary in hiding,
Northumberland and his supporters in the Privy Council
turned their attention to securing the greatest fortress in England,
the Tower of London.
Like the rest of the court,
the Privy Council have been here in Greenwich for the last few weeks,
at the bedside of the dying king.
Suddenly, they're packing their things and clambering
into the royal barges over there at the water's edge.
They disappear that way, upriver to London.
It takes 45 minutes to get from Greenwich to the Tower
by royal boat, if you're rowing with the tide.
In the 16th century, to hold the Tower was to hold power.
The Council came to occupy the Tower, and just as importantly,
to ensure that Mary could not.
The Tower of London was founded in 1066 following the Norman Conquest.
It was one of the strongest, most imposing castles of the Middle Ages.
It was a royal residence, a jail for the most prized prisoners,
and the state armoury,
containing huge stores of munitions and gunpowder.
The Tower was feared and looked on with awe.
People believed that whoever controlled the Tower
controlled the country.
Northumberland knew it was vital to strengthen the battlements
to defend the tower from attack.
Great guns were to be placed in the White Tower,
and additional troops drafted in to man the perimeter walls.
They were preparing to put their candidate, Lady Jane Grey,
on the throne, and bracing themselves
against a potential counterattack from Mary.
Throughout the 8th of July,
Northumberland quietly moves reinforcements loyal to his cause
across the country.
Key officers of state are hastily secured for his allies.
Behind the scenes...
..ships were sent north to protect the coast,
to prevent Mary from fleeing overseas.
There were changes in many of the fortresses in and around London,
where people who had been in office in those fortresses were removed,
because they were known not to support the plan.
And new people were installed that had vested financial interest
in supporting this plan.
In the 48 hours since Edward's death,
Northumberland has succeeded in carrying out the first phase
of the Protestant plan.
He holds the Tower, the weapons, and crucially,
he has the dead king's device for the succession,
naming his daughter-in-law as queen.
But the frenzied activity and movement of guards
has not gone unnoticed.
By the time the sun set on Saturday the 8th of July, 1553,
almost all the key political players in London and beyond
knew that Edward was dead, and that Jane would be queen,
though no public statement had been made.
The one person of note who didn't yet know was Jane.
And I believe that that action in and of itself
is a clear indication of how Northumberland
and the Privy Council viewed Jane.
She was effectively a cipher.
They intended to control her in some manner from the get-go.
She was to be a figurehead, and she was, as a woman, inconsequential.
By the 9th of July, Edward has been dead for three days.
Northumberland is ready for phase two of his plan.
It's time for the Privy Council to seize the moment,
and their new queen...
Publicly, nobody considers Jane to be particularly important.
Publicly, nobody knows that the order of succession
has been changed. And that includes Jane.
Early on the 9th, Northumberland sends for Jane.
But she has no idea why.
He instructs that she should be brought immediately, by river,
to his house at Syon.
If necessary, by force.
Today's professional rivermen move quicker than their Tudor forebears.
-Hi, I'm Helen.
London VTS, city swim safety run.
But the idea is the same.
We live in an age of instant information
and instant communication.
It's a blessing and a curse.
Not so, Jane.
With a team of oarsmen,
Jane's journey to Syon took more than an hour and a half.
She was completely in the dark about why she'd been summoned,
and could never have imagined what lay in store.
This is where Jane arrives, Syon House.
Today, the front of the house is on the other side,
but in the 16th century, it was here,
the side accessible from the river.
Syon House in 1553 was home to the Duke of Northumberland,
and remains so to this day.
It's still recognisable as the house where Jane arrived
on the 9th of July.
The story goes that this is the room, the Long Gallery,
where Jane heard that she was to be queen.
So on the 9th, Jane is sent for, and in fact,
she is brought here into this very place, at Syon.
She is told that now she is going to be queen.
And the French ambassador reports what she said.
"This is not for me. The rightful heir is Mary."
The traditional story has it that she burst into tears
and didn't want to be queen, she expressed a desire not to be queen.
But if you look at her own account that she conveyed to Queen Mary
some weeks after the event,
she does describe bursting into tears.
But it's very clear, if you read it closely,
that those tears were for the death of Edward VI,
they weren't for the circumstance she was in.
Northumberland gave her a lecture on the illegitimacy of Mary,
and the illegitimacy of Elizabeth.
And then, Jane's parents arrived.
Parental pressure that pushed her, that pushed her over.
She prayed to God to give her the strength to do the job
that had been given to her.
Which indicates to me that she was somewhat accepting,
that this was the role God had chosen for her,
so she had to make the best of it.
Bolstered by her faith, Jane accepts the crown that afternoon.
The die is cast.
That evening, Northumberland throws an opulent banquet.
It's a celebration of Jane's accession as queen.
But he's also demonstrating to his supporters
that they're right to be backing him.
This was a grand alliance they should be proud to be part of.
For Jane, the 9th of July marks the day she prepares
to become the first Queen of England.
For Mary, the 9th of July marks the beginning
of her fight for the throne.
Having outrun Northumberland's men for the moment,
she's now arrived at her seat in Kenninghall.
Initially, the pen is mightier than the sword.
She writes to harness support around the country.
We came here to the Inner Temple Library
to see Edward VI's device for the succession.
But the archivist has brought me something else to look at,
which I haven't seen before, and it's absolutely fascinating!
It's written on the 9th of July,
at her manor of Kenninghall in Norfolk.
Now the 9th of July is the day when Jane was taken to Syon House
to be told that she would be the next queen.
But that's clearly a course of events
that Mary was not prepared to accept,
because Mary has signed this letter, Mary the Queen.
"By the Queen," it says at the top.
The 9th of July is Sunday,
Edward had died on the night of Thursday the 6th.
So, Mary has moved into action with enormous courage,
and enormous speed.
She asserts that she is the queen, "by Act of Parliament,
"and the Testament and Last Will
"of our late dearest father, King Henry VIII."
There can be no question in Mary's mind
that she is the lawful sovereign.
The letter is addressed to Sir Edward Hastings,
an influential landowner.
She's asking Hastings to protect her and her realm by raising forces
within the county of Middlesex.
And the particularly interesting thing, looking at this letter,
is that it looks to me very much as though a gap has been left,
and Middlesex added later.
In other words, that this was a form document.
Clerks were writing out the same letter again and again
to be sent to different places,
and this one happened to go to Sir Edward Hastings.
Mary's machinery of support is moving into action.
But would Mary have any chance against Northumberland
and the power of the state?
The prospects of Mary winning were so slim.
She's a woman with a household in East Anglia
that's full of local yokel Catholic gentry men, you know,
nobody who's got any political experience.
As you know, everything is under the control
of the Duke of Northumberland,
so no-one rates Mary's chances whatsoever.
10th of July.
As the day dawns, the Tower is now secure for the Protestant cause.
Northumberland's plan is going well,
and he decides it's time to break the news to the people.
It's time for Jane to make her first public appearance
as England's queen.
And the very next day, after being told that she was the new queen,
Jane was heading for the Tower.
We're still well outside the city of London, the city walls proper,
as they were in the 16th century.
So, on Jane's journey, there were fields still to north and south.
Now, it's surrounded by buildings of glass and steel.
But in the 16th century,
it was the most imposing building for miles around.
From further down the river, it looks a bit as though the Tower
might be dwarfed by office blocks.
But actually, when you get up close, it still has an authority.
It's a strange idea, a young woman making this exact journey,
with one life left behind her in Chelsea, and another up ahead.
And though she doesn't realise it yet,
there's no going back down this river.
No going back to her old home, her old title, her old friends,
her old life.
For Jane, everything changes at the end of this river journey.
Jane's entrance to the Tower is full of pomp and ceremony.
It's a moment of pure propaganda.
But almost immediately,
the first stirrings of disquiet begin to spread
among the assembled crowd.
We know this thanks to two letters that came to light in 2013,
believed to be written by a Venetian diplomat.
They were written by someone who was present in London,
who was seeing these events going on, was writing home, saying,
"This is what's happening here, here's the news."
The letters describe Queen Jane being accompanied into the Tower
by her mother, Frances Grey.
"And among the ladies, the mother, who as greatest in precedence,
"held the train of the gown.
"Now you say to me that this seems to you a monstrosity,
"to see a child queen and mother living,
"to speak with her and to serve her on bended knee."
Frances Grey had a better claim to the throne than her daughter.
But of course, she wasn't married to Northumberland's son.
The reason people were shocked, of course,
was because that she was the mother,
she was superior in line of succession.
So why is she carrying her daughter's train?
And this was incredibly shocking to people at the time,
because of the whole way they saw their world,
and indeed the universe.
Because they believed that God had created the universe from chaos,
he had created a harmonious universe, in which everything,
everything had its place in a sort of great chain of being.
Everyone is a part of this chain, and who rebels against it?
Satan rebels against it, Satan rebels against it.
He wants to bring chaos, civil war, horror back to the earth.
And for the whole universe to return to darkness and chaos.
So, this small business of Frances carrying her daughter's train is,
in a sense, opening the gates to hell.
And unease was further stirred by the unusual prominence
in the procession of Northumberland's son,
Jane's new husband.
A teenage boy with no claim to the throne at all.
"The husband stood with hat in hand, not only in front of the queen,
"but in front of father and mother.
"All the other lords making a show of themselves,
"putting the knee on the ground."
We see Guildford in a whole different light in these letters.
He assumes a position of prominence, even physically,
to the extent that he's at the front of the procession,
in front of his parents, and in front of Jane.
Which tells us that he was intended from the get-go
to be king through her.
And that idea was spreading fast.
After receiving news of Edward's death,
the French Ambassador wrote home, referring to "le nouveau roi",
the new king.
Do you think part of the plan for this marriage was that,
if Jane becomes queen, then Guildford Dudley becomes king?
There had never, ever been a king come to the throne
in right of his wife.
We speak quite often of people taking titles,
lower titles of nobility, in right of their wife.
But not the crown, that is the ultimate title.
And I think the ultimate goal was to make Guildford king.
The recently discovered letters say the people whispered
against Northumberland, that that one had poisoned the king.
And because the Duke saw it was not possible
to seize the crown of England himself, for that reason,
he designed to seize it by surprise, by means of a relative.
Northumberland had so much to gain from pulling off this coup.
As Edward's chief minister, he had been close to royal power,
but this was his chance to take the crown for his own family.
Was Northumberland behind the change to Edward's device?
We'll never know for sure.
But what's certain is that he was a hated figure.
Northumberland, remember, is very unpopular in the country.
Why? Because he's the guy who put down the popular revolts of 1549,
using German and Genoese mercenaries.
Yes, he put down the rebellion, and he did so rather savagely.
And that earned him a great deal of hatred from the people.
On the 10th of July, Northumberland knew he had to convince the people
that Jane was the right and true queen.
So, his council does something unprecedented in English history.
They order multiple copies of her proclamation to the throne
to be printed and distributed.
It was the first time that a new monarch was announced in print.
And it exists to this day, here at the Society of Antiquaries.
This is a volume of royal proclamations.
And what I've got here is the proclamation of the accession
of King Edward VI, back in 1547.
It's a straightforward example of its kind.
It's hand-written, it's short,
it's the text of what the Herald said on the streets of London
when they explained that Edward was now king.
Henry VIII has died, Edward, his son, has inherited,
and Edward promises to rule well.
Everyone must be loyal to him.
But this isn't what I've come to see.
Further on in the volume,
there is a copy of the proclamation of the accession of Queen Jane Grey.
Here it is.
And what I can see straightaway is that it's something very different.
It goes on for three pages.
There's a lot to explain, there's nothing straightforward about this.
Jane is now, it says, by the grace of God, Queen of England.
But the first thing you has to do is explain what the arrangements
for the succession were, that means going back to Henry's will,
to explaining that he left the throne to Mary and Elizabeth.
But then the proclamation goes on to show that they were illegitimate,
and Edward had made different arrangements.
By this stage, we're over the page.
The proclamation explains the whole of Edward's device
for the succession.
It's a complicated business.
And it's not until
the bottom of page two, the beginning of page three,
that we learn that Jane will rule, and all her subjects must obey her.
This took a long time for the heralds to read out,
on streets that were silent,
full of puzzled people, trying to work out what was going on.
And the other difference is that this proclamation is printed,
and that's because the presses had to work overnight
to get multiple copies of all this information out,
so that they could be pasted up around the streets of the city.
A new regime was in place, and it was a shock.
Seeing an original copy of that proclamation was amazing.
It looked like it could have been printed yesterday.
And the sheer size of it gives a real sense
of how big a problem Jane was facing.
It was against the right order of things,
it was against the natural order.
And if it was against right order and the natural order,
then what lay beyond that? Chaos. Anarchy, violence, horror.
Just as she enters the Tower,
and that sort of terrible image one has of the doors
of the Tower closing, and they will never open again for Jane.
An account by an Italian resident in London
said that when the proclamation was read,
not one showed any expression of joy,
rather than the celebrations that usually greeted a new monarch.
Dissent came at a price.
One person spoke out against Queen Jane.
His name was Gilbert Pot.
And he was promptly arrested, he was put on the pillory,
his ears were nailed to the pillory, and to be released from the pillory,
he had to suffer to have his ears cut off.
This first-hand account comes from the diary of the merchant
That's the sort of thing that could happen to you,
if you just so much as said, "Jane doesn't have the rightful claim."
-Much better to keep quiet?
-Much better! Much safer.
Northumberland believes his plan is working.
The capital is under his control,
and Jane is in full command of the Tower of London.
She's surrounded by the Privy Council.
They have authority over the realm,
they have control of the country's finances,
and an arsenal of weapons at their disposal.
But then, some time on the 10th, Jane's first day as queen,
a dispatch arrives at the Tower from Princess Mary.
Mary's letter calls upon the council to display their loyalty
to her just and right cause.
It declares her ready to pardon them, but if they didn't surrender,
they would face bloodshed and civil war.
And of course, this is a sense that this is the moment
that I've been waiting for, this is what my life has been all about.
You know, I'm ready to claim the throne,
this is the moment where I'm going to restore England back to Rome,
which of course is what God wants.
So, you know, it couldn't be a bigger moment for Mary.
For Northumberland and the council, the stakes had just been raised.
They'd been offered a pardon if they abandoned Jane,
or the threat of civil war if they didn't.
And the personal consequences of that warning
for each of them were clear.
The loss of titles and wealth, imprisonment, perhaps execution.
By the evening of the 10th, it's do or die for Jane's supporters.
If they're having doubts, now is the moment to turn back.
But they don't.
Instead, they draft a letter in response to Mary's challenge
for Jane to sign,
the first that will carry her signature as Jane the Queen.
A signature that, in a few days' time,
would be held as evidence of treason.
When was this letter written, and who was it written to?
So, it's written on the 10th of July, 1553,
on the day that Jane entered the Tower of London as Queen of England.
And at the top of the letter, we can see it's been signed by Jane
as Jane the Queen.
-And we know this is her handwriting?
-This is definitely her hand, yes.
And it was one of a number of letters that...
..were sent out to the Lords Lieutenant of the country.
This one in particular was sent to William Parr,
who was the Marquess of Northampton.
So the letter announces that Jane has entered
"into our rightful possession of this kingdom."
And then the local officers, or the Lords Lieutenant,
were called upon "to defend our just title."
But also, "to assist us in our rightful possession of this kingdom,
"and to disturb, repel,
"and resist the famed and untrue claim of the Lady Mary,
"bastard daughter to our great-uncle,
"Henry VIII of famous memory."
So, this isn't a normal part of an accession?
A normal king or queen would expect the machinery of government
to fall into place, but Jane's having to protest
a little bit too much,
because she's facing a challenge from her rival, Mary?
Yes. By this stage, they would have been very aware
that Mary was gathering forces, and preparing to fight back.
And there's a note that's been added here, to the letter that says,
-"Jane not queen"?
Do we know where that came from?
Well, it's in a later hand,
so it's almost as if somebody's wanted to correct the record,
and point out that Jane wasn't actually queen.
Despite having signed the letter with such confidence...
-At the top, "Jane the Queen"?
-The correction here says history says otherwise.
These letters stand as proof of the enormous tensions
of day one of Jane's reign.
They are a clear response to Mary's threat.
Jane's first day as the first Queen of England
is coming to a close,
and there's been a dramatic change in her.
Just one day earlier, when told that she was to be queen,
Jane was very reluctant to accept the role.
Now she's asking for reinforcements,
for military might to defend her claim.
Now, Jane is prepared to go to war.
If Mary believes she has a right to the throne,
she'll have to take it by force.
As day breaks on the 11th,
Northumberland sends recruiting parties out on to the streets,
to build up a force to suppress Mary's rebellion.
They didn't have standing armies,
they didn't have any of the security mechanisms
that we like to think we have today.
So that if an unexpected event came up, it was chaos,
you never knew which way things were going to go.
They relied on the nobility, the gentry, and ultimately,
ordinary people to support them.
They were just one man, or in the case of Jane, one woman,
and you needed people to want to back you and support you,
and fight for you.
You couldn't sort of force them to.
It's telling that Northumberland has to offer almost twice
the usual daily rate to recruit an army.
Well, even then, to muster an army within London,
he had to offer an outrageously high pay rate, that was so outrageous
that everyone felt the need to record it.
"Oh, my God, he's paying this much per day,
"that's so out of the ordinary."
So, it's clear that the only thing that was getting people to muster
to Northumberland was money.
Mary has also put out a call to arms.
She's mobilising an army, ready to fight,
and I think that's really important.
I mean, she's not cowering away here,
she is ready to assert her claim to the throne.
But this is dangerous at this point, you know,
she cannot be sure who to trust.
And she doesn't quite know, of course, either,
where the Duke of Northumberland or any of his henchmen are.
And that's the great fear at this moment.
Meanwhile in the Tower of London, Jane continues to send out letters,
rallying key supporters throughout the realm.
She's growing in confidence as the days pass.
She's always cast as the very innocent, very pious,
sort of demure...
..submissive puppet of the men around her.
Jane was a much more interesting individual than that.
She had strong views.
As a child, she was surrounded by influential figures who were tough,
uncompromising, and not afraid to voice their own opinion.
What might be surprising is how many of them were women.
She was exposed not only to Catherine Parr,
who was a very assertive woman,
and would argue religion with her husband, the king.
And very nearly lost her own life for doing so.
But at the same time, she was exposed to other very strong-willed,
highly educated women like Mildred Cecil,
the wife of William Cecil,
who would go on to become Elizabeth's Chief Minister.
She was exposed to Catherine Willoughby,
the last wife of Charles Brandon,
who was herself a very assertive, competent, educated woman.
Jane witnessed all this growing up, she absorbed it,
and she was able to project that back out
once she was in a position to assert her own authority.
Perhaps she wasn't the puppet history paints her as.
So, the idea that she would simply roll over
and do whatever her husband and her father-in-law,
and her father told her...
..seems to have been a miscalculation from the beginning?
Mary was a strong and assertive woman,
Elizabeth was a strong and assertive woman.
And we're asked to believe that their cousin, Jane,
would somehow suddenly be submissive?
No, she was part of that Tudor dynamic,
and she knew how to put herself forward,
she knew how to violate norms,
and she knew how to do that in a relatively acceptable way.
And she did it with the crown.
Jane does something that Northumberland
could never have predicted.
Jane was alone when the crown was brought to her.
According to Girolamo Pollini, an Italian friar,
the Lord Treasurer said he just wanted her to put it on
to see how it suited her.
Then the Lord Treasurer said a new one would be made for Guildford.
A king, after all, needed a crown.
Jane thought for a moment.
Then she said, no, she would make her husband a duke, but not a king.
Given Northumberland's plans,
this was an extraordinary act of independence.
When Guildford heard her decision, he tried to argue,
but there was no changing her mind.
Jane was queen, and she would rule alone.
She says, "Well, you can forget that for a game of soldiers.
"The most I'm going to do for you is make you a Duke,"
to which Guildford Dudley replies,
"If that's the case, you know, no king, no sex." No sex, no successor.
And he has to be sort of appeased and sort of carted off
by the Earls of Arundel and Pembroke.
This is the moment we see Jane take control.
If the plan was to install a king by default, Jane wasn't having it.
The men had made their plans, they tried to control the crown,
the country, Mary, and Jane.
And she said no.
This was her moment.
I think that was absolutely the critical turning point
in the entire succession crisis.
I think had she agreed to make him king outright,
had she acquiesced and been the submissive,
docile puppet that they wanted,
things might have gone a little differently.
She was the sort of person we might recognise today.
She's a sort of teenage religious ideologue
who's prepared to die for her religious cause.
For Jane, everything has changed.
The carefree life of a privileged young girl from Leicestershire
has been swept aside by a plot to make her queen.
In two days, Jane has occupied the throne and the role entirely.
Her transformation is complete.
Her rule has begun.
But Northumberland and the Privy Council's plans are unravelling.
Their assumption that Jane would bend to their bidding was mistaken.
Their belief that Guildford would become king was wrong.
And their certainty that Mary would simply go quietly
was the biggest miscalculation of all.
In a country that had never had a ruling queen,
this was now a battle between two women,
both determined to fight for the throne,
both believing that this was their time.
Next time, Northumberland's iron grip on power begins to slip.
He wasn't expecting Mary to go to battle,
and that was Northumberland's biggest mistake.
Against the odds, Mary's support is growing.
We see that the impossible gradually becomes possible.
And Jane finds herself under threat from the rebels.
With that artillery, she could've blown a hole
in the side of the Tower.
Those that end up on the losing side will pay with their lives.
In this first episode, Helen Castor reveals an incendiary document, written in Edward's spidery handwriting on his deathbed, which cuts his sister Mary out of the line of succession and leaves the throne to his cousin Jane. It forms the basis of a constitutional crisis that dragged the country to the edge of civil war.
But was it Edward's idea? Or was the boy king manipulated by sinister forces behind the throne? Fearing a return to Catholicism, a cabal of rich and powerful men led by the Duke of Northumberland - the 'Wicked Duke' - covered up the king's death for several days and staged a coup, placing Lady Jane Grey on the throne without even telling her.
Within a day of Jane being told she is to be queen, she is entering the Tower of London, whilst Mary goes on the run to avoid capture and plan her revenge.