Helen Castor tells the story of Lady Jane Grey, the first reigning queen of England. A victorious Mary decrees that Jane, her husband and her father should be executed.
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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 onto 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 is 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 than Jane Grey.
And I'll visit the places where Jane once walked during
the nine days that she reigned.
This time Jane's power base dissolves into deceit
and treachery, but the question remains -
will she escape with her life
or will she pay the ultimate price for her part in the coup?
Jane Grey wakes on the morning of 17th July 1553,
eight days into her reign.
She has taken personal charge of the keys to the Tower of London.
She's locked her own supporters inside the Tower with her.
Many believe that the end is approaching.
We're entering the final chapter
of a story that began several months earlier.
The men who surrounded the dying son of Henry VIII
have staged a coup.
They've blocked Mary Tudor, Henry's eldest daughter,
from the succession and put her cousin Jane onto the throne.
Lady Jane Grey was a teenager in the royal court.
Now she's Queen Jane of England.
But Mary has fought back, and she's proving popular.
Out in East Anglia, at her castle at Framlingham,
Mary has assembled an army of local landowners and tenant farmers.
It becomes apparent that the common mood of the realm is pro-Maryan.
Noblemen discovered that
their tenants were refusing to fight for them.
And just as a king needed his nobles
to fight for him, nobles needed their tenants
to fight for them, that's how it all works.
Even some of Jane's closest advisors,
men from her Privy Council, have been talking of abandoning her.
Jane learned of this and commanded that they be locked into the Tower
and the keys turned over to her personally.
Very assertive move on her part.
Two days ago Mary was the underdog, but now the tables have turned.
Jane's navy has mutinied,
giving their precious gunpowder and artillery to Mary.
This was a massive coup, because, you know,
these are ships that have been sent on behalf of Lady Jane,
essentially representing the Government
at that point, and they've declared for the rank outsider,
as it were - Mary.
Mary has the numbers and the artillery.
For the first time Jane is under threat.
And now it is not just her crown she could lose, it's her life.
As members of the Council begin to desert her, Jane is taking
extraordinary precautions in an extraordinary situation.
I think once the Privy Council had begun to entertain the option
of leaving the Tower and Jane had to actually physically lock them in,
I think she was intelligent enough to know that she was in trouble,
she was in serious trouble.
The same morning, as Jane wakes in the Tower,
the Duke of Northumberland rises in Cambridge,
where he's camped at the head of his army.
The Duke of Northumberland was no ordinary military leader.
He was a powerful politician.
He'd been chief advisor to Edward VI
and the dominant figure at the royal court.
He was also a leader in the battle against Catholicism.
It was quite dramatic, so they were tearing organs
out of churches because they didn't believe in music in church,
as well as destroying stained glass.
I think something like 90% of religious art was destroyed.
And while he'd become very powerful,
he's also extremely unpopular.
Having succeeded in putting Jane onto the throne,
Northumberland now has another job to do in East Anglia.
The key element
in a succession crisis like this
is to get hold of the alternative monarch.
Northumberland wants to capture Mary
and prevent her from moving against Jane's regime.
The plan is to engage with Mary's forces at her castle in Framlingham.
But Northumberland's progress has been slow.
Northumberland had arrived in Cambridge on the 15th.
Here, 50 miles from Framlingham, he hesitated.
Rather than move in for a quick battle,
he chose to wait for reinforcements.
After two days of waiting, there's good news.
On the 17th he's still at Cambridge,
he is waiting for his reinforcements to come in, and they ARE coming in.
Probably the artillery arrives on the 17th,
which is the key weapon for him.
He knows that Mary's at Framlingham,
he's assuming she's going to be entrenched there to try and defend
the position - that is exactly what she was intending to do -
and therefore he is going to need artillery to reduce her position.
So he gets this key force on the 17th,
and therefore he's now ready to move.
He's probably about 3,000 strong now,
2,000 cavalry, 1,000 infantry
and then, of course, these 30 or so artillery pieces.
What he doesn't know is that a major piece of his plan,
the warships off the coast of Suffolk, have mutinied.
Now, at Framlingham, Mary has the artillery she was lacking.
He's outgunned, but he does not know it yet.
News of the mutiny has reached the Privy Council in London...
..and they haven't told Northumberland.
Some of them are questioning their loyalty to Jane.
The imperial ambassadors reported that, "Many good men,
"among whom there are members of the Council, are disgusted."
They added, "There's trouble coming."
Not knowing what's going on in London, Northumberland
begins to position his men, ready for battle against Mary.
He begins to move finally towards Framlingham,
pretty much due east, on the morning of the 18th.
The force breaks down probably two-to-one in terms of cavalry,
but cavalry were the most dominant force on the battlefield
at that time, anyway. So, that was a good thing.
It's not a massive army, but these are pretty reliable soldiers,
probably better trained in his mind than anything Mary will have
to tackle him with, and therefore, it's enough for the job.
Inside the fortress of the Tower of London,
the Privy Council is receiving a steady stream of worrying reports,
including one message with chilling implications.
Sir Edmund Peckham, Treasurer of the Mint, is missing.
No-one knows for sure where he is, but rumours are flying.
Reports say that he's helped assemble forces from Oxfordshire,
Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Middlesex,
and they're not for Jane, but for Mary.
If the rumours are true, Peckham has mustered 10,000 men,
and they're ready to march on London to depose Jane.
She immediately begins writing to powerful landowners for help.
This is a letter written on 18th July 1553,
from the Tower, by Jane the Queen, as it says at the top.
And it's a letter asking for help
in subduing the violence and resistance that's taking place
in her kingdom, and it asks the recipients to
"Assemble, muster and levy all the power you can possibly make...
"..to repair with all possible speed towards Buckinghamshire...
"..for the repressing and subduing of certain tumults of rebellions
"moved there against us and our crown by certain seditious men."
This is a last-ditch attempt by Jane to rally support behind her.
But these desperate letters come too late.
In one report from the imperial ambassadors,
they suggest that Mary appears to be stronger than the Duke.
The balance, it seems, has tipped.
Now the odds are that the Duke is facing defeat at Mary's hands,
a message is hurriedly dispatched from the Tower.
The Duke is poised for the last push to Framlingham
when the letter arrives.
He receives information that actually everything's changed
and two bits of crucial information.
The first bit is that Mary's forces are actually stronger
than he might have anticipated, so he's outnumbered by three to one.
But the really key bit of information he gets is that
Mary now has artillery, and she's got artillery from
the royal ships that have mutinied and joined her.
And so, not only is he outnumbered, he's outgunned.
And it's at this point that he makes what we can say in
retrospect was the fatal decision to withdraw back to Cambridge.
But Northumberland has one last hope.
He's expecting the Privy Council to put down the rising
in Mary's favour to the west of London.
What he doesn't know is that things have been changing in the Tower.
One by one, Jane's loyal circle have begun to abandon her.
Her control over the Tower is slipping,
and members of the Privy Council are disappearing by the hour.
And one of those who quietly slips away
is the man that Jane was depending on to lead the reinforcements
against Mary's supporters.
Her own uncle, the Earl of Arundel.
It all seems to me very poignant that Jane is left in the Tower
with the other Privy Councillors around her,
and one by one they started dropping like flies.
Once the one drops, it's like one penny drops,
the rest go, it's like dominoes,
because they begin to see that the public mood is very much
against Jane, it's very much in favour of Mary.
Finally abandoned by her uncle and the other members
of the Privy Council, time has run out for Queen Jane.
18th July would be the last day of Jane's nine-day reign.
By the morning of 19th July,
only those closest to Jane remain with her in the Tower of London...
..including her husband, Guildford Dudley...
..and her father, Henry Grey,
who stays with his daughter to the end.
The Privy Council are now free from the confines of the Tower.
They've been quick to abandon Jane in her hour of need.
These members of the Council were a mix.
You have both Protestants and Catholics,
you have the Earl of Arundel, who was a Catholic, and he had
supported Jane, but we presume that was for monetary reasons.
But then he fell back on his religious alliance
and shifted to Mary.
Paulet, he was an older man who had been raised
in the Catholic faith and converted to Protestantism,
so he too began to shift back.
And the Earl of Huntingdon did so as well.
But if Huntingdon were to support Queen Mary,
that could give him a leg up in his own home power base.
They now risked being seen as traitors by both rival queens.
A crisis meeting was called at Baynard's Castle on the banks of the Thames.
The Council gathered and Arundel put together an argument
that might just absolve them of blame.
Arundel makes the case for the innocence of the assembled men.
And the man they make the scapegoat...
..is the one man who isn't there.
It was time to speak against the Duke of Northumberland.
Arundel's words have been reported many times,
and every report differs.
But one version from a papal envoy
has him describing the Duke as a man "unhampered by scruples".
He addressed the Privy Council, saying,
"My conscience was burdened with remorse,
"considering how the rights of my Lady Mary,
"true heir to this crown, were usurped,
"and that we have been robbed of that liberty which
"we have enjoyed so long under the rule of our legitimate kings.
"I believe you know well enough the ways and means that
"the Duke is using and that he is not moved
"either by zeal of the public welfare nor of the religion,
"but only by the ambition to rule."
The Privy Council has a choice to make.
They need to survive with their lives and fortunes intact.
The Privy Council came to their conclusion -
the true Queen was Mary.
It's a decisive moment,
decisive for the future of the Privy Council,
decisive for the country,
decisive for Jane.
The Council had put Jane on the throne
and now they abandon her and declare for Mary.
For the Council, the most important thing is to get the news to Mary
and secure their futures as best they can.
As the Earl of Arundel set out on a fast horse through the streets
of the capital, on the road to Mary at Framlingham,
the rest of the Privy Council headed for Cheapside
to tell the people their decision.
Big crowds had assembled,
waiting to hear what the Councillors have to say.
When they broke the news, the city erupted in celebrations.
There were bonfires without number
and people singing in the street for joy.
The reaction when Mary's proclaimed Queen in Cheapside
is one of complete elation.
Everyone is utterly overjoyed that she has at last
come into her birthright.
And there are all these wonderful accounts and reports
of the celebrations that were staged and took place there.
And a Tudor historian, John Stowe,
records that there were all these bonfires,
that people were leaping around in the streets and dancing,
that Te Deum was sang,
that there was wine flowing through the streets.
From this moment on, each of those who later told their story
cast Northumberland as the instigator of the coup.
He was the man driven by ambition,
the bully, the tyrant, the traitor.
History is written by the winners,
those who survive to tell the tale.
Throughout the 16th century, Privy Councillors had to confront
crises over the succession to the throne.
And those who survive are those who make the right call at the critical moment.
Messengers from the Privy Council in Baynard's Castle are sent to
the Tower to pass on the news that the Council have switched sides,
and Jane can no longer hold on to power.
How did Jane in the Tower find out that her reign was over?
Well, the Privy Council sent a military force
to tell her father that Jane was no longer Queen
and that Mary had been proclaimed.
They weren't sure how Henry Grey would react,
but when this force arrived, he simply said, "I am just one man."
There was nothing he could do to defend
his daughter's rights as Queen any longer,
and he went to tell her that she was no longer Queen.
The Pope's envoy described the scene.
Henry Grey entered the room where his daughter was sitting in state
and removed the cloth of state from over her head
as clear demonstration of what had to follow.
He delivered the news that it was all over.
There was no anger, no tears.
Jane hadn't chosen to take the crown.
Now she said that she would give it up as gladly as she'd accepted it.
And she said, "Can I go home now?"
In a very innocent sort of way.
It's almost as though she has had to put on this persona of a queen
and play the role for several days,
and it must have been enormously exhausting,
all of the stress and worry
and not knowing what's happening from one minute to the next.
And then she's told, "OK, it's over," and it's like,
"Phew! Can I go back to being me again and not Queen of England?"
And a young woman who has found the strength to inhabit that role
for nine days in a situation of such stress and crisis,
then suddenly displaying the naivety to think that there was any chance
that she might be allowed to go home.
And that almost makes us wonder, you know,
if she is so intelligent and she is so...so...
..insightful of what's going on around her,
it's almost as though she lost all of that for a moment.
Jane and her father no longer command the Tower.
Instead they're arrested.
Her fortress now becomes her prison.
What happened next, when Jane had changed from Queen to prisoner?
She was stripped of her valuables,
down to her small change.
She was then escorted from the royal apartments
to this small house on Tower Green,
which belongs to the Gentleman Gaoler, Nathaniel Partridge.
The house is still within the confines of the Tower,
but very different accommodation.
Yes, it's a world away in terms of status.
In one she would sit on, essentially, what was a throne
under a canopy of state
in great rooms hung with tapestries, as a queen.
Now she was, appropriately, in this small house
as simply Lady Jane Dudley,
wife of a commoner.
When the news reaches Northumberland in Cambridge,
he knows he's facing a traitor's death.
Foxe's Book Of Martyrs, a Protestant history, describes a man in crisis.
In desperation, he proclaims Mary Queen
and "so laughed that the tears ran down his cheeks for grief".
The Duke of Northumberland had not been born to high office.
He'd fought his way to the top.
He'd come so close to making Jane Queen
and his own son, Guildford, King.
..it's all over.
On 20th July, just ten days after Jane entered the Tower as Queen,
Jane's own uncle, the Earl of Arundel,
leads a deputation from the Council to offer their allegiance to Mary.
The Earl, once one of Northumberland's closest allies,
denounces the Duke and delivers the news
that the Privy Council have abandoned Jane's cause
and have proclaimed Mary Queen on the streets of the capital.
What happened when the Earl of Arundel and his colleagues
arrived at Framlingham to tell Mary that they'd changed sides?
Well, one of the first things they did was to beg for her pardon.
And the imperial ambassadors describe how they went
on their knees and how they pointed a dagger at their own stomachs
to demonstrate that they deserved death, but they were, nevertheless,
asking her, out of her royal mercy, to grant them pardon.
And did Mary forgive them?
Mary did, Mary had wanted to forgive them from the beginning.
She had been determined to reassure the elite that if they came to her,
if they took her side, it would be a safe thing to do,
that she would forgive them and it would all be put behind them.
Mary summoned Arundel.
Whether it was reward for his present devotion to Mary
or punishment for his past devotion to Northumberland,
Mary gave him one task.
The Duke of Northumberland is still in Cambridge
when Mary's troops come for him.
The man who arrests him, on the order of the new Queen,
is his former ally and friend the Earl of Arundel.
When Arundel brought Northumberland back to the Tower on 25th July,
the streets were crammed with people.
He was pelted with stones and rocks, and the crowds cried, "Traitor."
The views of the people are key to this story.
We could say Mary won because she had superior forces.
But WHY did she have superior forces?
Because the people didn't believe in Jane.
Jane's story tells us a lot about what we take to be the rules of governments.
We often assume it is a matter of technicalities,
abiding by the letter of the law.
But the competing claims of 1553 show that isn't necessarily so.
Jane was proclaimed Queen by the regime in power,
according to the will of the dead king.
But that idea didn't fly with the people.
They knew that Mary was Henry VIII's daughter.
Even if the law said that she was illegitimate,
they believed that she, not Jane, was the rightful Queen of England.
And if you can't get your people to obey you,
then what kind of a queen can you really claim to be?
On 3rd August, two weeks after Jane's reign had ended,
Mary Tudor entered London to take control of the Tower.
Crowds lined the streets.
One Tudor chronicler who witnessed the events noted,
"Her gown of purple velvet, with sleeves of the same,
"her curtal, purple satin all thick set with goldsmith's work
"and a great pearl.
"Her palfrey..." - that's her horse - "..that she rode on,
"richly trapped with gold embroidered to the horse's feet."
Mary was a vision of royal splendour.
She was every bit the Queen that people wanted to see.
Mary quickly turned to the matter of Jane Grey and what to do with her.
Against the advice of those around her, who cried for blood,
Mary looked for a bloodless resolution.
Mary knew it was politic at that beginning of her reign
after regaining the throne to be merciful,
other than of course to Northumberland and the people most
involved in what she saw as this plot to div...
..which it was, of course, a plot to divert the succession.
So Jane is actually, really, I mean, for the best part of six months
kept in confinement in the Tower.
Jane and her young husband, Guildford Dudley,
were imprisoned in separate quarters.
Guildford was a prisoner in the Beauchamp Tower,
and Jane was held for some time in Nathaniel Partridge's house,
on this side here.
We know that Jane was kept at the house of a Tower officer,
but the location of the prison for the Dudleys
is written into the walls.
Often graffiti is the only way we know where
specific prisoners were held.
And in the Beauchamp Tower there's the most extraordinary graffiti
relating to the Dudley family.
It's an elaborate piece, left behind by Guildford's brother John,
the Earl of Warwick, who was imprisoned with him in the Tower.
You can tell it's him as Earl Warwick because it has
a bear and a ragged staff, which is the image of Warwick.
And then it's surrounded by flowers which represent his brothers.
So there's a rose for Ambrose,
gillyflowers for Guildford - it's all very cheesy -
honeysuckle for Henry,
and also there's a verse underneath which says, it basically says,
"Those people who see this will understand why it's here
"and will be able to seek out the four brothers represented."
Jane and Guildford would be spared for now, at least,
but what of Jane's father?
Jane's mother, Frances Grey, had been close to Mary,
and if anyone could save the life of Henry Grey, then it would be her.
Jane's mother predictably pleaded that the Grey family
had been victims of Northumberland.
She claimed to have evidence that her husband had fallen ill
because he'd been poisoned by the evil Duke.
Remarkably, Mary was persuaded.
The blame, she felt, should be Northumberland's,
he was the sole architect of the coup.
The ultimate crime of treason was his and his alone.
Jane's father was pardoned and set free.
But on 18th August, the Duke of Northumberland was put on trial in Westminster Hall.
Here he was confronted by many of his former colleagues
from the Privy Council, who had switched sides to Mary.
The outcome was never in doubt.
He was sentenced to a public execution on Tower Hill.
The day before his death, the Duke,
the scourge of Catholics across the country,
the man who had ferociously suppressed the old faith,
fell back on the one course of action that might have saved his life.
Northumberland, the great religious reformer,
attended a Catholic Mass,
and declared to all those present,
"I do most faithfully believe this is the very right and true way,
"out of which true religion you and I have been seduced
"these 16 years past by the false and erroneous preaching of the new preachers."
But if he thought his plea might save his life, he was wrong.
On 22nd August, thousands of people crowded onto Tower Hill
for Northumberland's very public beheading.
Was Northumberland really to blame for everything that happened?
Was he alone responsible for the coup,
or was he a convenient scapegoat for others who wanted to
distance themselves from the events of July 1553?
I think that's the big question, isn't it?
That's what has been debated for almost 500 years.
Was he this sort of scheming Machiavellian
who takes this poor, innocent young girl and places her on the throne?
Or was he a genuinely sort of caring person who cared about his country,
cared about his family, was educated and talented?
You don't see Northumberland as the Machiavellian figure
pulling the strings behind the dying Edward.
You would see him as a player attempting to preserve
his own position as the board is moving rapidly around him.
People want to say he's a Rasputinesque
or, as you say, Machiavellian-type figure.
I don't buy into that at all. I just don't see it.
It was entirely normal for people in this period to seek personal
advantage, and that he did so, he was simply reflecting his own,
the culture in which he lived.
He was doing what everyone else around him did.
We do know what Jane herself thought of Northumberland.
On 29th August, Partridge threw a dinner party, and
those present included the author of The Chronicle Of Queen Jane,
the most reliable source, and Jane herself,
and in the course of that dinner,
well, they must have clearly been reflecting on,
you know, the general situation and what had happened.
Jane suddenly denounces Northumberland and says he was
the source of all her and her family's troubles,
and the reason for this was Northumberland's exceeding ambition.
Jane remained in the house of Nathaniel Partridge for several months.
And during this time there was growing tension between Mary,
who wanted to save Jane,
and those around her who were calling for Jane's death.
A trial was inevitable.
On 13th November, Jane was led out of the Tower.
It was the first time she'd left the fortress
since she entered it as Queen in early July.
Now she walked through the streets,
a single mile to the Guildhall, where she faced a public trial.
Jane could have been tried in Westminster Hall,
taken by water, privately on a barge,
but instead, she was processed through the streets on foot.
A treason trial at this period was not a trial in the way we understand it.
It wasn't about discovering guilt or innocence,
it was essentially a morality play,
and this morality play was a demonstration of Jane's guilt.
She was dressed very dramatically, entirely in black,
and she had hanging from her belt a prayer book.
She was setting herself up as an example of Protestant piety.
Jane was tried alongside her husband, Guildford.
The trial opens with a Catholic liturgy,
which Jane must have found extremely irritating and upsetting.
Nevertheless, she listens calmly
to the accusations laid against her -
treason, which include her signing her documents as "Jane the Queen".
And she pleads guilty to treason,
as does her husband, Guildford, who is on trial with her.
At the end of the trial, entirely predictably,
she is found guilty and condemned to death...
..either by burning or by beheading at the Queen's pleasure.
Guildford is to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
But was Jane guilty?
She was a teenage girl who'd played no part in planning to take the throne.
Was Jane an innocent victim?
Depends on how you define "innocent".
In purely legal terms...
because she did actively participate in the events of her reign.
She asserted herself and refused to make Guildford King,
she willingly signed documents repeatedly, numerous documents,
she took the action of locking her Privy Councillors into the Tower.
All of those are very positive moves on her part to assert herself as monarch.
So legally, no, she's not innocent.
But in an extraordinary act of leniency,
Mary suspended Jane's sentence.
She continued to resist those around her who wanted Jane dead.
Mary is somebody who actually, particularly at this stage of her reign, is generous.
She's merciful, she's also very pragmatic because she knows it'll
actually be rather wise to build up as much support as possible
by being lenient where she can.
Mary needs to bring people together, not divide them,
to consign the crisis to history as quickly as she can.
It's well within Mary's character that, because Jane was family,
you know, even despite all that had happened,
she could have brought her into her court and rehabilitated her.
She did rehabilitate various other young women.
It's perfectly possible.
But unlike the Duke of Northumberland,
Jane was not prepared to change her faith at any price.
She was the sort of person we might recognise today,
she's a sort of a teenage religious ideologue,
who's prepared to die for her religious cause.
Jane had one way of reaching the outside world.
As a child she had been schooled in writing letters,
a skill that had traditionally been a male preserve.
Women are able to, because they're able to write,
are able to express themselves on paper.
These are privy and powerful communications.
You know, letters here are a sort of a political tool.
As Queen, Jane had signed letters prepared by professional scribes.
Now she put her own skills to work,
and gave full vent to her faith with no concern for the consequences.
She hears that Mary has re-legalised the Catholic Mass.
So the Mass, the Catholic Mass can be said again in England.
Jane violently disapproves of the Catholic Mass,
she describes it as a sort of form of Satanic cannibalism.
And she wants people to make a stand against it.
So she writes an open letter to a former tutor of hers
who's converted to Catholicism,
and says to people they should rise, rise again in Christ's war.
At the very moment when Jane needs to be appealing to Mary,
as her life hangs in the balance,
the writing of this letter is remarkable.
It's a very forceful letter, full of extremely strong language,
even name-calling, telling this person that
he's going to become the spawn of Satan if he doesn't recant
and come back to Protestantism etc.
Violating all sorts of social norms.
I mean, she's speaking to... This is a young girl speaking to a man,
this is a young person speaking to an older person,
this is a student speaking to her former teacher.
And in each of those roles she's reversed it
and become the authority, the teacher, the parent, the guide.
I mean, she may not literally have meant, "Go out and put on
"your suit of armour and chop off Mary Tudor's head," but...
..not that far from it, really.
The extraordinary thing is that Mary overlooks this letter.
Even now, she won't sign Jane's death warrant.
But Jane is left languishing in the Tower of London,
isolated from the world.
The process of wiping away the pictures and records
of Jane the Queen begins.
And after all this time looking for traces of Jane,
I still don't know what she looks like.
We live in an era today of visual media.
You know, visual images are around us everywhere,
and we want to see what these people look like.
And unfortunately we don't have a reliable, authentic,
documentable portrait of Jane Grey.
Jane almost seems to be a ghost slipping through our fingers.
What are the options for the possible images
that we might look at to try to see Jane's face?
There is really only one at the moment that gives us
reasonably reliable indication of her appearance,
and that's a portrait at Syon House.
If there were ever more paintings of Jane,
then it's possible they were destroyed as she awaited execution,
condemned as a traitor.
Traitors, people who have had their heads chopped off,
pictures of them don't survive, because, you know,
if you've got a traitor in the family you don't want to boast about it.
You don't want to say Great-Aunt Maude when it was a traitor,
at least not when you're living during the Tudor era.
The Syon picture, long said to be Jane Grey,
was analysed in 2013 by experts able to date the wood it was painted on.
It was painted 50 years after she died,
but we do know that it was commissioned
by someone who had actually known Jane.
So here it is.
This is as good as it gets.
Now Jane was out of sight, she was out of mind.
The new Queen Mary was focused on her own future.
She had announced her intention to marry Philip of Spain,
who was Catholic and a foreigner...
..and on both counts caused her people unease.
For the four months that Jane had been imprisoned,
Mary had also been working to undo her brother's Protestant reforms.
Proclamations were amended and laws reversed.
The Mass and the old prayer book were reintroduced,
and Catholicism, with all of its ritual, returned.
Jane glimpsed the world through narrow windows
and conversations with the few who still came to visit,
including her father, Henry Grey.
But while she was in prison, another plot was being hatched.
In January 1554, Thomas Wyatt, a Protestant gentleman,
raised 4,000 men to march on London to remove Mary from the throne.
We don't know if Jane knew about it,
but she was implicated all the same.
Alongside Wyatt, one of the rebel leaders was a man
who had worked for so long to advance the Protestant cause -
her own father.
Jane would have heard that the rising collapsed in violence
and chaos and was routed by the forces of the Crown.
She would have heard that the leaders were captured and tried.
And she would have had no doubt of the consequences for those involved.
Hundreds of men were sentenced to die.
Many would be hanged,
and the worst offenders were to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
It would be a violent and terrible blood-letting
as a statement of the authority of the Crown.
And there could be no pardon for Jane's father this time.
Mary had forgiven him once, she couldn't forgive him again.
He would be executed.
When Jane refused to let her father lead the army to confront Mary
in Framlingham, she probably saved his life.
And had her father lived a quiet life at court under the new regime,
there's a chance Jane could've been saved...
..but now, her father's actions were what seals Jane's fate.
While she was alive, she became a symbol,
a rallying point for rebel Protestants.
Mary couldn't let her live.
Mary signed the death warrant for Northumberland's son, Guildford,
and for Jane too.
The executions would take place in five days' time.
And for Jane's father, perhaps the greatest punishment of all -
he would live long enough to know his daughter had been beheaded.
Jane would die on the same day as her husband,
Guildford before Jane.
The vast majority of executions associated with the Tower of London
happened outside the castle on Tower Hill, in public,
for justice to be seen to be done,
and, of course, that's what happens to Guildford Dudley,
but for Jane herself, she's one of a very privileged group of people
who are actually executed more privately within the castle itself.
Between 1483 and 1941 there are 22 executions
that happen within the confines of the Tower.
And Jane is one of five women who were executed within the castle,
and one of three queens,
the other two being Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.
There is an account of Jane's private execution,
which is the most reliable description of this infamous event.
It's in The Chronicle Of Queen Jane,
written by someone who was present inside the Tower.
Jane, we're told, was "nothing at all abashed,
"neither with fear of her own death,
"neither with the sight of the dead carcass of her husband.
"She came forth, the lieutenant leading her, in the same gown wherein she was arraigned.
"Neither her eyes anything moisted with tears,
"although her two gentlewomen,
"Mistress Elizabeth Tilney and Mistress Ellen, wonderfully wept.
"Jane carried a book in her hand,
"whereon she prayed all the way till she came to the said scaffold."
Another source says that, "She conducted herself at her execution
"with the greatest fortitude and godliness."
It's a terrifying thought.
Jane had to walk out here,
lay her head on the block
and wait for the blade.
When we talk about Tudor history,
we use words like "beheading" without thinking too much about them,
but Jane's death was a moment of horror.
She was executed on 12th February 1554,
dressed head to foot in black,
carrying a prayer book in her hand,
supported by two devoted gentlewomen.
It may be the end of Jane's life, but this is where
the enduring fascination with the Nine Days Queen begins.
The story of how this young woman met her death
has been repeated throughout history,
and in the process, her execution has become shrouded in myth.
There's another famous description of her execution.
It's an account published in the weeks after Jane's death
by an underground Protestant press,
in other words, by someone who had an interest in making Jane
a perfect Protestant martyr.
It describes her last moments in heart-rending detail.
" 'Shall I say this psalm?'
"And he said, 'Yes.'
"Then she said the Psalm of Miserere mei, Deus, in English,
"in most devout manner to the end.
"Then she stood up and gave her maid, Mistress Tilney,
"her gloves and handkerchief,
"and her book to Master Thomas Bridges, the lieutenant's brother.
"Then the hangman kneeled down and asked her forgiveness,
"whom she forgave most willingly.
"Then he willed her to stand upon the straw,
"which doing, she saw the block.
"Then she said, 'I pray thee, dispatch me quickly.'
"Then she kneeled down, saying,
" 'Will you take it off before I lay me down?
"And the hangman answered her, 'No, madam.'
"She tied the handkerchief about her eyes,
"then, feeling for the block, said, 'What shall I do? Where is it?'
"One of the standers-by guiding her thereunto,
"she laid her head down upon the block and stretched forth her body
"and said, 'Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit.'
"And so she ended."
It's full of pathos,
but it's an example of how Jane's story has been embellished,
because it was added in to the eyewitness chronicle of Queen Jane
when it was published in the 19th century.
Now, when this was edited, in 1850, by John Gough Nichols,
who was a very distinguished historian, he altered the text.
This is very, very hard to believe,
but he added new text that he believed to have been written
by the original chronicler that he had found elsewhere.
They were texts that were circulating quite widely,
even in the 16th century,
but he added them for the extraordinary reason -
and this is the thing about Jane Grey that you couldn't possibly have made up -
he added it because he'd recently seen Paul Delaroche's painting.
All the pathos,
all the drama of the version of the story that has Jane Grey,
you know, coming up to the scaffold and then sort of basically
fumbling with the blindfold and then groping for the block,
and asking the executioner, you know,
"Are you going to do it before I've actually knelt down at the block?"
And he says, "No," and then saying the Psalm, you know,
basically, "Have mercy upon me, O Lord,"
and the wonderful, theatrical, dramatised creation
of Jane as this innocent victim and Protestant martyr.
That is not in The Chronicle Of Jane Grey.
The 19th-century editor was inspired to this description
of Jane's execution in the otherwise eyewitness chronicle
by one of the most popular portraits in the National Gallery.
The Execution Of Lady Jane Grey was painted by the French artist
Paul Delaroche over 250 years after Jane died.
What it is not is
a historical reconstruction of the actual circumstances,
insofar as we can know them, of Jane Grey's execution.
The painting was first shown in 1834,
30 years after the end of the French Revolution.
If you put somebody with an axe,
and you have a young woman in the foreground
who is about to be beheaded,
inevitably this brings up the issues of French history,
which were perhaps too raw to be depicted at that particular time
in their own right.
The image of an archetypal innocent facing the block
was a particularly resonant one in post-Revolutionary France.
What Delaroche was not striving for
was historical accuracy about 16th-century England.
That is such a rubbish image.
The only thing accurate in that image, really,
is the straw on the floor.
And beyond that it is an entirely almost histrionic, dramatic
evocation of an idea,
rather than a depiction of an individual.
Do you think the difficulty of seeing Jane's face
is one of the things that's left space for
the crowding in of myth about her?
That it's harder to have a sense of her as a real person?
It makes it very difficult to render her concrete.
So there is kind of a mystery and a vagueness about it
that leaves room for infill.
At times, those gaps in the record have left room for complete invention.
One of the best examples appears in The Nine Days Queen,
written by Richard Davey and published in 1909.
This is the book, and his source is a letter
from a Genoese merchant called Baptist Spinola.
The letter says, "This Jane is very short and thin
"but prettily shaped and graceful.
"She has small features and a well-made nose,
"the mouth flexible and the lips red.
"Her headdress was a white coif with many jewels.
"The new queen was mounted on very high chopines..."
That's a kind of platform shoe. "..to make her look much taller,
"which were concealed by her robes as she is very small and short."
But here are the pitfalls of history.
This, after her execution,
the most often repeated detail in the story of Jane Grey
turns out to be a historical fraud,
and that rich merchant Baptist Spinola probably never existed.
It fulfils people's expectations,
they want a pretty girl
who looks vulnerable and fragile,
surrounded by sort of big adults.
You know, there she is in her stack shoes,
and she's smiling just as she enters the Tower.
From the moment she died,
people have mythologised and misrepresented Lady Jane Grey.
But there is one object that allows us to hear
Jane's own voice from beyond the grave.
Her prayer book.
So this is the book she actually carried onto the scaffold
and handed over just before the blindfolding and the kneeling?
It is, yes. Yes.
It's quite incredible, isn't it?
What makes it even more special,
one of the great treasures of the British Library,
Jane wrote some messages in it.
One is a heartfelt message to her father.
She writes, "The Lord comfort your grace,
"and that, in the world we're in,
"all creatures can only be comforted."
"And though it hath pleased God to take away two of your children,
"yet think not that you have lost them, but trust that we,
"by leaving this mortal life, have won an immortal life."
And then she signs it,
"Your grace's humble daughter, Jane Dudley."
She's no longer Jane the Queen.
In another message,
she writes to the Catholic gentleman who had been in charge of the Tower
during her time in prison.
"I shall, as a friend, desire you, and as a Christian require you,
"call upon God to incline your heart to his laws
"and to not take the word of truth utterly out of your mouth,
"but live to die. Live still to die."
So she's saying, don't be misguided by false teachings,
and of course by that she means Roman Catholicism.
Once we strip away the layers of myths and exaggeration,
the Jane we find is devout, unflinching, composed to the end.
But the one thing she could never be is the one thing that
might have made a difference to her chances of keeping the throne.
Her cousin Edward's plan for the succession makes it clear
that he thought a man should wear the crown.
One word gets repeated over and over again.
Male, male, male, male.
To hold power meant to be male.
Women were considered to be creatures of emotion rather than of reason.
Edward's plan had been to keep women off the throne for good.
No-one has yet looked at it as a gender issue...
..as opposed to a pure political power and religious issue.
But as it turned out, Jane's nine-day reign
was part of a critical moment in English history.
She was overthrown by her female rival, Mary,
who would rule England for five years.
When Mary died, Elizabeth followed her onto the English throne.
Another woman, another queen.
Like Jane, she was a religious reformer.
Unlike Jane, she ruled for 45 years.
And Elizabeth learned a lot from Jane's brief reign.
It's very important in the impact it has on Elizabeth.
Why is she the Virgin Queen?
..she saw what happened to Jane when Jane married Guildford Dudley
and how that helped undermine her position.
She's seen how little she can trust the nobility,
the Protestant nobility who were supposed to be her chief backers.
Elizabeth has seen how they can't be trusted
but how the ordinary people might help to save her.
So Jane's nine days do leave a legacy.
But was she Lady Jane Grey or Queen Jane?
Would you count Jane as a Queen of England?
Or was this a failed coup
that we shouldn't include in the line of English monarchs?
She reigned for nine days, she was a Queen of England.
A contested queen, but a queen nonetheless.
1553 was an extraordinary moment in English history.
For the first time ever, all possible heirs to the crown were female.
The men who surrounded the throne imagined that the only way
a mere woman could rule was as their puppet.
That's why they chose Jane Grey.
But in her nine days as Queen,
Jane began to show them they were wrong.
It was a lesson hammered home by her cousin and rival, Mary.
And the example of these two women in the summer of 1553
demonstrated that a queen could rule without a man to control her,
if she had the support of England's people.
We call her Lady Jane Grey,
not Queen Jane, because we know how her story ended.
But in reliving the drama of her nine-day reign,
we're reminded just how close she came to ruling England...
..and how different things could have been.
Jane has been installed in the Tower of London by a powerful cabal of men in the royal court. They want to keep the Catholic Mary Tudor from power. Meanwhile, Mary has assembled an army and is ready to fight back.
Led by the manipulative Duke of Northumberland, Jane's forces have assembled close to Mary's castle at Framlingham. Poised on the brink of battle, the two sides are evenly matched and the outcome hangs by a thread. When a key supporter of Jane's defects to Mary's side, taking with him thousands of followers, the balance tips. The Duke of Northumberland is thrown into confusion and the country holds its breath to see what will happen next.
On the final day of Jane's nine-day reign, the men who placed her on the throne abandon her and switch sides to join Mary. Their ringleader is Jane's own uncle, the Earl of Arundel.
Jane and her father, the Duke of Suffolk, are prisoners in the Tower as Mary enters London in triumph.
Jane is put on trial, but at first her life is spared. It is only when Jane's father joins a second rebellion that Mary takes action. She decrees that Jane, her husband and her father should be executed.
Helen Castor discovers that despite her reign lasting only nine days, Jane did leave a legacy - when Elizabeth I finally inherits the throne the lessons she learned from observing Jane's struggles help her to rule for 44 years. And, crucially, that Jane opened the door for a woman to rule England in her own right.