Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery

Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery

Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery

Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery


Lady Jane Grey, is one of the most elusive and tragic characters in English history.

In July 1553 the death of the childless Edward VI threw the Tudor dynasty into crisis. On Edward's instructions his cousin Jane Grey was proclaimed queen, only to be ousted 13 days later by his illegitimate half sister Mary and later beheaded. In this radical reassessment, Eric Ives rejects traditional portraits of Jane both as hapless victim of political intrigue or Protestant martyr. Instead he presents her as an accomplished young woman with a fierce personal integrity. The result is a compelling dissection by a master historian and storyteller of one of history's most shocking injustices.


Jane Grey, the rightful queen of England, was deposed on 19 July 1553 and beheaded on 12 February 1554. This may not be what the text books say, but it is the conclusion offered by this study. the book is not a conventional biography. Jane Grey did not live to see seventeen and the successive crises which destroyed her lasted, each of them, for only a fortnight. It is, rather, ‘a mystery’, a detective story, in English parlance, ‘a whodunnit’. It asks how it was that in 1553 England came suddenly and desperately close to civil war and why those involved behaved as they did. It surveys the facts, discusses the options, suggests where the evidence leads, and weaves the discussion around as much as can be known of the remarkable girl who in right was the fourth of the Tudor monarchs and the first of the Dudley line. As with the solutions offered to every ‘mystery’, it is for the jury of readers to be persuaded or otherwise.

The notion of’a mystery’ determines the structure of the book. It looks first at the available evidence and then assesses each of the protagonists in turn. Next the complexities of the key decisions are unravelled. the narrative of Jane’s thirteen-day reign follows and finally the focus switches back to the sixteen-year-old and the last six months which elevated her to martyrdom.

In the course of what has been a tortuous investigation I owe a debt of gratitude to many archivists and librarians, notably Philippa Bassett (University of Birmingham), Andrea Clarke (British Library), Bridget Clifford (Royal Armouries), Tanya Cooper (National Portrait Gallery), Michael Frost (Inner Temple Library), Wayne Hammond (Williams College, Mass.), Sonja Marie Isaacs (the Lady Jane Grey Internet Museum), Alexandra Kess-Hall (University of Zurich), Sheila O’Connell (British Musuem), Michael Page (Surrey History Centre), Jayne Ringrose (University of Cambridge), Susan Tomkins (Beaulieu), Naomi van Loo (New College . . .

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