Voices of the English Reformation: A Sourcebook

By John N. King | Go to book overview

7.1. Lady Jane Grey,
Prison Writings (1553–54)

After the death of Edward VI, Protestant aristocrats attempted to retain power by engineering the succession to the throne of Lady Jane Grey (1537–54), the “nineday queen.” She functioned as a pawn in a plot in which her father, Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, collaborated with John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, whose son, Lord Guildford Dudley, married Lady Jane. According to a legally dubious version of Henry Vlll’s will, her claim to the crown as the descendant of Henry’s younger sister Mary was superior to that of his once-illegitimatized daughters Mary and Elizabeth. Lady Jane had attained a legendary reputation for learning acquired during residence in the household of Catherine Parr (see 7.5.C).

Wyatt’s Rebellion (February 1554), a Protestant effort to depose Mary I, endangered Elizabeth (see 7.5.B) at the same time that it ensured Jane’s condemnation for treason. She documented her spiritual experience in hortatory letters and a formal prayer as she awaited execution in the Tower of London. They were printed surreptitiously, possibly by John Day, as antigovernment propaganda. One letter castigates her one-time tutor John Harding for apostasy and urges him to return to “true” religion. Another is a remarkable document addressed to her sister Catherine, which she inscribed with the head of a pin on the flyleaf of her Greek New Testament during the night before she died. Her prose is notable for dense scriptural allusion, antithetical language that corresponds to John Bale’s interpretation of the book of Revelation (see 1.1.B), and martyrological claims compatible with Foxe’s later incorporation of her writings into the Book of Martyrs (see 6.5, 7.5).

SOURCE : STC 7279, A2r–A5v, B1v–B2r, B6r–8r.

EDITION: Bentley; Foxe 2000.

REFERENCES: Beilin; Hannay; King 1982.


A. An Epistle to a Learned Man of Late Fallen from the Truth

So oft as I call to mind the dreadful and fearful sayings of God: that he which layeth hold upon the plow and looketh back again is not meet for the kingdom of heaven.1 And, on the other side, to remember the comfortable words of our Savior Christ to all those that, forsaking themselves, do follow him,2 I cannot but marvel at thee and lament thy case. That thou, which sometime wast the lively member of Christ,3 but now the deformed imp of the Devil; sometime the beautiful temple of God, but now the stinking and filthy kennel of Satan; sometime the unspotted spouse of Christ, but now the unshamefast paramour of Antichrist; sometime my faithful brother, but now a stranger and apostate; yea, sometime a stout Christian soldier, but now a cowardly runaway. So oft as I consider the threatenings and promises of God to all those that faithfully love him, I cannot but speak to thee, yea, rather

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