LADY JANE GREY Biography - Royalty, Rulers & leaders


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Lady Jane Grey was the eldest child of Lord Henry and Lady Frances Grey, the                       
duke and duchess of Suffolk. She was a viable heir to the English throne because                   
of her maternal grandmother, Princess Mary Tudor. After the death of her first                     
husband, King Louis XII of France in 1515, Mary secretly wed her true love,                         
Charles Brandon. Brandon was her brother Henry VIII's best friend; the king's                       
friendship and Brandon's service to the Crown led to his creation as duke of                       
Suffolk in 1514. He and Mary had a son, Henry, who died as teenager. Their next                     
eldest child was a daughter, Frances. Under the terms of the Third Act of                           
Succession (1544) and Henry VIII's last will and testament (1547), the Suffolk                     
line would inherit the throne after Henry VIII's children died childless. In                       
other words, the throne would pass to Henry's son Edward; if Edward died                           
childless, it passed to Henry's eldest daughter Mary; if she died childless, it                     
passed to Henry's youngest daughter Elizabeth. If Elizabeth died childless, the                     
throne passed to Lady Frances. This plan completely disregarded the children of                     
Henry's elder sister Margaret, the former queen of Scots. Henry did not care for                   
Margaret and, more importantly, did not want the English throne in Scottish                         
So it was through Princess Mary that Jane Grey was bequeathed her deadly                           
heritage. Still, no one in the 1540s expected the Suffolk line to rule. After                       
all, Henry VIII had left three heirs and it was unlikely all three would die                       
childless. Of course, we know that this did occur and the Tudor dynasty died                       
with Elizabeth I in 1603. It was only in 1552, with Edward VI's health rapidly                     
failing, that people realized there would be a succession crisis. According to                     
parliament and Henry VIII's will, Mary was Edward's heir - but she was Catholic,                   
in her late thirties, and never robust. More importantly, Edward was a devout                       
Protestant and did not want Roman Catholicism restored in England. Urged on by                     
self-interested advisors, he removed Mary from the succession on the grounds of                     
her illegitimacy (she was declared so by parliament in 1532.) But if he removed                     
Mary, he also had to remove Elizabeth even though she was a Protestant;                             
Elizabeth had also been declared a bastard by parliament in 1536. In his Device                     
for the Succession, written in his own hand, Edward wrote that they were both "illegitimate         
and not lawfully begotten."                                                                         
Edward's course of action removed the succession from the heirs of Henry VIII                       
and gave it to the heirs of Henry's younger sister, Mary. This was a tumultuous                     
course for many reasons. For example, the king of France, Henry II, was raising                     
Mary Stuart, Margaret Tudor's granddaughter; he planned to marry this ten-year-old                 
queen of Scots to his son and heir, Francois. By all the accepted laws of                           
primogeniture, she had a better claim to the English throne than her Suffolk                       
cousins. In fact, most European Catholics believed Mary's claim better than her                     
Tudor cousins, Mary and Elizabeth, since both were illegitimate by acts of                         
constitutional and canon law. However, Mary of Scotland was in France - not                         
England; also, the Suffolks were Protestant and she was not. Edward VI never                       
considered leaving her the throne.                                                                 
The above paragraph illustrates the complexity of blood ties within the Tudor                       
family. And since Mary Tudor was half-Spanish and thus cousin to the Holy Roman                     
Emperor, the succession crisis interested most of the major powers of Europe -                     
France, the Hapsburg Empire, Italy (the pope hoped to bring England back to his                     
authority), and the Protestant princes of Germany. When Edward VI died in 1553,                     
all of these nations waited to see who would triumph. Mary.... Elizabeth....                       
Mary of Scotland.... Jane Grey.... Which would become queen?                                       
Also, Europe waited to see how England would welcome a queen as their sole ruler.                   
All of the possible candidates for the throne were women, an unprecedented                         
occurrence. The only woman to attempt to rule England as her father's sole heir                     
had been Matilda in the 12th century; she had been forced out of the country by                     
popular revolt and a male cousin named Stephen of Blois became king. Now it                         
seemed the English had no choice but to accept a woman ruler.                                       
And because of the secret marriage of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon, the first                     
woman to rule England in her own right would be Jane Grey.