Lady Jane Grey (1536/1537 – 12 February 1554), also known as Lady Jane Dudley, was an English noblewoman and de facto monarch of England from 10 July until 19 July 1553. She was the great-granddaughter of Henry VII through his younger daughter Mary, and first cousin once removed of Edward VI. In May 1553, she was married to Lord Guildford Dudley, a younger son of Edward's chief minister, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. When the 15-year-old King lay dying in June 1553, he nominated Jane as successor to the Crown in his will, thus subverting the claims of his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth under the Third Succession Act. Jane was imprisoned in the Tower of London when the Privy Council decided to change sides and proclaim Mary as queen on 19 July 1553. Jane was convicted of high treason in November 1553, which carried a sentence of death, although her life was initially spared. Wyatt's rebellion of January and February 1554 against Queen Mary I's plans to marry Philip of Spain led to the execution of both Jane and her husband.
It is said that she had an excellent humanist education and a reputation as one of the most learned young women of her day. Jane preferred book studies to hunting parties and regarded her strict upbringing, which was well-meant and typical of the time, as harsh.A committed Protestant, she was posthumously regarded as not only a political victim but also a martyr.
The previous King died on 6 July 1553. On 9 July Jane was informed that she was now queen, and according to her own later claims, accepted the crown only with reluctance. The next day, she was officially proclaimed Queen of England after she had taken up secure residence in the Tower of London, where English monarchs customarily resided from the time of accession until coronation. Jane refused to name her husband Dudley as king by letters patent and deferred to Parliament. She offered to make him Duke of Clarence instead.
Northumberland had to isolate and, ideally, capture Lady Mary to prevent her from gathering support. As soon as Mary was sure of King Edward's demise, though, she left her residence at Hunsdon and set out to East Anglia, where she began to rally her supporters. Northumberland set out from London with troops on 14 July; in his absence the Privy Council switched their allegiance from Jane to Mary, and proclaimed her queen in London on 19 July among great jubilation of the populace. Jane was imprisoned in the Tower's Gentleman Gaoler's apartments, her husband in the Beauchamp Tower. The new queen entered London in a triumphal procession on 3 August, and the Duke of Northumberland was executed on 22 August 1553. In September, Parliament declared Mary the rightful queen and denounced and revoked Jane's proclamation as that of a usurper.
Jane and Lord Guildford Dudley were both charged with high treason, together with two of Dudley's brothers and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. Their trial, by a special commission, took place on 13 November 1553, at the Guildhall in the City of London. The commission was chaired by Sir Thomas White, Lord Mayor of London, and Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. Other members included Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Derby and John Bourchier, 2nd Earl of Bath. As was to be expected, all defendants were found guilty and sentenced to death. Jane was found guilty of having signed a number of documents as "Jane the Queen"; her sentence was to "be burned alive on Tower Hill or beheaded as the Queen pleases".
The Protestant rebellion of Thomas Wyatt the Younger in January 1554 sealed Jane's fate, although she had nothing to do with it. Wyatt's rebellion was a revolt precipitated by Queen Mary's planned marriage to the future Philip II of Spain. Jane's father, the Duke of Suffolk, and his two brothers joined the rebellion, which caused the government to go through with the verdict against Jane and Guildford. Their execution was first scheduled for 9 February 1554, but was then postponed for three days so that Jane should get a chance to be converted to the Catholic faith. Mary sent her chaplain John Feckenham to Jane, who was initially not pleased about this. Though she would not give in to his efforts "to save her soul", she became friends with him and allowed him to accompany her to the scaffold.
On the morning of 12 February 1554, the authorities took Guildford from his rooms at the Tower of London to the public execution place at Tower Hill, where he was beheaded. A horse and cart brought his remains back to the Tower, past the rooms where Jane was staying. Seeing her husband's corpse return, Jane is reported to have exclaimed: "Oh, Guildford, Guildford." She was then taken out to Tower Green, inside the Tower, to be beheaded.
According to the account of her execution given in the anonymous Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary, Jane gave a speech upon ascending the scaffold:
"Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact, indeed, against the Queen's highness was unlawful, and the consenting thereunto by me: but touching the procurement and desire thereof by me or on my behalf, I do wash my hands thereof in innocency, before God, and the face of you, good Christian people, this day."
She then recited Psalm 51 (Have mercy upon me, O God) in English, and handed her gloves and handkerchief to her maid. The executioner asked her forgiveness, which she granted him, pleading: "I pray you dispatch me quickly." Referring to her head, she asked, "Will you take it off before I lay me down?", and the axeman answered: "No, madam." She then blindfolded herself. Jane then failed to find the block with her hands, and cried, "What shall I do? Where is it?" Probably Sir Thomas Brydges, the Deputy Lieutenant of the Tower, helped her find her way. With her head on the block, Jane spoke the last words of Jesus as recounted by Luke: "Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit!"
Jane and Guildford are buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula on the north side of Tower Green. Jane's father, Duke of Suffolk, was executed 11 days after Jane, on 23 February 1554. Her mother, the Duchess of Suffolk, married her Master of the Horse and chamberlain, Adrian Stokes in March 1555. She was fully pardoned by Mary and allowed to live at Court with her two surviving daughters.