Jane is a Hebrew name meaning 'God's grace' or 'God is gracious'. It is the feminine form of John and has been popular since the 17th century. It was a favourite name of my mother's and she very much wanted to give it to me. Our surname was Mayne so it really wasn't advisable. Thus I was called Janice, a form of Jane. Two of my nieces, one of my daughters and one of my granddaughters have Jane as a middle name and I've known and liked many Janes.
The Jane for whom I feel great sympathy lived during the 16th century. Lady Jane Grey was Henry VIII's great-niece (or grand-niece) born to his sister Mary's daughter in October 1537. Jane was an uncommon name at this time and it is thought she may have been named after Jane Seymour, Henry's third and most-beloved wife, who died shortly after giving birth to Prince Edward.
Lady Jane Grey learnt to speak and read Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, Italian and English as a young child. She was strictly, even harshly brought up, rarely pleasing her parents who always expected more and better from her even though she was a clever and eager student. At the age of nine she left her home in Bradgate Park, Leicestershire to live at court under the guardianship of Catherine Parr who had married Thomas Seymour after Henry VIII's death. Catherine treated her lovingly and kindly and when she died after childbirth Jane was the chief mourner at her funeral. Jane remained one more year as Thomas Seymour's ward before he was executed for treason.
So Jane, now 12, returned to Leicestershire to become the ward of the Duke of Northumberland. He was the most powerful man in the country after the King (Edward VI, who was sickly and destined to die young.) It is probable that he influenced the dying King to change his will to name the Protestant heirs of his aunt, Mary Tudor, as his successors. Northumberland plotted with Jane's parents to marry her to his last unmarried son thereby protecting his position of power and securing the crown for his son, as Jane's mother had agreed to forego her own claim to the crown.
Thus Jane was forced into marriage with a man she barely knew, becoming at the same time the daughter-in-law of a man she disliked and mistrusted. The marriage took place in London on 25th May, 1553. (It was a triple ceremony. Her younger sister and a daughter of the Northumberlands were married at the same time.) Jane was dressed in gold and silver brocade embroidered with diamonds and pearls. She was not quite sixteen.
Four days after Edward VI's death Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen of England. She had not sought the rôle of monarch but was powerless to resist the machinations of her supposed protectors, her parents and her guardian. The proclamation was greeted with silence and resentfulness by the people who were still grieving their young King and felt that Mary was the rightful heir to the throne.
It was the custom that English monarchs stayed in the Tower of London until their coronation, but Jane Grey remained there for the rest of her life. Her cousin, the Catholic Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon, rallied support for her claim to the throne and rode triumphantly into London.
The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (le Supplice de Jeanne Grey)
Painting by Paul Delaroche at the National Gallery of Art, London, 1833
Image courtesy of WikipediaParliament revoked Jane's proclamation and she and her husband were found guilty of high treason. The traditional punishment for women committing treason was to be burned alive or publicly beheaded on Tower Hill. Queen Mary allowed that her young cousin should have a private beheading on Tower Green inside the Tower of London. This very young woman maintained her composure until she put on her blindfold and then she panicked because she could not find the block for her head. She was helped to it and then beheaded. She was not yet seventeen and had been Queen for about nine days.
Thank you to the ABC Wednesday team for organising this meme. To see more Js please click here.