by Arthur MacArthur
The history of Lady Jane Grey illustrates the complex and bloody history of the English monarchy. Through a very long, strange chain of wills, deaths and requests, Jane was named heiress to the English throne of July 1553. She was known as a kind and devout Protestant and was chosen to receive the honor over Edward Tudor’s sister, Mary who was Catholic. The attempt to put Jane in power failed; after nine days she was imprisoned in the Tower of London and then executed. Mary Tudor had gotten enough popular support to have Jane deposed.
Jane’s own immediate family did not impart much kindness either. In a 1550 letter to Roger Ascham, Jane wrote,
“I will tell you a truth which perchance ye will marvel at. One of the greatest benefits that God ever gave me is that he sent me so sharp and severe parents and so gentle a schoolmaster. For when I am in the presence of Father or Mother, whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand or go, eat, drink, be merry or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing anything else, I must do it as it were in such weight, measure and number, even so perfectly as God made the world; or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yea presently sometimes with pinches, nips and bobs and other ways (which I will not name for the honour I bear them), so without measure misordered, that I think myself in hell, till time comes that I must go to Mr Aylmer, who teacheth me so gently, so pleasantly, with such fair allurements to learning, that I think all the time nothing while I am with him.”
This new edition is dedicated to Emma Norman, who knows well and cherishes English history.