Lady Jane Grey
Lady Jane became increasingly apprehensive. At last there was the sound of approaching horsemen and a moment or two later the Duke of Northumberland appeared, accompanied by Lord Pembroke, father of the young man recently married to Jane’s sister.
With them were a number of other members of the Privy Council, including the Earl of Huntingdon and the Marquess of Winchester, men who had been ruling England until Edward was old enough to take over all the responsibilities of kingship himself.
One by one these dignified nobles knelt before Jane and kissed her hand, dutifully saying, ‘Welcome, my sovereign lady!’ Bewildered and embarrassed, Lady Jane scarcely knew what to make of such behaviour. ‘Are they mocking me?’ she thought wildly.
‘My sovereign lady, will you be so kind as to proceed to the chamber of state?’ Jane heard Northumberland saying in his most polished manner. As in a dream, Jane followed the duke and, to her astonishment, there waiting for her in the chamber were none other than her parents, her mother-in-law and her husband Guilford.
Each of them rose as she entered and bowed or curtseyed before the astonished girl – even her own mother, who had so recently viciously beaten her. Jane looked wildly from one to the other – tall figures towering above the fifteen-year-old who was little more than five feet in height.
Who should be Queen?
Then the duke unrolled a document and began to read in a rasping voice: ‘I do now declare the death of His most blessed and gracious Majesty King Edward VI. We have cause to rejoice for the virtuous and praiseworthy life that His Majesty hath led…’
Edward dead! Jane could scarcely take it in: her cousin, with whom she had so often talked and played when they were both younger, was dead! Tears sprang to her eyes. But why should she be told in so unfeeling a manner? Could she not have been informed quietly in private?
She had been genuinely fond of Edward. Was he really dead? But if that had startled Lady Jane, the duke’s next words were even more unwelcome: ‘His Majesty hath named Your Grace as the heir to the crown of England. Your sisters will succeed you…’
The voice went on heedless of the state Jane was in, for all the colour had now drained from her face. It was too much for her. Swaying to one side, she fell on the floor in a dead faint.
No one moved to help the girl. Still they stood there in silence. As Jane came round again she hid her face in her hands and began to sob pitifully: ‘So noble a prince … so noble…’ Then suddenly the meaning of the duke’s further words rushed over her like a blast of cold wind.
‘Me, queen! No, that could never be! Lady Mary is next in line for the throne’. At last she managed to blurt out, ‘The crown is not my right, and pleaseth me not. The Lady Mary is the rightful heir’.
The will of God?
A gasp of annoyance broke from all who stood there. This was not what they expected or wished to hear. ‘Your Grace doth wrong to yourself and to your house’, growled the duke. Lady Frances scowled at her daughter. How dare she question the dead king’s decision to leave her the crown rather than to his half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth?
‘You have a duty to us, your parents’, she hissed. ‘You may not refuse’. Jane looked desperately from one to the other. What was she to do? And still they stood glaring silently at her. At last Guilford thought it was time for him to intervene and began kissing and embracing his frightened wife.
The memory of the recent beating she had received from her mother was still raw in Jane’s mind. Since infancy she had been taught that she had a duty to obey her parents in everything – and not her parents only, but the king who had been appointed by God to govern the people. Perhaps God wanted her to accept the crown.
With none to help her, Lady Jane fell on her knees and began to pray silently and urgently to her God for direction at this crucial moment. And still no one spoke as every eye in the room seemed to be trying to pierce through her defences.
At last in a clear and calmer voice Jane began to pray aloud: ‘If what has been given to me is lawfully mine, may Thy divine Majesty grant me such grace that I may govern to thy glory and service, to the advantage of this realm’.
Controlled and strong again, Jane allowed Guilford to help her to her feet, and then the Duke of Northumberland led her to an ornate but empty seat over which was spread the cloth of estate – a symbol of monarchy. All knelt before her one by one, kissing her hand and promising to be faithful to her, even to death. Lady Jane was now Queen of England.
An extract from Caught in the web by Faith Cook (published by Evangelical Press; ISBN 9-780852-346235).