A Teenage Queen Loses her Head


1554 – After watching her husband’s execution from the Tower window and being met by his bloody remains on her journey to Tower Green, Lady Jane Grey mounted the scaffold steps to meet her own end. She was sixteen.

In the will of her also-teenage cousin King Edward VI, Jane was declared heir if he died childless, barring his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth from the throne. Keeping his sisters from the throne, particulary the devout Catholic Mary, saved England from reversing all the reforming Protestant work Edward had done since inheriting the crown of his father, Henry VIII. Jane and her family were staunch reformers, so it seemed like it would be a successful solution. 

When Edward died at sixteen, Jane had been proclaimed Queen of England. At the same time, Mary Tudor received news that she was now Queen. So WHO WAS THE

A Victorian depiction of the execution of Lady Jane. She was actually executed outdoors, on Tower Green.


It turns out the real queen was whoever had the bigger army. And Mary had the bigger army. Lady Jane Grey was only Queen of England for thirteen days (though she is remembered as the Nine Day Queen), now it was just a question of her fate. Would she be imprisoned? Turned into a nun? Banished abroad? Executed?

While not an expert on Lady Jane and the events surrounding her, I don’t think Mary wanted her cousin to lose her head, just as Elizabeth I would later drag her feet in the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. However, it would eventually be inevitable.

Her scaffold speech was composed, though her ladies wept profusely for their mistress. Jane knelt, flipped her hair forward and out of the way, and was blindfolded — but terrifyingly couldn’t find the block. There were a few moments of panick before a bystander mercifully guided the young girl.

One stroke.


It’s speculated that J.K. Rowling based the Grey Lady on Jane Grey.

Further reading:

2 thoughts on “A Teenage Queen Loses her Head

    • Yes, it makes a girl re-think about wanting to be a princess, doesn’t it? And Jane was such a sad little creature; she was thrust on the throne by her family (many blame her father-in-law the Duke of Northumberland for his greedy involvement) but took it with an air of duty far beyond her young years! She also actually spent a couple years living with little Elizabeth Tudor in Chelsea.

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