➡️ The Nine Days’ Queen (1)
After nine days of rule, Jane and her husband remained in the Tower, escorted from their royal apartments to prison quarters. Jane was confined in the Tower’s Gentleman Gaoler’s (Jailer’s) apartments, her husband in the Beauchamp Tower where he carved her name, which can still be seen.
While Suffolk, her father, was pardoned, Jane and Lord Guilford Dudley were put on trial. This took place on 13 November 1553, at Guildhall in the City of London where the two were led in procession from the Tower of London on foot.
She was dressed in black, a black cloth gown, black cape and a French hood trimmed with velvet, and in her hands she had a prayer book also bound in black velvet: the same simple apparel she would wear on the day of her execution.
This clothing was really sombre, different from the one she had had to wear on her arrival at the royal apartments, on 10 July 1553.. We don’t have portraits of this Child Queen but there is a detailed report of her appearance supposedly written by Battista Spinola, an Italian merchant from Genoa, who witnessed her procession to the Tower of London to be proclaimed Queen of England.
He wrote: “Jane is very short and thin, but prettily shaped and graceful. She has small features and a well-made nose, the mouth flexible and the lips red. The eyebrows are arched and darker than her hair, which is nearly red. Her eyes are sparkling and reddish brown in colour. I stood so near her grace that I noticed her colour was good but freckled. When she smiled she showed her teeth, which are white and sharp. In all a gracious and animated figure. She wore a dress of green velvet stamped with gold, with large sleeves. Her headdress was a white coif with many jewels….The new Queen was mounted on very high chopines (a sort of cork shoe) to make her look much taller, which were concealed by her robes, as she is very small and short.”
Anyway, she did not like rich and sumptuous clothing: her strict adherence to the reformed religion had given her an austere taste in dress.
According to an anecdote, one day Princess Mary presented her with a gift of ‘apparel of tinsel cloth of gold and velvet, laid on with parchment lace of gold’ but Jane rejected it since she thought it was inappropriate for a follower of God’s word.
This religious rigor may have been one of the causes of her unusual thinness, the result of a series of illnesses, both physical and emotional, and of psychosomatic disorders, not uncommon among religiously devout and ascetic young women.
Upon arrival at Guildhall, the prisoners were escorted to the Great Hall, where their trial was staged in a room full of spectators: a great number of Mary’s supporters had been appointed to oversee the proceedings.
Referred to by the court as ‘Jane Dudley, wife of Guildford’, she was charged with high treason, found guilty and sentenced to death.
Her guilt consisted in having treacherously assumed the title and the power of the monarch, evidenced by a number of documents she had signed as ‘Jane the Quene’.
Following their condemnation, Jane and Guildford were returned to the Tower, to wait for the Queen’s decision as to their fate.
In the beginning Mary seemed willing to show mercy, and it was commonly believed that Jane would not die. Even the Papal ambassador thought she was going to be spared: an opportune political move by Mary, using the life of her Protestant cousin against anti-Catholic uprisings.
However her father’s support for Sir Thomas Wyatt’s rebellion in February 1554 sealed her destiny shattering all possibilities of a pardon. With no evidence that Jane was aware of the conspiracy, she became viewed as a threat to the Crown and “a possible figurehead for protestant discontent”, whose intent was to replace Mary.
The date of Jane’s execution was scheduled for 9 February but was then postponed for three days to give her a chance to convert to the Catholic faith.
The new dean of St Paul’s was sent to the Tower of London in an attempt to save her soul. He began a series of religious debates trying to convert her to Catholicism. Jane, long deprived of intellectual company and theological debate, was polite, but she rebutted each of his arguments with her own. Despite not giving in to his efforts, she became friends with him and accepted his offer to accompany her to the scaffold.
Her husband requested to meet her for the last time, bit she refused since it would be less painful to wait to see each other “shortly elsewhere, and live bound by indissoluble ties” .
On the morning of 12 February 1554, peering from her window, Jane saw her young husband’s decapitated body being brought back from the scaffold of execution.
… to be continued …
Image: The Last Moments of Lady Jane Grey by Hendrick Jacobus Scholten, Amsterdam, 19th century. Art UK (https://historycollection.com)