Grey, Lady Jane (1537–1554), in English history, “the nine-day queen.” As the unwitting pawn in a scheme to deny the throne of England to Mary Tudor, she was proclaimed queen on July 10, 1553, only to have the proclamation repudiated on July 19th. Sixteen-year-old Jane, a bright, beautiful, and devout girl with no desire for royal status, became a tragic victim of the political and religious conflict of the Tudor era.
Jane, daughter of the Duke of Suffolk, was the grandniece of Henry VIII. Henry had left the throne to his young son, Edward VI, with his daughters Mary and Elizabeth next in line. Edward and Elizabeth had been reared as Anglicans, Mary as a Catholic. The Anglican lords of Edward's court, led by the Duke of Northumberland, knew that their positions and even their lives would be in danger if Mary were to become queen.
When Northumberland, Edward's adviser, saw that the young king's health was failing, he devised a scheme to retain power. Jane was heir to the throne after Mary and Elizabeth, each of whom had at one time been declared illegitimate. Northumberland arranged a marriage between his son Guildford Dudley and Jane, and persuaded Edward, then near death, to name Jane his successor.
Edward died July 6, 1553, and Jane was declared queen four days later, after being convinced by her father, father-in-law, and husband that she must accept. Mary, however, had strong support among the English people and raised an army. Northumberland's own troops deserted him and he capitulated. Northumberland was beheaded, and Jane and her husband were imprisoned. Suffolk was pardoned. In 1554 he joined in a plot to put Elizabeth on the throne. Because of this treason, he was beheaded, as were Jane and her husband, who were both viewed as threats to Mary.