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   Chapter 12 PART II. No.12

The History of London By Walter Besant Characters: 4904

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

Of all the prisoners who suffered death at the termination of their captivity in the Tower, there is none whose fate was so cruel as that of Lady Jane Grey. Her story belongs to English history. Recall, when next you visit the Tower, the short and tragic life of this young Queen of a nine days' reign.

She was not yet eighteen when she was beheaded, not through any fault of her own, but solely because her relationship to the Crown placed her in the hands of men who used her for their own political purposes. She was the second cousin of Edward VI., Mary, and Elizabeth. Her grandmother was the sister of Henry VIII., widow of Louis XII. of France, and wife of Charles, Duke of Suffolk. The young King on his deathbed was persuaded to name her as his successor. She was sixteen years of age: she was already married to Lord Guilford Dudley, son of the Duke of Northumberland: when she was proclaimed Queen. Nine days after the proclamation she was a prisoner. On the 8th of July she was acknowledged Queen by the Lord Mayor and Aldermen: on the 10th she was taken by water from Greenwich to the Tower, and proclaimed Queen in the City: on the 17th another proclamation was made of Queen Mary, and her reign was over. But the Tower she was never more to leave.

On the 13th of November-after five months of suspense-she was tried for high treason with Cranmer, her husband Lord Guilford, and her husband's brother, Lord Ambrose. They were all four found guilty, and condemned to death-their judges being the very men who had sworn allegiance to her as Queen. It would seem that Mary had no desire to carry out the sentence: Cranmer she reserved for a more cruel death than that of beheading-he was to be burned as a heretic. The other three, two boys and a girl, it would be dangerous to execute on account of the popular sympathy their death would awaken. They were therefore sent back to the Tower. Probably it was intended that Lady Jane, at least, should pass the rest of her life in honourable captivity, as happened later on to Arabella Stuart. But the rebellion of Wyatt showed that her name could still be used as a cry in favour of a Protestant succession. It was therefore resolved to put both husband and wife to death. What further harm the young Lord Guilford Dudley could do is not apparent. Even then the Queen's advisers shrank from exhibiting on Tower Hill the spectacle of a young and beautiful girl, taken forth to be beheaded

because certain hot-headed partizans had used her name. She was executed therefore within the verge of the Tower itself, on the so-called 'Green.'

'The Green' is a place where no grass will grow-it used to be said-on account of the blood that had been shed upon it. Among the sufferers here was Hastings, executed by order of King Richard: Anne Boleyn: Katharine Howard: and Lady Jane Grey. A stone marks the spot on which the scaffold was set up.

It was on the morning of the 12th of February that Lady Jane Grey was put to death. She was then confined in the 'Brick' Tower, the residence of the Master of the Ordnance. From her window she saw the headless body of her husband brought back from Tower Hill in a cart. She looked upon it without shrinking. 'Oh! Guilford,' she said, 'the antipast is not so bitter after thou hast tasted, and which I shall soon taste, as to make my flesh tremble: it is nothing compared to the feast of which we shall partake this day in Heaven.' So she went forth with her two gentlewomen, Elizabeth Tylney and Mistress Helen, but she shed no tears. When she was on the scaffold she spoke to the officers of the Tower and the soldiers that stood around. No man or woman, however wise and dignified, could speak more clearly and with greater dignity than this girl of sixteen. They had been trying to make her a Catholic. Therefore, she made confession of the Protestant Faith: 'Good Christian people, bear witness that I die a true Christian woman and that I do look to be saved by no other means but only by the mercy of God, in the blood of his only son, Jesus Christ.'

So she made her gentlewomen bare her neck and bind her eyes and kneeling down laid her head upon the block, and while she was saying, 'Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit,' the axe fell and she was dead.

She lies buried before the altar of St. Peter's Church, near the bodies of the Queens Anne Boleyn and Katharine Howard.

So she died, this poor innocent child of whom all we know is that she was so scholarly that she could read Greek in the original: that she was beautiful: of a grave and sweet disposition: and raised far above the voice of calumny. She had, says Foxe, 'the innocency of childhood, the beauty of youth, the gravity of age: she had the birth of a princess, the learning of a clerk, the life of a saint, and the death of a malefactor for her parents' offences.'


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