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Lady Jane Grey: Nine Day Queen of England – A Book Review

 

Faith Cook. Great Britain: Evangelical Press, 2004, Pp. 254. $22.99 (Hardcover). ISBN: 0-85234-579-8. [Reviewed by Angus Stewart, appearing in the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, Vol. 42, November 2008, No. 1, see prca.org]

 

 

From Leicester’s Bradgate Park (where she was born and where the ruins of Bradgate Manor, including “Lady Jane’s Tower,” can still be seen) to the Tower of London (where she was beheaded for high treason), this biography traces the short but eventful 16 years of the nine-day queen, Lady Jane Grey.

 

Faith Cook does an excellent job setting the scene with a treatment of Henry VIII (1509-1547) and his six wives, godly Edward VI (1547-1553) and his reforms, and Bloody Mary (1553-1558) and her counter-reforms, to help the reader understand the complicated political and religious circumstances that led to Lady Jane Grey’s brief reign (10-19 July, 1553).

 

An unwilling bride (to Lord Guilford Dudley), she was also an unwilling queen. Both were the result of the strong hand of John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, who effectively ruled the country in the latter days of young Edward VI by holding two high offices: Lord President of the Council and Great Steward of the King’s Household. Jane’s father-in-law deceived her and pressured her into accepting the crown. Many claimed that John Dudley was a tyrant; he was certainly an apostate. A strong political advocate of the Reformation when he was outmaneuvered and imprisoned in the Tower by Queen Mary, he sought to escape death by converting to Romanism and affirming transubstantiation. On the scaffold [upon execution AMA], he denounced Reformed doctrines and preachers (pp. 154-155). The man who had made many tremble died a despised and contemptible figure. Lady Jane recalled Christ’s words; “Whoso denieth him before men, he will not know him in the Father’s kingdom” (p. 158)

 

To a former family chaplain, Dr. Harding, another apostate, she wrote,

 

I cannot but marvel at thee and lament thy case, which seem sometime a lively member of Christ, but now the deformed imp of the devil; sometime the beautiful temple of God, but now the filthy stinking kernel of Satan; sometime the unspotted spouse of Christ, but now the unashamed paramour [illicit lover, AMA] of antichrist; sometime my faithful brother, but now a stranger and an apostate; sometime a stout Christian soldier, but now a cowardly runaway (p. 163).

 

Lady Jane’s biblical convictions, by the blessing of God, developed and grew through the instruction of her first tutor and family chaplain, John Aylmer, a Protestant graduate of Cambridge (who returned from Switzerland to England after Mary’s reign and became Bishop of London, p. 233) (pp. 31-32); her reading of the English Bible and Christian books, and prayer; her friendship with the pious Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth wife (pp. 62-64); and her correspondence with various Reformers, including Sturm, Bucer, and Bullinger (who dedicated portions of his The Decades to Lady Jane, p. 235) (pp. 94-99).

 

She learned Latin, Greek and Hebrew, besides the modern languages of French, Spanish, and Italian. One historian, Alison Weir, describes her as “one of the most brilliant minds of the [sixteenth] century.”

 

This young Christian woman did not waver as her execution drew near. Only sixteen, she “kept the faith,” while many erstwhile Protestants denied Jesus Christ to win the favor of Bloody Mary. Lady Jane recited all of Psalm 51 at her execution and, like her Savior, commended her spirit to God, before the axe fell (pp. 199-200).

 

Victim of the ambition of professed friends and the enemies of the Reformed faith, one of Lady Jane’s last written statements, “God and posterity will show me more favor” (p. 196). Faith Cook’s fine work helps redress the injustice for twenty-first century readers.

 

The book’s final chapter mentions some of the bloodiest aspects of Mary’s reign, including the martyrdoms of John Rogers, John Bradford, Hugh Latimer, Nicolas Ridley, and John Hooper. The three appendices contain a record of Lady Jane’s debate with Dr. John Feckenham, a priest sent to convert her during her imprisonment (she ably defends the truths of justification by faith alone, the Lord’s Supper, and the supremacy of Scripture); a letter commending God’s Word, written on the night before her execution and sent to her sister, Katherine, and a moving prayer offered “in the time of her trouble” as well as Lady Jane’s family tree (helpful to keep the various connections straight).

           

 

Supplement [by AMA]:

 

Edward VI, king of England, was the only son and successor of Henry VIII. Born to Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour, on Oct. 12, 1537, he succeeded to the throne on Jan. 28, 1547. In his will Henry had designated a council of 16 to rule the country during Edward's minority, but this arrangement did not last, and the young king's uncle, Edward Seymour, duke of Somerset, assumed control as protector. In 1549, Somerset fell from power, and John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, became regent.

 

Edward was educated by Protestant tutors and favored Protestant reforms in the Church of England. The Book of Common Prayer, compiled by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, was first published during his reign. Edward fell ill in 1552 and died on July 6, 1553. Northumberland attempted to divert the succession to Edward's cousin, Lady Jane Grey, a Protestant, but failed. Edward's half sister Mary, a Roman Catholic, succeeded him as Mary I [Bloody Mary]. [1]

 

Lady Jane Grey, b. October 1537, d. Feb. 12, 1554, was queen of England for nine days in 1553. She was a great-granddaughter of Henry VII and a cousin of Edward VI. Shortly before his death, Edward was persuaded to name Jane his successor in preference to his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth. John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, who dominated the government, arranged Jane's marriage to his son Lord Guildford Dudley and proclaimed her accession in July 1553, but few supported this scheme, and Mary Tudor soon secured the throne as Mary I. Jane and Guildford were charged with treason and beheaded. Widely praised for her beauty and learning, Jane was not herself a conspirator but rather an innocent victim of a political plot. [2]

 


[1]Copyright (c) 2001 Grolier Interactive Inc.

[2]Copyright (c) 2001 Grolier Interactive Inc.

 

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