A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. — Alexander Tytler

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The Story of Lady Jane Grey

When Edward VI. breathed his last, Northumberland tried to keep his death a secret until he could get possession of Mary and Elizabeth. He wanted to put them in prison, to prevent their opposing the coronation of his daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey. But the news reached Mary while she was on her way to visit her sick brother. She took refuge in a castle near the seashore, and merely sent an order to Parliament to proclaim her queen.

Northumberland, seeing he could not get the princesses into his power, now went to Lady Jane Grey with several members of the council, and did homage to her as queen. Lady Jane Grey, who was a most charming young lady of sixteen, was greatly surprised when she heard what he had to tell her, and gently answered that the crown ought to go to her cousin Mary, to Elizabeth, or even to Mary, Queen of Scots, before it could be hers. But her father-in-law insisted that she must be queen; and as young people in those days were taught to obey implicitly, and even middle-aged sons and daughters had to be as submissive as little children, she dared not resist. She was therefore forced to leave her quiet home, where her chief pleasure had been study, and go and dwell in the gloomy Tower.

Lady Jane Grey.

She was led thither in state; but no one cheered as she passed by, for all knew that she had no right to the throne, and that Mary was the real queen. People were not very joyful, however, at the prospect of Mary's rule, for she was homely, sickly, and not very well educated, and the Protestants feared she would restore the Catholic religion.

Still, they would not oppose her, and Northumberland could secure only a very small army to uphold Lady Jane Grey. As soon as he had left London with it, the council went to Lady Jane Grey and persuaded her to return home, after a reign of ten days. You may be sure she was glad to give up the crown, which she had never wanted, and to return to her quiet house and her beloved books.

Meantime Northumberland's friends had nearly all deserted him, and he had soon fallen into Mary's hands. In spite of his humble entreaties to be spared, she sent him to prison and had him executed for high treason. Then, upon reaching London, she ordered that all the imprisoned Roman Catholics should be set free, and took Gardiner for her adviser. Mary opened her first Parliament with public mass and sent a messenger to Rome to ask the pope to forgive the English for having said he was not head of the church. Then she forbade all the clergymen to preach until they had received a license from her. This permission was granted only to those who were willing to recognize the pope and be good Roman Catholics.

Many reformers were next whipped, fined, or imprisoned, and, knowing that Mary would soon do worse, some of them left the country. Latin services were once more heard in the churches, where pictures and statues again found a place, and many of the monasteries were given back to their holy inmates.

But while Mary was making these changes, she was haunted by the thought that if she died without children her sister Elizabeth would become queen and undo all her work. For that reason she took a Roman Catholic husband, Philip, the son of Charles V., King of Spain.

This marriage was allowed by Parliament, but only on condition that Philip should have no share in the government, and that if his wife died before him, and they had no children, the crown should go to Elizabeth. This made Philip dislike both the English and his homely wife.

Although Parliament consented to Mary's marriage, many of the English opposed it, for they had heard how cruelly Philip treated all Protestants in his lands. Some of the most indignant even rebelled and marched up to London, under the leadership of a man named Wyatt. Their intention was to dethrone Mary and give the crown to Lady Jane Grey; but they were defeated, and Wyatt and several others were executed.

To prevent any more plots of the same kind, Lady Jane Grey and her husband were sent to the Tower and sentenced to death for high treason. Dudley, who was as noble as his wife, begged that they might see each other once more before dying; but Lady Jane Grey said that an interview would only rob them of some of the courage necessary to meet their fate. She nevertheless sent him a last message, saying, "Our separation will be only for a moment, and we shall soon rejoin each other in a scene where our affections will be for ever united, and where nothing can have access to disturb our eternal happiness."

Dudley was led away to the block first, and from her window Lady Jane Grey saw his body borne to the tomb. A moment later, the jailer came to summon her to die in her turn. She calmly followed him to the scaffold, told the people she deserved death because she had not refused the crown more firmly, and, breathing a last prayer, laid her head upon the block.


Front Matter

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee