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The Nine-Day Queen

Hers was the swiftest rise and fall of any English monarch – and by her own admission, she didn’t desire the throne. Alison Weir explains how Henry VIII’s grandniece became an unwilling pawn of the Reformation
Jane gropes for the block in panic at her execution. Her cousin Queen Mary had hoped to spare her, but an 11th-hour rebellion meant Jane’s days really were numbered

Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen of England at only 16 years old. Famously, her reign was to last for just nine days. According to her tutor, John Aylmer, who stated in 1551 that she had just turned 14, Jane was born in 1537, when Henry VIII was on the throne. Her mother was Frances Brandon, the King’s niece, being the eldest daughter of his late sister, Mary Tudor. Frances had married Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset.

LEFT: Jane was a well-educated young woman, able to speak and read in Latin, Greek and Italian as well as English


Jane spent the entirety of her nine-day reign in one place: The Tower of London. She would remain there until her execution almost seven months later.

ABOVE: Jane’s mother Frances Brandon; as a relative of Henry VIII, she was oft at court, and it was through her that Jane gained a place in Katherine Parr’s household

Jane was the eldest of their three daughters, and was probably named after Jane Seymour, Henry’s third wife. Although her sex was probably a bitter disappointment to her ambitious parents, they knew she could make a great marriage, for the royal blood of the Tudors ran in her veins. To that end, they had Jane well educated. She was bright, able, and an outstanding scholar; and she adored Aylmer, who taught her to love learning for its own sake.

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About BBC History Revealed

Egyptologist Chris Naunton takes us on a tour of the greatest discoveries found in Egypt down the centuries. Plus: We look at the German resistance movements that stood up to Hitler, the tragic tale of the nine-day queen – Lady Jane Grey and the fall from grace of one of America’s once most-beloved politicians, Richard Nixon.