Lady Jane Grey or Queen Jane I?

On a summer's day on July 10th 1553, fifteen-year old Jane Grey made her way to the Tower of London to await her coronation as queen. Dressed in green and gold, her husband by her side, she wouldn't have known that within months she would face execution as a traitor.  

Lady Jane Grey, from an engraving from 1682. Public Domain.

History remembers her as Lady Jane Grey, the 'Nine-Day Queen.' But she is often either airbrushed from history books altogether, or quickly dealt with in a paragraph or two before moving onto Mary. But does Lady Jane Grey have the right to be called Queen Jane in her own right, and stand proudly in lists of royal successions? 
On first glance, you'd think yes. She was granted the throne by Edward VI on his deathbed. So what's the problem? The problem though, exists in Jane's position by law. 
Henry VIII's will declared that on his death, Edward would succeed, followed by Mary and then Elizabeth, unless any of them had heirs of their own. But when his fifteen-year old son Edward died after a short six-year reign, he attempted to bypass Henry's order of succession, in a scribbled note that passed on the throne to Jane. Some historians believe that this was done hurriedly, perhaps even under duress, to secure a Protestant ruler and the future fortunes of the Dudley family, who she had married into. But Edward died before his wishes could be cemented by an Act of Parliament, which was needed to make his wishes legally binding. 
So when Edward breathed his last breath, it was Henry's will that was legally binding at that time and not Edward's. And this meant that it was Mary and not Jane, who was the rightful, legal heir to the throne of England. 
But let's look at Jane's claim. She had royal blood, as a cousin of Edward VI and great-granddaughter of Henry VII. She initially had the backing of the Privy Council. She was Protestant, and able to continue the religious reforms Edward had imposed and she hadn't taken the throne by force, as Henry IV, Edward IV and Henry VII had done before her. She took her position with strength and dignity, hoping that 'his divine Majesty would grant me such grace and spirit that I might govern it to his glory and to the advantage of this realm.' But without the backing of parliament, and the formidable Mary waiting in the wings, Jane's was the shakiest of all the Tudor claims to the crown, and she knew it. When word came to her that she was to be queen, she was said to have been 'distressed', doubting  her right to the crown. She wondered 'if what was given to me was rightfully and lawfully mine'. (1)
So should be remember her as Queen Jane? 
History blogger Sophie at History Chatter thinks so. 
"Lady Jane Grey should be known as Queen Jane I because, for nine days she was the ruling queen of England," Sophie tells me. "Whether you think her reign was legal, moral, justified or anything else, Edward VI had chosen her as his heir when he died, and she took the throne accordingly.  
Not only that, but she was the centre of the court for those nine days, and there was real power behind her at some points, including the initial support of the Privy Council of England. Calling her Lady Jane Grey suggests that she was just a wildcard pretender to the throne, instead of someone who had royal blood, the royal court and some political will behind her (although it rapidly, and unsurprisingly disappeared).  
Finally, there is precedent for an uncrowned ruler to still be known – Edward V, one of the ill-fated Princes in the Tower was never crowned and yet he is still known as King Edward V. His claim to the throne might have been stronger than Jane’s and he did have a longer period of technically being in power (11 weeks to be exact), but he was dominated politically by adults just as Jane was (more so, in fact, seeing as Jane refused permission for her husband to be crowned) and never had a coronation. Jane might have been deposed, but so were Richard II, Henry VI and Richard III. Jane deserves her title as much as any of these Kings – she has had just as much of an impact on history and general awareness of it as any of them."   

What do you think? Should we call Jane Grey 'Queen Jane', or should she be known as Lady Jane Grey? Let me know your thoughts below. And thanks to Sophie for offering her take on the argument - you can find her at History Chatter's website or chat with her on Twitter @sophie_malory

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1. Historic Royal Palaces, Tower of London: Lady Jane Grey. Accessed 26 Apr. 2020. 


  1. Yes , she should be Queen at the request of the King.


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