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Lady Jane Grey:
Nine Day Queen of England

Rev. Angus Stewart

(Slightly modified from a review first published in the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal)


Lady Jane Grey: Nine Day Queen of England
Authoress: Faith Cook
Great Britain: Evangelical Press, 2004
Hardback, 254 pp.
ISBN 0 85234 579 8

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 which 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 pressurized 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 outmanoeuvred and imprisoned in the Tower by Queen Mary, he sought to escape death by converting to Romanism and affirming transubstantiation. On the scaffold, 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 his 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 seemed sometime to be a lively member of Christ, but now the deformed imp of the devil; sometime the beautiful temple of God, but now the filthy and stinking kernel of Satan; sometime the unspotted spouse of Christ, but now the unashamed paramour 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 finest female 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 favour of Bloody Mary. Lady Jane recited all of Psalm 51 at her execution and, like her Saviour, 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 was, "God and posterity will show me more favour" (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).