Lady Jane Grey is arguably one of the most recognizable names in Tudor history because of her tragic downfall, but there is so much more to this young lady than her death. In this article we’ll look at her lineage, a brief look into her childhood and her time spent with Thomas Seymour.
King Henry VIII’s favorite sister was notably his younger sister, Mary. When Henry became King of England one of his most important duties was to arrange political alliances with other countries. To forge an alliance with France, his sister Mary was married to King Louis XII of France in 1514. His elder sister, Margaret became Queen of Scotland while their father, Henry VII was still alive – that too was to forge an alliance with Scotland and King James IV. After all, that was fate of a princess of England.
Louis XII of France passed away not long after he and Mary were married. After his death she became dowager queen of France. In a scandalous manner, prior to traveling back to England, she secretly married Henry VIII’s best friend, Charles Brandon. Henry was very upset about the union since it happened without his consent however, he eventually got over it and welcomed the couple back to court.
Mary and Charles had four children together, two sons and two daughter. The eldest daughter, Frances, obtained the title Duchess of Suffolk when she married Henry Grey. The title had reverted to the crown when her brothers died but her husband received it upon their marriage since she was the next in line to inherit it. But she was a woman and couldn’t hold it on her own.
Frances and Henry had three daughters: Jane, Catherine and Mary Grey.
First Ten Years
I have read in several places that Frances and Henry Grey weren’t the most loving parents. That they’d sooner ship their children away then spend any time with them. While this isn’t necessarily unusual for a Tudor royal, it explains why Jane so easily attached herself to those parental figures who showed her attention. As you’ll see below from her letter to Seymour.
Here’s a quick synopsis of her childhood:
The first ten years of Jane’s life, from her birth in October 1537 (the exact date is not known) to her residence in Katharine Parr’s household in 1547, are not documented. It is likely she received the typical upper-class girl’s education – its primary emphasis would be on instilling good manners and the ‘feminine’ virtues of obedience and docility. She undoubtedly learned needlework and was taught dancing and how to play some musical instruments. – EnglishHistory.net
Ward of the Lord Admiral
In February 1547, Thomas Seymour had proposed marriage to the newly fatherless Lady Elizabeth Tudor. Her father had only been dead a month and Seymour took the opportunity to further his career and social standing by taking a chance and boldly asking for her hand in marriage. Something has to be said for the confidence this man had – truly impressive. Elizabeth respectfully declined his offer but that didn’t stop Seymour from continuing to look for his golden ticket.
Sometime in 1548, after she had already been living in the household of Katherine Parr to ‘acquire polish and learn social graces, a common practice for daughters of the nobility‘, Lady Jane Grey’s wardship was sold by her father to Lord Admiral, Thomas Seymour. This was sometime prior to September 1548 because Katherine Parr was still alive.
The desire for Seymour to own the wardship of Lady Jane Grey was decided because she was named in Henry VIII’s line of succession – albeit a few names down the list, her social standing greatly increased upon being named. In the agreement Jane’s father, Henry Grey, claimed that Seymour had promised to marry his daughter to the Lord Admiral’s nephew, Edward VI.
Only a few months after her arrival, Seymour married the dowager queen, Katherine Parr. Indeed a very notable marriage for him. Whether or not he truly loved Katherine is unknown but it appears she truly cared for him.
It was merely a year later that Katherine Parr passed away after giving birth to their only child, Mary.
At the funeral of Katherine Parr, the still very young Jane was a chief mourner of the dowager queen.
Seymour had always been a very ambitious man. We know he proposed to Elizabeth Tudor to advance his status, what was to stop him from doing the same with Jane? Jane was merely 11 or 12 years old in 1548, so still fairly young for marriage. Is that the reason why her parents requested she be returned to them? Did they fear Seymour’s ambitions with their daughter?
Jane’s parents were definitely worried that their daughter had not yet married Edward VI, and they wished for her wardship with Seymour to end. Seymour, on the other hand, wanted to keep her near because she was a chess piece to him. Her parents claimed that since Katherine had died that her household should have broken up, however, Seymour owned the wardship of their daughter and stated that all was well and his mother would be moving in and resuming the household duties as his late wife had done. Eventually Seymour changed his tune and allowed Jane to go home for a visit. It appears that is when she wrote the below letter.
By the time this letter was written in October 1548, Lady Jane Grey was around 11 or 12 years old. Seymour had always been a very ambitious man. We know he proposed to Lady Elizabeth Tudor in an attempt to advance his status, what was to stop him from doing the same with Jane? Jane was merely a child in 1548, and still fairly young for marriage. Is that the reason why her parents requested she be returned to them? Did they fear Seymour’s ambitions with their daughter?
Addressed: To the Right Honourable and my singular good lord, the Lord Admiral, give these
My duty to your lordship in most humble wise remembered, with no less thanks for the gentle letters which I received from you.
Thinking myself so much bound to your lordship for your great goodness towards me from time to time that I cannot by any means be able to recompense the least part thereof, I purposed to write a few rude lines unto your lordship, rather as a token to show how much worthier I think your lordship’s goodness, than to give worthy thanks for the same; and these, my letters, shall be to testify unto you that, like as you have become towards me a loving and kind father, so I shall be always most ready to obey your godly monitions and good instructions, as becometh on upon whom you have heaped so many benefits. And thus, fearing lest I should trouble your lordship too much, I most humbly take my leave of your good lordship.
Your humble servant, during my life,
Endorsed: “My Lady Jane, 1st October 1548”
After her visit home Jane returned to the household of Thomas Seymour, however it didn’t last long because Seymour was arrested for treason – his bid for power eventually caught up with him in January 1549. Seymour broke into the residence of his nephew, Edward VI, at Hampton Court. When he did so it allegedly startled the King’s dog who then barked. In order to quiet the dog he allegedly shot it which alerted a guard who then arrested him. I say allegedly because the murder of the King’s dog could have been staged to further implicate Seymour.
Ultimately, Thomas Seymour was executed a few months later when Edward VI signed his death warrant.