Lady Jane Grey 24 x 20 inches, Acrylic, 2015
My latest historical portrait is of the ill-fated but fascinating Lady Jane Grey, who, during nine days in July of 1553, was Queen of England. She was the granddaughter of Henry VIII's sister and when Henry VIII's fifteen-year-old son Edward was dying, he appointed her his successor (passing over his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth and Jane's mother). This was probably at the connivance of John Dudley, the Earl of Warwick, who ruled England during the last part of young Edward's reign and had married his son Guildford Dudley to Lady Jane Grey. Even at age sixteen, Jane, very strictly brought up, had gained a reputation as a scholar, knowing not only Latin and Greek, but Italian and Hebrew. While she was undoubtedly the tool of others, the fact that she refused to allow her husband to call himself King suggests that she had a mind of her own. Her reign, though promising, was very brief. The ruling council that had endorsed her quickly changed its mind and backed Mary who was proclaimed queen and consolidated her power within days. Lady Jane Grey and those who had supported her were imprisoned and later executed. The Catholic Mary, who is infamous as "Bloody Mary," was, in fact, willing to allow her cousin Jane to live, but felt compelled to seek her death when a rebellion was hatched in her name. Poor Jane was barely seventeen when she faced the headsman's axe, which she did with considerable aplomb. Jane's brother-in-law Robert Dudley would achieve prominence as a favorite of Queen Elizabeth and her younger sister Catherine would be regarded for a time as Elizabeth's heir.
No definite portrait of her exists, although there is a painting or two and a miniature that some experts believe may be of her. Even physical descriptions of her are of uncertain authenticity. I have referenced one of the probable portraits, but have used my imagine in depicting her. Her right hand is upon a volume of Plato and her left tentatively reaching for the royal orb. Her clothes are shown as too large and ill-fitting, as was the role history chose for her. In the background is the Tower of London.
Lady Jane Grey was the grand niece of my 11th great-grandmother Lady Cecil Grey, who also married a Dudley, the 3rd Baron, (whose debts allowed his cousin, the Earl of Warwick, to appropriate Dudley Castle and render the family homeless). In other words, she was a second cousin of Captain Roger Dudley, who was the father of my 8th great-grandfather, Thomas Dudley, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.