This Day In London’s History
1554: Lady Jane Grey and her husband Lord Guildford Dudley are executed at the Tower of London.
Named as successor to the throne by King Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey became Queen of England in July 1553. However her reign was exceptionally short-lived – she was replaced by her cousin Mary Tudor after only nine days, and detained in the Tower of London.
Some months later, under considerable political pressure, Mary had Jane and her husband Lord Guildford Dudley tried for high treason, a charge to which they pled guilty. They were sentenced to death, but Mary was tempted to spare Jane’s life. However the pressure to have her executed was too great, and despite a delay of a few days during which Jane was urged to ‘save her soul’ by converting from Protestantism to Catholicism (which she refused to do), her execution was set for Monday 12th February 1554.
On that morning Guildford was led to a public execution area on Tower Hill and beheaded, watched by Jane from her window in the Tower. Despite having seen the execution of her husband, and the cart carrying his remains having been led past her window, Jane was determined to meet her fate with grace and dignity.
Unlike her husband, her execution was to be conducted in private – a mark of respect from Queen Mary recognising her royal blood. She was accompanied to the recently erected scaffold at Tower Green (within the grounds of the Tower of London) by her attendant and her nurse, before climbing the steps of the scaffold and addressing the small crowd that was present. She admitted her crime of treason and asked the crowd for their prayers before she died. She then faced her death with dignity, as described by an eyewitness:
Then the hangman kneeled down, and asked her forgiveness, whom she gave most willingly. Then he willed her to stand upon the straw: which doing, she saw the block. Then she said, “I pray you dispatch me quickly.” Then she kneeled down, saying, “Will you take it off before I lay me down?” and the hangman answered her, “No, madame.” She tied the kercher about her eyes; then feeling for the block said, “What shall I do? Where is it?” One of the standers-by guiding her thereto, she laid her head down upon the block, and stretched forth her body and said: “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit!” And so she ended.
Much more information about Lady Jane Grey is available at the Marilee Hanson’s excellent Tudor England website.
Londoner Of The Week
Kylie. Why? Because: (a) a load of her stuff has just gone on show at the V&A; (b) she’s not exactly had the easiest time in the last couple of years, possibly not helped by recent rumours about her reportedly
cheating cheese-eating ex-boyfriend; (c) we kind-of fancy her a little bit.
One Thing You Must Do In London This Week
Just in case you hadn’t realised, this Wednesday is Valentine’s Day. For most of us, this involves two broad camps of activity (or inactivity). The first camp is for the betrothed, and involves making too much effort to express feelings that are either non-existent, or plain obvious anyway, ultimately resulting in a combination of arguments, indigestion, and maybe a lacklustre shag. The second camp is for the unattached, and involves pretending not to care, either by going home and locking all the doors, or by going out and getting drunk with other singletons in the desperate hope that they’ll somehow validate your miserable existence.
Screw that. This year, Londonist would like to propose a third option – taking advantage of some of the more ‘alternative’ Valentine’s nightlife that is available. There’s plenty of stuff going on if you look around, but here are a few options to get you started:
The picture is Paul Delaroche’s painting The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (1833).