Confidence in the midst of tragedy
Lady Jane Grey: Nine Day Queen of England by Faith Cook
How would you respond if someone came and told you they’d decided you would be the next King or Queen? Would you feel flattered? Excited about the power and prestige that would soon be yours? Maybe a little intimidated? Following King Edward’s death in 1553, the King's protectors chose Lady Jane as his successor. The alternative was Lady Mary, daughter of Henry VIII, but they were concerned that as a staunch Catholic, Lady Mary would undo all of the changes made by the reformers if she were to ascend the throne. A young woman of 16, from a respectable and powerful Protestant family, and a direct Tudor descendant, Lady Jane Grey could be used as pawn in these political decisions.
Jane’s response was not what these powerbrokers wished to hear – she immediately refused to become Queen, stating that Lady Mary was the rightful heir! Sadly though for Jane, as with most decisions in her life, she had very little say and in following days was taken to London in a procession and announced as the new Queen of England.
Over the next week, a power struggle emerged between those loyal to Mary, and those willing to support Jane. The reluctant new queen was completely at the mercy of those who had manoeuvred her into power and promised to provide military support to keep her there. What an uncertain time it must have been for Jane! It is an encouragement to continue to read of her steadfast faith in God, and her trust that whatever the future held it would be in his control and by his will.
As you might have expected, those who had earlier pledged support for Jane each left her side and after nine days it was clear that Mary would be proclaimed the rightful Queen of England. Sadly for Jane, this resulted in her being imprisoned in the Tower of London and charged with treason. It seems that at first Jane’s good character and standing with Queen Mary worked in her favour. However, Mary’s advisors, keen to repeal any influence of the reformers, pressured her into agreeing to the death penalty for Jane and her husband Guildford Dudley.
It is sad to read that many of those who had embraced the truths of the reformation and become Protestants at this time quickly renounced their change and returned to Catholicism. This even included Lady Jane’s father and father in law, who were so influential in the plot to make her Queen! It is clear from Cook’s narrative that the temptation to place our trust in worldly power and security was as attractive then as it is today.
I have read and reread Jane’s final letter to her sister the night before her execution a number of times. It is emotional, honest and yet full of confidence in her salvation. Here are just a few sentences:
“Rejoice in Christ, as I do. Follow the steps of your Master Christ, and take up your cross: lay your sins on his back, and always embrace him… For I am assured, that I shall, for losing of a mortal life, win an immortal life, the which I pray God grant you, and send you of his grace to live in his fear, and to die in the true Christian faith, from the which (in God’s name) I exhort you, that you never swerve, neither for hope in life, nor for fear of death.”
Lady Jane Grey indeed lived a tragic life with so much of it outside her control. Reading about how badly she was treated, even by her own family, is difficult. Yet she continued to put her faith in God, and trust in Christ Jesus’s death and resurrection for her salvation. Reading Christian biographies like this one is a great way to see how God has continued to work in the lives of his people throughout history. It is an encouragement to live for Him, no matter the circumstances we face in life. It also helps us to appreciate the sacrifices Christians have made so that we can enjoy the freedom and ability to worship Jesus publicly, in our own language, and without fear of persecution. Those who came after Queen Mary established Protestantism as the official religion in England, and encouraged the key reformation truths which Jane had so boldly held herself. Lady Jane Grey’s life, and the witness to Christ of others at the time, is something to give great thanks to God for.
About this month's contributor, Sarah Cameron
I love to read, but don't get much time at the moment as looking after my toddler keeps me on my toes. I’m thankful to be part of the St Barnabas Anglican Church Fairfield and Bossley Park church family, where Gus my husband is an Assistant Minister. Not originally from the South West, our free time is spent exploring the local area, experiencing new foods and getting to know people from different backgrounds.