Debunking the Myth of Lady Jane GreyBreaking News
The traditional story runs like this: Lady Jane Grey was born in 1537, the daughter of Henry VIII's royal niece, Frances, and her husband, Harry Grey, Marques of Dorset. The stout, bejewelled woman in a double portrait by Hans Eworth is still used to illustrate Frances's nature. "Physically she bore a marked resemblance to Henry VIII," notes Alison Weir, a best-selling historian, in her book "The Children of Henry VIII". Here was a woman, "determined to have her own way, and greedy for power and riches," who "ruled her husband and daughters tyrannically and, in the case of the latter, often cruelly."
The myth is encapsulated in Paul Delaroche's 1833 portrait of Jane, bound and dressed in white on the scaffold, a painting with all the erotic overtones of a virgin sacrifice.
So how did the myths begin? The answer is with Jane. Aware of the damage being done to the Protestant cause by its association with treason, she announced on the scaffold that while she was guilty in law of treason, having been proclaimed queen, she had never sought the throne but merely accepted it. From this kernel of truth wider claims about Jane's innocence took root. In the 17th and 18th century her story was influenced by the feminine passivity deemed appropriate in a young girl. A sexual dimension is evident in Edward Young's 1714 poem, "The Force of Religion", which invites men to gaze on a pure Jane in her "private closet". In the following decade the portrait of Lady Dacre was mislabelled as Frances.
The effigy of the slim and elegant woman on Frances's tomb in Westminster Abbey has since been ignored in favour of spurious comparisons to Henry VIII. She was far more useful as a sexist archetype, the powerful, sexual, ambitious and mannish mother, to be pitted against Jane, her helpless, chaste and feminine daughter. Although Mary Tudor inspired John Knox's diatribe against "the monstrous regiment of women", she was a less useful counterpoint to Jane as she was seen as being led by male figures–her foreign husband, priests and so forth. The re-invented Frances, by contrast, "ruled her husband".
comments powered by Disqus
- A New Target for Old Spies: Congress
- Antigua and Barbuda Asks Harvard University for Slavery Reparations
- Historian: Nixon DID contest the 1960 election
- Killer took selfie after stabbing historian over rare ‘Wind in the Willows’ book
- VW fires corporate historian who drew attention to wartime ties to Nazis
- Historian Jeremy Kuzmarov calls on Obama to pardon Ethel Rosenberg
- Garry Wills says there’s one human test we can use to decide who’s the better candidate: Trump or Clinton
- Get to Know the Semifinalists for the National Book Award
- Steven Runciman — historian, tease and professional enigma — is the subject of a biography
- Historian Eric Foner: Trump is Logical Conclusion of What the GOP Has Been Doing for Decades