Early Life

In 1546, at the age of nine, Jane was sent to Court, to live under the guardianship of Queen Catherine Parr, (left) the sixth wife of Henry VIII. It was common for the children of noble families to spend time away from the home, in order to learn the social skills that governed life at the Royal Court. When Catherine died of child bed fever in September 1548 at Sudeley Castle, Jane was chief mourner at her funeral.

Catherine's second husband, Thomas Seymour, bought Jane's wardship in the same year, paying her father two thousand pounds. Seymour had promised that with his connections at court he would be well placed to suggest Jane as a suitable wife for the King. In a letter to Henry Grey, he expressed his hopes for Jane's future, 'If I may once get the King at liberty, I dare warrant you that His Majesty shall marry no other but Jane.'

Seymour's plans were not to be. In 1549 he was arrested while breaking into the King's apartments in an attempt to have an audience with him. The Grey's were keen to distance themselves from Seymour after news of this scandal. Thomas Seymour was eventually executed for treasonable offences against the Lord Protector, his brother. It was John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland who was next to see the usefulness of Jane Grey in attaining power.

In 1553 King Edward VI was a sickly boy of fifteen. He had been plagued by illness throughout his life and was now suffering from advanced tuberculosis. It became clear to those who were close to the King that he would not reach adulthood. Henry VIII's Will named his daughter Mary as next in line to the throne. If Edward did not marry and produce an heir, a Catholic would rule England. As Edward's chief Minister, Northumberland knew that he would be punished by Mary for his harsh anti-Catholic policies. Jane Grey was fourth in line to the throne, and represented, for Northumberland, his only real chance to retain the power and status he had attained. He focused on fostering a close association with Henry and Frances Grey. By May he had convinced them to formalise their alliance through marriage.

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