Educational Travel Lesson Plans

Reformation England - Lady Jane Grey: the Nine Day Queen



Through an in-depth analysis of various primary and secondary sources, students in this lesson will identify, understand and be able to explain the story of Lady Jane Grey, how and why she assumed the throne of England after the death of Edward VI and why she lost her crown only nine days later.


European History

World History

Grade Level



90 minutes

Tour Links

  • Church of St. Peter ad Vincula
  • Tower of London
  • Middlesex Guildhall, London

Essential Questions

  • Who was Lady Jane Grey?
  • What was Lady Jane’s relationship to the Tudor family and to Edward VI in particular?
  • Why did Edward VI designate Jane as his rightful heir?
  • Why was Jane queen for only 9 days?
  • Why was Lady Jane executed?
  • What is Lady Jane Grey’s legacy in England?

Key Terms

  • Edward VI
  • Lady Jane Grey
  • Mary I
  • Succession

Eyewitness Account of Lady Jane Grey’s Coronation

By Henry Machyn, a London Undertaker

On 9 July all the head officers and the guard were sworn to Queen Jane as queen of England.... daughter of the duke of Suffolk, and served as queen of....

The following day queen Jane was received into the Tower with a great company of lords and nobles of... after the queen, and the duchess of Suffolk her mother, bearing her train, with many ladies, and there was a firing of guns and chamber such as has not often been seen, between 4 and 5 o'clock; by 6 o'clock began the proclamation on the same afternoon of Queen Jane, with two heralds and a trumpet blowing, declaring that Lady Mary was unlawfully begotten, and so went through Cheapside to Fleet Street, proclaiming Queen Jane.  And there was a young man taken at that time for speaking certain words about Queen Mary, that she had the true title.

On 11 July, at 8 o'clock in the morning the young man was set on the pillory for speaking this, and both his ears were cut off.  There was a herald and a trumpeter blowing, and he was quickly taken down.  And the same day the young man's master, dwelling at St John's Head, whose name was Sandur Onyone, and another Master Owen, a gun-maker at London Bridge, living at Ludgate, were drowned.

On 12 July by night were carried to the Tower 3 carts full of all manner of ordnance, such as great guns and small, bows, bills, spears, morrish pikes, armour, arrows, gunpowder and stakes, money, tents and all manner of ordnance, a great number of cannon balls, and a great number of men at arms; and it was for a great army near Cambridge; and two days after the duke and various lords and knights went with him, and many gentlemen and gunners, and many men of the guard and men of arms towards Lady Mary's grace, to destroy her grace, and so to Bury, and all was against him, for his men forsook him.

Letter from Lady Jane Grey to Queen Mary

Although my fault be such that but for the goodness and clemency of the Queen, I can have no hope of finding pardon.... having given ear to those who at the time appeared not only to myself, but also to the great part of this realm to be wise and now have manifested themselves to the contrary, not only to my and their great detriment, but with common disgrace and blame of all, they having with shameful boldness made to blamable and dishonourable an attempt to give to others that which was not theirs...[and my own] lack of prudence...for which I deserve heavy being known that the error imputed to me has not been altogether caused by myself. [The Privy Council]....who with unwontd caresses and pleasantness, did me such reverence as was not at all suitable to my state. He [Dudley] then said that his Majesty had well weighed an Act of Parliament...that whoever should acknowledge the most serene Mary...or the lady Elizabeth and receive them as the true heirs of the crown of England should be had all for traitors...wherefore, in no manner did he wish that they should be heirs of him and of that crown, he being able in every way to disinherit them. And therefore, before his death, he gave order to the Council, that for the honour they owed to him...they should obey his last will...As to the rest, for my part, I know not what the Council had determined to do, but I know for certain that twice during this time, poison was given to me, first in the house of the Duchess of Northumberland and afterwards here in the Tower.... All these I have wished for the witness of my innocence and the disburdening of my conscience

Letter from Lady Jane Grey to her sister Catherine, 1554

I have sent you, good sister Catherine, a book, which although it be not outwardly trimmed with gold, yet inwardly it is more worthy than precious stones. It is the book, dear sister, of the laws of the lord: It is His Testament and Last Will, which He bequeathed unto us wretches, which shall lead you to the path of eternal joy, and if you, with a good mind read it, and with an earnest desire, follow it, it shall bring you to an immortal and everlasting life.  It will teach you to live and learn you to die.... It shall win you more than you should have gained by the possession of your woeful father's lands, for as if God prospered him, you shall inherit his lands.... [it holds] such riches as neither the covetous shall withdraw from you, neither the thief shall steal, neither let the moth corrupt.... And as touching my death, rejoice as I do and consider that I shall be delivered of this corruption and put on incorruption, for as I am assured that I shall for losing of a mortal life, find an immortal felicity. Pray God grant you and send you his grace to live in the love...

Farewell good sister, put only your trust in God, who only must uphold you,
Your loving sister, Jane Duddley'

Sixteenth century England was a time of religious and political turmoil.  King Henry VIII, in a desperate but ultimately doomed search for a perfect wife and a legitimate male heir, ended up marrying six different women over the course of four decades.  Henry produced three legitimate children (and countless illegitimate ones).  The English Church in the early years of the century had been a bastion of Catholicism and a bulwark against what Henry once deemed the “heresies of Luther” (a statement for which Pope Leo X declared the English king to be “Defender of the Faith”).  By the 1530s, however, Henry had split from Rome and created the English Church.

Henry died in 1547 at age 55 after suffering for years from what scientists now believe was complications from Type II diabetes (not understood at the time).  His youngest legitimate child, Edward VI, son of Jane Seymour (Henry’s 3rd wife) was only nine years old at the time of his coronation.  Throughout the young man’s reign England was governed by a council led first by his uncle and later by other noblemen.  Raised a Protestant, Edward focused on religious matters (probably “led” in this matter by his relatives).  Under his reign, the English Church shifted towards radical Lutheranism by instituting such reforms as an English service for Mass, the abolition of clerical celibacy, and the introduction of the Common Book of Prayer.

One wonders what might have happened to England and the realm if Edward had ever reached the age of maturity, but he died in 1553 at age 15.  Just before the young king died (probably of tuberculosis or pneumonia), he and his advisors drew up a new Order of Succession.  Since Edward had no children, upon his death his half-sister Mary (from Henry’s first marriage to Catherine of Aragon) should have assumed the throne.  The problem was that Mary was a devout Catholic.  Edward (and his relatives) wanted to prevent a reunion with Rome at all costs.  A possible solution was found in Lady Jane Grey.

Jane Grey was Edward’s first cousin (once removed).  She was the granddaughter of Mary Tudor (Henry VIII’s sister) and thus had familial links to the throne.  She was also a committed Protestant and an educated young woman.  As the young king lay dying, he signed a new will that designated Jane as his successor.  The will was signed by 102 nobles, including the entire Privy Council.

Edward died on 06 Jul 1553.  Seventeen-year-old Jane was publically proclaimed Queen of England three days later on 09 July.  The new monarch began signing official documents as “Jane the Quene” (16th century spelling issues were problematic), but the real power behind the throne was the young woman’s father-in-law, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland.  He controlled the council and therefore controlled the government.  In essence, Lady Jane was installed as Queen of England in a bloodless coup.

Mary, age 37 and 20 years older than Jane, would have none of it.  Raised to believe that her mother Catherine was Henry VIII’s only legitimate wife, Mary had waited over two decades for the chance to move England back to its rightful position as a servant of the papacy.  Rallying the support of Catholics and conservative monarchists across the realm, Mary quickly raised an army of over 20,000 in opposition to Jane.  Many people in England, commoners and noble alike, saw Jane as a usurper rather than a legitimate monarch, regardless of her religious views, and they rallied to support what they saw as the real queen in Mary.  Reports from around the country said that she was gaining more followers daily.  Nobles on the council quickly realized how untenable their position was and changed their support, rallying around Henry VIII’s Catholic daughter.  On 19 July, just 9 days into her “reign”, the council deposed Queen Jane.  Mary, accompanied by her half-sister Elizabeth, entered London on 03 August to the delight of cheering crowds.

Lady Jane, her husband Lord Guildford Dudley, and his father Northumberland were all arrested.  All three were quickly convicted of treason and sentenced to die “at the Queen’s pleasure.”  The older Dudley was beheaded on 22 August, but the younger two were held in the Tower of London for months.  They may have been held indefinitely at “the Queen’s pleasure”, but a Protestant revolt the following January convinced Mary that she had to eliminate any potential rivals.  Lady Jane Grey and Lord Dudley were both executed on Tower Green on 12 February 1554.

Through an in-depth analysis of various primary and secondary sources, students in this lesson will identify, understand and be able to explain the story of Lady Jane Grey, how and why she assumed the throne of England after the death of Edward VI and why she lost her crown only nine days later.

educational tour image
  1. Students will identify, analyze, understand and be able to explain the story of Lady Jane Grey and how she became Queen of England in 1553 when her cousin Edward VI died.
  2. Students will identify, analyze, understand and be able to explain how and why she lost her crown only nine days later.

To view resource web pages, download the lesson plan PDF above.

I. Anticipatory Set

  • Writing / Question: What was the line of succession designated by Henry VIII?  (5 min)
  • Handouts – Copies of the primary sources and readings from the websites listed. (5 min)

II. Body of Lesson

  • Lecture / PPT – Anne Boleyn (20 min)
  • Video – Lady Jane Grey (10 min)
  • Independent Activity – Students read the primary sources and articles on Lady Jane Grey, taking notes as appropriate. (20 min)
  • Suggestion: Have the students read some of the articles as preparation for class discussion.
  • Suggestion: Break students into groups and assign different articles to each group.
  • Group Activity – Socratic Discussion: Lady Jane Grey (20 min)

III. Closure

  • Assessment – Essay / DBQ:  Explain in detail the story of Lady Jane Grey, how and why she assumed the throne of England after the death of Edward VI and why she lost her crown only nine days later.



On tour: Tower of London (Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula)

While on tour, students visit the Tower of London, where Lady Jane Grey was executed (along with others) under orders from Queen Mary I. Queen Jane is buried in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula with her husband and their fathers, although their specific graves could not be identified during a 19th century archaeological dig. Today there is a plaque signifying their final resting place.


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