10 July 1553 – Jane the Quene by Tamise Hills

Posted By on July 10, 2012

Today we have a guest article from Tamise Hills from The Lady Jane Grey Reference Guide Blog. Thank you so much, Tamise! Over to Tamise…

As my train crosses the bridge into Cannon Street station on my journey to work today, I will look at the Tower of London and try to picture Lady Jane Grey arriving there by barge 459 years ago this afternoon.

Until recently we had an eye-witness account of the new Queen’s arrival to take possession of the Tower but research by historian, Leanda de Lisle, has thrown doubt on the Geonese merchant, Baptista Spinola’s detailed description of the event.

‘Today I saw Lady Jane Grey walking in a grand procession to the Tower. She is now called Queen, but is not popular, for the hearts of the people are with Mary, the Spanish Queen’s daughter. This Jane is very short and thin, but prettily shaped and graceful. She has small features and a well-made nose, the mouth flexible and the lips red. The eyebrows are arched and darker than her hair, which is nearly red. Her eyes are sparkling and reddish brown in colour. I stood so near her grace that I noticed her colour was good but freckled. When she smiled she showed her teeth, which are white and sharp. In all a gracious and animated figure. She wore a dress of green velvet stamped with gold, with large sleeves. Her headdress was a white coif with many jewels. She walked under a canopy, her mother carrying her long train, and her husband Guildford walking beside her, dressed all in white and gold, a very tall strong boy with light hair, who paid her much attention. The new Queen was mounted on very high chopines to make her look much taller, which were concealed by her robes, as she is very small and short. Many ladies followed, with noblemen, but this lady is very heretical and has never heard Mass, and some great people did not come into the procession for that reason.’
Baptista Spinola, 10 July 1553
(p. 3 Plowden)

In the paperback version of ‘The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: The Tragedy of Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey’, de Lisle argues that the above description was composed by the author Richard Davey. She points out that the letter ‘does not exist before…1909.’ (p. 113, de Lisle)

In ‘Faking Jane’ an article in the March 2010 edition of BBC History Magazine, de Lisle writes that she was unable to find the original letter in the Genoa archives or in any works prior to Davey. It ‘became clear the letter is a fake that mixes details from contemporary sources with fiction’ (p.36 BBC History Magazine).

So, what details are true and what was made up? Thankfully there are several other sources that mention the events of July 10th.

Jane herself, in the letter she wrote to Queen Mary in August 1553, does not mention any details of her arrival at the Tower. Two versions of her letter survive. Ives writes that the letter ‘first appears in an account written in 1554 by a papal official and future cardinal, Giovanni Francesco Commendone….in 1591 a similar text attributed to Jane surfaces in the Storia Ecclesiastica della Rivoluzione d’Inghilterra which Fra Girolamo Pollini published in Bologna…’ (p,18, Ives)

‘Then, as everybody knows, the following day I was brought to the Tower and shortly afterwards the Lord Great Treasurer gave me the jewels and brought also the Crown, without having been asked for it in my name, and he wanted me to try it on to see if it did become me.’ (p.45, Malfatti)

‘On the day following (as is known to every one) I was conducted to the Tower, and shortly afterwards were presented to me by the Marquis of Winchester, lord high treasurer, the jewels, with which he also brought me the crown, although it had never been demanded from him by me, or by any one in my name ; and he further wished me to put it on my head, to try whether it really became me well or no.’ (p.498-499 Stone)

‘The Chronicle of Queen Jane and Two Years of Queen Mary, and Especially of the Rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyat’, goes into slightly more detail. We learn that Jane and her party arrived at the Tower by water at around 3pm.

‘The 10 of July, in the afternoone, about 3 of the clocke, lady Jane was convayed by water to the Tower of London, and there received as queene. After five of the clocke, the same afternoone, was proclamation made of the death of king Edward the sixt, and how hee had ordained by his letters patent bearing sate the 21. Of June last past that the lady Jane should be heire to the Crowne of England, and the heire males of her body, &e.’ (p.3, Gough)

There is further detail still in Henry Machyn’s (a citizen and Merchant -Taylor of London) diary entry for that day. He notes that the Queen’s train was carried by her mother, Frances the Duchess of Suffolk and that many ladies followed them.

‘The x day of July was reseyved in to the Towre (the Queen Jane) with a grett company of lords and nobulls…after the qwen, and the duches of Suffke her mother, bering her trayn, with mony lades, and ther was a shot of gunnes and chamburs has nott be sene oft be-tweyn iii and v of (the clock); by vj of the cloke be-gane the proclamasyon of the same (after-) non (of) qwen Jane with ij Harold(s) and a trompet blohyng (declaring) that my lade Mare was unlawfully be-gotten, and so (went throught) Chepe to Fletstrett, proclamyng qwen Jane; and ther was a yong man taken that tym for spykng of serten words of qwen Mare, that she had the right tytle.’ (p. 35, Machyn – British History Online)

The Spanish Ambassadors report the same details in their despatch to the Emperor Charles V. That Jane’s train was carried by her mother. They differ in the time of Jane’s arrival, placing it an hour later than ‘The Chronicle of Queen Jane’ etc.

At about four o’clock this afternoon the ceremony of the state entry was performed at the Tower of London with the accustomed pomp. The new Queen’s train was carried by her mother, the Duchess of Suffolk; and there were not many people present to witness the act. When it was over, criers at the street-corners published an order given under the Great Seal of England, by which, by the new Queen’s authority, the Lady Mary was declared unfitted for the Crown, as also the Lady Elizabeth. Both ladies were declared to be bastards; and it was stated that the Lady Mary might marry a foreigner and thus stir up trouble in the kingdom and introduce a foreign government, and also that as she was of the old religion she might seek to introduce popery. However, no one present showed any sign of rejoicing, and no one cried: “Long live the Queen!” except the herald who made the proclamation and a few archers who followed him. Thus your Majesty may gather the state of feeling in England towards the Lady Mary. We will endeavour to obtain a copy of the above proclamation in order to send it to your Majesty.
London, 10 July, 1553.

Signed by all four ambassadors. French. Cipher. Printed by Weiss in his Documents Inédits, Vol. IV, from a badly mutilated copy at Besançon (Collection Granvelle, 73) ‘Spain: July 1553, 1-10’, Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11: 1553 (1916), pp. 69-80 – British History Online)

The Chronicle of the Grey Friars states that Jane was brought by water from Richmond to Westminster and then to the Tower on the afternoon of the 10th.

‘Item the x. day of the same monythe after vij. a clocke at nyght was made a proclamacyon at the crosse in Chepe by iij. harraldes and one trompet with the kynges shreffe of London master Garrard with dyvers of the grade for Jane the duke of Suffolkes dowter to be the qwene of Ynglond, (but fewe or none sayd “Good save hare,”) the whyche was browte that same afternone from Richemond un-to Westmyster, and soo unto the tower of London by watter.’

From: ‘The Chronicle of the Grey Friars: Jane’, Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London: Camden Society old series, volume 53 (1852), pp. 78-80 – British History Online.

From these other contemporary accounts of the events of the 10th July 1553, we know that Jane arrived at the Tower of London by water, sometime between 3 and 5pm and that as the Queen processed to the Tower, her train was carried by her mother.

If Richard Davey did compose Spinola’s letter, then this much of it is based on fact.

‘Today I saw Lady Jane Grey walking in a grand procession to the Tower….her mother carrying her long train…. Many ladies followed…’ (p.3, Plowden)

So what about the description of Jane herself? Professor Eric Ives wrote in his 2009 book, ‘Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery’, that Spinola’s letter is the ‘only…detailed report of her appearance.’ (p.15, Ives) If Spinola’s letter is a fake, then we have lost sight of Jane.

De Lisle thinks that Spinola’s description of Jane seems to be a mixture of different sources. The main parts of her argument are as follows:

© Sonja Marie – Thanks to Sonja Marie at The Lady Jane Grey Internet Museum

  • The physical description of Jane in the letter also fits that of Delaroche’s painting, ‘The Execution of Lady Jane Grey’ and is similar to contemporary descriptions of Mary Tudor.
    ‘This Jane is very short and thin, but prettily shaped and graceful. She has small features and a well-made nose, the mouth flexible and the lips red. The eyebrows are arched and darker than her hair, which is nearly red. Her eyes are sparkling and reddish brown in colour. I stood so near her grace that I noticed her colour was good but freckled. When she smiled she showed her teeth, which are white and sharp. In all a gracious and animated figure.’ (p,3 Plowden)
  • In London at the time there was a merchant called Benedict Spinola and a soldier called Baptista Spinola.
  • Spinola’s description of Jane’s clothes is similar to an illustration in Arden Holt’s ‘Fancy Dresses Described’ which was published in 1882.
    ‘She wore a dress of green velvet stamped with gold, with large sleeves. Her headdress was a white coif with many jewels. She walked under a canopy, her mother carrying her long train, and her husband Guildford walking beside her, dressed all in white and gold, a very tall strong boy with light hair, who paid her much attention. The new Queen was mounted on very high chopines to make her look much taller, which were concealed by her robes, as she is very small and short.’ (p.3, Plowden)

If Spinola’s letter is most probably a fake, then this mix of ‘contemporary sources with fiction’ (p.36, BBC History Magazine), means that our view of Jane’s arrival at the Tower as Queen is a limited one and unless a contemporary, authenticated portrait of Jane is discovered, it will remain so.

Notes and Sources

  • De Lisle, L. (2010) The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: The Tragedy of Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey, HarperPress.
  • De Lisle, L. (2010) ‘Faking Jane’. BBC History Magazine, March 2010, p.36
  • Ives, E. (2009) Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery, Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Malfatti, C.V. (1956) The Accession Coronation and Marriage of Mary Tudor as related in four manuscripts of the Escorial, Barcelona
  • Nichols, J. G (ed) (1850) The Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary and Especially of the Rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt, Written by a Resident in the Tower of London, Llanerch Publishers
  • Plowden, A. (2003) Lady Jane Grey: Nine Days Queen, Sutton Publishing Ltd
  • Stone, J.M. (1901) The History of Mary I Queen of England, Sands & Co
  • Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11: 1553 (1916), pp. 69-80. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=88483 Date accessed: 19 June 2012
  • ‘Diary: 1553 (Jul – Dec)’, The Diary of Henry Machyn: Citizen and Merchant-Taylor of London (1550-1563) (1848), pp. 34-50. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=45512 Date accessed: 04 July 2012.
  • ‘The Chronicle of the Grey Friars: Jane’, Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London: Camden Society old series, volume 53 (1852), pp. 78-80. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=51589 Date accessed: 05 July 2012.
  • Lady Jane Grey Internet Museum
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