12 February 1554 – Lady Jane Grey and Lord Guildford Dudley are executed

On this day in history, 12th February 1554, Lady Jane Grey and her husband, Guildford Dudley, were executed.

Guildford was beheaded on Tower Hill and Jane was beheaded withing the walls of the Tower of London. Jane was just sixteen years old and Guildford was around 18/19 years old.

Here are links to read more about them and their executions:

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19 thoughts on “12 February 1554 – Lady Jane Grey and Lord Guildford Dudley are executed”
  1. Claire, I actually have to disagree that Guildford was 18-19 at his death. Christine Hartweg has found some convincing evidence that he was born in around 1538, for that is when his Spanish godfather was in England. Meaning that Guildford was younger than his wife and was only fifteen or sixteen when he went to the block. A very sad state of affairs.

    1. I read some time back about Guildford being younger than Jane, but I assumed just a few months. Very interesting that he may have been younger still. Do you have a link to Christne Hartweg or a reference, please…I would be very interested in reading about her research.


        1. Hi Claire, thanks for the link, looks like another great blogg to keep me glued to my tablet till six in the morning lol. I have just visited and now I know why the name sounded familiar…her book. I downloaded it a few weeks ago but haven’t as yet got around to reading. It looks and sounds excellent. Thanks for your help. All this new research is fantastic…we can reappraise people all the time now as new documentary evidence comes to light. We have a fabulous rare book collection, some dating back hundreds of years and rare documents in our old Picton Library…with several old archives. Boy would I love to have a good search in there. You don’t know what you come across until you look and now much of the collection is digital. With the National Archives online etc so much more is available…we can really get to know more about people who have been just shadows for years, their thoughts and beliefs…It’s wonderful to discover new information. It can also sometimes be confusing as evidence is often contradictory, but then that is the beauty of history..It’s as much about debate and interpretation as facts and dates…history is far from static. Thanks again for the link.

  2. If you are a believer in Divine wrath, Jane’s execution by Mary could have been the reason Mary’s reign was such a disaster. Mary’s successor was the Protestant Elizabeth, after all!

    1. What evidence do you have for Mary’s reign being a disaster? Mary achieved everything, but one that she set out to do. She successfully overcame a plot to dislodge her by her cousins and Dudley, she left female Kingship respected and possible, she reformed the navy and navel finances, she achieved reconciliation with Rome, although some biased people may not agree that is an achievement, her people wanted this, she successfully rode out another short sighted attempt to dislodge her, she strengthened the economy, encouraged first contact with Russia and even expanded elsewhere. There are several decent books on her reign by Anna Whitelock, Edwards, etc, which show her short reign was not a complete disaster. Yes Mary is known for her laws that allowed heretics to go to the stake, ruthless yes, but nothing different to any other monarchy. Her two failures were right at the end of her reign. She failed to produce an heir, but wisely nominated Elizabeth, as she lay dying. We lost Calais, but so what it cost a fortune to maintain anyway. Elizabeth also suffered several disasters, executed anyone who rebelled or did not agree with her policies, caused misery in Ireland, a disaster for her, oh, yes, she also failed to leave or name an heir. It’s very easy to say a short reign is a disaster, when one’s sister is lucky enough to rule for 45 years, but in reality it had many good points and you can read about them in several books and sources.

      1. I agree, because Mary died after reigning for just five years she never achieved her true potential, rather like her brother who was highly gifted and who I feel would have made a great King, Mary was a kindly woman who loved children and she often visited the poor bearing gifts and sundries, she loved sumptuous clothes and jewels and loved dancing and gambling, she was not the sour faced fanatic who many people think (although she was a fervent Catholic) she was also brave who overcame the traitorous rebels when she was ousted from her rightful position as queen, mind you this where I think it gets confusing as although her father had placed her in his will after Edward should he die without heirs, her brother also being an anointed King had the right to make his own will, therefore who was the rightful queen, Jane or Mary? The Catholics say Mary and the Protestants say Jane, religion being dominant but getting back to Marys character she had the makings of a great queen like her mother grandmother and sister, she pardoned the rebels initially and was inclined to be merciful, she was most reluctant to execute Jane who after all was her cousin, yes the laws regarding heresy was harsh but she did not make those laws and as monarch had to see they were carried out, Sir Thoms More himself condemned heretics to the flames, possibly reluctantly but also the law required wives who murdured their husbands to suffer death by burning also, the trouble is when Marys name is mentioned people think ‘oh Bloody Mary she burnt all the Protestants’ but there was a lot more to her than just that, iv read Linda Porters book on Mary and it’s very good, she was a desperately lonely woman who loved her husband unconditionally and yearned for a child, had she not succumbed to the illness that claimed her I believe she would have become a monarch much respected, had she a child or two the country would have been overjoyed for her, I can see celebrations in the streets and gradually the fires at Smithfield may have receded a little from memory, from time to time all monarchs were harsh, they had to be and it was not Marys fault she was born into that cruel age where tolerance was seen as a sigh of weakness, Elizabeth herself dealt quite harshly with the Catholics and instead of helping her cousin the Queen of Scots had her imprisoned and eventually executed, she would have grown older and delighted in her children, and all the women in the land would have been happy for her, she had inherited a country through bloodshed and did what she could to help peace prevail, she would not have allowed the inquisition over here which was predominant in her subjects minds when she decided to marry Philip of Spain, he showed himself to be a most unworthy husband, being used to sunny Spain he did not take to grey little England and sadly did not love Mary and left her for months at a time, she died lonely and it’s very sad that her legacy she left to England is only remembered with the Smithfield fires and the loss of Calais, she did have the makings of a good queen but time and fate was not on her side.

        1. Yes, agree very much. Linda Porter, that’s who I was trying to recall..thanks. I got confused somewhere around 1529 and I’ve been confused since. All these changes must have confused most people. Well they broke the mould when the Tudors came along. Mary did indeed love fancy clothing, she had some very richly embroidered dresses in deep reds and purples. I think Elizabeth outdid everyone though for power dressing. Royal clothes must have cost a mint. Cheers again for the information.

        2. I could never understand how they coped with the hot weather either, when you know they wore all those petticoats under their gowns then the ruffs, must have been awful during a heatwave, and it must have taken Queen Elizabeth an hour to get dressed every morning.

    1. Michael, after her execution Lady Jane was buried in the chapel of St.Vincula next to her husband who had died before, there is evidence she was and really she would not have been buried anywhere else, she was the great niece of Henry V111, and a one time Queen of England, it is believed her bones were found during the Victorian restoration of the chapel and her final resting place is marked, we know the Victorians did not have the technology we have today in dating bones but they found several skeletons of women, one of whom was possibly Henrys unfortunate second queen, his fifth queen where she was is a mystery as its believed her bones were young therefore they crumbled to dust, they found the bones of Lady Margaret Pole who was elderly when she died and another skeleton who was Lady Jane Grey, they then placed her next to her husband.

      1. No! it can’t be proven that she was ever taken there after her execution. When you go to visit the Chapel, docents regale you with erroneous facts that could never be substantiated, and date from the Victorian era and the renovation of the Chapel in the 1870s. In February of 1554, the Chapel had been re consecrated as a catholic place of worship, and therefore no heretic could be buried from there. As Doctor J. Stephan Edwards has put forth, there is no mention of what became of the Lady Jane’s body after it lay on the scaffold for some time. It as always been assumed that Father Feckenham went to obtain permission from the local Bishop and the Queen to have Jane interred at St. Peter ad Vincula, but there is no such record of that ever taking place. Jane most likely was buried outside the Tower. Perhaps she is buried in the Church of Holy Trinity Minories just yards from Tower Hill. That church was a former abbey of the Order of St Clare that had been closed by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the 1530s. Jane Grey’s Father had purchased the former abbey, together with its church, from the crown in the 1540s. Protestants who were exiled from Catholic countries would gather there, and Jane became a patron of London’s ‘Strangers Church’ as it came to be known in the 1550s. Her Father’s head was discovered there, and it is most likely that hers and her Huwsbands heads, along with the rest of them, are there too. The remains of the Church of Holy Trinity Minories were destroyed during the London Blitz of 1940. All that remains is a small public garden in Tower Hill Terrace over the road from the north outer curtain wall of the Tower, a mere 150 yards from the site of Jane’s execution. So, we will never really know. te amo Joanna Graia.

        1. Hi Michael your right her bones were not found neither were her husbands, it’s fiction books that have her being buried in St Peter possibly just because it’s easier to assume they were both interred there, it could be though that because they were so young their bones could have dissolved like Catherin Howard’s did and that’s why no traces have been found, there is a legend she was buried at the family home at Bradgate but it would have been impossible to smuggle a body out without the gaurds noticing, I like to think Queen Mary would have given permission for her mother to take her home but do not think France’s would have had the nerve to ask her cousin as she had been very close to her and then she had betrayed her by putting her daughter on the throne, France’s was lucky I think to receive a full pardon for her behaviour and she was later buried with all honours in Westminster, unlike her tragic daughter who really was just a scapegoat for her parents ambition.

      2. Just one more observation. The Lady Jane Grey’s debate with Father Feckenham confirms that she saw Mary as her enemy and Mary’s supporters as to be condemned without mercy.
        But it bothered her that as she got to know Father Feckenham, she could not bring herself to see him in that light.
        All of those people whom she counted on, and believe to be as strong in their faith as she was, deserted and abandoned her. The one person who she perceived to have true and abiding faith, and convictions as strong as hers, she saw as deeply misguided.
        Feckenham, it appears, seems to have begun to wonder if perhaps, she was right.
        As he said in his report to the Queen later on:
        “I acknowledge myself fitter to bee her Disciple, then Teacher.”
        It was Feckenham’s choice, and not Queen Mary’s to be with Jane on that fateful day:
        February 12th, 1554.

        And, she kissed him.

        1. This pair, the Catholic priest and a young girl with conflicting religious beliefs found a rapport with one another, I think they grew quite fond of each other and Feckenham felt very sad he could not sway her mind, she was quite prepared to die for her faith and Queen Mary reluctantly signed her death warrant, an awful episode in English history she was highly intelligent and showed such promise – a very gifted scholar, at her execution it was noted the amount of blood that poured from her corpse was a huge amount all the more so because she was only tiny. RIP Jane one time Queen of England.

  3. Jane Grey is often seen as a tragic victim, but I don’t believe this does her justice. For one thing she was fanatical in her beliefs and her determination that she had truth on her side matched the same conviction her cousin Mary had. I am not going to debate a matter of a year or two difference in her age or Guilford Dudley’s because they were still young at 16/17 and Jane showed so much more promise as a scholar. Her scholarship was evident during her teens and she even translated things while in prison. Although Jane initially was shocked and bewildered at her selection as Queen, it is clear from the evidence that she was far from a pawn. She used her title to give orders for the army to be sent to meet Mary’s threat, she is just as vivid in the language used to condemn her enemies and give orders for their destruction as Mary was in her proclamation condemning her as a traitor and usurper. When your the monarch you don’t mince words when saying what you think about rebels who threaten your life. She insisted that Guildford would not be called King and made a warrant to this effect. She signed several warrants and proclamations
    Jane the Quene and this is evidence that we should accept her as a proper Queen, even if we don’t necessarily agree that she had the better title or right. That’s a debate for the constitutional experts. Jane was courageous in her well documented theological debate with Dr Freckingham who genuinely cared for her welfare. I don’t believe that she was anybody’s pawn, but she was not entirely comfortable with the circumstances of state that she found herself in.

    Even Mary after she took her rightful place as a true Tudor on the throne had quite a bit of sympathy for her young cousin and showed this by pardoning her parents and showing mercy to Jane. There is considerable evidence that Mary was very reluctant, even after their trial to execute Jane and Guildford Dudley. A number of theories have been put forward, including one for which little evidence exists, that Philip refused to marry her if she did not execute Jane. The Spanish did suggest that they would feel easier if Jane was converted or no longer a threat, but sources for this are problematic. The simple truth is that once Jane and her husband were condemned, not by Mary, but by their peers, in a trial, their exit strategy was limited. Mary could pardon them, commute their sentences or execute them. Evidence suggests that Mary was considering a pardon as they were given more freedom inside the Tower. It was recently highlighted in Nicola Tallis book that it was thought afterwards that Jane died more for her father’s sins than her own. There is some truth in this as Jane and Dudley were only executed after her father stupidly went off with the Wyatt Rebellion which aimed to kill Mary and put Elizabeth or possibly Jane on the throne instead. Jane was now seen as a clear and present danger and Mary advised on all sides to execute her. Even then she thought that she could save Jane and asked her to think about being a Catholic in return for a pardon. Freckingham was genuinely concerned about her, but Jane was convinced of her truth and would not agree. She did allow him to be there at the end to pray for her. Mary had no choice: she had pardoned this group of rebels and traitors once, she could not save her cousin, and reluctantly signed her death warrant. It was a tragic, but probably unavoidable end to a promising life. Jane did not die as a Protestant martyr, but she did die with her brand of faith and integrity intact.

    RIP Jane and Guildford Dudley. YNWA

  4. Just a quick question did Jane not see the dead body of her husband ‘being brought back into the tower for burial’ as stated in eye witness accounts. So we at least know that Guilford Dudley is buried somewhere in the tower. If he is why would they need special permission for Jane?

  5. I was recently at the chapel within the tower and was listening to the yeoman of the guard report that ‘Jane’s body had been discovered next to the remains of her husband’ which frustrated me a little having read the book on the restoration of the chapel which clearly states that neither Jane nor Guilford’s remains where discovered in the place where they were thought to be buried. Stating that their youth or the use of quicklime within the grave may have resulted in the faster disintegration of their remains.

    What also puzzles me a little was that the identification of the skeleton remains found where made on pure speculation from the accounts written in the book and if done today though I doubt this would ever happen, would they have come up with the same conclusions using modern scientific technology?

    I suppose one of the sad things about Jane Grey is that her life remains such a puzzle and that the written facts of her birth, appearance and burial are no longer there or haven’t serviced as yet.

    1. Lee, I don’t know about Jane and her husband, but the ladies buried with and near Anne Boleyn may well have been confused. Although remains were identified as those of Anne Boleyn, and reburied as Anne, others identified as closely as possible for the time, based on age and body size, etc, it is entirely possible that some were mixed up. Lady Margaret Pole was identified because of her age, but two younger ladies were there. One was identified as Queen Katherine Howard due to to remains being thought to be of a very young woman, but Jane Grey was only a year or two younger, or even the same age. Without forensic modern techniques it would be impossible to confirm who is whom. I always thought the report identified one lady as Lady Jane Rochford, next to Queen Anne. However, the remains of Jane and Dudley appear now to be something of a mystery. Of course they were buried 500 years ago and the church has probably had work done since, with natural level changes to the floor, bodies can and do shift underneath the ground for a number of environmental reasons. If bodies are not in proper coffins, or the coffins are damaged, burials can and do get confused. Jane Grey and Dudley were there originally, although sometimes burials of the executed were put in the churchyard. However, there have been removals over the years…Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel was buried there in the 1570s, but when he became Saint Philip Howard he was moved to Arundel Cathedral. Rumours and stories have gone down the years of unofficial removal to other churches, although these have never been verified. Saint Thomas More was moved in 1935 to a special chapel and tomb. His head was claimed by his daughter and now lies in a family grave. It would not surprise me if the odd bit of martyr or executed hero or shero have vanished over the years. I would not like the floor to be disturbed as it is beautiful and Anne’s remains are now at peace, but there must be some record of what happened to Jane Grey or her husband. A new Jane Grey mystery.

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