Lady Jane Grey – Famous Trials at Guildhall

I’m Thomas; I am currently a placement student from the City of London academy working at Guildhall Library. This is a piece of research I did on some of the famous trials that have taken place at Guildhall.

The Guildhall is a key part of the modern day City of London and it also holds great historical and social importance. Essentially the town hall for the City of London it has also played host to many historic trials in its near thousand year history. Some of the more famous trials happened during the Tudor period and include the trial of Lady Jane Grey, Anne Askew and Thomas Cranmer.

Lady Jane Grey

The trial of Lady Jane Grey, otherwise known as the Nine Day Queen, was probably the most famous trial to take place at the Guildhall. As Edward VI was dying of consumption (today we know it as tuberculosis), he and Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury and his most trusted advisor, wanted to keep the country Protestant and they knew when Edward died the throne would go to his half-sister Mary who was strongly catholic. As a result Edward named his cousin once removed, Lady Jane Grey, as heir to the English throne. So when Edward died, Jane was named queen of England, Wales and Ireland on 10th July 1553. But, as her ‘nickname’ suggests, she was only Queen for nine days, not even long enough to be officially crowned.

Mary turned out to have a very large following of both Catholics and people who believed a Tudor queen should sit on the throne and not a Dudley. So nine days after Jane was named Queen by the council, Mary rode into the City of London and was in turn proclaimed Queen. Jane was arrested, along with her husband Lord Guildford Dudley and members of her council including Thomas Cranmer. On 13th November 1553 she and her co-conspirators where marched from the Tower of London where they were being held, to Guildhall to be tried by special commission. On her journey, Jane was stated to have worn all black whilst holding an open prayer book, which was meant to represent protestant piety.

Once at Guildhall, they were all accused of high treason, or more specifically Jane, Guildford and Cranmer were charged with taking possession of the tower and proclaiming Jane as Queen. Jane was also accused of ‘signing various writings’. The commission was led by Sir Thomas White, the then Lord Mayor of London and the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard. They were all charged with high treason and sentenced to death. The men where to be executed by being hung, drawn and quartered, whilst Jane would be burnt at the stake or beheaded. They were then marched back to the tower.

Although, as time went on, it appeared that Mary would spare Jane as no date was announced for her execution. This was sadly not to last. On January 26th 1554 Thomas Wyatt as well as other nobles, including Jane’s father the Duke of Suffolk lead a rebellion against Mary over her very unpopular decision to marry Phillip II of Spain as well as over political and theological concerns. Whilst Jane was not directly involved she was becoming a ‘security risk’, and so, bowing to  pressure from her council Mary scheduled Jane’s and her husband’s execution for 12th February 1554 when she was beheaded at the Tower of London.

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