The Privileged Life: Kings and Queens (Part 3)—Lady Jane Grey, Martyr for Christ

“Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b)

As Great Britain gears up for Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee—celebrating the longest reign, 70 years, for any monarch in English history—let’s take a look at the shortest reign, by the 16th-century noblewoman who lasted only nine days on the throne as queen.

Lady Jane Grey (Dudley) held the throne of England and Ireland in July of 1553. She was thrust into the role through the political machinations of the day and her royal lineage. 

As the year began, Jane was a committed Protestant who adhered to the tenets of the Christian Reformation, a movement that had gained ground under the reign of Henry VIII. Jane was well-educated and a lady of the court, and she married Lord Guildford Dudley in May. 

Her accession to the throne was due to the will of Edward VI who had inherited the throne as the only son of Henry VIII. Edward had never married and succumbed to a lung disease, probably tuberculosis, at age 15. Before he died, however, he named his cousin Jane as his successor.

Jane’s right to the throne was swiftly challenged by Edward’s half-sister Mary, daughter of Henry VIII and first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Mary, who came to be known as “Bloody Mary,” assembled an army of supporters, and Jane was deposed from her throne. 

Although imprisoned in the Tower, Jane and her husband were initially spared execution. But as the days went on, Jane was perceived as a threat. In November, Jane was convicted of high treason and sentenced to death.

The little-known story, however, of Jane’s final days is that she went to her execution as a martyr for Jesus Christ. When Jane’s execution day was set, she was granted a three-day reprieve in order to renounce her faith. But she steadfastly affirmed that Jesus Christ was her true Lord and head of His church. 

Jane and her husband, Guildford, were beheaded the same day. Jane is said to have recited Psalm 51 and declared the same last words of Christ on the cross—“Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit!”

In some ways, Lady Jane Grey can be compared to the biblical queen whose life and faith were threatened by the circumstances around her—Esther. 

Esther was Jewish girl in a hostile environment. Her people had been brought to Persia in captivity during the exile from Israel, more than 400 years before Christ. Like Jane, Esther was swept up into the politics of the court, thrown into a “beauty contest” with other subjugated women, and instituted as queen without ever seeking this status.

Here are some more similarities:

  • Esther and Lady Jane were no mere “pawns” of the court. While neither had aspired to the throne, they willingly submitted themselves to positions where God had placed them in His sovereignty…accepting their roles to honor Him.
  • Both of them were young but mature beyond their years, ready to engage in queenly responsibilities, seemingly without a lot of “drama.” Through capable mentors, God had already prepared them well to assume their obligations.
  • They faced the threat of death with unusual courage. Esther’s famous declaration, “If I perish, I perish,” showed her resolution to defend her people at the risk of losing her life. Lady Jane lost her earthly battle in order to defend her faith but joined a heavenly kingdom with her Savior.
  • Esther and Lady Jane stood as “beacons of light” in the spiritual darkness around them. Esther, in a pagan realm, identified herself as one of God’s children in spite of the scorn it could bring down upon her. Lady Jane boldly defended her faith from her prison chamber, lighting the path for other believers, with dignity and grace.

What can we learn from these faithful queens? Even in brutal situations, God’s power and grace are sufficient. He has positioned all of us, in His sovereignty, where we are to serve Him and His purposes. Whatever our socioeconomic status, race, family life, job, health, location—He has prepared our mission beforehand. He calls us to be steadfast, courageous, and faithful in following His commands.

Even though we will never measure up to perfection, His will for us is perfect. As His children, we can come before His throne boldly to ask for wisdom and courage. 

Are you a queen, king, or peasant? Doesn’t matter. You’re among the privileged if you call upon Jesus Christ as your Lord. If you don’t know Him, my prayer is that you will join our ranks in following Him, to be among the faithful who inherit His eternal life. 

And, won’t it be neat to meet these former queens when we join them in heaven?!?

Jesus, Lord and King of all the earth, bless us with Your courage and wisdom as we face the road You have set before us. Make us faithful to serve You, brave to testify about You, and strong to face the obstacles. Make us “beacons of light” to show others Your glory. In Your name, Amen.

To learn how you can know Jesus as Your Savior, Lord, and Friend, here’s some good news:

Woodcut of Jane Grey from 15801
Esther, painting by Edwin Long, 18782



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© Copyright 2022 Nancy C. Williams, Lightbourne Creative (text and photography)

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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