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Lady Jane Grey: Leicester’s nine-day queen

In July 1553, a young noble named Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed as Queen of England and Ireland.

A rainbow over Bradgate House, the home of Lady Jane Grey, at Bradgate Park near Leicester
A rainbow over Bradgate House, the home of Lady Jane Grey, at Bradgate Park near Leicester © Donald Ogg
by Margaret Brecknell, freelance writer

25/08/2023 / 19:25: This article's headline was updated to reflect the content of the story.

Still a teenager, her reign lasted just nine days and her life came to an end in the most brutal of circumstances only seven months later. Lady Jane Grey’s tragic story has captured the imagination ever since, not least here in Leicester where she is believed to have spent much of her early life.

Although the exact details regarding her date and place of birth remain unknown, it's thought that Lady Grey was born at Bradgate House in Leicester during the early autumn of 1537. As visitors to Bradgate Park will know, the ruins of her childhood home remain there today.

The Grey family’s association with Bradgate Park began in the mid-1400s through marriage into the prosperous Ferrers family. During the early 1500s, Sir Thomas Grey oversaw the construction of a grand red-brick manor house on the estate and Bradgate House became home to the family for over two centuries.

With the marriage, in 1533, of Sir Thomas Grey’s son, Henry, to Lady Frances Brandon – the niece of Henry VIII. The status of the ambitious Grey family rose another level. The Grey’s were now moving in the highest of royal circles. The couple’s eldest daughter, Lady Jane Grey, was born around four years later.

She spent her early years at Bradgate House, receiving an education worthy of a young girl of high social standing. Despite her importance in English history, the real Lady Grey has remained a shadowy and inaccessible figure, so much has been made of an interesting account of a visit to Bradgate by a scholar named Roger Ascham.

He portrays the young Jane as a school girl prodigy, who prefers to stay at home alone reading Plato’s Phaedro rather than joining the rest of the household on a hunting trip. The next part of Ascham’s account however is perhaps the most revealing.

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