Lady Jane Grey–New Bio by Faith Cook

The story of Lady Jane Grey (1537-1554)—reluctant Queen of England for a few days in the month of July 1553 and executed the following year—is one that has long intrigued historians of the Tudor era, particularly because of her role in the nefarious nexus of the politics of that day and also because of her remarkable faith. Faith Cook also owns that she has long been fascinated by Jane’s “pitiful and heroic story” (p.9). And in this book her fascination has produced a biography worthy of her subject: Lady Jane Grey: Nine Day Queen of England (Darlington, Durham: Evangelical Press, 2004). From a historiographical point of view, Jane’s story is a difficult one since it cannot be understood without due consideration of the politics surrounding her life. Jane was the grand-daughter of Henry VIII’s youngest and favourite sister, and thus was that wily monarch’s great niece. During her life she stood fourth in line to the English throne after Henry’s three children—Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth—and was elevated to the crown after the death of her cousin Edward VI. Cook does an excellent job of making the political backdrop to Jane’s life come alive, no easy task given the utter complexity of this background.

Much of the sadness of Jane’s life came from the way that many of those around her—in particular, her parents, Henry and Frances Grey, who were despicable social climbers—used her for their own selfish ambitions (see, e.g., p.36, 59-60, 147-148). In the midst of all this muck and murkiness, Jane, who was “highly articulate, strong-minded and determined—even stubborn” like many of her Tudor relatives (p.93) and who had a “fearless disposition” (p.100), shone as only a true Christian can.

Her final days, summed up Cook under the chapter headings “I Have Kept the Faith” and “A Crown of Righteousness,” indicate how, from a biblical perspective, the closing days of Jane’s life are to be understood. Cook is right: “her unswerving courage, even when the alternatives of life and death were set before her and depended upon the answers she gave, should not be forgotten” (p.10).