Lady Jane Grey – Letters, prayer, the account of her death

The last selection contains two letters written by Lady Jane to her father, her prayer and the account of her death as written by Foxe. In the first letter, this sixteen-year-old writing to her father whose reckless decision has just sealed her death sentence, instead of “OMG DAD WHAT YOU HAVE DONE YOU ARE SO SCREWED UP AND I’M GONNA HATE YOU LIKE FOREVER WHICH IS NOT GOING TO BE VERY LONG ANYWAY”, writes rather calmly that she forgives him, although she allows herself one small jab “it hath pleased God to hasten my death by you, by whom my life should rather have been lengthened”. She says she is looking forward to ending her miserable life and she can do so even more willingly, having a clear conscience and knowing that she was coerced to be the queen against her will. She is looking forward to meeting him in heaven, i.e. she hopes he won’t stray from the true Protestant faith. The second letter is even more poignant – while the first one is reprinted from Foxe, who might have edited it a bit, the second one is a short note scribbled in her prayer book, which she took with her to her scaffold and in which she wrote messages to her various friends and family. The prayer book is still in the British libary and here you can see the image of one such note in the margin:

In this short note to her father, she asks him to take comfort in the fact that his daughter and son-in-law have won the eternal life and that she is going to pray for him in heaven.

Her prayer, again recorded by Foxe, Jane asks God neither to give her too much prosperity, lest she should be puffed up with pride (little chance of that in the Tower), nor to try her beyond her strength so that she should break down and blaspheme against his mercy. She writes that the trials of life are sent by God to test our worth and she only asks of God to strengthen her so that she can bear them with equanimity. The prayer shows her thorough knowledge of the Bible, which is hardly surprising.

Finally, the description of her death by Foxe, very famous, but touching nonetheless. Jane addresses those gathered to witness her execution, again as in the letter to her father emphasizing her being an innocent and unwilling participant in the plot of depositing Queen Mary. She manifests her adherence to Protestant principles by saying she hopes to be saved by nothing else but Jesus’ sacrifice (not anything a Catholic may have done, like confession and the last rites), she asks the people to assist her with her prayers while she is alive (because prayers for the dead are of no use_ and he recites Psalm 51 in English, even though she was probably perfectly capable of doing it in Latin. Then she takes off her head-dress and unties her gown, gives her prayer-book to the lieutenant of the tower, ties her eyes with a clean handkerchief and, ever the exemplary student, feels anxiously looking for the block, asking “Where is it?”, as depicted in the famous painting by Delaroche below. Then she dies the pious death.


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