Edward VI was just a young boy when he died, and so he never married and fathered heirs. He was a staunch Protestant, and he knew that the Third Succession Act left the crown to his half-sister Mary, who was a Catholic. In order to prevent her succession in the event of his childless death, he created a new document, his ‘device for the succession’. The original document survives.
At first, Edward left the crown the Lady Jane’s (and her sisters’) heirs male. Lady Jane Grey was a descendant of Henry VIII’s sister Mary and conveniently protestant. However, at the time, Jane was only around 15 years old, and she was quickly married to Lord Guildford Dudley, in order to produce the male heir. Soon it became clear that Edward was too sick to await the birth of a male heir and the device was altered to include Lady Jane herself. If you look at the document, you will see the added ‘Lady Jane(‘s) and her heirs male’. It appears Edward did not believe a woman could succeed to the throne, but in the end, he had no choice. There simply weren’t any male heirs.
Edward VI died on 6 July 1553. Jane was informed three days later that she was now Queen, which she apparently only reluctantly accepted. On the same day, Mary wrote to the privy council from Kenninghall with an order for her proclamation as Queen. By the 12th Mary and her supporters were gathered at Framlingham Castle ready to fight if necessary. Over the next few days, Mary’s support only grew. Lady Jane Grey was deposed on 19 July after a reign of only nine days. She had gone into the Tower of London to anticipate her coronation, and now she was imprisoned there. Mary rode into London in triumph on 3 August 1553, accompanied by her half-sister Elizabeth and over 800 nobles and gentlemen.
Mary had overcome it all to become England’s first undisputed Queen regnant, and it must have been an amazing moment for her. She realised that Lady Jane Grey had been used as a pawn and originally intended to spare her. Jane continued to be a symbol for the protestant cause, as seen in Wyatt’s rebellion early in the following year. She was executed on 12 February 1554.
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