mayakittenreads: (GirlReading)
March is Women’s History Month and today is International Women’s Day. This March also sees the running of a crowdfunding campaign on Pozible by Fablecroft Publishing, for an anthology of short fiction named Cranky Ladies of History.

All of this has inspired me to find out about the historical figure that has intrigued me since childhood, Lady Jane Grey.

I first came across Lady Jane Grey when I was a young girl reading Noel Streatfeild’s Gemma novels for the first time. In the second book, the protagonist, Gemma, is cast in the role of the Nine Days Queen in a school play.

This novel has a traditional, Victorian representation of young Jane, as an innocent manipulated by her parents and their political allies, who was reluctant to be Queen. Similar portrayals turn up elsewhere in pop culture, such as in the Sarah Jane Adventures episode Lost In Time or in the romanticized novel.

Having begun reading The Sisters Who Would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle, I have realized that this is not entirely accurate, and that Jane was a very cranky lady indeed.

That she was reluctant to take the throne, appears to be true, but once she had agreed (at the tender age of 16), she was determined. Jane was one of the new wave of Protestant believers in the wake of Henry VIII’s schism from Rome. And she very definitely believed.

Her father’s favourite daughter, she was extremely well educated and highly intelligent. She both wrote and spoke multiple languages, including Greek and Latin, and was learning Hebrew, and perhaps even Arabic. She read philosophers such as Plato and corresponded with some of the leading Protestant theologians from continental Europe.

The one thing that she did have problems with was the requirement of obedience.

Even when the Privy Council turned on her in favour of the Catholic Mary after nine days and imprisoned her in the Tower of London, she was determined to promote the cause of the Protestant religion.

She wrote a great deal and when Mary sent one of her chaplains to try and convert her to Catholicism, they debated for hours and she remained firm. She wrote letters to former acquaintances who had converted that were full of vitriol at their lack of faith. Her letter to one of her former tutors and now a Catholic convert, Dr Thomas Harding, referred to him as ‘now the deformed imp of the devil’ and his soul as ‘the stinking and filthy kennel of Satan’.

I am still fascinated by the juxtaposition of Lady Jane Grey. She was clearly reluctant to be Queen and the events leading up to the decision where very clearly manipulated by the noblemen surrounding her. Yet, even imprisoned and sentenced to die, she remained true to her religion and promoted it vehemently. She was her father’s favourite, yet her father sealed her fate. Queen Mary had not wanted to execute her young cousin, but Jane’s father led a revolt against Mary’s marriage to Prince Phillip of Spain, convincing Mary’s advisors that Jane was too dangerous to allow to live.

She is my favourite cranky lady of history and I was very moved to visit her grave in the chapel of the Tower of London a few years back. I hope she continues to capture my imagination for the rest of my life.

If you want to check out the Cranky Ladies of History anthology, and maybe throw your support behind it, you can find it at http://www.pozible.com/project/178572#description .

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