period: portrayals of Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey (1537–1554), a great-granddaughter of Henry VII of England, was proclaimed Queen Regnant of the Kingdom of England for nine days (or maybe thirteen days) in 1553.

Jane’s mother, Frances Grey, was the daughter of King Henry VIII’s younger sister Mary and her second husband Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. The bid to preserve a Protestant succession – and continuing power for her family – was unsuccessful: Mary Tudor seized the kingdom and the crown and Jane was beheaded at the age of sixteen.

Jane’s status as a monarch is controversial as her succession contravened an Act of Parliament (although this had also been the case with other English monarchs): after her brief rule ended her proclamation as Queen was revoked – winners write history. Although still in her teens, Jane Grey was known as one of the most learned women of her day and has been described by the historian Alison Weir as one of ‘the finest female minds of the century’.

There are no authenticated contemporary portraits of Lady Jane Grey: the engraving by Willem and Magdalena van de Passe dates from around 1620 but may be based on a lost Holbein portrait; the sixteenth-century ‘Streatham’ portrait, purchased by the National Portrait Gallery in 2006, bears the inscription ‘Lady Jayne’ and is thought to be late sixteenth-century copy of a contemporary portrait.

The movies & TV shows

The Prince and the Pauper (2000): Lady Jane Grey (Perdita Weeks) makes a brief appearance in yet another adaptation of the Mark Twain story. Perdita Weeks was probably aged fourteen when this was filmed – when Edward was still a prince she would have been under ten. Kati Tomola was makeup supervisor.

The Prince and the Pauper (1996): Featuring Sophia Myles as Lady Jane; again there is a significant age discrepancy as Sophia Myles would have been around sixteen when this was filmed. Coming soon…

Lady Jane (1986): This is probably the best known movie featuring Lady Jane Grey (Helena Bonham Carter). Lady Jane was portrayed as a young girl rather than as the accomplished young woman seen in the portraits above and contemporary accounts. Peter Frampton was the makeup supervisor; Christine Allsopp & Lynda Armstrong were the makeup artists.

Tudor Rose (1936): A dramatisation of Lady Jane Grey (Nova Pilbeam) as an innocent set up for the slaughter; the movie follows her short life, from her forced marriage to her beheading. Nova Pilbeam was probably the most age-appropriate movie Lady Jane; she was probably sixteen during filming. This was Roy Ashton’s first movie and he made the wigs.