Read that again. Lady Jane Grey. When you read that you think of a rich, important woman, right? We've heard brief mentions of this "lady" in history books, but who was she really? Let's find out.
In 1537, Jane Grey was born in England to Henry Grey, Marquis of Dorset, and his wife Lady Frances. It was in the times of King Henry VIII. King Henry died, however, leaving only one son, Edward, who was Jane's own age. Jane was not a happy child. Her parents cared nothing for her, and were cruel to their children. When Jane was 9, the Marquis told his daughter that she was to be sent to live with Queen Kartherine, the widow of King Henry. There she would learn to be a lady. So nine-year-old Jane left her home to live among strangers. She did not miss her parents, but she did miss her two little sisters, Catherine and Mary. But she was soon happy with Queen Katherine, much happier than with her parents. While the sweet little girl lived with the widowed queen, she heard Katherine speaking of a Savior, whom she loved with all her heart. Who was this person whom Katherine loved so much? Jane began to listen to the adults. They spoke of Jesus, who had come to the earth to die because of the sinfulness of man. He had loved them so much that he had taken their punishment. What's more, Jane learned that He had died for anyone who would believe in Him. Jane saw her sin, and she saw how Jesus had saved and changed these people. She saw their love for Him and for each other, and she wanted Him to be her Savior. Katherine was a Protestant, as King Henry had been, and Jane became a Protestant as well. Sweet little Jane. She was so happy. But that did not last. When she had been with Katherine only a year, Katherine died in childbirth. The queen had remarried after Henry died. Poor Jane! The ten-year-old girl was taken back to her parents' house with a broken heart. And Jane was no longer happy. In her diary she wrote: "When I am in the presence of Father and Mother, whether I speak, keep silent, sit, stand or go, eat, drink, be merry or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing anything else, I must do it as it were in such weight, measure and number, even so perfectly as God made the world; or I am sharply taunted and cruelly treated, sometimes with pinches, nips, and bobs and in other ways." What an unhappy life she led! But did she leave her Savior, thinking He did not love her? No, she clung to Him though it all. He would keep her safe, and she need not fear or despair. Her only happy hours were spent with her tutor, Mr. Aylmer. He was a Protestant as well, and she enjoyed learning from him greatly. "He teaches me so gently, so pleasantly…and when I am called from him, I fall on weeping because whatsoever else I do but learning is full of grief, trouble and fear." When Jane was 16 she was married to Guildford Dudley, the son of Lord Dudley. He was several years older than her, and handsome, but she did not love him, and he was not kind to her. Lord Dudley was the most powerful man in London, and it was he who had arranged the marriage of Guildford and Jane. He knew what King Henry had decided about Jane. When the King had died, he said that if his children left no heirs, then Jane would become queen. Lord Dudley hoped that through this he could make Guildford king. Then Edward, the young king, died, leaving no heir. Lord Dudley immediately took Jane to the Tower of London and proclaimed her queen of England. Then, Lord Dudley told Jane that he would make Guildford king. But Jane, the slender, sixteen-year-old new queen, told him no. "Guildford cannot, by law, become king," she said. Lord Dudley knew this was true, but it made him angry. Did Jane forget her God now that He had let her become a political pawn in the hands of men greedy for power? No. She knew that He had a plan that she could not understand, but which He was using for good. "I will trust you Lord, although I don't know what you have for me," she prayed. Many in England thought that Mary, Edward's sister, should be the queen. Mary gathered an army, so Lord Dudley appointed Jane's father commander of an army to fight Mary. At this, Jane firmly put her foot down. No, she said. She knew that if her father died, she would be completely in Dudley's power. So Dudley marched with the army. But Mary won. Jane was imprisoned in the Tower of London and Dudley was executed. Did Jane forget the Lord in fear? No, this young girl was only 16, yet she stayed strong. In mid-September, Mary decided that Jane and Guildford would stand trial. Two months later, they were both condemed to die. Mary was a Catholic, but England had been Protestant under King Heny and his son Edward. She said, "Jane is young, and she was manipulated by others." She told Jane that if Jane would only become a Catholic, she would not be executed. She did not need to die. But Jane told Mary, "I will not give up the Lord who died for me. I will die for him if I must." Many times Mary sent a priest to speak with Jane, trying to persuade her. Jane thanked him for his kindness to her, but told him no. Finally, Jane was taken to be beheaded. In her last words she again thanked the priest, and asked the Lord to show him the truth. Moments later, Jane was rejoicing with the angels.
Jane Grey, age sixteen, stayed strong in her faith. She loved her Lord Jesus more than power, even more than life itself. She loved and trusted Him to her very last breath. So was Lady Jane Grey a rich, important lady? Well, yes, she was rich and important. But she was only 16. She was hardly more than a girl. What does this show us? Do we have to be grown-ups to stand for our Savior? No. Jane had courage in the face of incredibly difficult circumstances, all because of her love for Jesus. We could all learn a lesson from her.