At midday on 12 February 1554, Lady Jane Grey crossed the Tower of London to face her execution. According to an account of that day, Jane carried a small prayer book, almost certainly this manuscript, from which she read her final prayers.
Who was Lady Jane Grey?
Lady Jane Grey was Queen of England for just nine days. Following the death of her cousin, King Edward VI (r. 1547–1553), and under pressure from her father-in-law, the Duke of Northumberland, 15-year-old Jane claimed the English throne in July 1553. She was soon overthrown in favour of the Catholic Princess Mary.
Why is the prayer book important?
Imprisoned in the Tower of London, this small manuscript would have been a source of comfort for the young noblewoman, and a visual manifestation of her steadfast faith. It contains prayers translated into English, including several prayers attributed to women, such as Esther’s prayer ‘for help against her Enymyes’. The manuscript was also a space for Jane and her imprisoned husband Lord Guildford Dudley to record handwritten personal messages to their family. It also contains a poignant message to Sir John Bridges, Lieutenant of the Tower, written across several pages. Jane urges him ‘not to take the worde of trewethe utterlye oute of youre mouthe’, and in spite of her imminent execution, she hopes that Bridges might ‘lyve styll to dye that by deathe you maye purchase eternall life’.
Browse through the entire manuscript on our Digitised Manuscripts website.