See J. D. Taylor, ed., Documents of Lady Jane Grey: Nine Days Queen of England, 1553 (2004); H. W. Chapman, Lady Jane Grey (1962); A. Plowden, Lady Jane Grey and the House of Suffolk (1986) and Lady Jane Grey: Nine Days Queen (2003).
Lady Jane Grey, detail of a panel attributed to Master John, circa 1545; in the National Portrait elipsis
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The Execution of Lady Jane Grey is an oil painting by Paul Delaroche completed in 1833. It is currently housed in the National Gallery in London. The painting portrays, erroneously in some regards, the moments preceding the death of Lady Jane Grey, who was executed in 1554. Jane is also known as "Nine Days' Queen" due to the brevity of her reign as monarch of England.
Jane was proclaimed queen on July 10, 1553; nine days later, she was removed as monarch. It was Mary who was the overwhelmingly popular choice among the English people, so much so that Jane's father backed her. It was upon his advice that she relinquished the throne, and Mary, who had led the rebellion against Jane, had Jane, her husband (Northumberland's son), and her father, who received a temporary reprieve, put in the Tower of London on charges of high treason. Jane's trial was conducted in November, but the death penalty handed to her was temporarily suspended. However, in February 1554, her father was one of the rebel leaders in Wyatt's rebellion, and on February 12, Mary had Jane, aged 17, and her husband beheaded. Her father followed two days later. The man leading Jane to the block is the only other recognizable figure in the painting, John Brydges, 1st Baron Chandos. Brydges was a lieutenant at the Tower at the time of her execution.
Delaroche painted the work in 1833, nearly 300 years after the execution, and he drew mainly upon contemporary historical sources to help him portray an accurate rendition of the event. Delaroche was on familiar ground with a painting of this nature, as he had built his reputation in the Paris salon with large, realistic portrayals of famous events from the previous few centuries. Not all aspects of the painting are correct though; the execution is shown being clandestinely conducted in a dimly-lit dungeon, when it was actually conducted in the open air in the grounds of the Tower of London. Delaroche is believed to have done this to create dramatic effect, and may have used artistic license elsewhere to convey his own message.
The clothing Lady Jane is shown wearing is also inaccurate: it resembles French undergarments of the time, which were laced at the front, while the English equivalent (which Lady Jane would have worn) were laced at the back.
The psychological impression that the painting was attempting to create, and the emotions that it intended to evoke, were explored by the Head of Education at the National Gallery, Ghislaine Kenyon, for a Channel 4 programme entitled National Gallery in 2008. Kenyon commented on the sense of foreboding that the darkness was intended to create. He also thought that the clean hay, which was commonly placed near the site of an execution to soak up blood, and the white dress, were deliberately left blank to make the observer suppose what would happen to them next.
The painting was thought to have been destroyed in the disastrous Tate Gallery flood of 1928 and was only rediscovered in 1973 by curator Christopher Johnstone. He was writing a book on the British painter John Martin and going through the damaged canvases remaining from the flood in search of a missing painting by the artist. He found the Martin (albeit damaged beyond repair) rolled inside the Delaroche painting which was in perfect condition and transferred to the National Gallery where it should have gone when the national art collections were rationalized following the establishment of the Tate Gallery.