Lady Jane Grey was nominal Queen of England for just nine days in 1553 as part of an unsuccessful bid to prevent the accession of the Catholic Mary Tudor. This new display charts the posthumous iconography of Lady Jane Grey and explores how works in print promoted her as an archetypal Protestant heroine and martyr.
It is not known for certain whether a portrait of Lady Jane Grey was painted during her lifetime. Given that Lady Jane came to prominence only for a very short period before her death (from July 1553 to February 1554), there would have been only a small opportunity in which a portrait from the life could have been painted. The reign and execution of the 'nine days queen' seems not to have made a considerable impact on the public consciousness of the day. It was not until the turn of the seventeenth century that a culture of producing posthumous portraits of Lady Jane Grey developed.
This display of twenty prints from the Archive Collection of the National Portrait Gallery
includes der Passes's influential engraving for Henry Holland's Heroologia (1620), and prints of sentimental history paintings, popular in the nineteenth century. A posthumous portrait of Lady Jane Grey, acquired by the Gallery in 2006, hangs at the entrance to the display. Some early prints present an image of Lady Jane Grey that are comparable to this portrait but actually derive from the portrait of Catherine Parr, attributed to Master John, displayed in Room 1 of the Gallery. Later prints present fictitious narrative scenes from her short life.
Lady Jane Dudley (née Grey) (1537-1554) was the grand-daughter of Henry VIII's sister Princess Mary, and in 1553 married Lord Guildford Dudley, son of the Duke of Northumberland. Under Northumberland's influence Edward VI willed her the crown. She was proclaimed queen at his death in July 1553, and reigned for around nine days until imprisoned by supporters of Mary Tudor. She was executed at the age of sixteen in the aftermath of Wyatt's rebellion.
Lady Jane Grey will also be the subject of the National Gallery exhibition Painting History: Delaroche and Lady Jane Grey, 24 February - 23 May 2010.