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Lady Jane Grey: The Nine Days Queen
by [?]

IN all England there was no more picturesquely beautiful estate than that at Bradgate in Leicestershire, belonging to Henry, Marquis of Dorset, the father of Lady Jane Grey. There Lady Jane was born in 1537, in the great brick house on a hill, called Bradgate Manor, which overlooked acres of rolling lawns, long stretches of woodland and extensive gardens, making a vast playground, and one which might well have contented a less resourceful person than Lady Jane.

As it was, she was utterly unlike her two sisters, Mary and Katherine, being a precocious child, fonder of books than of play, and doubtless was less rugged in after years than if she had romped through meadow and marsh as they did, or waded in the clear brook that babbled its way through the woodland depths of Bradgate forests. Instead, while the other girls ran races, or played some boisterous game of childhood, we have glimpses of demure little Jane, even then as pretty as a doll in her quaint dress, fashioned on the model of that worn by her own mother, either sitting quietly in the house, so absorbed in her book that friend or foe might have approached unnoticed, or on the velvety lawn surrounding the Manor House, intent on some dry treatise, far above the understanding of an ordinary child, looking up now and then to glance off at the wonderful view spread out below her–a view so extensive that it overlooked seven counties of England.

There, at beautiful Bradgate, Lady Jane spent the first seven years of her life, busy with the endless resources at her command, and studying with her sisters under the instruction of the Reverend Mr. Harding, who was the chaplain of Bradgate–after the custom of those days–and it was he who laid the firm foundation of that devotion to the Protestant religion which was so strongly marked in Lady Jane’s after life.

Until Jane was seven years old she did not accompany her parents on their many visits to relatives of noble blood, or when they went to Court, for she was considered too small for that until she was eight years old, when she was occasionally taken with her family to London or elsewhere. Lady Frances Dorset, Jane’s mother, was a niece of King Henry the Eighth, and so the Dorsets belonged to the brilliantly extravagant court circle of the famously extravagant Henry, and in her ninth year Lady Jane began to visit frequently her royal great-uncle, who was said to be as fond of children as he was of pastry, and doubtless enjoyed having Jane, an exceptionally bright, pretty girl, to divert his thoughts when the pains in his gouty limbs were unusually severe. And Queen Katherine, too, was a deeply affectionate aunt, and as soon as it was allowed, kept Jane constantly with her, directing the child’s studies herself, and giving her the freedom of the Queen’s own private apartments, where keen-eyed, quick-witted little Jane must have seen and heard much by which a more stupid child would not have benefited, but which Jane stored up for future reference,–especially the discussions between the Queen and those learned theologians with whom she so often talked, and many a scene of which Lady Jane was witness has been recorded in history.

The Queen frequently disputed with the King on religious matters, and one day when he was especially out of humour, she remonstrated with him about a proclamation forbidding the use of a translation of the Bible. This made him very angry, and as soon as the Queen left the room, Gardiner, one of the King’s councillors who was no friend of the Queen, fanned the King’s anger into such a fury by his remarks against her, and by complimenting the King on his wisdom, that susceptible King Henry allowed himself to draw up an accusation against Queen Katherine, which would lead to her being beheaded–as two of his queens had been before. The document having been drawn up, all preparations for carrying out its directions were made, when one of the King’s councillors dropped it, and an attendant of Queen Katherine fortunately picked it up, and took it at once to the Queen. One glance showed the danger she was in, and she fell into such convulsions of fright that her shrieks reached the private room of the King, whose heart softened at the sound, and also at the realisation that no one would ever care for him with the tenderness and tact of Katherine. Calling his attendants, he was carried to Katherine, who revived at once, and received him graciously, showing no fear of him, which was a great point in her favour, and the next morning, having thought out her plan of action, she visited the King’s room, taking her sister and Lady Jane Grey with her. The King received them pleasantly, but soon brought up the religious discussion of the previous day. This time, however, Katherine was ready for him, and with a sweet smile and downcast eyes, as before her lord and master, she acknowledged that she “being only a woman” was of course not so well versed in such matters as His Majesty, that thereafter she would learn of him! This delighted the King so much that when Katherine added the confession that she had many times argued with him simply to pass away the weary hours of his pain more quickly, he exclaimed, “And is it so, sweetheart? Then we are perfect friends!” and kissing her, bade her depart, and for the moment the Queen knew that her head was safe. But the next day when she and Lady Jane Grey and several others were in the garden with the King, the Lord-chancellor with forty of the King’s guards came to arrest Her Majesty, and not having been told that Henry’s mood had changed was naturally much astonished at Henry’s exclamation, “Beast! fool! knave–avaunt from my presence!”–in fact so discomforted was the Lord-chancellor that tender-hearted Katherine begged that he be excused, as she deemed “his fault was occasioned by a mistake,” and so charming was she as she pleaded, that her husband showed his admiration for her.