Sunday, December 2, 2007

Images of Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane, the inspiration for the Rolling Stones song of the same name, reigned as Queen of England for nine days, and nobody knows for sure what she looked like. Jane was well educated, lauded as one of the most educated women of her time. She turned to her books as an escape from her mother, Frances Brandon, who was abusive and who beat her daughter daily for being too "meek and gentle" in an attempt to harden her. In 1546, she was sent to live as the ward of the more nurturing Catherine Parr, the wife of King Henry VIII. After King Henry VIII died, Catherine remarried Sir Thomas Seymour, and then died herself during the birth of her only child.

Jane went back to the custody of Brandon, who forced her to marry Lord Guilford Dudley against her will. With the help of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, the throne was willed to Jane by Edward VI and she was named Queen in 1553. She refused to name Dudley King, but offered to make him Duke of Clarence instead. Within only nine days, the people of England voiced their support for Mary Tudor to take the throne, and she did, charging Dudley and Jane with treason. The sentence was death, and she was beheaded in 1554 at the young age of seventeen.

To date, there is only one authenticated artistic rendering of Queen Jane. Several portraits have been thought to be her, but evidence has shown that none of them were painted from life.

Battista Spinola, a Genoeses merchant, has left a contemporary report of Jane's appearance:
'This Jana very short and thin, but prettily shaped and graceful. She has small features and a well made nose, the mouth flexible and the lips red. The eyebrows are arched and darker than her hair, which is nearly red. Her eyes are sparkling...her colour good but freckled...In all, a charming...person...very small and short."

Experts at the England National Museum recently deduced that a portrait formerly thought to be Queen Jane was actually a portrait of Catherine Parr. Analysis of the jewels worn in the portrait below yielded this conclusion.

The "Streatham Portrait of Lady Jayne" underwent much scrutiny as well. Faint writing on the portrait reads "Lady Jayne" and was painted at the same time as the painting. Dr Libby Sheldon of the University College of London examined it using several techniques including spectroscopy and Raman laser microscopy, concluding that the painting is authentically Tudor-period in origin. However, dendrochronological analysis of the boards on which the portrait was painted yielded conclusive evidence that it was painted at least forty years after her death. So although it is possible that this is a copy of another painting that was painted while she was alive, there is no substantiation that this is what she really looked like.

In March 2007, Dr. David Starkey of Yale University discovered a brooch that was identified as portraying Queen Jane as the sitter in the portrait. By studying the jewelry worn by the portrait's subject, Starkey and experts conclude that "It is the first confirmed image of her painted in her lifetime."


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