If the words of Psalm 51 spoken from a condemned girl’s lips, give us a glimpse into the heart of this teenage martyr, consider some of the other recorded words of Lady Jane Grey. This prayer was dated shortly before her execution:
“O Lord, thou God and Father of my life, hear me, poor and desolate woman, which flieth unto thee only, in all troubles and miseries. Thou, O Lord, art the only defender and deliverer of those that put their trust in thee: and therefore I, being defiled with sin, encumbered with affliction, unquieted with troubles, wrapped in cares, overwhelmed with miseries, vexed with temptations, and grievously tormented with the long imprisonment of this vile mass of clay, my sinful body, do come unto thee, O merciful Savior, craving thy mercy and help, without the which so little hope of deliverance is left that I may utterly despair of any liberty.
Albeit it is expedient, that, seeing our life standeth upon trying, we should be visited sometime with some adversity, whereby we might both be tried whether we be of thy flock or no, and also know thee and ourselves the better, yet thou, that saidst thou wouldst not suffer us to be tempted above our power, be merciful unto me now, a miserable wretch, I beseech thee; which with Solomon (Proverbs 30:7-9) do cry unto thee, humbly desiring thee that i may neither be too much puffed up with prosperity, neither too much pressed down with adversity, lest I, being too full, should deny thee, my God, or being too low brought, should despair and blaspheme thee, my Lord and Savior.
O merciful God, consider my misery, best known unto thee; and be thou now unto me a strong tower of defense, I humbly require thee. Suffer me not to be tempted above my power, but either be thou a deliverer unto me out of this great misery, either else give me grace patiently to bear thy heavy hand and sharp correction. It was thy right hand that delivered the people of Israel out of the hands of Pharoah, which for the space of four hundred years did oppress them and keep them in bondage. Let it, therefore, likewise seem good to thy fatherly goodness to deliver me, sorrowful wretch (for whom thy son Christ shed his precious blood on the cross), out of this miserable captivity and bondage wherein I am now.
How long wilt thou be absent? forever? O Lord, hast thou forgotten to be gracious, and hast thou shut up thy loving-kindness in displeasure? Wilt thou be no more entreated? Is thy mercy clean gone forever, and thy promise come to an end for evermore? Why dost thou make so long tarrying? Shall I despair of thy mercy, O God? Far be that from me. I am thy workmanship, created in Christ Jesu: give me grace, therefore, to tarry thy leisure, and patiently to bear thy works; assuredly knowing that as thou canst, so thou wilt deliver me when it shall please thee, nothing doubting of mistrusting thy goodness towards me; for thou knowest better what is good for me than I do: therefore, do with me in all things what thou wilt, and plague me what way thou wilt. Only in the meantime, arm me, I beseech thee, with thy armor, that i may stand fast, my loins being girded about with verity, having on the breastplate of righteousness and shod with the shoes prepared by the gospel of peace; above all things, taking to me the shield of faith, wherewith I may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked, and taking the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the most holy word: praying always with all manner of prayer and supplecation, that i may refer myself wholly to thy will, abiding thy pleasure and comforting myself in those troubles that it shall please thee to send me; seeing such troubles be profitable for me, and seeing I am assuredly persuaded that it cannot be but well, all that thou doest.
Hear me, O merciful Father, for His sake whom thou wouldst shoud be a sacrifice for my sins: to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory. Amen.”
What kind of life experience produces that kind of spiritual maturity in the face of persecution? Consider these events from her history:
1536 (or 37) Lady Jane Grey is born to conniving parents Henry and Frances who in an attempt to gain access to the British throne commenced an unusual method of education with the hopes marrying their daughter off to Henry VIII’s son, Edward.
1542 Providence places Jane under the tutelage of protestant John Aylmer who instructs 6 year old Jane in Greek, Hebrew, Latin, French and Spanish and more importantly the Tyndale English Bible. She becomes so proficient in languages that she eventually is able to correspond in Latin and Greek with noteworthy Reformers such as Martin Bucer and Heinrich Bullinger.
1545 9-year-old Jane is sent to live permanently at court as maid-of-honor to King Henry VIII’s 6th wife, Catherine Parr, a devout Christian. There she engages in regular Bible study with other believers and comes to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. Prince Edward also is surrounded by strong Christian influences at this time including Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer and develops a deep zeal for the protestant faith.
1547 King Henry VIII dies and 9-year-old Edward becomes King of England but quickly falls victim to scheming Uncle Edward Seymour who assumes custody and thus control of the throne. Edward Seymour’s brother, Thomas, now married to King Henry VIII’s widow, Catherine Parr, is busy with his own schemes and convinces Jane’s father to sell her to him for 2000 pounds in exchange for a promised union with the young King Edward VI. 11-year-old Jane is now a ward of the Seymour’s and happily back under the Christian influence of Catherine. Unfortunately, Catherine soon after dies in childbirth just before Thomas himself is beheaded for attempted kidnapping of the king. Another conniving counselor to young King Edward VI, John Dudley, convinces Jane’s parents to transfer guardianship to himself.
1553 Dudley retains hopes of marrying his ward to King Edward VI until it becomes apparent that the young king is in fact dying of tuberculosis. So 16-year-old Jane is instead forced to marry John Dudley’s own son, Guilford. But Dudley keeps a foot in the royal door by demanding the marriage be considered unconsummated in case the young king pulls through and an annulment can be made, freeing Jane up to marry him. King Edward VI doesn’t pull through. He dies just a month and a half later. Edwards cousin, Lady Jane Grey, is proclaimed the new Queen of England by John Dudley himself. Jane responds to her new title with these words:
“The crown is not my right, and pleaseth me not. The Lady Mary is the rightful heir.”
Lady Jane Grey reluctantly holds the throne just over a week before her cousin Mary arrives with troops to depose her. Queen Jane gladly hands over the crown and is thenceforth known as the 9-Days-Queen.
To be continued…