16 Rulers who Reigned for less than 50 Days

The Streatham portrait of Lady Jane Gray (c. the 1590s). Wikimedia Commons.

15. Lady Jane Grey was Queen of England, if informally, for 13 days before being deposed by Mary I.

Lady Jane Grey, also known as Lady Jane Dudley or, incorrectly, as the “Nine Days” Queen, was briefly the Queen of England from July 10, 1553 CE, until July 19. The eldest daughter of Frances, Duchesses of Suffolk, herself the eldest daughter of Mary Tudor, Lady Grey was born in either late-1536 or early-1537 as a direct descendant of Henry VII, Henry VIII and the first cousin of Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. A respected intellectual and devout Protestant, in June 1553 the ailing Edward VI nominated Lady Grey and her male heirs as the formal successors to the Crown in repudiation of his half-sisters. This named Mary and Elizabeth as illegitimate in spite of the Third Succession Act (1543) and Treason Act (1547),  which made attempts to subvert the succession punishable by death. The “Devise of the Succession” nonetheless placed Lady Jane Grey as the heir apparent to the terminal king.

After Edward’s death at the early age of 15 on July 6, 1553, a reluctant Lady Grey was formally proclaimed Queen of England four days later and awaited her coronation at the Tower of London as per convention. However, despite the late Edward’s wishes, support rapidly grew for Mary over Jane and on July 19 the Privy Council proclaimed Mary as the rightful queen. Jane was deposed and imprisoned for treason, whilst her supporters, notably the Duke of Northumberland, were executed. Denounced by parliament as a usurper on August 22, 1553, Lady Grey was convicted of high treason in November 1553. Sentenced to “be burned alive on Tower Hill or beheaded as the Queen pleases”, Mary initially commuted her sentence to imprisonment until Lady Grey’s father and brothers joined Thomas Wyatt’s rebellion against the Catholic Queen’s plan to marry Philip II of Spain, whereupon she became viewed as too great of a threat to her position. Consequently, on February 12, 1553, both Lady Jane Grey and her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley, were executed.