The deadly inheritance of Lady Jane Grey: 60 seconds with Nicola Tallis

Forced to take the throne by the politicians around her, Lady Jane Grey reigned as titular queen of England for just nine days before she was condemned for high treason and executed. At our York History Weekend this November, Nicola Tallis will explore her tragic story, revealing a young woman who saw herself as a champion of Protestantism, and ultimately became a martyr for her faith... 

Nicola Tallis.

Ahead of her talk, ‘Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey’, we caught up with Nicola to find out more…

 

Q: What can audiences look forward to in your talk?

A: A bit of everything! The great thing about the story of Lady Jane Grey is that it contains all of the elements that make the Tudor period so fascinating: drama, intrigue, ambition – all of which sadly culminate in disaster and tragedy. 

Lady Jane Grey, who was married to Lord Guildford Dudley as part of her father's plot to gain the crown, was arrested on the orders of Queen Mary I in 1553 and later executed by beheading at the Tower of London. (Kean Collection/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
 

Q: Why are you so fascinated by this topic?

A: Before I started working on Lady Jane Grey, I thought that there wasn’t much more that I could possibly add – I thought that everything had already been said. It came as a complete surprise when I went back to the original sources and discovered that actually there was so much material that hadn’t been incorporated into Jane’s story. The Jane that I discovered was very different from the one that had been portrayed for many centuries, and it was fascinating delving deeper into how this portrait of her emerged. Comparing this with the material I found was riveting.

 

Q: Tell us something that might surprise or shock us about this area of history.

A: Lady Jane Grey is actually the only Tudor monarch for whom there are no portraits or authenticated likenesses, so aside from the few descriptions of her we have no real idea of what she looked like. 

A 19th-century painting of the execution of Lady Jane Grey, which took place in the Tower of London in 1554. (VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)
 

Q: If you could go back in time to witness one moment in history, what would you choose and why?

A: I’d love to have witnessed a glimpse of Elizabeth I’s famous visit to Kenilworth Castle in 1575. Her host Robert Dudley put a great deal of time and money into arranging a whole array of lavish festivities for the queen’s entertainment, including masques, fireworks, hunting and banquets. It was such a dazzling spectacle that it became known as the ‘princely pleasures’, and I’m sure it would have been a wonderful sight to behold!

 

Q: What historical mystery would you most like to solve?

A: It may be quite an obvious choice, but like many people I’m dying to know the truth about the Princes in the Tower!

 

Q: What job do you think you would be doing now if you weren’t a historian/author?

A: I used to be a beauty therapist but I hated it, so definitely not that! I adore animals, so I’d like to think I’d be doing something that encompassed that – perhaps a wildlife rehabilitator. 

Nicola Tallis is a historian, researcher and author. Her debut book, Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey, was published in 2016. She will be speaking about Lady Jane Grey at BBC History Magazine’s York History Weekend on Sunday 26 November.

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