Lady Jane Grey Declining the Crown by Smirke, circa 1793
Lady Jane Grey Declining the Crown by Robert Smirke, engraved by William Bromley, from Hume's The History of England, circa 1793.
Lady Jane Grey (c.1536 - 1554) was an English noblewoman and the de facto Queen of England for nine days. She was the eldest surviving daughter of Henry Grey and Frances Brandon. Her maternal grandmother was Mary Tudor Brandon, the younger sister of Henry VIII. This secured for her a place in the line of succession. Jane was born at Bradgate Park sometime in either 1536 or 1537. Not much is known about her early life except that, like her cousins Mary and Elizabeth, she received an excellent and thorough education. She was taught how to speak and read English, Latin, Greek, French and Italian. At age nine she went to court to live in the household of Queen Catherine Parr. They were very fond of each other and in 1548 when Parr died Jane acted as chief mourner at the funeral. At that time Thomas Seymour took over Jane's ward-ship, promising to arrange a marriage between Jane and King Edward. The plan failed and Jane returned to her parent's care. Her father then attempted to marry her to Edward Seymour's son, the Lord Hertford. This too came to nothing and Jane was married to John Dudley's son, Guildford, on May 21, 1553. When her cousin Edward VI realized he was going to die, he, with Dudley's help, drafted his own will naming Jane as his successor. This was done to prevent the return of Catholic rule to England under his half-sister Mary. Edward died on July 6, 1553, and Dudley quickly tried to establish Jane as queen before Mary arrived in London. Jane was informed on the 9th that she was now Queen of England and that she must accept the crown. However, the people supported Mary's claim, so it did not take long for Dudley's power to unravel and his plan to fail. Nine days later Mary was declared Queen and Jane was arrested for treason. Though Jane was convicted of having usurped the throne, Mary initially stayed her execution. However Wyatt's Rebellion made Mary concerned that other such rebellions may occur as long as Jane was allowed to live. She therefore ordered the execution, which took place on February 12, 1554.
William Bromley (1769-1842) was an English engraver born on the Isle of Wight. He was apprenticed at a young age to Wooding, an engraver. Early in his career his illustrations for Macklin's Bible and the History of England were rather popular. In 1819, he became an Associate Engraver at the Royal Academy as well as a member of the Academy of St. Luke. He exhibited fifty plates at the Royal Academy from 1786 until his death. Among his more famous works are the Death of Nelson after Davis and Ruben's Woman taken in Adultery. Bromley was also commissioned by the British Museum to engrave the Elgin Marbles.
Robert Smirke (1752-1845) was a prolific painter and illustrator. His father was a traveling artist, and at thirteen Robert was apprenticed to a heraldic painter in London. At twenty he began studying at the Royal Academy schools. Smirke became a member of the Incorporated Society of Artists and began exhibiting with them in 1775. He also showed works with the society's exhibitions in 1777 and 1778. His Narcissus and The Lady and Sabrina were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1786, and five years latter he was elected an associated member of the Academy. His diploma piece, Don Quixote and Sancho, led to his election as a full Academician in 1793. Smirke was nominated for the position of keeper to the Royal Academy in 1804, but King George III disapproved and Henry Fuseli became keeper. Infancy (1813) was the last work Smirke exhibited at the Academy, but he continued to exhibit works elsewhere until 1834. Smirke often painted his pieces small and monochromatic to make them easier to engrave for publication. He illustrated a number of publications, including the Bible, Don Quixote, and several collections of poems by his contemporaries. His works can also be found in such popular periodicals as The Amulet, The Keepsake, and The Gem.