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4.7 out of 5 stars
20
4.7 out of 5 stars


on 17 October 2009
Other than its title suggests, this book is essentially an analysis of the year 1553. However, Lady Jane's entire life and works are presented with many discussions of detail. A final chapter details her afterlife in the arts, novels, movies, and so on. Additionally, the young King Edward VI, his chief minister John Dudley Duke of Northumberland, and Mary Tudor, Edward's much older half-sister, are each given a short but fascinating biography. Ives thoroughly reassesses Edward's last will, "My devise for the succession" and draws some remarkable conclusions. In other aspects, in the light of what has been written by Diarmaid MacCulloch, David Loades, Stephen Alford, and even W.K. Jordan, his arguments are not always as new as they might seem. However this is no bad thing. Ives's greatest achievement is that he overcomes hindsight, one of the most frequent and serious sins in historians. Another very agreeable thing is his fairness towards all the players. Unlike some other accounts, his book refrains from distorting evidence to make more spectacular points; nevertheless it is a thrilling read, and also a moving one.
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on 8 October 2011
Like his previous work on Anne Boleyn, this book is essentially a thorough, well researched and meticulous presentation of the proclamation of a relatively remote Tudor claimant to the throne, the subsequent ramifications which unfolded because of it and the series of events which preceded it.

The reasons for catapulting a young, shy, sixteen year old granddaughter of Mary Tudor in favour of her formidable cousin, Mary, have over the centuries been explained away by the deviousness or ambitions of her parents, and in particular, John Dudley, the then Duke of Northumberland, who has gone down in history as the prerogarator of the whole affair.
Ives' work however very interestingly challenges this theory (which has been conventionally accepted by even some of the most senior and respected historians of our time) whilst not discrediting Jane in the process.

Ives reveals that Dudley was an accomplished soldier (more suited to the military than career politics) who had to contend very early on in life with the ramifications of his father's execution for treason shortly after the accession of Henry VIII, and uses a series of contemporary letters and accounts written by Dudley to support his assertion, that far from courting controversy (and ambition), Dudley was actually an insecure individual, constantly fearing that he would become victim to court gossip or the disfavour of the monarch as his father and some of his contemporaries had.
Ives also contests that far from actively encouraging the downfall of his rival, Edward Seymour, Dudley supported and sustained Seymour during his tenure as Protector insofar as was possible and that it was he, rather than the popular Seymour, who encountered public dissatisfaction as a result of recession, levies and poor management conducted by Seymour which led to higher public taxation.
Ives makes a convincing argument for the case that Dudley, far from being the scrupulous and conniving individual depicted of late, was a man committed to his government, work, religion (only converting to Catholicsm before his execution in exchange for a vain promise of life) and touchingly dedicated to his wife, family and even his various sons and daughters-in-law.

Indeed, so impressed was I with this depiction of Dudley's character and the conviction with Ives' arguments, that I also found myself questioning why this man had gone down in history for his notorious role in these events, although as Ives also admits, his protagonists' claims have not entirely been without foundation, especially with regard to why Dudley married his son, Guildford, off to Jane and contracted almost last-minute alliances with the Earl of Pembroke before Edward's demise in May 1553. Such actions could surely indicate that Dudley was clearly aware of the state of Edward VI's health at this crucial time.

Yet, Ives convincingly argues that Edward's devise for the succession was entirely his own invention and not that of Dudley.
One example he cites to support this argument is Dudley's apparent recognition of Mary as heir in February 1553, and furthermore, no contemporary courtier or ambassadorial account seems to indicate that anything was seriously afoot (this was not the case in relation to the downfall of Anne Boleyn in 1536).

Dudley's role in these events only comes into prominence when Edward's health takes a serious turn for the worse, leading to Edward's "devise" as it would be called, which essentially consisted of supplanting his sisters as heirs in favour of the legitimate, Jane Grey and her "heirs male".

As we can see from the vivid description of the devise, it was incredibly idealistic, unpractical and ultimately, unworkable. The contents of the devise meant appointing the succession to any of the male heirs of Henry VIII's sister, Mary Tudor (who were all female) and leaving the female parent to rule as regent until that male heir had reached the age of majority.

As Ives points out, such a devise was unrealistic, as it could clearly have benefitted the heirs of Eleanor Brandon, or the remaining two Grey sisters and very possibly led to rival factions and conflict between the various heiresses.
As suggested by Ives, one analysing the plot in great depth, would hardly conclude that this was the work of John Dudley.
Nevertheless the "devise" is divulged here in fascinating detail and surely reveals as much about the idealistic but deluded Edward at this time as it does about the other two main characters in the plot, Dudley and Jane.

Ives' focus on Jane is also equally as fascinating and lucid, revealing this girl to have been a formidable intellect as well as a devoted reformer, who, like her cousin Elizabeth, may similarly have harboured some attachment towards Thomas Seymour and was certainly in her element when brought up under the guardianship of the Queen Dowager, Katherine Parr.

All in all, I was very impressed with this work, although I have to agree that the title is slightly misleading, choosing not to focus on Jane's life as a whole but on the events which precipitated and succeeded her nine day rule in 1553. However, Ives does delve into some depth on Jane's early life, her rigorous and scholarly upbringing for example, and the religious life with which she was exposed to at her home in Bradgate, which became a sort of meeting-place for the trendy, up and coming reformist circles of the 1550s.

One aspect of Ives' assertion which I do not agree with is his conclusion that Jane was the legitimate heir to the throne. As he himself attests, the devise so avidly postulated by Edward VI, was practically unworkable anyway and was also based on Edward's manipulation of Henry VIII's 1536 Act of Succession and subsequent Will (which meant that conjointedly, despite Mary and Elizabeth having been declared "illegitimate" by the same Act, Henry was able to appoint a successor of his own choosing, which is what he then did when nominating Mary and Elizabeth as heirs in 1547, should Edward fail to produce any issue).

As Ives states, this reasoning might well have been lost on the majority of the lay population of the day, but the "natural" rules of succession based on hereditary right (which would become a sore point for Elizabeth on the point of Mary, Queen of Scots) was a popular concept known to both the lay people and the nobility alike, and would have settled the matter, coupled with the argument that Henry's first two marriages were contracted in "good faith", thus arguing Mary & Elizabeth's technical legitimacy.

However, disagreements on the conclusion aside - this is nevertheless a truly magnificent piece of work on the demise of a remarkable and talented young girl. This work illuminates on the events which lead to this dramatic tragedy and Ives also introduces a new dimension to the argument, particularly on the role of John Dudley, which leads to some sympathy towards Dudley as a potential victim of Tudor politics as well as Jane.

I would thoroughly recommend this book for anyone wishing to study this event in greater depth.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 January 2016
I've read other articles and papers by Eric Ives, and admire his refreshing stance on many things Tudor. So I was happy to see this book by him, on a woman who has aroused plenty of interest and (mis)information of her own since her own lifetime. Lady Jane Grey was descended from the Tudors, and cousin to King Edward VI. She was, unfortunately for her, a victim of her parentage, and the pawn of men (and women) who saw her as an opportune way for them to gain power over the throne, by one means or another. Both Jane and her sisters were used and abused all their lives by others. Certainly Jane's life could be considered tragic, and you do find yourself wondering what her life would have been like if circumstances had not thrust her into the limelight that she never sought for herself.

The author has an uncanny ability to take historical facts and analyse them to a detail which then lays the results bare to the reader from a new and intriguing viewpoint. In this book, he has taken the year 1553 and dissected the events, the people, the actions, and the consequences of all that happened in that year. The `mystery' of the title of the book devolves largely around how and why the events of 1553 occurred. Crucial to the succession following Edward VI was, of course, Edward's paper entitled `My Deuise for the Succession', its amendments and edits, the adoption of same, and the arguments around the legality of same. This is treated in very clear detail in the book, which I appreciated. Also very clearly treated is the likely relationship between Edward and his advisors, particularly Somerset and Northumberland. This details are crucial to conclusion around the succession, both during and after Edward's lifetime.

It struck me forcefully from this book that Jane Grey, during her lifetime, was used in a political sense; her importance was political to those who manipulated her. However, as soon as she was dead, her importance became that of religion; she was seen as a Protestant martyr against the Catholicism of Mary. And it really is her political importance that we need to understand, from the perspective of 1553, not afterwards, if we are to get a clear idea of who Jane was and what she stood for in her own lifetime. Getting beyond the people who used her, both in life and in death, and finding the `real' Jane, and ultimately what happened in 1553, is what this book is all about. In Part I, the scene is set. In Part II, there are subsections on each of the protagonists - Jane Grey, Mary Tudor, John Dudley and Edward VI. Part III covers in detail the fateful thirteen days of Jane's queenship and overthrow, and Part IV covers the consequences to those involved. The success of the build-up to the final ending, even though we know it is coming, is evidenced by the fact that when you read of Jane's final tragic days, and her sad trip to the scaffold, you feel a fresh horror at what the poor girl had to go through in her short life.

Ives has used his sources well, both primary and secondary, and the clarifications on the adoption or otherwise of previous historians' viewpoints is very clearly set out. In all, although this book is not overly long, it is very full and clearly laid out, and offers all the relevant information to be a fairly definitive view of the year 1553, and the transition between Edward VI, Jane Grey and Mary I. Absorbing, informative, and very readable - highly recommended, as are all of Ives' books.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 January 2016
I've read other articles and papers by Eric Ives, and admire his refreshing stance on many things Tudor. So I was happy to see this book by him, on a woman who has aroused plenty of interest and (mis)information of her own since her own lifetime. Lady Jane Grey was descended from the Tudors, and cousin to King Edward VI. She was, unfortunately for her, a victim of her parentage, and the pawn of men (and women) who saw her as an opportune way for them to gain power over the throne, by one means or another. Both Jane and her sisters were used and abused all their lives by others. Certainly Jane's life could be considered tragic, and you do find yourself wondering what her life would have been like if circumstances had not thrust her into the limelight that she never sought for herself.

The author has an uncanny ability to take historical facts and analyse them to a detail which then lays the results bare to the reader from a new and intriguing viewpoint. In this book, he has taken the year 1553 and dissected the events, the people, the actions, and the consequences of all that happened in that year. The `mystery' of the title of the book devolves largely around how and why the events of 1553 occurred. Crucial to the succession following Edward VI was, of course, Edward's paper entitled `My Deuise for the Succession', its amendments and edits, the adoption of same, and the arguments around the legality of same. This is treated in very clear detail in the book, which I appreciated. Also very clearly treated is the likely relationship between Edward and his advisors, particularly Somerset and Northumberland. This details are crucial to conclusion around the succession, both during and after Edward's lifetime.

It struck me forcefully from this book that Jane Grey, during her lifetime, was used in a political sense; her importance was political to those who manipulated her. However, as soon as she was dead, her importance became that of religion; she was seen as a Protestant martyr against the Catholicism of Mary. And it really is her political importance that we need to understand, from the perspective of 1553, not afterwards, if we are to get a clear idea of who Jane was and what she stood for in her own lifetime. Getting beyond the people who used her, both in life and in death, and finding the `real' Jane, and ultimately what happened in 1553, is what this book is all about. In Part I, the scene is set. In Part II, there are subsections on each of the protagonists - Jane Grey, Mary Tudor, John Dudley and Edward VI. Part III covers in detail the fateful thirteen days of Jane's queenship and overthrow, and Part IV covers the consequences to those involved. The success of the build-up to the final ending, even though we know it is coming, is evidenced by the fact that when you read of Jane's final tragic days, and her sad trip to the scaffold, you feel a fresh horror at what the poor girl had to go through in her short life.

Ives has used his sources well, both primary and secondary, and the clarifications on the adoption or otherwise of previous historians' viewpoints is very clearly set out. In all, although this book is not overly long, it is very full and clearly laid out, and offers all the relevant information to be a fairly definitive view of the year 1553, and the transition between Edward VI, Jane Grey and Mary I. Absorbing, informative, and very readable - highly recommended, as are all of Ives' books.
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on 25 October 2009
Lady Jane Grey is familiar in popular imagination as the "Nine Days' Queen." (she was declared Queen but never crowned)

She was a granddaughter of Henry VIII's sister Mary, by Mary's second marriage to Charles Brandon. Thus Jane was a great-niece to Henry and a first cousin once removed to his son, the young Edward VI. Edward ignored Henry's will in his notorious "Device for the Succession." Cutting out his two half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth, Edward nominated Jane -like himself, a strict Protestant - "and her heirs male." Ives contends that Edward wished, like his father, to guarantee a male succession.

Given Ives's usual academic approach, this is a fresh, readable biography, tight and well organised. He eschews the view of Jane as the "usual hapless victim of political intrigue and Protestant martyr." Instead, he portrays "an accomplished young woman with a fierce personal integrity, and England's outstanding female scholar."

Ives pierces behind events to make them comprehensible. Part 1, The Scene, first assesses 1553, when Edward died aged 14, as "The Year of Three Sovereigns." After reconstructing Jane's appearance and personality via her portraits and letters, the chapter "Jane Grey in Context" gives a brilliant political background. The excellent Part 2, The Protagonists, explores the circumstances and motivations of Jane Grey, Mary Tudor, John Dudley - whose son, Guilford, Jane married - and Edward VI. Part 3, Thirteen Days, deals with Jane's Queenship and Mary Tudor's successful uprising; Part 4 gives the descent, execution, aftermath, and resonance down the succeeding centuries. In his pensive, elegiac "Envoi," Ives concludes that although Jane "counted for little," she is one of "brutality's victims who have no choice."

Compared to Leanda de Lisle's fiery The Sisters Who Would be Queen: The Tragedy of Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey this is an elegant and measured work. Equally worth reading. Ives astutely penetrates to the heart of Jane's individual tragedy without losing any of the drama.
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on 14 October 2013
I am fortunate that as a student at the University of Birmingham in the 1970s I had the great privilege of being taught by the inspirational Eric Ives who became a mentor and friend. Much of Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery is familiar to me from seminars spent in Professor Ives' room in the university Arts Faculty building and reading the book brought back many happy memories. Of course, the thesis offered in the book is much developed and refined but the central argument, that John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, was more scapegoat than traitor and in attempting to place his daughter-in-law on the English throne was merely attempting to carry out the wishes of Edward VI, remains the same.

Eric Ives was an outstanding historian and his published works never disappoint. If you are interested in the mid-Tudor period and desire to get away from superficial 'populist' treatments of the Jane Grey episode; if you long for a truly scholarly and, it must be said, still controversial assessment of what Ives would see as the revolt of the usurper Mary Tudor against her sovereign, Queen Jane, then you have no alternative but to ensure that this book finds a place on your bookshelf.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 February 2013
I've read other articles and papers by Eric Ives, and admire his refreshing stance on many things Tudor. So I was happy to see this book by him, on a woman who has aroused plenty of interest and (mis)information of her own since her own lifetime. Lady Jane Grey was descended from the Tudors, and cousin to King Edward VI. She was, unfortunately for her, a victim of her parentage, and the pawn of men (and women) who saw her as an opportune way for them to gain power over the throne, by one means or another. Both Jane and her sisters were used and abused all their lives by others. Certainly Jane's life could be considered tragic, and you do find yourself wondering what her life would have been like if circumstances had not thrust her into the limelight that she never sought for herself.

The author has an uncanny ability to take historical facts and analyse them to a detail which then lays the results bare to the reader from a new and intriguing viewpoint. In this book, he has taken the year 1553 and dissected the events, the people, the actions, and the consequences of all that happened in that year. The `mystery' of the title of the book devolves largely around how and why the events of 1553 occurred. Crucial to the succession following Edward VI was, of course, Edward's paper entitled `My Deuise for the Succession', its amendments and edits, the adoption of same, and the arguments around the legality of same. This is treated in very clear detail in the book, which I appreciated. Also very clearly treated is the likely relationship between Edward and his advisors, particularly Somerset and Northumberland. This details are crucial to conclusion around the succession, both during and after Edward's lifetime.

It struck me forcefully from this book that Jane Grey, during her lifetime, was used in a political sense; her importance was political to those who manipulated her. However, as soon as she was dead, her importance became that of religion; she was seen as a Protestant martyr against the Catholicism of Mary. And it really is her political importance that we need to understand, from the perspective of 1553, not afterwards, if we are to get a clear idea of who Jane was and what she stood for in her own lifetime. Getting beyond the people who used her, both in life and in death, and finding the `real' Jane, and ultimately what happened in 1553, is what this book is all about. In Part I, the scene is set. In Part II, there are subsections on each of the protagonists - Jane Grey, Mary Tudor, John Dudley and Edward VI. Part III covers in detail the fateful thirteen days of Jane's queenship and overthrow, and Part IV covers the consequences to those involved. The success of the build-up to the final ending, even though we know it is coming, is evidenced by the fact that when you read of Jane's final tragic days, and her sad trip to the scaffold, you feel a fresh horror at what the poor girl had to go through in her short life.

Ives has used his sources well, both primary and secondary, and the clarifications on the adoption or otherwise of previous historians' viewpoints is very clearly set out. In all, although this book is not overly long, it is very full and clearly laid out, and offers all the relevant information to be a fairly definitive view of the year 1553, and the transition between Edward VI, Jane Grey and Mary I. Absorbing, informative, and very readable - highly recommended, as are all of Ives' books.
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on 15 July 2011
An outstandingly thorough, interesting and readable account of Lady Jane Grey and of the attempt to divert the succession in her favour in 1553. The author investigates the evidence of responsibility for this attempt more fully and meticulously than any previous historian, and looks at it from various fresh perspectives. However, his dismissals of alternative interpretations of particular pieces of evidence are not always convincing, and in the end elements of mystery remain.
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on 27 December 2012
I'm not going to write an essay to tell you how good it is. Eric Ives is a great writer of biographies and once again he shines a light on his subject and shows facets we have not been shown before.
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on 29 January 2011
Don't judge the book by it's cover; or really it's title. This is not the story of Lady Jane Grey as such but an analysis of the succession of Edward VI in 1553. Firstly one must have prior knowledge of the year to appreciate this great scholarly work fully. For this I would recommend Leanda de Lisle's 2008 'The Sisters Who Would Be Queen.'

Eric Ives successfully challenges the long held view of Jane being a victim; a Protestant martyr. Ives puts forward the case that an intensely religious and scholarly Jane was the legal heir to Edward making Mary the usurper and not visa-versa, Edward was the mastermind of his will making Jane heir while John Dudley was therefore not in fact the 'Black Legend' traitor he has traditionally been portrayed as but as an intensely loyal subject of the King.

Scholarly it may be, but very readable it is too. The author does lose his way and flow, I feel, during Part III 'Thirteen Days'.

Ives has also recently written what is viewed as the definitive account of Anne Boleyn. This book should have the same recommendation.
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