On June 12, Starz premieres the series Becoming Elizabeth, which will recount Elizabeth I‘s youth, but already in the trailer, there’s a detail that passionate Game of Thrones fans quickly identified: our dear Bella Ramsey, who shone as Lyanna Mormont is in the cast, living the tragic Lady Jane Grey.
Jane Grey was the first female British queen, but she reigned for only nine days and was executed for treason when her cousin Queen Mary assumed the crown. Despite being linked to the family and a victim of political manipulation at the time, they rarely show her side by side with Mary or Elizabeth, always as the favorite of cousin Edward VI. The series must address her deep connection with the future Virgin Queen, after all, the two grew up together, in the same house, receiving the same education.
She was a Tudor through her grandmother, the younger sister of Henry VIII. Due to the religious back-and-forth that marked the dynasty of this family, at a certain point, Jane was the third in the succession and due to this proximity, she ended up being chosen by the king, Edward VI, to succeed him, surpassing the two princesses. That’s because Edward, the only son of Jane Seymour, was a Protestant and feared that his sister, Mary, a fanatical Catholic, would bring bigotry back to the UK. And Elizabeth, as the daughter of the traitor Anne Boleyn, was not considered legitimate. Even before Edward tried to change the order, something that historians question if he decided alone, influenced or if they lied about his decision, his father, Henry VIII, had already excluded the children of his second sister, Margaret, who reigned in Scotland and who had turned to Catholicism, so his granddaughter, Mary Stuart, would later get into trouble with Elizabeth I about this.
Jane got along very well with Edward VI, as they were both studious and introverted. But she was also close to Elizabeth, just four years older than her, as we’ll likely see in the series. The two grew up in the house of Katherine Parr, the widow of Henry VIII and who was married to Thomas Seymour. Both Elizabeth and Jane read a lot and shared the same interests. They would also be tragically linked to the Dudleys, as I will speak in a moment.
In the struggle for power, the cousins would end up being used and accused of treason. Part of the blame falls on Thomas, whose dark relationship with Elizabeth will be central to the series and is recounted hourly as abuse, rape, or even undue passion, depending on the narrative. Certainly taking advantage of the princess’s innocence, he planned to marry her after he became a widower and, to have greater influence over the king Edward VI, proposed that Jane marry her cousin. But his brother Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, who was the young king’s regent, wanted Edward to marry Elizabeth, daughter of Henry II of France. The feud between the brothers caused the political downfall of both, who died accused of treason and executed by John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland. Elizabeth I was interrogated under suspicion but managed to be exonerated and survive.
John Dudley it was not easy either, and he soon suggested – and forced – Jane to marry his son, Guildford Dudley. The Dudleys’ downfall and the impact of their decisions on Jane Grey’s rise and fall are directly linked. Historians guarantee that it was the Duke who convinced the sick young king to change the succession order established by Henry VIII, which placed Mary as the direct heir in case Edward had no children, by appointing Jane as his successor instead. Edward died on 6 July 1553 and Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen of England on 10 July 1553. To John Dudley’s annoyance, she refused to name her husband Guildford Dudley as King. In just 9 days, with the people shocked by the coup that took away the crown of the popular Princess Mary, the nobles betrayed Jane and changed their minds about supporting her as Queen. The Dudleys and Jane were arrested and convicted of maximum treason, which required capital punishment.
However, Mary delayed the execution of Jane and her husband, keeping them in the Tower of London for several months. Just when everything looked like it was going to be all right, a Protestant rebellion led by Thomas Wyatt – calling for Jane’s restoration – failed, but put both Elizabeth and Jane and Guildford back in the spotlight as conspirators. As Jane and her husband already had the conviction, Mary was pressured to sign the death warrant. The two were executed on February 12, 1554. Jane watched from the window Guildford being led to his death, as well as when his body was brought back. Legend has it that Jane was calm and brave, only getting slightly nervous when her eyes were closed and she couldn’t find the place where she would have to put her head. She was executed when she was just 17 years old and completely innocent of everything that happened.
During her time in the Tower, Elizabeth was also imprisoned there, undergoing constant interrogation. It was during this period that his friendship with Robert Dudley, the other son of John Dudley flourished and became the greatest love of his life.
When playing Jane Grey, Bella Ramsey repeats in the footsteps of Helena Boham Carter, who debuted as an actress in the film Lady Jane. After debuting as the strong and unforgettable Lyanna Mormont, Bella was in the cast of His Dark Materials and is recording The Last of Us, with Pedro Pascal. Although Becoming Elizabeth Jane’s story is secondary, it’s always good to recognize a familiar face, even more so when you have talent like that of the young actress. Becoming Elizabeth premieres June 12.