England’s Forgotten Queen: The Life And Death of Lady Jane Grey. Television Review.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *

Nine days in which to rule a nation, nine days in which you are thrust into the limelight from relative obscurity and ordered, God fearing, life, to one in which the state and the now dead King has decreed that you are Queen. In us all such power is unthinkable, the weight of history is enormous and chilling and it is the actions of an unwise soul that would dare take it on without a care in the world or who would relish the prospect. We only have to look at our modern day equivalent in politics, a week being a long time in that regards, nine days would seem like forever, and at the tender of 15; it is perhaps no wonder that many dispute the legitimacy of Lady Jane Grey’s period of time as England’s Queen.

Following on from the marvellous 2010 series She Wolves, noted historian Helen Castor’s three part series England’s Forgotten Queen: The Life and Death of Lady Jane Grey is a timely reminder that we look at the history of any nation with subjective eyes, that upon the spin of a coin and the seemingly burdened decision, history is changed, history is given perspective that cannot be easily understood unless you have good first hand references to use in your quest to unravel history’s mystery.

There is arguably no greater mystery, especially in the rich tapestry of the Tudor period than of Lady Jane Grey, a young girl in today’s respects, forced, thrust upon the throne and the people in an attempt to keep King Edward VI’s desire and image of England as a Protestant country, to deny his two half sisters the chance to be Queen.

This young girl, to whom only one known painting exists of her, inside Sion House, is the subject of debate and myth, of half truths and almost near eradication of her life by Queen Mary. It is a debate that is normally skipped when looking at the history of England, five Kings and Queens from the dynasty, yet the sixth, Jane, is almost air brushed out of the picture. For nine days she was the person to whom the country became divided over; a devout Protestant, she was chosen by her dying cousin to take the country forward and yet as Helen Castor’s beautifully investigated documentary showed, she was the wrong person at the wrong time at the head of what can only be seen as craven, cowardly and imagined superior men.

Political machinations are nothing new, yet in the short reign as England’s first Queen there is so much intrigue and fascination at play that despite the programme’s allusion in its title, Lady Jane Grey is a woman to whom the nation should not forget; for in her rapid rise is the seeds of our own folly sown, to forget that it is the people who truly decide what position of power someone should hold has been born out in the new social media world; if you’re not liked, you are likely to fall at the first hurdle.

A beautifully presented three part series, accessible, poignant in the modern age and one that as ever was graced by Helen Castor’s direct enthusiasm and knowledge for her subject.

Ian D. Hall