I didn’t realize when I was reading Simonetta Car’s biography on Lady Jane Grey to my kids that this week marks the anniversary of her execution. Today, in fact. This book is part of a series of biographies for 7-12-year-old readers. But they are so good, I enjoy reading them aloud. As wonderful as the books are, my kids just aren’t the type that get excited learning about the life of Athanasius yet. But as I read these gems to them, they grow in wonder, ask really good questions, and get a much grander picture of the glory of God in the lives of his people.
And so it was with Lady Jane. She was nine days Queen of England, and executed at 16 years old, per order of the infamous “Bloody Mary”. In this brief account of her life, a young reader will see some of the costs of true faith. It’s easy to paint the Reformation in pastels to our children, but Carr doesn’t do this. She shows the mess that went along with it. And in England, there were many political ramifications.
There’s much about Lady Jane’s story that glorifies the Lord. My reading of this condensed version with the kids coincided well with where I’m at in my study of Hebrews. This morning we discussed Hebrews 13:5 & 6:
Let your conduct be without covetousness: be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
Jane had plenty of circumstances that could have turned her into a covetous, complaining woman. As loved ones died, Jane held strong in the faith. She didn’t seem to have the same inclinations as her parents, and their relationship was strained. And she had a very covetous cousin, Mary. It revealed itself in the worst kind of way when Mary’s deathly ill step-brother, King Edward, appointed Jane to be his successor to the throne. This wasn’t really a position that Jane was ambitious for, however, she shared in Edward’s passion for the Protestant faith to grow in England.
Jane was only Queen for nine days before Mary and the support that she gathered took the crown she believed was rightfully hers. As Jane’s status went from Queen to prisoner awaiting her fate, her faith only strengthened. As her own family members were renouncing their Protestant faith and embracing Roman Catholicism to try to save their own lives, Jane refused. Jane was content with the lot God had given her. Her knowledge and faith astounded even the monk, John Feckenham, who was sent by Mary to convert Jane. The 16-year-old held her own theologically with the monk. Moments before her execution, Jane was able to share her witness to onlookers that she was dying “a true Christian woman” who’s hope was “to be saved by none other means but only by the mercy of God and the merits of the blood of His only Son Jesus Christ” (52).
These words displayed the source of Jane’s contentment. God preserved her to hold fast to the confession of her hope (Heb. 10:23), even through the worst circumstances, because he really was her only helper. With the knowledge that God is faithful, and that he would never leave or forsake her, Jane echoed the last words of her Savior, “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (54).
The letters Jane wrote as she was preparing for death encouraged others that she was rejoicing in her impending death. She didn’t just resign to her fate, but she found joy in God’s will. Wherever she was called, Jane glorified the Lord who was with her. As she exercised the truths of who he is, Jane was strengthened to persevere. That’s what I call theological fitness.