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Review: Lady Jane Grey by Simonetta Carr

Jane, facing the confused, silent crowds on her first walk after unexpectedly becoming Queen.

Teenaged Jane, facing the silent crowds after unexpectedly becoming Queen of England.

It is fitting to begin the year with the inspiring story of a teen girl, crowned against her wish, who was true to her faith until death. 

Little Lady Jane Grey, born into the upper nobility of England in 1537 and raised as a princess, was a brilliant young scholar who learned many languages.  She also loved beautiful clothing, jewels, and dancing.  In one of the book’s loveliest illustrations we see Lady Jane Grey and Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s widow, sewing together while Lady Jane was living with Katherine’s family.

During the tensions of Reformation times, both Katherine Parr and Lady Jane’s kind Italian teacher encouraged her in the Protestant faith.  Young King Edward VI, influenced by his counsellors, also loved the Reformation.  When it seemed as though he would soon die, Edward wrote a will to appoint Lady Jane Grey, a Protestant and a close relative, as his successor instead of his Roman Catholic sister, the future Queen Mary.

Edward VI’s will shocked both Lady Jane Grey and the people, although Mary seems to have anticipated it.  These were turbulent times and, without her knowledge, Lady Jane was caught up in the schemes of powerful and power-hungry men until their plans forced Queen Mary to condemn her to death.  It is inspiring how this young girl, uninterested in the throne, committed to the Protestant faith, and pushed forward by relatives and warring factions, stayed true to her beliefs.  You don’t have to be aggressive to make a difference; you just have to stand firm in your faith.

But this is not a moralistic story.  It is rather a deeply moving account of a teen caught in the circumstances of her time and responding with unshakable faith.  Nowhere can one see this more clearly than in the letter, included in the book, that she wrote to her sister just before her death.

With the help of eminent scholars, Simonetta Carr has endeavored to separate fact from fiction in the history of Lady Jane Grey, and, unravelling the complex webs of intrigue, she has written a heart-warming story of one of the England’s most inspiring teenagers.

Stunning paintings by Matt Abraxas as well as an abundance of photographs and historical illustrations add to the story, which is also enhanced by the timeline of Lady Jane Grey’s life as well as several pages of interesting facts entitled “Did you know?”

Although the book cover suggests Lady Jane Grey is suitable for children aged 7-12, it is an excellent introduction for all ages.  Concepts are explained simply enough that most children in the recommended age range will be able to follow the narrative, but the story itself is complicated enough that I had to reread it carefully to really understand what happened when.

Both the story and the illustrations invite frequent rereading, making this a book of lasting inspiration for all ages.

Note: More information about  Lady Jane Grey is available on the Christian Biographies for Young Readers website. 

Disclosure: I received this book from Simonetta Carr for the purpose of this review.  As usual, I am not compensated for my review.

This review is linked to Trivium Tuesdays and Read Aloud Thursday.

3 Comments

  1. Jenn says:

    Sounds really great!

  2. Lydia says:

    Queen Mary was Edward’s elder sister, not his aunt. They were both children of Henry VIII.

    1. Annie Kate says:

      Oops! Thanks so much for catching that! Something didn’t seem right, but I was too tired to realize what was wrong. It’s all fixed up now. 🙂

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