Lady Jane Grey

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Lady Jane Grey

by Unknown artist
oil on oak panel, circa 1590-1600
33 3/4 in. x 23 3/4 in. (856 mm x 603 mm)
Purchased with help from the proceeds of the 150th anniversary gala, 2006
Primary Collection
NPG 6804

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Unknown artist, Artist. Artist or producer associated with 6578 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This is one of the earliest surviving portraits of England's shortest-reigning monarch, Lady Jane Grey, despite being made some forty years after her death. A commemorative portrait, this panel may have formed part of a set of Protestant martyrs. Scratched lines across the eyes and mouth suggest that the painting has been subjected to an iconoclastic attack at some point in its history.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG D24103: Unknown woman engraved as Jane Shore (based on same portrait)

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Bolland, Charlotte, Tudor & Jacobean Portraits, 2018, p. 30 Read entry

    Lady Jane Grey was the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s younger sister, Mary Tudor. Highly educated and a committed Protestant, she was married to Lord Guildford Dudley, fourth son of the ambitious John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. Edward VI had hoped to secure religious reform in England by naming the sixteen-year-old Jane as his heir and cutting his older half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, from the line of succession. However, Jane was imprisoned after only nine days’ rule, when Mary successfully asserted her right to the crown; Jane was subsequently executed after her father, Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, joined in the rebellion against Mary’s proposed marriage to Philip II of Spain in 1554. There is no known portrait of Jane made during her lifetime, and it is possible that one was never painted. By the early seventeenth century, engravings that were believed to derive from a life portrait were in circulation; however, the jewel worn by the sitter in these images suggests that the source was actually a portrait of Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth queen. This commemorative portrait was made during the reign of Elizabeth I and may have formed part of a set of Protestant martyrs. Scratched lines across the eyes and mouth suggest that it has been subjected to an iconoclastic attack.

  • Bolland, Charlotte, The Tudors Passion, Power and Politics, 2022, p. 66
  • Bolland, Charlotte; Cooper, Tarnya, The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered, 2014 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 12th September 2014 to 1st March 2015), p. 100
  • Cannadine, Sir David (Introduction); Cooper, Tarnya; Stewart, Louise; MacGibbon, Rab; Cox, Paul; Peltz, Lucy; Moorhouse, Paul; Broadley, Rosie; Jascot-Gill, Sabina, Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits, 2018 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA, 7 October 2018 -3 February 2019. Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia, 16 March - 14 July 2019.), p. 99 Read entry

    Edward VI attempted to secure the continuation of the Reformation in England by naming his cousin Lady Jane Grey as heir to the throne, in order to block the accession of his Roman Catholic half-sister Mary. Jane was the granddaughter of Henry VIII's youngest sister and was married to Guildford Dudley, the son of the Duke of Northumberland. Following Edward's death, it was Northumberland who moved to place Jane on the throne. Mary's allies rallied, however, and she was proclaimed queen just nine days later. Although condemned for treason, Jane's life was initially spared, but her father’s involvement in Sir Thomas Wyatt's rebellion in 1554 sealed her fate.

    It is possible that Jane's portrait was never taken during her lifetime and almost certain that no image was made during her very brief period as queen. This portrait bears a fragmentary inscription identifying the sitter as 'Lady Jayne', and tree-ring analysis of the panel support suggests that it was made in the late sixteenth century. It is not clear what the source might have been, so the portrait may be an Elizabethan impression of Jane's likely appearance. It was probably produced in response to Jane's growing reputation as a Protestant martyr during Elizabeth I's reign; the scratched lines across the eyes and mouth may be the result of a deliberate attack at some point in its history.

  • Williamson, David, Kings and Queens, 2010, p. 95

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1590back to top

Current affairs

King James VI of Scotland brings his wife Anne of Denmark to Edinburgh for her coronation at Holyrood Abbey.
Death of Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth I's Principal Secretary and spymaster.
The colonial governor John White returns to Roanoke Island (in present day North Carolina, USA) to find the settlement deserted. The lost colonists include his granddaughter Virginia Dare, the first English child to be born in America.

Art and science

The courtier, poet and soldier Sir Philip Sidney's pastoral romance Arcadia is published posthumously. It is one of the first English vernacular works to achieve a European readership, with translations into French, German, Dutch and Italian.
The poet and administrator Edmund Spenser publishes the first three books of The Faerie Queene, an epic allegorical poem in praise of Queen Elizabeth I.


Henry IV of France defeats the Catholic League under Charles, Duke of Mayenne at the Battle of Ivry. The King marches on Paris before being driven back by Catholic forces sent by Philip II of Spain.
Abbas I, Shah of Persia makes peace with the Ottoman Empire, allowing him to campaign agaist the Uzbeks.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi defeats the Hojo clan at the Siege of Odawara, Japan. The victory completes Hideyoshi's military reunification of Japan.

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Roland Hui

22 May 2019, 15:19

That this portrait is indeed of Jane Grey, and almost certainty a true likeness, is supported by an obscure 1580/1581 woodcut of her (inscribed 'Jeanne Gray) meant for - but ultimately not used - Theodore Beza's 'Icones'.

The woodcut (in the Royal Collection, RCIN 600999) can be seen at: