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June 24, 2020

“For when I am in the presence either of father or mother, whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand or go, eat, drink, be merry or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing anything else, I must do it as it were in such weight, measure and number, even so perfectly as God made the world; or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yea presently sometimes with pinches, nips and bobs and other ways (which I will not name for the honour I bear them) … that I think myself in hell.”

Lady Jane Grey,  reported by Roger Ascham who visited her family when she was a young child.
Ives, Eric (2009). Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. Wiley-Blackwell.

The Execution Of Lady Jane Grey in the Tower of London in 1554, by Paul Delaroche 1833. (National Gallery, London).


They lead you, blindfold, through the maze,
and leave you there, lost and alone – 
and whisper as they walk away;

then later, to an injured throne
you neither spurn nor wish to claim,
as rival families, and Rome

and Cranmer play their deadly game;
at last, they lead you to the dark,
your eyes wrapped in a fold again.

The giant axeman stands apart 
until the drumbeat sounds, and prays 
for kind precision in his task;

as unkind Delaroche betrays,
and – licensed by your mask – defiles 
you with a practised, coward’s gaze,

caressing you with brushstrokes, while
your unlearned searching hands reveal
a nine days queen, and still a child.

This poem first appeared in The Ekphrastic Review

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