Q: When did you first become interested in the Lady Jane Grey?
A: Well to answer that question, I’ll have to go all the way back to the beginning.
At the very beginning, I was born in 1952. I was a premature birth, and therefore, I was placed in an incubator. My birth weight was 3 pounds 2 ounces. I went down to 2 pounds 10, and that is probably when I became totally blind. What they didn’t know back then, was that when too much oxygen is fed to the baby, a scar tissue forms over the retina, and blindness occurs. When I was 2 years old, my Mom attended a 2-week course for Mothers and there blind babies offered at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children in Pittsburgh.
This course was set up to meet the needs of those families who live at a distance and whose children are old enough to profit by scheduled training. Outstanding authorities in the field of special education shared their knowledge with these mothers so that they would be well-equipped to meet the varied and challenging problems involved in training their blind youngsters. While the mothers went to lectures and viewed films, competent teachers worked to establish good sleep habits, toilet training and feeding techniques among the youngsters. In the evenings, while staff members and volunteer babysitters took care of the children, the mothers attended baseball games, Civic Light Opera’s, visited the planetarium and enjoyed swimming parties. Freedom from household chores provided a feeling of real vacation for these women and evening get-together and exchange of ideas around the coffee table completed the well-rounded training program which the school offered. doctor Benjamin Spock was the keynote presenter and I got to meet and talk with him. I remember him pushing me around on this rickety old scooter. Pretty cool huh.
I tell you this, because, Doctor Spock apparently was interested in me, because I did not fit the profile of most blind Children in attendance. My Mom says that I was talking in complete sentences with appropriate grammar and Syntax by the time I was 18 months old. According to authorities at the School, blind children don’t do that.
Now, jump ahead to when I was in about the 3rd grade. At that time, we were given what my Teacher told us were Stanford Achievement Tests. SATs. After the test results were in, my Mom got a phone call in the middle of the day from a quite astonished teacher who reported to my Mom that I was a “Genius”. I tried to find that test result, but I couldn’t, so I can’t prove it, but I seem to remember my Mom telling people something about my having an IQ of 176. That is the number that sticks in my head. I tell you this because I was receiving below average grades in Reading. You see, I was bored by the Basal readers that I had to work with. As time went on, I drifted farther and farther away from my peers at school, and I became quite lonely.
As a youngster back in the early 1960s, I didn’t enjoy listening to the popular music and such that my peers did, rather, I liked the classical music and educational programs that you could hear on FM back then. When I was 12 years old, my Dad gave me my very own FM radio. That first night that I got it, I took it to bed with me, and I heard a Radio Play that was produced by the BBC about the Lady Jane Grey.
“NINE DAYS QUEEN
BBC Home Service Basic, 14 November 1963 19.30
Synopsis: An account of the closing months of the life of Lady Jane Grey
Compiled from contemporary documents by ALISON PLOWDEN
Other parts played by Glyn Dearman, Gordon Faith Kenneth Hyde, Godfrey Kenton Humphrey Morton Frank Partington Stephen Thorne, and Gabriel Woolf
Produced by JOE BURROUGHS
Lady Jane Grey: Prunella Scales
The Duke of Northumberland: Francis de Wolff
The Marquis of Winchester: Peter Pratt
The Earl of Arundel: Geoffrey Wincott
Narrator: Richard Hurndall”
As of the next morning, after I heard the play, I made my Mom go to the local public library, and I made her read everything that we could find about Lady Jane Grey. I discovered that Jane and I were very much alike, and she became my imaginary friend. When I was in the 6th grade, I discovered that we had a Braille copy of the Symposium by Plato. As I knew Jane liked Plato, and I wanted to be as much like her as I could, I picked it up and began to read it. As I read, I discovered, much to my gob-smacked astonishment, that I was reading and understanding what I read. I remember thinking what I was going to say when it was my turn. It was then, that I “got it.” And I understood that I could read what I wanted to read, as long as it was available in Braille, for myself by myself. As I invested my time and my emotions into learning about the Lady Jane, the real energy and essence that is the Lady Jane Grey herself reached out to me, and we connected. She is no longer my imaginary friend. I believe that she is very real.
I first met the Lady Jane, when I was about 14 years old, and by the time I was 16, I had fallen head over heels in love with her. But I loved her like a 16-year-old boy loves a girl or a young woman. I was very lonely because I believed back then, that I could find no young girl alive who was my age who shared my interests, and who could equal Lady Jane’s intellect, and come up to the standard of my fanciful perception of the Lady Jane Grey.
I was smitten. I would sit and daydream about her. As I had begun to seriously study the organ when I was 8, I was by then well on my way to developing the skills necessary to become a competent Church Organist and concert Musician. I would daydream about how I would perform some great organ piece, and after it, while the audience was wildly applauding, Jane would rush up to me, (she wasn’t out in the audience, but she was waiting in the wings), throw her arms around me, plant a big kiss, and tell me how wonderful I was. Then all during the afterglow, she would be quick to tell anyone who would listen how proud she was of her husband. On the way home, she would engage me in a conversation about transubstantiation, or some such matter, or, she would tell me how tonight’s performance was better than the last one, or how the last one was better than this one.
By the time I was 18, I had gotten over my crush on her, but I had come to love her very much. I still do. I owe a lot to her, and she has taught me quite a bit through my formative years. I believe that The Lady Jane Grey and I have a very strong psychic bond. I love her, and I truly believe that she loves me. The Lady Jane Grey’s spirit reaches out to everyone who shows the least bit of interest in her, and, if she is allowed to, she works through each soul that she touches to accomplish her goal. That goal is to be remembered and understood. I believe in a tangible afterlife, and that when we die, we do not sleep, or pass out of existence.
From about 1966 on, until about 1980 or so, the Lady Jane and I were inseparable. Then after 1980, she went away and left me alone. I remember her very quietly on the anniversary of her death, that is February 12th. As of 2015, however, she’s back with a vengeance. I can’t get her out of my head or my heart. Whether it’s really the Holy Spirit urging me on, or whatever it is, I feel compelled to know, to love, and to remember her. Being deeply loved by someone gives one strength; loving someone deeply gives one courage.
Q: What is Project Grey Noise?
A: Project Grey Noise is actually 27 plays that are told in sound only.
Project Grey Noise tells of How Lady Jane is trapped in the 21st century, but willingly. Because she knows that in order to affect change and to accomplish her goal, she must act. It’s hard for her because she knows that if she were to tell people that she really is Lady Jane Grey from 1554, people would think she is crazy. So she plays Miss Jane Dudley, and she oversees an exhibit about herself and dresses up in Tudor costume, and enjoys being herself twice a day, morning and afternoon) for her show. As the story goes on, her friend Mike suggests that she put on shows about events in her life as reenactments or vignettes in the evening. She does it all so well that she gains a reputation around town. She is very entertaining, and she talks Tudor History as though she really
Her goal is to debunk all of the myths and misinformation that has grown up around her since her death. The Victorians really did a number on her, and she has a big job on. My goal in producing this Project is to remember the Lady Jane Grey as she wanted to be remembered. I believe that The Literary Remains of Lady Jane Grey is carefully conceived performance pieces written by Lady Jane, to make certain that she would be regarded by those of us who come after her as the
Lady Jane, as she contemplated her imminent death back in 1554, wrote, “If Justice is done with my body, my soul will find mercy in God.” She also wrote, “Death will give pain to my body for its sins, but the soul will be justified before God.” Then she wrote, “If my faults deserve punishment, my youth at least, and my imprudence were worthy of excuse; God and posterity will show me
Project Grey Noise is not a story about the Lady Jane Grey, but it is an attempt to present all of the literary remains of Lady Jane Grey in a unique and different way. It is possible to read everything that she wrote, but I wanted to create the persona that her writings suggest. At least to me, anyway. Since I am totally blind and have been from birth, I don’t see her, but this way, I can hear her voice.
Q: Who is the Lady Jane Grey?
A: I think that Lady Jane Grey was born in June of 1536 to Henry and Frances Grey, later Duke and Duchess of Suffolk. Lady Jane was the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister Mary. Under the terms of King Henry VIII’s will, the Suffolk family stood fourth in the line of succession to the throne. Consequently, Lady Jane received a princess’s education. She was precociously intelligent, reading Greek, Latin, and Hebrew by the time she was 9 years old and was a staunch advocate of the newly established Protestant faith. With the accession of the nine-year-old Edward VI in 1547, the English court became embroiled in a sequence of complex power struggles in which Lady Jane, Edward’s cousin, became a pawn.
As Edward’s health deteriorated, the powerful nobleman John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, persuaded the young king to exclude his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth and decree that the crown should instead pass to his cousin Jane. She was then hastily married to the Duke of Northumberland’s son, Lord Guildford. Northumberland’s hold on power seemed secure when Jane was proclaimed queen on Edward’s death in July 1553. However, Mary’s Catholic supporters staged a rising, Northumberland’s army melted away and just nine days later the reign of Queen Jane was over. Although her innocence was never doubted, Jane’s existence as a possible figurehead of Protestant revolt made her an unacceptable danger to the new regime. She was executed on February 12th, 1554, aged 17.
Q: How did you come up with the idea of Project Grey Noise?
A: A script for a radio drama is what I know how to write.
As I produced a radio drama as a Final Exam for a broadcasting course I took while in College, it was my intention maybe to re-do that radio drama but with up-to-date scholarship, now that I was consumed by the need to read everything that I could about Lady Jane Grey on the internet. On July 10th of 2015, the idea came to me about Lady Jane coming to live in our time, and I began writing it down. By August 20th, I was finished.
Q: Why Project Grey Noise?
A: Lady Jane wrote, “If Justice is done with my body, my soul will find mercy in God.” I contend that Justice has not been done with her body, and her soul is not at rest. It has always been assumed that she was buried in The Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula, but they never found her body, and it can’t be proven that she was ever taken there after her execution.
When you go to visit the Chapel, docents regale you with erroneous facts that could never be substantiated, and date from the Victorian era and the renovation of the Chapel in the 1870s. In February of 1554, the Chapel had been reconsecrated as a Catholic place of worship, and therefore no heretic could be buried from there. There is no mention of what became of the Lady Jane’s body after it lay on the scaffold for some time. It as always been assumed that Father Feckenham went to obtain permission from the local Bishop and the Queen to have Jane interred at St. Peter ad Vincula, but there is no such record of that taking place. Jane may have been buried outside the Tower.
Perhaps she is buried in the Church of Holy Trinity Minories just yards from Tower Hill. That church was a former abbey of the Order of St. Clare that had been closed by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the 1530s. Jane Grey’s father had purchased the former abbey, together with its church, from the crown in the 1540s. Holy Trinity was closed as a place of worship in 1899 and merged with the nearby Church of St Botolph’s-without-Aldgate.
The remains of the Church of Holy Trinity Minories were destroyed during the London Blitz of 1940. All that remains is a small public garden in Tower Hill Terrace over the road from the north outer curtain wall of the Tower, a mere 150 yards from the site of Jane’s execution. Jane’s soul is not at rest, and I contend that she is still striving to accomplish her goal.
The thing is, the Lady Jane was too successful in creating a legacy for herself. While a prisoner in the Tower, she wrote very carefully worded letters and documents, because she knew they would be published in her name after she died. What she didn’t count on was the fascination that she would inspire, and the myth that would grow up around her. The 1986 Movie about her is exactly wrong, for example. Lady Jane Grey, who was almost eighteen in February of 1554, had matured into a remarkable young woman, only averagely attractive, but with far better than average brains. She spoke Latin, Greek, French, Italian
Jane was informed that she was named Queen on the 9th of July 1553, three days after her cousin, King Edward VI, died. Once she realized how big the coup was and that it wasn’t going away, Jane accepted her new role and signed many letters as Jane the Queen. This came after Mary had declared herself Queen of England and denounced the coup. But it was expected of Jane to give her signature to important documents and urge others to come to her aide.
However, “The only action which Jane is known to have taken as queen was to deny her husband, Guildford Dudley, the Crown Matrimonial.” Jane had alleged that she had been forced into marriage by her parents and that “relations with her spouse were not good.” Yet historians have pointed out that it was common of noblemen’s sons and daughters to go into arranged marriages without question, and aware of her position and her lineage, Jane would have known that she had little choice in matters such as these. And being the religious woman she was, marriage was viewed as one of the most important things in a woman’s life. It is possible that Jane might have not liked being married to someone she barely knew, but due to her religious fervor, had come to accept it. But given how kings and queens saw themselves, it is not outside the realm of possibility that Jane might have said this in order to get her way. Queen Elizabeth, I would often shift the blame to her councilors and instill guilt on them when she didn’t get her way. Henry VIII was the same, and so many others before them. Jane would die on the 12th of February 1554, after her husband. Jane was made into a passive figure, later on, a Protestant martyr who refused to accept the crown, who was the victim of her parents’ abuse.
Think of this distortion as a Snow Whitewashing of Jane. She is the poor royal trapped in the tower, at the mercy of her evil cousin, an older woman, envious of her beauty, and a dangerous mother who is lusting for power and sees her daughter as nothing more than a tool. And while everyone fights one another, poor Jane stays true to herself, unwavering in her faith, choosing death instead of being a sell-out. While this is partly true (Jane was a fervent believer who never wavered in her faith), it is largely made up. Jane had to be seen as the epitome of the good, Christian woman who was submissive, yet defiant when it came to her faith.
During the Victorian age, this myth became bigger and it is one that has endured. Jane was a strong woman, no doubt. One of the most educated women of her time, who was also independent and although she did not covet the crown, once she was in that position, she did her duty to the best of her ability, urging her father, her father-in-law, and many others to rally to her cause and stop Mary. When everyone deserted them, she and her family had no choice but to admit defeat. Jane accepted Mary’s reign, so long as Mary would not bring back Catholicism. When Mary did this, Jane became angry and asked the people to “return to Christ’s war!” Although her outburst might seem inconsequential to us, it didn’t seem to Mary and her councilors. Several urged her to deal with her right away and Mary hesitated to do so, but after the Wyatt Rebellion, Mary sentenced her, her father and her husband to die.
Q: Have you ever done anything like this before?
A: If you mean recording for Broadcast? Yes. I have always been interested in Broadcasting, and I took courses both in High
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