Lady Jane Review
Lady Jane documents the famously short reign of just nine days by Lady Jane Grey. She briefly succeeded Edward VI before being executed by Mary Tudor. It is a little talked about piece of political upheaval that is still an important part of England’s history. Interestingly, she was the first Queen of England to rule by herself. Though she was married beforehand, her husband was not crowned King.
Jane reluctantly becomes Queen
We are first introduced to a young, bookish Jane who has strong political opinions but no interest in much besides her studies. At first, it seems as if Jane will marry the young King Edward. It soon becomes clear, however, that the young monarch is dying of tuberculosis. The scheming Duke of Northumberland and Jane’s parents force a match between his youngest son, Guildford Dudley (brother of Robert Dudley who was rumored to be a lover of Elizabeth I) and Jane much to their mutual displeasure. Despite getting off on the wrong foot, Jane and Guildford bond over their shared idealistic views. They fall in love but their happiness cannot last long.
In order to avoid another Catholic ruler, the King is convinced by his self-serving advisers to write a will passing over his sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, in order to make Jane the next in line. After his death, the newlyweds are brought to court by their scheming relatives and Jane is acknowledged as Queen by her Protestant supporters (mostly against her will). The young couple uses their new found power to pass laws in the interest of the people. Unfortunately, many still back Mary Tudor and consider her the rightful queen. Those voices prove difficult to silence and the lovers find themselves in very grave danger.
Jane and Guildford meet
Lady Jane is quite a long film, just over two hours; because of this, it can drag in places. This, however, does not make other scenes any less poignant. The film looks realistic with very detailed sets and costumes. While the film is based on real events and uses real historical characters, it is more of an idealized version of history. Indeed, it is charming in its idealism and the addition of the love story helps make a sad story more bearable. The romance is sweet but historically inaccurate. There was little evidence to suggest that Guildford and Jane liked one another, let alone fell in love.
Jane and Guildford united
The bulk of the film rests on the shoulders of Helena Bonham Carter and Cary Elwes, both young and in very early roles. They are excellent, playing the doomed pair spectacularly and with good chemistry. Also starring is Patrick Stewart as Jane’s father, Duke of Suffolk who is brilliant as always.
Jane faces the end with courage
Lady Jane manages to imbue the tragedy with the importance it deserves since it is a part of history frequently brushed over. Despite its sadder aspects and inaccuracies, it is a film well worth watching at least once. I for one enjoyed learning a little more about Britain’s unfairly treated first Queen.
Content Note: There are two scenes that contain brief non-sexualized nudity.
Photo credits: Paramount
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