'I have always abhorred to draw in question the title of the crown, so many disputes have been already touching it in the mouths of men . . . so long as I live, I shall be queen of England; when I am dead, they shall succeed that has most right.’ – ELIZABETH I
When Elizabeth I died in 1603, James VI of Scotland – son of the executed Mary, Queen of Scots – succeeded her as king of England. According to the last will and testament of Henry VIII, however, there was another candidate with ‘most right’ to succeed Elizabeth: Edward Seymour, son of Lady Katherine Grey.
During the early years of Elizabeth’s reign, Katherine – sister of the ill-fated Jane – was regarded by many at court as heir presumptive. However, Katherine incurred Elizabeth’s lasting displeasure when she secretly married Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford, and bore him two sons. The couple were first imprisoned in the Tower of London, then later separately placed under house arrest, never to see one another again. A commission declared their marriage unlawful and their sons illegitimate. Heartbroken, Katherine died at the age of 27.
Katherine was not simply a tragic figure, but a leading candidate to succeed Elizabeth and thus a figure of national and international significance. In Lady Katherine Grey, her dynastic importance is brought to the forefront.