Execution of Lady Jane Grey

(c) The National Gallery, London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Execution of Lady Jane Grey, Paul Delaroche, 1833, Painting, First exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1834, Now in the National Gallery, London.


This painting struck me when I was looking through images on the internet; first because it depicted an execution of a young girl, and secondly because of the interesting choice of colors. Paul Delaroche put the execution victim in all white and contrasted this by dressing all others present in darker less vibrant colors. The colors could be a symbol to show that Lady Jane Grey was wrongly executed and that her soul was in fact pure. The attire in the painting also highlights that this event did not happen in 1833 but much earlier so this could be a comment on an event in history that has left an impact on the audience for whom this painting was made for. The man with the ax looks on as though her execution is not something to note yet the two women to the left of the painting are devastated so there seems to be a divided opinion on the morality of this execution. The man standing behind Lady Jane Grey looks as though he is a religious figure who is comforting her. The placement of the religious figure in the center of the painting makes it very likely that the cause of this event came from a religious background. Even after close examination I am left wondering why this young woman dressed in white is about to be beheaded keeping the painting intriguing.  



4 thoughts on “Execution of Lady Jane Grey”

  1. Lady Jane Grey’s execution is remarkably intriguing. She was left the English throne in her Husband’s will, even though she had two elder sisters. This led to her imprisonment in the London Tower and a sentence to death due to treason. However, she was spared. It wasn’t until the Wyatt’s Rebellion that she was executed. Being that she was a Protestant, the religious figure is most likely a Protestant Priest. As well, the dated clothing and the history dates the story of this piece at around the 1530’s. I believe that she is shown all in white, as you said, because her soul was deemed pure, but also because Lady Jane Grey is seen as a martyr of her time.

  2. One thing that interested me about this painting was the blindfold that Lady Jane Grey was wearing. Was this blindfold contributing to the perception of innocence and purity surrounding her? Or was it just coincidental and contributing to the validity of the painting?

  3. Though the photo depicts a gruesome and terrible event, to me it seems as though Lady Jane Grey appears saintly or angelic. She does not appear to be in terrible struggle or pain, instead, she is a previously powerful women given an unfortunate and disgraceful death. I wonder if the photographer was present in the room during this time or if he used his imagination and secondhand stories to create the painting.

  4. The white dress and blindfold seem to suggest a sense of innocence and shielding of what’s about to take place. The body language of the priest figure, holding and almost guiding her, contributes to her saint like status. The painter was certainly trying to depict the innocence of Lady Jane Grey rather than focusing on the darker side of what led to her execution.

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