A Historian’s Rant About Amazon’s My Lady Jane

Travesty. That word rushed screaming from the recesses of my mind when I saw the media promotions this morning of Amazon’s new series My Lady Jane.

Travesty. That word rushed screaming from the recesses of my mind when I saw the media promotions this morning of Amazon’s new series My Lady Jane. It is apparently not enough that the name of Jane Grey Dudley has been deployed over the past 450 years by religious and political propagandists to advance their various causes, by reinforcers of a patriarchal social system to promote an archaic view of the role of women in society, and by Tower of London tour guides eager to please the ignorant masses. Now a major entertainment media outlet has seen fit to turn the fevered imaginings of a trio of hormonal adolescent girls into a big-budget, star-studded, eight-episode costume drama that has no connection whatsoever to historical reality.

To be absolutely clear, I have no issue with the aforementioned hormonal adolescent girls and their bizarre fantasy worlds. If dreaming about shapeshifters and fairies and hobgoblins tickles their fancies, then I say, “Knock yourself out!” I loved True Blood as much as the next guy, but at least it did not purport to be ‘based on real events’! Please, I beg you, at least consider limiting the childish drivel to fictional characters and leave beleaguered Jane Grey Dudley alone!

I have spent the past 25 years of my academic life battling with the general public and respected historians alike in an effort to reverse the fictional mythology that has so thoroughly superseded any semblance of a primary-source-based historical narrative of the life of Jane Grey Dudley. Even now, many history texts published by highly respected university presses rely entirely upon and knowingly continue to promote what I refer to as ‘the Janeian mythology.’ The surviving historical documents and records simply do not support what so many have put forward as ‘history’ in relation to Jane, ranging from the time and place of her birth to the place of her burial, and everything in between.

And now a new bogus narrative is being foisted on a public that is largely ignorant of history and too often incapable of differentiating between historical reality and claptrap. Showtime’s The Tudors led the modern vanguard in the arena of fiction-as-history, producing a blockbuster series that I and my historian colleagues derisively dubbed Desperate Palacewives after the American primetime soap opera Desperate Housewives. From the opening scene of a dark-haired (!!!) Henry VIII masturbating into a bowl dutifully held by a kneeling manservant to the now-obligatory and false transformation of numerous secondary characters into homosexuals to the 21st-century avant-garde costuming, The Tudors’ primary legacy has been to misinform an entire generation of young people. If I had a dime for every American university undergraduate who expressed confusion as to why their textbooks did not support Showtime’s narrative of events ….

Entertainment media undeniably has the power to shape perceptions held by the masses. Recent years have witnessed rampant misguided blindness in casting actors inappropriately into roles for which they are not suited for a variety of reasons, all in the promotion of political correctness and ‘diversity.’ So now a new generation will ‘learn’ through My Lady Jane that King Edward VI of England and Ireland was Black, that Lady Frances Brandon Grey was a mature woman approaching 60 in 1553, that the title Duke of Leicester once existed in England, that one of the Dudley clan was named ‘Stan’ … and I could go on and on.

‘But,’ you ask, ‘isn’t it obvious that My Lady Jane is fiction? Surely no one would come away from watching it thinking that any part of it was true!’ Would that it were so! Unfortunately, however, the American media-viewing public is gobsmackingly gullible and largely incapable of distinguishing fact from fiction, as evidenced by the widespread and bizarre conspiracy theories so popular in America today. The average American will usually believe anything he/she sees on ‘the boob-tube.’ I refer you back to my statement above regarding Showtime’s The Tudors and its impact on American university undergraduate students.

Jane has already suffered the indignity of at least one previous malign Hollywood-esque travesty through the 1986 Paramount Studios film Lady Jane, the only positive outcome of which was to stimulate me to begin my academic study of Jane Grey Dudley and the succession crisis of 1553. In that instance, the film was little more than a commentary on the economic policies of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher cloaked in a Jonathan Livingston Seagull-like mantle of 1980s New Age mysticism and presented through the mouths of a highly fictionalized Jane and her contemporaries. Jane came away from that film as a whining, pouty, cross-dressing, sexpot caricature.

Comes now My Lady Jane, in which Jane is apparently depicted as a kick-ass female heroine intent on saving a hidden universe of supernatural characters from whatever dangers may threaten them. Watch it if you must, but please know that it is absolute RUBBISH historically! Both the Amazon series and the ‘young adult’ novel on which it is based bear no resemblance to or basis in historical reality whatsoever. From the casting to the costumes to the characters to the action, nothing in this series should be taken as accurate, as ‘based on real events,’ or even as a mere ‘interpretation of real events.’ Every word, every action, every scene … everything in this atrocity is, as I said above, nothing more than the fevered imaginings of a trio of hormonal adolescent girls seeking a moment of alternate-reality distraction from their own angst-ridden and all-too-real teenage lives.

I live for the day when a film or television producer with the historical sensitivity of Steven Spielberg or Tom Hanks or Ken Burns might produce a film about Jane Grey Dudley that is based on solely the surviving primary source material rather than on propaganda, social engineering efforts, and/or the pure rubbish of novelists lacking sufficient imagination to invent new characters of their own.


J. Stephan Edwards, PhD
24 April 2024