Thomas Chaloner’s
‘Elegy on the Death of Lady Jane Grey’
     Sir Thomas Chaloner (or ‘Challoner,’ sometimes called ‘The Elder’ to distinguish him from his stepson of the same name) was a courtier active primarily as an ambassador during the reign of Elizabeth I. He is best known as the first to translate Erasmus's Praise of Folly (Moriæ Encomium) into English, as well as for his own original compositions of epic poetry in Latin. Chaloner was a friend of many who had known Jane Grey personally, including Walter Haddon, John Cheke, and William Cecil. It is not known whether or how well Chaloner himself actually knew Jane, though he probably met her on more than one occasion. Chaloner was involved in the investigations into Thomas Seymour’s conduct in 1549 and may have met her briefly in the course of those duties. He was not a party to the events of 1553, as he was away on ambassadorial duties in France during the summer of that year. Chaloner died in 1565 at age 44.

Sir Thomas Chaloner the Elder
by Unknown Artist
oil on panel, dated 1559
National Portrait Gallery (London)
     Deploratio acerbæ necis heroidis prœstantissimæ D[ominæ] Janæ Grayæ, or Elegy on the untimely death of the most Protestant divine Lady Jane Grey, was written sometime after the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558, since it refers retrospectively to Mary’s death. The Elegy was first published in 1579, well after Chaloner’s own death, in a larger collection of his epic and elegiac poetry and epitaphs entitled De republica Anglorum instauranda libri decem ... (London: Thomas Vautrollerius, 1579).

     The poem is an elegy in imitation of the classical Latin elegiac poem, which consists of pairs of lines, called couplets. Each couplet consists of one line in dactylic hexameter paired with a second line in dactylic pentameter. These metrical parameters make it exceedingly difficult to translate Chaloner’s Elegy into English while maintaining those parameters.
     I am not aware of any English translation faithful to Chaloner’s Latin-language original ever having been published in English. The only instance of a semblance of translation is that of Thomas Gibbons in his Memoirs of eminently pious women, who were ornaments to their sex, blessings to their families, and edifying examples to the Church and the world (London: J. Buckland, 1777)[1]. Gibbons’s effort was less a true ‘translation’ than an ‘interpretation,’ however, since it incorporated a large amount of material not found in Chaloner’s original while simultaneously altering significantly both the content and meaning of existing portions. Whereas Chaloner’s original contained forty nine couplets, for example, Gibbons’s interpretation was well over twice as long at one hundred twenty couplets. Similarly, Gibbons mentioned John Dudley numerous times in his translation, though Chaloner never explicity referred to Dudley.

     The translation presented here is my own. And although it is admittedly a flawed one (since my skill in Latin has declined through lack of use), it is my hope that it will add to the limited body of primary source material available on Jane Grey Dudley and that readers will find it useful. And if a reader spots any translation errors that do exist, I would be very grateful if they would forward their correction to me (full credit will be given in a footnote).

     Translating Chaloner’s Latin text posed a number of problems. Firstly, it is utterly impossible to maintain the original elegiac form without significantly altering the content, as noted above and as Gibbons demonstrated. My translation is therefore in prose, though it is presented below in pairs of lines so as to correspond to the Latin original. Additionally, Chaloner littered his poem with a large number of extraneous or improperly placed punctuation marks, the effect of which is to imply odd or inappropriate content within various clauses. Lastly, Chaloner used non-standard spellings or abbreviated forms of many words, probably in order to meet the demands of the metrical requirements of elegiac couplets. I have therefore had to make ‘best guesses’ in several instances.

     Words enclosed in [brackets] are only implied in the original, but I have inserted them in the translation for the sake of reader clarity.
For a less literal and more literary translation, click on either portcullis button.
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Deploratio acerbæ necis heroidis prœstantissimæ D[ominæ] Janæ Grayæ, Henrici Ducis Suffolciæ filiæ, quæ securi percussa, animo constantissimo mortem oppetiit. A Docto Thoma Chaloner, milite, scripta. [2]
An elegy on the untimely death of the most Protestant divine[3] Lady Jane Grey, daughter of Henry Duke of Suffolk, who at the stroke of the axe, met death with an uncommonly steadfast spirit. Written by the learned Thomas Chaloner,
  Jana luit patriam profuso sanguine culpam,
        Vivere phœnicis digna puella dies.
  Jane paid for her father’s sin with the shedding of blood,
        the worthy lass shall live on for endless days, phoenix-like.
  Illa suis phœnix meritò dicenda manebat,
        Ore placens Veneris, Palladis Arte placens.
  She herself an enduring phoenix because of that which is worthy                of describing,
        with pleasing prayers to Venus, with the pleasant arts of                Pallas Athena.[4]
  Culta fuit, formosa fuit: divina movebat
        Sæpè viros Facies, sæpè loquela viros.
  She was refined; she was beautiful: Her heavenly face often                moved
        men, her speech often influenced them.
  Vidisset Faciem, poterat Procus improbus uri:
        Audisset cultæ verba, modestus erat.
  If he had seen her face, a suitor might have burned shamelessly                with passion.
        Had he heard her refined words, he would have been                modest.[5]
  Ipsa sed ut Facies erat insidiosa Videnti,
        Lumina dejecto plena pudore tulit.
  But just as a face upon seeing treachery,
        she carried a downcast eye with appropriate modesty.
  Ingenium (ô Superi!) tenero sub corpore                quantum
        Nacta fuit! Nactum quám benè et excoluit!
  Such character (oh the Gods above!) gotten by chance in a body                so delicate!
        And she perfected that which was gotten quite by chance!
  Vix ea ter senos obiens exegerat annos,
        Docta, Cathedrales quod stupuêre sophi.
  She who was dying scarcely having passed three sixes of years,
        was learned, so that she astounded the professors with                wisdom.
  Et tamen ipsa humilis, mitis, sensúsque modesti,
        Nil unquam elatum dicere visa fuit.
  And she was in the same degree humble, gentle, and possessed                of discreet judgment;
        never at any time was she seen to speak haughtily.
  At quæ viva omnes mansueto pectore vicit,
        Elato gessit pectore se moriens.
  And she who conquered every compassionate heart while alive,
        exhibited a gladdened heart at her own death.
  Constantésque animos supremo tempore servans,
        Nescio Socraticis cesserit ante rogis.
  And keeping steadfast spirits in the final moments,
        or until she had departed to the unfamiliar Socratic funeral                pyres.
   Quod si me vatum quisquam de more loquutum
        Arguat hæc fictis amplificare modis:
  But lest anyone should accuse me of having chattered foolishly
        in order to exaggerate this poem by false means:
  Juro tibi Veneris per et omnia sacra Minervæ,
        Perque Aganippæas, numina nostra, deas,
  I swear to you by Venus and everything sacred to Minerva,[6]
        and by the Aganippes[7], by our divinity, by the                goddesses,
   Quod nihil insinuo: ńon laudatoris agentem
        Quorsum opus ampullis tollere mirificis?
  because I insinuate nothing: Is it not the work of the panegyrist
        to add wonderful exaggerations to his reporting?[8]
  Novimus; et nostris hæc nuper vixerit oris;
        Objecta implacidæ blanda columba leæ.
  Let us begin again; and these recent things [events] may endure                through our speeches.
        The winsome dove was thrown to the savage lioness.
  Quam quia læserunt alia, quas debuit iras
        Vertere in authores, fudit in innocuam.
  And in this way they offended the other [Mary], the Councillors                compelled Jane         
        with their anger, she was transformed into harmlessness.
   Judicet hæc justus judex, qui pectora cernit.
        Non quæ jura jubent, semper ut æqua licent.
  Let these things be examined by a fair Judge, one who                understands [human] hearts.
        That which the laws do not forbid, justice always allows.
  Nec fuit, ut (si culpa fuit, quando inscia peccat)
        Altera tam sævis surgeret ulta modis.
  Nor was there, so (if there was blame, since she sinned unaware)
        the other [Mary] having been so avenged was able to                transcend the cruelty.
  Juppiter æquanimis crudeles odit ab Alto:
        Hinc (puto) et ultrici fila minora dedit.
  Jupiter in Heaven took dislike with brutal impartiality:
        and for this reason (I think) gave to the avenging younger                daughter.[9]
  Languentíq[ue] ægros longùm sub corpore                sensus:
        Conscia quò stimulus cederet acta suis.
  And [although] long weakened in the body by anxious feelings,
        having knowledge of the cause she was able to change her                own actions.[10]
  Puniit et lento primos Rhamnusia tabe
        Authores, diri consilii osa nefas.
  And taking a dislike to the wickedness of the cruel Council,         Nemesis[11] has
        punished the foremost Authorities [chief Councilors] with                lingering decline.
  Hunc hydrops, alium confecit calculus: isti
        Stilla gravis capitis, illi alia ingruerant.
  Dropsy was brought about in this one, the stone in another:[12]
        severe headaches befell that one, other things to the other.
  Discite mortales, sortem reverenter habete:
        Calcata ultorem sæpè habet illa Deum.
  Learn you mortals: have respects for the fates:
        the one who has been trampled always has an avenging                God.
Nec quia non semper manifestò Numen in iram,
        Idque statim surgit, Numen inerme putes.
  Nor because every time I betray the Divine Will in anger,
        He does not for that reason rise up immediately, you would                suppose God harmless.
  Linquo sed hæc aliis, quorum pia pectora fontes,
         Æterni laticis, Biblia sacra rigant.
  But I leave these other things, the origins of which [are] in godly                hearts,
        like eternal springs, they are conveyed by the holy Bible.
  Me decet Aóniis tantum indulgere corymbis,
        Quantum Helicon vati, Pieridésque ferunt,
  It is fitting for me so to be granted Aonian garlands,[13]
        as much as Helicon[14] to the poet, and the Pierides[15]                bring,
  Concinere atque isti miseræ lachrymabile                carmen,
        Quæ periit sævis virgula tacta Notis.
  And even for tearful poetry to celebrate that unhappy one [Jane],
        who perished like a broken twig in cruel disgrace.
  O Jana, ô facies, ô pectus amabile duro
        Cyclopi, aut si quid durius orbis habet:
  Oh Jane, oh lovely face, oh firm Cyclopian heart[16],
        or if the world treats something harshly:
  Tene ità non animos saltem potuisse Propinquæ
        Flectere? Nec demum flectere fœmineos?
  Therefore to have been unable even to change the opinions of a                fragile[17]
        kinswoman? Till then to have been unable to persuade                women?
  Non ignara mali, non hæc miserata jacentem est,
        Quàm pia dicta aliis, tam fera facta suis?
  Not unfamiliar with evil, did she not feel sorry for those having                fallen, as for
        others of holy words, having fallen to such a degree herself                by their cruelty?[18]
  Non potuit quondam cultam tam culta movere?
        Non raræ dotes, Donáque magna Deûm?
  Was she once unable to exert a sensibility so refined?
        Would you not endow [her] with rarities, and with great                gifts of the gods?
  Qualia vix uni tot contribuere puellæ?
        Nec nisi perpaucis contribuere viris.
  So much scarcely to be united in one such girl?
        Nor brought together in very few men.
  Mitto ego, quid fidibus scivit, numerisque                sonoris:
        Quid præstabat acu, pingeret aut calamo.
  I pass over in silence, what she knew about music, dancing and                songs:
        in what way she excelled with the needle, or at drawing                with a pen.
  Quis putet? Hæc Arabum Chaldaica verba loquelæ
        Junxerat, Hebræum scitè idioma tenens.
  Who can suppose? Having expert grasp of the language of the                Hebrews, she joined
        the Arabian language to the words of the Chaldeans.[19]
  Nam Graio, sive Ausonio memorasse loquentem,
        Parvum erit: has aliæ per loca culta sonant.
  On the other hand it would be a trifle to recall her speaking like                the Greeks or the
        Italians[20]: other women are heard speaking them in                civilized places.
  Gallus item et Thuscus sermo numerum auxerat                Anglæ:
        Si numeres linguas, bis quater una tulit.
  French also and Tuscan[21] discourse added their number to                English:
        if her languages were counted, twice four times together                she acquired.
  Invideat Stridon, te Pentaglotte ferendo
        Sancte Senex, vicit nostra puella tribus.
  Aged Holy Stridon[22] in acquiring five languages[23] may envy                you:
        our girl has excelled by three.
  Quòd si formoso veniens è corpore Virtus
        Gratior est, nihil est nobile stemma comes?
  Because if strength coming from a beautiful body
        is more pleasing, the pedigree of the noble duke is nothing.[24]
  A proavis pater huic titulos dedit ordine longo,
        Regales mater, læva per astra, dedit.
  The father gave to this one [Jane] by improper means titles of                honor in a long line,
        the mother gave royal [blood], at the time of ill-omened                stars.[25]
  Hiis perijt, nec sponte tumens, nec sponte tiaris
        Addita, sed Procerúm noxa peregit opus.
  She was destroyed by these, neither rising voluntarily, nor given                crowns
        by her own hand, but the deed was extinguished by the                offense of the Councillors.[26]
  Hii se fortè suis rationibus ut tueantur,
        Quid meruit pro tot sola puella luens?
  Granted that these [men] might protect themselves by means of                their own strengths,
        why has a lone girl deserved paying instead of all?
  Ignovit victrix aliis sine vulnere Sceptrum
        Ablatum Janæ, quod Maria obtinuit.
  The victor [Mary] forgave the others for usurping the royal                dignity
        without the releasing of Jane, whom Mary imprisoned.
  Huic non ignovit, teneræ nec dura pepercit,
        Nec consanguineæ, (tam pia) nec gravidæ.
  [Mary] did not forgive this [one], she was not stirred by [Jane’s]                youth nor fortitude,
        nor by nearness of blood, nor (so holy) by pregnancy.[27]
  Janam ætas, genus et sexus, Procerúmque reatus,
        Quicquid erat, culpa solvere debuerant.
  Jane’s age, her lineage and her sex, and the guilt of the nobles,
        whatever it was, ought to have absolved the sin.
  Nec tamen hæc Mariæ potuerunt omnia sensus
        Flectere: Cervices quò minus illa daret
  Yet all these things were not able to change Mary’s feelings:
        that younger one [Jane] would give
  (Proh dolor!) albentes gladio generosa secandas,
        Intrepidè indignam passa Virago necem.

the whitened noble neck (Oh grief!) to the cutting sword,
        the heroine calmly extending it to the death blow.

  Qualis Achilleo mactata Polixena busto,
        Dedecus immanis juge Neoptolemi.
  Such as Achilles slaughtered Polyxena at the tomb,[28]
        to the perpetual enormous dishonor of Neoptolemi.[29]
  Truba dedit Lacrymas spectatum effusa: Decori
        Illa memor, moriens lumina sicca tulit.
  The watching crowd gave flowing tears:
        she [was] mindful of grace, she bore dying with a clear eye.
  Oráque tranquillo vultu sauvissima pandens
        Verba dedit duras apta movere feras, &c.
  And after speaking powerful words the one considered most                pleasant [Jane]
        gave appropriate quiet prayers in order to expel cruelties.
  Ah, Maria immitis, fluvióque pianda noveno;
        Par erat, hoc saltem sanguine pura fores.
  Oh, pitiless Mary, and like the river which is to be appeased
               nine times[30];
        Equal she was, at least with this pure blood at the gates.[31]
  NOTES :      
Thomas Gibbons, Memoirs of eminently pious, women, who were ornaments to their sex, blessings to their families, and edifying examples to the Church and the world (London: J. Buckland, 1777), 58–70.
Thomas Chaloner, De rep. Anglorum instauranda libri decem... (London: Vautrollerius, 1579), 296–299.
Divine (noun): a specialist, expert, authority, or leader in the field of theology.
Pallas Athena was the Greek goddess of heroic endeavor and the companion of heroes.
My thanks to Meg Twycross of Lancaster University (UK) for correcting my translation of this phrase.
Another of many names for Pallas Athena.
Aganippe was the fountain of the Muses on Mount Helicon. Presumably Chaloner refers here to the poetic Muses themselves, rather than to their fountain.
Classical Latin panegyrists offered effusive and often exaggerated praise for living persons with the intention that others might emulate the supposed heroic deeds of that person. In contrast, elegists mourn a deceased person through somber poems of mourning and remembrance.
Elizabeth I, Mary I’s younger half-sister and youngest daughter of Henry VIII. The reference here is to heaven giving the rule of England to Elizabeth out of displeasure at Mary’s treatment of Jane and her co-religionists.
The concept obscured by Chaloner’s florid poetry is that Jane, knowledgeable of the belief in Christian salvation and heavenly reward, was able to overcome her fears in the hours before her execution by relying on surety of salvation.
Chaloner’s original uses Nemesis’s more obscure alternate name, Rhamnusia, probably to meet the demands of poetic meter. Rhamnusia/Nemesis was the Greco-Roman goddess of divine indignation and retribution, who punished excessive pride, evil deeds, and undeserved happiness or good fortune, and the absence of moderation; the personification of the resentment aroused in both gods and men against those who committed crimes with impunity.
Dropsy is a generalized swelling of the body and especially the joints caused by fluid retention. ‘The stone’ as an early-modern medical diagnosis included gallstones and urinary (kidney, bladder) stones, but was also sometimes used to include a variety of poorly understood abdominal and urinary complaints.
Aonia is the Roman name for a portion of Bœotia, within which lay the Helicon mountains, home of the nine Muses. Thus an ‘Aonian garland’ is a Muse’s garland.
The Muses, who lived on Mount Helicon and granted inspiration to poets.
Yet another name for the nine Muses, this one derived from the legend that the sisters were fathered by King Pieros of Macedonia.
The Cyclopes were a race of giants and thus had giant hearts. They were also known for their strength, especially as depicted in Homer’s Iliad.
‘Tene’ as used here by Chaloner is a non-standard spelling of the adjective ‘tenuis, tenue,’ meaning ‘thin, fine, delicate, fragile’. His non-standard spelling should not be confused with the imperative of the verb ‘teneō, tenēre’, which is also spelled ‘tenē’, meaning ‘hold’. In the absence of macrons, the length of the second syllable can be determined through examination of the meter. The second syllable of the first line of an elegiac couplet is short (‘tene’) rather than long (‘tenē’).
The Latin poetry is here very convoluted. In less rigid translation, the sentence might be rendered thus: ‘Being familiar with evil, didn’t Jane feel sorry for those fallen from God’s word in the same way she would have felt for followers of God’s word, even though her own fall was the result of their cruelty?’ The poetic point is that Jane was exceedingly magnanimous and forgiving.
Chaldea was the Roman name for a Semitic portion of ancient Babylonia. The ‘Chaldean’ language referred to here is Aramaic, one of the Semitic languages of the Bible and the language many scholars believe was Jesus of Nazareth’s native tongue.
Literally, ‘the Ausonians.’ Ausonia was the Greek term for southern Italy.
‘Tuscan’ was the Renaissance name for the Italian language.
Refers to Saint Jerome of Stridon, a father of the Christian church, a scholar in Greek, and translator of the Vulgate Bible from Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek to Latin. Jane is known to have read extensively from among the works of Jerome.
‘Pentaglotte’ is a non-Latin term adopted by Chaloner that I have translated rather freely. A Pentaglot is a five-language dictionary, or a person able to write in five languages.
The ‘noble duke’ is of course Jane’s father, Henry Grey, a descendant of Elizabeth Woodville, consort of King Edward IV, by her first husband, Sir John Grey of Groby.
Jane inherited royal blood from her mother, who was herself the granddaughter of Henry VII and the daughter of a dowager queen of France. The reference to ‘ill-omened stars’ reflects the pervasive Tudor-era belief in astrology and the importance of the position of the constellations relative to the timing of an individual’s birth, i.e., Jane was born when the stars were in an unlucky alignment.
Chaloner seems to mean that the potential good of Jane’s reign (‘the deed’) was destroyed by her having been placed on the throne illegally by the Privy Council. Alternatively, he may be saying, albeit cryptically, that Jane’s reign was ended because the Council failed to capture Mary in order to prevent her pressing her own claim to the crown.
Chaloner is the only source to suggest that Jane may have been pregnant at the time of her execution. Since Jane was held in separate quarters from her husband, Guildford Dudley, and since the two were not allowed to meet between 19 July 1553 and their execution on 12 February 1554, she would have been in at least her third trimester at the time of her death. Such an advanced pregnancy cannot have gone unnoticed and without comment by contemporary Protestant polemicists and anti-Marian propagandists. We must therefore assume that Chaloner was exaggerating in order to achieve maximum pathos, despite his earlier denials.
Polyxena was a daughter of King Priam of Troy. According to medieval versions of the story of the Trojan War, Achilles fell in love with Polyxena and proposed marriage. He arranged to meet her brother Paris and her mother Hecuba in the temple of the god Apollo to discuss the proposal, but instead he was ambushed and killed.
Neoptolemy is the Greek name for Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles (not to be confused with Pyrrhus of Epirus, the king of Macedonia who defeated the Romans at the Battles of Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC). Achilles fathered Pyrrhus through Deidamia, daughter of King Lycomedes of Scyros, while hiding among the women at that court. Later exposed by Odysseus, Achilles went with Odysseus to join the war at Troy, before Pyrrhus was born. Pyrrhus joined his father in the Trojan War many years later. After his own death, Achilles’s ghost appeared to Pyrrhus and demanded that he kill Polyxena as a pre-condition for the gods’ allowing the Greeks to leave Troy at the end of the war. Pyrrhus did so, and he also killed her father King Priam of Troy. Many years after the war, Pyrrhus was himself slain by Orestes, son of Agamemnon, the commander-in-chief of the Greek forces during the war. (Agamemnon was earlier slain by his own wife, Clytemnestra, and the lover she had taken during his lengthy absence fighting in Troy.)
This appears to be a reference to the River Styx which, according to Greek mythology, separates the Earth from the Underworld. In his Theogeny, the poet Hesiod refers to its “nine loops of silver-swirling waters.” The deceased gained entry into the Underworld by paying a ferryman, Charon, to carry them across the river into Hades.
This stanza is one of the more difficult to translate, but Chaloner appears to be equating Jane's blood, as spilled by “cruel Mary,” with the coins used by the deceased in ancient Greek mythology to pay Charon to ferry them across the River Styx. Through her payment in blood, Jane was purified prior to her arrival at the gates of Heaven. (My thanks to Stephenie Matejcik for alerting me to the earlier mistranslation.)
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