The Tower of London. A Historical Romance. Illustration for Book the Second, Chapter XLII. — "The Execution of Lady Jane Grey," providing a tragic and genuinely historical conclusion to the "historical romance." 10 cm high by 14 cm wide, framed, facing p. 421: running head, "Jane's Meeting with the Body of Her Husband." The full-page plate complements the title-page vignette of Dudley's execution and the frontispiece depicting Lady Jane Grey's beheading shortly thereafter. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]— George Cruikshank. Final, double-number, December 1840. Ninety-seventh illustration and fortieth steel-engraving in William Harrison Ainsworth's
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"Madam," said Sir John Brydges, after the new-comer had delivered his message, "we must set forth."
Jane made a motion of assent, and the party issued from the Beauchamp Tower, in front of which a band of halberdiers was drawn up. A wide open space was kept clear around the scaffold. Jane seemed unconscious of all that was passing. Preceded by the lieutenant, who took his way towards the north of the scaffold, and attended on either side by Feckenham and Angela as before, she kept her eyes steadily fixed on her prayer-book.
Arrived within a short distance of the fatal spot, she was startled by a scream from Angela, and looking up, beheld four soldiers, carrying a litter covered with a cloth, and advancing toward her. She knew it was the body of her husband, and unprepared for so terrible an encounter, uttered a cry of horror. The bearers of the litter passed on, and entered the porch of the chapel.
While this took place, Mauger, who had limped back as fast as he could after his bloody work on Tower Hill, — only tarrying a moment to exchange his axe, — ascended the steps of the scaffold, and ordered Wolfytt to get down. Sir Thomas Brydges, who was greatly shocked at what had just occurred, and would have prevented it if it had been possible, returned to Jane and offered her his assistance. But she did not require it. The force of the shock had passed away, and she firmly mounted the scaffold. [Chapter XLII. — "The Execution of Lady Jane Grey," p. 421.]
This scene was among the last which Cruikshank engraved for the novel's last serial instalment, and therefore one of his last opportunities for a dramatic, if not entirely "Rembrandtesque" group composition. Placing him mounting the scaffold just left of centre, the illustrator focuses on the now-familiar figure of Mauger, the headsman, where just hours before he had pointed at the shadowy figure, the ghost of Anne Boleyn, standing in front of the dim outline of the Lieutenant's Lodging or Queen's House, now clearly illuminated by sunlight. The three-fold mansion dominates the backdrop, although the stand of leafless trees to the left balances it. Precisely between these large blocks is the scaffold, in front of which the draped litter bearing the corpse of Lord Dudley Guildford is passing, left to right, born by four men-at-armes, who are counterbalanced by the dark-clad Jane; Father Feckenham, dressed as a monk as in previous illustrations; Angela, the waiting gentlewoman; and the pair of halberdiers, rather than the "band" which Ainsworth mentions. Still on the scaffolds near the block is Wolfytt, scattering straw to absorb the considerable amount of blood to be shed; in the foreground is Sorrocold, leaning on his staff. The dignified, scholarly gentleman with the rod (extreme right) is probably Jane's old schoolmaster, Roger Ascham, whom Jane has just acknowledged in passing. Conspicuous by his absence is the figure whom Cruikshank has omitted to include: Sir John Brydges, who is conducting Jane to her place of execution on Tower Green, which Cruikshank has depicted in the frontispiece, also issued in this final instalment.
The other illustrations involving the Tower Hill executions
Left: The steel-engraved frontispiece, The Execution of Lady Jane Grey at Tower Green (issued in December 1840). Centre: The wood-engraving that serves as the title-page vignette, The Execution of Lord Guildford Dudley on Tower Hill (issued in December 1840). Right: The uncaptioned wood-engraving that underscores the ruthlessness with which Mary put down the rebellion, Bret's head stuck upon a spike (issued in December 1840). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: Cruikshank's gruesome steel-engraving of the execution of Underhill for the attempted assassination of Queen Mary, The Burning of Edward Underhill on the Tower Green (Chapter 20, August 1840 number).[Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Last modified 4 November 2017