My Lady Jane: Is the Amazon Prime Show Inspired by Real Events?

Jonathan Prime/Image Credit: Prime Video

‘My Lady Jane’ is a historical comedy show developed by Gemma Burgess and Meredith Glynn that tells an extraordinary tale of adventure featuring Lady Jane Grey. After Jane is set to be married to Guildford Dudley, her life is thrown into turmoil as a sinister plot for murder rears its head. With several machinations and conspiracies coming to fruition, Jane’s already complicated adolescent life is beset by an unforeseen adventure full of romance and fantasy. The eponymous protagonist has to navigate a multitude of external conflicts while romping through an exciting narrative involving intrigue and humor.

The show delves into a world where medieval court intrigue, murder plots, betrayal, misfortune, love, and laughter are part of Jane’s upbringing, and the young heroine must contend with matters of the heart and head while staying alive. The contingent of people around her have their own agendas and their own ambitions to think of, while she becomes a fly trapped in their web of deceit. With the story’s roots set deep in its historical background, the show veers off into several high-stakes events that shape Jane’s journey in fascinating ways, prompting questions regarding its genesis and whether ‘My Lady Jane’ is based on a true story.

My Lady Jane is a Fictional Tale of a Real Historical Figure

‘My Lady Jane’ is based on a series of young adult fiction novels of the same name that provide an alternate historical account of the life of Lady Jane Grey. It was written by Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton, and Cynthia Hand and later adapted into screenplays for the show’s episodes by Gemma Burgess, Meredith Glynn, Alyssa Lerner, Shepard Boucher, Cathy Lew, and Bisanne Masoud. It chronicles the life of Lady Jane Grey, a real historical figure, who was appointed Queen of England on July 10, 1553, and executed nine days later on July 19. ‘My Lady Jane’ picks up the same events, except instead of losing her life via execution, in the show, Lady Jane survives her ordeal and goes on to live her life amidst a cacophony of action and adventure.

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In a 2018 interview, Cynthia Hand, one of the co-writers of the novels, said, “I’d always wanted to write a novel about Lady Jane Grey, who was a strong-willed, bookish teenage girl in 16th-century England who had the misfortune to become queen … but only for nine days, and then she had her head chopped off. I always loved studying Jane Grey’s story in history, except for the ending. I hated that this awesome person had such a tragic end. So I thought, ‘Hey, I’m a writer. I can give her a different ending! I could even turn her tragedy into a comedy!'” The inspiration for the narrative sprang from this desire to change the conclusion to Lady Jane’s life, who was 16 or 17 at the time of her execution.

Known as one of the highly educated women of her time, Lady Jane Grey was entangled in an uphill battle after marrying Lord Guildford Dudley, the son of one of Edward VI’s chief ministers. Before Edward’s death, he would leave the Crown to Jane and her successive male heirs. Unfortunately, this led to a political battle between her and Edward’s half-sister, Mary, as a result of which the young lady would be imprisoned and executed for treason as she posed a threat to the stability of the nation. Her husband, Lord Guildford, would be killed with her as well. Cruelly, she would be named the Nine Days’ Queen because of her short-lived tenure. ‘My Lady Jane’ alters this tragic ending to its actual historical figure and offers her an enthralling tale of wonder and excitement instead.

The Story Behind Adapting the Eponymous Novel to the Screen

Showrunners Gemma Burgess and Meredith Glynn were obsessed with Lady Jane Grey’s tragic circumstantial death and the series of books penned by Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton, and Cynthia Hand. However, it was Burgess who first came across the book on the subway in New York City. She witnessed a young girl reading the novel with a fervent attentiveness that compelled her to buy the book herself. Very soon, she read them and became a fan, inciting her interest in turning the story into a TV show of some kind.

Image Credit: Jonathan Prime/Prime Video

In an interview, both showrunners talked about the several inspirations they drew from, including the most important one, which was Jane’s central character. “Our other shared love language is Jane Grey herself,” Glynn said. “A character we were obsessed with when we were thirteen when you love everything that’s beautiful and damned. And then you look back on it and you realize, ‘No, that was a huge tragedy.’ She was one of History’s great victims and what an exciting opportunity…When I read the book, I was just so inspired by the opportunity to give her a different story.”

To immerse the audience into their medieval fantasy world, the showrunners looked at many movies and shows that had previously walked that tightrope of fun, engaging, comical, and historical narration. Films like ‘The Princess Bride,’ ‘A Knight’s Tale,’ ‘Ladyhawke,’ ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ and shows like ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Blackadder’ alongside many others, helped provide a diverse base of inspiration for their romance fantasy telling. ‘My Lady Jane’ takes a contradictory route to its historical telling by changing the events surrounding its protagonist’s life, but in doing so, it gives us a new original tale that still remains faithful to its extraordinary central character.

Read More: My Lady Jane: Where is the Prime Video Show Filmed?