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In early 1554 Queen Mary I sent John de Feckenham to seek to persuade her 16-year-old Protestant cousin, the Lady Jane Grey, of the truth of the Catholic faith, thereby avoiding execution. Feckenham was unsuccessful, and she was beheaded February 12, 1554.

After dialoging about justification by faith, they turned to the subject of the sacraments:

Feckenham. — How many sacraments are there?

Lady Jane. — Two; the one the sacrament of Baptism, and the other the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

Feckenham. — No, there are seven.

Lady Jane. — By what scripture find you that?

Feckenham. — Well, we will talk of that hereafter. But what is signified by your two sacraments?

Lady Jane. — By the sacrament of Baptism I am washed with water, and regenerated by the Spirit, and that washing is a token to me that I am the child of God. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper offered unto me, is a sure seal and testimony that I am, by the blood of Christ which he shed for me on the cross, made partaker of the everlasting kingdom.

Feckenham. — Why, what do you receive in that sacrament? Do you not receive the very body and blood of Christ?

Lady Jane. — No, surely, I do not so believe. I think that at the supper I neither receive flesh nor blood, but bread and wine, which bread, when it is broken, and which wine, when it is drunken, putteth me in remembrance how that for my sins the body of Christ was broken, and his blood shed on the cross, and with that bread and wine I receive the benefits that came by the breaking of his body, and shedding his blood for our sins on the cross.

Feckenham. — Why, doth not Christ speak these words, Take, eat, this is my body? Require you any plainer words? Doth he not say, it is his body?

Lady Jane. — I grant he saith so; and so he saith, ‘I am the vine, I am the door': but he is never the more the door nor the vine. Doth not St. Paul say. He calleth things that are not, as though they were? God forbid that I should say that I eat the very natural body and blood of Christ; for then either I should pluck away my redemption, or else there were two bodies, or two Christs. One body was tormented on the cross, and if they did eat another body, then had he two bodies; or if his body were eaten, then was it not broken on the cross; or if it were broken on the cross, it was not eaten of his disciples.

Feckenham. — Why, is it not as possible that Christ by his power could make his body both to be eaten and broken, and to be born of a woman without man, as to walk upon the sea having a body,and other such like miracles as he wrought by his power only ?

Lady Jane. — Yes verily. If God would have done at bis supper any miracle, he might have done so; but I say that then he minded to work no miracle, but only to break his body, and to shed his blood on the cross for our sins. But I pray you to answer me to this one question. Where was Christ when he said, “Take, eat, this is my body”? Was he not at the table when he said so? He was at that time alive, and suffered not till the next day. What took he but bread? What brake he but bread? Look, what be took he brake, and look, what he brake he gave, and look, what he gave they did eat; and yet, all this time he himself was alive, and at supper before his disciples, or else they were deceived.

For an introduction to the moving story of this young woman’s life and testimony, see Simonetta Carr’s new Lady Jane Grey. You can see a brief overview below, along with some of the artwork from the book.

A nice scholarly website with primary source material can be found here.

For an accessible book, see Faith Cook’s The Nine Day Queen of England: Lady Jane Grey.

And you can find a nice overview of her life and witness in this lecture by Michael A.G. Haykin.


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18 thoughts on “How a 16-Year-Old Girl Explained the Sacraments to a Catholic Interrogator in 1554”

  1. Wesley says:

    What a fascinating story from our past – i have not yet heard of it until now! I still find it hard to this day to think of 16 year olds having this kind of both faith and the ability to express biblical knowledge in such a way, but i know that is only b/c i compare it with those of that age today. Wish i understood better the reasons for such a pejorative movement in the intellectual capabilities of youth. Either way, thank God for another faithful witness who did not shrink back even unto death as her Lord.

  2. David Bishop says:

    Sad to say, but based upon his quarrels with Zwingli concerning the supper, I would have to say that Luther would probably have demanded her death too.

    1. Richard says:

      That’s a cheap shot at Luther, Mr. Bishop. Luther never demanded the death penalty for those who disagreed with him on the Supper. We don’t need to slander our fathers in the faith.

      1. Isn’t LJG actually splitting the difference between the two?

        Seems she waxes Zwinglian when she replies, “I think that at the supper I neither receive flesh nor blood, but bread and wine, which… putteth me in remembrance how that for my sins the body of Christ was broken, and his blood shed on the cross…” and Lutheran in saying “[b]y the sacrament of Baptism I am…regenerated by the Spirit…”

    2. Levi says:

      I doubt Luther would have demanded her death. Who can say for sure, but there’s no instances that I’m aware of where Luther calls for the execution of heretics. He even strongly denounces the persecution of Anabaptists, who he hated.

      But he certainly woud’ve said that she was not a Christian because of her denial of the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine.

  3. Thomas Y. says:

    This is an amazing witness to one’s faith. However, we have saints such as Justin Martyr, St. Cyprian, St. Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, Ignatius.

    In fact Ignatius says that it was a heresy to deny that the Eucharist is the flesh and blood of Christ:

    Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chapter 6, 110 A.D.:
    Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God … They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.

    Also, according to Paul, 1 Corinthians 10, 11 the cup of wine and the bread we break IS communion or a partaking in the blood and body of Christ Jesus, parallel but contrary to the gentile sacrifices of animals. And if one takes of the bread and wine unworthily is guilty of the body and blood of Jesus (which are in the cup and bread).

    1. Levi says:

      Yes, for everyone who’s replying in one word-answers like “Bible” and “Scripture” as if this somehow refutes the sacramentology of Luther, Calvin, Aquinas, Agustine and just about every Christian who’s ever lived; can you please read 1st Corninthians again without imposing the dogmas of your Evangelical, Baptist, Zwinglian tradition on it?

  4. Ray says:

    She gave a brilliant and succint refutation to the lie of transubstantiation. Feckenhem had no coherent response.

  5. Raymond says:

    While admiring her resolute faith and unflinching courage, she runs afoul of the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 29, Q. & A. 79.
    Also the Belgic Confession, Article 35. She represents a true Zwinglian understanding of the sacrament. As a relative of Queen Mary, where did she receive her education in theology?

    1. joey says:

      Scripture..

      1. JR says:

        Amen, Joey!

  6. Bruce Russell says:

    Thanks for posting Justin.

    Those who truly understand Scripture know that you don’t come about understanding of the divine through human compulsion…either by sword, scimitar, or recitation of creeds.

  7. dean says:

    Nice Scriptural logic, humbling stuff.

  8. Kevin says:

    I’m sorry, but what is the source for this? Fox’s book of martyrs? Does anyone commenting here think that this dialogue really occurred? If so, who was the source? For one thing, I highly doubt that Jane Grey would have been spared had she converted to the Catholic faith. She wasn’t being punished for heresy, after all. They probably just wanted her to become Catholic for the sake of her soul as she prepared for death.

    Feckenham seems like an impressive figure in his own right: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06025a.htm

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Kevin, you are right that she wouldn’t have been saved if she had converted to Catholicism. Mary was seeking to persevere her eternal soul even if politically she had to take her temporal life.

      I think you can find some primary source material for this conversation through EEBO (if you have access to it).

      Grey, Jane. Here in this booke ye haue a godly epistle made by a faithful Christian A comunication betwene Feckna and the Lady Iane Dudley. A letter that she wrote to her syster Lady Katherin. The ende of the Ladye Iane vpon the scaffolde. Ye shal haue also herein a godly prayer made by maister Iohn Knokes. London: Successor of A. Scoloker, 1554.

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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