A couple of weeks ago my blog was about the life and death of Anne Boleyn the 2nd wife of King Henry VIII of England. Well this week brings the anniversary of his marriage to his 3rd wife just 11 days after he had Anne executed.
Jane Seymour was the 7th child of 10 born to Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth. Her father was knighted by King Henry VII for his role in quashing the uprising by the Cornish in 1497. Her mother was the 1st cousin of Elizabeth and Edmund Howard the children of the Duke of Norfolk. Elizabeth Howard was the mother of Anne Boleyn and Edmund was the father of Katherine Howard. Jane was born around 1508 in the West Country, most likely Wiltshire. She was educated to an extent and she could read and write but her most notable skill was needlework.
Jane first went to court in an official capacity in 1532 when she was approximately 24 years old. She was made a maid of honour to Queen Katherine of Aragon. Jane held this position for the rest of Katherine’s tenure as Queen and throughout Anne Boleyn’s reign as well. It is during the last few months of Queen Anne’s reign that it is believed Jane caught the attention of the King.
Jane has been described by many contemporary sources as being everything Anne wasn’t. The Imperial Ambassador to England from the Holy Roman Empire Eustace Chapuys described Jane as being a peacemaker, and others described her as being meek. She was also described as being of plain appearance and she banned all her ladies from dressing in the French style like they did under Anne.
Jane was also different from Anne in one major way. Jane was a Catholic whereas Anne was Protestant. Many hope Jane would sway Henry back to the Roman Catholic faith. Whether this would have happened is debatable but it is noted that when she tried to grant pardons for the participants of the Pilgrimage of Grace (an uprising in the north of England against the break from Rome in 1536) she was reminded by Henry as to what happened to Anne when she meddled in men’s affairs.
Jane became formally betrothed to Henry on the 20th May 1536 the day after the execution of Anne and the couple married on the 30th May 1536 at the Queens closet in the Palace of Whitehall. She was proclaimed Queen of England on the 4th June 1536. Jane was never crowned Queen as during the summer of 1536 plague struck London and so no coronation could take place. Some believed this was an excuse and Henry would not crown her until she produced a male heir.
In January 1537 it was announced Jane was pregnant with the couple’s first child. Jane entered her confinement in September 1537 at Hampton Court Palace. Jane was in labour for three days and finally in the early hours of the morning of the 12th October 1537 she gave birth to a son who was named Edward and he went on to become King Edward VI. This was to become the best and worse time for the Monarch. Henry rejoiced the birth of his much prayed for son but it was soon clear the Queen was unwell. Just 12 days after she gave birth she died from the results of child birth.
Jane was buried at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle on the 12th November 1537 with Lady Mary (Henry’s daughter by Katherine of Aragon) as chief mourner. In the space of a few weeks Lady Mary went from being made godmother to her new brother to chief mourner for her step mother. Jane’s tomb marker is in the middle of the Aisle of the chapel in the choir close to the alter. The memorial reads
There is no actual tomb for Jane and as you can see she was joined by her husband Henry after his death. Many believe Henry was buried along with her as she was his beloved wife, but in reality it could have been because she gave him the son he desperately wanted.
During her reign as Queen she managed to reconcile Henry with his daughters, in particularly Mary, and Henry allowed both to return to court. She had wanted Mary and Elizabeth restored to the succession after any children she bore to Henry, but alas this didn’t happen, although her successor Katherine Parr did achieve this with the succession being Edward, then Mary, then Elizabeth followed by the decedents or Mary Tudor, Henry VIII sister (i.e. Lady Jane Grey). She also moved her family up socially. Her eldest brother Edward was made the 1st Duke of Somerset and was the Lord Protector for King Edward VI during his minority. Another brother Thomas was made 1st Baron Seymour of Sudley and would later marry King Henry VIII widow Katherine Parr and he may have had an inappropriate relationship with Henry VIII daughter Elizabeth under the nose of his wife Katherine. In the end though the brothers lost everything, literally. Edward was executed in January 1552 for felony after struggles over who would be the Kings regent. Thomas was executed for treason in 1549 with the final straw being when he attempted to enter the King bedchamber with a loaded weapon and shot the Kings dog when it barked.
Jane was Queen of England for 512 days. She succeeded where her predecessors failed in producing a living male heir and had the honour of having the King buried alongside her. But if she hadn’t died would Henry have tired of her and either divorce her or had her executed or would he have lived a peaceful life surrounded by his wife and the many children they may have had. If Jane hadn’t died then history many have been completely different and the Tudors descended from Henry could still be around today.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!