Jane Seymour

Jane Seymour (c. 1508  24 October 1537) was Queen of England from 1536 to 1537 as the third wife of King Henry VIII. She succeeded Anne Boleyn as queen consort following the latter's execution in May 1536. She died of postnatal complications less than two weeks after the birth of her only child, a son who became King Edward VI. She was the only wife of the King to receive a queen's funeral, and his only consort to be buried beside him in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.

Jane Seymour
Queen consort of England
Tenure30 May 1536 – 24 October 1537
Proclamation4 June 1536
Died24 October 1537 (aged 28)
Hampton Court Palace, England
Burial12 November 1537
IssueEdward VI of England
FatherSir John Seymour
MotherMargery Wentworth
ReligionRoman Catholicism

Early life

Jane, the daughter of Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth was most likely born at Wulfhall, Wiltshire,[1] although West Bower Manor in Somerset has also been suggested,[2] Her birth date is not recorded; various accounts use anywhere from 1504 to 1509,[3] but it is generally estimated as occurring in or around 1508.[1] Through her maternal grandfather, she was a descendant of King Edward III's son Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence.[4] Because of this, she and King Henry VIII were fifth cousins. She shared a great-grandmother, Elizabeth Cheney, with his second and fifth wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.[5]

Jane was not as highly educated as Henry's first and second wives, Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. She could read and write a little, but was much better at needlework and household management, which were considered much more necessary for women.[6] Her needlework was reported to be beautiful and elaborate; some of her work survived as late as 1652, when it is recorded to have been given to the Seymour family. After her death, it was noted that Henry was an "enthusiastic embroiderer."[7]

Jane became a maid-of-honour in 1532 to Queen Catherine, but may have served her as early as 1527, and went on to serve Queen Anne. The first report of Henry VIII's interest in Jane was in February 1536, about three months before Anne's execution.[8]

Jane was highly praised for her gentle, peaceful nature, being referred to as "gentle a lady as ever I knew" by John Russell and being named as "the Pacific" by the Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys for her peacemaking efforts at court.[9] According to Chapuys, she was of middling stature and very pale; he also commented that she was not of much beauty. However, John Russell stated that she was "the fairest of all the King's wives."[10] Polydore Vergil commented that she was "a woman of the utmost charm in both character and appearance."[11] She was regarded as a meek, gentle, simple, and chaste woman, whose large family made her a suitable candidate to give birth to many children.

Marriage and birth of heir

Henry VIII was betrothed to Jane on 20 May 1536, just one day after Anne Boleyn's execution. They were married at the Palace of Whitehall, Whitehall, London, in the Queen's closet by Bishop Gardiner[12] on 30 May 1536. As a wedding gift he made her a grant of 104 manors in four counties as well as a number of forests and hunting chases for her jointure, the income to support her during their marriage.[12] She was publicly proclaimed queen on 4 June 1536. Her well-publicised sympathy for the late Queen Catherine and her daughter Mary showed her to be compassionate and made her a popular figure with the common people and most of the courtiers.[13] She was never crowned because of plague in London, where the coronation was to take place. Henry may have been reluctant to have her crowned before she had fulfilled her duty as a queen consort by bearing him a son and a male heir.[14]

As queen, Jane was said to be strict and formal. The lavish entertainments, gaiety, and extravagance of the queen's household, which had reached its peak during the time of Anne Boleyn, was replaced by a strict enforcement of decorum. For example, she banned the French fashions that Anne had introduced. Politically, Jane appears to have been conservative.[15] Her only reported involvement in national affairs, in 1536, was when she asked for pardons for participants in the Pilgrimage of Grace. Henry is said to have rejected this, reminding her of the fate her predecessor met with when she "meddled in his affairs".[16] Her motto as a queen was "Bound to obey and serve."

Jane formed a close relationship with her stepdaughter Mary. Jane put forth much effort to restore Mary to court and to the royal succession, behind any children that she might have with Henry. She brought up the issue of Mary's restoration both before and after she became queen. While she was unable to restore Mary to the line of succession, she was able to reconcile her with Henry.[14] Eustace Chapuys wrote to Emperor Charles V of her compassion and efforts on behalf of Mary's return to favour. A letter from Mary to her shows that Mary was grateful to her. While it was she who first pushed for the restoration, Mary and Elizabeth were not reinstated to the succession until Henry's sixth wife, Catherine Parr, convinced him to do so.[17]

In January 1537, Jane became pregnant. During her pregnancy, she developed a craving for quail, which Henry ordered for her from Calais and Flanders. During the summer, she took no public engagements and led a relatively quiet life, being attended by the royal physicians and the best midwives in the kingdom.[18] She went into confinement in September 1537 and gave birth to the coveted male heir, the future King Edward VI, at two o'clock in the morning[19] on 12 October 1537 at Hampton Court Palace.[20] Edward was christened on 15 October 1537, without his mother in attendance, as was the custom. He was the only legitimate son of Henry VIII to survive infancy. Both of his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, were present and carried Edward's train during the ceremony.[21]

Death and funeral

Jane's labour had been difficult, lasting two days and three nights, probably because the baby was not well positioned.[22] After the christening, it became clear that she was seriously ill.[23] She died on 24 October 1537 at Hampton Court Palace. Within a few weeks of her death, there were conflicting testimonies concerning the cause of her demise. In retrospect from the current day, there are various speculations that have been offered. According to King Edward's biographer, Jennifer Loach, her death may have been due to an infection from a retained placenta. According to Alison Weir, she may have succumbed to puerperal fever following a bacterial infection contracted during the birth.[15] The same author has also speculated, after medical consultation, that the cause of her death may have been a pulmonary embolism.

Jane was buried on 12 November 1537 in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle after the funeral in which her stepdaughter Mary acted as chief mourner. A procession of 29 mourners followed Mary, one for every year of Queen Jane's life.[24] She was the only one of Henry's wives to receive a queen's funeral.[15]

After her death, Henry wore black for the next three months. He married Anne of Cleves two years later, although marriage negotiations were tentatively begun soon after Jane's death. He put on weight during his widowerhood, becoming obese and swollen and developing diabetes and gout. Historians have speculated she was his favourite wife because she gave birth to a male heir. When he died in 1547, he was buried beside her, on his request, in the grave he had made for her.[15]


Jane gave the King the son he so desperately desired, helped to restore Mary to the succession and her father's affections, and used her influence to bring about the advancement of her family.[26] Two of her brothers, Thomas and Edward, used her memory to improve their own fortunes.[15] Thomas was rumoured to have been pursuing the future Elizabeth I, but married the queen dowager Catherine Parr instead. In the reign of the young King Edward VI, Edward set himself up as Lord Protector and de facto ruler of the kingdom. Both eventually fell from power, and were executed.[15]

In film and on stage

In books

  • Is the main character in Carolly Erickson's highly fictionalized novel The Favoured Queen, which follows her from her appointment as lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon right up until her death.[40]
  • Is the subject of the novel Plain Jane: A Novel of Jane Seymour (Tudor Women Series) by Laurien Gardner (Sarah Hoyt).[41]
  • Appears as a lady serving both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, which ends with hints of her coming prominence. The second novel in Mantel's series, Bring Up the Bodies focuses on the machinations that led to the execution of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's growing determination to replace her with Jane Seymour and the Seymour family's strategems to gain from the King's attraction to Jane. A planned third volume, The Mirror and the Light, is expected to tell Jane Seymour's story.[42]
  • The book I, Jane, by Diane Haeger, tells of her growing up and, before catching the eye of King Henry, meeting a young man whose parents are well placed in court and look down on Jane and her family. Despite this, Jane and the son become close, and over the years she never forgets him.[43]
  • Seymour is the title character in Alison Weir's book Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen, the third in the Six Tudor Queens series.[44]

In music




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    2. Historic England. "West Bower Manor with barn (1058940)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
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    10. Norton 2009, p. 65.
    11. Vergil 1950, p. 337.
    12. Weir 2007, p. 344.
    13. Weir 2007, p. 340.
    14. Wagner 2012, p. 1000.
    15. "Jane Seymour: Third Wife of Henry VIII of England". A-london-tourist-guide.com. Archived from the original on 20 June 2010. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
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    18. Weir 2007, p. 362.
    19. Weir 2007, p. 367.
    20. Seal 2001, p. 129.
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    26. Weir 2007, p. 373.
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    28. Monaco, James (1992). The Movie Guide. Perigee Books. p. 30. ISBN 9780399517808. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
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    43. "Books by Author Diane Haeger". www.dianehaeger.com. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
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    45. "Anna Bolena (1830)". Libretti d'opera italiani (in Italian). Retrieved 28 May 2018.
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    47. Vannan, Alastair (1 January 2013). "The death of Queen Jane: ballad, history, and propaganda". Folk Music Journal. ISSN 0531-9684. Retrieved 28 May 2018 via The Free Library.
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    49. Best of the Bothy Band at AllMusic
    50. The Wind That Shakes the Barley at AllMusic
    51. Lost River: Vol. 1 at AllMusic
    52. Buchanan, Kyle (24 December 2013). "The Toughest Scene I Wrote: The Coen Brothers on Inside Llewyn Davis". Vulture. Retrieved 28 May 2018.


    English royalty
    Title last held by
    Anne Boleyn
    Queen consort of England
    Lady of Ireland

    30 May 1536 – 24 October 1537
    Title next held by
    Anne of Cleves
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