Anne Boleyn, Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII of England, Jane Seymour, Queen Elizabeth I of England, Queen Mary I of England, Queen of England, Queen of Ireland
Jane Seymour (c. 1508 – October 24, 1537) was Queen of England and Ireland from 1536 to 1537 as the third wife of King Henry VIII. She succeeded Anne Boleyn as queen consort following the latter’s execution on May 19, 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, the daughter of Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth was most likely born at Wulfhall, Wiltshire, although West Bower Manor in Somerset has also been suggested. Her birth date is not recorded; various accounts use anywhere from 1504 to 1509, but it is generally estimated as occurring in or around 1508.
Through her maternal grandfather, she was a descendant of King Edward III’s son Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence. 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.
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.
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 with her sister Elizabeth. The first report of Henry VIII’s interest in Jane was in February 1536, about three months before Anne’s execution.
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. 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.” Polydore Vergil commented that she was “a woman of the utmost charm in both character and appearance.” 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.
Henry VIII was betrothed to Jane on May 20, 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 on May 30, 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.
Jane, Queen of England and Ireland
Jane was publicly proclaimed queen on June 4, 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. 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.
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.
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”.
Edward, Prince of Wales
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. 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.
By Christmas of 1536, Jane was pregnant but subsequently lost the child. In January 1537, Jane conceived again. 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.
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 on October 12, 1537 at Hampton Court Palace. Edward was christened on October 15, 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.
Jane’s labour had been difficult, lasting two days and three nights, probably because the baby was not well positioned. After the christening, it became clear that she was seriously ill. She died on October 24, 1537 at Hampton Court Palace. Within a few weeks of her death, there were conflicting testimonies concerning the cause of her demise.
Edward VI, King of England and Ireland, son of Jane Seymour
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. The same author has also speculated, after medical consultation, that the cause of her death was a pulmonary embolism.
Jane was buried on November 12, 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. She was the only one of Henry’s wives to receive a queen’s funeral.
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.