Jane Seymour’s Rise to the Throne
Birth: October 1507/08 (determined by the # of ladies in her funeral procession)
Parents: Sir John Seymour & Margery/Margaret Wentworth
Siblings: Edward, Elizabeth, Thomas & Henry (may be more)
Spouse: King Henry VIII
Children: King Edward VI
Jane Seymour was a descendant of King Edward III’s son Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence. Because of this, she and Henry VIII were fifth cousins.
Jane was likely educated by her mother. She was trained in needlework, household management and cookery. She could read and write her name. She also enjoyed outdoor sport including horseback riding and following the hunt.
Sometime during the 1520s Jane joined Katherine of Aragon’s household. It was while in Katherine’s household that she grew to know and love the Princess Mary…and Katherine herself. Jane so greatly admired the queen that she later modeled her own reign after her.
Jane had a front row seat during ‘The Great Matter.’ She had seen the way her friend, Queen Katherine was treated and had great sympathies for her – she had aligned herself with both Katherine and Mary.
When Katherine was sent away to Kimbolton Castle Jane became part of Anne Boleyn’s household. This would not have been by choice for Jane, and I’m sure Anne would know this as well. Jane and Anne had served in Katherine’s household together, so Anne would be well aware of Jane’s fondness and favor for Katherine, yet she kept her close…in her household. Is it because of the old saying? Keep your friends close and your enemies closer?
During Christmas 1533, King Henry presented gifts to several of Anne’s household, including Jane Seymour, whom he had known since she came to court, roughly a decade earlier. Henry had also known her father Sir John Seymour much longer; Henry had known John fairly well as he had a reputation of being a good administrator and at one time had carried out diplomatic missions abroad on the king’s behalf. John Seymour was therefor well trusted by Henry.
In the summer of 1535, the king and queen set off on a royal progress westward toward Wales. At this time their marriage was unraveling and was not the happy relationship they once had. On their way back from Wales, on 4 September they made a planned stop at WulfHall to stay with the Seymour family manor. In contrary to how it was portrayed in The Tudors, Jane was not already at Wulfhall – she was traveling with the king and queen during their progress and arrived with them.
By Fall (September) 1535 King Henry started to pay closer attention to Jane Seymour. How could he not notice her? Jane was so different from Anne. What he once loved about Anne was now something he despised about her. Jane was less obvious and concealed her ambitions with a modest, subdued demeanor – this was very different than his current queen indeed. Jane’s manner was pleasing and her temperament, calm. The king had become enamored with her and everyone started to take notice, including Queen Anne. The advantage for Jane was that members of court seemed thrilled at the idea of removing Anne as queen – mainly because of her promotion of the reformist cause.
It seems that after the stop at Wulfhall that Henry became smitten with Jane. When the group had returned to court the “affair” had continued and was growing. By November 1535 the French Ambassador saw them together and said the king was in love again. The affair, so obvious, that courtiers wanted to win favor with the Lady Jane Seymour. During this time of Jane’s rise Anne’s favor was in decline. The queen was excluded from things and was spending more and more time in her apartments, alone – very similar to the fate of her predecessor, Katherine of Aragon. It seemed as though karma had caught up with Anne for everything she put Katherine through.
Jane Seymour had two brothers at court, Edward and Thomas. They kept a close eye on their sister and insisted that she keep her virtue. They were playing the same game of chess that Anne and the Boleyns had played. “Save yourself for marriage and become the next queen of England.” The differences between Jane’s tactics versus Anne’s were that Jane was less obvious in her ambitions, more subtle than Anne was. Jane’s goal was to return England to Rome and Lady Mary to her rightful place in the succession.
During the same month (November 1535) Anne suddenly had favor returned to her when she declared to the king that she was with child again. The happiness did not last long as it was a stressful and depressing time for Anne. She was losing her husband to one of her own ladies and Anne was aware that this child would decide her future. Henry was obviously not in love with her anymore as he shrank from her in public instead of comforting her as he used to.
In January 1536 Katherine of Aragon died at Kimbolton. Henry and Anne wore yellow in public, the Spanish color of mourning and Henry was seen parading Elizabeth around with great joy. It seems obvious from his actions that the future of Anne had yet been decided if he was acting this way with Elizabeth in public.
On the day of Katherine’s funeral Anne caught her husband with Jane Seymour on his knee. Anne flew into a frenzy and Henry, worried for his unborn child, sent Jane from the room and attempted to calm Anne saying, “Peace be, sweetheart, and all shall go well with thee.” It was too late, the damage was done – it was later that evening that Anne miscarried their child…it had the appearance of a boy. Anne’s fate was now sealed.
In April 1536, Jane left Greenwich (where Henry & Anne had been at the time), not only was she distressed by the rumors and obscene stories about her affair with the king which had been circulating, but Henry also wanted her away from court when plans were being made for the removal of Queen Anne. Jane returned to Wulfhall and waited.
By 14 May 1536, Henry realized he could no longer be without Jane and called her back to London. When she arrived she stayed at the house of Sir Francis Bryan on Strand, about one mile from the king at Whitehall. This was when Jane first discovered what it was like to be a queen of England. She was dressed in rich garments, housed in great splendor and was waited on by Henry’s staff. Jane accepted these changes with a calm demeanor and grace.
Only four days later Anne Boleyn was dead.
Merely seven months from the beginning of their courtship, Jane was preparing for her wedding to King Henry VIII. On 20 May 1536 they had announced their betrothal. That evening Henry and Jane dined together in Strand and afterwards he took his barge straight to Hampton Court. The next morning at six in the morning Jane followed him there. By nine they were formally betrothed in a ceremony lasting only a few minutes. After the ceremony she returned to Wulfhall to await her marriage.
At this time both Mary and Elizabeth were now bastards and his son, Henry Fitzroy was dying. Henry was desperate for an heir…and a speedy wedding.
On 30 May 1536, Henry and Jane were married in the Queen’s closet by Archbishop Cramner.
Henry’s personal wedding gift to Jane was a gold cup designed by Hans Holbein and engraved with their initials entwined with a love knot. Jane’s motto appeared three times on the cup. “Bound to obey and serve.”
On 1 June 1536, Henry and Jane traveled by barge to Greenwich. A week after the wedding King Henry was already talking about the “Prince hoped for in due season.” Henry was optimistic that soon he would have that legitimate male heir he longed for and lost two wives over.
On 4 June 1536, Jane was proclaimed Queen of England at Greenwich.
In early spring 1537, Jane discovered she was pregnant – Henry had great reason to rejoice, for he believed she was carrying the son he had desired for so long. The pregnancy was announced in April when Henry relayed the great news to the Privy Council.
By late May at Hampton Court, it was announced that the child had moved in her womb. One courtier wrote, “God send her good deliverance of a prince, to the joy of all faithful subjects.”
On 16 September, Jane took to her chamber at Hampton Court in preparation for the birth of what was hoped to be a prince. Lady Mary had been with Jane for the last few weeks and would also be present in the chamber with her step-mother. By early October it seemed obvious that the birth was imminent. On 9 October the queen’s labor began. Jane’s labor lasted three days and three nights. It was rumored that she would have to be cut open to secure a safe delivery of the child. There is no evidence of a cesarean and no proof that Henry had to choose between Jane and the child if one had to be saved.
At two in the morning on the 12th of October Jane delivered a healthy, fair-haired boy. Her labor was long and painful but she had survived the delivery…and so had the child. Henry was over the moon with glee that he finally had a son, a legitimate heir to the throne of England. They named the child Edward, Duke of Cornwall from the moment he was born.
By ten in the evening on the same day Jane was sitting in her bed “writing” a letter to Cromwell to inform him that they had delivered a son, a prince. Her letter was signed, Jane the Queen. (see signature above)
On the day of Prince Edward’s day of christening the guest had gathered beforehand in the queen’s apartments. Jane was lying on a bed of crimson lined with cloth of gold. Around her she wore a crimson mantle edged with ermine. Her blonde hair flowed loosely. Beside Jane sat the King. When the little Prince was brought to Jane she gave him her blessing.
The following day Jane suffered a bad attack of diarrhea, which left her very ill. By evening she was feeling better. That night she fell ill again and early the following day her health was of growing concern. At that time it seemed obvious that she was suffering from child bed fever.
Jane’s conditions continued to worsen and Henry was called to be by her side. In the early hours of 24 October 1537, the queen slipped quietly away. Queen Jane was dead. Henry was destroyed by the death of his wife – his favorite wife, for she gave him a long desired son.
Source: The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir
Henry VIII History Jane Seymour Edward Seymour Edward VI Hampton Court Palace Heir Henry VIII Jane Seymour Queen Jane Thomas Seymour Wolf Hall Wulf Hall
Thank you a well written account of Jane Seymour.
Great article. Really enjoyed reading it.
It’s been widely suggested that Jane died of partial retaining of the placenta which then lead to septicaemia. Lucy Wolsey chief curator of Hampton Court discusses this in a documentary I caught not that long ago. They also discuss the likelyhood of her being Queen putting her at a disadvantage in regards to her perinatal and midwifery care. Very interesting.
Henry had had 2 or 3 sons that lived only a short time. The New Years baby lived for a month so this would not be the first time he held a son in his arms. Sorry, but it kind of drives me crazy that historians say that this was the long for child at his birth. He had to have been cautious, losing sons by Katherine of Aragon.
No historian here.
Jane was also second cousin to Katheryn Howard, Anne and Mary Boleyn through their common great-grand-mother Elizabeth Cheney.
I love these kinds of genealogical linkages.