The Life of Lady Jane Grey (Part Three)



We ended Part Two of the series with the death of Edward VI on the 6th of July 1553. In this, the final article in the series, we will observe the short reign (13 days, not 9) of Queen Jane and discuss her execution.

If you’d prefer to listen to me discuss the topic you can do so here:

Heir to the Throne

On the 21st of June 1553, the Letters Patent was signed by 102 noblemen, London aldermen, bishops, archbishops and councillors – this was pretty much every politician that was available.ą These letters patent were issued stating that King Edward VI’s heir would be Lady Jane Grey, the daughter of Frances Brandon. Frances was the daughter of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon. But before we go too deep into that let’s look at what had happened before Edward became King of England.

Will of Henry VIII

In the Will of Henry VIII it was laid out exactly how the King wished for it to be for his son as a young monarch. It was obvious that he wanted his son to have the best, and to continue on with the Tudor dynasty.

Here is the succession part of his will:

As to the succession of the Crown, it shall go to Prince Edward and the heirs of his body. In default, to Henry’s children by his present wife, Queen Catharine, or any future wife. In default, to his daughter Mary and the heirs of her body, upon condition that she shall not marry without the written and sealed consent of a majority of the surviving members of the Privy Council appointed by him to his son Prince Edward. In default, to his daughter Elizabeth upon like condition. In default, to the heirs of the body of Lady Frances, eldest daughter of his late sister the French Queen. In default, to those of Lady Elyanore, second daughter of the said French Queen. And in default, to his right heirs. Either Mary or Elizabeth, failing to observe the conditions aforesaid, shall forfeit all right to the succession.



Edward’s Devise for Succession

When Edward VI created his “Devise for Succession” he wasn’t trying to overthrow his father’s 1544 Act, he was merely trying to follow in the footsteps of his father, Bluff King Hal. 

Edward’s “Devise for Succession” had been sent to Parliament, just as his father’s had, unfortunately there would not be enough time for it to be passed prior to his death. If it had been passed things may have turned out differently.

Here is Edward’s “Devise for the Succession”: Grey Inheritance

  1. For lack of [male] issue of my body to the male issue coming from this female, as I have after declared. To the Lady Frances’ male heirs if she have any such issue before my death, to the Lady Jane and her male heirs, to the Lady Katherine’s male heirs, to the Lady Mary’s male heirs, To the male heirs of the daughters which she shall have hereafter. Then to the Lady Margaret’s male heirs. For lack of such issue, to the heirs male of the Lady Jane’s daughters. To the heirs male of the Lady Katherine’s daughters, and so forth until you come to the Lady Margaret’s daughters’ heirs males.

There are four more paragraphs, if you’re interested in reading more I recommend using Google and searching “Devise for Succession” and you will fin your way around.

It wasn’t even clear that Edward even had the authority to alter his father’s will, particularly as Parliament had granted Henry the right to dispose of the crown. Even the Chief Justice, Sir Edward Montague, had a hard time believing that Edward’s devise would overthrow his father’s 1544 Succession Act – however, with a bit of royal and political pressure Sir Edward Montague was convinced to change his mind, and was given a pardon for his attempt to stop the King’s wishes.

Reluctant Queen

When the Duke of Northumberland informed Lady Jane Grey that Edward VI had died and that she would be his successor, Jane collapsed weeping and declared “The crown is not my right and pleases me not. The Lady Mary is the rightful heir.”  Northumberland and Jane’s parents explained Edward’s wishes to their anguished daughter; Jane accepted the crown as her duty: “Declaring to them my insufficiency, I greatly bewailed myself for the death of so noble a prince, and at the same time, turned myself to God, humbly praying and beseeching him, that if what was given to me was rightly and lawfully mine, his divine Majesty would grant me such grace and spirit that I might govern it to his glory and service and to the advantage of this realm.



Mary Tells the Council She is Queen

Here is part of the letter from the Lady Mary that is dated the 9th of July 1553, and it was sent to the Lords of the Council but arrived to them on the 10th. At the beginning she discusses that she had heard of the death of her brother, the King and how much it saddened her. Then she dives right into the issue:

But in this so lamentable a case,/ that is to write, now/ after his Majesty’s departure and death, concerning the Crown and governance of this realm of England/, with the the title of France/, and all things thereto belonging, what hath been provided by Act of Parliament and the Testament and last will of our dearest Father, besides other circumstance advancing our right, you know, the realm, and the whole world knoweth, the rolls and records appear by the authority of the king our said Father, and the king our said brother, and the subjects of this realm, so that we verily trust that there is no good true subject, that is, can or would pretend to be ignorant thereof, and of our part we have ourselves caused, and as God shall aid and strength us, shall cause our right and title in this behalf to be published and proclaimed accordingly.

Queenly Proclamation

Unfortunately, for Mary the preparations for Jane’s proclamation were already under way and the following day Jane was proclaimed queen.

It was between four and five in the afternoon, Lady Jane Grey, her husband, Guildford Dudley, her parents and mother-in-law arrived by barge to the Tower of London. As the large Tower gates closed behind them, a blast of trumpets grabbed the crowd’s attention.  It was there, that two heralds then proclaimed that Lady Jane Grey was Queen of England.

A Genovese merchant by the name of Sir Baptista Spinola, described the situation as such: Jane was wearing a green gown embroidered with gold, large sleeves and a very long train. Jane’s headdress was white and heavily jeweled. By her side was her young, tall and blonde husband, Guildford Dudley, dressed in white and gold – he appeared attentive to Jane’s needs. Spinola was apparently close enough to notice that Jane had small features and a well-made nose, the mouth flexible and the lips red. The eyebrows are arched and darker than her hair – which is nearly red. He also described her as thin and very small even though she was wearing platform shoes to increase her height. He was so close that he stated her eyes were “sparkling and reddish-brown in color.” It’s almost like he was standing right next to her. Unfortunately for all of us, that description by Sir Baptista Spinola was a work of fiction – literally. The first evidence of this observation goes back to a book by Richard Davey and Patrick Boyle in 1909 – men who were obviously not present at the time of the event. Because of that statement many portraits have been modeled after his fictional description.

Leanda de Lisle, author of “The Sisters Who Would be Queen”  says that actual witnesses at the event reported that Guildford walked by Jane with his cap in his hand and that her mother was carrying her train.

I need to take a minute to address the train carrying. It was highly unusual for someone with the pedigree of Frances Brandon to carry the train of her own daughter. What on earth did Frances Grey do to upset both Henry VIII and Edward VI –  to be removed from the succession and be replaced by your daughter? I have no idea…if you know, let me know, because I don’t know.

After making the announcement at the Tower, the heralds then moved on to proclaim their message throughout London. From the beginning, there were many who felt an injustice had been done.

A boy lost both of his ears when he shouted out that it was Mary who was the rightful queen and not Jane. The reception Jane received was a cold one, for the most part, after the proclamation was read.

Here is part of the proclamation:

Jane by the Grace of God Queen of England, France and Ireland, defender of the faith, & of the Church of England, & also of Ireland under Christ in earth the supreme head. To all our most loving, faithful, and obedient subjects, and to every of them greeting. Where our most dear cousin Edward the Sixth, late King of England, France and Ireland, defender of the faith, and in earth the supreme head under Christ of the Church of England and Ireland, by his letters patent signed with his own hand, and sealed with his great seal of England, bearing date the 21st day of June, in the 7th year of his reign, in the presence of the most part of his nobles, his councillors, judges, and divers others.

It then goes on to explain the legitimacy, or lack there of for both Mary and Elizabeth. The truth was that Mary was a Catholic and Edward and his men had done all they could to rid England of Catholicism during his reign. Allowing Mary to inherit the throne after his death was seen unfavorably.

All throughout London, notices were hung to announce the new Queen for those who were not present for the hearld’s announcement.

In “The nine days’ queen, Lady Jane Grey, and her times” by Richard Davey and Patrick Boyle – it says:

“From every point of view, Queen Jane’s proclamation was ill-advised. It was very long-winded, even for that period, and the manner  in which it dealt with the claims of Mary and Elizabeth, brutal in frankness, was well calculated to offend the Catholic powers, and cruelly wound the personal feelings of the late king’s sisters.”

As we continue with this timeline we cannot forget the Spanish – they were, of course, very interested in how things played out in England. Dated the 11th of July 1553, a letter was sent from the ambassadors in England for the Emperor – it said:

By way of news received since our last letter, we have heard that the Lady Mary, in spite of the considerations we submitted to her, has caused herself to be proclaimed Queen in Norfolk, and is continuing to do so in the neighbouring districts, both verbally and by means of letters. She has also written letters to the Council, which they received yesterday, declaring herself Queen. We have been told that when the letters arrived the Council were at the table, and were greatly astonished and troubled. The Duchesses of Suffolk and Northumberland, it is said, began to lament and weep. The Council commanded my Lord Grey to go and bring in the Lady Mary. They told him he would ride out the following day with a good number of horses.”

As we now know, Jane’s father did not go – he grew ill with “fits” that would weaken him for months – it is believed he suffered from stress and anxiety.  I also need to address the part about the duchesses of Suffolk and Northumberland is most likely a made up story, as they would have never been allowed into the meeting.

The Council Pushes Back

The Council then responded to Lady Mary’s letter on the 11th of July by saying:

Madam, we have received your letters the ninth of this instant, declaring your supposed title, which you judge yourself to haue to the Imperial crown of this Realm, & all the dominions thereunto belonging. For answer whereof, this is to advertise you, that forasmuch as our sovereign Lady Queen Jane is after the death of our sovereign Lord Edward the sixth, a prince of most noble memory invested and possessed with the just and right title in the Imperial Crown of this Realme, not onely by good order of olde ancient laws of this Realme, but also by our late soveraigne Lordes Letters patentes signed with his own hand, and sealed with the great seal of England in presence of the most part of the Nobles, Counsellors, Judges, with divers other graue and sage personages, assenting & subscribing to the same: We must therefore as of most bo?nd duty and allegiance assent unto her said Grace, and to none other, except we should (which faithful subjects can not) fall into grievous and unspeakable enormities. Wherefore we can no lesse do, but for the quiet both of the realm and you also, to advertise you, that forasmuch as the divorce made between the king of famous memory K Henry the 8 & the Lady Katharine your mother, was necessary to be had both by the everlasting lawes of God, and also by the Ecclesiastical lawes, & by the most part of the noble & learned.”

Crown Jewels and Coronation

The following day, on the 12th of  July 1553, Mary traveled roughly thirty miles moving from Kenninghall to Framlingham Castle. It was at Framlingham that she really began to rally support.  On that same day, the Lord Treasurer William Paulet, brought Jane the crown jewels, even though she claimed she never asked for them. It was decided that her coronation would not be for at least a couple of weeks, so there was no need. at the moment, for her to have the crown jewels in her possession.

It makes me curious, why would the Duke of Northumberland not push Jane for a quicker coronation. Had the ceremony been performed immediately there would have been no question who the Queen was – she may have been considered a usurper but she would have been anointed by God. When Matilda, daughter of King Henry I, inherited the crown of England it took her so long to return to England from the continent that her cousin Stephen jumped at the chance and was crowned King Stephen before she had the opportunity to claim it. Things like that actually happened. This is the very reason the Duchess of Northumberland wanted Jane in London while the king was dying, so she would be ready. Why didn’t Northumberland schedule an immediate coronation? It makes me curious. With that question in mind I contacted my friend Claire at The Anne Boleyn Files – Claire knows a lot about the time period and it generally my go to person when I have nagging questions. Claire said that a coronation took much time to plan and that is why she believed it wasn’t done immediately. In my opinion, if they were worried, they could have rushed the plans and made it less of a spectacle.

While the stories we are often told of Jane are of her weeping at the thought of being queen, the truth is that she was performing the duties of a monarch. And every day,Jane signed letters and papers with her name – “Jane the Quene” If she was reluctant I do not believe she would have signed it as such. I’ve always believed that she may not have wished the role at the beginning, but once she was in it she would fulfill her duties properly.

Jumping Ship

For the next three days  Mary’s supporters and forces grew. She gained support from men such as Sir Edward Hastings; Henry Radclyffe, Earl of Sussex; Sir Thomas Cornwallis; Thomas, Lord Wentworth; Sir Henry Bedingfield; John de Vere, Earl of Oxford. These men are big names for Mary to have on her side. In addition to them were many prominent families of eastern England. Mary was proclaimed Queen in various counties and towns due to her efforts.

On the 15th of July the tide really began to turn against Jane when the royal ships guarding the Eastern coast for ‘Queen Jane’ swapped their allegiance to ‘Queen Mary’. Their crews had not been paid, and they received a visit from Sir Henry Jerningham (grandson of William Kingston – that name should sound familiar) asking them to support Mary instead, so it was an easy decision. It makes one wonder why they hadn’t been paid.

Now, you are probably interested in hearing more about these ships and what happened:

A man by the name of Robert Wingfield accompanied Jerningham who had heard about the ships off the coast by a drunken sailor, and the following morning (15th) found the ship beached at Landguard Point. Wingfield documented what happened:

“Very early the next day Jerningham, accompanied by Tyrrell and Glemham, rode up to inspect the ships thus brought to the haven by a lucky tide and wind, as they say. When they had reached the haven he ordered Richard Brooke, the squadron’s commander, a diligent man and skilled in seamanship, to be called to him, and took him to Framlingham castle to bring news of this happy and unexpected arrival to the queen.”

I don’t know anymore than that. They brought the commander of the ship to see Mary and then the ships switched allegiance. Could it have been because Mary paid him the money that had been owed by Queen Jane’s establishment? Or maybe she just offered to pay in the future. Either way, they turned sides.

The Spy Talks

On the 15th of July 1553, a letter was sent from a spy in France to the Emperor. The emperor had great interest in the events at English court. His cousin, Mary, was supposed to be Queen. France was looking at aiding the Duke of Northumberland in securing Jane.

The letter˛ said:

“The present courier, who is returning in haste to Italy, will only give me time to write a few words; but it will be enough if your lordship learns the most important news. The King of England died on the 7th, and the wife of the son of the man who was formerly governor (i.e.Northumberland) was suddenly elevated to the throne, and took possession of London Tower with great pomp. The Emperor’s cousin retreated to some place in England. The said governor’s son followed her with 300 horse; and it is thought he will arrest her if he can. The said governor has written post-haste to the King here, and if there is trouble in England I am sure the King will not fail to help him with all his forces, both from here and from Scotland. Within two days’ time he is going to send M. de Gyé (the French ambassador) and the Bishop of Orleans to encourage the said governor, and offer him all the help he may need. There is some hope that this sudden change may give rise to an alteration for good in religious matters. God grant it may be so!”

Jane Fights Back

In the meantime, Jane continued to send letters to sheriffs and Justices of the peace and demanded their allegiance, saying: “Remain fast in your obeisance and duty to the Crown Imperial of this realm, whereof we have justly the possession.” Jane was determined to maintain her role.

The Chronicle of Queen Jane also reports that at around 7pm on 16th of July “the gates of the Tower upon a sudden were shut, and the keys carried up to the Queen Jane”. Jane had ordered guards to be setup all around the Tower to help her maintain her possession of it.

A couple of days later, on the 18th Queen Jane began to raise more troops. She had been upset and sent letters to those who would betray. She was sure that these rebels lacked the heart to continue on with their mission. She said these men should receive ‘such punishment and execution as they deserve’. But unfortunately her show of force was too little too late, the tide had turned and all appeared lost.

A Change From Within

While the Duke of Northumberland, and his army made their way from Cambridge to Bury St Edmunds to stand against Mary’s men, the Earls of Pembroke and Arundel called a council meeting and then betrayed Northumberland and Queen Jane. The men persuaded many council members that Mary’s claim to the throne was legitimate.

It was after the council had turned that men began to run through the streets shouting, “the Lady Mary is proclaimed Queen!”

Enemies of the State

With Mary now considered Queen of England, Jane, her father, the Duke of Northumberland and Guildford Dudley were now enemies of the state. There had to be consequences for usurping the throne.

So the Council’s soldiers arrived at the Tower, and Jane’s father, Henry Grey was there to speak with them. They informed him that all was lost and that he must have his Tower guards put down their weapons. Grey complied. They also told him to he must ‘remove’ himself from the Tower at once. Also, if he did not read the proclamation that Mary was his Queen in public he would be arrested. Henry Grey once again complied.

Queen No More

Grey had the unfortunate duty of informing his daughter that all was lost and that she was no longer Queen of England. Jane gracefully held her composure and reminded her father that it took much convincing at the beginning for her to accept the crown.

The Duke of Northumberland was quick to pledge his allegiance to the merciful Queen Mary as well. If this had been Mary’s father, all those involved would have easily been executed for treason.

Jane was moved from the royal apartment to a small house next to the royal apartments within the Tower. Her husband was placed in the Beauchamp Tower close by.

Northumberland may have believed himself safe but on the 25th of July 1553, he and his sons Ambrose and Henry arrived at the Tower. The following day his son Robert Dudley and William Parr both arrived as well. On the 27th of July, Jane’s was saddened to see her father arrive at the Tower – they had all hoped that Northumberland would take the fall for the entire event.

Fighting for her Family

On the 29th of July, Jane’s mother and cousin to the Queen, Frances Brandon paid a special visit to Queen Mary. It was at this meeting that Frances pleaded with Mary that her family were the victims of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. Mary agreed to release Henry Grey the following day, but Jane was charged with treason had to stay in the Tower – it was too dangerous for Mary to release her.

Queen Mary

On the 3rd of August, Queen Mary made her formal entry into London. With her procession of nobles and courtiers took claim of the Tower of London.

While this battle for the throne was shrouded in religion, Queen Mary made a point of issuing a conciliatory proclamation which promised a settlement of religion ‘by common consent’ – and said that people, in the meantime, should live under the religion ‘they thought best’. This was a smart move by Mary. Most people were terrified that she would immediately return England to Catholicism.

Treason Trial

On the 13th of November, Jane, her husband Guildford and his brothers Ambrose and Henry were tried for treason. The trial was public and was held at London’s Guuildhall. Jane Guildford were charged with high treason for taking possession of the Tower and proclaiming Jane as Queen. Jane was also charged with signing her name as Queen.

They were all found guilty as charged. The men were to be hanged, drawn and quartered and Jane was to be burned alive or beheaded.  It was reported that Jane remained calm during her trial and sentencing. Jane was determined that her death would have meaning. During her time in the Tower as a prisoner she truly devoted herself to her religion and found comfort in it.

Eric Ives states in his book (Lady Jane Grey – A Tudor Mystery) that:

“Jane faced imprisonment in the Tower positively. The loss of liberty was irksome, but the more she could, by God’s grace, triumph over hardships, the more confident should be be of her eternal destiny.”

Even though Jane had been condemned to die there was no date given for her execution. It appeared at the time that her cousin, the Queen, might spare her life.

Wyatt’s Rebellion

Unfortunately for Jane, the year 1554 brought trouble, by way of Thomas Wyatt and Wyatt’s Rebellion. The point of the rebellion was to remove Mary from the throne and win it for Elizabeth (another Protestant) because Mary was looking at marrying a foreign prince, Philip of Spain. However, many believed at court that the intent was to place Jane back on the throne of England. But, as history tells, Wyatt’s Rebellion a failure – the only thing it succeeded in was the execution of Jane and her husband.

Executions

A resident in the Tower wrote this about the day of their execution:

“The Monday, being the 12th of February, about ten of the clock, there went out of the Tower to the scaffold on Tower hill, the Lord Guildford Dudley, son to the late Duke of Northumberland, husband to the Lady Jane Grey, daughter the Duke of Suffolk, who at his going out took by the hand sir Anthony Brown, master John Throckmorton, and many other gentlemen, praying them to pray for him.”

Guildford was led to the scaffold, where he said few words, kneeled down and said his prayers.

“Then holding up his eyes and hands to God many times, and at last, after he had desired the people to pray for him, he laid himself along, and his head upon the block, which was at one stroke of the axe taken from him.”

The same witness made account of Jane’s execution as well:

“First, when she mounted upon the scaffold, she said to the people standing thereabout: ‘Good people, I am come hether to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact, in deed, against the queen’s highness was unlawfull, and the consenting thereunto by me: but touching the procurement and desire thereof by me or on my half, I do wash my hands thereof in innocence, before God, and the face of you, good Christian people, this day’, and therewish she wrung her hands, in which she had her book. Then she said, ‘I pray you all, good Christian people, to bear me witness that I die a true Christian woman, and that I look to be saved by none other mean, but only by the mercy of God in the merits of the blood of his only son Jesus Christ; and I confess when I did know the word of God I neglected the same, loved myself and the world, and therefore this plague or punishment is happily and worthely happened unto me for my sins; and yet I thank God of his goodness that he hath thus given me a time and respite to repent. And now good people, while i am alive, I pray you to assist me with your prayers.’

After reading a psalm from her book she stood up, and gave her gloves and handkerchief to Elizabeth Tilney, and her prayer-book to Master Thomas Bridges. She then untied her gown. The executioner went to assist her but she adamantly declined his offer and turned to her ladies. It was after all that that her eyes were covered with a blindfold.

The executioner then knelt down and asked for her forgiveness in which she willingly forgave the men for what he must do. She said to him, “I pray you dispatch me quickly”.

Blindfolded, Jane was unable to locate the block in front of her.  She had a moment of panic and said, “what shall I do?’ ‘Where is it?’ A person nearby (it does not say whom) guided the frightened young woman to the block.

Her final words were, “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit!”


Notes:

ąhttps://allthingsrobertdudley.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/edward-vi-the-wills-of-a-king/)
˛’Spain: July 1553, 11-15′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11, 1553, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1916), pp. 80-90. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol11/pp80-90 [accessed 18 March 2018]

Sources:

De Lisle, Leanda. ‘Three Sisters Who Would Be Queen‘.
Ives, Eric. ‘Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery‘.
Tallis, Nicole. ‘Crown of Blood’.
Jane Grey – The Tudor Society Monarch Series (Book 4)
Green, Mary Anne Everett Letters of royal and illustrious ladies of Great Britain, from the commencement of the twelfth century to the close of the reign of Queen Mary; Published 1846
Nichols, John Gough  The chronicle of Queen Jane, and of two years of Queen Mary, and especially of the rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt
Letters of royal and illustrious ladies of Great Britain, from the commencement of the twelfth century to the close of the reign of Queen Mary; by Green, Mary Anne Everett; Published 1846; pages 274-279
Tudor Society: Edward VI Chooses Lady Jane Grey as Heir
https://blogs.loc.gov/law/2014/07/my-devise-for-the-succession/
https://archive.org/details/lettersroyaland06greegoog
http://www.ladyjanegrey.info/?page_id=10900
https://archive.org/details/fursfurgarments00daveuoft


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The Life of Jane Seymour – Third Wife of Henry VIII

Described by Polydore Vergil as “A woman of the utmost charm both in appearance and character” and Sir John Russell as, “the fairest of all his wives”. Eustace Chapuys described Jane as “of middle stature and no great beauty”.

Jane was of a natural sweet-nature, unlike her predecessor Anne Boleyn and had also been considered virtuous.

Before you continue reading, if you’d prefer, you can listen to a supplemental podcast I made about Jane with the help of Matthew Lewis:

Jane Seymour – Third Wife of Henry VIII

As you may or may not recall, Jane Seymour was at the very bottom of my list of Tudor queens – she has just always seemed so boring to me. To my surprise, while researching this article, I began to uncover a woman who was a bit more interesting than I initially suspected.

Jane’s Family Tree

We know her best as the third wife of Henry VIII but Jane Seymour, through her mother, was descended from King Edward III through his great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Mortimer, Lady Hotspur.

Jane’s father, Sir John Seymour was descended from of a man who travelled with William the Conqueror to England by the surname of St. Maur – and eventually that name transformed into the Seymour name we know today.

John Seymour, was a close companion of King Henry VIII and had been knighted in the field of battle by his predecessor, King Henry VII at the Battle of Blackhearth.

Portrait of Sir John Seymour by unknown artist.

John and Margery Seymour had ten children in all. Their eldest, John, was (as the oldest son) expected to do great things, but when he died years later his parents were devastated. Next there was Edward, who then claimed the prized position of eldest son, then Henry who was okay with a simpler life outside of court, followed by Thomas, another John (d. 20 July 1520), Anthony (d. young), then Jane, Elizabeth, Margery (d. young) and Dorothy. This order of children does not seem correct to me because it has always been noted that Jane and Thomas were close in age. If there were two siblings in between that would not be the case. Author Antonia Fraser gives a better account, from her 1992 book called “The Wives of Henry VIII”: John, Edward, Henry, Thomas, Jane, Elizabeth, Dorothy, Margery, Anthony and John. With no real evidence of who was older, Anthony or Margery – yet we do know the youngest three children (in this instance) all died young.

Jane, Thomas, Edward and Elizabeth Seymour. The surviving Seymour siblings minus Henry and Dorothy.

The Early Years

Author Elizabeth Norton says that Jane was too young to remember when her older brother died – I strongly disagree with that statement since she would have been about eleven years old at the time – a good age for recalling the death of an older sibling. Jane also lost her youngest siblings Anthony, Margery and John. Anthony and Margery are believed to have died young from the Sweating Sickness – the very reason why Jane was especially fearful of catching it herself in later years – because she had seen what it had done to her brother and sister.

In Jane’s early years she was witness (at about age four or five) to her father leaving Wolf Hall to fight at the Sieges of ThĂ©rouanne and Tornay in France. Around that same, the Battle of Flodden was taking place in the North of England – led by Queen Katherine as regent. One must wonder if Jane understood what was happening around her at this time and if she worried for her father’s safety from the security of her family home at Wolf Hall in Wiltshire.

Author Amy Aubrey Locke of The Seymour Family said that Jane Seymour probably had a quiet, humdrum childhood. That Jane spent little time with books but much at needlework. Some of her childhood needlework was still in existence up to 1652. What we do know about her education is that Jane was literate in English and that she did not learn Latin, which was the gateway to further learning.

Jane most likely shared a classroom with her brother Thomas since they were so close in age. As we’ve learned recently, Thomas had no interest in learning and it makes one wonder if that motivated Jane to be a better student. We also know that Jane enjoyed the outdoors – this was a very important part of her education as a country gentlewoman. Jane became an expert horsewoman and hunting was one of her favorite outdoor sports.

Nineteenth century author, Agnes Strickland believed Jane Seymour was educated at French court, as a maid to the English princess, Mary Tudor when she married King Louis XII of France in 1514. While there is no definitive proof of this, Strickland claimed that there was a portrait of a girl at the Louvre that she believed was Jane Seymour. I’m skeptical of this information since Jane would have been only five or six years old at the time and that seems very young to be a maid in any household, let alone the household of a queen in France.

Old Enough to be Married

Between John, his wife Margery and their son Edward, their connections at Tudor court ran deep – Edward had been spending much time at court and knew well who could help him find his sister a position at court. Once she arrived at court this would open a world of marriage prospects for the single Jane.

What is not doubted is that in 1529, before Katherine of Aragon lost the title of queen, Jane served in her household as a lady-in-waiting. It is likely that Jane was in the household of a notable lady prior to that of the queen since, as author David Loades states, a position like that “could scarcely have happened except from an established position within the court”.ďż˝

Jane Seymour arrived at court when she was eighteen or nineteen, but at what capacity is still unknown.

Some believe that Sir Francis Bryan, a distant cousin, had a hand in her placement in the household of Queen Katherine, as well as that of Queen Anne.

History says that at one time Jane was attached to the son of Sir Robert and Lady Dormer – a neighbor of Wolf Hall. Unfortunately, it is believed that Jane was of too modest of rank to marry a Dormer.

Author Janet Wertman of Jane the Quene said in an interview once that she believed Jane was desperate to marry and resentful of her siblings. It’s interesting when you see that Jane was 27 when she married, nearly a decade older than most women and both of her younger sisters had acquired marriages before her.

It says a lot that her younger sister Elizabeth married sometime before 1530 – most likely an indicator that Jane wasn’t perceived as a great catch – that her sister’s beauty was much greater. Being that John Seymour had so many children and three daughters to marry off this left very little in the way of a dowry for any marriage, yet with that being said Elizabeth married Sir Anthony Ughtred – of the prominent Ughtred family.

While in the household of Queen Katherine, Jane would have been expected to go to mass often and work on needlework, but she would not have been expected to have learned discussion. The most important role at court for Jane would have been that of a woman looking for a husband – in this, Jane was not versed in courtly flirtation. The modus operandi of single ladies at court, or in the household of the queen, was to play hard to get. Be unavailable. This was a skill that came naturally to Jane and may have been one of the reasons why she was still single in her 20s.

Jane Joins the Household of Anne Boleyn

Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn in secret around the beginning of 1533; That summer Henry redesignated Katherine of Aragon as dowager Princess of Wales and her household was reorganized. Jane was one of the ladies who had been removed from the household since she was suspected of sharing similar religious views with Katherine. From there she was sent to the household of the new queen, Anne Boleyn.

Jane Seymour and an older Anne Boleyn

By August of that year, Anne, heavily pregnant with her daughter Elizabeth, took to her Chamber at Greenwich Palace. Jane and the other ladies would have been there to tend to the Queen’s needs. Their duties, since men were not allowed in the Queen’s rooms during a lady’s lying-in, were to guard the door, wait tables and routine work such as lighting fires and keeping the place clean. The Queen’s ladies would have slept on pallet beds in the Queen’s Bedchamber in case something happened during the night, but once the big day grew closer it was the royal midwife who slept near the Queen in their place.

Princess Elizabeth was born on the 7th of September 1533 and the birth was reported as easy. Jane’s duties at this point would have been to bring water and wine when Anne was in need of them. Both the King and Queen were disappointed in the arrival of a daughter but were confident that sons would follow.

The tide began to turn for Queen Anne after her miscarriage in July or August 1534. Those who were against the marriage from the start used this to fuel their ambitions to have Anne removed.

Things Were About to Change

In the summer of 1535, King Henry and Queen Anne embarked on their annual progress across England. One of their stops along the way was the home of John Seymour – Wolf Hall, on the 4th of September.

Stops along their progress were generally chosen due to size and convenience, but it’s also possible that the king wished to visit the home of the woman he fancied – Jane Seymour. In addition, the King enjoyed the company of John Seymour, her father. At the moment Anne Boleyn was still safely secure on her throne and Katherine of Aragon was still alive – so Henry would not have been thinking about marrying since he would have had plenty of wives to go around.

So much is unknown about that visit to Wolf Hall, especially if Jane was present. As a member of the Queen’s household, surely Jane would have been there…or would she? We do not know how the entourage for the progress was constructed since there is no documentation of it. Author David Loades states that it is just as likely that Jane stayed behind in London. No matter where she was Jane’s whereabouts in the summer of 1535 are unknown.

January of 1536 saw much change in England; On the 7th of January Katherine of Aragon died at Kimboltan Castle. Two days later, dressed in yellow, Henry and Anne triumphantly paraded to mass with their daughter Elizabeth. It is believed that the color yellow was the color of celebration. The couple wore the color to celebrate the death of the former queen…this is a subject that has been heavily debated.

At the time, Queen Anne was pregnant again and had good reason to be concerned with the sex of the child. If this child proved to be a girl, or if she miscarried, all would be lost. She understood that the tide had turned and many wished her removed as queen.

Because of the death of his first wife and pregnancy of his second wife, King Henry decided to stage a tournament. He was forty-four years old at the time and chose to participate in the jousting events, even though he hadn’t jousted in several years. It was on the 24th of January 1536, seventeen days after his first wife died that King Henry fell in the tiltyard during a joust. The King lay motionless for two hours and some thought all hope was lost.

It had been reported that Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk burst into the Queen’s chambers to tell his niece the King was dead. Anne Boleyn was visibly upset – she was pregnant with the King’s child but without the King she had no protection from those who wished her harm. Henry recovered from his fall and five days later Anne suffered a miscarriage of a male fetus.

Showtime’s “The Tudors” – Jane Seymour on Henry VIII’s lap. Photo: Jonathan Hession/Showtime

There was another story, told by Jane Dormer (a woman who served Queen Mary), that Anne had walked in on Jane Seymour sitting on the King’s knee and that is what caused her to miscarry the child. This tale is completely fabricated – this can be proven by the fact that Dormer was born in 1538 – two years after the events occurred. Jane Dormer claimed that she heard the story from one of Anne’s ladies, in old age, whose memory may not have been so good after so many years had passed.

The Rise of Jane Seymour

After this final miscarriage the door was left open for her enemies to hatch plans to have her removed. Some may have been planning this already and were interrupted when Queen Anne became pregnant again. It was clear to many that God did not smile upon the marriage as Anne could not provide the King with a son.

Even Cromwell and Chapuys had discussed the topic of Anne being replaced by another – quite a leap if you consider the two men were on opposite ends of the religion spectrum. It also appears that Chapuys was aware of Jane Seymour being a lady of interest to become wife number three. Shortly after that conversation it was reported by that Chapuys received a letter from the Marquess of Exeter and his wife Gertrude that said the lady had rejected a royal gift by the king.

After Jane had refused the gift from King Henry word spread quickly about the King’s interest in her. When he found out, Henry informed Jane not to pay attention to the rumors.

Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein the Younger

Not long after, in March 1536, while the King was at Westminster and Jane at Greenwich the King sent her yet another gift – to which Jane fell to her knees and kissed the royal missive telling the messenger that she was “a gentlewoman of fair and honurable lineage without reproach”. Saying she had “nothing in the world but her honour, which she would not wound for a thousand deaths”. It was those words that made Henry realize that any time he was in the presence Jane that it should be done in front of family…to witness them. He wanted to make sure he did things right this time.

Eventually Jane had accepted a gift from the King, and Anne Boleyn had noticed something around her attendants neck. She asked her lady if she could look at her new necklace and Jane, knowing Anne would be livid if she saw, drew back. The Queen then snatched it from Jane and opened it to find a portrait of the King. You can about imagine the scene in your head.

In mid-April 1536, Edward and Anne Seymour moved into the apartments at Greenwich which previously had belonged to Thomas Cromwell. The fact that Cromwell was willing to give up his apartments to Jane shows that he had decided to join the charge against Anne. A secret passage joined the two chambers (Henry and Jane’s), so Henry could visit Jane without anyone noticing.

During the trial of Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour was noticeably absent from court. She spent time in the household of the King’s favorite, Sir Nicholas Carew “in almost regal splendour” – the Carew home was only seven miles from London. On the 15th of May it was noted that she was in a house looking onto the river within a mile of Whitehall. It was at this location that Sir Francis Bryan kept Jane in the loop. Jane’s reaction to Bryan telling her of Anne’s execution had not been noted.

The question remains – did Jane believe Anne to be guilty of the charges against her? At the time, when Jane caught the King’s eye, Anne was already in disfavor with Cromwell and a majority of English subjects had blamed her for the lack of papal authority in England.

On the 18th of May the Imperial Ambassador wrote to Cardinal Granvelle of Jane Seymour, saying:

“She is sister to Sir Edward Seymour, of middle stature and no great beauty…shis is over twenty-five years old and has long frequented the court…she is not a woman of great wit, but may be of good understanding. It is said that she is included to be proud and haughty, and has a good affection towards the Princess�”�Chapuys was, of course, referring to Mary.

On the 19th of May, the day Anne Boleyn was executed, Cranmer issued a dispensation for Henry and Jane to marry �although within the third degree of affinity�. What that affinity is is unknown but one can assume that the King was just covering his bases to make sure this marriage, his third, was completely valid.

Jane the Quene

The day after the execution of Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour traveled to Hampton Court Palace and was secretly betrothed to Henry VIII. The King’s swift action was “ill taken” by many people seeing it as a marriage that was planned prior to the trial and execution of Anne Boleyn. Henry, aware of this, attempted to keep the betrothal secret for some time but it was a matter of hours and word had spread all over court.

When we think of Jane Seymour it is usually of that of a woman who was a pawn for her family…a sweet and kind lady who tried to bring Mary back into the King’s good graces…but what about a woman who knew that her placement on the throne would be at the cost of another’s life? What about that woman? There was a side of Jane Seymour that we don’t hear about…the side that was willing to take part in the events that placed her on the throne next to King Henry VIII. Think about that for a moment.

After the not so secret betrothal, some believe that Jane, and possibly Henry, went to her family home in Wiltshire – Wolf Hall.

On the 30th of May 1536, Henry and Jane married at Whitehall in the Queen’s Closet.

Wedding of Jane & Henry on Showtime’s, “The Tudors”

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”.

Drawing of the cup Hans Holbein the Younger Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
On the 1st of June 1536, Henry and Jane traveled by barge to Greenwich.

Only 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.

June 1536

A lot happened at the beginning of June:

On the 2nd of June, Jane was shown to the court as Queen.

On the 3rd of June, Sir John Ruseell wrote a letter to Lord Lisle that said this about the new queen:

I assure you she is as gentle a lady as ever I knew, and as fair a Queen as any in Christendom. The King has come out of hell into heaven for the gentleness of this and the cursedness and unhappiness of the other…

Then, on the 4th of June, she was proclaimed Queen of England at Greenwich.

On the 5th, her brother Edward was created Viscount Beauchamp.

On the 7th of June the royal couple traveled by barge from Greenwich to Whitehall. As they rode down the Thames there was much fanfare – “every ship shot guns”  and Chapuys sent his trumpeters and musicians to float around the barge to play music for the newlyweds.

 

The Tower of London at this time was draped in streamers and banners in salute of the couple – must have been quite the site.

The King’s appearance at this time was not the marvel it had once been – Henry was still a tall man of 6’2 but had put on much weight with age. It was noted at the time that the king wore a hat to hide the fact that he no longer had much hair.

The following day, on the 8th of June, Parliament convened and passed an Act confirming that both Mary and Elizabeth Tudor were illegitimate which settled the succession of any child that may be born to Jane, or any future wife.

Now when we look at the relationship between Queen Jane and the Lady Mary it is often showcased as Jane pushing Henry VIII to bring his daughter back to court and reinstate her in the line of succession. While Jane was determined to bring the King’s daughter back into favor it wasn’t necessarily her doing.

That same month, the Lady Mary finally appeased her father by declaring herself illegitimate and recognized him as the Head of the Church of England – both things were required for her survival.

Jane’s gentle pushes with Henry in regards to his daughter may not have been what got her back in the King’s good graces, but it did show Henry what a good heart his new queen had.

Only a couple of weeks after the King received the letter of submission from his daughter, he and the queen traveled to Hunsdon and visited with Mary for the day. It was this visit that the Queen presented the Lady Mary with a “very fine” diamond ring and Henry gave his daughter 1,000 crowns and told her if there was anything else she needed that she need only to ask.

Queen Jane;s first couple of month’s in her new position were a whirlwind of activity. After their return from Hunsdon, Jane had her first reception with an ambassador when King Henry planned a moment for the Imperial ambassador (Chapuys) and Jane to talk. During their conversation Chapuys told Jane that he wished for her to be the all-needed peacemaker. He used the term, “Pacific” for Jane. When Henry returned and heard what the ambassador had called Jane he agreed and said that Jane wished for peace – “besides that her nature was gentle and inclined to peace, she would not for the world that he were engaged in war, that she might not be separated from him”.

It appears that the King and Queen were very happy with one another at this point of their marriage. The only thing that could have made it better was if Jane became pregnant, something she was all to aware of.

Henry and Jane went on a summer progress and traveled east to Rochester, Sittingbourne and Canterbury all the way to the coast ending at Dover Castle. They had many hunting expeditions and were said to have killed 20 stags on the 9th of August alone.

While they were on progress plans were being made for Jane’s coronation – initially there were plans to hold the coronation on the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, on the 29th of September, which would have been perfect to coincide with all the festivities that were already associated this day. Eustace Chapuys reported that Henry would “perform wonders” for his new queen and no doubt wipe-out any memories of the last, disgraced queen’s coronation.

Then there was an outbreak of plague that put a halt to all plans for a coronation. Maybe by the time the plans resumed the queen would be with child. But, as we now know, the coronation never happened.

The Happy Couple

The King and Queen returned to London in December of 1536, and on the 22nd of that month the couple rode through the city in great state.

According to Agnes Strickland, there was a record that indicates the severity of the weather that winter. It was said that the King, Queen and the whole court rode across the Thames on horseback to Greenwich Palace.ďż˝

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.

Jane’s life changed immediately after she realized she was pregnant. As always, when a Tudor queen was pregnant she could longer be intimate with the king – for fear of harm to the child. Jane’s life would have included a great lack of excitement from what he had experienced previously. Her biggest concern was to protect the child she was carrying.

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.”.

The Birth of a Prince

On the 16th of 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. Then on the 9th of 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 since that procedure was not known at the time, 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 an exhausted 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. Church bells tolled and fires were lit throughout the city to celebrate the birth of a prince.

By ten in the evening on the same day Jane was sitting in her bed having someone write a letter to Cromwell (for her) to inform him that they had delivered a son, a prince. Her letter was signed, “Jane the Quene“.

On the day of Prince Edward’s christening the guests 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.

In the Annals of the Seymours, the author states that at the time it was required for the queen to attend the christening, and that the Queen was carried from her room to the chapel on a pallet or sofa – she was propped up with cushions and wrapped in a crimson velvet mantle. It also states that King Henry sat next to her during the entire ceremony. While this makes for a great visual there is no evidence to corroborate the story.

The following day Jane suffered a bad attack of diarrhea, which left her very ill. By evening she was feeling better.

The Death of a Queen

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 childbed 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.

The people of England shared in their King’s grief – this is evident by a ballad that was written about her and was published in the popular, Ancient Poems of the Peasantry of England. We’ll end this podcast with this beautiful, yet historically inaccurate ballad.

Queen Jane was in travail
For six weeks or more,
Till the women grew tired,
And fain would give o’er.

O women! O women!
Good wives if ye be,
Go, send for King Henrie,
And bring him to me.

King Henrie was sent for,
He came with all speed,
In a gownd of green velvet
From heel to the head.

King Henrie! King Henrie!
If kind Henrie you be,
Send for a surgon,
And bring him to me.

The surgeon was sent for,
He came with all speed,
In a gownd of black velvet
From heel to the head.

He gave her rich caudle,
But the death-sleep slept she.
Then her right side was opened,
And the babe was set free.

The babe it was christened,
And put out and nursed,
While the royal Queen Jane
She lay cold in the dust.

So black was the mourning,
And white were the wands,
Yellow, yellow the torches,
They bore in their hands.

The bells they were muffled,
And mournful did play,
While the royal Queen Jane
She lay cold in the clay.

Six knights and six lords
Bore her corpse through the grounds;
Six dukes followed after,
In black mourning gownds.

The flower of Old England
Was laid in the cold clay,
Whilst the roy al King Henrie
Came weeping away.

—

Sources:

Fraser, Antonia; The Wives of Henry VIII (1994)
Locke, Amy Aubrey; The Seymours (1914)
Loades, David; Jane Seymour – Henry VIII’s Favourite Wife (2013)
Loades, David; The 6 Wives of Henry VIII (2014)
Loades, David; The Seymours of Wolf Hall (2015)
Licence, Amy; The Six Wives & Many Mistresses of Henry VIII (2014)
Scard, Margaret; Edward Seymour – Lord Protector (2016)
Skidmore, Chris; Edward VI – The Lost King of England (1981)
Weir, Alison; The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1991)
Bell, Robert & Dixon, James Henry; Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England (1857)
Pollard, A. F. (Albert Frederick); England under Protector Somerset : an essay (1900)
St. Maur, Richard Harold; Annals of the Seymours (1902)
https://archive.org/stream/genealogicalhera03burk#page/200/mode/2up
Ives, Eric; The Live and Death of Anne Boleyn
Doran, Susan; The Tudor Chronicles
Wertman, Janet; Jane the Quene (2016)
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