Born At Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire on 30 August 1548, Lady Mary Seymour was the long-awaited child of dowager queen Kateryn Parr, and her fourth husband Sir Thomas, Baron Seymour of Sudeley. The unexpected pregnancy left both parents overjoyed.
This history of Sudeley Castle goes back centuries. It’s majestic gardens were once visited by the likes of Richard III, Jasper Tudor, Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Katherine Parr and Lady Jane Grey.
It 1469, King Edward IV forced a Lancastrian supporter (his enemies) to sell the castle to the crown. Edward IV then granted it to his younger brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester (future Richard III) who held it for nine years and then it reverted back to the crown because he exchanged it for another castle.
When Richard became King of England he once again held ownership of Sudeley Castle.
After Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1483, one must assume that the castle became the property of King Henry VII since he now wore the crown. The following year he granted the castle to his uncle, Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford who held it until his death in 1495. The castle was once again the property of the crown.
Forty years later (1535) the castle must have still been in good condition because Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn stopped there on their tour. The King and Cromwell met at Winchcombe Abbey and planned further dissolution of monasteries together. During this visit to Sudeley Anne Boleyn is also noted to have investigated the “Blood of Christ” at Hailes Abbey which, if I remember correctly, turned out to be duck’s blood.
In 1547, when Thomas Seymour was raised by his nephew Edward VI to Baron Seymour of Sudeley he obtained the sprawling castle in need of desperate up keep. It is unknown how much Seymour spent on renovations on the castle but one can imagine it was a small fortune; He was preparing for a dowager queen to be present and their home together to be like a second court.
In August of that same year Parr gave birth to a daughter, Mary Seymour and unfortunately died of puerperal fever about five days later. Her funeral was the first Protestant funeral in England with Lady Jane Grey leading as Chief Mourner. She was buried in the chapel that Seymour built. Seymour was not present at the funeral, which was common for the time but was noted by a friend as being extremely upset by the loss of his wife. (Once I locate the quote again I’ll post it here.)
Eventually, due to his reckless behavior and fear from his brother the Lord Protector, Thomas Seymour was arrested on 33 counts of treason and convicted without trial. He was executed on the 19 March 1549, afterwhich the castle once again reverted to the crown.
In this new series I have chosen to focus on the life of Lady Jane Grey. Recently I finished reading ‘Crown of Blood’ by Nicola Tallis and ‘The Sisters Who Would Be Queen’ by Leanda DE Lisle, as well as referencing Eric Ive’s biography on Jane. Along with my fascination of Thomas Seymour, Jane Grey’s life nicely intertwined with that of his and is a fantastic story to share with all of you.
As granddaughter of Mary Tudor, dowager queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk, Lady Jane Grey was born with royal blood flowing through her veins. As the eldest surviving child of Frances Brandon and Henry Grey she received the education that normally would have been given to the eldest son. Some even believe Jane was better educated than Elizabeth Tudor.
Born in the latter half of 1536, Jane Grey was named after Queen Jane Seymour, who was most likely also asked to stand as godmother to the child.1
Those Who Cared For Jane
As is usual with royal children, Jane was cared for by a wet nurse. It was considered unfashionable, and frowned upon, for a woman of royal status to breastfeed her own children. Choosing the perfect wet nurse was of utmost importance to Frances Grey – she was the daughter of a Tudor princess and a dowager queen, and so her daughter Jane was royal. It is unknown who Jane’s wet nurse was but it is highly likely that whomever it was had been chosen by Frances Brandon herself.
Jane was not only suckled by a wet nurse but she also had a nursery staff which included rockers. A rocker’s job was to rock the infant to sleep and to soothe the child when necessary.
Until watching PBS Masterpiece series on Queen Victoria I had been unaware of the tradition of “churching” – maybe unaware is the wrong word…I didn’t understand it. In modern day this seems utterly ridiculous, but back in 16th century England this was commonplace. Churching allowed a woman to return to her normal activities in society. It was a purification ceremony that took place forty days after giving birth.2
“The custom of blessing a woman after childbirth recalls the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary mentioned in Luke 2:22. The Jewish practice was based on Leviticus 12:1-8, which specified the ceremonial rite to be performed in order to restore ritual purity. It was believed that a woman becomes ritually unclean by giving birth, due to the presence of blood and/or other fluids at birth.”
Here is the quote from Leviticus:
A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over. If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean, as during her period. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding.
With Jane being born in the latter half of 1536 she would have only known an England that did not include Anne Boleyn, as well as not knowing religion that included the Pope. She was raised Protestant, like her cousin Elizabeth – it was the only religion either ever knew.
Education played a very important role in Jane’s life. It was of greatest importance to her father, who had been well educated himself, that his daughters learned all that he was taught and more.
In this new England it was not frowned upon for girls to be educated. At five years old Jane began her formal education.
In the beginning she began like most of us, learning her alphabet which lead to reading and writing. She would have also learned and memorized the Lord’s Prayer, in English – this was of utmost importance – education was not only learning to read and write but to build a strong relationship with the Lord.
Jane proved to be a enthusiastic student who loved to learn and was eager to be taught. This was something her first teacher, Dr. Thomas Harding would have noticed immediately.
It was around 1541 that the well-known tutor John Aylmer joined the household at Bradgate as tutor and chaplain – he had been invited by Jane’s father.
Aylmer once commented on Jane’s intellect by saying, “God has fit to adorn with so many excellent gifts”. Jane flourished under the guidance of her new tutor and everyone, including her parents were pleased with her progress.
Aylmer once said:
It has always indeed been my disposition not only to set the highest esteem upon all kinds of learning, but to regard with the greatest affection those who cultivate and profess it. For I well know how brutish this life of our would be, were not the understanding of mankind cultivated by useful learning and liberal pursuits.
It was under Aylmer that Jane’s enthusiasm for religious reform grew. But as always it wasn’t only learning from books and religion that Jane learned, but also the traditional forms of education to prepare woman for Tudor court – she would have learned etiquette, how to sew or embroider, how to dance and play musical instruments.
Jane excelled at history and learning languages. She spoke Greek and Latin, as well as Italian and Hebrew. She also learned French as well as other languages.
For Jane, books filled the void from the lack of age appropriate companionship at Bradgate. Her sisters Catherine and Mary were younger than her and Jane was happiest when she was inside reading. While her sisters preferred to play outside.
As with any noble, or aristocratic child, Jane approached adolescence and needed to further her education within a household of an equal or someone of superior nobility. Henry Grey had indicated that his eleven year old daughter became the ward of Sir Thomas Seymour in February 15473 and was sent to Seymour Place in London- this was not long after the death of King Henry VIII and prior to Seymour’s marriage to the dowager queen, Kateryn Parr. Historian, Eric Ives believed that Jane’s parents were aware of Seymour’s intentions to wed Parr and that they were pleased with the arrangement.
Sir Thomas Seymour had proposed to purchase Jane’s wardship from her parents Frances Brandon and Henry Grey. Grey and Seymour were well acquainted. Seymour attempted to entice the couple by offering them 2,000Ł for Jane’s wardship. When that didn’t seem to do it he said he would also arrange a marriage between Jane and Edward, the king.
Jane’s parents jumped at the chance for their daughter to be queen consort and allowed Seymour to purchase the 2,000Ł wardship. They would have also seen the benefit of their daughter being in the presence of the dowager queen, who was a Protestant. Parr was already known for her care and education of the Lady Elizabeth. Elizabeth had the best tutors and mentors around – the same would be fore Jane. This offer from Seymour was in stark contrast to an offer made by the Lord Protector and his wife. The Somersets had attempted to arrange a marriage between their son and Jane. It seems both Seymour men, Thomas and Edward, understood how powerful of a chess piece young Jane could be.
It was in her new household that Jane appeared able to spread her wings – she felt a freedom with Seymour and Parr that she had not experienced under the wings of her parents, as any child would feel being removed from their parents in their youth. She also was able to enjoy the company of the beautiful Parr. With Parr as a role model, Jane grew fond of beautifully styled hair and fine clothes, as well as a love of music. These were things that her tutor Ascham would later inform her were not of the Protestant way.
It was in this household that Parr had arranged the best tutors for Jane and she thrived in her studies on religion and became more convicted in her reformed views.
Jane’s parents, after a while, were concerned that progress was not being made in a marriage between Jane and the King since the Lord Protector had blocked both Seymour and Parr from seeing him. Seymour reassured them that he was indeed the King’s favorite uncle and that all would be well in due course.
Jane, under the care of Seymour and Parr would have come across her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth was a few years older than Jane and so she was not as interested in interacting with her, not to mention that Elizabeth had always understood how precarious her position in the line of succession was since she was still considered the illegitimate daughter of the late king. Jane may have seemed to be a threat to Elizabeth’s future.
The Lady Elizabeth
Even though they had not spent much time together, Jane would most likely have been witness to Seymour’s attention toward the Lady Elizabeth. Once can wonder what Jane’s feelings were on the matter.
Death of Parr
Jane Grey spent a total of a year and a half under the wardship of Seymour, but it all came to an end when Parr succumbed to childbed fever after giving birth to a daughter, Mary. At the service, Jane became the Chief Mourner in the first ever Protestant funeral in England.
After the death of his wife, the grief-stricken Seymour chose to disband the household and to send Jane back to her parents at Bradgate.
Return to Bradgate
It was after Jane returned to her parents at Bradgate that Thomas Seymour realized he had made a hasty decision. He wrote to Jane’s father on the 17th of September pleading with him to return Jane to his care. He explained that he understood Jane’s mother would be concerned that her daughter no longer had a strong female influence in her life, so Seymour reassured her that all the ladies and maids of honor of the dowager queen would be kept on at Sudeley – continuing with the theme that Sudeley Castle was home to the second court as when Parr was still living. He insisted that everyone would be ‘as diligent about [Jane], as yourself would wish’.4 He also reassured them that Jane would return to Sudeley under the supervision of himself and his aged mother, Margery Wentworth and that he would care for her as she was his own daughter.
During these new negotiations Jane replied to a letter that Seymour had written her:
‘Right Honourable and my singular good lord, the Lord Admiral’:
My duty to your lordship in most humble wise remembered, with no less thanks for the gentle letters which I received from you.
Thinking myself so much bound to your lordship for your great goodness towards me from time to time that I cannot by any means be able to recompense the least part thereof, I purposed to write a few rude lines unto your lordship, rather as a token to show how much worthier I think your lordship’s goodness, than to give worthy thanks for the same; and these, my letters, shall be to testify unto you that, like as you have become towards me a loving and kind father, so I shall be always most ready to obey your godly monitions and good instructions, as becometh on upon whom you have heaped so many benefits. And thus, fearing lest I should trouble your lordship too much, I most humbly take my leave of your good lordship.
Your humble servant, during my life,
Endorsed: “My Lady Jane, 1st October 1548”
Jane’s parents were not convinced that sending their daughter back to Sudeley was the best course of action. With the death of the dowager queen Seymour’s status had dropped dramatically.
Seymour, never happy to accept no as an answer, grabbed a horse and his friend William Sharington and they both headed to Bradgate. Thomas Seymour knew that he was very convincing in person. Once at Bradgate, Seymour and his friend Sharington used their wits and charms to the best of their abilities and convinced the couple that he would make good on their initial agreement. His only obstacle was access to the King. The Greys were convinced and (probably against their better judgement) sent their daughter back to Sudeley Castle under the care of Thomas Seymour.
Return to Sudeley Castle
The Sudeley Castle that Jane returned to after the death of Katheryn Parr’s had a heavier feeling in the air than before . There was a noticeable change in the mood at the castle and it appeared that Seymour had not yet accepted her death. He had often spoken about presenting a Bill to Parliament that would stop people from slandering his late wife’s name. It was her marriage to Seymour that tarnished her reputation.
Around this time there were rumors that Seymour was looking to remarry. Some believed he would try and wed the Lady Mary, or even Jane herself. Others believed he was after a marriage with the Lady Elizabeth, which he replied that he had heard his brother would lock him away in the Tower if he should marry her, but that he did not see anything wrong with a marriage with the Lady Elizabeth if she were to agree to it.
The further Seymour moved toward a possible marriage with the Lady Elizabeth the more concerned those around him became. His friends and those who served him tried to change his mind – that it was against all that was decent for a man of his birth to go after an heir to the throne of England. One even warned him saying, “It were better for you if you had never been born, nay, that you were burnt to the quick alive, than that you should attempt it.” Seymours plan not only risked his life but also the reputation and life of the Lady Elizabeth.
It wasn’t long after that Jane witnessed her father arriving at Sudeley to have secret meetings with Seymour. Henry Grey may have believed after these meetings that there would be a double wedding in the near future: His daughter to the King and Seymour to the Lady Elizabeth.
When the arrests of those involved in Seymour’s plan began Jane was returned to Dorset House – her parent’s home in London. It was there she would have tried to wrap her head around all the accusations against the man who she had known as a father.
It didn’t take long for Seymour to be railroaded and found guilty of treason, and on the 20th of March he was executed by beheading.
That’s where we will end for this week. We will continue on with her story in Part Two of the series on Lady Jane Grey.
1Tallis, Nicola. “Crown of Blood” pg. 17 2Wikipedia. “Churching of Women” – History 3Ives, Eric. “Lady Jane Grey – A Tudor Mystery’. pg. 44 4 De Lisle, Leanda. The Sisters Who Would Be Queen. Pg 46
This is an anonymous account of the funeral of dowager queen Katherine Parr. It should be noted that her husband, Thomas Seymour did not attend his wifeâ€™s funeral and burial. One could believe that his grief was too great to be present. Lady Jane Grey was the chief mourner.
This is believed to have been the first Protestant funeral of a royal in England, happening on the 7th of September 1548, two days after her death.
A short account of the interment of the lady Katherine Parr, Queen Dowager, late wife to King Henry VIII, and after, wife to Sir Thomas Seymour, Lord Seymour of Sudeley, and High Admiral of England.
On Wednesday, the 5th of September, between two and three of the clock in the morning, died the aforesaid lady, late Queen Dowager, at the castle of Sudeley in Gloucestershire, 1548, and lieth buried in the chapel of the said castle.
She was cered (wrapped in a wax cloth) and chested in lead accordingly, and so remained in her privy chamber until things were in a readiness.
Hereafter followeth the provision in the chapel.
It was hanged with black cloth garnished with escutcheons (heraldic shields) of marriages â€“ viz. King Henry VIII and her in pale, under the crown; her own in lozenge, under the crown; also the arms of the Lord Admiral and hers in pale, without crown.
Rails covered with black cloth for the mourners to sit in, with stools and cushions accordingly, without either hearse, majestyâ€™s valence, or tapers â€“ saving two tapers whereon were two escutcheons, which stood upon the corpse during the service.
The order in proceeding to the chapel:
First, two conductors in black, with black staves (wooden sticks).
Then, gentlemen and esquires.
Then, officers of household, with their white staves (wooden sticks).
Then, the gentlemen ushers.
Then, Somerset Herald in the Kingâ€™s coat. (Representing the King)
Then, the corpse borne by six gentlemen in black gowns, with their hoods on their heads.
Then, eleven staff torches borne on each side by yeoman about the corpse, and at each corner a knight for assistance â€“ four, with their hoods on their heads.
Then, the Lady Jane, daughter to the lord Marquis [of] Dorset, chief mourner, led by an estate, her train borne up by a young lady.
Then, six other lady mourners, two and two. Then, yeomen, three and three in rank.
Then, all other following.
The manner of the service in the church:
When the corpse was set within the rails, and the mourners placed, the whole choir began, and sung certain Psalms in English, and read three lessons. And after the third lesson the mourners, according to their degrees and as it is accustomed, offered into the alms-box. And when they had done, all other, as gentlemen or gentlewoman, that would.
The offering done, Doctor Cloverdale, the Queenâ€™s almoner, began his sermon, which was very good and godly. And in one place thereof, he took an occasion to declare unto the people how that there should none there think, say, nor spread abroad that the offering which was there done, was done anything to profit the dead, but for the poor only. And also the lights which were carried and stood about the corpse were for the honor of the person, and for none other intent nor purpose. And so went through with his sermon, and made a godly prayer. And the whole church answered, and prayed the same with him in the end. The sermon done, the corpse was buried, during which time the choir sung Te Deum in English.
And this done, after dinner the mourners, and the rest that would, returned homeward again. All which aforesaid was done in a morning.
Note: The English version of Te Deum sounds greatly different from the original (less beautiful in my opinion) but by listening to this you can imagine the day of her funeral. If youâ€™d like to hear the original version, CLICK HERE.
Katherine Parrâ€™s final resting place is where she and Thomas Seymour spent their final months together and where she gave birth to their daughter, Maryâ€¦St. Maryâ€™s Chapel, Sudeley Castle.
Katherine Parr: Complete Works & Correspondence, edited by Janel Mueller
“The delightful red-brick manor house of Compton Wynyates in Warwickshire, was begun by Edmund Compton in 1481, just prior to the accession of the House of Tudor. Edmund’s sturdy but good-looking country home was given some elegant editions, including porch and some towers by his son, the prominent Tudor courtier, Sir William Compton, between 1493 and 1528.” –The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.348)
King Henry VIII’s room at Compton Wynyates had stained glass windows featuring the royal arms and throne of Aragon – the royal arms of his future wife, Katharine of Aragon. In 1572, Elizabeth I also stayed in the same room as her father.
In later years Compton Wynyates became uninhabited. This caused the house to decay and nearly fell into complete ruin. In 1768 it was ordered by Lord Northampton to be demolished, but the order was not carried out. In the late 19th century it was restored and in 1884 was once again inhabited by the 5th Marquess of Northampton.
Hampton Court Palace
“One of England’s finest royal building associated with the magnificent court of Henry VIII, although major changes were made in the 17th century during the reign of William and Mary. The palace came into royal hands as a gift from the statesman, Cardinal Wolsey to his royal master, Henry VIII.” -The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.350)
In an episode of “The Tudors” on Showtime, it shows Henry VIII becoming a little distraught by the grandeur of the palace that Wolsey had built - it was greater than any palace Henry had at the time. Once Wolsey noticed Henry’s reaction to the grand palace he offered it as a gift to His Majesty. At this time Wolsey was starting to fall out of favor of the king and out of self-preservation offered his splendid palace…I’m sure Hampton Court Palace was hard to part with, but then again, so is your head.
“The moated and fortified manor house of Hever Castle, near Edenbridge in Kent, was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, mother of Elizabeth l. Henry VIII was a frequent visitor in the 1520’s when he paid court to Anne.”- The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.352)
After the death of Anne’s father Hever Castle was taken over by the Crown. Henry VIII gave it to Anne of Cleves after their divorce in 1540. When Anne of Cleves died in 1557 the Castle again reverted to the Crown until Queen Mary l gifted it to Sir Edward Waldegrave. For more on what happened: Hever Castle & Gardens – Owners
“Henry VIII took a great liking to Leeds Castle in Kent, and carried out lavish improvements, transforming it from castle to fortified palace. The King was often in Kent, where he was entertained at Penhurst Place and visited Anne Boleyn at Hever Castle. Leeds Castle had well-established royal links, and had been favoured by kings and queens since Edward l honeymooned there in 1299.” –The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.353)
In 1519, Henry VIII transformed Leeds Castle for his wife Katherine of Aragon.
“The sturdy, unpretentious manor house at Sulgrave, in Northamptonshire, was built in the early Tudor years by a direct ancestor of George Washington, the first President of the United States of America. Lawrence Washington, younger son of a prominent Lancashire family, was born c. 1500. He became a wool merchant and bought the Priory of St. Andrew, Northhamptonshire, from the Crown in 1539, following Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.” –The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.356)
Edinburgh Castle & Holyroodhouse
“Edinburgh Castle was a well-established stronghold and royal dwelling by the latter years of the 14th century when the future Robert ll build David’s Tower, containing royal apartments. In the mid-1430’s, James l built a new Great Chamber, probably alongside the royal accommodations in the Tower. His successor, James ll, brought the great siege gun of Mons Meg to the castle, which assumed an increasingly important role as a royal artillery.” –The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.358)
The increased use of Edinburgh Castle as Scotland’s principal foundry in 1511 left little room for the royal family to stay. In the meantime, the royals began to stay more regularly at the Abbey of Holyrood. King James IV built Holyroodhouse as his principal residence in the late 15th century.
Following her return from France in 1561 Mary, Queen of Scots stayed at Holyroodhouse. In 1565 she married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley there, and in 1566 the brutal murder of David Rizzio catapulted Mary into scandal after Lord Darnley was suspected of orchestrating the murder.
Falkland Palace & Stirling Castle
“Falkland Palace began as a castle built by the Macduffs, earls of Fife, probably in the 13th century. James ll extended the castle and frequently visited it to hunt deer and wild board. After 1458, when he granted a charter, it was known as Falkland Palace.” “James V’s daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots, was a frequent visitor to Falkland Palace after her return to Scotland from French exile in 1561.” –The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.359)
“Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s most historically important sites and was once a favoured residence of the Stewart kings and queens who held grand celebrations at the castle.
Knights, nobles and foreign ambassadors once flocked to Stirling Castle to revel in its grandeur with its superb sculptures and beautiful gardens. It was a favoured residence of the Stewart kings and queens who held grand celebrations from christenings to coronations.” – VisitScotland.com
“Henry VIII built the low-lying artillery fort of Deal Castle, in Kent, as one of a string of coastal fortifications built around England’s south coast in the later 1530s and early 1540s. Following his break with the Church of Rome, he feared invasion by the armies of a Franco-Spanish Catholic alliance brokered by the Pope.” - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.360)
Notice how from above Deal Castle looks like the Tudor Rose. Henry VIII was in his late 40s when he build these forts. Anne of Cleves is said to have stayed at Deals Castle after her long voyage from Europe on her way to London to meet her future husband.
“The splendid Syon House, now surrounded by London’s westward sprawl at Brenford in Middlesex, was built during the reign of Edward VI by his uncle Edward, Duke of Somerset, Lord Protector. Somerset built a three-storey building with battlements and angle turrets around a central courtyard. His house stood on the foundations of the abbey church that had belonged to the convent on the side.” –The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.362)
The land which Syon House was built had originally belonged to a convent. The nuns’ confessor, Richard Reynolds refused to accept Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church of England – he was was executed and his body placed on the gateway of the abbey to be used as an example of what happens to those who refuse to accept the Act of Supremacy.
Henry’s fifth wife, Katherine Howard was detained here prior to her execution in 1542.
Henry’s coffin rested at Syon House on it’s journey to Westminster and had burst open overnight- dogs were said to be seen gnawing on the royal corpse. Many suspected divine retribution since this happened at Syon House and the events that took place years earlier.
“The 15th century Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire was rebuilt in the late 1540s by Lord Thomas Seymour. Thomas was the brother of the Duke of Somerset, Lord Protector to Edward VI; their sister, Jane, had been Henry VIII’s third wife, who had died giving birth to Edward in 1537, making the brothers the young king’s uncles.” –The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.363)
After the king’s death, Thomas Seymour married Henry’s widow Katherine Parr. Thomas and Katherine moved into Sudeley Castle where she gave birth to their daughter, Mary on 30 August 1548. Katherine died there from puerperal fever a week later and was buried in St. Mary’s Church near the castle.