Jane Seymour
(1508-1537)

 

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Spouses/Children:
King Henry VIII Tudor

Jane Seymour

  • Born: 1508
  • Marriage: King Henry VIII Tudor on 30 May 1536
  • Died: 24 Oct 1537 at age 29

  General Notes:

Jane Seymour (1508\endash 24 October 1537) was Queen of England as the third wife of Henry VIII. She died of postnatal complications following the birth of her only child, Edward VI.

Early life

Jane Seymour was the daughter of Sir John Seymour of Wiltshire and Margery Wentworth, and was King Henry VIII's fifth cousin three times removed. Her exact birth date is debated; it is usually given as 1509, but it has been noted that at her funeral 29 women walked in succession. Since it was customary for the attendant company to mark every year of the deceased's life in numbers, this implies she was born in 1508.

She was not educated as highly as Henry's previous wives, Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. She could only read and write her name. Instead, she was taught in needlework and household management, which was popular at that time for women. She became a maid-of-honour in 1532, in the last year of Catherine's reign. After Catherine's marriage to Henry was annulled and Anne Boleyn became queen, Seymour served Boleyn instead. The first report of Henry VIII's interest in Jane Seymour was in February 1536. Jane Seymour was noted to be pale and blonde, the opposite of Anne Boleyn's dark hair and olive skin.

Marriage

Henry VIII was betrothed to Jane Seymour on 20 May 1536, the day after Boleyn's execution, and married her ten days later. She was publicly proclaimed as Queen on 4 June. She was never crowned, due to a plague in London where the coronation was to take place. It has also been suggested that Henry was reluctant to crown Jane before she had fulfilled her duty as a Queen by bearing him a son and a male heir.

As Queen Consort, Seymour was said to be strict and formal. She was close only to her female relations, Anne Stanhope (her brother's wife) and her sister, Elizabeth. The glittering social life and extravagance of the Queen's Household, which had reached its peak during the time of Anne Boleyn, was replaced by a strict enforcement of decorum. For example, the dress requirements for ladies of the court were detailed down to the number of pearls that were to be sewn onto each lady's skirt, and the French fashions introduced by Anne Boleyn were banned. Politically, Seymour appears to have been conservative; her only reported involvement in national affairs, in 1536, was when she asked for pardons for participants in the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion. Henry is said to have rejected this, reminding her of the fate her predecessor met with when she "meddled in his affairs".

In early 1537, Seymour became pregnant. During her pregnancy, she developed a craving for quail, which Henry ordered for her from Calais and Flanders. She went into seclusion in September 1537 and gave birth to a male heir, the future King Edward VI of England on 12 October 1537 at Hampton Court Palace.

Death

After Seymour participated in the Prince's christening on 15 October 1537, it became clear that she was seriously ill. Rumours circulated that she died following an emergency Caesarean section, after Henry ordered the baby to be cut from her to prevent more stillbirths. In reality, it was puerperal fever. She died on 24 October 1537 at Hampton Court. She was buried in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle after a funeral in which her stepdaughter, Lady Mary (later Queen Mary I), acted as chief mourner.

The following inscription was above her grave for a time:

Here lieth a Phoenix, by whose death
Another Phoenix life gave breath:
It is to be lamented much
The world at once ne'er knew two such.


After her death, Henry wore black for the next three months and did not remarry for three years, although marriage negotiations were tentatively started soon after her death. Historians have speculated that it was Seymour's "achievement" of securing Henry a male heir that made her so fondly remembered by him. When he died in 1547, Henry was buried beside her.

Legacy

Jane's two brothers, Thomas and Edward, used her memory to improve their own fortunes. After Henry's death, Thomas married Henry's widow, Catherine Parr and was also rumoured to have been pursuing Princess Elizabeth. In the reign of the young King Edward VI, Edward Seymour set himself up as protector and effective ruler of the Kingdom. Both brothers eventually fell from power, and were executed.

In film

* Jane was first portrayed in film in the 1920 German film Anne Boleyn by Aud Edege Nissen.
* In 1933, Wendy Barrie played Seymour opposite Charles Laughton's Henry VIII in Alexander Korda's highly-acclaimed film The Private Life of Henry VIII.
* Seymour is a minor character in Hal B. Wallis' 1969 Oscar-winning Anne of the Thousand Days. She was played by Lesley Paterson, opposite Richard Burton as Henry VIII.
* As part of the 1970 BBC series The Six Wives of Henry VIII, the segment titled "Jane Seymour" presented her as a shy but honest introvert, devoted to her husband. Henry was played by Keith Michell, and Seymour by Anne Stallybrass.
* In 1973, this interpretation was repeated in Henry VIII and his Six Wives, in which Keith Michell reprised his role from the BBC drama; on this occasion Jane Seymour was played by Jane Asher.
* Jane was played by Charlotte Roach in David Starkey's documentary series on Henry's queens in 2001.
* Seymour is a supporting character in the BBC television drama The Other Boleyn Girl, played by Naomi Benson opposite Jared Harris as Henry VIII and Jodhi May as Anne Boleyn.
* In October 2003, in the two-part ITV drama Henry VIII, Ray Winstone starred as the King. Part 2 charted the King's life from his marriage to Jane Seymour (played by Emilia Fox) until his funeral in 1547.
* Anita Briem portrayed Seymour as lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn in the second season of The Tudors. Jane Seymour is set to be a main character in Season 3, but will be played by Annabelle Wallis.
* Jane Seymour had a minor role in the 2008 film The Other Boleyn Girl, played by Corinne Galloway. The film was directed by Justin Chadwick.

In song

* The English ballad "The Death of Queen Jane" (Child #170) is about the death of Jane Seymour following the birth of Prince Edward. The story as related in the ballad is historically inaccurate, but apparently reflects the popular view at the time of the events surrounding her death. The historical fact is that Prince Edward was born naturally, and that his mother succumbed to infection and died 12 days later.

Most versions of the song end with the contrast between the joy of the birth of the Prince and the grief of the death of the Queen.

From version 170A:

The baby was christened with joy and much mirth,
Whilst poor Queen Jane's body lay cold under earth:
There was ringing and singing and mourning all day,
The Princess Elizabeth went weeping away


* The song Lady Jane by The Rolling Stones is rumoured to be about Jane Seymour and her relationship with Henry VIII.
* The song Jane Seymour featured on Rick Wakeman's album The Six Wives of Henry VIII is devoted to the homonymous queen.

Historiography

Jane was widely praised as "the fairest, the discreetest, and the most meritous of all Henry VIII's wives" in the centuries after her passing away. One historian, however, took serious umbrage to this view in the 19th century. Victorian scholar Agnes Strickland, author of encyclopaedic studies of French, Scottish, and English royal women, said that the story of "Anne Boleyn's last agonised hours" and Henry VIII's swift remarriage to Jane Seymour "is repulsive enough, but it becomes tenfold more abhorrent when the woman who caused the whole tragedy is loaded with panegyric."

Hester W. Chapman and Eric Ives resurrected Strickland's view of Jane Seymour, and believe she played a crucial and conscious role in the cold-blooded plot to bring Anne Boleyn to the executioner's block, in contrast to this portrayal, they present Anne Boleyn in a favorable light. Joanna Denny, Marie Louise Bruce and Carolly Erickson have also refrained from giving overly-sympathetic accounts of Jane's life and career.

On the other hand, modern historical writers, particularly Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser, paint a favourable portrait of a woman of discretion and good-sense \endash "a strong-minded matriarch in the making," says Weir.

David Starkey and Karen Lindsey are both relatively dismissive of Jane's importance in comparison to that of Henry's other queens \emdash particularly Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Parr yet they refrain - to a point- from stating that she was the cause of Anne's unfair trial. It must also be noted that in this period of history, most queens consort had little say in decision making. As such, Henry may logically be seen as the decision maker when it came to Anne Boleyn's fate and Jane's presence as incidental to his quest for a new wife and more importantly, a male heir in the form of a legitimate son.

Jane married King Henry VIII Tudor, son of Henry VII Tudor and Elizabeth of York, on 30 May 1536. (King Henry VIII Tudor was born on 28 Jun 1491 in Palace of Placentia, Greenwich, London, Middlesex, England and died on 28 Jan 1547 in Palace of Whitehall, London, Middlesex, England.)



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