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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Early years at Wolf Hall
- Court Lady to the Queen consort
- Queen consort Jane Seymour
- Birth of the only male heir; death of a queen
KEY FACTS AND INFORMATION
Let’s know more about Jane Seymour!
- Jane Seymour was born to an affluent family at Wolf Hall, where she spent her childhood and gained a basic education. She was raised and trained in how to run a household, which meant a good marriage was expected of her. She started as a court lady to Catherine of Aragon and then to Anne Boleyn, and advanced to becoming queen to Henry VIII. She was regarded as the king’s true wife although their marriage was short-lived. Jane Seymour was queen for less than seventeen months, yet she triumphed where other queens had failed - giving the throne its first and only male heir, Edward VI.
Early Years at Wolf Hall
- Jane was born around 1509 at Wolf Hall to Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth. She was the eldest daughter and her royal blood came from her mother’s side.
- She had nine siblings, making their family known for fertility, and particularly for the high number of male children in the family.
- Her eldest surviving brother, Edward Seymour, became the focus of her parent’s attention and her siblings looked up to him after the death of three of the other siblings.
- Through Anne Say, her maternal grandmother, Jane Seymour was the second cousin of Anne Boleyn (whom she replaced as Henry VIII’s wife). Furthermore, she was the second cousin of Catherine Howard (Henry’s fifth wife) through Elizabeth Tylney, her mother’s first cousin.
- The future queen of England did not receive a great education: she is likely to have learnt from the family chaplain at Wolf Hall.
- Instead, she was more versed in activities relating to the household such as music, needlework and other traditionally feminine accomplishments.
- She also enjoyed outdoor activities and walking around the estate with her siblings; she became an expert horsewoman at a young age.
- Raised and trained in how to run a household, Jane knew that a good marriage with a chosen husband was expected of her.
- The fact that her younger sister Elizabeth married before her implies that Jane might have been less attractive.
- In fact, according to Eustace Chapuys, she was ‘of middle stature and no great beauty, so fair that one would call her rather pale than otherwise’.
- Sometime after her sister’s marriage, Jane left Wolf Hall and followed Edward, who was an established member of Henry VIII’s court.
Court lady to the Queen consort
- Jane Seymour was the lady-in-waiting of Catherine of Aragon. She grew dedicated to the queen and her daughter Mary while serving them.
- She saw how the household of Catherine changed dramatically when Anne Boleyn was discovered to be behind the divorce of the king and queen.
- She remained faithful to the queen and showed some form of hostility towards Anne Boleyn.
- As the divorce continued, Jane joined the other ladies as Catherine initially transferred to More in Hertfordshire, and then to Ampthill in Bedfordshire.
- When Anne Boleyn was finally declared the queen of London and Catherine was removed from her title and duties, Jane and other ladies were left with no positions in the new queen’s household. Jane had to return to Wolf Hall.
- Jane Seymour was arranged to be married to William Dormer, who was already familiar to Jane and her siblings.
- Jane’s parents were supportive of the match but William’s family had other ideas. William married somebody else and their match failed.
- In 1535, Jane received a court appointment and joined Anne Boleyn’s household. It was also around that time when the king pursued Jane to be his mistress.
- Whereas his previous wives had a strong personality and were outspoken, Jane, on the other hand, was timid and shy. According to some, it was exactly these qualities that attracted the king to her.
- As a token of the king’s fondness, Henry VIII gifted Jane his portrait in a bracelet, which Anne Boleyn found out about not long after.
- Anne Boleyn was already pregnant by that time. On the same day that Catherine of Aragon died, Anne had a miscarriage which she blamed on catching Jane sitting on Henry’s lap.
Queen consort Jane Seymour
- Jane was arranged to be the king’s mistress but all that changed when she expressed her intention to be his wife.
- Anne Boleyn was eventually executed on the grounds of adultery, incest and plotting to kill the king; he married Jane only a day after on 20 May 1536, making Jane his third wife.
- However, Jane did not receive a grandiose crowning celebration: in fact, both the plague that was afflicting London and her pregnancy did not allow time for the ceremony.
- Jane was strict and firm in handling her household, which was different from Anne Boleyn’s extravagance.
- As a queen, Jane’s motto was "Bound to obey and serve."
- Jane was fond of Mary, the king’s eldest daughter, and had convinced the king that they be reconciled.
- Her political interests were limited and consisted of Mary’s reinstatement to royal succession, her attempt to save the monasteries, and her sympathy for the Pilgrimage of Grace.
Birth of the only male heir; death of a queen
- Henry’s first and only male heir, Edward VI was born at Hampton Court Palace on 12 October 1537, and was christened three days after.
- Edward’s christening was well-attended. A great festive atmosphere dominated the court, with processions, trumpets and other musical instruments.
- The queen had difficulty giving birth which led to her weakening health as the days went by.
- Jane died of puerperal fever on 24 October 1537, only twelve days after giving birth. She was laid to rest in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
- During the queen’s funeral, Mary was the chief mourner and was joined by twenty-nine ladies to mark the age of the queen.
- When Jane died, Henry endured a period of profound sadness. He wore black until 1538 and gained weight during his widowerhood.
- Although Henry remarried, he always considered Jane as his ‘true wife’ and ordered that he be buried next to her in St. George’s Chapel when he died.