Queen of England
Born: ABT 1505, Wolf Hall, Savernake, Wiltshire, England
Died: 24 Oct 1537, Hampton Court Palace, Richmond, England
Father: John SEYMOUR (Sir)
Mother: Margery WENTWORTH
Married: HENRY VIII TUDOR (King of England) 20 May 1536, York Palace, England
1. EDWARD VI TUDOR (King of England)
The Seymours were an old and noble family. All genealogies [Collins' Peerage] concur in naming Jane as the eldest of Sir John Seymour's numerous family. As such, she could not have been younger than Anne Boleyn, who was much older than is generally asserted. Jane was the eldest of the eight children of Sir John Seymour, of Wolf-hall, Wiltshire, and Margaret Wentworth, daughter of Sir John Wentworth, of Nettlestead, in Suffolk. The Seymours were a family of country gentry who, like most holders of manorial rights, traced their ancestry to a Norman origin. One or two had been knighted in the wars of France, but their names had never emerged from the herald's visitation-rolls into historical celebrity. They increased their boundaries by fortunate alliances with heiresses, and the head of the family married into a collateral branch of the lordly line of Beauchamp. After that event, two instances are quoted of Seymours serving as high sheriff of Wilts. Through Margaret Wentworth, the mother of Jane Seymour, a descent from the blood-royal of England was claimed from an intermarriage with a Wentworth and a supposed daughter of Hotspur and lady Elizabeth Mortimer, grand-daughter to Lionel Duke of Clarence. Few persons dared dispute a pedigree with Henry VIII, and Cranmer granted a dispensation for nearness of kin between Henry VIII and Jane Seymour -- rather a work of supererogation, since the parties could not be related within the forbidden degree. Although the royal kindred appears somewhat doubtful, yet it is undeniable that the sovereign of England gained by this alliance one brother in-law who bore the name of Smith, and another whose grandfather was a blacksmith at Putney. [Collins' Peerage]. Jane, who was probably born between 1507 and 1509, had been maid of honor to both Queen Catalina and Queen Anne. She was described as being fair, pale-faced, of medium height, modest and even-tempered. As Henry grew tired of Anne's tantrums he was drawn to Jane's gentle, modest ways. At her youth, she was bethroated to William Dormer. Jane sympathized with Catalina and was apparently happy to help bring about Queen Anne's downfall. In Sep 1535, the King stayed at the Seymour family home in Wiltshire, England. It may have been there that the King "noticed" Jane. But, it isn't until Feb of 1536 that there is evidence of Henry's new love for Jane.
Four-and-twenty hours had not elapsed since the sword was reddened with the blood of her mistress, when Jane Seymour became the bride of Henry VIII. And let it be remembered that a royal marriage could not have been celebrated without previous preparation, which must have proceeded simultaneously with the heart-rending events of Anne Boleyn's last agonized hours. The wedding-cakes must have been baking, the wedding-dinner providing, the wedding-clothes preparing, while the life-blood was yet running warm in the veins of the victim, whose place was to be rendered vacant by violent death. The picture is repulsive enough, but it becomes tenfold more abhorrent when the woman who caused the whole tragedy is loaded with panegyric.
Jane's childhood and early youth are involved in great obscurity, but there is reason to suppose that, like Anne Boleyn, her education was finished and her manners formed at the court of France. Her portrait in the Louvre, as a French maid of honour, has given rise to this idea. It is probable that she entered the service of Mary Tudor in 1514, which her brother certainly did; for in a list of the persons forming the bridal retinue of that Queen, signed by the hand of Louis XII.[Cotton MS], may be observed, among the children or pages of honour, the son of M. Seymour. This must have been Jane's brother Edward, afterwards known as the Protector Somerset. He was younger, however, than Jane, and it is very possible that she had an appointment also, though not of such importance as Anne Boleyn, who was grand-daughter to the Duke of Norfolk, and was associated with two of the sovereign's kinswomen, the ladies Mary and Elizabeth Grey, as maid of honour to Mary Queen of France. Jane could boast of no such high connections as these and, perhaps from her comparatively inferior birth, did not excite the jealousy of the French monarch like the ladies of maturer years. It is possible that Jane Seymour was promoted to the post of maid of honour in France after the dismissal of the other ladies. Her portrait in the Louvre, a whole-length, and one of Holbein's masterpieces, represents her as a beautifully full-formed woman, of nineteen or twenty, and seems an evidence that, like Anne, she had obtained a place subsequently in the household of Queen Claude, where she perfected herself in the art of coquetry, though in a more demure style than her unfortunate compeer, Anne Boleyn. It was Sir John Seymour [Fuller's Worthie, 848] who first made interest for his daughter to be placed as maid of honour to Anne Boleyn. Anne Stanhope, afterwards the wife of his eldest son, Edward Seymour, was Jane's associate.
Henry's growing passion for Jane soon awakened suspicion in the mind of Queen Anne; it is said that her attention was one day attracted by a jewel which Jane Seymour wore about her neck, and she expressed a wish to look at it. Jane faltered and drew back, and the Queen, noticing her hesitation, snatched it violently from her, so violently that she hurt her own hand, [Heylin. Fuller's Wothies] and found that it contained the portrait of the King, which, as she most truly guessed, had been presented by himself to her fair rival. Jane Seymour had far advanced in the same serpentine path which conducted Anne herself to a throne, ere she ventured to accept the portrait of her enamoured sovereign, and well assured must she have been of success in her ambitious views before she presumed to wear such a love token in the presence of the Queen. Anne Boleyn was not of a temper to bear her wrongs patiently, but Jane Seymour's influence was in the ascendant, hers in the decline: her anger was unavailing. Jane maintained her ground triumphantly; one of the king's love-letters to his new favourite seems to have been written while the fallen Queen was waiting, her doom in prison.
"MY DEAR FRIEND AND MISTRESS,
"The bearer of these few lines from thy entirely devoted servant will deliver into thy fair hands a token of my true affection for thee, hoping you will keep it for ever in your sincere love for me. Advertising you that there is a ballad made lately of great derision against us, which if it go abroad and is seen by you; I pray you to pay no manner of regard to it. I am not at present informed who is the setter forth of this malignant writing; but if he is found out, he shall be straitly punished for it.
"For the things ye lacked, I have minded my lord to supply them to you as soon as he could buy them. Thus hoping, shortly to receive you in these arms, I end for the present,
"Your own loving servant and sovereign,
While the last act of that diabolical drama was played out which consummated the destruction of poor Anne, it appears that her rival had the discretion to retreat to her paternal mansion, Wolfhall, in Wiltshire. There the preparations for her marriage with Henry VIII were proceeding with sufficient activity to allow her royal wedlock to take place the day after the executioner had rendered the King a widower. Henry himself remained in the vicinity of the metropolis, awaiting the accomplishment of that event. Richmond park and Epping forest are each named by traditions as the place where he waited for the announcement of his wife's death. Richmond park has decidedly the best claim, for the spot pointed out is a promontory of the highest portion of the cliff or ridge commanding the valley of the Thames, called Richmond hill. About a quarter of a mile to the left of the town an extensive view to the west reposes under the eye. The remains of the oak beneath which Henry VIII stood are now enclosed in the grounds at present occupied by lord John Russell. Henry, at this spot, was a full hour nearer Wiltshire than if he had started from the hunting-tower at Pleshet, near East Ham. On the morning of the 19th of May, Henry VIII, attired for the chase, with his huntsmen and hounds around him, was standing under the spreading oak, breathlessly awaiting the signal-gun from the Tower which was to announce that the sword had fallen on the neck of his once "entirely beloved Anne Boleyn" At last, when the bright summer sun rode high towards its meridian, the sullen sound of the death-gun boomed along the windings of the Thames. Henry started with ferocious joy. The chase that day bent towards the west, whether the stag led it in that direction or not. The tradition of Richmond adds, that the King was likewise advised of the execution by a signal from a flag hoisted on the spire of old St. Paul's, which was seen through a glade of the park to the east.
At night the King was at Wolfhall, in Wilts, telling the news to his elected bride; the next morning he married her, May 20, 1536. It is commonly asserted that the King wore white for mourning the day after Anne Boleyn's execution; he certainly wore white, not as mourning but because he on that day wedded her rival. Wolfhall, the scene of these royal nuptials, was a short distance from Tottenham park, in Wiltshire. Of the ancient residence some remains now exist, among which is the kitchen, where tradition declares a notable royal wedding dinner was cooked; a detached building is likewise still entire, in which the said dinner was served up, and the room hung, on this occasion, with tapestry. [Britton's Wiltshire] In the last century there were tenter-hooks, on which small bits of tapestry were hanging. The people of the neighbourhood showed these tatters as proof of the honourable use to which it had been put. Between Wolf-hall and Tottenham was a noble avenue bordered with lofty trees, in which the royal bride and bridegroom walked; it was in the seventeenth century known by the name of "King Harry's walk." [Defoe's Tour through Great Britain]
Several favourite members of the king's obsequious privy council were present at the marriage, therefore the authenticity of its date is beyond all dispute. Among others, was Sir John Russell (afterwards Earl of Bedford), who, "having been at Tottenham, the parish church, with the royal pair," gave as his opinion, "That the King was the goodliest person there, and that the richer queen Jane was dressed the fairer she appeared; on the contrary, the better Anne Boleyn was apparelled the worse she looked: but that queen Jane was the fairest of all Henry's wives, though both Anne Boleyn, and queen Katharine in her younger days, were women not easily paralleled." [Lord Herbert] The bridal party proceeded after dinner to Marwell, near Winchester, once a country-seat belonging to the bishops of that see, which Henry had already wrested from the church and bestowed on the Seymours. Old Marwell was pulled down in the last century, with a reputation of being haunted; the Queen's chamber used to be shown there. [Milner's Winchester] From Marwell the King and his bride went to Winchester, where they sojourned a few days, and from thence returned to London, in time to hold a great court on the 29th, of May. Here the bride was publicly introduced as Queen, and her marriage festivities were blended with the celebration of Whitsuntide. St. Peter's-eve, Jun 29, the King paid the citizens the compliment of bringing his fair Queen to Mercers'-hall, and she stood in one of the windows to view the annual ceremony of setting the city watch.
The lord chancellor Audley, when parliament met a few days after, introduced the subject of the king's new marriage in a speech so tedious in length, that the clerks who wrote the parliamentary journals gave up its transcription in despair. Yet they fortunately left extant an abstract, containing, a curious condolence on the exquisite sufferings the monarch had endured in matrimony. "Ye well remember," pathetically declaimed chancellor Audley, "the great anxieties and perturbations this invincible sovereign suffered on account of his first unlawful marriage; so all ought to bear in mind the perils and dangers he was under when he contracted his second marriage, and that the lady Anne and her complices have since been justly found guilty of high treason, and had met their due reward for it. What man of middle life would not this deter from marrying a third time? Yet this our most excellent prince again condescendeth to contract matrimony, and hath, on the humble petition of the nobility, taken to himself a wife this time, whose age and fine form give promise of issue." He said, "that the King had two objects in view in summoning a parliament; to declare the heir-apparent, and to repeal the act in favour of the succession of Anne Boleyn's issue." The crown was afterwards entailed on the children of Queen Jane, whether male or female. After expatiating on all the self-sacrifices Henry had endured for the good of his people, chancellor Audley concluded by proposing "that the lords should pray for heirs to the crown by this marriage" and sent the commons to chose a speaker. The speaker they chose was the notorious Richard Rich, who had sworn away the life of Sir Thomas More; he outdid the chancellor Audley in his fulsome praises of the King, thinking proper to load his speech with personal flattery "comparing him, for strength and fortitude to Samson, for justice and prudence to Solomon, and for beauty and comeliness to Absalom." Thus did the English senate condescend to encourage Henry in his vices, calling his self-indulgence self-denial, and all his evil good; inflating his wicked wilfulness with eulogy, till he actually forgot, according to Wolsey's solemn warning, "that there was both heaven and hell." While the biographer is appalled as the domestic features of this moral monster are unveiled, surely some abhorrence is due to the union of servility and atrocity that met in the hearts and heads of his advisers and flatterers.
It is worthy of notice, that the dispensation by Cranmer of kindred and all other impediments in the marriage of the King and Jane Seymour, is dated on the very day of the unfortunate Anne Boleyn's death, May 19, 1536. The abhorrent conduct of Henry in wedding Jane so soon after the sacrifice of her hapless predecessor, has left its foul traces on a page where truly Christian reformers must have viewed it with grief and disgust. In the dedication of Miles Coverdale, Bishop of Exeter's Bible, printed at Zurich the preceding year, the names of Henry and his Queen are introduced; but as Anne Boleyn was destroyed between the printing and publication, an attempt was made to accommodate the dedication to the caprice of Henry's passions, by printing J, for Jane, over the letters which composed the name of the unfortunate Anne. [State papers]
Bitter complaints were made that the new Queen, in all possible ways, strove to depress the connections of her fallen mistress and to exalt her own. Of course the power of so doing was the chief inducement for her marriage, with all its odious circumstances. Her brothers, uncles, sisters, and cousins promptly filled every great and lucrative office at court, imitating closely the unpopular precedent of the kin of Elizabeth Woodville.
Less than two months after Henry and Jane's marriage, the Duke of Richmond, Henry Fitzroy died at the age of 17.
Queen Jane ostensibly mediated the reconciliation between the princess Mary and the King. In the correspondence which ensued between the father and daughter, about twenty days after the marriage of Jane Seymour, she is frequently mentioned by the princess as "her most natural mother the queen:" she congratulates her on her marriage with the King, praying God to send them a prince. These letters were chiefly dictated by Thomas Cromwell, whose son Gregory afterwards married Elizabeth, a sister of the new Queen. Mary certainly regarded Jane Seymour as her friend; nevertheless, the terms were so cruel on which Mary was restored to her father's presence, that her majesty had not ventured very far in her intercession between them. From one of Mary's earlier letters, it is evident that she had known Jane Seymour previously to her marriage, and had been treated kindly by her. [Hearne's Sylloge] The Roman catholic historians have mentioned Queen Jane with complacency, on account of her friendliness to Henry's ill-treated daughter; the Protestants regard her with veneration as the mother of Edward VI. and the sister of Somerset; and thus, with little personal merit, accident has made her the subject of unlimited praise. Her kindness to Mary bears an appearance of moral worth, if the suspicion did not occur that it arose entirely from opposition to Anne Boleyn. The princess Mary was permitted to visit her step-mother at the palaces of Richmond and Greenwich, 1536-7. That season was saddened to Queen Jane by the loss of her father, Sir John Seymour. He died in his sixtieth year, the preceding Dec, leaving his family at the very pinnacle of exaltation -- his eldest daughter the triumphant Queen of England; his eldest son created lord Beauchamp, and lord chamberlain for life. The Queen's aunt, Joan Seymour, [Lysons' Cumberland] was the wife of Andrew Huddleston; their son Andrew obtained a command in Henry VIII's guards, called gentlemen at-arms, and riches, favour, and honour were showered profusely on every member of the house of Seymour.
Jane Seymour supported her unwonted burden of dignity as Queen with silent placidity. Whether from instinctive prudence or natural taciturnity, she certainly exemplified the wise proverb, "that the least said is the soonest mended;" for she passed eighteen months of regal life without uttering a sentence significant enongh for preservation. Thus she avoided making enemies by sallies of wit and repartee, in which her incautious predecessor so often indulged: indeed, it was generally considered that Queen Jane purposely steered her course of so that her manners appeared diametrically opposite to those of Queen Anne. As for her actions, they were utterly passive, and dependent on the will of the King. The only act of Jane Seymour's queenly life of which a documentary record has been preserved, is an order to the park keeper at Havering-atte-Bower "to deliver to her well-beloved the gentlemen of her sovereign lord the king's chapel-royal, two bucks of high season". For this very trifling exercise of the power and privileges of a Queen of England she names the king's warrant and seal as her anthority, as if her own were insufficient.
The terror of the axe seems to have kept even this favoured Queen in the most humiliating state of submission during the brief term of her sceptred slavery. In consonance with this assumption of submission, which was in all things to prove a contrast to her predecessor, Jane Seymour took for her motto BOUND TO OBEY AND SERVE. One of her gold standing-cups, set with diamonds and pearls, remained among the plate of Charles I, till sold by him in his distress; it is described as ornamented with an H and I knit together, and Jane Seymour's arms supported by two boys. [Lord Orford]
Some traces ot her sojourn in the Tower are to be found in a list of Henry VIII's furniture, for among the appurtenances of a room called the "lower study," is enumerated "a box containing a writing touching the jointure of queen Jane", likewise "a pair of little screens made of silk, to hold against the fire". Who could have supposed that the grim fortress ever contained anything so consonant to modern taste as a pair of hand-screens? But many of the luxuries and elegances presumed to pertain solely to the modern era are indicated in the wardrobe-lists, inventories, and privy-purse expenses of royal personages who belonged to an earlier period than Jane Seymour and Henry VIII. The most remarkable of this Queen's proceedings was, that she crossed the frozen Thames to Greenwich-palace in the severe Jan of 1536-7, on horseback, with the King, attended by their whole court. In the summer she went with him on a progress to Canterbury, and in the monastery of St. Augustine was very honourably received by Thomas Goldwell, prior of Christchurch. From thence the King and Queen went to Dover to see the pier, "to his great cost and charge then begun."
Jane Seymour, like many other persons suddenly raised in the world, laid down very rigorous rules regarding the etiquette of dress at her court. The maids of honour were expected to wear very costly girdles of pearls, and if not very fully set, they were not to appear in her royal presence. The number of pearls required was more than one hundred and twenty, since lady Lisle sent that number to Anne Basset, one of her daughters, who was maid of honour to the new Queen. [Lisle papers] But the girdle was not sufficiently rich; the pearls were too few, therefore the young lady could not exhibit it before the Queen: As the King's two former wives (though afterwards repudiated and dis-crowned) had received the honour of splendid cororations, he was of course desirous of thus distinguishing the beloved Jane Seymour. Of this there is full evidence in the despatches of Rich and Paget [State-paper office] to the rest of the privy council remaining at, Westminster. "We found the King," says the latter, "one evening in the queen's chamber, ready to wash and sit down to supper with her; and after supper his grace returned into his chamber, and immediately called me to him, saying that he had digested and resolved in his breast the contents of your last, and perceiving how the plague had reigned in Westminster, and in the abbey itself, he stood in a suspense whether it were best to put off the time of the queen's coronation."
Jane's coronation, thus delayed by the pestilence, was still further procrastinated by her hopeful condition, which promised the long desired heir to the throne. Henry VIII. announced this expectation to the Duke of Norfolk by an autograph letter, in which may be perceived some allusion to the loss of Anne Boleyn's son, owing to the grief of heart the mother's jealousy occasioned. To obviate the chance of his present consort taking any fancies in her head, "considering she was but a woman", he graciously anuounces his intention of remaining near her in these very original words : [Chapter-house] "Albeit she is in every condition of that loving inclination and reverend conformity that she can well content, rest, and satisry herself with anything which WE shall think expedient and determine, yet, considering that, being but a woman, upon some sudden and displeasant rumours and bruits that might by foolish or light persons be blown abroad in our absence, being specially so far from her, she might take to her stomach such impressions as might engender no little danger or displeasure to the infant with which she is now pregnant (which God forbid!), it hath been thought by our council very necessary that, for avoiding such perils, we should not extend our progress further from her than sixty miles". The place chosen for Queen Jane's lying-in was Hampton court, where it appears, from a letter to Cromwell from the Earl of Southampton, that she took to her chamber Sep 16, 1537, with all the ceremouies appertaining to the retirement of an English Queen in her situation. [State Papers]
The splendid gothic banqueting-hall at Hampton court was finished at this juncture, for Queen Jane's initials are entwined with those of her husband among the decorations. It was an inconvenient whim of Henry VIII, whose love was so evanescent, to knit the initials of whom soever happened to be the object of his temporary passion in enduring stone-work. The Italian fashion of inlaying popular names on festal days in mosaics of flowers, called infiorata, had been the more convenient compliment, since fading flowers would have been better memorials of his passion for Anne Boleyn than the love-knots of stone at King's college and at Hampton court. The commemoration of his love for her rival, in the architectural ornaments of the latter, likewise remains a signal monument of the transitory nature of hnman felicity. At the entrance of the chapel, on each side of the doorway, is a species of coloured stone picture, containing Henry's arms and initials on the right, and Queen Jane's arms with the interchanged initials I H, and H I, with love-knots intertwined. The motto, arms, and supporters of Jane Seymour as Queen are among the archives of Herald's college. [T 2. p.15] Over the shields is inscribed BOUND TO OBEY AND SERVE, in English. Her supporters were, on the right side, a unicorn, with a collar of roses round his neck, alternately a red and a white one. It seems the unicorn was adopted for her as the emblem of chastity. On the left side was a horse ducally collared. Her family shield of the Seymour arms is entire, not impaled with the royal arms, emblazoned in an escutcheon of the usual broad form; the crown of England is over the shield, and beneath it written REGINA JANE.
The original outline sketch of Queen Jane by Holbein, preserved in her majesty's collection at Windsor, was probably taken at this time -- a time most unpropitious to the beauty of the sitter: indeed, it is difficult to trace any beauty in the portrait, which represents her as a coarse, apathetic-looking woman, with a large face and small features. Her expression is sinister: the eyes are blue; the mouth very small; also the lips thin, and closely compressed; the eyebrows very faintly marked; high cheek-bones, and a thickness at the point of the nose quite opposed to an artist's idea of beauty. Hans Holbein, however, generally gave a faithful representation of his subjects: in one instance only has he been accused of flattery. Queen Jane wears the same five-cornered hood and plaited cap beneath, familiar to us in the portraits of Henry's first three Queens. Her hair appears plainly folded in cross bands. Her dress is unfinished; a square corsage is faintly defined. The sketch is evidently the same from which the whole-length portrait was painted by Holbein, which represents her as Queen, standing with Henry VIII, Henry VII, and Elizabeth of York at the four corners of an altar or tomb. Queen Jane is not quite so plain in this picture, but makes a complete contrast to the serene face of Elizabeth; her complexion is fine, and her features regular, but their expression cold and hard, her figure stiff, and her elbows very square. She wears a flowing scarlet robe, on the train of which is curled up a queer little white poodle; and which looks the sourest, the mistress or dog, it wonld be difficult to decide. She appears a middle-aged woman: it would be a compliment to her to guess her at thirty-three, her probable age. These pictures were her Queenly portraits. Her earlier pictures were most likely painted at the time of her marriage: they are much handsomer.
An insalubrious state etiquette after Jane had taken to her chamber (according to the queenly custom), obliged her to confine herself therein a whole month preceding her accouchement, and during this long space of time the royal patient was deprived of the needful benefits of air and exercise. When the hour came in which the heir of England was expected to see the light, it was by no means "the good hour" so emphatically prayed for in the ceremonial of her retirement. After a martyrdom of suffering, the Queen's attendants put to Henry the really cruel question, of "whether he would wish his wife or infant to be saved?" It is affirmed, and it must be owned the speech is too characteristic of Henry to be doubted, that he replied, "The child by all means, for other wives could be easily found". [Sanders] The following historical ballad tells, in its homely strains, the same tale in a version meant to be complimentary to the King, long before Sanders had embodied it in his prejudiced history, which, in sonorous Latin, has preserved so many scandals of Henry and his favourites. The ballad alludes to the loss of Henry VIII's large ship, the Mary Rose, and embodies several minutiae which would have been forgotten if it had not been nearly contemporary: --
When as King Henry ruled this land
He had a Queen, I understand,
Lord Seymour's daughter, fair and bright,
Yet death, by his remorseless power,
Did blast the bloom of thrs fair flower.
O mourn, mourn, mourn, fair ladies,
Your Queen the dower of England's dead!
The Queen in travail pained sore
Full thirty woful hours and more,
And no ways could relieved be,
As all her ladies wished to see;
Whererore the King made greater moan
Than ever yet his grace had done.
Then, being something eased in mind,
His eyes a troubled sleep did find
Where, dreaming he had lost a rose,
sent which he could not well suppose
A ship he had, a Rose by name, --
Oh, no; it was his royal Jane!
Being thus perplexed with grief and care,
A lady to him did repair,
And said, 'O King, show us thy will,
The qreen's sweet life to save or spill?'
'Then, as she cannot saved be,
Oh, save the flower though not the tree.'
O mourn, mourn, mourn fair ladies,
Your Queen the flower of England's dead!"
Another authority affirms, that the Queen entreated her assistants to take care of her infant in preference to herself. After all, it is expressly declared, by a circular notification, "that the queen was happily delivered of a prince on Friday, Oct 12, being the vigil of St. Edward's-day;" and had she been kept in a state of rational quiet, it is probable she might have recovered. But the intoxication of joy into which the King and the court were plunged at the appearance of the long desired heir of Elngland, seemed to deprive them of all consideration of consequences, or they would have kept the bustle attendant on the ceremonial of his christening far enough from her. When all the circumstances of this elaborate ceremony are reviewed, no doubt can exist that it was the ultimate cause of Queen Jane's death: it took place on the Monday night after the birth of the prince. The arrangement of the procession, which commenced in her very chamber, was not injurious enough for the sick Queen, but regal etiquette imperiously demanded that she should play her part in the scene; nor was it likely that a private gentlewoman raised to the queenly state would seek to excuse herself from any ceremony connected with her dignity, however inconvenient. It was the rule for a Queen of England, [Ordinances, by Margaret Beaufort] when her infant was christened, to be removed from her bed to a state pallet, which seems anciently to have fulfilled the uses of a sofa. This was decorated at the back with the crown and arms of England, wrought in gold thread; it was furnished with two long pillows, and two square ones, a coverture of white lawn five yards square, and a counterpane of scarlet cloth lined with ermine. The Queen reclined, propped with four cushions of crimson damask with gold; she was wrapped about with a round mantle of crimson velvet, furred with ermine.
The baptism of the prince took place by torchlight, in the chapel of Hampton court, where the future defender of the reformed religion was presented at the font by his sister and Roman-catholic successor, the princess Mary. King Henry had remained seated by the Queen's pallet during the whole of the baptismal rite, which, with all its tedious parade, was not over till midnight. What with the presence of King Henry - rather a boisterous inmate for a sick chamber; what with the procession setting out from the chamber, and the braying of the trumpets at its entrance when it returned (the herald especially notes the goodly noise they made there); and, in conclusion, the exciting ceremonial of bestowing her maternal benediction on her newly baptized babe, the poor Queen had been kept in a complete hurry of spirits for many hours. The natural consequence of such imprudence was, that on the day after she was in disposed, and on the Wednesday so desperately ill, that all the rites of the Roman catholic church were adminstered to her: the official statements are still extant, and prove how completely mistaken those writers are who consider Jane Seymour was a Protestant. Equally mistaken are those who affirm that she died, either directly after the birth of Edward VI, or even two days afterwards: the fact is, she survived upwards of twelve days.
In a circular bulletin extant, minute accounts are given of the Queen's health; to which is added, "Her confessor hath been with her grace this morning, and hath done that which to his office appertaineth, and even now is about to adminster to her grace the sacrament of unction. At Hampton court, this Wednesday morning, [State Papers] eight o'clock." Nevertheless, the Queen amended, and was certainly alive on the 24 Oct, as Sir John Russell's writing, dated that day from Hampton court, to Cromwell, proves: --"The King was determined, as this day, to have removed to Esher; and because the queen was very sick this night, and this day, he tarried; but to-morrow, God willing, he in tendeth to be there. If she amend, he will go; but if she amend not, he told me, this day, 'he could not find it in his heart;' for, I assure you, she hath been in great danger yesternight and this day. Thankes be God, she is somewhat amended; and if she 'scape this night, the fyshisiouns be in good hope that she be past all danger." She did not live over the night; for the amendment mentioned was but the rally often occurring before death. "The departure of queen Jane was as heavy to the King as ever was heard tell of. Directly she expired, the King withdrew himself, as not to be spoken to by any one. He left Hampton court for Windsor, part of his council remaining to order the funeral." In a despatch from the council to the Ambassador of France, the death of the Queen is clearly attributed to having been suffered to take cold and eat improper food. "On Thursday, Oct 25, she was embalmed; and wax-chandlers did their work about her. The next day, Friday, 26, was provided, in the chamber of presence, a hearse with twenty-four tapers, garnished with pensils and other decencies. Also, in the same chamber was provided an altar, for mass to be said, richly apparelled with black, garnished with the cross, images, censers, and other ornaments; and daily masses were said by her chaplains The corpse was reverently conveyed from the place where she died, umder a hearse covered with a rich pall of cloth of gold, and a cross set thereupon; lights were burning night and day upon the altar all divine service time. All ladies were in mourning habits, with white kerchiefs over their heads and shoulders, kneeling about the hearse all service time in lamentable wise, at mass forenoon and at dirige after." [State Papers] A watch of these ladies, with the princess Mary at their head as chief mourner, was kept nightly in the Queen's chamber round the royal corpse till the last day of Oct, when the Bishop of Carlisle, her almoner, entering in pontificalibus, assisted by the sub-dean and the Bishop of Chichester, performed all ceremonies, as censing with holy water, and attended the removal of the coffin, with great solemnity, to Hampton court chapel. Here the ceremonies were renewed, day by day, till Nov 12, when the Queen's funeral procession set out from Hampton to Windsor, where interment took place in St. George's chapel, with all pomp and majesty. The corpse of Jane Seymour was covered with a rich pall; over it was placed her was statue, exactly representing her in her robes of state, the hair flowing on the shoulders; a crown of state on the head, a sceptre of gold in the right hand, the fingers covered with rings of precious stones, and the neck with ornaments of jewels; the shoes and hose of gold cloth. The head rested on a pillow of gold cloth and gems, and the car was drawn by six horses. The princess Mary paid all the duty of a daughter to her friendly step-mother, by attending as chief mourner. [Mary's Privy-purse Expenses, and Lodge] In every instance the rites of the ancient church were performed. "I have caused," writes Sir Richard Gresham, from the city, to Cromwell, [State Papers] "1200 masses to be said for the soul of our most gracious queen. And whereas the lord mayor and aldermen were lately at Paul's, and there gave thanks unto God for the birth of our prince my lord, I do think it convenient that there should also be at Paul's a solemn dirge and mass, and that the mayor and aldermen should pray and offer for her grace's soul."
A Latin epitaph was composed for Jane, comparing her, in death, to the phoenix, from whose death another phoenix, EdwardVI, sprang; thus translated: --
"Here a phoenix lieth, whose death
To another phoenix gave breath:
It is to be lamented much,
The world at once ne'er knew two such."
Two Queens of Henry had been previously consigned to their last repose. Catalina de Aragon was buried as his brother's widow, and not as his own wife. As to Anne Boleyn, her poor mangled corpse was not vouchsafed, as far as her unloving spouse was aware, the religious rites bestowed on the remains of the most wretched mendicant who expires on the highway of our Christian land. Jane Seymour was the first spouse out of three, whom he owned at her death as his wedded wife. Henry VIII wrote an exulting letter to Francois I on the birth of his heir, at the end of which he acknowledges that the death of the mother had cost him some pain, yet his joy far exceeded his grief. His respect for the memory of his lost Queen can be best appreciated by the circumstance of his wearing black for her loss, even at the Christmas festival, when the whole court likewise appeared in deep mouming.l [Speed] As this monarch detested the sight of black, or anything that reminded him of death, so entirely that he was ready to drive from his presence persons who presumed to come to court in mourning for their friends, the extent of his self-sacrifice may be imagined, for he did not change his widower's habiliments till Candlemas (Feb 2, 1537-8). Already he had been thrice married, yet it was the first time he had comported himself like a dutiful widower; and though he married thrice afterwards, he never wore mouming for a wife. The letters of condolence he received were numerous. One shall serve as a specimen, addressed to him by Tunstall, Bishop of Durham: -- "Almighty God hath taken from your grace, to your great discomfort, a most blessed and virtuous lady; consider what he hath given to your highness, to the rejoice of alI us your subjects -- our most noble prince, to whom God hath ordained your majesty to be mother as well as father God gave to your grace that noble lady, and God hath taken her away as pleased him."
The infant prince, whose birth cost Jane her life, was nursed at Havering-Bower. Margaret lady Bryan, who had faithfully superintended the childhood of Henry's two daughters, had now the care of Jane Seymour's motherless boy. Her descriptions of his infancy at Havering are pretty: "My lord prince's grace is in good health and merry; and his grace hath three teeth out, and the fourth appearing." She complains, however, "that the princely baby's best coat was only tinsel, and that he hath never a good jewel to set on his cap; howbeit, she would order all things for his hononr as well as she could, so that the King should be contented withal." The lord chancellor Audley visited the royal nursling at Eavering, in the summer: he assures Cromwell that he never saw so goodly a child of his age, " so merry, so pleasant, so good and loving of countenance, and so earnest an eye, which, as it were, makes sage judgment of every one that approacheth his grace. And, as it seemeth to me, his grace well increaseth in the air that he is in." [See Life of Edward VI., by Agnes Strickland]
Opinion is divided as to how Jane felt about being the new object of Henry's affections. Some see Jane's calm and gentle demeanor as evidence that she didn't really understand the position as political pawn she was playing for her family. Others see it as a mask for her fear. Seeing how Henry's two previous Queens had been treated once they fell from favor, Jane probably had some trepidation, although Anne Boleyn's final fate had not been sealed at that time.
Jane Seymour was Henry's 'true love'. He fell for her while Anne Boleyn was pregnant with their second child, but Jane did not respond to his overtures until after Anne was executed. However Jane actually felt, we will never know. Henry's feelings were pretty clear though. Within 24 hours of Anne Boleyn's execution, Jane Seymour and Henry VIII were formally betrothed. On the 30th of May, they were married. Unlike Henry's previous two Queens, Jane never had a coronation. Perhaps the King was waiting to Jane to 'prove' herself by giving him a son.
Henry had already been preparing his own tomb at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, which was where Jane was buried. In the end, she would be the only of Henry's six wives to be buried with him.
The Family of Henry VIII
The Dynasty Portrait or The Whitehall Mural
Jane Seymour was undeniably the first woman espoused by Henry VIII, whose title, as wife and Queen, was neither disputed by himself nor his subjects. Whilst Catalina de Aragon lived, a great part of the people considered Anne Boleyn but as the shadow of a Queen. Both Catalina and Anne were removed by death from rivalry. It was owing to this circumstance, as well as the dignity she derived from being the sultana-mother of his heir, that Henry, in his last will, commanded "that the bones and body of his true and 'loving wife, queen Jane,' were to be placed in his tomb."
Both their statues were to be placed on the tomb: the effigy of Jane was to recline, not as in death, but as one sweetly sleeping; children were to sit at the corners of the tomb, having baskets of roses, white and red, made of fine oriental stones -- jasper, cornelian, and agate, "which they shall show to take in their hands, and cast them down on and over the tomb, and down on the pavement; and the roses they cast over the tomb shall be enamelled and gilt, and the roses they cast on the steps and pavement shall be formed of the said fine oriental stones." [Speed] This beautiful idea was not realized; the monument was, indeed, commenced, but the materials were either stolen or sold in the civil wars. When George IV searched the vaults of St. George's chapel for the body of Charles I in 1813, Queen Jane's coffin was discovered close to the gigantic skeleton of Henry VIII, which some previous accident had exposed to view. George IV would not suffer her coffin to be opened, and the vault where she lies, near the sovereign's side of the stalls of the Garter, was finally closed up. [Sir Henry Halford] The bed in which Edward VI was born and his mother died, was long shown to the public. Hentzner mentions seeing it in the latter end of Queen Elizabeth's reign; but in recent years every fragment of the furniture of the ancient queenly apartments at Hampton court has disappeared, and what became of the bed it would be difflcult to discover. The rooms seem to have been altered when the arch of the beautiful state-entrance from the great staircase was defaced and walled up, [It has been lately discovered by Mr. Wilson, of Hampton Court, and beautifully restored under his care.] a proceeding wholly unaccountable, unless it were connected with an absurd story, still traditional as Hampton court gossip, concerning that mysterious angle of the palace. It is told, with suitable awe, "that ever as the anniversary of Edward VI's birth-night returns, the spectre of Jane Seymour is seen to ascend those stairs, clad in flowing white garments, with a lighted lamp in her hand." Is it possible that the archway leading to the "silver-stick gallery" and queenly sleeping rooms was filled up to impede the entrance of the shade of the Queen?
It is difficult to determine from portraits which wife of Henry VIII was the most beautiful woman. The idea of beauty was likely different from today's where Plastic Surgery and physical fitness play a large role in what some think think of as the standard. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, maybe Henry wouldn't have cared about Jane's small physical features which could be all too easily remedied today by a plastic surgery procedure.
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