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Jane Seymour

Jane Seymour
Queen consort of England
Tenure 30 May 1536 – 24 October 1537
Proclamation 4 June 1536
Spouse Henry VIII of England
Issue Edward VI of England
House Seymour family
Father John Seymour
Mother Margery Wentworth
Born c. 1508
Died 24 October 1537 (aged 28–29)
Hampton Court Palace
Religion Roman Catholicism

Jane Seymour (c. 1508 – 24 October 1537) was Windsor Castle. She was the only wife of Henry VIII whose son survived infancy.


  • Early life 1
  • Marriage and birth of heir 2
  • Death and funeral 3
  • Legacy 4
  • In popular culture 5
    • In film 5.1
    • In books 5.2
    • In music 5.3
  • Lineage 6
  • Footnotes 7
  • Sources 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Arms of Seymour: Gules, two wings conjoined in lure

Jane Seymour was likely born at Wulfhall, Savernake Forest, Wiltshire, the daughter of Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth. Through her maternal grandfather, she was a descendant of King Edward III of England through Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence.[1] Because of this, she and King Henry VIII were fifth cousins. She was a half-second cousin to her predecessor Anne Boleyn, sharing a great-grandmother, Elizabeth Cheney.[2]

She was not educated as highly as King Henry's previous wives, Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. She could read and write a little, but was much better at needlework and household management, which were considered much more necessary for women.[3] Jane's needlework was reported to be beautiful and elaborate; some of her work survived as late as 1652, when it is recorded to have been given to the Seymour family. After her death, it was noted that Henry was an "enthusiastic embroiderer".[4]

She became a maid-of-honour in 1532 to Queen Catherine, but may have served her as early as 1527, and went on to serve Queen Anne. The first report of Henry VIII's interest in Jane Seymour was in early 1536, sometime before Catherine's death.

Jane was highly praised for her gentle, peaceful nature, being referred to as "gentle a lady as ever I knew" by John Russell and being named as "the Pacific" by the Imperial Ambassador Chapuys for her peace making efforts at court.[5] According to Chapuys, Jane was of middling stature and very pale; he also commented that she was not of much beauty. However, John Russell stated that Jane was "the fairest of all the King's wives"[6] Polydore Vergil commented that she was "a woman of the utmost charm in both character and appearance."[7]

Marriage and birth of heir

King Henry VIII was betrothed to Jane on 20 May 1536, just one day after Anne Boleyn's execution. The couple married at the Palace of Whitehall, Whitehall, London, in the Queen's closet by Bishop Gardiner[8] on 30 May 1536. As a wedding gift the King made her a grant of 104 manors in four counties as well as a number of forests and hunting chases for her jointure, the income to support her during their marriage.[8] She was publicly proclaimed as queen consort on 4 June. Jane’s well-publicized sympathy for the late Queen Catherine and the Lady Mary showed her to be compassionate and made her a popular figure with the common people and most of the courtiers.[9] She was never crowned because of plague in London, where the coronation was to take place. Henry may have been reluctant to crown Jane before she had fulfilled her duty as a queen consort by bearing him a son and a male heir.[10]

As queen, Jane Seymour was said to be strict and formal. Her motto was "Bound to obey and serve." [10]
The Six Wives of
Henry VIII
Catherine of Aragon
Anne Boleyn
Jane Seymour
Anne of Cleves
Catherine Howard
Catherine Parr

She was close to her female relations, Anne Stanhope (her brother's wife) and her sister, Elizabeth. Jane was also close to the Lady Lisle along with her sister-in-law the Lady Beauchamp. Jane considered Lisle's daughters as maids-of-honour, and she left many of her possessions to Beauchamp. Jane would form a very close relationship with Mary Tudor. The lavish entertainments, gaiety, 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, she banned the French fashions that Anne Boleyn had introduced. Politically, Seymour appears to have been conservative.[11] Her only reported involvement in national affairs, in 1536, was when she asked for pardons for participants in the Pilgrimage of Grace. Henry is said to have rejected this, reminding her of the fate her predecessor met with when she "meddled in his affairs".[12]

Jane put forth much effort to restore Henry's first child, Princess Mary, to court and to the royal succession, behind any children that Jane might have with Henry. Jane brought up the issue of Mary's restoration both before and after she became Queen. While Jane was unable to restore Mary to the line of succession, she was able to reconcile her with Henry.[10] Eustace Chapuys wrote to Charles V of Jane's compassion and efforts on behalf of Mary's return to favour. A letter from Mary to Jane shows that Mary was grateful to Jane. While it was Jane who first pushed for the restoration, Mary and Elizabeth were not reinstated to the succession until Henry's sixth wife, Queen Catherine Parr, convinced him to do so.[13]

In early 1537, Jane became pregnant. During her pregnancy, she developed a craving for quail, which Henry ordered for her from Calais and Flanders. During the summer, she took no public engagements and led a relatively quiet life, being attended by the royal physicians and the best midwives in the kingdom.[14] She went into confinement in September 1537 and gave birth to the coveted male heir, the future King Edward VI, at two o'clock in the morning[15] on 12 October 1537 at Hampton Court Palace.[16] Edward was christened on 15 October 1537, without his mother in attendance, as was the custom. Both of the King's daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, were present and carried the infant's train during the ceremony.[17]

Death and funeral

Jane Seymour's labour had been difficult, lasting two nights and three days, probably because the baby was not well positioned.[18] After the christening, it became clear that she was seriously ill.[19] Jane Seymour died on 24 October 1537 at Hampton Court Palace at Kingston upon Thames. Within a few weeks of the death of Queen Jane there existed conflicting testimonies concerning the cause of her demise. According to King Edward's biographer, Jennifer Loach, Jane Seymour's death may have been due to an infection from a retained placenta. According to Alison Weir, death could have also been caused by puerperal fever due to a bacterial infection contracted during the birth or a tear in her perineum which became infected.[11]

Jane Seymour's arms as queen consort[20]

Jane Seymour was buried on 12 November 1537 in Windsor Castle after the funeral in which her stepdaughter, Mary, acted as chief mourner. A procession of 29 mourners followed Lady Mary, one for every year of Queen Jane’s life.[21] Jane was the only one of Henry's wives to receive a queen's funeral.[11]

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 begun soon after her death. Moreover, he put on weight during his long widowerhood, becoming obese and swollen and developing diabetes and gout. Historians have speculated she was Henry's favourite wife because she gave birth to a male heir. When he died in 1547, Henry was buried beside her, on his request, in the grave he had made for her.[11]


Jane gave the king the son he so desperately needed, helped to restore Lady Mary to the succession and her father’s affections, and used her influence to bring about the advancement of her family.[22] Two of Jane's brothers, Thomas and Edward, used her memory to improve their own fortunes.[11] Thomas was rumoured to have been pursuing the future Elizabeth I, but married the queen dowager Catherine Parr instead. In the reign of the young King Edward VI, Edward Seymour set himself up as Lord Protector and de facto ruler of the kingdom. Both brothers eventually fell from power, and were executed.[11]

In popular culture

In film

In books

  • Is the main character in Carolly Erickson's novel The Favoured Queen, which follows her from her appointment as lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon right up to the time she herself becomes Henry's consort.
  • Is the subject of the novel Plain Jane: A Novel of Jane Seymour (Tudor Women Series) by Laurien Gardner (Sarah Hoyt).
  • Appears as a lady serving both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, which ends with hints of her coming prominence. The second novel in Mantel's series, Bring Up the Bodies focuses on the machinations that led to the execution of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's growing determination to replace her with Jane Seymour and the Seymour family's strategems to gain from the King's attraction to Jane. A planned third volume, The Mirror and the Light, is expected to tell Jane Seymour's story.[23]
  • The book " I,Jane," by Diane Heager, tells of her growing up and, before catching the eye of King Henry, meeting a young man whose parents are well placed in court and look down on Jane and her family. Despite this, Jane and the son become close, and over the years she never forgets him.

In music

  • As Giovanna Seymour, she appears in Gaetano Donizetti's opera Anna Bolena.
  • Rick Wakeman recorded the piece "Jane Seymour" for his 1973 album The Six Wives of Henry VIII.
  • 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.

A setting of the ballad to a tune by Irish musician Dáithí Sproule was included on the Bothy Band's 1979 album After Hours (Live in Paris) and their 2008 album Best of the Bothy Band. The song also appears on Loreena McKennitt's 2010 album Barley, and on Sproul's 2011 album Lost River: Vol. 1; and it was featured in the Coen brothers' 2013 film Inside Llewyn Davis.



  1. ^ Norton 2009, p. 8.
  2. ^ Norton 2009, p. 9.
  3. ^ Brown 2005, p. 244.
  4. ^ "Henry VIII – the Embroiderer King". Royal School of Needlework. Retrieved 19 October 2009. 
  5. ^ David Starkey, Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII, p.585-586
  6. ^ Norton 2009, p. 65.
  7. ^ Vergil 1950, p. 337.
  8. ^ a b Weir 2007, p. 344.
  9. ^ Weir 2007, p. 340.
  10. ^ a b c Wagner 2012, p. 1000.
  11. ^ a b c d e f "Jane Seymour: Third Wife of Henry VIII of England". Retrieved 22 October 2010. 
  12. ^ "The Six Wives of Henry VIII: Jane Seymour". PBS. Retrieved 22 October 2010. 
  13. ^ Farquhar 2001, p. 72.
  14. ^ Weir 2007, p. 362.
  15. ^ Weir 2007, p. 367.
  16. ^ Seal 2001, p. 129.
  17. ^ Walder 1973, p. 47.
  18. ^ Walsh 2009.
  19. ^ Norton 2009, p. 145.
  20. ^ Boutell 1863, p. 243.
  21. ^ Weir 2007, p. 372.
  22. ^ Weir 2007, p. 373.
  23. ^ Mares, Peter (18 June 2009). "Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall". ABC Radio National. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  24. ^ or Sir Robert Coker of Lydeard St Lawrence


  • Brown, Meg Lota; McBride, Kari Boyd. Women's roles in the Renaissance. Westport: Greenwood Press.  
  • Farquhar, Michael (2001). A Treasure of Royal Scandals. New York: Penguin Books.  
  • Lancelot, Francis (2011). Jane Seymour, Third Wife of Henry the Eighth: A Short Biography. Shamrock Publishing. 
  • Seal, Graham (2001). Encyclopedia of Folk Heroes (hardback). Oxford: ABC-CLIO. p. 129.  
  • Wagner, John A. and Schmid, Susan Walters (2012). Encyclopedia of Tudor England (hardback) 3. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.  
  • Walder, John (1973). All Colour book of Henry VIII. London: Octopus Books.  
  • Walsh, Andrew (21 March 2009). "The death of Jane Seymour – a Midwife’s view". Tudor Stuff: Tudor History From the Heart of England. Retrieved 24 October 2010. 

External links

  • Jane Seymour, Queen of England Family tree
  • "Jane Seymour". Find A Grave. 
  • A quick over-view of Jane's life, with a good portrait gallery as well
  • A more in-depth historical look at Jane's life and times
  • A geo-biography tour of the Six Wives of Henry VIII on Google Earth
  • The Death of Queen JaneThe text of the ballad
  • Photo of Seymour waxwork Flickr
  • A 1996 interview with Anne Boleyn's most respected academic biographer, E.W. Ives in which he offers his interpretations of Anne Boleyn but also speculates on the role Jane played in Anne's downfall
English royalty
Title last held by
Anne Boleyn
Queen consort of England
Lady of Ireland

30 May 1536 – 24 October 1537
Title next held by
Anne of Cleves
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