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Jane Seymour

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Jane Seymour
Queen consort of England
Tenure30 May 1536 – 24 October 1537
Proclamation4 June 1536
Bornc. 1508
probably Wulfhall, Wiltshire, England[1]
Died24 October 1537 (aged c. 28–29)
Hampton Court Palace, England
Burial12 November 1537
(m. 1536)
IssueEdward VI of England
FatherSir John Seymour
MotherMargery Wentworth
ReligionRoman Catholicism
SignatureJane Seymour's signature

Jane Seymour (/ˈsmɔːr/; c. 1508 – 24 October 1537) was Queen of England as the third wife of King Henry VIII from their marriage on 30 May 1536 until her death the next year. She became queen following the execution of Henry's second wife, Anne Boleyn, who was accused by King Henry VIII of adultery after failing to produce the male heir he so desperately desired. Jane, however, died of postnatal complications less than two weeks after the birth of her only child, the future King Edward VI. She was the only wife of Henry to receive a queen's funeral; and he was later buried alongside her remains in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.

Early life

Jane, the daughter of Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth, was most likely born at Wulfhall, Wiltshire,[1] although West Bower Manor in Somerset has also been suggested.[2] Her birth date is not recorded; various accounts use anywhere from 1504 to 1509,[3] but it is generally estimated around 1508.[1] Through her maternal grandfather, she was a descendant of King Edward III's son Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence.[4] Because of this, she and King Henry VIII were fifth cousins. She also shared a great-grandmother, Elizabeth Cheney, with his second and fifth wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.[5]

Jane was not as highly educated as Henry's first and second 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.[6] Her needlework was reportedly beautiful and elaborate; some of it 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".[7]

Jane 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 with her sister Elizabeth.[citation needed] The first report of Henry's interest in Jane was in February 1536, about three months before Anne's execution.[8]

Jane was highly praised for her gentle, peaceful nature, being called as "gentle a lady as ever I knew" by John Russell and "the Pacific" by the Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys, (who referred to her as Jane Semel in his letters,[9]) for her peacemaking efforts at court.[10] According to Chapuys, she was of middling stature and very pale; he also said that she was not of much beauty, but Russell said she was "the fairest of all the King's wives".[11] Polydore Vergil commented that she was "a woman of the utmost charm in both character and appearance".[12] She was regarded as meek, gentle, simple, and chaste, with her large family making her thought to be suitable to have many children.

Marriage and birth of heir

Six wives of Henry VIII
and years of marriage
Catherine of Aragon
m. 1509–1533
Anne Boleyn
m. 1533–1536
Jane Seymour
m. 1536–1537
Catherine Howard
m. 1540–1542
Catherine Parr
m. 1543–1547

Henry VIII was betrothed to Jane on 20 May 1536, the day after Anne Boleyn's execution. They were married at the Palace of Whitehall, Whitehall, London, in the Queen's closet by Bishop Gardiner[13] on 30 May 1536. As a wedding gift he granted her 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.[13] She was publicly proclaimed queen on 4 June 1536. Her well-publicised sympathy for the late Queen Catherine and her daughter Mary showed her to be compassionate and made her a popular figure with the common people and most of the courtiers.[14] She was never crowned because of plague in London, where the coronation was to take place. Henry may have been reluctant to have her crowned before she had fulfilled her duty as a queen consort by bearing him a male heir.[15]

As queen, Jane was said to be strict and formal.[by whom?] The lavish entertainments, gaiety, and extravagance of the queen's household, which had reached its peak during Anne Boleyn's time, was replaced by strict decorum. She banned the French fashions Anne had introduced.[16][17] Politically, Jane appears to have been conservative.[18][better source needed] 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".[19][better source needed] Her motto as a queen was Bound to obey and serve.

Lucas Horenbout miniature of Jane Seymour

Jane formed a close relationship with her stepdaughter Mary, making efforts to have Mary restored to court and to the royal succession, behind any children she might have with Henry. She brought up the issue of Mary's restoration both before and after she became queen. While she was unable to restore Mary to the line of succession, she was able to reconcile her with Henry.[15] Chapuys wrote to Emperor Charles V of her compassion and efforts on behalf of Mary's return to favour. A letter from Mary to her shows Mary's gratitude.[20] While it was she who first pushed for the restoration, Mary and Elizabeth were not reinstated to the succession until Henry's sixth wife, Catherine Parr, convinced him to do so.[21]

Henry VIII's family portrait

One non-contemporary source conjectures that she may have been pregnant and had a miscarriage by Christmas 1536.[22] In January 1537, Jane conceived again. During her pregnancy, she developed a craving for quail, which Henry ordered for her from Calais and Flanders.[citation needed] During the summer, she took no public engagements and led a relatively quiet life, attended by the royal physicians and the best midwives in the kingdom.[23] 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[24] on 12 October 1537 at Hampton Court Palace.[25] Edward was christened on 15 October 1537, without his mother in attendance, as was the custom.[clarification needed] He was the only legitimate son of Henry VIII to survive infancy. Both of his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, were present and carried Edward's train during the ceremony.[26]

Death and funeral

Portrait of Jane believed to have been painted during her short queenship and attributed to the "Cast Shadow Workshop"

Jane's labour had been difficult, lasting two days and three nights, probably because the baby was not well positioned.[30] After the christening, it became clear that she was seriously ill.[31] She died on 24 October 1537 at Hampton Court Palace. Within a few weeks, there were conflicting accounts of the cause of her death. According to King Edward's biographer Jennifer Loach, her death may have been due to an infection from a retained placenta. According to Alison Weir, she may have succumbed to puerperal fever following a bacterial infection contracted during the birth.[18] Weir has also speculated, after medical consultation, that the cause of her death was a pulmonary embolism.[citation needed]

Jane was buried on 12 November 1537 in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle after the funeral in which her stepdaughter Mary acted as chief mourner. A procession of 29 mourners followed Mary, one for every year of Jane's life.[32] She was the only one of Henry's wives to receive a queen's funeral.[18]

After her death, Henry wore black for the next three months. He married Anne of Cleves two years later, although marriage negotiations were tentatively begun soon after Jane's death. He put on weight during his widowerhood, becoming obese and swollen and developing diabetes and gout. Historians[who?] have speculated she was his favourite wife because she gave birth to a male heir. When he died in 1547, he was buried beside her, on his request, in the grave he had made for her.[18]


oat of Arms of Jane Seymour
Jane Seymour's arms as queen consort[33]
Phoenix and Castle Badge
Phoenix and Castle badge used by Jane Seymour

Jane gave the King the son he so desperately desired, helped to restore Mary to the succession and her father's affections, and used her influence to bring about the advancement of her family.[34] Two of her brothers, Thomas and Edward, used her memory to improve their own fortunes.[18] 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 set himself up as Lord Protector and de facto ruler of the kingdom. Both eventually fell from power, and were executed.[18]


An inventory of Henry VIII includes costume belonging to Jane Seymour, which was stored in 1542 in the Old Jewel House of Whitehall Palace.[35] The list includes: gowns of damask, velvet, and satin; kirtles of velvet, cloth of silver, taffeta, and purple cloth of gold; cloaks of satin; sleeves of silver and gold tissue embroidered with Venice gold and tied with gold aglets; placards for gowns; stomachers; frontlets; French hoods and billiments of black velvet and white satin; partlets; and crimson velvet hats.[36] The same clothes were listed again in 1547.[37]

Jane Seymour was said to have embroidered a bed,[38] later given by Charles I to her relation William Seymour.[39] Included in the inventory are some items of embroidery, possibly her own work such as a cushion featuring an antelope. A piece with a branch of roses and a crowned white falcon seems to be an emblem associated with Anne Boleyn.[40] Jane Seymour owned great and little "babies", dolls dressed in gowns of cloth of silver, satin, and velvet tied with gold "aglettes", like her own sleeves. These may have been fashion dolls.[41]

In popular culture

In film and on stage

In books

  • Is the main character in Janet Wertman's Jane the Quene novel, the first installment in her Seymour Saga.[55]
  • Is the main character in Carolly Erickson's highly fictionalized novel The Favoured Queen, which follows her from her appointment as lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon right up until her death.[56]
  • Is the subject of the novel Plain Jane: A Novel of Jane Seymour (Tudor Women Series) by Laurien Gardner (Sarah Hoyt).[57]
  • 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. The third volume, The Mirror and the Light, includes Jane Seymour's story.[58]
  • The book I, Jane, by Diane Haeger, 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.[59]
  • Is the title character of Jane Seymour: Henry VIII's True Love by Elizabeth Norton.[60]
  • Seymour is the title character in Alison Weir's book Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen, the third in the Six Tudor Queens series.[61]

In music


  1. ^ a b c Norton 2009, p. 11.
  2. ^ Historic England. "West Bower Manor with barn (1058940)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  3. ^ Hanson, Marilee (1 February 2015). "Jane Seymour – Facts, Biography, Information & Portraits". Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  4. ^ Norton 2009, p. 8.
  5. ^ Norton 2009, p. 9.
  6. ^ Brown 2005, p. 244.
  7. ^ "Henry VIII – the Embroiderer King". Royal School of Needlework. Archived from the original on 4 October 2011. Retrieved 19 October 2009.
  8. ^ Lipscomb 2012, p. 70.
  9. ^ "She is the sister of one Edward Semel [...] The said Semel is not a woman of great wit, but she may have good understanding (un bel enigm, qu. engin?)" – Eustace Chapuys to Antoine Perrenot, 18th May 1536, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10, January – June 1536, (1887)
  10. ^ David Starkey, Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII, p.585-586
  11. ^ Norton 2009, p. 65.
  12. ^ Vergil 1950, p. 337.
  13. ^ a b Weir 2007, p. 344.
  14. ^ Weir 2007, p. 340.
  15. ^ a b Wagner 2012, p. 1000.
  16. ^ "The Francophile French Hood Wearer or Not?". The Costume Society. Retrieved 25 March 2023.
  17. ^ Dress at the court of King Henry VIII. Maria Hayward. London. 2017. p. 171. ISBN 978-1-315-09479-3. OCLC 993653376.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) CS1 maint: others (link)
  18. ^ a b c d e f "Jane Seymour: Third Wife of Henry VIII of England". A-london-tourist-guide.com. Archived from the original on 20 June 2010. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
  19. ^ "The Six Wives of Henry VIII: Jane Seymour". PBS. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
  20. ^ "Henry VIII: June 1536, 16-30:1204".
  21. ^ Farquhar 2001, p. 72.
  22. ^ The Manuscripts of His Grace the Duke of Rutland: Letters and papers, 1440–1797 (v.3 mainly correspondence of the fourth Duke of Rutland). v.4. Charters, cartularies, &c. Letters and papers, supplementary. Extracts from household accounts. H.M. Stationery Office, 1888, p 310
  23. ^ Weir 2007, p. 362.
  24. ^ Weir 2007, p. 367.
  25. ^ Seal 2001, p. 129.
  26. ^ Walder 1973, p. 47.
  27. ^ Fraser, Antonia (1993). "The Plantagenet Descent of Henry and his Queens". The Wives of Henry VIII. Vintage Books.
  28. ^ Anselme. Histoire généalogique et chronologique de la maison royale de France. Vol. 2, p. 741.
  29. ^ Fraser, Antonia (1993). "Anne of Cleves". The Wives of Henry VIII. Vintage Books.
  30. ^ Walsh 2009.
  31. ^ Norton 2009, p. 145.
  32. ^ Weir 2007, p. 372.
  33. ^ Boutell 1863, p. 243.
  34. ^ Weir 2007, p. 373.
  35. ^ Maria Hayward, The 1542 Inventory of Whitehall Palace, 1 (Illuminata Publishers, 2004), pp. 101, 116.
  36. ^ Maria Hayward, The 1542 Inventory of Whitehall Palace, 2 (Illuminata Publishers, 2004), pp. 151–58.
  37. ^ David Starkey, Inventory of Henry VIII (London: Harvey Miller, 1998), pp. 249–252.
  38. ^ Elizabeth Norton, Jane Seymour: Henry VIII's True Love (Amberley, 2009), p. 13.
  39. ^ Susan E. James, The Feminine Dynamic in English Art (Ashgate, 2009), p. 91.
  40. ^ Maria Hayward, The 1542 Inventory of Whitehall Palace, 2 (Illuminata Publishers, 2004), p. 157 nos. 2252, 2255.
  41. ^ Maria Hayward, Dress at the Court of Henry VIII (Maney, 2007), p. 159: Maria Hayward, The 1542 Inventory of Whitehall Palace, 2 (Illuminata Publishers, 2004), p. 157 nos. 2247, 2248: David Starkey, Inventory of Henry VIII (London: Harvey Miller, 1998), p. 252 nos. 11381, 11382.
  42. ^ The Private Life of Henry VIII at the TCM Movie Database
  43. ^ Monaco, James (1992). The Movie Guide. Perigee Books. p. 30. ISBN 9780399517808. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  44. ^ Pickering, David. "Six Wives of Henry VII, The". Encyclopedia of Television. Museum of Broadcast Communications. Archived from the original on 12 August 2018. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
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  46. ^ "Six Wives of Henry VIII – Cast". TV Guide. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  47. ^ "Naomi Benson". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 28 May 2018. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  48. ^ "Emilia Fox interview". The Sunday Times. 12 January 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2018 – via Hampstead Theatre.
  49. ^ Kelley, Brian. "The Simpsons s15e11 Episode Script". Springfield! Springfield!. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
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  53. ^ "Ex-EastEnders star Charlie Clements is eyeing up Game Of Thrones". Metro. 15 April 2016. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  54. ^ "Six the Musical".
  55. ^ "Fiction Book Review: Jane the Quene by Janet Wertman. Janet Wertman, $11.57 trade paper (280p) ISBN 978-0-9971338-1-3". Publishers Weekly. April 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2019.
  56. ^ THE FAVORED QUEEN by Carolly Erickson. Retrieved 28 May 2018. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  57. ^ "Plain Jane by Laurien Gardner". Penguin Random House. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  58. ^ Mares, Peter (18 June 2009). "Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall". ABC Radio National. Abc.net.au. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
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  61. ^ "Jane Seymour". Six Tudor Queens. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  62. ^ "Anna Bolena (1830)". Libretti d'opera italiani (in Italian). Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  63. ^ The Six Wives of Henry VIII at AllMusic
  64. ^ Vannan, Alastair (1 January 2013). "The death of Queen Jane: ballad, history, and propaganda". Folk Music Journal. ISSN 0531-9684. Retrieved 28 May 2018 – via The Free Library.
  65. ^ After Hours (Live in Paris) at AllMusic
  66. ^ Trian II at AllMusic
  67. ^ Best of the Bothy Band at AllMusic
  68. ^ The Wind That Shakes the Barley at AllMusic
  69. ^ Lost River: Vol. 1 at AllMusic
  70. ^ Buchanan, Kyle (24 December 2013). "The Toughest Scene I Wrote: The Coen Brothers on Inside Llewyn Davis". Vulture. Retrieved 28 May 2018.


External links

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