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Henry VIII Marries Third Wife Jane Seymour

Updated on July 4, 2013
The portrait of the meek and mild Jane Seymour
The portrait of the meek and mild Jane Seymour

On May 30, 1536, Henry VIII married his third wife, Jane Seymour. This was just 11 days after the execution of Anne Boleyn, wife number two, and a sign that he had already decided Queen Anne was going to die. There were many differences between Anne and Jane – not just the fact that Jane was the only wife to give Henry the living heir that he wanted.

The Personalities of Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour

First of all, the personalities between the two Queens of England were completely different. Anne was outspoken, stubborn and sure of herself. Jane was meek, mild and everything that a Queen of England should have been. She does sound more boring than the other wives but she was a typical 16th century woman. Jane knew her place and knew that she was there to please King Henry VIII.

Jane Seymour was also considered more compassionate. She was a traditional woman and would be a loving mother. That isn’t to say that Anne was not. Actually, Anne was a very loving woman. She loved the English people, despite the fact that many resented her at first, and she loved her daughter, Elizabeth.

Anne loved to debate politics and loves to argue with Henry. Their marriage was a passionate one – in love and hate! This was her downfall although Henry really should have seen it coming. Henry loved the fire and the passion while he was courting her but as a wife he wanted someone calmer; someone that he could tame. Anne refused to change – and why should she? – to be anything that Henry VIII wanted.

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The Education of Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour

The two had different upbringings. Part of what makes Jane Seymour seem so dull and boring is the fact that she was “uneducated”. Interestingly, the least educated of all Henry VIII’s wives was Katherine Howard. Jane was educated, just not as well educated as Catherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn. She was raised as a traditional 16th century lady and learnt needlework, music and anything that was considered feminine. According to Eustace Chapuys, Anne Boleyn described her rival as “not a woman of great wit, but she may have good understanding”. Anne knew that Jane was not as smart or as witty as she but that did not mean she was thick or uneducated. Jane had common sense and knew how to win over the King of England.

Anne Boleyn was raised in the French court and was extremely smart. She learnt foreign languages, politics and how to debate. The problem for Anne was that she used them at the wrong time – something the sixth wife, Katherine Parr, did and nearly lost her head for. Anne was also a lover of poetry and the arts. She could read and write well -- Jane could only just read and write her name -- and loved to listen to music. All this was removed from court when Jane replaced Anne as Queen of England.

The Appearances of Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour

Another major difference is the appearances of the two Queens. Anne Boleyn was not a natural beauty, and definitely not an English beauty, but she was alluring. She had dark hair and dark eyes which was not the norm for the English people. It is possibly this unique and original look that enticed Henry VIII at first. She also dressed differently. After being raised in France for so long, she had developed a love for the French style. She loved bright and bold colours and all her ladies-in-waiting wore the French styled hoods and sleeves.

Jane Seymour was more English, for lack of a better word. She was traditional and that does seem boring (expect that it possibly played a part in saving her life!). When Jane became Queen and had her own apartments, she removed Anne’s colours and placed her own – lighter and more neutral colours. She also changed the dresses that her ladies-in-waiting wore to be the more traditional English styled hoods and sleeves.

Jane was also fairer in appearance. She was not a beauty that many other of Henry VIII’s wives were, but there was something discreet and mild about her. She was fair haired with pale skin and it is possible that she reminded Henry of his late mother, Elizabeth of York. In fact, in everything that I had read personally, I often see more similarities between Elizabeth of York and Jane Seymour than any of his other wives, which may link to the possibility that Henry VIII really did love her.

Anne Boleyn loved the English people
Anne Boleyn loved the English people

The Virtuous and Kind-heartedness of the Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour

Virtuous and kind-hearted aren’t two words that many would use to describe Anne Boleyn but are when describing Jane Seymour. In fact, both were kind-hearted in their own ways. As already mentioned, Anne loved the English people. She believed that the people of England should be educated – or at least have the chance of education. Jane was also kind in the way that she loved the people but would not argue against the King or members of the court to get her own way.

Virtuous is not a way to describe Anne. She was surrounded in scandal at the time of her death but there were questions about her virginity before she married Henry. In fact, it is very convenient that Anne found herself pregnant before her official marriage to the King, offering some evidence that she had broken her promise to herself and had intercourse with him before January 1533.

Jane was possibly a virtuous woman. There is very little scandal surrounding her, if any at all. She managed to keep her ladies-in-waiting in line, unlike Anne who was involved in some scandal with some of her ladies. She was extremely controlled when she spoke to the men at court and there was no question of her virginity, despite being in her mid 20s when she married the King.

The Love of Henry VIII

Did Henry VIII really love any of his wives? There are suggestions that he could have loved Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour.

First of all, he tore the country apart to marry Anne. He caused the religious reformation in the country just so that he could divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry the woman he initially wanted to be his mistress. However was that for love or lust? Henry had never been told no and had any woman he chose. The fact that Anne was willing to deny him the one thing that he wanted could have fuelled his passion for her but that didn’t mean that he loved her.

Once they married, Henry expected Anne to change and become a woman fit to be Queen of England. If he really loved her, he should have accepted her the way that she was – and not put her in such a predicament that she found herself in! He wouldn’t have been so upset about having a girl at first. Anne was still young enough to have more children. Miscarriages were common in the 16th century and there was still time for a living heir.

So, it is unlikely that he did love Anne Boleyn but what about Jane Seymour? She was buried in a tomb that he was creating for himself. He was even buried next to her and she was included in many portraits even after her death. But was this out of love or just the fact that she had provided him an heir?

It is possible that Henry VIII didn’t even know what love really was. It is possible that he thought he loved her but she was lucky enough to die before he realised that that wasn’t really the case. This is all speculation though. There is no evidence to support or go against Henry VIII’s true feelings for Jane Seymour; or any of his wives.

Did Henry VIII love any of his wives?
Did Henry VIII love any of his wives?

The Faiths of Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour

The final difference for today is that of the faiths of the two Queens. Jane Seymour was not a Protestant Queen. She was raised as a Catholic and held those views. It is possible that Henry VIII was searching for just that when he met Jane Seymour. Even though Henry had made the break from Rome, it is possible that he didn’t actually want to do it. He had been raised with the Catholic teachings and years before marrying Anne had burned Protestant believers at the stake.

Anne Boleyn was a devout Protestant. Even though she had been raised in France – in a Catholic country – she believed that everyone should have the chance to read the Bible. With the help of Thomas Cromwell, she managed to convince Henry VIII to break from Rome so that he could divorce Catherine of Aragon. She convinced Henry to turn his back on everything that he once knew to be true. At first he didn’t mind this since he got his wish but his decision soon hit home when he realised everything he needed to do to set up the religious reformation in the country.

While Henry tore the country apart for Anne, the marriage only lasted three years. Before Anne was even found guilty, he had her house disbanded and he had set his eyes on Jane Seymour. I’m not sure how innocent Jane was in this ploy. There are some facts that make me wonder whether she tried the same thing as Anne – stating that she wanted to be Queen before she had a relationship with His Majesty.

Whatever the reason, Henry and Jane were betrothed a day after the execution of Anne Boleyn. They married on May 30 but there was never a coronation. The coronation was due after the birth of Edward VI but she never lived to see that happen, dying of childbed fever about 12 days after his birth.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII: Jane Seymour Part 1


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