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King Henry's third wife- Jane Seymour
The origins of Jane Seymour
The ancestry of the Seymour’s could be traced back to Normans under William the Conqueror. Her father was a gallant soldier being knighted in the field by Henry VII and enjoying the trust of Henry VIII. The family was not particularly grand and although connected they were described as astute. Jane was herself the fifth child of ten children, six of whom, including the first four, had been sons. Jane was in her mid twenties in 1536 and a charming and fair woman, although not beautiful she was virtuous and from good stock with breeding possibilities. Jane was regarded as a calm, sweet tempered, intelligent woman who lived a virtuous life and was agreed by all to be a virgin. The court split into factions with the large majority supporting the replacement of Queen Anne by Jane Seymour. Anne had a poor power base only amongst her relations and the most powerful, the Duke of Norfolk did not like her, and she was not an easy person to like. International diplomacy was hinting at the replacement of Anne, the Spanish seemed willing to forget Henry’s slight to his first wife Catherine, now she was dead the removal of Anne Boleyn would make the way clear for cordial English Spanish relations. Anne Boleyn was executed by a swordsman's single blow on 19th May 1536, and Jane Seymour and King Henry were betrothed in secret the very next day.
On 30th May Jane Seymour became Queen Jane, the third woman to be the Kings wife in that year. The celebrations were heady, a pageant on the River Thames, the Tower festooned with streamers and pageants, tournaments and entertainments attended by the King and his new Queen. The King appeared an immense magnificent figure as his 6foot 2 inches frame was now significantly overweight, though as of yet there were no signs that this was causing him any difficulties.
Queen Jane kindled a firm friendship with the Kings daughter Mary who was now reinstated in his affections, so much so that the King and Queen visited her and palace records indicate a number of presents went to the Princess from them. Jane is recorded as being satisfied with her lot in life and being a quiet and loving wife. On her marriage the Seymour families standing in the country rose and Jane herself became a rich woman with a large dowry. Her brother, Edward Seymour was created Viscount Beauchamp after the wedding, his position being even more important as the Uncle to the heir to the throne should Jane have the son that her pedigree suggested she would.
The birth of a prince
In June 1536 the second Act of succession was passed which gave precedence in the succession to any children of the King and Jane Seymour , both Mary and Elizabeth were now regarded as his illegitimate children. The year after their marriage the rumours circulating after Anne Boleyns remarks that the King would not father any more children because of impotence, ceased as Jane realised that she was expecting the Kings child. Jane’s pregnancy became apparent late in February and the “quickening “ of the baby would have been felt by her around May. At this point the King rewarded her with the elevation of her brother to the Privy Council. As with the first pregnancy of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, it was generally agreed that Jane would give birth to a boy, the astrologers said so and the people were prepared to welcome the prince soon to be born.
Queen Jane was in labour from the 9th to 12th October, an ordeal that would over whelm most modern women in an era with competent pain relief. The baby boy was called Edward after his paternal great grandfather. At forty six years of age, after nearly thirty years marriage to three different women, the King had finally been presented with a legitimate heir. The King was said to be besotted with his baby son and was prepared to raise Jane to the highest heights possible. The baby was christened three days later and Jane was dressed and sitting in her bedchamber receiving guests and fond wishes. Six days after the baby Princes birth, on 18th October, baby Edward was proclaimed Prince of Wales and Jane’s Brother was given the Earldom of Hertford with a considerable income, such was the King’s pleasure. It is about this time after the birth that Jane began to feel ill with puerperal fever caused by poor hygiene at birth. It is believed that this developed to septicaemia and Jane died on 24th October when baby Edward was just 12 days old. Historical chronicles indicate that both the King and his daughter Mary were saddened by the death of Jane; Elizabeth being too young to have merited a mention. By dying at this point, having given Henry what he truly desired Jane Seymour guaranteed her place as his “true and loving wife” as mentioned in the Kings final testament made just before he died. Queen Jane’s body laid in the chapel of Hampton court where priests prayed over the coffin for twelve full days and nights before the burial at Windsor. Henry’s daughter, Mary acted as Jane’s chief mourner and the next day her coffin was interred beneath the choir of St George’s chapel. The gifts of jewellery that Jane had received were given mainly to Mary but also to her family and other ladies at court. The gift of land and income received as her dowry was returned to the crown. Henry remained in mourning until February 1538 and at this point previously low key plans for a new queen were given a higher level of precedence, the search was on for a new Queen.