Seymour, Jane (DNB00)

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JANE SEYMOUR (1509?–1537), third queen of Henry VIII, was eldest of the eight children of Sir John Seymour of Wolf Hall, Savernake, Wiltshire, by Margaret, daughter of Sir John Wentworth of Nettlestead, Suffolk. Her mother's family claimed a distant relationship to the royal family (cf. Notes and Queries, 1st ser. vii. 42, viii. 104, 184, 251). Of her brothers, Edward became protector in Edward VI's reign and Duke of Somerset, and Thomas, known as the admiral, was created Lord Seymour of Sudeley. According to court gossip, and the inscription on a miniature by Hilliard at Windsor, Jane was born about 1509. Her birthplace was probably her father's house of Wolf Hall. Some tapestry and bedroom furniture which she worked there while a girl came into the possession of Charles I, who gave it in 1647 to William Seymour, marquis of Hertford, a collateral descendant of Jane. Five years later the marquis compounded with the parliament for retaining it by a payment of 60l. (cf. Wilts. Archæolog. Mag. xv. 205), but it is uncertain if it is still in existence. Jane has been very doubtfully identified by Miss Strickland with the subject of a portrait in the Louvre, which claims, according to the same authority, to represent one of the French queen's maids of honour, although the inscription fails to supply her name. It seems possible that the picture referred to is really the portrait of Anne of Cleves, which had not been identified in the Louvre catalogue when Miss Strickland wrote. Her theory of identification has, however, led her to the otherwise unsupported conclusion that Jane in her youth was, like Anne Boleyn, maid of honour to Mary, queen of Louis XII of France (Henry VIII's sister). It is certain that shortly before Catherine of Aragon ceased to be queen, Jane was attached to Catherine's household in England as lady-in-waiting. She was subsequently placed in the same relations with Catherine's successor, Anne Boleyn (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, xi. 32). Chapuys, the emperor's ambassador at Henry VIII's court, describes her in 1536 as ‘of middle stature and no great beauty,’ and of pale complexion, a description which her authentic portraits fully justify. But Chapuys, like other observers of the time, commends her intelligence. On 10 Sept. 1535 Henry VIII paid a visit to her father's house, Wolf Hall, and she doubtless helped to entertain him there. From that date he paid her marked attentions, and Queen Anne's miscarriage early in the following year was attributed by the court-gossips to the jealousy excited by the king's treatment of Jane (ib. x. 103). In February 1535–6 it was stated that Henry made her costly presents (ib. x. 201), and Anne's irritation was proportionately increased. In April, while Jane was at Greenwich, Henry sent her a purse full of sovereigns and a letter making dishonourable proposals. Jane returned the letter unopened, together with the purse, discreetly remarking that her honour was her fortune, and that she could only receive money from Henry when she married (ib. x. 245). Meanwhile Anne's enemies found in Henry's avowed attachment to Jane a means of bringing the queen to ruin. Sir Nicholas Carew and others urged Jane in her interviews with Henry to point out to him the invalidity of his marriage with Anne, and to withstand all his dishonourable suggestions unless he was ready to make her his wife. Henry soon agreed to accept her terms. And it was largely owing to his anxiety to set Jane in Anne's place that legal proceedings were taken against the latter on the ground of her adultery and incest. While arrangements for Anne's trial were in progress, Jane, in order to avoid compromising situations, stayed with her brother Edward and his wife in Cromwell's apartments, where the king undertook to see her only in the presence of her friends; and she was subsequently taken to a house belonging to Sir Nicholas Carew, seven miles from London, where she lived in almost regal splendour. Before 15 May—the day of Anne's trial—Jane removed to a house on the Thames within a mile of Whitehall, and there Sir Francis Bryan brought her word of Anne's condemnation a few hours after it was pronounced. Henry himself followed in the afternoon. Four days later Anne was beheaded. As soon as Henry learned the news, he visited Jane, and on the same day Archbishop Cranmer issued a dispensation for the marriage without publication of banns, and in spite of the relationship ‘in the third and third degrees of affinity’ between the parties (ib. x. 384). Early next morning Jane arrived secretly at Hampton Court, and there her betrothal with the king formally took place (Friedmann, Anne Boleyn, ii. 354). The story that the marriage ceremony was performed on the day after Anne Boleyn's execution in a church near the house of Jane's father in Wiltshire, and that a wedding banquet was given in an outbuilding on the estate, is uncorroborated by the evidence of contemporary correspondence (Letters and Papers, x. 411; see drawing of the building in Wilts Archæolog. Mag. xv. 140 sq.) The eight days following the betrothal may, however, have been spent in Wiltshire. The pair arrived in London from Winchester before 29 May, and the marriage was privately celebrated on 30 May in ‘the Queen's Closet at York Place’ (Letters and Papers, x. 413–14). Jane was introduced to the court as queen during the ensuing Whitsuntide festivities. She was well received, and courtiers curried favour with the king by congratulating him on his union to so fair and gentle a lady. Mary of Hungary wrote to Ferdinand, king of the Romans, that she was ‘a good imperialist’ (ib. x. 400), and she showed invariable kindness to the Princess Mary, whom she was successful in reconciling to Henry (cf. Wood, Letters of Illustrious Ladies, ii. 262–3). Miles Coverdale, just before the publication of his Bible, printed the initials of Jane's name at the head of the dedication across the name of Anne, to whom with Henry it was his original intention to inscribe his work. On 8 June Paris Garden was given her. Cromwell described her to Gardiner in July as ‘the most virtuous lady and veriest gentlewoman that liveth’ (Letters and Papers, xi. 17). She paid a visit with the king to the Mercers' Hall (29 June), went with him through Kent in July, was hospitably entertained at the monastery of St. Augustine's, Canterbury, and accompanied her husband on a hunting expedition in August.

Parliament had in July vested the succession to the throne in Jane's issue, to the exclusion of the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth. But it was soon reported that she was not likely to bear children. Her coronation was fixed for Michaelmas, but the ceremony was delayed, and, although her name was introduced by Cranmer's orders into the bidding prayer, rumours went abroad that it would not take place at all unless she became a mother. Jane's friendship with the Princess Mary seemed to show that Jane had little sympathy with the Reformation. Luther boldly described her as ‘an enemy of the gospel’ (ib. xi. 188), while Cardinal Pole declared she was ‘full of goodness’ (Strype, Memorials, i. ii. 304). On the outbreak of the northern insurrection, known as the Pilgrimage of Grace, Cardinal du Bellay learned from a London correspondent that Jane begged the king on her knees to restore the dissolved abbeys, and that he brusquely warned her against meddling in his affairs if she wished to avoid her predecessor's fate (Letters and Papers, xi. 346, and cf. xi. 510). Apparently the hint had its effect. On 22 Dec. the king and queen rode in great state through the city of London, and in January she rode on horseback across the frozen Thames. In March the welcome news arrived that she was with child (ib. vol. xii. pt. i. p. 315). Henry treated her thenceforth with increased consideration, but her delicate constitution rendered it desirable that she should remain in comparative seclusion. Her coronation was again deferred. Prayers were said at mass for her safe delivery (Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. i. 186), and in September she took to her chamber at Hampton Court. Henry had just completed the banqueting hall and entrance to the chapel there, and had had her initials intertwined with his own in the decorations. On Friday, 12 Oct., she gave birth to a son, Edward, afterwards Edward VI, and on the same day signed (with the words ‘Jane the Quene’) a letter announcing the event to Cromwell and the privy council (cf. Cotton MS. Nero C. x. 1; Letters and Papers, vol. xii. pt. ii. p. 316). The report that the Cæsarian operation was performed in her case was an invention of the jesuit Nicholas Sanders. Her health at first did not cause anxiety, but the excitement attending the christening of the boy enfeebled her, and owing, it was said, to a cold and to improper diet, she died about midnight on Wednesday, 24 Oct., twelve days after her son's birth (cf. Fuller, Church Hist. ed. Brewer, iv. 111 n.; Strype, Memorials, ii. 473). Henry, who was present, showed genuine sorrow, and wore mourning for her, an attention which he paid to the memory of no other of his wives. An old ballad on her death proves that his people shared his grief (cf. Bell, Ancient Poems of the Peasantry of England). Jane's body was embalmed and lay in state in Hampton Court Chapel till 12 Nov., when it was removed with great pomp to Windsor, and buried in the choir of St. George's Chapel (Letters and Papers, vol. xii. pt. ii. pp. 372–4). Henry's direction that he should be buried at her side was faithfully carried out, but the rich monument which he designed for her tomb was not completed, and the materials accumulated for it were removed from the chapel during the civil wars.

Jane's signature of ‘Jane the Quene’ is appended to two extant documents—to the letter announcing her son's birth, already noticed, and to a warrant assigned to October 1536, and addressed to the park-keeper of Havering-atte-Bower for the delivery of two bucks (see Cotton MS. Vesp. F. iii. 16). Catalogues of her jewels, lands, and debts owing to her at her death are among the British Museum Royal MSS. and at the Record Office (Letters and Papers, vol. xii. pt. ii. pp. 340–1).

A sketch of Queen Jane, by Holbein, is at Windsor. Replicas of a finished portrait (half-length) by the same artist are at Woburn Abbey and at Vienna. The Woburn picture was engraved in a medallion by Hollar and also by Bond for Lodge's ‘Portraits;’ the Vienna picture was engraved by G. Büchel. Copies of the painting belong to Lord Sackville, the Society of Antiquaries, the Marquis of Hertford, Sir Rainald Knightley, and the Duke of Northumberland. A miniature by Hilliard is at Windsor. A portrait of the queen also appeared in Holbein's portrait group of Henry VIII, his father, mother, and Jane, which was burnt in the fire at Whitehall in 1698. A small copy is at Hampton Court.

[Miss Strickland's Lives of the Queens of England, vol. iv.; Froude's Hist.; Friedmann's Anne Boleyn; Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, vols. x–xii.; Canon Jackson on the Seymours of Wolf Hall in Wilts Archæol. Mag. xv. 40 sq.; information kindly supplied by George Scharf, esq., C.B., F.S.A., and Lionel Cust, esq., F.S.A.]

S. L.