Known for: The third wife of King Henry VIII of England; Jane bore a much-wanted son as heir (the future Edward VI)
Occupation: Queen consort (third) to England's King Henry VIII; had been a maid of honor to both Catherine of Aragon (from 1532) and Anne Boleyn
Significant Dates: 1508 or 1509-October 24, 1537; became queen by marriage on May 30, 1536, when she married Henry VIII; proclaimed queen on June 4, 1536, though she was never crowned as queen
Early Life of Jane Seymour
Brought up as a typical noblewoman of her time, Jane Seymour became a maid of honor to Queen Catherine (of Aragon) in 1532. After Henry had his marriage to Catherine annulled in 1532, Jane Seymour became a maid of honor to his second wife, Anne Boleyn.
In February of 1536, as Henry VIII's interest in Anne Boleyn waned and it became apparent that she would not bear a male heir for Henry, the court noticed Henry's interest in Jane Seymour.
Marriage to Henry VIII
Anne Boleyn was convicted of treason and executed on May 19, 1536. Henry announced his betrothal to Jane Seymour the next day, May 20. They were married on May 30 and Jane Seymour was pronounced Queen Consort on June 4, which was also the public announcement of the marriage. She was never officially crowned as queen, perhaps because Henry was waiting until after the birth of a male heir for such a ceremony.
Jane Seymour's court was far more subdued than Anne Boleyn's. She apparently intended to avoid many of the errors made by Anne.
During her brief reign as Henry's queen, Jane Seymour had worked to bring peace between Henry's eldest daughter, Mary, and Henry. Jane had Mary brought to court and worked to get her named as Henry's heir after any of Jane and Henry's offspring.
Birth of Edward VI
Clearly, Henry married Jane Seymour primarily to bear a male heir. He was successful in this when, on October 12, 1537, Jane Seymour gave birth to a prince. Edward was the male heir Henry so desired. Jane Seymour had also worked to reconcile the relationship between Henry and his daughter Elizabeth. Jane invited Elizabeth to the prince's christening.
The baby was christened October 15, and then Jane fell ill with puerperal fever, a complication of childbirth. She died on October 24, 1537. The Lady Mary (future Queen Mary I) served as chief mourner at Jane Seymour's funeral.
Henry After Jane's Death
Henry's reaction after Jane's death lends credence to the idea that he loved Jane - or at least appreciated her role as the mother of his only surviving son. He went into mourning for three months. Soon after, Henry began searching for another appropriate wife, but he did not remarry for three years when he married Anne of Cleves (and shortly thereafter regretted that decision). When Henry died, ten years after Jane's death, he had himself buried with her.
Two of Jane's brothers are noted for using Henry's ties to Jane for their own advancement. Thomas Seymour, Jane's brother, married Henry's widow and sixth wife, Catherine Parr. Edward Seymour, also a brother of Jane Seymour, served as Protector - more like a regent - for Edward VI after Henry's death. Both these brothers' attempts to exercise power came to bad ends: both were eventually executed.
Jane Seymour Facts
- Mother: Margery Wentworth, a direct descendant through her father of Edward III of England (making Jane a fifth cousin twice removed to her husband Henry VIII)
- Father: Sir John Seymour, Wiltshire
- Jane's great-grandmother, Elizabeth Cheney, was also great-grandmother to Anne Boleyn, Henry's second wife, and to Catherine Howard, Henry's fifth wife.
Marriage and Children:
- Husband: Henry VIII of England (married May 20, 1536)
- The future Edward VI of England, born October 12, 1537
- The basic education of noble women of the time; Jane was not as literate as her predecessors and could read and write her own name and not more.
- Anne Crawford, editor. Letters of the Queens of England 1100-1547. 1997.
- Antonia Fraser. The Wives of Henry VIII. 1993.
- Alison Weir. The Six Wives of Henry VIII. 1993.