On this day in history, 1st April 1536, Eustace Chapuys the imperial ambassador, wrote a very long and detailed letter to Emperor Charles V, a letter that is very interesting.

In this letter, Chapuys wrote of how the king was “paying court” to one of Queen Anne Boleyn’s ladies,  a certain Jane Seymour, and that he had sent her a purse of sovereigns accompanied by a letter.

What did the “young damsel” do?

Read more…

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8 thoughts on “1 April 1536 – Henry VIII pays court to Jane Seymour”
  1. Iv always found Jane a bit of an egnima, she was the original wallflower yet despite having no claim to beauty or scintillating wit she managed to snare a King! All her movements from when it was clear to everyone that Henry was so fed up with Anne appear to be carefully orchestrated, apart from the fact she became Henrys third queen and the mother of his long awaited heir Edward V1 she seems to have made little impact upon English history, her early and unfortunate death meant she filtered through the 16thc like a mayfly, she endured a brief dazzling moment of glory before she fell to earth, we know nothing of her true feelings for Henry or his discarded second wife, did she feel sympathy for her, probably not, like most at court she blamed princess Marys treatment at the hands of her father on Anne Boleyn, like Anne she had been one of Katherines ladies and was a Roman Catholic, another reason to dislike Anne as she was the cause behind the break with Rome and the setting of the new religion, according to one contemporary when Anne discovered her husbands fancy for her lady in waiting, she began to subject her to mental and physical abuse, slapping at her and there is an account of Jane deliberately trying to wind her up by flaunting a locket in front of her, Anne already enraged snatched the locket from her quite violently, hurting her hand in the process, one can wonder at the red marks left on Janes neck, she is also described by Chapyus as being proud and haughty, not exactly the most attractive of human traits, maybe this was the true Jane? Power can go to people’s heads and she was basking in Henrys preference, here she was a woman who was quite old to be a spinster, at court where she was in the company of many women, most younger and more attractive than her, she had no great gifts to speak of and no looks, what she offered was her much vaunted virginity and meek character, her family when they noticed the way Henrys eye alighted on her more than often saw their advantage and was quite ruthless the way she was dangled in front of him, there is something sordid about this affair which carried on when his second queen was carrying his child and the fact that it was all designed to bring her down, Anne had spurned Henry and had escaped to Hever whenever she could, only returning when he knew he was serious about her and he had spoken of marriage, Katherine was past her childbearing years yet Anne had proved to be fertile and she was full of the hormones the body produces, here was a relatively young woman whose child was only two years old and she was carrying the Kings child, her distress at the miscarriage was only exacerbated with Henrys dalliance with Jane at a time when she most needed his support, it was this rather chilling disregard for her mistresses welfare that has given her a quite unsympathetic profile down the ages, there are few books about her indeed she is not considered interesting enough to write about, and yet Elizabeth Norton paints an idyllic picture of her childhood set in the rambling countryside and it was this old Manor House Wolf Hall where Henry visited her family and on several occasions dined with the King, the house has long gone but we can imagine it’s beauty, indeed like its most famous occupant Queen Jane it did not last long unlike Blickling Hall and Hever castle, both carefully preserved monuments to Queen Anne, Jane sent Henrys gift of cold coins back accompanied with a sugary letter and Henry was entranced, she had seen Anne play the King off and she knew he admired virtue above all else, so she said that as a virtuous woman she could not accept the gift and Henry began to be seriously attracted to her, her quiet manner after being used to years of Annes hot temper and Katherines obstinacy must have seemed like a boon to him, like a lull after the storm, no man likes a nag and Jane played on this, after Annes fall she married him barely two weeks later and if ever a certain doubt reared in her head that it was all rather convenient for Henry, then she put a stop to that doubt and told herself Anne had ruined many lives and caused deaths to some brilliant men, she was the cause of the break of Rome which was sacrilege to an ardent Catholic, she married Henry in good faith and soon became pregnant, she had a craving for quails which Henry had ordered especially for her and she was treated with all the care shown to a pregnant Queen consort, after a long and very difficult birth( it is believed Edward was a breech birth) she gave birth to Henrys cherished prince at last yet she did not live long enough to enjoy her victory, barely two weeks later she expired quietly in her bed, suffering from feverishness bought on by childbirth complications, Henry was distraught and I believe he had come to genuinely love her, her reign was brief yet she alone of all Henrys wives is depicted in Holbeins masterpiece, (he was married to Catherine Parr at the time) and she is the queen he chose to lie beside for all eternity, her legacy she left to England was in her son, the grave and serious highly intelligent little boy who sadly never knew his mother and who died young himself, before he could fulfill his promise, Jane as queen is known for having reconciled princess Mary with her father and for pleading for the rather lost cause of the monasteries, something which angered Henry, she is known for her wonderful embroidery which is with Janes family the Seymour family today, and in fact she is said to have encouraged Henry to indulge in this hobby, we can safely say that had her life not been taken so young she could have been a most successful queen consort, she could have had more children and I can see her devoting herself to helping the needy and becoming the patron of certain charities, something which in the past queens have been known to do, she would have gloried in her sons intelligence as he is known today for being a child prodigy and I feel the English would have rembered her with respect and affection like Katherine of Aragon, here was a woman who was thrust into the Kings path and made good of it, sadly fate intervened and like so many woman of that era, became a victim of the trials of childbirth.

  2. Reading Lauren Mackay’s, “Inside the Tudor Court”, with which you are all familiar, and I’m at the chapter ‘Around the Throne the Thunder Rolls’: Lauren writes – “Chapuys’ despatches finally now give us a glimpse of Jane Seymour, soon to replace Anne as Henry’s wife. Henry had been paying court to her since January 1536, and perhaps even since late 1535, and by April he was obviously captivated by her.” Later on, she comments, ‘Henry was perhaps the only person who believed his seduction was an organic process.”
    Sometimes, and this is one such time, the court plays Henry like a harp. Is that an accurate assessment at this moment in Anne’s fall??

  3. I love this tale because you get an insight into how Henry thought and how he could be manipulated. Yes, Jane Seymour had a reputation for guarding her honour, just as Anne had done, but she was still a woman which means that she either knew or could easily learn how to get inside a man’s head. Lord Russell and Sir Nicholas Carew supported the traditional cause and both favoured Jane’s side, her family and Lady Mary. If Henry had been courting Jane since January, which if the mention of a Mistress Semnel at that time and the association of Anne sadly finding Jane on Henry’s knee is anything to go by, is very probable, then he must have been getting very frustrated by now if she was doing an Anne Boleyn and saying no.

    Jane may have been coached but she genuinely guarded her honour and sending her a purse full of money was an insult. Henry may have meant well, a genuine gift, money for clothes, etc, but he could also have been testing Jane. It’s a pity that we don’t have the letter, we may know more of his intentions. I don’t think Henry intended Jane as a wife at this time, but he seems to have seen her as a long term companion, playing the game of courtly love as he did. Henry enjoyed her company and saw in her a gentleness that Anne appeared to have lost…but we don’t know what he saw in Jane as we don’t have a string of love letters to give us that information. However, you can’t look at a portrait of Jane or anyone else and wonder how they are attractive as you can’t judge someone by what they look like. A person can be the most beautiful person in the world and as evil as hell and a person can be plain or average and have a beautiful heart. Jane was not plain, her portrait shows an attractive woman, who shows compassion and concern for the innocent, loved children and is both submissive and shrewd. Look at those hooded eyes. What are they saying? Do they hide a deeper truth which history has lost?I see a woman who knows how to play a role, is not a mere meek doremat, but who is wise enough to be shrewd and not persist in arguments with the King. She has watched both Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, both of whom she had served and learned from, their mistakes and how to please and temper an unpredictable passionate King. I see all this hidden beneath that shy hooded look. Jane may have been submissive, but most women were, it was expected, but I doubt she was a mouse or totally meek. Henry saw something in her, found her attractive enough, the opposite to Anne, someone he found peace with and he courted her at a time when things were not good with his wife.

    We know from Chapyus that Henry was made even more attracted to her because of her proof of honour and her refusal to be his paid mistress and her talk of marriage aroused his interest. He now courted her as his future wife, with members of her family around to guard her honour. Henry also had Cromwell give up his rooms so as he could visit her in private without being seen as they linked to the King’s royal apartments. Henry gave Jane a locked, which Anne saw and took it from her in a fit of jealousy. Poor Anne could only watch Henry woddle from one lady to another, but now he was paying extra attention, on a long term basis to a lady from a family who could rival her own. Anne was in a precarious position. The poor Queen had lost her baby son because of her husband’s stupidity and he had growled about not having any sons….did he mean by her? He had talked about his present marriage being cursed, there had been two other possible miscarriages and one daughter. Anne was nearing an age when she may not be able to have further children and their relationship was shaken. The Seymours were allied to some of Anne’s enemies, Cromwell was hovering around them and Anne was about to have a run in with Cromwell that may have sealed her fate. The wind was shifting at home and abroad, with movements from the Empire towards peace with Henry. Anne was seen as an obstacle, Jane as more amenable towards change, her family as allies in such a changing wind. With all these influences Henry’s attraction may well be unconsciously down to looking towards that alliance.

    Jane, coached or not was being smart in her refusal. She knew it would make Henry attached to her, for this is what made him want Anne all the more. Jane may also have been hinting that she offered herself as a potential Queen, should Henry want a new one. Even though there is no real evidence that Henry wanted out of his marriage to Anne at this point, knowing an alternative wife was at hand would not be lost on the King. I don’t believe Jane had anything to do with Anne’s fall, but Henry married her very quickly and she was waiting in the wings while poor Anne was abandoned and alone in the Tower. Anne appeared to have been reconciled to Henry and they were due to visit France, but in the background, in reality her enemies were waiting and she was still very vulnerable.

  4. Iv just finished watching ‘The private lives of the Tudors’ on the Yesterday channel, apparently in Janes birthing chamber Henry broke protocol and allowed his doctors into the room and assist Jane in her delivery, and as they were not as experienced as the midwives they could have been responsible for not noticing Jane had some of the placenta still in her, which is another explanation for her sudden illness as the infection gathers speed very quickly.

    1. Hi Christine, yes I watched that a few weeks ago, but it actually made no sense as it was well known that doctors at this time had very little experience of childbirth. It was also forbidden of course for male contact in such an intimate situation on the Queen, so of course the female midwives who would as you say have noticed and expelled the placenta from the womb. Henry must have had a good reason for breaking with traditional protocol, perhaps his knowledge of how good his doctors were in other areas. Real medical knowledge was beginning to appear at this time, but in this area of female expertise, men were still dummies. The fate of Jane Seymour in child bed, dying of internal infection afterwards, reminds me of the tragic fate of Princess Charlotte.

      Princess Charlotte was the only child of George iv and Caroline of Brunswick who married Leopold of Bavaria and she was only twenty one when she died. A well known male midwife was brought in because he had a good reputation as a surgeon. However, he also had a poor one as a midwife and was not medically qualified as he claimed. It’s always assumed that Charlotte died from complicated childbirth but the back story is much more complex than that. Midwives had tended Charlotte before the final month and she was fine, strong and healthy and ate well. Then her father ordered this guy to take over and he only allowed her to eat bread and water for a month before her birth. She was too weak to push during the birth which went on far too long. The male midwife had invented a form of forceps, but he also had poor hygenic practices and as a man, he dare not intervene in the birth, until it became too late. By the time he pulled the bady out, the child had been in distress for some time and had stopped breathing. The little baby girl was already dead. Charlotte contracted a terrible fever and infection and died during the night. The man midwife blew his brains out, he was so affected by this terrible loss which he was responsible for. The young Victoria was petrified of dying in childbirth because of what she heard of Charlotte’s death, but by the time of her first pregnancy in 1840-1841, things were changing medically, with the best from Germany and she only had her mother and midwife with her. Medical advances allowed her to have nine healthy kids and would over the next century with improvements in social care, living conditions, understanding of germinology, healthy water and nursing training all contributed to children being born healthy and living longer. But male midwives at the time of Henry Viii were an enigma and very rare, but research has shown that they increased risks in childbirth, rather than solving problems. Barbara Eldverich has also shown that it was at this time and during the C17th that midwives began to come under suspicion as witches. This was part of the women killing across Europe, when men began to try to take over female reserves like brewing, printing and midwifery. These men were jealous and felt pushed out so they maligned the women and invented charges of criminal activity. Midwives were an easy target as were healers as they hold lives in their hands. Now of course Henry Viii didn’t blame the midwives for his wives miscarriages any more than he always blamed his wives. Henry blamed Anne for her final loss, he blamed God and his sin of marriage to Katherine for the overall failure of the childbed, but he didn’t blame her for individual losses. However, there are numerous cases across England, Scotland and Europe of midwives being targeted as mafricia. The male dominated medical practice expelled women completely from practising as doctors or surgeons in 1857 with the Medical Registration Act, but they fought their way back in through nursing in the Crimea, the nursing and midwifery schools as a separate profession and pioneering women doctors like Elizabeth Blackwell who forced Oxford to let her take the Medical Exams. By the 1880s women were officially allowed to practice medicine but it has taken another 100 years for them to be taken seriously in expert positions of specialist or leadership. For that we should blame Henry Viii and George iv for giving male self appointed midwives such power and allowing them in a female profession in the first place. That was the cause of the demise of poor Queen Jane and Princess Charlotte.

      1. Yes I remember watching a documentary on Princess Charlotte it was very sad, such a lot of ignorance throughout the ages on this most natural of events, my aunt had a traumatic delivery when after having her son, her womb fell out and because she was at home (as in those days you will recall it was quite normal), the poor midwife was in a right state and had to ring our local hospital, all the gynaecology team headed down to my grans house and it was a right to do, my gran was fussing around with cups of tea and the midwife was quite upset, my aunt had to be stitched up and she was in a very bad way, she lost quite a lot of blood and couldn’t have anymore children, yet her mum, (my gran) had 12 kids in all and they all grew to old age apart from the firstborn who sadly died after just a few years, childbirth was and always is although natural, risky to both the mother and child.

        1. That’s terrible, Christine. Your poor aunt. Childbirth truly is very dangerous. I hope your aunt and cousin recovered after treatment. What a frightening experience. Poor luv.

  5. Thanks BQ my cousin was fine and my aunt recovered but it was touch and go, just goes to show that you should always expect the unexpected, although childbirth is natural it’s natural for nature to go wrong, it’s frightening these days even when you consider the wonderful advancements man has made in medicine, but it must have been absolutely terrifying in the 16thc.

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