12 October 1537 – Queen Jane Seymour Gives Birth to a Prince

Posted By on October 12, 2013

Edward VI HolbeinAt 2am on Friday 12th October 1537, Queen Jane Seymour gave birth to a healthy baby boy at Hampton Court Palace. The prince who Henry VIII had been waiting for since 1509 was named Edward, probably because he was born on the eve of the feast day of St Edward the Confessor.

Church bells around London pealed in celebration, parish churches around the country sang the Te Deum, bonfires were lit, the city merchants gave out fruit and wine, German merchants gave wine and beer to the poor, and the happiest of days was ended by two thousand rounds being fired into the sky from the Tower of London. It was a day of celebration, not only for Henry and Jane, but also for the country.1

Although Jane must have been exhausted by the long and arduous labour (her contractions were said to have started on 9th October), she seemed to be recovering well. Letters announcing the birth were prepared in the Queen’s name and under her signet, and sent to the Privy Council. The Queen wrote:

“Right trusty and well beloved, we greet you well. And forasmuch as, by the inestimable goodness and grace of Almighty God, we be delivered and brought in child-bed of a Prince, conceived in most lawful matrimony between my Lord the King’s majesty, and us; – doubting not, but that for the love and affection you bear unto us, and to the commonwealth of this realm, this knowledge shall be joyous, and glad tidings unto you, we have thought good to certify you of this same: to the intent ye might not only render unto God condign thanks and praise for so great a benefit, but also continually pray for the long continuance and preservation of the same here in this life, to the honour of God, joy and pleasure of my Lord the King and us, and the universal weal, quiet, and tranquillity of this whole realm.

Given under our signet, at my Lord’s manor of Hampton Court, the twelfth day of October.”2

Prince Edward was christened on 15th October at Hampton Court Palace’s Chapel Royal and his mother was well enough to receive visitors. However, by 18th October the Queen was seriously ill and chronicler Charles Wriothesley records that on 19th October there was “a solemne generall procession” at St Paul’s, of the clergy of London, “for the preservation and welfare of the Prince and the health of the Queene.” Unfortunately, Jane got worse. At 8 o’clock in the morning of 24th October 1537, the Queen’s physicians wrote the following letter to the Lord of the Council:

“These shall be to advise your Lordships of the Queen’s estate: Yesterday afternoon she had a natural lax, by reason whereof she began to lighten, and (as it appeared) to amend, and so continued till towards night. All this night she hath been very sick, and doth rather appare than amend. Her confessor hath been with her Grace this morning, and hath done that to his office appertaineth, and is even now preparing to administer to her Grace the sacrament of unction.”3

It is thought that Jane died of puerperal fever, or childbed fever, a bacterial infection which can develop into septicaemia. Henry VIII had a son at last but he had lost his wife.

Prince Edward became King Edward VI on 28th January 1547.

Notes and Sources

  1. Wriothesley, Charles. A chronicle of England during the reigns of the Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559 (1875 edition), p66-67
  2. Heylyn, Peter (1600-1662) Ecclesia restaurata; or, The history of the Reformation of the Church of England, Volume I (1849), p14
  3. Ibid., p15

36 thoughts on “12 October 1537 – Queen Jane Seymour Gives Birth to a Prince”

  1. If you haven’t yet watched Dr Helen Castor’s first episode of her latest series on BBC4 about Birth, Marriage and Death, then do so if you can – BBC IPlayer. It makes Claire’s post about Edward’s birth and the death of Jane Seymour all the more poignant. Thank heavens we live in the 21st century and have access to modern medicine.

  2. Had Jane lived I am certain that would have been the end of Henry’s marriages. People have images of Henry as being careless of the sanctity of marriage. However when one considers that he was married to Katherine for almost twenty years his primary motivation was to procure a son. Up until then England had never had a Queen rule England apart from the Empress Matilda four hundred years earlier which had resulted in civil war. There would also be the possibility of other children as well. After her death Henry mourned Jane for a long time and I would think carried an idealised image of her in his mind. I think this is also a major reason why Henry could not accept Anne of Cleves because she was Jane mark 2.

    1. Cheryl Estrada says:

      I don’t understand your last sentence. What do you mean that Anne of Cleves was Jane mark 2?

      1. pmela alsop says:

        I don’t understand the last sentence either!…..Jane mark 2? Anne of Cleeves was nothing like Queen Jane! He was on the rebound…most certainly….but she disliked him as much as he disliked her! Anne of Cleeves was the one who made out the best as far as i can see….she kept her head….didn’t have to sleep w/ the King…..became wealthy & happy in England. Also she became sort of a mother figure to his daughters. Anyway…what does that mean? Jane mark 2????

        1. I apologise. I should have checked my text more closely. I missed the word NOT out. It should have read Anne of Cleves was not Jane Seymour mark 2.

        2. I apologise. I should have checked my text more closely. I missed the word NOT out. It should have read Anne of Cleves was not Jane Seymour mark 2.

        3. Belle says:

          I think rebound is the wrong word to use in your description.. Anne was from the small north German state of Cleves. Her brother, William, ruled Cleves but realised that his sister’s marriage to the king of England would greatly enhance his status.
          Also Thomas Cromwell thought the marriage would make an excellent ally against France and Rome.

    2. Might have been the end of his marriages, as long as she agreed with everything he said and kept well away from other men – including her own brothers – because with her having provided the male heir Henry would have had no excuse for being rid of her.

      Yes, he was with Katherine of Aragon for years, but had other women, and as far as mourning Jane ‘for a long time’ goes, by March 1538 Holbein was already in Brussels painting a portrait of the 16-year-old widow Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan with a view to her becoming Jane’s successor. It could be argued that Henry was somewhat reluctantly going along with the wishes of his ministers in looking for a new wife, but he was enthusiastic when he saw young Christina’s portrait.

      It is possible (not certain) that Henry could not accept Anne of Cleves because he was already smitten with Katherine Howard, one of her maids-of-honour, whom he might have spied at court during the lengthy preparations for Anne’s arrival in England. Certainly Henry seems to have been turned-off by Anne almost from the start, but I doubt that, more than two years after her death, tender memories of the late Jane had much to do with it.

      1. Rachel says:

        Marilyn said everything I meant to say, and more articulate. So thanks Marilyn! lol

        But in all seriousness I strongly disagree with you, Trevor. Henry knew the charges against Anne Boleyn were ridiculous… but Anne didn’t have a powerful nephew to protect her the way Catherine did before her (sorta). So rather than go through another messy divorce and have the legitimacy of other heirs questioned (i.e. if you didn’t believe in divorce then Henry was a bigamist)…. he killed her.

        To me that doesn’t exactly scream a man devoted to marriage.

        1. TheRoseCrowned says:

          He got away with it because of who he was. He was a “King” if that was or had been anyone else then or today they would of been imprisoned and put away for life maybe even put or placed in a secure unit somewhere!

        2. TheRoseCrowned says:

          What the “King wanted the King gotted!

      2. BanditQueen says:

        I disagree that Jane now that she had produced an heir was in any danger. Anne gave the court cause for gossip by flirting; Jane did not. Anne was targetted and set up and Henry or Cromwell was behind that set up and the five gentlemen convenient targets as they were always in Anne’s chambers even if it was in the company of other people. She may have entertained her brother late at night and thought nothing of it as they had been close as children and it was his being there that late that caued gossip. I think that Jane had learnt from the mistakes of her mistress and had learnt also through arguments and being corrected by Henry not to meddle with his affairs. He did not demand that she agreed with everything he said; but he did not need advice from his wife just her counsel and wisdom and obediance which was the convention of the day. Most women accepted that. Anne was head strong and could not accept the transition from mistress to wife. She interferred where she had no right and that, plus her failure and plus her growing enemy list cost her her life. Jane was in a much stronger position and had she gone on to have other living children; she would have been his wife for the rest of his life or died naturally before him; although it is more likely that she would have outlived him.

        Henry only divorced Katherine as he could not have a son by her. Had one or two of her sons lived Anne would have just been another fancy woman to have for a time and then discard as her sister had been. But she held Henry at bay and promised him sons if he married her. That was why he went forward with the divorce and chose her. He could have divorced Katherine for not having an heir and married abroad: Anne just happened to be the one who caught his eye or was in the right place at the right time. Henry would have followed a completely different path had Katherine’s sons lived and had Jane lived he would not have remarried. His next two marriages are both out of character and both disasters! Whatever the physical charactoristics that he did not like about Anne of Cleves; the lack of chemistry and sexual frustration killed any chance of them geting together and making things work. Katherine Howard was on the rebound and would never have happened had he not been recovering from poor lucky Anne of Cleves. And Katherine Parr was chosen as he needed a companion and nurse and his son a mother.

        He may have married for a fourth time later in life had Jane died a few years down the line but I think he would not have gone for a foreign Queen. Cromwell was the driving influence and yes, Christine of Milan sent his pulse racing: she was 16 and beautiful for goodness sake and very shapely from what I have seen and read. She was the most desireable woman in Europe and no wonder. She also brought wealth, land and great connections. She was related to and heir to at least four crowns in Europe. Any King or Prince or rich Duke would want to marry her!

        1. Rachel says:

          “She interferred where she had no right and that, plus her failure and plus her growing enemy list cost her her life.”

          Excuse me, but WTH did you get that first item from? (And by your tone I’m assuming item two like Henry you blame Anne and Anne alone for not producing a male hair) Between her family and Henry’s lust for her Anne knew she had no choice but to submit…. she was simply trying to dictate her future as a nameless mistress lost to history or a queen with power. Who could blame her?

          I admire Catherine of Aragorn for standing her ground and trying to make Henry fess up until her dying day that their marriage was valid. However I also admire Anne for saying, “Okay I have no choice in this situation that I’m now involved in…. how can I turn this to my advantage?” She saw what came of being a mistress to a king via her sister, cast aside with illegitimate babies and sent to be married in the country. I think Anne shouldn’t be condemned for wanting more out of her life than the occasional handout that Mary and her children received.

          (Also I think one of the reasons she wanted to be queen was to take action against those who she felt had wronged her in her Percy-past…Wolsey for one. Anne did know how to hold a grudge!)

          The main difference between Anne and her successor Jane (other than the religious) was that Jane knew when to keep her mouth shut. Anne did not. However if Jane popped out 10 sons to Henry I doubt it would’ve made a difference. If she pissed him off just right, her neck would’ve been on the literal chopping block as well. He was a sociopath that way. My opinion, but there it is.

          By no means was Anne an innocent wallflower… and occasionally extremely rash in her actions (one of the things that eventually chaffed Henry) but she alone was not the downfall of the Catholic church in England. Personally I blame Henry for the awful things he did to the monasteries, and his daughter Mary for giving us (Catholics) such a bad rap.

          I’m sorry if I come off rather strong. I just feely oddly drawn to Anne and your post just rubbed me the wrong way. In no means am I trying to flame you! I just felt my fingers fly across the keyboard like I should defend my Anne, lol.

        2. FabNayNay says:

          I agree with Rachel. You’re entitled to your opinion BQ, but you don’t have to be so snarky about it.

        3. Dawn 1st says:

          BanditQueen, I can’t really see Catherine Howard as a ‘Rebound’ marriage somehow…he was ‘silly’ in love with this young lady. He lavished her with gifts, couldn’t keep his hands off her even in public, much to the embarrassment of his courtiers who witnessed it, and broke down and wept greatly when he was told of her betrayal…though on the last point I tend to think there could have been a lot of self pity in those tears. Not suggesting ‘Rebound’ to me…

        4. margaret says:

          well bandit queen ,i for one totally agree with what you have commented,well said.

    3. TheRoseCrowned says:

      Maybe there could be some sort of a hidden meaning behind that…I am presuming…:)

      1. Dawn 1st says:

        Which ever of Henry’s Queens gave him a son and lived would have been secure and halted his his marriage spree..Katherine of Aragon- no Anne Boleyn, Anne Boleyn- no Jane Seymour…and so on. Which at the end of the day is what it was all about, the procreation of an heir, no matter how much he declared his love and followed it up with grand gestures.
        Which ever Queen it was, and no matter how devoted Henry was to her in mind and heart, I doubt it would have stopped his affairs of the bodily nature. It was acceptable, if not expected for Kings to take his ‘pleasure’ else where. Up until not so many decades ago Kings had prominent mistresses, Edward VII is a great example, and Edward VIII abdicated for one… Henry was no exception to the rule in that respect. I would also suspect that if Henry managed to keep both mother and son, he may not have developed into the King he became.
        As for the ‘wily’ Anne of Cleeves, I feel she was rebuked first and foremost because of her ignorance about the game of English courtship. She didn’t recognise the King though reputation of spoken word or become overwhelmed with love at 1st sight and see him as the Greek Adonis he thought he was!! and who could blame her. But he soon turned this repulsion of her into ‘sisterly love’ with rewards, when she complied to his demands, clever, clever Lady.
        But if all went to plan, and Henry had had no probs in the son department, what would we talk about…. 🙂

        1. TheRoseCrowned says:

          I agree to a degree with you there Dawn! 🙂

      2. BanditQueen says:

        As you above say I am perfectly entitled to what I consider to be a fair assessment of the historical facts as they stood between Henry and Anne, and of the reasons given for her fall. As far as I am concerned I have said nothing that is negative or untrue about Anne or Henry in my post: Anne was not going to accept that she should just not have anything to do with affairs of state and Henry eventrually came to resent that. Anne acted as if she was his equal because that was the way she saw things during their very long courtship; over seven years they had decided a lot of things together and Henry had sought her opinion. After they were married he was no longer prepared to have her dictate affairs of state or to comment on them. While he may have given her some role in helping him; and she clearly did have some influence in reformist matters; as time went on; Henry became more frustrated with her arguments. She was a feisty lass! She was passionate and educated and she voiced her beliefs; but that unfortunately was not what her role was as Henry’s wife. It was firstly to provide him with a son, and sadly this was not the case. I do not believe I have blamed Anne for anything, just stated the facts and given an educated assessment of the historical discourse as I see it. If you decide to misinterpret that; well; that is your problem and not mine.

        1. Rachel says:

          Again with the snark, and you had expressed yourself so well until the last sentence. I agree with Fab, you made a historical disagreement so personal and snooty. And that is not my problem, only a fact. I tried to be respectful, and all I asked is for you to do the same. Don’t bother responding to this, I’m not checking comments any longer in order to not get drawn into an internet war-of-words with you.

    4. TheRoseCrowned says:

      🙂 HA 😀 HA 🙂

      1. Claire says:

        Please can we calm down here. We are all entitled to our opinions regarding Jane, Anne and Henry, and we are all entitled to share them without being called names just because we don’t agree. The joy of history is that it is a living subject because we can interpret the sources differently and have different views, that makes for wonderful debates and lively discussions, so let’s debate in a friendly manner…

  3. TheRoseCrowned says:

    Edventually the King got what he had always wanted a boy a son and heir! At last! It took long enough after all the years of trying!

  4. gemma says:

    am sure henry loved jane in his own way as maybe katherine and anne for a time before her but not sure how devoted he really was always had the wandering eye for the ladies and on some accounts from what i have read did not treat jane very nice either . not sure if that had something to with annes passing since the beheading and marrying jane were tied in or could have been he was just desprate for an heir.

    1. TheRoseCrowned says:

      Well when Jane begged Henry to save the monasteries he told her not to meddle in his affairs! So that tells you something. He was not one to be dictated to or interfered with!!

  5. BanditQueen says:

    Watching the programme on birth and marriage and death by Helen Castor as I am writing this and the dangers of childbirth were very real and present dangers. Even if the poor mother came through the dangerous birth and had a healthy child, they could still die soon after and children could also die, as with Prince Henry in February 1511 when he died aged 58 days. We would know this now as a cot death or SIDS but it was not understood then and just seen as God’s will, blessing or curse. Birth was complex, female only and ritual in the extreme. Jane may have had some better help than others but infection still got into her blood and her womb and she died 12 days later. A joyous celebration was brought to an end by the death ‘of her that in this life brought me the greatest happiness’ as Henry wrote to Francis of France. It was clear that Jane did recover from the birth as she was very much with it a few days later as she witnessed his baptism. She fell ill a few days later and she was to die sadly leaving Henry without his beloved Queen and his heir without a mother. I believe that Henry was bullied by Cromwell into a fouth marriage, the fifth one was on the rebound and the sixth one because he was old and needed a companion and nurse.

    As Helen Caster showed in her programme the death of Jane proved that childbirth with or without all of the rituals was still the same dangerous process with or without the comfort of the church and saints.

  6. Marie Elizabeth says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but it seems that some of you are making your assertions based on what you have viewed on the series “The Tudors” and not on historical fact…it is true that the series follows fairly closely what is generally believed to be true, but to attempt to speculate upon the nuances of thought, the rhyme and reason behind why they did what they did…is too much in my opinion…you just can’t speculate upon speculation…get it?

    1. Rachel says:

      I hope you don’t mean me… I’ve never seen the complete Tudor series. I tried the first couple of episodes, but the historical inaccuracies bothered me too much. I gather my theories based on books I’ve read for class, and (I have to admit) the occasional novel.

      1. TheRoseCrowned says:

        Same here I always base my theories and what I know from books that I have read also not just that I try to come up with my own possibilities too!

    2. TheRoseCrowned says:

      You could say that I understand where you are coming from as well as understand what you are saying but at the same time everyone is entitled to have their own opinion have their say!

    3. BanditQueen says:

      Marie Elizabeth you are correct; many opinions on this site are based on the Tudors and not on historical fact or assessment. Even documentaries have to be viewed with caution and assessed in the light of sources and other external and expert debate. But it is all good debate and healthy stuff just the same. There are many good articles on the site from Claire the author and site owner and they have several references that you can find to help to develop knowledge and ideas further. Very useful. Enjoy the site.

    4. Claire says:

      I don’t agree, Marie Elizabeth, I think most people here have opinions based on a wide reading of the subject, rather than being based on “The Tudors”. Even if comments are based on “The Tudors” or fiction, I still welcome them as then we can discuss views and correct things that are based on fiction rather than fact. I want everyone to feel welcome here, whatever their knowledge base.

      1. Dawn 1st says:

        The generalisation of many people commenting on this site source their opinions from the ‘Tudors’, is some what judgemental, and a little arrogant to be truthful.
        How ever someone’s opinion’s are formed, be it from historical fiction/fact, TV, school education is not the issue, the issue is in the fact that someone has become interested enough in this subject to join in with others to learn, debate and at times agree to differ. This interest needs to be encourage, and the site open for all with a warm welcome, which the Anne Boleyn Files has always been, from beginners to those who really ‘know their stuff’.
        What I have enjoyed the most about the A.B.Files is that even though I have loved this period of history since the 1970’s, it has taught me that what I knew was a drop in the ocean, and what I thought I knew in some cases were myths if not complete rubbish, even though I have read many books.
        Many of my opinions have been changed by reading the posts Claire puts forward, and by those who add with their comments. And in all my time on here I have never felt that I could not confidently ask a question no matter how simple it may seem to others with more knowledge, or post a comment that may come across as ‘off the wall’ and on rare occasion make sense 🙂 I’m sure I speak for many when I say lets not lose this easy approach feeling created by Claire on her site….

  7. BanditQueen says:

    Henry and Jane must have been really relieved at the first moment that their son was born, and felt that their world and their lives complete. The celebrations and ceremonial that followed certainly showed this. Jane had been 30 hours in a traumatic birth, came through it, or at least appeared to and was well enough to attend the baptism. As she had not yet been churched she would have only nominally been present as she would have been in the bed of state, best clothes and so on, behind the screen and merely witnessed and listened to the baptism and the Mass that followed. The baby then would have been given back to her and homage paid to both mother and son. She must have felt a real sense of pride. I am also sure that Anne felt proud of little Elizabeth who also had a posh and fabulous baptism. Henry at that point thought it would follow that a son would come; but alas that was not to be.

    Now at last he had a son; he also it seemed had a wife who could give him more children, but again alas that was not to be. Still at this moment the birth and three days later the wonderful ceremonial; neither party could know that. They hoped that they had a wonderful future together and I am certain that had not septicimia developed and poor Jane died on 24th of childbed fever, then that dream would have come about. How that would affect the future for England we cannot know; but I believe Jane would have gone on to bear Henry more children and Henry would have turned into a more geneous man and one with a more balanced personality, more as he had have been. He would have been content in his domestic life and well, England may have taken a more stable path as well. But who really knows?

    Cheers for now


    1. Claire says:

      Jane’s labour always makes me think of my own experience with my first child. I had a very long labour which eventually ended up with an emergency caesarean because my baby got stuck and his heart rate dipped. I always wonder if they had left me if I would have been like Jane and eventually given birth to a healthy son naturally. In my case, it was not worth risking and I had to do what I was being advised to do. In Jane’s case, she had no option anyway. I also wonder if this birth injured Jane. Although we think that it was childbed fever which killed her, she may also have haemorrhaged due to internal injuries, perhaps she would have been like Margaret Beaufort and never conceived again. We just don’t know. Her story is a sad one and I also feel for Henry who gained a son but lost a wife.

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