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14 May 1536 – Jane Seymour Moves to Chelsea

Posted By on May 14, 2013

Jane Seymour VintageOn this day in 1536, while his wife was imprisoned in the Tower of London waiting to be tried for treason, King Henry VIII sent Sir Nicholas Carew to take Jane Seymour to a house in Chelsea, a property that was within a mile of his own lodgings. Until this point, the King had kept his distance from Jane, not wanting to add to the gossip about how he was looking to replace Anne with Jane. Previously, he’d had Jane moved out of London to Carew’s country home1 and had spent his time gallivanting with other women, but now he wanted Jane close by. This move to bring Jane close to him must surely suggest that he knew that Anne was on her way out.

Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, recorded that Jane was now “most richly dressed” and “splendidly served by the King’s cook and other officers”,2 so, like Anne before her, Jane was being treated like the Queen when there was still someone filling that position. Jane’s feelings are unknown but I often wonder how she felt about the events of May 1536, it obviously made her very aware of how brutal the King could be to a woman he had once loved.

Also on this day in 1536, Thomas Cromwell wrote to Stephen Gardiner and John Wallop, the King’s ambassadors in France, informing them of recent events.3 He wrote that “The Queen’s incontinent [lacking self-control] living was so rank and common that the ladies of her privy chamber could not conceal it”, that “there brake out a certain conspiracy of the King’s death, which extended so far that all we that had the examination of it quaked at the danger his Grace was in, and on our knees gave him (God ?) laud and praise that he had preserved him so long from it” and that he couldn’t give them any more details because they were “so abominable”. He went on to tell them of how the four men had been condemned to death and that Anne and her brother “will undoubtedly go the same way”. As I have said before, Cromwell wasn’t psychic but he knew that Anne and George’s trial had been prejudiced by the trials of the four men and he must have been confident that the jury would do what he and the King desired, i.e. find Anne and George guilty.

In this letter, Cromwell also refers to the goings-on as “the King’s proceeding”, rather than taking the credit for Anne’s downfall. His biographer John Schofield4 uses this as evidence that Cromwell was commissioned by Henry VIII to do what was needed to remove Anne Boleyn and to replace her with his new love, Jane Seymour. However, it could be that Cromwell did not want Gardiner and Wallop to know of his precise involvement in the plot, or that it was a plot rather than an investigation. I agree with Schofield, I believe that the buck has to stop with Henry, but what do you think?

Regarding the property at Chelsea, Gareth Russell5 points out that this mansion was once the home of Sir Thomas More and was “a luxurious mansion… Set in 27 acres of grounds, which included an orchard and boat-house… it boasted a magnificent 70ft hall with views over the river, an opulently-appointed chapel and a well-stocked library.” You can find out more about the property at The Site of Beaufort House.

Notes and Sources

  1. LP x. 908
  2. Ibid.
  3. LP x. 873
  4. Schofield, J. The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell: Henry VIII’s Most Faithful Servant.
  5. Russell, Gareth. Mistress Seymour’s New Lodgings, May 2010.

27 thoughts on “14 May 1536 – Jane Seymour Moves to Chelsea”

  1. Sonetka says:

    I think it’s impossible to tell (which would doubtless please Cromwell very much). However, I really doubt that even if it was all his own idea, that he would have informed Wallop and Gardiner — or anyone, really — of the fact. Court alliances could change on a dime, letters could be stolen or miscarry, and all it needed was for that letter to fall into the wrong hands, or for one of its recipients to pass along a juicy quote or two while trying to advance their own interests, and Cromwell might have found himself in very unpleasant circumstances very quickly. Far better to stick to the official narrative if there was even a chance that what he wrote could get back to Henry.

    As for Jane Seymour, I think one thing that’s easy to forget is that while we know what’s going to happen to Anne, she did not and could not have; it was unprecedented. She may have expected an annulment, but couldn’t have predicted this. Perhaps, as events unfolded, she talked herself into believing it was true — the way we nowadays tend to believe horrible charges laid against people because surely something that bad couldn’t be invented out of whole cloth, could it? The alternative is too frightening to contemplate. Or perhaps Henry was very charming and persuasive (not to mention overbearing) and believing it was no trouble at all.

  2. leanne says:

    What kind of woman is this Jane?! Organising her wedding,feasting, banqueting while along an innocent woman sits in the tower waiting to die-a woman she used to serve I hate how Anne gets villified and Janes some kind of saint im sorry guys i just dont think she was what she seemed she was down right devious such a ghastly woman

    1. Claire says:

      I don’t believe that Jane had any choice in the matter, it was down to the King and her brothers. I don’t believe that she joyfully planned her wedding or that she encouraged people to come and visit her, Henry had picked her and that was that. Neither woman should be vilified and neither woman should be treated as a saint.

      1. Sonetka says:

        Very true — I’m always baffled when people seem to think that Jane somehow made this happen or controlled anything. She was probably as stunned as the rest of the court — her brothers and allies may have been as well, for that matter, especially if the hypothesis is true that the original goal was an annulment! And after seeing what Henry was capable of, I have to say that the motto “Bound To Obey And Serve” would look like by far the most life-preserving choice.

      2. Susan says:

        I can’t help but think jane’s father and brothers coached Jane to make Henry pursue her after all they wasn’t exactly saint’s !!

  3. leanne says:

    And i think her family especially her ambitious brothers knew full well what was happening and where it was going to lead im pretty sure they kept her informed

    1. M'lady says:

      I’m sure they kept her informed as well. Just think of the brothers rubbing their hands together, just waiting for Anne’s head to fall. Such greed and no remorse for anything. I’m sure Jane knew everything that was going on. It makes me angry too, to think of Anne in the tower, hoping that something good may still come, and another waiting in the wings to take your place. Lucky Jane produced a son, or who knows what would have happened to her as well.

  4. Mary Heneghan says:

    This is such a fascinating question and one that, I imagine, will never be fully answered. I would think that Anne’s fall was due to such a combination of events. Cromwell, because of his growing dislike for her and her family, could have been drip-feeding Henry with small insinuations over a period of months, just as Henry was growing anxious about the non-appearance of an heir, and at the same time the Seymours were jostling for position. Cromwell knew when the king was in the right frame of mind to be influenced.

    I feel that Jane had very little say in the matter and was probably very nervous about the whole thing.

  5. leanne says:

    Yeah maybe you’re right guys she really wasnt in a position to tell the King no and to leave her alone i dont think her family wouldve allowed that I just feel so bad for Anne

  6. Dawn 1st says:

    To me, both Henry and Cromwell believed that a King should rule ‘Absolutely’ in all things.
    I also believe Henry was, and had been voicing his great discontent over Anne to Cromwell for a long time, mainly because of the lack of sons, yet again.
    And although Henry was no fool, the real ‘brains’ behind the throne was Cromwell, as it had been Wolsey before him. He would listen to what the King was saying/asking what could be done about it, then Cromwell would set that brilliant, but devious and deadly mind into action. This is what he was paid for, and this is what he did, failure was not a word in Cromwell’s dictionary, If he used the downfall of Anne to eliminate some of his own personal enemies, is debatable, but what politician wouldn’t take that opportunity then.
    What charges Cromwell produced against Anne, would have been shocking, even to Henry I imagine at first, after the initial shock, would be followed by the terrible rage and the demand of a bloody revenge, though I think it did carry a ‘health warning’ towards Cromwell, if his evidence did not stick and get convictions.
    But, still at the end of the day, Henry approved it all. The state of the King’s mind was beyond rhyme or reason, not helped by powerful members of his council fuelling it.

    Power Corrupts, Absolute Power Corrupts, Absolutely.

    Staying away from Jane for a while, then moving her to Chelsea, obviously ‘well kitted out, was about as subtle as cracking a nut with a sledge hammer. Henry was conning no one but himself. I don’t think he had ever done anything understated or refined in his life… everything OTT, and everyone would have seen though it.

    I personally think that Jane was quite, and reserved, but not stupid or blind. Her family were ambitious, and she perhaps had her own agenda, maybe hoping to have some effect on Henry over religious matters, to start with anyway. Henry had set his sights on her, no going back there. Though I suppose she could have retreated to a Convent for a religious life…but the Crown is a very tempting bauble, not to let pass by.

    And although I feel she would never have realised that Anne would end up on the scaffold, by any stretch of the imagination, by the time she moved to Chelsea, she must of heard of guilty verdict passed on Anne’s so called ‘lovers’, did she honestly think that the guilty verdict wouldn’t be passed on Anne, and carry the same punishment…like I said she wasn’t stupid. But I bet she had become very nervous about this Merry-go-Round she had stepped onto, and couldn’t get off..

  7. margaret says:

    I think that people think that somehow jane and her family were to blame for annes downfall or certainly contributed to it ,by pushing jane in front of henry and coaching her ,this is not true (my opinion) henry decided himself whom he wanted ,even if jane had not come along and there had been someone else, or,no one at all ,nothing would have changed his mind about anne going to the tower and being convicted ,anne did commit treason \the adultery charges im confused about and still think it was anne going through some madness with her courtiers and while being innocent of adultery ,why were so many people ready to believe it ,I think henry and anne were not in love with each other ,but henry was in love with the idea of what anne could give him ,a son,anne was in love with the power the crown would give her so they both ended up not really even liking one and disappointed ,its also just to far back for anyone to get too emotional about it ,you have to look at the tudors objectively and unbiased.

    1. Claire says:

      I don’t think that Jane herself had anything to do with Anne’s downfall but I believe that her brothers, Sir Nicholas Carew and Sir Francis Bryan played their part in that she was coached in how to behave to encourage Henry, whereas there is no evidence that Anne was coached in any way.

      I do believe that Henry and Anne were in love. I think he was obsessed with her and chased her for a while before she began to have feelings for him and relented. Eric Ives described their marriage as being one where “storm followed sunshine, sunshine followed storm”, which is typical of people who feel very passionately about each other. Henry’s letters also show the depth of his feelings for Anne. They had fiery arguments and probably as passionate making up. I don’t believe that Anne was in love with power, she had no way of knowing that she would ever become queen, there was no precedent (not like with Jane) and we know that she rejected Henry at first.

      I think you can get emotional and passionate about history. Yes, you have to be objective about it and look at various sources, but history is a living subject and it’s great to feel strongly about it. When I was a teacher, I loved it when my class got fired up about a subject, that’s when they learned and explored things.

  8. margaret says:

    anne did exactly the same thing to Katherine and mary and was also coached by her father ,uncle and brother so they could get up the ladder ,so they were no different there at all ,it was the way people did things 500 years ago and was acceptable and the women in question got a good deal out of it as well ,as long as it lasted and they were in favour with henry.

    1. Claire says:

      “also coached by her father ,uncle and brother”

      I completely disagree. In my many years of researching the Boleyns, I have never found any evidence of Anne’s family coaching her or manipulating her in any way quite the opposite in fact – see https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/in-defence-of-thomas-boleyn-father-of-anne-boleyn/. I really feel that those Boleyns are the Boleyns of fiction and not of history.

      1. M'lady says:

        It’s good to know that Henry just fell in love with her because she was smart and confident, not because of what her family wanted to push her into. I like that, shame it ended up as it did. I’m getting sadder the closer it comes.

        1. Tudor rose says:

          Me two!

  9. gemma says:

    I agree with the previous post I think jane would have been more than nervous stepping into Anne’s shoes and they were big shoes to fill. Am not sure she knew what the outcome was going to be but I bet she was worried after in case there was a back lash over the dead queen then there was pleasing Henry and fulfilling the dream job of giving him a son she must have been coacted up to some point . I think playing the quite subdued wife and queen was the way to go seeing what happened the first two queens .

    1. Tudor rose says:

      I agree with that too, Jane to me was like the next Catherine of Aragon.

  10. Tudor rose says:

    Things were moving slowly but surely!

  11. Ann Russell says:

    I read many years ago, perhaps in the biography of Henry VIII by Francis Hackett, that I have had since I was in high school, that Cromwell/Henry needed Anne to be dead because he had already been through having one former wife and one current wife and didn’t want that situation again. That way there would be no question that his next marriage was legitimate. I have always had a hard time liking Jane Seymous. I don’t think she had much to say about her fate, given how ambitious her brothers were. Henry later idealized her, but we have no idea what would have happened if she had lived. As for her brothers, Elizabeth later referred to Thomas as ‘a man of much wit, but little judgement.’

  12. Gail Marion says:

    Jane Seymour was about 27 years of age in 1536, a noble woman who over the years would have heard narratives relating to brutal and vengeful nature of Henry VIII. When she was selected to become his next wife, surely she felt trepidation of what might befall her if a male heir was not delivered.

  13. Dianna Pittmna says:

    While I understand many need Jane to be a helpless pawn ,I for one very much doubt that was the case. She appears to have been willingly coached in how to attract the Kings attentions and prepared herself for the role as Queen. As a possible backer of the old faith she very well saw herself as a way to bring the Country back to the Roman Church and very possibly a s a Lady of Katharine of Aragon and Princess Mary believed she was doing her duty to her soul and the soul of the King. Just because she was not “in your face” or blatant about her plans as the Boylens does in no way means she was not as determined to be Queen and take her place on the throne.as Anne. She was in the position to see what appealed to the King and made use of it to her advantage as well as her families. The Seymour’s were an intensely proud group determined to access more Power. I don’t believe you can limit that to only the men in the family . To believe that women of the period are helpless victims of their families with no say in matters is to buy into the Victorian Era’s portrayal of what roles women held in their version of History. We can readily prove the a great many women had much more say in their lives through historical documentation than we give credit for. Jane was unfortunate to have died after her delivery of a son ,however it may have been her saving grace as it gave Henry the choice to make her a Saint and not inconvenient as time went by.With Henry’s capacity for self delusionment it is easy to see how he could mourn her so deeply and refrain from marrying as she had given him his living son AND not become a “real woman” to defy him or cause him discomfort with ideas other than his own. There was no way she could not have known what Anne’s fate was to be she was too well connected not to have. She may have seen it as another Heretic receiving her salvation and reaping what she sowed for leading the King away from his true wife and true Church thus her death was warranted. Jane should not be underestimated as a formable opponent who won. First and fore most we must stop using our centuries morals and ideals when dealing with different time periods and use the mind set they had for their time and look at their choices from their perspective . Finally to say she would have been afraid to say No to the King doesn’t really stand up to examination. While he could be a tyrant he also enjoyed the concept of Courtly Love .Christine of Denmark had no trouble declining a proposal even though she was far away it could have caused a diplomatic incident yet there was no hint of that . No Jane was a product of her time and should be given her due as just that. A woman who was willing to take a murdered woman’s crown without a troubled conscience .Of course this just my feelings on the subject and I am happy to be considered in error or off my rocker 😀

  14. Melanie says:

    If Jane was Anne’s lady in waiting then surely she would have been asked questions about Anne when all the other ladies were?? If she was taken away to Chelsea before all the questioning started then that was also very calculating of Henry not to have Jane involved at all. 🙂 x

  15. Karen Gray says:

    I love this site…….:) So many viewpoints. I have always read that Jane was not the brightest, nor the most attractive woman; so I wonder what attracted Henry to her.

    History certainly did repeat itself in this drama. Anne was Catherine’s lady, Jane was Anne’s lady. Henry kept sleeping with Catherine, so that no one would think he was trying to replace her; while he was doing just that; and Jane was sent away so that no one would get wise to his plans. Henry banished Catherine, and called Mary a bastard; and then he banished Anne to the tower and to her death; and called Elizabeth, a bastard. Certainly what went around came around.

    I would think, though, from reading everything that I’ve read about Tudor times; women were thought of as nothing but property and if the family could advance by the daughter making a good marriage; than all the better.

    I, am with Claire; I truly wonder if Jane was frightened out of her wits; at the thought of marrying a man who was willing to kill his wife so easily. Or maybe, Jane bought the propaganda and she believed that Anne deserved the fate the befell her.

    There’s another, theory and that it that Henry got her out of town so that she wouldn’t hear any gossiping about Anne’s innocence until after the wedding.

  16. LaVelle says:

    Why be so defensive regarding Anne? She wasnt his first wife after all…what comes around goes around…she certainly played an active role in the departure of wife #1

  17. Charlene says:

    I suspect that Henry decided what was to be done in a general sense – get him free from Anne in a way that would ensure the absolute unquestioned legitimacy and primacy of his and Jane’s future children – while Cromwell was in charge of the how. Annulment followed by Anne’s death would be the soundest, least legally challengeable method. The men who died with her may have been targeted specifically by Cromwell for reasons (as Ives suggests was the case with Brereton) or may have been simply convenient collateral damage, or both.

    What interests me is exactly how Cranmer justified the annulment. We know that Henry named his affair with Mary in the 1528 request for dispensation, but if I recall correctly we aren’t certain that was the same reason used for the annulment in 1536. I’ve recently read that a godparent-godchild relationship could also create an affiliation not just between the parties but also between their families; perhaps Henry suddenly “remembered” that he or a member of his family had been Anne’s godparent?

  18. BanditQueen says:

    May-be Jane was planning her wedding, but there is nothing to say she was partying or having banquets. She was getting her trousou ready, preparing herself and her household to receive Henry and her royal guests and was distracted with her preparations to be a royal bride. I really do not think she gave the events in London much thought. Not because she was cold or devious, or heartless, but becasue she was distracted and busy. She was also being coached on how to behave as Queen no doubt, her duties and her behaviour, was planning to be a good hostess and for her future station in life. She had visitors sent by the King and then the King and his friends. Yes, they had a fancy meal or two and celebrated their betrothal, yes they must have been looking to the future, but that does not mean that she had anything to do with Anne’s downfall.

    Jane’s brothers were no doubt very busy making plans and moving things along and she had also been trained by them. If the Boleyns were regarded as ambitious the two Seymour brothers were to prove to be even more so. With Jane as Queen, they would be close to the throne in the same way Anne’s father and brother had been; but they would aim higher than that. As regents and protector for the young King Edward their nephew they would plot and scheme until they themselves were all powerful, in fact too powerful. Lord Protector Edward Seymour would have his own brother executed and then would himself become dangerous, to the extent that he wanted total control over the teenage King. He attempted to kidnap him and ended up getting caught and finally also executed. The brothers would outdo each other and there was probably no love lost between them. Tom Seymour would even set sexy eyes on the 14 year old Princess Elizabeth while married to her stepmother Catherine Parr, a marriage that had gained the anger of the council until King Edward supported them. His antics concerning his step-daughter would also be part of the reason that led to his own execution. The brothers knew how to play the power game: they saw the crown imperial getting closer and they licked their lips.

    Jane must have been very flattered by the Kings attention and I am certain she was looking forward to being Queen, she saw herself as a potential peacemaker and the hope of the Catholic cause as well as restoring Mary to her fathers affections. She would also be kind to Elizabeth, selling a priceless wedding piece of jewellary given to her by the King to buy her cloths when she grew out of her baby things, and Henry refused to assist or recongise her as his own. Jane was not merely a pawn in her brothers schemes but she was certainly being manipulated by them in this matter and away at Chelsea she was away from what was going on. The family must have heard the news and been shocked and mystified. But once if started to become clear that things were not going to end well for the Queen; what else could she do but obey orders to prepare for her wedding. May-be she felt some sort of holy destiny was calling to her and consented or perhaps she truly loved the King and wanted to marry him. Either way; it is her timing and that of the Kings that gives the wrong impression and not her desire for her marriage. Jane did what was required of her and what she needed now to do: the only thing left for her to do; accepted her wedding would be soon and acted as a Queen to be.

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