14 May – Jane Seymour is being treated like a queen


On this day in Tudor history, 14th May 1536, one day after Queen Anne Boleyn’s royal household was broken up, the king had his new flame, Jane Seymour, brought closer to him and there were reports that she was being treated like a queen.

Anne Boleyn was still a prisoner in the Tower and hadn’t even been tried yet, but King Henry VIII had already replaced her.

Here’s the transcript:

On this day in 1536, Sunday 14th May, just twelve days after the arrest of Queen Anne Boleyn and the beginning of her imprisonment at the Tower of London, and the day before her trial for high treason, King Henry VIII sent Sir Nicholas Carew to collect his sweetheart Jane Seymour from Carew’s country home and to bring her to Chelsea.

Jane, who had served as one of Queen Anne’s ladies, had been sent away from court to prevent gossip about the king’s relationship with her. However, now the king wanted her close to him, and the property at Chelsea was very close, being within a mile of his lodgings.

At Chelsea, Jane was treated as queen. Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, described how Jane was “most richly dressed” and “splendidly served by the King’s cook and other officers”.

I wonder what Jane thought of it all and how much she knew about what was going on.

Interestingly, Chapuys was not that impressed with the woman who was replacing the queen, who he had referred to as the concubine. On 18th May 1536, he described Jane as “of middle stature and no great beauty, so fair that one would call her rather pale than otherwise”. He also said that she was inclined “to be proud and haughty”, that he doubted that she was a virgin, and that she was “not a woman of great wit”. But there was a plus point, he thought that she did bear “great love and reverence to the Princess [Mary]”.

Also on 14th May 1536, Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VIII’s righthand man and the man in charge of the investigation into Queen Anne Boleyn, wrote to Stephen Gardiner and Sir John Wallop, Henry VIII’s ambassadors at the French court, to update them on the situation in London. In his letter, he wrote of “The Queen’s incontinent living” which “was so rank and common that the ladies of her privy chamber could not conceal it”. He also said that the crimes of the queen and the men were so abominable that he thought “the like was never heard”. It was shocking news for these ambassadors to receive. Here’s a link to read Cromwell’s letter – https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/14-may-1536-queens-incontinent-living-rank-common/

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2 thoughts on “14 May – Jane Seymour is being treated like a queen”
  1. In Henry V111’s day Chelsea had charming houses with gardens going down to the banks of the Thames, it was where the wealthy resided, Sir Thomas More had also lived there and on this day in 1536, King Henry V111 had Jane Seymour the woman he intended to marry, brought from Sir Nicholas Carew’s country residence where she was staying to his lodging at Chelsea, this little woman so pale she seemed to fade into the wall panelling was suddenly feted as if she were queen already, whilst the king had his wife and queen imprisoned in the Tower, it was certainly a very strange affair and god only knows what the staff at Chelsea thought, the cooks in the busy kitchens were preparing the finest fare for this queen in waiting, and she had the rest waiting on her every wish, she was so we are told very richly dressed, no doubt the king wanted her looking her best and she must have been arrayed in costly jewels which the king showered on her, he was known for gifting jewels on his women and Anne Boleyn had had plenty over the years, imagine the sidelong glances and the gossip that went on below stairs, they must have wondered what on earth the king saw in her, she was short and said to be a little plump, her complexion was too pale and as Chapyus said of her no one thinks she has much beauty, well certainly Henry V111 liked her enough, but looking at her portraits the lady does indeed look rather plain, she has narrow shoulders and in fact her head looks a bit too large, she has a strong nose above a tightly pursed mouth, a receding chin, and her eyes look small, how strange that the king should go for some one so completely the opposite to his wife, but it was her calm demeanour I think which attracted Henry, she was demure and respectful and he knew she would never give him any trouble, he had fallen out of love with Anne and this third time around he was thinking with his head not his heart, Jane was younger than his queen and came from a large family, that offered hope to the king who was aware he was growing older had a quick brush with death, and longed for a son, Jane could well succeed where his other wife’s had failed, but any normal king would have behaved with decorum and decency, it seems inconceivable to us that he was wining and dining his new love whilst his wretched queen was locked up with five other men, all fearing for their lives and worrying about their families, that Henry V111 did not care for decency convention or for the feelings of others we have no doubt, as for Jane Seymour she is a closed book, her contemporaries maybe felt the same also, we have no idea what she felt about the strange situation, about her former mistresses misfortune, whether she believed her innocent or guilty, and whether she felt sympathy for the men, all we know of her is that she gave Henry V111 his longed for son, she was kind to her stepdaughter the Lady Mary, she was distressed by the dissolution of the monasteries and she pleaded for those who were involved in the pilgrimage of Grace, and she died in childbirth, she thus fades from history, she is far from being a nonentity however, she may have been of no great beauty and no great wit, and her haughtiness was probably down to her insecurity about what was expected of her as queen, but she was the only one of Henry V111’s queens who gave him a son who survived the dangers of childhood, sadly this precocious little boy did not live beyond his sixteenth year, and his very existence cost his mother her life, Jane Seymour’s tenure as queen consort could have been the shortest on record but for the fact that her predecessor was wed and discarded with lightening speed, on this day also Thomas Cromwell wrote to the kings ambassadors at the French court, informing them of the queens wicked and incontinent living, one wonders at the sheer hypocrisy of it all, the charges were based on just gossip and hearsay, and most of the indictments were proved wrong because there was no evidence of adultery at all, yet still the crown decreed there was enough evidence and the men, having already been tried and condemned to death, meant there was no hope for the defamed queen either, and one can see Cromwells mouth curl up in a smile as his quill scratched across the paper, as he wrote of how shocking the queen had acted, he made her entire household look like a brothel, the fall of Anne Boleyn was a very shameful period in English history, it was an astonishing coup that was pulled of brilliantly, and yet it did no good for the reputation of either Henry V111 or Cromwell, it ruined the kings standing in Europe and his chances in the marriage market, as he found out much later to his cost.

  2. So, here we have Jane Seymour being treated as if she were already Queen, the day before Anne and George are tried. She was moved to a grand house in Chelsea and maybe we imagine something a little grander than the fine house of Thomas More there. She wore beautiful robes and is dressed as if she is Queen. She wore fine jewellery and she was waited on hand and foot. No doubt she was also trying on the shoes and the wedding dress and her headdress and jewellery for the wedding and she was given a cook and fine dishes. She was given servants and pampered as Anne had been before her coronation. Jane also knew that Anne was about to face a trial for her life and Henry reassured her that she was to look forward to her desire as Anne would be found guilty by three in the afternoon. O.K. now we really do know that this was a total set up. Anne didn’t know what to expect and yet must present herself before a crowded hall and give a good defence in order to save her life. She must have been terrified even though she appeared calm and gave a good performance the next day. In the meantime Jane would have relaxed and eaten well and been entertained in the Queens place. The Wheel had turned.

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