On the 19th May 1536, the Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, wrote a very long letter to Charles V to keep him up to date with events in England. In it, he refers to Jane Seymour, or “Mrs Semel”, being moved nearer to the King on the day before Anne Boleyn’s trial:-

“The day before the putain’s condemnation he sent for Mrs. Semel by the Grand Esquire and some others, and made her come within a mile of his lodging, where she is splendidly served by the King’s cook and other officers. She is most richly dressed.”1

So, on the 14th May, a day before Anne was found guilty, 3 days before Anne’s marriage to the King was annulled and 5 days before Anne’s execution, Sir Nicholas Carew had been sent by the King to move Jane nearer him and install her in a house in Chelsea. Her rich dress, her proximity to the King and the way she was being served by the King’s own servants, suggest that she was being treated like the Queen of England and also that Henry VIII knew that this position would need filling soon.

We have no way of knowing how Jane felt about the situation. Did she think about Anne Boleyn as she prepared to take her place? Did she feel guilty for Anne’s predicament? Did she believe that Anne was guilty? Did she think that Anne deserved it for taking Catherine of Aragon’s crown from her? Did she worry about her own future. We just don’t know, but how awful to be planning a marriage while your man’s wife is waiting to die.

No Great Beauty

From another letter written by Chapuys, this time to Antoine Perrenot, dated 18th May, we can see that Chapuys was not overly fond of Jane Seymour:-

“I have no news to add to what I write to His Majesty, except to tell you something of the quality of the King’s new lady, which the Emperor and Granvelle would perhaps like to hear. She is sister of one Edward Semel[Seymour], “qua este a sa mate,” of middle stature and no great beauty, so fair that one would call her rather pale than otherwise. She is over 25 years old. I leave you to judge whether, being English and having long frequented the Court, “si elle ne tiendroit pas a conscience de navoir pourveu et prevenu de savoir que cest de faire nopces.” Perhaps this King will only be too glad to be so far relieved from trouble. Also, according to the account given of him by the Concubine, he has neither vigour nor virtue; and besides he may make a condition in the marriage that she be a virgin, and when he has a mind to divorce her he will find enough of witnesses. The said Semel [Seymour] is not a woman of great wit, but she may have good understanding (un bel enigm, qu. engin?). It is said she inclines to be proud and haughty. She bears great love and reverence to the Princess. I know not if honors will make her change hereafter.”2

No great beauty, possibly not a virgin, proud and haughty, but at least she cares about the Princess Mary! Don’t you just love Chapuys?!

Notes and Sources

  1. L&P x.908, Letter from Chapuys to Charles V, 19th May 1536
  2. L&P x.901, Letter from Chapuys to Antoine Perrenot, 18th May 1536

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22 thoughts on “14th May 1536 – Jane Seymour Gets Comfy”
  1. I pity Jane in a way. The very die hard fans of Anne Boleyn always tear her to shreds, calling her a “whore” and a “home wrecker.” It’s difficult though to label Jane this way because Anne has also been called this by Catherine’s fans. I don’t think it is very fair to exonerate one woman and condemn the other.

    I’ve also noticed that in instances of affairs, the “other” women are always blamed. If Jane had never been around, Henry would have replaced her with someone else. He wanted another wife, it didn’t matter who.

  2. Well,judging from the portraits,who as a queen,most likely were flattering to her image,one can definately say she is no great beauty!!!In fact she can be called ugly and even by her time’s standards(Chapuys certainly thinks that way,judging by his comment on her paleness).This is why I don’t think Jane was so plain and boring as many think she was.I find it difficult to take the king’s interest from a woman like Anne.I think that she must have been really smart and more focused on her goal.I wonder how she managed to make Henry fall for her when in fact she has been ignored for so many years in his court…And how she was unmarried when by the standarts back then she was too old for marriage and children(it was dangerous for a woman to have her first child after 27unlike nowdays when it is completely safe).jane is indeed a great enigma.Unlike Anne,Cathryn Howard,Catherine of Aragone and the rest of the wives,no one knows about her characters,her feelings for Henry,her view on many things…Another thing,Jane is usually portrayed as a sweet,demure woman when in fact she was considered proud and haughty….Strange huh?

  3. I believe she knew EXACTLY what she was doing and that she knew Anne wasn’t really guilty of the charges laid against her.

    Being a relative nobody amongst her large family, the prospect of becoming Queen of England was too great to let pass her by.


  4. I pity her too and I wonder if she worried about how she’d end up seeing as how Henry treated his other ways and could quite callously see her while Anne was waiting to die. I’m sure I’d think twice before taking Henry on but I don’t think Jane had any choice in the matter.

  5. She didn’t , Claire. She was pushed into place by those in the catholic faction who wanted her to appeal to Henry as Katherine had done (personally I can’t see the logic here, but anyway!). I pity K .of A . for her pain and suffering – but that was done at Henry’s will, not Anne’s. Henry was no longer sleeping with Katherine by the time he set eyes on Anne, and if she’d been allowed to marry Harry Percy, as they both wanted, the entire course of English history would have been different!

  6. Claire, i posted in facebook that i would love to know how well Jane knew her situation.
    Reading your post i believe she knew very well, also reading what ambassador chapuys said,she was a confident woman, as Anne had being in the past and yes, she was intelligent, if Anne and her family used her position to promote reformation on England, Jane, if she had more time, would do the same, for the catholic.

    “It is said she inclines to be proud and haughty”

  7. Anne, I totally agree! I don’t think any of Henry’s wives ever had much say-so in what happened to their predecessors. We tend to give them far too much credit on this, both positive and negative.

  8. I don’t actually pity Jane although I hate to say that she had any part in Anne’s downfall…She was the king’s potential mistress until Anne lost her little boy and Henry start believing there was bad blood in his marriage.Jane and her supporters smartly placed her then as a potential bride,flaunting her pureness,her difference with Anne(since Anne had lost any appeal to him).Jane was equally ambitious as Anne,perhaps less idealist and had the advantage to know her predecessors.Since she had fought her way to this marriage,now she had not the choice or the right to say no or try to show favor(or pity)for Anne…She had gone too far,she couldn’t toy with Henry…I find the real Jane similar to the way Anne is shown usually in movies…colder,proud,ambitious where I get the inclination that even through Anne was proud and ambitious,she was a far wormer person,more idealist and sweeter..

  9. Jane is a fascinating creature–I do think she was pushed into this opportunity but once set, she relished besting the effervescent Anne. Imagine–Anne had caused a stir when she returned from France, with several men falling in love with her–Wyatt, Percy, maybe others. Finally, the King himself. And poor Jane, plain and unattractive, friend of Catherine the Queen, sidelined by this mercurial, sparkling Anne Boleyn. It must have felt good on many levels to have stolen the King from Anne.

  10. Keep in mind women were almost always pawns of their family, no matter how much spirit they had, ie: Anne Boleyn. Jane came from an immensely ambitious family with two brothers willing to cut each other to pieces over power, never mind using their sister to achieve what they wanted. That being ssid, I believe Jane was just as hungry for the power and glory of being queen and I don’t think she had any sympathy for Anne and her pllight.: to the victor goes the spoils. Fortunately for her she didn’t survive long enough for Henry to have grown sick and tired of her, although she would retained her royal position as the mother of the future king in any case.

  11. Well it must have been a great satisfaction!!!I agree it must have been overwhelming for Jane who has spent twelve years as a lady in waiting for both queens,with no betrothed,a lover or an admirer suddenly having the king all over her…and taking him from a woman who has been his great love,a charming creature called by many a unique and strange beauty,even her enemies admitted that she was an attractive woman(even portraits are more in favour of alluring Anne)…who knows,perhaps Jane lacked the looks or Anne’s charisma and wit but must have had something speciall….As an Anne’s admirer and supporter,I find the belief that Jane Seymour was an ugly,meek and ignorant woman,an insult to the exciteness of Anne,to make her threatened and defeated by such an insignifidant woman,an unworthy opponent…Sure Jane was no beauty but there must have been more to her that sees the eye,not only strategies or her quietness

  12. In all of the books I have read about Jane, she was pushed towards Henry by an over ambitious family. If I were her, I’d sooner have not married him at all. Look what he did to his past two wives. Anne was probably just as pure as Jane but when the king tired of her, she got even worse treatment than catherine of Argon. In fact, the only one of Henry’s wives who was smart was Anne of Cleves. She was smart enough to divorce Henry and thus escape the gallows or banishment to a monestary. On the whole, I pity Jane. Did she really think she could hold Henry’s affection? I think not.

  13. Anne, I agree with you!! Although, I do think that the women did have no control over what happend most times in any case.

  14. I agree with most of what was said but I don’t think that Jane could have stole the King from Anne (no offense). The Seymours were a very ambitious family and remember Jane was one of Anne’s Ladies-in-waiting. The opportunity presented itself and the Seymours took advantage of it. I too believe that Henry would have quicky grown tired of Jane, but would have treated her like he wanted to treat KofA if she would have agreed to the divorce. Jane was a Kof A sympathizer and may have believed that Anne got what was coming to her, who knows, but I don’t feel sorry or pity for Jane. Jane learned a great deal from watching Anne and her years with the King, she also knew that “holding out for more” worked with Henry. Jane may have been ugly but she protrayed herself as the exact opposite of Anne Boylen except in one area…she was smart enought to attract a KIng!

  15. Hi All,
    Jane probably felt she had made a remarkable accomplishment by actually giving birth to a baby boy, something Anne could not do. How long did she live after Edward was born?
    Did Jane know about Henry’s obsession to have a male heir?

  16. Jane began running a fever three days after giving birth. She died within 2 weeks of Edward’s birth. And I think all of Europe knew of Henry’s obsession to have a son.

  17. Jane Seymour signed an oath to be honest, upright, clean living etc. when she became a lady in waiting and she broke that oath by shagging the queen’s husband. She should have been prosecuted for adultery, or at least thrown out of the palace.

  18. I am definitely not a Jane sympathizer. I believe she was just as ambitious as the rest of her family and somehow took Henry away from Anne. There was definitely different circumstances pertaining to Catherine and Anne and Anne and Jane. When Anne showed up on Henry’s radar his marriage with Catherine was over, he was no longer sleeping with her and he had been looking for an out for years before that. However, when Jane showed up on Henry’s radar he was very much still involved with Anne who was pregnant and capable of more pregnancies. I believe that Jane filled Henry’s mind with lie’s about Anne. She was no meek woman and I’m sure her prideful and haughty look stemmed from the fact that she was no great beauty and not having the options of marriage like many other women. I believe that hardened her and made her very vindictive towards Anne who was much admired for her exotic beauty.

  19. I’m sorry but I just don’t understand how people find Jane interesting – she seems as dull and plain as can be, and this seems to be the whole reason that Henry “fell” for her (I put that in inverted commas as just compare H8’s overwhelming passion for Anne, there is no competition).

    I don’t think there was anything fascinating about her that made the King interested in her, except that she was the complete opposite of Anne – Unlike AB, Jane would never outshine him, never draw men to her, never outwit him – just “obey and serve”, as meek and mild as pudding – B-o-r-i-n-g!!!

    There is also something very cold and callous about her that just makes me shiver…if it is true that Anne miscarried because she was sitting on his lap, how horrible…didn’t she feel bad? And planning her wedding and parading around over-dressed and haughty while Anne was awaiting death…where was her modesty to stay away at a time like that, at least she could have waited – I know many will say that it was Henry who decided all, but I just get a feel of an extremely calculating women without any conscience, warmth or delicacy…just my opinion, of course, but I’m sticking to it!!

    1. Jane wasn’t boring and I recommend you read Elizabeth Norton on her.
      Jane did stay away when Anne was in the Tower, she was sent away before the arrests of Anne Boleyn. She was told to prepare for her wedding by the King.
      She also took risks by intercession for Mary, the northern rebels and the religious houses.
      None of Henry’s wives were boring and people should learn more about them. They deserve more respect in their own right as people and should not be dismissed just because people cannot be bothered to research them.

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