Posted By Claire on May 14, 2010
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
- L&P x.908, Letter from Chapuys to Charles V, 19th May 1536
- L&P x.901, Letter from Chapuys to Antoine Perrenot, 18th May 1536