Jane Seymour VintageOn this day in history, Friday 2nd June 1536, Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife, made her first public appearance at Greenwich. Sir John Russell recorded this in a letter to Lord Lisle:

“On Friday last [2nd June] the Queen sat abroad as Queen, and was served by her own servants, who were sworn that same day. The King came in his great boat to Greenwich that day with his privy chamber, and the Queen and the ladies in the great barge. I assure you she is as gentle a lady as ever I knew, and as fair a Queen as any in Christendom. ‘The King hath come out of hell into heaven for the gentleness in this and the cursedness and the unhappiness in the other.’ You would do well to write to the King again that you rejoice he is so well matched with so gracious a woman as is reported. This will please the King.”

Henry VIII had married Jane three days earlier in the Queen’s closet at York Place (Whitehall). His previous queen consort, Anne Boleyn, had been executed on 19th May 1536.

Notes and Sources

  • Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume X, 1047.

Related Post

65 thoughts on “2 June 1536 – Jane Seymour appears in public as queen”
  1. Claire,

    I’ve been an avid reader of your page for years now but one thing I cannot fathom is why Jane was not already married at that age. She was already 27 when the king began his pursuit of her, came from an upstanding and very fertile family and seems to all intents and purposes a great catch. So why was she not already married or betrothed. In fact we have no knowledge of any previous engagement or suitors. This all seems very strange

    1. She wasn’t a good catch at all, the Seymours were only country gentry she was middle aged by the standards of the day and really had nothing to recommend her except she knew when to say yes to Henry, she was no looker had no personality, at least she doesn’t appear to have had, and in case you think I’m being a bit brutal this was the effect she had on her contemporaries, the minute the King showed the slightest bit of interest in her, her desperate power hungry family dangled her in his path, actually pushed is the more appropriate word.

      1. The most important thing in a bride was not her beauty or personality but her dowry and her family’s standing.
        Jane was a few years older older than an average bride, but generally people did not marry very young in the 16th century.

        1. Hi Hannele I know looks or personality didn’t come into it but the Seymours weren’t a particularly notable family either, unlike the Howard’s or the Percy’s, all they had was their overwhelming ambition.

    2. Hello Ellesbelles, yes, Jane Seymour would normally have been married by now, she was betrothed to a member of the Dormer family, William. Why this broke down is debatable, but it was not to be. I suspect that any other old English family of her middle-class gentry would have been happy to marry her, but her move to court may have meant that she wanted to dedicate herself to her mistress, Katherine of Aragorn. There was also some scandal, unsubstantiated, around her father, so this may also have affected her chances for a time. As a quiet pius gentle virtuous woman, anyone would have been content with her as an obedient wife.

  2. It is incomprehensible that a woman could marry a man after he just executed his wife. I wish we knew more about her. It takes a very cold heart and a cunning mind to lie in the bed of a dead woman, married to her murderer, even if it were for the sake of the most prestigeous status in the realm. She had been in Anne’s service, and from a human perspective, it is daunting that she wouldn’t have a twinge of empathy. I think the demure demeanor was Oscar worthy, and I don’t buy the theory that she didn’t have a choice, or that she believed Anne was guilty. That’s my humble opinion.

    1. I do believe she didn’t have a choice. As with Katherine Parr later on, she didn’t exactly want to marry the king after he had Katherine Howard executed (however guilty of adultery/treason she may have been), but when Henry VIII decided on something, it was done and nobody could change it.

      No doubt each wife thought they’d be the one to give Henry the son he longed for. Jane Seymour did but didn’t live to reap any benefits. Perhaps Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr each thought that they would give him a son and that would be their salvation from divorce or execution.

    2. There are even today women who write to murderers in prison and want to marry them.
      And there are even more women who want to marry men who had beaten their ex-wife and/or betrayed them.

      Formerly, however, the personal characteristics were not so important in a husband than his status. A woman could not have a career of her own, so the only way to fulfill her ambition was to marry a man whose status was higher for then the status of he children could be higher also.

      Instead of personal happiness, a person must strive for the benefits for her whole family.

    3. Yes well I think that to Linda how could any woman place her hand in that of a man who had just be headed his wife, had she no imagination, or was she as cold hearted and ambitious as she appears to be? Did she not realise it could happen to her, what makes her think she would fare better than Anne? All women think they can change a man but the fact is, how a man treats his former wife or girlfriend is how he will treat you several years down the line, in some cases, even months! She was putting herself in a highly dangerous situation talk about walking into the lions den, he may not have killed Jane like his former wife but she died as a result of being married to him, did her family think it was worth when they attended her funeral several weeks later, probably they were now firmly established at court being next of kin to the little prince.

  3. There had never been (excepting Elizabeth Woodville, Katherine Swynford) anybody like Anne Boleyn, who had brought with her ‘the shock of the new’. Around her, the world of the courtiers was turned upside down, inside out. It was possible, says Starkey, to believe anything true of her, the more outrageous, the better. Jane represented a return to solid, stolid, old-fashioned values, and everybody seems to have grasped at her like drowning men at straws.

    We’ve just been walk thru Anne’s beautiful and moving coronation festival and banquet, where the highest born ladies stood at her side to assist her with her ‘hygiene’. Queenship, in this Tudor Court, represented the pinnacle of feminine success. It’s stunning! Dazzling! Jewels, rich cloth of gold, everybody on their knees. Given that value system, that kind of thinking, would you really have said No! to Henry?

  4. What a difference between the perception of Jane and Anne, between the character of the two ladies, beteeen the reception of the two queens and the mythology engendered around the two ladies. Anne was called all kinds of unsavoury names, mostly by Chapyus, but also others, yet was also admired by Cranmer and reformers, noted as charitable, but Jane was praised as a peacemaker, as graceful, as a good queen, as gentle, and being right for the King. She had the right qualities, Anne was unpopular, her reputation had suffered from the trial, her enemies had triumphed and thus we are given an unbalanced vision of her. We may also be seeing a bit of a too idealistic vision of Jane, but many things are true, she was gracious and gentle, but I doubt even she was perfect. Henry may have gone from hell into heaven, but all was not well in the realm.

    1. I think that the best way to get to know people is not how she is described, especially with adjectives, but how she acts.

      The problem with Jane Seymour is that her actions we know during her marriage are so rare, except in bearing a son which does not demand anything but physics and, most of all, luck.

      Jane asked Henry to have Mary come to the court because she had no equal there which seems that she had swiftly begun to show her superior status to the others.
      She was kind to Mary which cost her nothing, but could not prevent that Henry demanded an Oath of her.

      She pleaded Henry to save the monasteries but failed again and he reproached her for “meddling” in a such a way that she never again tried to do it.

      She reproached a lady-in-waiting for her French apparel which maybe reminded her of Anne but in any case she again wanted to show her superior status but a rather petty way as she did not trust that her dressing-style was so fine that the others would follow it on their free will nor did take an account what made a lady-in-waiting to look her best.

      When she was pregnant she demanded fat quails which obviously was hard to get, so again she showed her superior status.

      These actions show a woman who enjoyed her position in small matters but could not in any way influence on the great matters. She did no great evil but neither did she do great good. All in all, she seems to be a person who one can meet several times but when one is asked about her, one can hardly remember her as she was a real wall-flower. This is shown also that there are no witty nor personal sayings by her in the sources.

      Of course it could be that Jane Seymour only acted to be a nonentity and her real personality would have emerged only if she has outlived Henry.

      After all, she must have been ambitious, otherwise she would not have become a queen. Even if ordered and coached by her brother and the others how to behave when he was courting her, she had a choice: she could have made a small slip that would have alienated Henry but which nobody would not know that she made on purpose. But she did not.

      1. Hannele, you say Jane’s helping Mary cost her nothing, this is not correct. Not only did Henry dismiss her as foolish, although she countered with the whit that she was only thinking of his peace and the peace of his kingdom. When Jane was more verbal and others supported the Princess, Mary’s friends were arrested and household questioned. Jane could have been seriously in danger. Henry was not in the mood, he wanted Mary to submit. Not even Cromwell could prevent Mary from taking the oaths. Jane tried a second time and to some degree was successful, but Henry still insisted that Mary accept his will. Jane took an even greater risk by pleading for the lives of the rebels and the restoration of the monasteries. Henry’s response was more than just no, he delivered a chilling threat. He reminded her of Anne Boleyn and her fate, not for adultery and treason, he stated she had died for interfere in his public policy. Jane twice pleaded her case, Henry warned her, he was not joking.

        The sources are mean on information which is why we cannot say for certain things that are guessed and traditional stories are from sources which we need to scrutinize with care, as we do with Anne Boleyn. I take the remarks of the French ambassador with a pinch of salt. Jane was a typical Tudor wife, her role as Queen a traditional one, that of peace maker. Yes she enjoyed the benefits of being Queen, used her power to do what she could, was able to order fine and luxury items, she was Queen, why should she be condemned for her role, it was her right as it was with any other Queen?

        Chapyus was impressed with her, other people were also. The French ambassador was probably upset his nose was out of joint after Anne’s execution. However, relations with both sides improved under Jane and Henry’s children were both brought to court under Jane. Elizabeth could have been forgotten about, Jane saw to it that she was not. The fact is, the sources are scarce, but we can reconstruct a positive picture of Jane from what we do know. Everything else is just speculation, unfounded and unfair. Enjoying the privilege of queenship is not evidence of ambition, it is the way things were. Failure to achieve something does not mean she should not be praised or did not take great personal risks in trying. Nobody could move Henry Viii when his authority was challenged. If a King cannot command the obedience of his wife and family, how can he seriously be expected to command the obedience of his people, something fundamentally essential for the peace and settlement of the realm?

        1. Chapyus was impressed with Jane Seymour?

          Of course he flattered her when he met her, even for Henry’s sake, but he describes her as a woman who has no beauty nor nor wit, quite clearly astonished why she became a Queen.

        2. My favorite professor of history always stressed that there are no facts without interpretation, meaning that sources must, besides valued critically, also interpreted.

          It is quite clear that (almost) any wife Henry married after Anne would be praised by those who disliked Anne and/or wanted to stay in the king’s good graces. And because she bore a son and died, that image became permanent. In addition, as Edward VI was a Protestant, Jane got also credit for that.

          But what did she really achieve?

        3. Would Chapuys have been “impressed” with Jane if she’d been in Anne’s position, replacing Catherine? I think not. Of course he’d brown-nose her, because to him, everyone would be better than the wretched concubine who bewitched the king to get rid of his true wife and the true religion.

  5. Correct me if I am wrong (it wouldn’t be the first time) but I thought that Jane didn’t do anything to help Elizabeth because she was Anne Boleyn’s child. So maybe she was good to Mary, but not for Elizabeth.

    1. Jane is recorded as having sold or used jewellery to ensure that clothing was provided for little Elizabeth, who was fast growing out of her clothes when Henry refused money as he claimed she was not his daughter. She also had her brought to court and did her best to keep both girls in the mind of the King. As to what she achieved, she gave Henry a male heir for one thing, it was not known then he would contract the Tudor disease of consumption, he was healthy as a child, strong enough to overcome a dangerous fever and succeeded him. Jane could not achieve anything else as she died 12 days later. I don’t judge anyone by what they look like or achieve, but how they were as a person, and Jane is worthy of praise for the compassionate nature she had and concern for Henry’s children. Her reputation is ss a peacemaker, it does not matter if she failed, that she tried is the most important thing. I believe that had she lived she would be spoken of in the same terms as Eleanor of Castile and Joan of Kent, there would be nothing Henry would have done for her and she would have had more children. We don’t know what she was really capable of, we don’t have enough evidence.

      1. If Jane was an ideal Tudor wife, like you said, we can know nothing about her personality, as she simply followed the rules of her age. In that case, she really had no personality in the modern sense.

        There is of course a possibility that she only acted – which would be no wonder as she had every reason to be scared of Henry. But then we know even less of her personality.

        She was never put to the real test of fire unlike Katherine of Aragon, Anne or Katherine Parr were.

        As I said earlier, if she had outlived Henry, we would know the “real” Jane. Would she had ordered a regent – or tried to become one – and she would have succeeded? Or would she had have a real passion?

        1. Hi Hannele, sorry your response got lost on my tablet, I can see it now. I agree with you, had she outlived Henry or even a few more years we could have known so much more about her. There are so many endless possibilities when a life is ended prematurely, even given the risk of death in childbirth and from septicemia, a lot of possible futures. I could certainly see Jane as another Eleanor of Castile, although Eleanor was better educated. Having said this, Jane was intelligent enough to follow her coaching, intelligent enough to not make a public or private statement about Anne and intelligent enough to know when to give up on public policy. What she thought of Anne, we will never know, but the real Jane is only hinted at during the few times she did beg for compassion or the monasteries. I think she was courageous and compassionate and we have missed the best of her.

      2. Banditqueen,
        Thanks for the information! I never knew about Jane selling jewelry to help Elizabeth. You learn something new everyday.

  6. If Jane believed Anne to be a “wh*re” who pursued a married man, got pregnant by him, lived in sin and tormented other people like Queen Katherine and Princess Mary (to whom Jane was devoted), caused the execution of prominent men, and hated the actions being taken against a Church she, Jane believed in, on behalf of said “w word”, then the execution of Anne and the others for a treason everyone believed was true would not give her undue hesitation over marrying the King.

    Sorry, but all the attacks on Jane come from the premise that everyone thought Anne was seen as an innocent victim, but at the time, most people did not see her that way. Maybe Jane was just some mindless pawn or maybe she saw what was happening and thought it was fair and Henry was right, just like many other people did. Those are rational alternative possibilities, though they make for less romantic writing for sure.

    There simply is not one way this can all be interpreted.

    1. But Anne didn’t pursue Henry he just wouldn’t leave her alone, the woman is always blamed instead of the man, because she’s always painted as a tart.

      1. Untrue. We have a letter from Henry wherein he offers to go away as she doesn’t love him and the next letter he says thanks for the jewelry girft wherein you admit you want me and we are on. She took his money, his jewelry, and Wolsey’s homes – all from a married man who was married in the eyes of Europe until Katherine died. Not even Luther or Tyndale agreed to the ‘annulment”. So I am sorry, but she was called the Great W for a reason. (Yes, to our eyes and ears that is gross. But that was then).

        Anne was a player. She was ambitious and she was ruthless and she was smart. She won for a long time and then she lost. These were high stakes games they were all playing so they could get to the top. She was never a victim. Some women most clearly are, but when you take women who are not and pretend they are you devalue the real experience of women in history. I doubt Anne would recognize herself in so much of the mush written about her.

        Now before anybody gets unraveled, no – i don’t like executions. They are vile. But they didn’t start with Anne and they didn’t end with her either. Sadly.

        1. If she sent him jewellery that was no doubt because he had promised her marriage and she had accepted, throughout his long courtship of Anne he bestowed on her countless treasures and made her a marchioness, her behaviour doesn’t mean she was immoral, she didn’t want to be his mistress and why should she, Henry chose to pursue her and this was 16th century England she couldn’t really tell the King to get lost, I’m not making excuses here but your a member of the court, your fathers in the Kings service and you are being bombarded with sloppy letters and protestations of love, what is a girl supposed to do? For all we know she hoped he’d soon tire of her and leave her alone, but if he then said he’d marry her why shouldn’t she accept, he didn’t have a gun to his head.

        2. Nobody could so far have proven the order of Henry’s letters, so how can you prove it was the next letter?

          If one reads Henry’s letters without prejudice, they show a woman who are pursued by a man who wants to make her his mistress but whether because she is not interested in him or because he is already married, she behaves just as morality says to discourage him: she leaves the court, she does not answer his letters or if she does, she does it in such a manner that he is after a year uncertain of her feelings.

          The only thing she cannot do, because he is a king and her family is dependent on him, is to be so uncivil that she angers him totally.

          How can a woman who refuses to become a mistress, be “Great W”? If a husband has already abandoned her wife’s bed, how can wrecking their marriage be the fault of a woman he begins to pursue after that?

          There is no evidence that Anne demanded marriage. But when Henry finally offered it, she could not refuse.

          After they were engaged, it was quite ok to accept his gifts as she must live as a queen-in-waiting should,

          As for the executions, no royal or noble lady was executed before Anne even though they were guilty of rebellion or adultery or accused of witchcraft. That simply was out of question before Henry.

        3. “So I am sorry, but she was called the Great W for a reason.” Yes, she was called names but not by those who knew her, these names were slung by people who had never met her and who viewed Catherine as the rightful queen and Anne as a usurper. Just because someone is called something, doesn’t mean that they are that thing as many people around the world will testify.

  7. Chapyus wrítes how Jane was coached to behave with Henry. On the basis of this, it does not seem that her own opinions about Anne’s conduct mattered at all.

    Whether she thought Anne guilty of adultery and treason – well, that depends on whether she knew only what people in general get to know or whether Henry had said her something that could rise her suspicions – but then, it is easy to betray oneself if there is so much to gain.

  8. “Chapyus wrítes how Jane was coached to behave with Henry. On the basis of this, it does not seem that her own opinions about Anne’s conduct mattered at all.

    Not following this response: what does Jane being coached on how to behave have to do with what her own personal thoughts and attitudes may have as it pertains to Anne’s fall? He isn’t talking about her personal opinions because he wouldn’t know them. If he knew them, he most assuredly would have said so and they most assuredly would have mattered to the Emperor.

    1. Just as a side comment, what does it mean that Jane was “coached”? That is a big assumption. In my mind, it means 1 of 2 things –

      1) somebody had to tell Jane not to take tokens of money etc from Henry. This presupposes that Jane was someone who had to be told not to act in a way that was clearly not a normal way to behave. Young single ladies were not supposed to take expensive gifts from married men.


      2) Anne’s behavior was known to be the opposite of the way Jane behaved so if Jane was quiet and did not accept any gifts or ask for any favors, this was seen as the opposite of Anne. That isn’t a flattering comment on Anne.

      Is it possible that in Chapyus distaste for Anne he simply made assumptions that discredit both? That Jane needed to be told to be a lady and Anne just wasn’t one?

      1. There is no evidence that Anne accepted any expensive gifts from Henry (the buck cannot be called such) before they were engaged. And it was only after that she got an own apartment on the court.

        Jane, on the contrary, had already accepted Henry’s portrait and sat on his lap, i.e. she had clearly encouraged Henry. But after Anne lost her baby, her behavior became more modest as her party began to believe that she could demand more.

        1. Okay, that is your opinion. I think you mean this as a reply to Ellsbells so I get you.
          But again, I am not sure she had to be told to behave modestly. I don’t know how common that kind of behavior of Anne’s was or people would not have continually commented on it and called her a “w”.

          I think it may have just stood out as it was so opposite to Anne so the cynical thought she must have been told. Maybe she jet had manners. No evidence either way and Chapyus does not name his source, does he?

        2. On the contrary, there is is indeed quite a lot of evidence of Anne taking money and gifts and living in homes given to her by Henry before their supposed marriage. This has been known for centuries now and is the basis for her being called a “w” even if she didn’t have full intercourse until a few months before her supposed marriage. It is okay not to know, it is okay to debate things open to interpretation, but as the wise American once said:

          “You are entitled to your own opinion, ma’am. You are not entitled to your own facts”.

          Cheerio! And have a great weekend!

    2. It did not matter at all what Jane herself thought about Anne because it was not she who made decisions whether she wanted to accept Henry’s portrait, refuse his money, live in Cromwell’s ex-apartment and marry the king. She simply did what she was ordered to do.

      1. Okay, that is your opinion. I think you mean this as a reply to Ellsbells so I get you.
        But again, I am not sure she had to be told to behave modestly. I don’t know how common that kind of behavior of Anne’s was or people would not have continually commented on it and called her a “w”.

        I think it may have just stood out as it was so opposite to Anne so the cynical thought she must have been told. Maybe she jet had manners. No evidence either way and Chapyus does not name his source, does he?

  9. “My favorite professor of history always stressed that there are no facts without interpretation,”

    Yes. Interpretation of the MEANING of the fact. Anne slept with a married man. Fact.
    She took money and jewelry from said married man. Fact. She took housing from said married man. Fact. She said she wished all Spaniards at the bottom of the sea. Fact. (no one has ever denied she said this) She told her husband’s closest servant and friend that he looked to sleep with her if her husband died. Fact.

    Interpret away.

    1. Well, no. “There are no facts without interpretation” means that there are not facts as such but the interpretation is always with.

  10. Anne fled to Hever to remove herself from Henry’s advances, and refused to become his mistress. Historians disagree as to whether that was a deliberate ‘plot’ to withhold her charms in order to snare him into marriage. If that was her intention then it would seem to me to be a rather silly thing to have done as it was far from certain to succeed.
    After Henry proposed marriage to Anne, and she accepted his proposal, she was basically queen in waiting. Of course she accepted jewellry, property etc from the King. She was his future wife and was expected to maintain the position of queen in waiting and all the trappings of wealth and status that came with it.
    Chapuys says that Jane was being coached to win Henry over by withholding favours just as Anne had done. We can ignore that by saying Chapuy doesn’t name his sources, but then Chapuy rarely named his sources.
    It was a fact that Anne removed herself from court and went to Hever in 1526.
    It was a fact that Jane was found sitting on Henry’s knee in 1536.
    It is a fact that both women caught the eye of the King (and were probably flattered; my interpretation).
    It is a fact that Chapuy rarely named his sources.
    It is a fact that that these facts can be interpreted depending on personal bias.
    Some people adore Anne and hate Jane, some people hate Anne and love Jane. Completely silly to take either stance. Neither were entirely pure and innocent, and neither were can be considered as whores.
    In order to champion Jane some of the comments on this post have thoroughly demonised and insulted Anne. The same old negative comments about Anne keep being regurgitated with little thought or reflection, despite the extensive research that have been done by Claire Ridgway, which puts so many of the myths surrounding Anne to bed.
    Yes we know that Anne had a sharp tongue, sometimes spoke without thinking, and often regretted her words. But comments like:
    “Anne was a player. She was ambitious and she was ruthless and she was smart. She won for a long time and then she lost.”
    Should have been put to bed long ago, by the articles that Claire has wriiten on this site. This is a site about the Tudors, but primarliy about Anne Boleyn. Some people who hate Anne visit this site and many have their attitudes changed. Some don’t. I know that Claire welcomes all opinions. But I do feel there is a small element who don’t want to have their minds expanded but simply use the opportunity to to be aggressive and confrontatiobal for the sake of it.
    Perhaps if we don’t feed their desire for confrontation they will simply go away like an unwanted guest at a wedding!

    1. I agree. I think it’s highly insulting to come on here and try to stir up trouble with the same old lowbrow arguments.

  11. I agree, Clare, it’s really a case of Anne being damned if she did and damned if she didn’t. She’s knocked for holding out on Henry with people claiming that she sexually manipulated him and for being his mistress. The poor woman can’t do anything right.

    I think some people judge her from a modern perspective, as a woman who got involved with a married man and took him away from his wife, as if she had choices and power. We know that Henry VIII viewed his first marriage as invalid before he met Anne and that was considering a new marriage before Anne. He had also stopped sleeping with Catherine, he did not view her as his wife any more. That’s a very different situation to a woman getting involved with a married man today.

    We know from what Henry VIII wrote to her that she retreated to Hever and that she ignored his letters and rebuffed him. She did all she could to rebuff him without causing offence to a man who was king and who her family relied on. I really don’t see what else she could have done. Thomas Wyatt, who knew both Anne and the King well, writes of her being like a deer hunted down and claimed as a prize. She had to give in because Henry would not stop pursuing her. She refused to be his mistress and only gave in when he said that he wanted to marry her. She wanted to keep her virtue but somehow people still like to paint her as the Great Whore.

    Karen Lindsey goes as far as to say that Anne was a victim of sexual harassment:

    “Today, Henry’s approach to Anne would be instantly identifiable as sexual harassment. Anne however, had no social or legal recourse against a the man who ruled the country. She continued, as so many women before and since have done, to dodge her pursuer’s advances while sparing his feelings. It didn’t work… It was a hellish position. Could she really tell the king to his face that she had no interest in him? She could reiterate her desire to keep her chastity and her honor, but clearly he didn’t respect that. She could ignore his letters and stay away from court, but he refused to take the hint. To offer him the outright insult he asked for would be to risk not only her own but her father’s and brother’s careers at court. She undoubtedly kept hoping he would tire of the chase and transfer his attentions to some newer lady-in-waiting.

    But he didn’t and she was trapped: there was no chance of her making a good marriage when every eligible nobleman knew the king wanted her. She began to realize she would have to give in. [as Wyatt wrote in his poem ‘Whoso list to hunt’] ‘Nole me tangere, for Caesar’s I am’.

    Virtually every account of Anne’s story cites the poem, yet its central image is ignored. Anne was a creature being hunted, and hunted by the king — like the buck he had killed and so proudly sent to her. There could be no refuge from the royal assault; no one would risk protecting her from Henry’s chase. She could run, hide, dodge for a time, but the royal hunter would eventually track down his prey. And he would destroy her. The hunt was not an archaic metaphor in sixteenth century life, it was a vivid integral part of that life and everyone knew what happened to the wild creature at the end.”

    I don’t go as far as that but I do believe that Anne didn’t have much choice in what happened to her.

    Those people who see Anne as a whore and homewrecker must recognise that that label must also be used for Jane Seymour. Chapuys doubted that Jane was a virgin and he writes of how she had been coached in what to do/say to the King, and that she told him how his marriage to Anne was detested by his people. This wasn’t just a married man Jane was doing this to, he was a married man with a pregnant wife. The King was at least flirting with Jane before Anne’s miscarriage in January 1536 because Chapuys discussed the relationship as a possible cause for the miscarriage, writing of the King paying attention to Jane Seymour, “to whom, as many say, he has lately made great presents.”

    I don’t think it’s helpful or right to label or demonise either of these women.

    And regarding the annulment, Luther and Tyndale may not have agreed with it but there were plenty who supported it, including Francis I, and even the Pope and his legate tried to persuade Catherine to accept it and to enter a convent.

    @JudithRex, I do hope you’re not referring to either my work or the comments from the knowledgeable people on this site when you say ” I doubt Anne would recognize herself in so much of the mush written about her”, or the work of historian Eric Ives which is also contrary to your views on Anne. It’s one thing to have a different opinion, but to call other people’s views “mush” is rude.

  12. Oh wow! What a lively and interesting discussion here, with some quite nuanced opinions as well. I am learning so much. My thanks to everyone. Perhaps yet another view of the mountain is to say that, in Henry VIII’s opinion, he wasn’t married and was free to pursue another wife, whereas the Law of England and God stated that he certainly WAS MARRIED, first to Katherine, then Anne, and that this was the widely held opinion of Christendom.

    By moving Anne, and then Jane, into a position of “Queen Pending”, he both elevated them and laid them open to the accusation of their being his mistress and an amoral woman (even though he did proceed to marriage and made them his Queen). Anne suffered more because of her interest in church reform and active support of “Heretics”; I liken her position to that of “Hanoi Jane’ Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave in the 20th c who espoused Marxist opinions and the contempt and hatred this aroused in the Free West.

    Henry VIII was subject to the Law of this land, could not flout it, and had to change it to get his way. Don’t you think?

  13. Yes Anne was called a whore by people who didn’t know her and by Katherine’s supporters, just as today if a married man walks out on his wife for some one he fell in love with the other woman is painted as a whore, this isn’t always the case, we all know that Anne tried to keep her distance from Henry and every woman knows that if your being pestered by a man it can be tiresome, Henry was no ordinary man and every ones fortunes depended on him, so what could Anne do, this was England in the sixteenth century everyone had to do the will of the King, Henry was ardent in his pursuit of Anne this was not her fault, just like today some women have been stalked by men wether they are ex boyfriends or just some one they have known for a few weeks even, Anne was in a difficult position here she couldn’t be rude to the King, for her fathers position at court may well have suffered so she had to just tactfully withdraw to Hever and after he made it clear he wanted her for his wife she then accepted his presents, she has been condemned for this yet there was nothing else really she could do, Judith seems to see everything in black and white you have to try to put yourself in Anne’s shoes to understand why she acted as she did, the term ‘who’re’ is that of an immoral woman who just sleeps around but Anne was not like that, if she had been a ‘who’re’ in the first place she would have ended up as Henrys wife.

  14. I’d just like to add that Judith doesn’t appear to have any knowledge at all of sixteenth century England.

  15. “Claire Reply:
    June 5th, 2015 at 10:29 am
    “So I am sorry, but she was called the Great W for a reason.” Yes, she was called names but not by those who knew her, these names were slung by people who had never met her and who viewed Catherine as the rightful queen and Anne as a usurper. Just because someone is called something, doesn’t mean that they are that thing as many people around the world will testify.”

    She was called it by her Uncle, who did indeed know her.

    Give me a break, Claire.

    1. The Duke of Norfolk and Anne Boleyn had had a major falling out so it follows that he would call her names, she was his enemy and Chapuys was convinced that she would bring Norfolk down. It doesn’t mean that she WAS a whore.
      “Give me a break, Claire” – well, you’re the one commenting on my site so I assume you expect people to comment back.as you are replying to others too. If you can’t respond politely then please go somewhere else. I’m not here to be told to give someone a break.
      If I called you a name would it make it true? Of course not. Why does Norfolk calling her a “Great Whore” or Chapuys referring to her as “the putain” or “concubine” make her one? It doesn’t. It just doesn’t follow. It’s naive to believe that names slung at people are true. There are plenty of others who talked of her kindness, the way she put her neck on the line (no pun intended) to help others, her charity, her support of education, her faith and piety. She was a multi-faceted person and certainly not a whore.

      1. I agree.

        Before, a woman could be called a w* simply because she had, trusting a man who had promised to marry her, lain with him and born a baby outside the marriage. Yet, many other women had done just the same but the man had kept her promise and their baby was born seven months after their wedding which was talked a bit but was soon forgotten.

        Besides, there were earlier situations where a marriage was not possible because the status of the man was higher than that of the woman. Lilian Craig lived Prince Bertil of Sweden thirty years before they were allowed to marry.

        It has been an usual practice to blacken a woman to slander her sexuality. Empress Alexandra of Russia was accused to be a lover of Rasputin and Marie Antoinette was accused to have an affair with her own son.

        As for Anne and Henry, would it really lessen Henry’s responsibility if Anne had deliberately abandon her wife? I do not think so, on the contrary he would have a weakling who could be manipulated and therefore not worthy to be a king.

    2. Judith,
      Do you view Jane Seymour as a whore too?
      And how do you view Catherine of Aragon? She appears to have had a rather close relationship with her confessor and was she being honest about her marriage to Arthur?
      what about Henry?

  16. By the way, people get called murderers and put in jail all the time by people who do not “know” them.

    It is completely irrelevant to say people who call someone something don’t know them, when they fit the definition of the term being used. At the time of Anne’s life she fit the description of “W” for all the reasons I have stated that are FACT. She took money form a married man and had intercourse and was pregnant by him when he was still married (before Cranmer waved his fairy wand for the first time and said “poof”)

    Does that mean she wasn’t intelligent? No. Does that mean she was a “worthless person”? No. Does it mean she defied conventional morals and made herself look like a woman of loose morals willing to do immoral acts? Yes. But she thought she’d have a son an none of this would matter. She didn’t, and it did.

    1. “It is completely irrelevant to say people who call someone something don’t know them” – I didn’t say that, but good word-twisting there! I said that she was called names by people who hadn’t met her or who didn’t know here, i.e. Chapuys, some of the English population etc., not that people who name-call don’t know the person.

      It’s no skin off my nose if you’re rude to me, but you’re being rude to others and that’s not acceptable here. It’s off-putting to people who want to comment as they feel they will be attacked. I think it’s time for you to move on, particularly as you seem to feel that anyone’s opinion other than your own is “mush”.

      1. I agree Claire, Judith seems to discredit everyone’s view but her own and she seems to like arguing for the sake of it, we don’t need people like that here.

        1. Yes. I’m all for different views and opinions, but only from those who can express them politely and in a friendly manner.

    2. And how do you call Henry who betrayed his wives on several occasions?

      I cannot understand why we would even today share the double morality that treats the woman and men in a different manner.

      Was George Elliot a W because she lived years in a married man who could not get divorce?

      Is a person who continues to live in a marriage which is only a facade a moral person?

      When Henry began to court Anne, he performed with Katherine in the state occasions together but they did not live an more together as a man and wife.

      If a person’s morality is condemned, she must have a choice to do the “right” thing. But Anne is condemned whatever she chose: if she had become a king’s mistress or if she agreed to became his wife.

      Regarding Anne sleeping with Henry before Cranmer annulled his marriage with Katherine, that is just what many people did at the time if they considered their former marriage invalid: they made a new marriage first and let the canon law decide about the former marriage later.

  17. Back to Jane Seymour.

    I think that my problem with her is that she is the least modern of Henry’s wives. And she was nothing in her own right, only a dutiful daughter/sister and then a wife.

    Of course Katherine of Aragon’s Catholic intensive piety is also strange from today’s POV, but she was intelligent and brave and acted as Regent.

    1. Why should we expect any of Henry’s wives to be modern, they lived in the 16th century, not modern 21st century women’s rights, burn your bra, feminism rules ok, times. There was nothing, is nothing wrong with Jane, her role was that of a traditional queen and wife, she was not Anne, who was not typical for her time and she was not queen long enough. I agree with you on Anne and Henry, there was a double standard, if Anne was meant to be a whore, then what was Henry, or Francis I? Anne may have been flighty, a flirt, a tease, enjoyed the French dress and dances, but on becoming queen she said that she expected her ladies to be modest, behave correctly, give a godly example for others, forbade lude behaviour and the men to go to brothels. Anne was not a whore, nor did she behave like one. Jane forbade the French dress, for a moderate English fashion which was praised. Perhaps Anne’s efforts had been forgotten.

      What JudithRex says is unimportant and nonsense.

      1. I do not mean that I expect Henry’s wive to be modern, only that to me Jane is most difficult to understand, because she seems to have been only what was expected a model Tudor wife to be. All other wives had a personality of their own which was shown on their action, except Jane. Maybe she had it too and only acted according to the rules, but that we will never know.

        In any case, while we can understand the morality of the former times, one should be careful not identify with it for then we would renewal it.

      2. One contemporary said that when Anne was Queen her household was known for it’s high moral standards, and it was very well run, those who attack her do so because they have already made up their minds about her, not through actual knowledge of her.

  18. I have some doubts about Starkey for in describing Anne’s reaction to Henry’s letter in Six wives, he clearly uses much imagination. Of course we all do it, but he seems not to realize that he does so.

    Nevertheless, according Starkey’s description about the situation where Chapuys called Jane a “peace-maker” is interesting. In private, he had wondered how such a woman could become a queen who had no qualities for it, but when he first met her, he flattered her in every way. That was of course an usual custom at court but in this case Chapuys had a special reason: the restoration of Mary in succession. That would make Jane a ‘pacific’ or peace-maker.

    In other words, Jane was not praised by Chapuys for not what she had done, but for what he hoped she would do.

    Chapuys’s hopes had a reason for Jane really tried. But she failed.

    Jane could not to influence on Henry in any matters. That is not a surprise for she had no education nor knowledge of the world nor evidently an ability to charm him.

  19. JudithRex repeats that Anne “slept with a married man”. But that is to miss the point

    Bessie Blount was not vilified because she slept with the King and even bore a son to him although he was married.

    In an age where royal marriages were made in order to get legitimate heirs and alliances, not for love nor sex, it was quite acceptable to be a king’s mistress – at least provided that one was not too greedy for oneself or one’s family nor did not “meddle” with politics.

    When Edward IV’s mistress Jane Shore was forced to do public penitence by Richard III, she was actually pitied by the Londoners.

    Anne’s greatest sin was that the king married her when he was still officially married to Katherine. Her lesser sins were that Henry was regarded “unmanly” when he openly adored her, that her family was upstarts and was favored by Henry which rose envy (cf. Woodivilles), that she favored Reformation and that she was regarded making Henry do everything he was criticized for (making himself rid off Rome, treating badly Katherine and Mary, executing Fisher and More) and that she had an active (to say at least) personality so she did not fit to the model Tudor wife.

    As for the validity of Henry and Katherine’s marriage, I do not think that we are not qualified to judge it even it would have happened in a vacuum and not in the historical context. The pope said yes, but he was influenced by Katherine’s nephew, otherwise Popes tended in such matters to do what kings asked them. Whether we like or not, after Parliament had made Henry the Supreme Head and denied the appeals to the Pope, he had not right to decide on the matter.

    For some reason, many people in Bible are not at all virtuous. Batsheba was not condemned for adultery. It was evidently regarded that she could not say no to the king. It was David who was demanded to confess that he had taken another man’s wife and get her husband killed. But after he had repented and their eldest son had died, their next son Salomo became a king.

    1. I completely agree with you, Hannele, if Anne or Jane had have merely been Henry’s mistress, although some gossiping would follow, they would have been just another lady who was the Kings mistress, who may have given him a child or not, then married of as Bessie Blount was, or even Anne would be seen the same as her sister Mary. Being a royal mistress seems to have had benefits. You are perfectly right, people who have power could be seen as the predator or the breaker of a moral code and the woman less likely to be condemned as with David and Bethsheba. David had also gone further, causing her husband to be placed in the front line of the vanguard and killed in order to get her, he was also meant to be the chosen by God, so his censure was greater. I completely agree, being a mistress may have caused s raised eyebrow, but few were condemned. Anne Boleyn was condemned because she was seen as the cause of the breakdown of the marriage with a most revered queen. Because she went further and married Henry, people saw her as a home wrecker, as the reason for Henry turning the place upside down, the reason he broke from Rome, all unfairly. Whether he pursued her or she fancied him, at some point their relationship became mutually beneficial and they appear to have been in love. Henry was looking into the validity of his marriage and at some point Anne becomes a real alternative, someone to give Henry a son, then the game changed. Anne was not condemned for being his mistress, but ironically for being the wrong choice of wife. Henry and Anne do the honest thing and marry, yes he was not free, but this is why Anne was condemned, people saw her as the woman who stole the King and caused the downfall of his lawful wife. The fact that Henry was the one pushing his divorce and all the rest of it, the fact that Henry was more to blame is not enough to condemn him, people don’t blame a King who was loved, they blame the woman for marrying him. The world is back to front.

      1. Henry seems to have been “modern” in believing that even a king should marry for love and divorce when he fell out of love. Of course getting a son was a strong factor too, but Henry wanted a male heir by the wife he was in love.

        But at that time it was not accepted that a king married beneath him. By marrying Elizabeth Woodiville Edward IV raised the status her upstart family which caused the friction with earl of Warwick, and after his death a power struggle with Richard of duke of Gloucester.

        I wonder whether we from the modern POV tend to stress too much on the private triangle of Henry, Katherine and Anne. I think that the most important factor was the public matter of Supremacy, getting rid of the Rome. It was for this Anne was so much hated and vilified: she had made Henry, the Defended of Faith, a heretic, just as Jezebel and Solomon’s wives were accused for their husbands’ actions.

        Anne’s daughter Elizabeth was regarded as a bastard by the Catholics who wanted to make Mary Queen of Scots also Queen of England. Of course Elizabeth was made legally a bastard, but let us think that she would not have been whereas Mary would have been, would that change the opinion of the Catholics? I doubt it. And the the same applied to the Protestants.

        Also in the long run, the crux of the matter was whether the Pope had power over the kings. When Henry made himself Supreme Head of the Church, that was in a way dangerous because that it could mean tyranny. Yet, it ultimately led to the concept that the states were autonomous and the Pope could not order their laws nor influence on the decisions of their leaders.

  20. Even if Anne was a “whore”, whatever that might mean to you, why is it that in this supposed “post-feminist” time, this seems to be her only defining trait? Is your misogyny and sexism that distinct? There are quite a few things we know about Anne, and God knows not all of them are positive, and you choose this as a sad excuse of an “argument”?

    I love this website, I love that people here have different opinions and that the majority can present them in a calm and logic manner, but some people really take the cake and ruin this experience.

  21. Although it is quite wrong to accuse Jane Seymour of Anne’s death, there is another matter she maybe did – influence on Henry that his marriage with Anne was invalid.

    Chapuys writes on 1st April 1536, on the basis of what the marchioness of Dorset told him, that Jane was, besides couched to please the King but not to give in to him, “advised to tell the King frankly, and without reserve, how much his subjects abominate the marriage contracted with the concubine, and that not one considers it legitimate, and that this declaration ought to be made in the witnesses of the titled nobility of this kingdom, who are to attest the truth of her statements should the King request them on their oath and fealty to do so.”

    If true, that is of course far more than Anne did for there is no evidence that it was she who said to Henry that his marriage with Katherine was not valid. On the other hand, if Jane did what she according to Chapuys was advised to do, it was no doubt her own sincere opinion too, so she would believed that she only tried to save him from living in sin (although that could be remedied also by arranging the second wedding for Anne and Henry).

    But did Jane really do it? To do so would have caused grave danger for it meant speaking against the Succession Act according which it was treason.

    Nobody in her senses would have done it – unless Henry had earlier gave a clear indication that he himself considered his marriage invalid. That he had done in secret in January according to Chapuys.

    Even then it was dangerous for it was quite another matter to say to king “quite so” than speak about the matter on her own for Henry was known to be fickle.

    If Jane really spoke about the matter on her own, she was quite different than she was described: not at all a demure maiden who cast her eyes eyes down but extremely brave and capable of intrigue for her own benefit. But would not Henry who was suspicious by nature have then regarded her as ambitious and self-seeking, meddling in the matters that she as a mere woman could not understand and that in any case were such that only the king’s opinion was the only right one? In other words, Jane would have been shown to be like Anne (or rather how Henry now evidently thought about her).

    Therefore I believe that if anybody was casting doubts on Henry’s mind about his marriage with Anne it was not made by Jane and rather f.ex Carewe and even then not so straightly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *