20 May 1536 – A Secret Betrothal

Posted By on May 20, 2015

JaneSeymourEngravingOn 20th May 1536, the day after Anne Boleyn’s execution and the day after Archbishop Cranmer had issued a dispensation allowing Henry VIII to marry Jane Seymour, the couple became betrothed. Chapuys recorded this betrothal in a postscript to a letter to Seigneur de Granvelle:

“Has just been informed, the bearer of this having already mounted, that Mrs. Semel [Seymour] came secretly by river this morning to the King’s lodging, and that the promise and betrothal (desponsacion) was made at 9 o’clock. The King means it to be kept secret till Whitsuntide; but everybody begins already to murmur by suspicion, and several affirm that long before the death of the other there was some arrangement which sounds ill in the ears of the people; who will certainly be displeased at what has been told me, if it be true, viz., that yesterday the King, immediately on receiving news of the decapitation of the putain entered his barge and went to the said Semel, whom he has lodged a mile from him, in a house by the river.”1

Henry VIII may have wanted the betrothal kept secret, but word had reached Chapuys quickly enough and, as Chapuys states, “everybody begins already to murmur by suspicion”. At some point between Jane’s arrival at Chelsea on 14th May and Anne Boleyn’s execution on 19th May, Henry VIII had written to Jane regarding some pamphlets which were being spread around London deriding their relationship. It is understandable that speculation and gossip were rife: the Queen was in the Tower awaiting trial and yet Henry VIII was having a relationship with Jane Seymour.

“My dear friend and mistress,
The bearer of these few lines from thy entirely devoted servant will deliver into thy fair hands a token of my true affection for thee, hoping you will keep it for ever in your sincere love for me. Advertising you that there is a ballad made lately of great derision against us, which if it go much abroad and is seen by you, I pray you to pay no manner of regard to it. I am not at present informed who is the setter forth of this malignant writing, but if he is found out he shall be straitly punished for it. For the things ye lacked I have minded my lord to supply them to you as soon as he can buy them. Thus hoping shortly to receive you in these arms, I end for the present your own loving servant and sovereign,
H. R.”2

It is no wonder that the King wanted to keep his betrothal to Jane secret when gossip about the speed of his new relationship was stirring up ill-feeling towards the King and sympathy for the late Queen.

Notes and Sources

  1. Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10 – January-June 1536,926.
  2. Halliwell-Phillipps, James Orchard. Letters of the Kings of England, Volume 1, 353.
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