20 May 1536 – Henry VIII and Jane Seymour get betrothed – The Fall of Anne Boleyn

King Henry VIII wasted no time in May 1536. With wife number 2 dead and buried, he quickly moved on to wife number 3, getting betrothed to Jane Seymour the day after Anne Boleyn’s execution and marrying her ten days later.

I give all the details in today’s final Fall of Anne Boleyn video, including the “murmurings” about the king and his new sweetheart.

I’m doing these “Fall of Anne Boleyn” videos daily until 19th May and I started on 24th April. You can catch up with them on the Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society Youtube Channel.

You can find out more about my book The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown at http://getbook.at/fallanneboleyn.

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26 thoughts on “20 May 1536 – Henry VIII and Jane Seymour get betrothed – The Fall of Anne Boleyn”
  1. I believe Henry betrothed himself to Jane Seymour the day after Queen Anne’s execution to justify to the world and to himself what he had done. He knowingly had sent 5 innocent men, mostly his friends and one innocent women to their horrendous deaths. He HAD to believe it to be true. I’ve often wondered whether his “concience” pricked him, I hope it did.
    He wanted it to be as if Queen Anne had never been, but luckily for us some things have survived his wrath..
    I wonder what Jane Seymour really thought of the matter? We will never know.

    1. I’m sure from time to time Henrys conscience did prick him Jean, he is said to have shown regret for the execution of Anne but I do not know the source, I read it on here once that’s all, as he neared the end of his life especially as he lay on his death bed he must have pondered over the things he had done, and had he any decency he would have realised that he had murdured an innocent woman and five men, the facts surely must have screamed themselves at him, only Smeaton confessed to adultery with Anne, and he knew Cromwell might well have exerted pressure on him to do so, the others all denied any wrong doing and never confessed not even on the scaffold when they believed they would soon be judged by a higher office, Anne herself neither confessed and had sworn days before on the sacrament in front of witnesses that she was innocent of betraying the King, he knew all these facts as he knew everything that went on in his kingdom, his ‘famous conscience’ had allowed him to find an excuse for anything he wished to do, he used it to abandon his first queen quoting the text from Leviticus that stated a man should not look upon his brothers nakedness, thus condemning his marriage to be invalid and tthat they had lived in sin for all of their married life, he used his conscience again to declare his second marriage invalid as he had had relations with his wife’s sister, which made their union incestous, God was not pleased he declared to his council, he had not granted him a son like with Katherine, the answer – he had an illicit affair with Mary Boleyn, therefore God was telling him to marry another, and so it went on with his fourth wife, the reason he wished to discard her was because he found her repulsive, yet Cromwell digged and found a pre contract that had existed between Anne of Cleve’s and another, but out of all his wives the most heinous thing he ever did was to execute his second, he was genuinely hurt over Catherine Howard’s alleged betrayal and here we can see the stark difference between the very real grief he displayed at her death compared to the demise of his second.

  2. After Henry’s death in 1547 Katherine Parr married Thomas Seymour not quite six months later garnering criticism that she didn’t mourn for a fitting amount of time. Henry gets betrothed 1 day after and married 11 days after the execution of his wife and five men he knew well. That whole tragedy seemed to have been engineered to get rid of Anne and make Henry look like a victim. The betrothel and marriage to Jane so soon shows such arrogance on the part of Henry that he can’t imagine anyone will figure out what really happened. Well, we did and people started questioning what happened almost immediately because of stupid moves like this. He was certainly one of the coldest men I’ve ever read about.

  3. King Henry V111 was the only King in history to become engaged the day after the execution of his previous wife and queen, and this action shows his lack of decency and feelings, and consideration for the bereaved families of those that suffered, but he was king and no one shall gainsay him! His wife who was no wife at all since he had an affair with her sister, had betrayed him she was a harlot who had deceived him and her death was well deserved, that is what he wished to proclaim to the world and he was justified in taking to wife her lady in waiting a lady of virtue and honour, so he and Jane was betrothed that day the 20th May 1536, Anne Boleyn was lying headless in her grave her body decomposing, while Jane who had served her in life gave her hand to the King her one time husband and pledged her honour to his, theirs was to be a short engagement, the shortest in history for ten days later they were married, Henry kept their engagement a secret but rumours ran rife through the city and a derisory ballard was circulating, the words of which sadly are lost to us, but we can imagine its content, Henry was irked and wrote to his sweetheart not to worry for when the fellow’s caught he will suffer for it, as Eric Ives wrote, ‘there is some satisfaction. that he never was’, Jane was not I think a fool, she must have known there was gossip and not very savoury to her and the King, it did not look good for a husband no matter if he were a King or blacksmith, to become engaged to another whilst he had just buried his previous wife, especially when that wife had just died in suspicious circumstances, because Anne was tried before a jury of her peers the proceedings against her looked like she had a fair trial, as every historian has commented on since, but it was not a fair trial and likewise her alleged lovers did not have one either, Europe must have been shocked when news broke of the Kings engagement and to her quiet little lady in waiting as well, plain Jane Seymour, Jane was the daughter of Sir John Seymour of Wulf Hall, the King and possibly Anne as well had visited his house and been entertained there, they could have hunted and whilst there Henrys gaze could have alighted on Sir John’s eldest daughter, what was the attraction he had for this demure young woman whom Chapyus described as being so pale one would call her whitish and not possessing much beauty ? Her father had not found her a husband and she had spent her time in servitude to both Anne and Henrys first queen Katherine of Aragon, she had great sympathy for his eldest daughter Mary and was of the Catholic religion, Henrys courtship of his wives has been the object of fascination for historians and lovers of Tudor history for centuries, how was their initial meeting what did he say to her, was there a bit of flirting going on like with the irrepressible Anne Boleyn, one cannot picture Jane flirting with Henry V111 amd speaking so boldly to him the way Anne had, whearas Anne would have curtseyed mockingly and looked at him under those dark lashed eyes of hers, she would have rendered him speechless with her merry repartee and witty remarks, she would have astounded him with her clever talk on theology and one can see him staring at her as she sat alone on a window seat, singing a mournful love song, crowds of admirers standing around also watching and listening, no Jane was completely the opposite Henrys attraction for Anne was I believe at the first a deep sexual attraction, an attraction that he hoped she would soon satisfy but unlucky for him, Anne did not and the longing he held for her turned into an obsession a very deep love that he was prepared to sacrifice anything for, his good name his reputation his very country, his feelings towards Jane are therefore harder to define, I doubt he ever really loved her though he mourned her sincerely when she died, his feelings appear somewhat lukewarm when compared to the violence of his love for Ann, we have to remember Annes sparkling personality had also a dark side that would berate the King and when angry she would quarrel with him and nag him, Henry was not used to such behaviour from women, Katherine had acted like the princess she was, born into a powerful ruling family she knew it was her duty one day to be queen and she knew how to act like one, deferential discreet uncomplaining and above all be fertile, Anne was a member of the country gentry, being Henrys mistress was something she excelled at, entertaining and there for him to fulfill a pleasant diversion, she had not the knowledge of what it meant to be queen and when married to the King, continued to act as if she was mistress still, in command demanding and still continued to nag him, had Anne been able to adapt to the role of queenship more I feel she would not have fallen so dramatically, she began to weary him and her bouts of ill temper made him seek out much quieter company, hence Jane here was a lady who never argue with him, who would treat him with the respect he as King deserved, we can see the attraction lay more in her calm pleasant nature, I think Henry came to respect Jane and hold her in high esteem and of course, after she had returned his purse of coins he came to respect her more, whether that was contrived to capture him we do not know, it could be that Jane with her high moral standards without any interference from her brothers believed she was doing the right thing, people in the 16th century believed everything happened for a purpose God or the devil guided their footsteps, why should the King persue Anne Boleyn, answer to that very lady it must have seemed that God was at work here, she was destined to be the mother of a new Tudor dynasty, the King had no son, therefore Anne would be the one to give him that, a new king who would rule England and have sons himself, no doubt she saw herself as being the ancestor of England’s ruling class that would continue for generations, God had given her a purpose, it must have been what she believed in her heart, in her book of hours she wrote on one of the time worn pages ‘ I Anne Boleyn’, it sounds like a statement like she is saying she is coming, her time will soon be here, thus it could have been with Jane, to the King Anne had failed she had no special vocation, she had not given him a son, therefore Jane in her heart must have felt it was her turn to give England her prince, God was not pleased with the reformist teachings he had not wanted the split from the Catholic Church, Jane being Catholic would do all her best to bring Catholiscm back to England again, she could also help the unfortunate Lady Mary, all she had to do would give the King a son and as we know, God heard her and the following year she would be delivered of a fair prince, but it was to cost her her life.

  4. This is Henry Viii all the way through, doing everything his own way. Henry wants to be married or not as he will and does what looks good in his mind and he married again to show the world he was right. He misjudged the mood in the capital where people mumbled about this and the reaction to Anne’s death which was partly in her favour. He had a barge party which was witnessed and reported on by Chapuys to the Emperor which of course made Henry look bad. He went to celebrate with Jane Seymour and then they became betrothed. Jane would eventually become accepted and even loved but at this moment she didn’t look too much in favour. Anne was dead less than 24 hours and Henry has moved on she if she never existed. He married Katherine Howard on the same day as he had Thomas Cromwell in 1540 and he made certain they were as far away as possible, only announcing their wedding to a surprised Court some ten days later. It’s like that scene in Carry On Henry when he has one wife in the chapel waiting as he disposed of the current one. This of course was no comedy, it was tragic and cruel, but it was to become vintage Henry.

    1. Yes I like that film it’s quite funny, he’s about to get married whilst his other queen walks up the steps to the scaffold, and the priest is about to say ‘repeat after me these words’ and Henry ( Sid James) says, ‘i do she does come on love’ , and leads her by the arm out of the chapel, it’s is a comedy the carry on films were never meant to be taken seriously but, it is very near the truth, Sid James blasé approach to his marriages resembles Henry V111’s eagerness and wanton disregard for common decency, not only for his dead queens family but yes as you mention the mood of the people, it’s as if he just did not take it that seriously, he had actually beheaded one wife, a wife who he had moved heaven and earth to be with and now was acting as if you say, she had never existed it’s so dreadful so bizzare that this Kings behaviour seems to border on the psychopath, those people who can strangle their old auntie for their money, then blithely go into a cafe and order a huge breakfast as if they haven’t done anything wrong, Henry V111’s behaviour whilst he was not a physcopath appears to be detached from reality, as if queens are executed every day by their husbands and get engaged barely twenty four hours after, what’s the fuss he seems to be saying – bizzare !

      1. The much younger Henry was definitely concerned about how the people felt, like all young rulers he wanted to be popular and to be loved and adored, which he was for many years with Katherine of Aragon at his side. However, he lost all of that and now he thinks the public are on his side but Henry has really misjudged the mood in the capital. I agree Henry had cut himself off from reality and believed that because of his new legislation he controlled the population and that nobody would dare to speak, think or act against his wishes. Henry honestly believed he could do what he wanted now and his people would just approve. The number of complaints that Cromwell dealt with shows that people were still willing to speak their mind regardless of legislation making words treason. That doesn’t mean every complaint was correct and he let a fair number of people off with a warning or a fine or dismissed the complaint against them as nothing more than idle gossip or mere errors. But his actions of the last two weeks had baffled just about everyone outside of his immediate circle and Henry didn’t want to know anything other than positive news on the progress of the investigation and trial. Henry cut himself off from reality, acting like a bachelor, dining as if he hadn’t been married and as if Anne had died long ago. Now he celebrated her death and pretended his Council had begged him to remarry, which for him was for the first time, under the law. Henry was almost out of touch with reality as well as public feeling and his people were not stupid. They saw one Queen executed before 1000 people, one day and heard he was going to marry for a third time, the next day. Now some mumbled and criticised the King. Henry put on a spectacular show regardless of the feeling of the people, the loved ones of those he had executed and especially regardless of the mourning of Anne’s family. Henry was much changed from the young and handsome King whom everyone wanted to be around and was a ray of sunshine for the lives of those he touched and now he appeared not to care about anyone but himself and his will was done regardless. He does seem to have lost all sense of common decency and cared little about his reputation. For a King who had once practically lapped up public adoration and played to them, Henry now appeared to no longer care about any of that and his relationship with his people deteriorated.

        Could you imagine the reaction of people working on the banks of the Thames watching the mystery barge sailing past with music and looking magnificent and bearing the royal arms heading towards Greenwich and a celebration going on on board? The King was most likely in the covered part of the boat and out of sight as most important barges were covered but it was obvious this barge was taking him to his lady love. At the very least the King was acting inappropriately by celebrating a day after Anne’s death, rather than withdrawing and at least pretending to mourn and being more discreet. Considering Henry had moved Jane out of the way to protect her honour, you would think he would have refrained from dragging her into the public domain just yet and risk her reputation just one day after Anne’s execution. He may as well have announced their relationship in neon lights the way he now began to celebrate and act like a fool. To more than a few people, I reckon, it was now crystal clear as to the real story behind Anne’s execution.

        1. Henry really didn’t think about his behavior. The faux trial was designed to show that Anne was a terrible person but then by doing what he did it negated the whole thing. With the damage he did to his own cause executing Anne by herself without a trial could have accomplished the same thing. That would have damaged his reputation yes but he did that to himself anyway.

        2. Yes of course it was, the trial and death of his queen looked more and more like a set up job, I believe in that moment the people’s respect for their king began to diminish bluff King Hal was no more, gone was the carefree golden prince of yesteryear but an increasingly fat king who had treated both his wives appallingly, the second having been judicially murdered and now surprise surprise he was about to wed his third and in such haste to, hasty marriages make for suspicious minds, was the kings new love pregnant the people could have wondered, but as Michael puts it he just did not care what people thought, he cared not for the pope when he went ahead and married Anne Boleyn, he was now supreme ruler in his kingdom and anyone who said otherwise was guilty of high treason, the death of Anne seemed to make him more paranoid and more short tempered, he probably had nightmares about her as those with a guilty conscience would, though of course he would tell himself it was merely the shock due to her betrayal that gave him those, he was in love again and soon he was to be a bridegroom, but the news of Anne’s treatment reverberated around Europe and although he found it easy to move on so quickly he could not stop the mutterings…

  5. Oh dear, are you, like me, in mourning? As a fan of GoT, I’ve just witnessed the brilliant ending of this long running television epic drama; a fantasy world, with fantasy characters, played by very real human beings, and now they all gone, gone forever, and I miss it already. I’ll wake up to another normal day and worse still, Anne Boleyn has just been executed again. Sigh.
    The author of, “A Song Of Ice And Fire”, George Raymond Richard Martin, has told us he gained inspiration for his utterly mesmerising magnum opus in English history and English writers of mythical fantasy (based on European folklore), like Tolkein’s “Lord Of The Rings”. Oh how I wish, at this moment in time that I had one tiny spark in me of his genius in the telling of stories for if I did I just know I’d outdo Phillipa Gregory and her blockbuster genre and would create a story that would actually be worth reading — A Song Of ……………………..but what??

    1. Oh, Globerose, wow, my gal Dany didn’t get her throne! I am in full black mourning for the greatest show ever on television and now what am I going to do on a Sunday night?
      I turned on just as John aka Aegon Targarean kisses and killed our Daenerys Targarean and was in total shock even though it has been coming. I record it but normally do watch the 2 a.m and 9p.m but watched it tonight and having seen the whole episode now and heard what Tyrian was saying about Bran and his journey and the new way forward to elect the future King or Queen on merit, I was actually quite satisfied because John can’t be King because it just wanted him, Dany turned into the Mad Queen and every one else was not worthy. Sansa wanted the northern crown, Elizabeth I style, long red hair, the Starks rule everything and now Bran has the power. Yes, I really wanted the throne to go to John but I like the way the power is actually with the little people, the family who have suffered the most, that was beautiful. My favourite character, Sir Davos made it to the end. But I am definitely now in mourning for the end of our best programme ever. And at last Jamie had his deeds recorded. Oh well, now for the ultimate box set.

  6. I also meant to say after… Anne was a terrible person and Henry a poor victim of her evil ways

  7. The comment about Henry’s grief on his deathbed came from a Franciscan monk named Andre’ Thevet who was born around 1516 in his La Cosmographie Universelle published in 1575 page 657. He states that he was told by “several English gentlemen'” of Henry’s grief over what happened to Anne and Elizabeth and he knew that Anne died in good standing with God.

    I got this from Sandra Vasoli ‘Anne Boleyn’s Letter from The Tower’ pp 50-55.

  8. I just finished listening to The most recent episode of Natalie Grueninger’s podcast Talking Tudors and her guest was Emma Levitt speaking on Henry VIII and Jousting. Emma mentioned that Henry Norris was able to participate into his late 50’s and perhaps Henry’s jealousy at not being able to himself may have contributed to Norris being one of the defendants in the plot against Anne. Any thoughts? Henry was a very petty man so I could certainly believe it if true.

    1. I’m not sure Michael, we have to remember Henry was surrounded by men most more able bodied than himself, jealousy would have perhaps made him a bit narky with him, but we have to remember it was Annes remark to him about dead men’s shoes that made Cromwell select him, it had nothing to do with the King, that ill fated comment by Anne made Norris an easy target, on the May Day joust Henry lent him his horse so there was no animosity there, I think he had come to hear about the conversation Anne had with his old friend but knowing his wife was a flirt he would have been more angry with her than Norris, and we have to remember that Norris was aghast at Annes remark and replied he’d rather his head was off, this would have satisfied the King I feel that it was not Norris coming onto his wife but Anne coming onto Norris, at least it looks that way, but it was just the queen being reckless, this I think was the subject of their argument Ales witnessed earlier, Cromwell chose all these men for a purpose, Brereton because he wanted him removed as he was being a nuisance to him in Wales, I doubt if the King had anything against either of these men that died, most were favourites, Weston and Norris to, he had known since young and George was his brother in law, Smeaton was the poor bait who was used to bring Anne down, Henry was hoping he could get Norris off and offered him a pardon, but only if Norris confessed to adultery with Anne, of course Norris denied it, that Henry V111 threw his faithful retainer to the wolves is something I can never understand, unless he actually believed there was something going on between him and his wife, maybe once he had interpreted a look between them as desire, maybe he fancied she chatted to him more often than the others in her circle who knows, but the fact he was willing to pardon Norris shows how much he thought of him, sadly it was not enough to save his life.

  9. Thank you Michael yes I’m much better, I was pretty rough over the weekend but it went very quickly, I done myself some home made chicken broth which I enjoyed because I couldn’t really eat much else, this cold has been all around the neighbourhood it’s pretty nasty.

    1. There’s a weird cough going around my neck of the woods that doesn’t seem to be related to allergies or a cold. It lasts for months and there are no other symptoms. Who knows.

  10. I doubt very much that Henry struck out merely out of jealousy, that side of him does not appear to be a flaw in his character, otherwise a few more jousting buddies would have been for the chop. There isn’t even any evidence to support the often claimed idea that Henry didn’t like to lose and everyone let him win. The evidence is actually to the contrary, when a team didn’t do well enough against him he put better more skilled warriors in under Suffolk, who was an even more skilful warrior than the King. Sure Henry was extremely combative but he was also very skilful, well trained and did his best at anything. Jousting was an extremely dangerous sport and wasn’t one you could let your opponent win at. You put yourself at risk if you did. Of course he wanted to win, but so did the best opponents and that is why he ended up on his backside a couple of times, with a lance splintered inside his helmet and how Francis Bryan lost an eye. Henry has also been called a sore loser but we only have one incident and that was when King Francis tripped him during a wrestling match. There isn’t much evidence of bitterness in combat anywhere. He could push to win but he paid his gambling debts as well, so obviously he lost at cards as well. I am quite certain occasionally people didn’t do their best, but honestly we really have very little evidence of jealousy when it came to tournaments.

    What we do have is a deduction that in January 1536 after his horrible fall, and whether or not he was out for two hours, Henry did take a hard fall, his horse fell on him and we know his injuries were worse than first believed because his doctors noted that he was in bed for a time and opened up an old wound in his leg and his ulcers were opened up. He suffered with his leg for the rest of his life. From this we can deduce that his inability to take part or his decision to not joust again was due to a realisation of his own mortality. In other words, Henry had a scare and the succession was not yet settled. Anne’s miscarriage added to that realization of his mortality. He didn’t joust again although he still rode and hunted for some years afterwards and he was a man with a big ego. Henry couldn’t accept that he was not the handsome man of his youth. Even now in 1536 he wasn’t too bad and it was a few more years before he really put the weight on and had the health problems which would kill him before his time. However, not being able to joust and not being able to burn off fat and restricted mobility and pain began to get to him soon afterwards. His mood swings are noted soon afterwards and whatever happened in January 1536 it contributed heavily to his actions that Spring and in the years to come. Add to this a number of years of a pretty rough annulment and increased power, which corrupted him, a determination to end opposition and you have our ruthless Henry who would allow himself to believe anything bad of someone if their enemies were determined to bring them down or would do anything to achieve what he needed most. In this case Henry wanted to be rid of his wife for the sake of the realm and the new wife and hopefully have a son with her. There is speculation that his realisation of his mortality had something to do with his actions in 1536. Yes, no doubt seeing Norris and others still jousting didn’t do his ego any good, only reminded him of what he had lost and his lack of heirs, but Norris was on good terms right up to the moment news came in that Smeaton had confessed. The men Cromwell targeted were chosen for personal or political reasons on his part, one was named by accident by Anne herself and most were believable as potential lovers and conspirators. Anne has to sleep with someone to be an adulterous and they had to be accessible to her, well in theory at least, someone had to be sacrificed, Anne intimated herself with Norris and that was Cromwell’s cue to pounce. I really don’t see jealousy on the King’s part as a motive in these proceedings to get rid of Anne and some of his closest companions.

    I too think that from time to time Henry showed he had a conscience and I have read the reference related in Sarah Vasoli Book and there we do have a tantalising mention that suggests Henry might have regretted his decisions to execute Anne, but she does also say that she needs to do more research as the original source has not been tracked down and that there isn’t a record from those who were present at his death bed during his final month. I suspect that one of the reasons Henry took himself out of the situation with a physical distance and even his odd behaviour suggests that he was not as emotionally cold as he appeared during this whole tragic affair.

      1. Your welcome, Michael, yes, it’s an interesting question isn’t it and an interesting debate, trying to work out the mind of Henry Viii: an army of psychologists could study him for years and in the end probably give up. The distance of time and the silence of what was going on, makes it very frustrating.

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