No matter how many times I read and write about it, Henry VIII’s behaviour in 1536 always disgusts me. Obviously, the whole fall of Anne Boleyn and those five courtiers is terrible, a real miscarriage of justice, but then it’s made worse by Henry VIII moving on with his life with unseemly haste.

The very same day that Anne Boleyn was executed, Archbishop Cranmer issued a dispensation for Henry VIII to marry Jane Seymour due to her being Anne Boleyn’s second cousin. Then, on this day in history, 20th May 1536, the day after Anne’s execution, Henry VIII got betrothed to Jane.

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9 thoughts on “20 May 1536 – Henry VIII moves on”
  1. It’s just awful. It didn’t take him long did it? I know there was a certain period he had to marry by or wait, because of the Rogation Days in May following Ascension Day. That would mean a short delay and I am certain it wouldn’t have done him any harm to wait. Henry’s impatience here is very cold but it’s not surprising given his total disregard for Anne. Jenry, I believe moved on, on 2nd May, the date of Anne’s arrest. I know that sounds shocking but let’s not pretend he was particularly upset by the events of the last few weeks. He was out on the town partying part of the way through the first week. Henry was acting as if he were a bachelor again and Anne was already dead or at least as if they had never been married. I am shocked every time I think of this event, getting engaged so soon and in unseemly haste but not surprised by it. Henry couldn’t wait for Anne’s trial and execution to be over. If he felt anything, he certainly didn’t show it. There is no reports of him openly weeping before his Council because his beloved Anne has broken his heart with her betrayal. No, instead she was abandoned and forgotten about.

    The people were also amazed and shocked. Anne wasn’t the most popular person around but at her trial some people did have sympathy for her. The locals were reading and producing tude pamphlets mocking Jane Seymour and the King and murmured about this haste. No period of mourning was allowed and no respect for his late wife. I suppose that was normal given the circumstances but surely getting engaged so soon was something strange even when your partner had been executed. There’s another thing, Anne was the first lady of high birth and Queen to be executed in England. It was a rare thing anyway. The French just put them in jail and let them starve to death. Eleanor Cobham was locked up for life and so on. The wife of Louis of Bavaria was executed for adultery after he went off to war. Although there was no evidence that Maria had done anything wrong, she and two ladies in waiting were beheaded. Maria and Louis had been married for two years and didn’t have any children. Louis went round the bend and did public penance for his crime. He went on a pilgrimage and dedicated a monastery in her memory. Henry merely moved on to wife no three.

    Henry had already told Jane to prepare herself for marriage and if the bans and physical arrangements were not required, as well as a dispensation from Cranmer, he may well have run off to the Chapel that very day. This was a totally heartless thing to do, but Henry didn’t have any problems with this haste. He wanted it all over and done with and no doubt to get on with the business of making a son with Jane. I doubt he was totally oblivious, his reputation was being jangled about in the streets and alehouses, but whether he cared or not is a different matter.

  2. Looking back over this great distance in time, it appears to us almost like a black comedy the way Henry V111 conducted his marital affairs, but the way he dispatched his second queen and within twenty four hours got engaged to his third, must have left a bitter taste in the mouth of those who lived at the time, there was Chapyus the eyes and ears of the emperor Charles whom has left us during his duration at court, a wonderful supply of information regarding the king, his first queen and the fall and rise of his second, and then his engagement to and subsequent marriage to her lady in waiting Jane Seymour, he informed his master there were many at court who had heard rumours surrounding the kings latest love, and it sounds ill in the ears of the people, as well it might, Anne Boleyn’s fall had been with startling speed and many questioned it, was it not strange the king had a new love and now he was engaged? And so soon after the queens death! People are not stupid and Henry V111 had acted in a highly suspicious manner, if he were not king but the man on the street he might well have been arrested on suspicion of murder if his wife had suddenly vanished and had promptly become engaged so soon after, but Henry V111 was master in his realm and no one dared say a thing, but rumours were circulating and had been when the queen was first arrested, he had been courting Jane for some time now and had given her a bag of gold coins which she had returned, he had given her a beautiful locket with his image in, how narcissistic it seems to us, And Anne in anger had seen it and ripped it from her neck, she had been staying at Chelsea in one of the kings charming residences whilst Anne’s trial whilst being prepared and she was sentenced to die, for decency’s sake we suppose, and on the morning of the queens death Henry had informed Jane that that day she would be found guilty, it makes one wonder why he ever had a trial in the first place, of course he had to, Anne was a crowned and anointed queen and justice had to be seen to be done, even though the whole shameful episode was completely without justice, and in fact it was merely a mockery of the law, how Jane felt we do not know, she was not vocal on the subject of her former mistress so we have no insight into her mind, but a decent woman would find it sickening and repulsive that her lover would inform her his wife was to be condemned that day, and it makes one wonder if he had told her with glee no doubt, that they would be engaged the following day, Jane I believe must have had a certain amount of trepidation, she had to step into Anne’s shoes, she had to face everyone at court, those men and women who had served Anne were now to be in service to her, life had to go on and Henry V111 had no problem with that, and he must have thought that Jane did not either, he was cheerful he had got rid of the old harridan and could now start afresh with his new sweetheart, they would have a grand wedding and he could forget the nightmare of the last three years, soon she would give him a son he was sure of it, it makes one wonder what went on in this kings mind that he could blithely announce his engagement to a new woman whilst his queens body was still decomposing in her freshly dug grave, five people were dead they had lost their lives in a brutal fashion, and it was not just them who had suffered it was their families, to whose suffering had only just begun, Claire rightly says these people had parents wives some had children, Henry V111 with one stroke of the sword had effectively made his daughter motherless, had he not ever thought about the consequences it might do to her, he himself had felt the loss of his beloved mother deeply when she had died, when he was nine years old, one would have thought he would not wish to leave Elizabeth without a mother who was only a toddler, this selfish monarch was narrow minded cruel and pitiless, Chapyus himself who had hated Anne, had thought her a wicked woman and his use of the phrase putain is really misplaced, she was no prostitute, his favourite name for her had been the concubine, he was disgusted at the kings behaviour, Henry V111 must have been joyfully going about the court eating drinking laughing and joking, as if nothing had happened, he did not care for convention for common decency for the feelings of other, he had been Sir Thomas Boleyn’s son in law, yet he had killed both his son and daughter, he was like a ghoulish monarch, parading a new queen before them whilst the ghost of his former wife looks out from the shadows, it must have seemed to the company that blood dripped from his hands, within two weeks he was to be married again, he was probably already being fitted for his wedding suit, as for Jane she must have known that being married to King Henry V111 was rather like living in the shadow of the executioner.

  3. Chapuys also told us that the men had not been found guilty based on any witnesses or anything more than gossip and guesswork. He found it very difficult to believe that Anne was guilty of the charges against her, even though he was her enemy. He wasn’t very complimentary towards Jane Seymour, whom he hadn’t yet met and reported gossip that she was possibly not a virgin as she was from Henry’s Court, which in his opinion was not very moral, and his description of her was of a pale, if fair lady and the one compliment he made was that she would support Princess Mary. Yet, a few weeks later when Chapuys met her he was to change his mind. Here he dubbed her peacemaker. He believed now she was shrewd and his description is much more flattering. Jane, by now was much better known and she had already championed Mary’s cause, something which Chapuys would be pleased about.

    The whirlwind of shock and the news of Anne’s death sent Europe and the rest of the Kingdom spinning. This was an anointed Queen, just as Katharine of Aragon had been, a woman transformed by mysterious powers and blessed by God, anointed with holy oils and her body was therefore sacred. To push the point home that Anne was his true Queen, she was crowned with two crowns, the Queens crown and the Sovereign crown of St Edward, the King’s crown. Only Sovereign Queens have been crowned like this. Anne was presented as someone extra special, which made her execution even more horrifying and shocking. The International response may not have been condemnation as such, but a number of those who wrote about Anne’s death expressed horror and some outrage and belief in her innocence was also expressed. Mary of Hungry even stated that Henry would do the same to Jane if she too failed him. Jane knew the risk and the weight which fell on her shoulders. Henry still needed a male heir and that was all he demanded of her.

    However, amongst Henry’s courtiers there were a number who rejoiced. Nicholas Carew was extremely pleased as he had coached Jane on how to capture Henry and act around him. Not that Jane didn’t have her own agenda, she saw Henry as a lost sheep and hoped to win from him more favour towards traditional Catholic values. She also saw Mary as the key to restoring peace in the household and in his Kingdom and wanted to at least attempt a reconciliation with her father. That she underestimated Henry’s determination that Mary would first of all submit to him in all things doesn’t devalue her desire and efforts on behalf of the Princess. A more risky mission was her failed attempt to reverse the dissolution of the monasteries, something Jane didn’t let go off, negotiating to save one or two in particular in her own quarters, while she was pregnant. This was the key policy of Henry and Cromwell and one which put money in the Royal Treasury, which was well developed and both were committed to it. Anne had lost her head for too much interference and she had challenged Cromwell over the same policy and he had joined those around Jane and Mary, working to bring Anne down. Once Henry wanted her gone, Cromwell was only too pleased to provide the evidence which would lead to her permanent demise. If Jane acted the same way and didn’t provide the promised son, her life might have been in danger as well.

    John Russell, however, summed up the greatest sentiment those who hoped for a new future with a Queen more akin to peace and traditional values by stating that Jane had led Henry from hell into heaven. Some statement about the lady some historians have written off as a peaceful dormat. Jane was indeed a lot more compliant than Anne, she was more traditional, but she made a conscious choice to be submissive, but she was certainly no dormat. She was more the kind of wife Henry needed right now, one who was more contented, one who could soothe him and one who would more or less fulfil the role of a traditional Tudor wife and Queen. He certainly hoped she wouldn’t be any trouble and I think her role as intercession was one which Medieval Queens were expected to follow. However, Jane’s pet projects just happened to be the very ones Henry was going full steam ahead with. Henry wanted one thing and one thing only from her, a son and heir and he probably hoped for a quiet life. Unfortunately, his Kingdom would be plunged into darkness and revolution and political upheaval which like never before and his crown was threatened. Jane found herself drawn into the middle of the storm and it took every ounce of courage she could muster to ride it out.

    1. Yes Chapyus more or less said they had been convicted on hearsay, and many more must have thought the same there were grumblings at the way Anne had been treated, she had been a crowned and anointed queen yet was treated like a woman of no account, like the bakers wife in fact, Henry V111 in fact achieved the complete opposite in his treatment of Anne Boleyn, in stead of appearing like a vile wicked and depraved woman, who had betrayed her noble husband and had plotted to kill him, she was portrayed more as a martyr whose innocent blood had been shed because her husband wished to marry another, her execution was really one of the most shameful episodes in English history, and it just goes to show the depth of the Seymours ambition when they were only to willing to push their sister Jane into old Bluebeard’s bed! Ambition it seemed knew no bounds in the Tudor court, Jane herself must have been a bit wary of being wed to this king who had passionately loved then discarded his second queen, for any woman would think, if he could do that to her whom he had loved so much, and desired for so long, what chance will I have if he tired of me? However as the couple were toasted on their hasty engagement there were many who must have looked away in disgust, it was an extraordinary turn of events, the jovial king appeared to be dancing on his second queens grave as he stood beaming with joy, his simpering fiancée standing coyly next to him, the wraith of Anne must have been standing in the shadows cursing them both, in two weeks time England would have a new queen, and yet so much blood had been shed to make this happen, over the years Henry V111 was to shed more blood, it is a feature that really symbolises his reign more than his achievements, and yes Jane found herself in the middle of it, however she came through it but was to tread more warily in the future, she herself was only queen for about a year yet she did present the king with his most prized possession,however it did cost her her life, like his other two queens her life was affected by the kings quest for a son, yet she was honoured like no other of Henry’s queens, they both lie together in the same grave in St George’s Chapel Windsor, a large stone epithet on the ground marks their resting place, maybe it is only right Jane is honoured in this way, considering the amount of blood that was shed in order to make her marriage to the king possible?

    1. Jane was the second cousin of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard as Jane’s mother, Margery Wentworth, was the first cousin of Elizabeth Howard (Anne’s mother) and Edmund Howard (Catherine’s father).

  4. Here is how May is such an odd month in the time line of Anne Boleyn. The last few days we have been talking about the execution of Anne, Henry getting engaged to Jane Seymour and having his marriage to Anne annulled.
    Today in 1533 the Court at Dunstable raised by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer to look at the validity of the marriage of Katherine of Aragon and Henry Viii, declared that the marriage wasn’t valid and never had been. He would also confirm the validity of Henry’s new marriage to Anne, previously confirmed and presented as Queen in April. One week later, Anne would be crowned as Queen. Its madder than the Premier League on the final day when the top four hasn’t been decided.

    Katherine had also been told not to try and return to Henry and that she wasn’t Queen. That didn’t go down well and she naturally didn’t accept this decision. May in the life of our three Queens really was all go.

    1. I’m wondering if the villages up and down England, were in defiance naming the May queen Katherine, a young maiden was always selected to be queen for the day, I can just see them cheering for good Queen Katherine.

      1. Well yes because by this time the May Queen represented the Virgin Mary, as the month of May did, so maybe they turned her into a representation of Katherine, their popular and true Queen. It was very much the kind of thing people might do to keep their traditions alive and in order to show allegiance to Queen Katharine. Its a good job the original celebration of Beltane or May Day no longer existed as the Maiden was a fertility sacrifice to the gods who was either impregnated as a symbol of the life of the crops or in extreme circumstances, she was sacrificed. The fires were lit and the animals passed between them to be blessed and sanctified for the coming year. Mary of course replaced the pagan beliefs and became the symbol of everything good and true and the Maiden had that same purpose as well. I think Katherine may well have been hailed by those who drank during these festivals.

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