24 October 1537 – The death of Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII
Posted By Claire on October 24, 2016
On this day in history, 24th October 1537, just twelve days after providing Henry VIII with his longed-for son and heir, Queen Jane Seymour died at Hampton Court Palace.
Jane had taken to her chamber on 16th September 1537 and went into labour on 9th or 10th October. Contemporary sources suggest that her labour lasted around thirty hours and she finally gave birth to a baby boy, the future Edward VI, at 2am on 12th October 1537. Contrary to myth, her labour did not end with a c-section and she was not sacrificed for her baby – click here to read more on the background to that myth. Jane was well enough to receive visitors to her chambers following her son’s christening on 15th October but it appears that she fell ill shortly after that. It is thought that she died of puerperal (childbed) fever, a postpartum infection.
You can read the primary source accounts of Jane’s illness and death in my article The Death of Queen Jane Seymour.
Jane Seymour was laid to rest in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, on 13th November 1537 with her step-daughter, the Lady Mary, acting as chief mourner. Henry VIII’s remains were added to the vault on 16th February 1547, following his death on 28th January 1547. Visitors to the chapel today can see the memorial slab set into the floor marking their resting place. According to legend, her heart was buried in the Chapel Royal of Hampton Court Palace.
You can read more about Jane Seymour in the following articles:
- Did Jane Seymour have a C-section?
- Jane Seymour – Guest Post by Lauren Johnson
- Jane Seymour: The Meek and Mild One?
- Jane Seymour: Redefining the Myth
Tudor Society members can enjoy a video talk on Jane Seymour by historian and author Gareth Russell – click here.
7 thoughts on “24 October 1537 – The death of Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII”
God bless you sweet Queen Jane, and your husband and son. May you reign in the kingdom of heaven!
I always felt sorry for Jane, dying so soon after her son was born, and all the pressure to bear a son. She did not even get to enjoy her triumph, having done what far more attractive and gifted women hadn’t.
RIP with your husband and precious son Queen Jane. You helped to restore a nation, heal a family and save a dynasty (no matter how short lived it was).
Immortalised forever in history as a “sweet lady”, a “most beloved” wife and a matriarch of one of England’s most infamous family is definitely a good legacy to leave behind. RIP gentle lady xxx
It’s sad that she died but had she lived I feel Henry would have got fed up with her, he was besotted with Anne partly I feel because she wasn’t meek and spoke her mind and he grew tired of her demanding behaviour, yet Jane whilst being the exact opposite I doubt would have held his interest for very long either, had she lived I don’t think he would have divorced her as she had given him a son yet I feel he would have soon got bored with her and been unfaithful, after all it was what Kings done had mistresses, so although Jane had triumphed where her tragic predecessors had failed, I doubt she would have been successful in stopping him from straying, but then she wouldn’t have been so foolish to complain either, unlike Anne.
Henry may have gotten fed up with Jane Seymour but I don’t believe that he would have ever annulled or divorced her. As the mother of his son Jane was safe, no matter what, plus Henry was passed his sell by date in that he was passed his best. It is highly unlikely that he would have had as many mistresses as before. If Jane Seymour had one healthy child and lived, she could have more children. Once Henry had a couple of heirs, like other Kings there would be no reason why they could live a more formal life, in public with duty rather than pleasure. Numerous royal couples did their duty, made appearances together, but lived almost seperate lives. I don’t believe Henry found Jane boring or plain, but conventional. Yet she also shared a lot in common with him, so there is no reason that he would not honour her forever as the mother of his son. Anne Boleyn may have driven Henry round the bend with passion and anger, but had a son arrived, she would have been safe. I don’t believe that Cromwell could stitch her up if her son went to full term. Katherine of Aragon would never have been replaced by Anne Boleyn if her sons had lived. In fact Henry would not have been interested in Anne, he only had a relationship when Katherine was pregnant, with a couple of exceptions. Henry was looking for a mistress, until he was given the green light on condition of his hand in marriage, then he saw Anne as a possible wife. However, Anne Boleyn was not interested in being his mistress, so with Katherine as the mother of sons, he would have never bothered with Anne Boleyn or a divorce. Henry got fed up with Anne Boleyn for a few reasons. He saw the repeat of a pattern of tragedy which had haunted his marriage to Katherine, he was attracted to Jane Seymour, Anne Boleyn had lost his son, the diplomatic relations with the Emperor was in danger, Anne Boleyn had challenged his authority and questioned his domestic policy, she interfered with the diplomatic relations with other parties, she was argumentative, passionate and failed to revert from mistress to wife as expected, Henry believed that his marriage was cursed and others took advantage of that by setting Anne up with false charges. In spite of all this Anne Boleyn would have been safe had Elizabeth been a boy or her other son lived. Henry would have been married to her for years. He would have had the odd mistress and their relationship may not have been perfect, but a son would have given Anne security, just as it would have for Jane Seymour and Katherine. After all that was Henrys greatest desire and need. Henry Viii would not have married six times had he been blessed with sons in his early marriage. What would be the point?
I personally don’t think Henry “got fed up/bored” of any of his wives per se. Perhaps this phrase can be attributed to Anne at a pinch, but whenever this phrase is brought up, I think it’s insulting to all the parties concerned. Henry wasn’t a bratty child getting fed up with his toys, and the women don’t deserve to be demoted to his playthings.
Henry definitely had a great respect and love for Catherine of Aragon, and only left her because she failed in her queenly duties of providing the kingdom with a male heir. Yes, he was now infatuated and passionately in love with Anne, but I think he respected Catherine as his wife of twenty odd years and mother of his children, I think he wanted their marriage to end well and keep a cordial relationship with her, but she fought back and challenged him, and that was unacceptable to him so he tried to humiliate and degrade her into submission. If Catherine had provided him with a living son, he would never have divorced her. He may have had mistresses, but that was the norm back then, in fact it was almost expected of King’s to show off their prowess and virility. If Catherine had a son, Anne would have been nothing more than his mistress, and she would have known it was impossible to supplant Catherine as Queen, unless she happened to die.
If Anne had a son, she would have been his long term wife until one of them passed away. But Henry would have still kept having mistresses, just as he did when she was pregnant and like he did with his relationship with Catherine. Again, it wasn’t anything personal, it’s just what wealthy men and Kings did back then. Anne’s demise came about because she frequently challenged the King and made too many enemies at court. She was arrogant and believed herself to be Henry’s equal (and who can blame her, Henry built her up to think like that) when in fact he wanted an obedient wife who rarely challenged him (like Catherine). Her enemies took advantage of Henry’s disgust of this and brought her down. Again, I wouldn’t say that’s getting fed up with her, more like starting to hate her and everything she stood for (especially after some key political decisions she may have helped influence).
Jane learnt from Anne’s mistakes, and she tested the boundaries of their relationship. She knew how far she could push things but, unlike Anne, she knew when to stop. It was quite sensible of her really, considering Anne’s awful fate. Jane had the male heir that Henry craved, so there was absolutely no way that Henry would have ever got rid of her. He had waited too long and gone through too much to push aside the mother of his only legitimate boy. She would have always had his respect and love because of this one act alone, even if it wasn’t a romantic or passionate love. He probably would have had mistresses, but as I’ve mentioned above, that was the done thing at the time, and Jane would have had the good sense to have accepted it and busied herself with her queenly duties.
I don’t understand where the notion that Jane was boring has come from either. Yes, she was more conventional than the other wives and she wasn’t raised in an exotic foreign court like Anne and Catherine, but she would still have been required to have courtly skills to actually come to court. She would have been able to dance and play games, and she probably hunted too (she was a country girl after all). Courtiers’ whole purpose was to serve and entertain their monarchs, and I’m sure Anne would have got rid of her when she was still a nobody if she thought she was too unsophisticated and unskilled, after all she was only the daughter of a lowly knight and there were loads of other girls hoping to get into the royal inner circle. Whilst Henry may have liked that Anne was originally a passionate, outspoken and tempestuous woman, he definitely learnt his lesson and knew not to go for her type again. None of the women he was involved with afterwards shared her personality of traits, it was too much for him to handle.
Henry never truly loved or liked Anne of Cleves, so he never had the opportunity to get fed up with her. In the end, she did win him over and befriended him, and they had a cordial relationship.
He was crazy in love with Katherine Howard, and refused to believe she had committed adultery when it was first presented to him (something that separated her case from that of Anne Boleyn’s) because he couldn’t believe his beloved could do something so horrific to him. When he realised she had actually betrayed him and had lied about her history, he turned murderous. Again, he didn’t get fed up with her, an incident happened and changed his perception of her. If he never found out about her affair, he would have stayed married to her, but I’m not sure if he could have kept up with her fast living and youthful lifestyle. I think he would have stayed faithful to her just because he was getting old and not the virile young stud he once was, hence why she never got pregnant.
And he never grew bored of Catherine Parr either. There relationship may not have been as physical or as passionate as the other 4 (obviously you can’t count AOC) but he was definitely fond of her and cared for her. He had the opportunity to turn on her (again after she did something pretty inflammatory by saying something heretical) but once she backed down and appeased him, he spared her. There was definitely a strong respect and love for her there, even if it wasn’t as romantic as the previous ones.
So yeah, I don’t think he ever really got fed up with any of his wives. There were genuine circumstances (no matter how shaky the grounds were) for him to depose of his wives, and I don’t think he would have ever really got bored off Jane in the way people say he would have. Mistresses were the norm back then and Jane would have known that. It was only really Anne who ever spoke out about the other women, and this is one of the things that irritated Henry. This, alongside her general tempestuousness, plus her lack of son, made her vulnerable and when her enemies found an opportunity to bring her down, they grabbed it with both hands. Anne’s downfall was more political than personal, although bad relations with Henry did stack the odds against her.
Rant over 🙂