24 October 1537 – The death of Queen Jane Seymour at Hampton Court Palace

On this day in history, 24th October 1537, Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour, died at Hampton Court Palace.

The couple had only been married since 30th May 1536 and Jane had died twelve days after giving the king the gift of a healthy baby boy, the future King Edward VI.

I talk about Jane’s final days, her death and the arrangements for her burial in today’s “on this day in Tudor history” video.

If you prefer reading to videos, then you can find out all the details in an article I wrote back in 2014 – click here – and if you prefer audio, you can listen to my podcast here.

If you like to get a daily Tudor fix, then please do subscribe to the Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society YouTube Channel or my podcast as I do daily “on this day” talks.

And here is my 60-second history video on Jane Seymour:

You can read an article on Jane’s labour and death by midwife Dayna Goodchild in the June 2018 edition of Tudor Life Magazine, the Tudor Society’s monthly magazine, at https://www.tudorsociety.com/june-2018-tudor-life-taster/. The Tudor Society offers a 14-day free trial which lets you explore the whole site, including all the magazine and expert talk archives going back to 2014 – see www.tudorsociety.com/

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9 thoughts on “24 October 1537 – The death of Queen Jane Seymour at Hampton Court Palace”
  1. I generally love this site – how you bring these fascinating lives to light. There’s something inherently Shakespearian about it all.

  2. I have read Danyas article I enjoyed it very much, and yes I do believe had Jane lived today she would have survived, her baby would probably have been induced as the labour was going on too long, that’s interesting about putting oneself in a different position to help the baby turn itself around, the midwives Jane had must have known about that and yet Janes word in the birthing chamber was law, therefore they could only advise her, I feel royal midwives did not know much more than the village midwife or those that lived in the city, I’m sure if she suspected her baby was in difficulty many a farmers wife would have squatted herself on the floor so the baby might be able to position itself better, for a queen however that would have been most undignified, Danya mentioned mothers to be taking light exercise that is true today and strictly no alcohol or smoking either, partaken of quite heavily these two sins are said to contribute to the baby not developing properly in the womb and could also cause cot death, of course water was undrinkable so rich and poor both drunk but children still grew up quite strong and healthy, Jane was perfectly healthy and she was weakened considerably but there was another real danger too – septicaemia, even today people have been known to die from it as it’s fatal if not caught early, wounds not healed properly by careless medics have been known to cause data lies in young as well as old, called the forerunner of death it has also caused tragic deaths in young healthy women using tampons, in Janes bedchamber the grim reaper with his scythe was lurking nearby, after two nights there was still no baby and Henry in despair sent his physicians in, it is said their rough handling caused her demise, but she probably did have some of the after birth still in her as she became very ill and delirium set in, she would not have known what was happening to her as the septicaemia set in and she collapsed into a coma, we can hope she died peacefully as her long ordeal had been dreadful and it is a credit to Mother Nature that women are made to endure the ordeal of childbirth, however as this article mentions and we all know, nature does go wrong and mothers to be today can rest safely in the knowledge that expert help is at hand should the need arise, checks up blood tests etc make sure expectant mothers are monitored throughout, in the world before and Tudor times they invoked the blessed mother and the saints for help and guidance, Jane was treated with the due reverence of her status and she had the last rites administered, one can see the gloomy dimly lit bedchamber with the weeping women and the priest muttering, the smell of incense in the air, the crucifixes and the prayers softly spoken, it was a place of misery, Henry V111
    was not present at his dying wife’s bedside yet he knew she would not last long, I’m not sure but did kings visit their wives on their deathbed or queens visit the kings? When Henry’s mother died of the same condition Henry V11 was distraught but I believe he was not present, on Henry’s death Catherine Parr was spared the ordeal, maybe it was not expected and entirely up to the dying monarch whom they saw, Jane had no choice as she slipped into a coma and whilst her widowed husband grieved, London also lit candles and prayed for her whom had made their king so happy, and who after many years had given them a prince, Jane did what her successors and predecessors had failed to do, she gave her king a prince but it cost her her life, as the custom of the day she had her heart buried in a casket which resides in the chapel of Hampton Court, according to the ghost stories of Hampton Court, every year on the anniversary of her death she is seen in a long white gown holding a lighted taper, as she glides along the passageways before disappearing into thin air, her funeral was magnificent with the Lady Mary her eldest stepdaughter taking precedence, Mary had found in Jane a good friend and mentor and she must have wept for her loss to, Henry V111 was devastated and amongst all his wives, Jane alone has been described as a dear gentle and kind soul, she lies with him under the stone worn chapel of St. George’s Windsor, the favourite residence of Her Majesty the Queen, it is a beautiful idyllic place and nearby lies the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Windsor especially Frogmore is like a storybook with a meandering lake and swans amidst green fields and flowers and trees, the turrets of Windsor Castle can be seen in the distance, and there is the magnificent memorial to Prince Albert Queen Victoria’s beloved consort, I do recommend a visit to anyone on here if they havnt already been, as it is very very beautiful.

  3. Poor Jane, she was apparently well soon after the birth of Edward and at the time of the baptism, but a few days before she died, she had a fever and a loosening of the bowels as they believed but it was probably the after birth passing. Now she was worse and it is almost certainly that she had sepsis. She had developed toxic infections and had developed a fever. By evening the Queen was delirious and practically unconscious. She was very sick the night before and her life was ebbing away.. Henry was called to her bedside and took his sad farewell of the lady who had given him the joy of a living son. Jane could not speak. It was a very sad farewell. Henry was absolutely devastated. He withdrew from public and would see no-one but fool for several weeks. There are several theories about what caused Jane’s death, but she may have been the victim of her own status. It wasn’t considered seemly to touch the Queen in any kind of intimacy and it was from lack of medical intervention that she suffered, the doctors being in the chambers for the first time and the midvives had bowed to their authority after the birth. A lack of understanding and intervention on the part of those more senior midwives had resulted in a massive infection and the after birth being stuck. Added to this none hygienic practices during the birth itself and afterwards and Jane died possibly from toxic shock and septicemia. Poor Jane had given her life to give Henry Viii a son and heir and she was fondly remembered and honoured for her sacrifice.

    Queen Jane Seymour rest in peace with your son and may perpetual light shine upon you. Amen

  4. As Henry V111 gazed on the beloved face of his queen did he perhaps see the face of his second queen, the one he had sent to her death barely two years before? Did he when he looked at the calm fair face of her whom he was to call his true queen did another face materialise in front of his eyes, a dark fey face with witching eyes accompanied by a throat laugh and a sneer about the mouth, I am being fanciful I know but I wonder if there were many to actually feel sympathy towards Henry V111, knowing how he had treated his previous two wives, he was fast having a reputation abroad and in his own country by now had become known as a bit of a tyrant, I have said before I feel sorry for Jane and little Edward, but none for this King who actually had his second queen and five innocent men, one of whom he had known for many years and whom he should have known he could trust, judicially murdured, it is his daughter Mary who I sympathise more with, for experiencing some happiness due to her stepmother who had tried hard to reconcile her husband and daughter, who had loved her as a real daughter maybe and had showered her with affection she had probably not experienced except from her own mother, Mary maybe would have known Jane had tried to have her reinstated in the succession, and she would have loved her for that, with Mary back at court she had enjoyed the company of her father again and they had been a nice happy little family, now she had lost someone close to her again, and her father had shut himself with, in The Tudors it showed the King looking down at the still cold corpse of his queen and promising her they would be buried together, maybe that’s what happened it’s a nice thought, but as I said I am being bit fanciful, on losing Jane so tragically I have often hoped that sometimes as the years went on Henry V111 did spare many moments of regret for his dreadful behaviour towards his first queen, who had been so noble and dignified and who had truly loved him, and for Anne Boleyn too who although he grew to hate her, did not deserve to have her innocent blood slaughtered on the alter of hypocrisy just because of her failure to give her king a son.

  5. Wow, that’s a really powerful post, Christine, thanks, very much for the beautiful insight to how Henry may have thought and what images he may have seen in his grief and guilt.

    It is very possible that from time to time the image of Anne appeared to him, a memory triggered by something, a stimulus for remembering his life with her. It was, after all, with Anne Henry thought he would have the son of promise and for whom he had moved Heaven and Earth during seven years of passion. Fanciful though it sounds it is very possible to see the face of one beloved superimposed upon the face of another, especially in grief. Henry often gets written off as unfeeling but that is not possible. Henry’s letters to Anne reveal a man of extremely deep emotions, even violent and passionate emotions. That doesn’t mean he was emotionally stable or mature. He may well have had dependency issues. He also had a huge ego and a very violent temper as he grew older. If he was capable of one emotion, like most humans, Henry was capable of all of them. In his darkest moments did Anne’s execution haunt him? Of course, we can’t ever answer that, but it was possible. What did go through his mind during those dark, silent moments, alone as he mourned Jane? Quite frankly, I shudder to think. Perhaps he thought he was going mad, felt abandoned, depression, fear, guilt, maybe he saw his life laid bear, we really have no idea: a lot of tears and self pity most definitely.

    Mary was the one who would miss Jane the most as it was Jane’s attempts to reconcile Mary to her father which had allowed the late Queen to reach out to her. Her attempts failed because Henry, stubborn as a mule, took Tudor parental authority to extremes and demanded his disobedient daughter submit to him in the legal matter of her parents marriage and his title as Supreme Head of England, before he would allow Jane to arrange for him to visit Mary and then bring her back to Court. However, in the short period that Mary knew her stepmother, they appear to have had a good relationship, becoming friends and sharing family feelings. Mary was the chief mourner at Jane’s funeral and really did have genuine affection for her. She had no love for Anne, so anything Jane could do for her clearly endeared her to the Princess.

    1. I would not condone how Anne treated Mary, but Jane did not restore Mary to the succession. That was not until Katharine Parr.

  6. Thank you Bq, I think Henry V111 did towards the end of his life show remorse for executing Anne, maybe it was the presence of his daughter Elizabeth that made him feel guilty perhaps, as Elizabeth grew up into a rather spirited young girl Henry must have seen Anne quite a lot in her, facially she did resemble her mother and she had her penetrating dark eyes, I think he was also prone to self pity, after Catherine Howard’s death he said why was he cursed with unsuitable wives, but he did act like a lovesick schoolboy where both Anne and Catherine were concerned, where Catherine was concerned he really had no need to marry her as he had his son and heir, why then rush into marriage with this headstrong teenager ? It is something which has mystified historians, he could have kept her as his mistress, after time he would have got bored with her endless prattling and she would no doubt have been married off to some noble courtier worthy of her status as kings mistress, and a member of the Howard family to, she would have lived out her natural lifespan, maybe had children, but no Henry V111 once seeing her was enslaved he had to marry her, maybe he compared her to the gauche Anne of Cleves and found her wanting, he should have thought about the huge differences in their ages and wether they had much in common, Catherine was dazzled by the Kings affection for her but I doubt she loved him as a man, divested of his glittering garments in the bedchamber he must have appeared to her as the ageing sick man he really was, with a bad leg grossly overweight and she could not have but compared him to the much younger handsome men at court, that was her tragedy, Henry V111 loved the idea of marriage I think, having been married for so long to his first wife he was used to having a woman sit beside him at banquets, go on tour with him etc, and if the need arose become regent, maybe he thought a kings role was strengthened by having a queen consort, in his first queen she held the country for him when he was in France, and protected her at Flodden, with his sixth queen she also was regent for him when he again travelled to France, maybe he was not thinking so much of himself but of little Edward and Elizabeth they needed a mother for guidance, yet it was their nurses who cared for them and only saw their parents when they went to court certain times throughout the year, Christmas important state occasions Easter etc, he most likely expected Jane Seymour to live for many years and her death caused much shock and dismay, he was in no mood to marry again and it was Cromwell who began pressing him into marriage with the German alliance as he wanted support from the Low Countries, that turned out to be a disaster for them both, for the King was repulsed by his choice of bride and it cost Henrys chief minister his life, after that fiasco of trying to end the marriage before it had begin he met little Catherine Howard, then after her execution he wanted to marry again, Henry V111 really was an unusual monarch twice he married for love and it was really the ruin of him, for Anne Boleyn she lost her life and Catherine Howard to, with Catherine Parr he was attracted to and asked her to marry him, he acted like no other monarch in Europe or English history, only Katherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves were important alliances designed to further Englands interests, yet with his other three wives he married them because he was attracted to them, it was not really the way for a King to behave but Henry V111 was very much a man of his own mind.

    1. Yes, the marriage to Kathryn Howard was a very strange event, but having spent some time looking at Russian rulers and their strange marriage decisions, Ivan the Terrible married four women for short periods of time, just for the sake of it because of the devastation of losing his first wife and mother of his children. He went completely nuts and his terror followed. Henry had extreme reactions to the loss of wives and his choices went downhill after Jane died because he thought he was still Prince Charming. Kathryn Howard was an attractive teenager, meant no doubt as a distraction, possibly to prove his manhood, which was failing in his attempts to consummate his marriage to Anne of Cleves, at particularly convenient political moments. She became his mistress and he was behaving as Henry often did, as a schoolboy stricken by the dart of love. Perhaps Kathryn made him feel young again and when he married her he couldn’t stop dancing with her and fondling her. It’s not as if he was a monarch from the high middle ages who needed the daughter or sister of a powerful noble in marriage in order to keep their alliance. Not that Kathryn was either of those. Her father was the tenth brother of the Duke of Norfolk and that made Kathryn a minor Howard heiress. But a Howard she was, she was promoted as such and she was in the right place at the right time and a Howard bride was still expected to raise the family in favour of the crown, regardless of which brother was her father. I don’t want to sound crude, but I believe Kathryn was an antidote to Henry’s disastrous relationship with Anne of Cleves. However, she was an antidote he found very attractive, possibly hoped to have more children with, although that wasn’t strictly necessary, because one son wasn’t enough. Remember Henry was a second son. He still needed a back up just in case and a young wife was more likely to give him one than an older one. Younger women were often married off to older nobility who needed more children, to father a son or two, they were of course young and attractive and no doubt sexy and Kathryn was no exception. Henry became besotted and her supporters no doubt promoted her cause and he obviously found her suitable to show off as his new Queen.

      As with most young noble women, Kathryn was raised to make a suitable match with other landed gentry and run a grand household. Despite the more colourful aspects of her slightly wild upbringing, she received the appropriate instructions in how to behave and skills needed to be a good mistress and wife. Kathryn had a,potential in music, she could clearly dance and she learned everything about a grand estate from the bottom up and top down. She must have had an education which included Court protocol because she was chosen twice to serve one of Henry’s Queens. Kathryn was originally selected to serve Jane Seymour but she died before her appointment. In 1539 she was selected among others from the household of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk to serve the incoming German Queen and her level of education would have made her suitable for royal service. Of course Henry would not be interested in her at that point, but he became attracted to her soon after her presentation at a dinner held by Bishop Stephen Gardiner. There are a lot of questions about Henry’s relationship with Kathryn Howard, she certainly is a mystery to many historians, but it comes down to that other human mystery, sexual attraction. A relationship which began as a series of midnight visits across the water at her home somehow turned into an unlikely marriage with the King. Henry kept his marriage quiet for ten days, before presenting Kathryn as his wife at a banquet before the entire Court. She was the star of the show, she enchanted everyone with her charm and dancing and for several months he was taken with her. His energy eventually waned and he became depressed and his leg plagued him. Kathryn was left alone and didn’t know what was going on. She was left to entertain herself and probably did. Henry’s temperamental swings played out during this odd period, being fateful for one man, Thomas Cromwell; who had been the mastermind behind the alliance with Cleves, profitable at the time it happened but not so a few months later, although Henry regretted the execution of his most able minister and blamed his poor Council for making him do it.

  7. I think Catherine made Henry feel young again and yes she made a very attractive alternative to Anne of Cleves, it is a mystery why Henry was so repelled by Anne, because her portrait by Holbein is not unattractive and he had heard good reports of her by others, he declared ‘I can see nothing in her what men have reported’, he then bewailed the fact that he could trust no one, we can assume Holbein made her look much more attractive than she really was, when one sees people in the flesh it can be a shock, unless you are very photogenic then the camera can show all your faults, in the days before the camera paintings were all they had to go on, and paintings do not show the true person, they are static lifeless, Holbein was a master draughtsman and he drew exactly the emotions caught on his sitters faces, but a painting is totally different from the real model, in her portrait Anne of Cleves appears to be simpering as if she knows her image is but a mask, when Henry first met her at that ill fated masquerade he had planned he was shocked, Henry preferred petite women blonde or dark or a red head did not seem to bother him, but he liked women comely enough with fine figures, and also he was used to cultured sophisticated women, women who could dance gracefully who could sing and play music, It is said of Anne that she was not educated in court etiquette and knew not how to dance or take part in witty conversation, she was dressed in a fashion alien and unbecoming to England, her dress was too wide with a bone farthingale underneath and she wore an ugly bulky headdress, she could speak no English and since Henry could speak no German they must have spoken in sign language, no doubt she had an interpreter but Henry was disenchanted, he declared he wanted a way out of this cursed marriage and yet Cromwell hoped he would grow to like her, Henry started acting like a petulant child yet we can understand his disappointment as he was expecting a lady so different from poor Anne, it was not her fault and yet Henry complained to anyone who would listen that she smelt and then after the wedding night, he said she had flabby breasts, and from that he meant she was not that innocent, since Henry had rolls and rolls of fat on him it was a bit like pot kettle, he wallowed in misery and then one evening his eyes alighted on pretty little Catherine Howard, he could not but compare her to his German bride and became excited again and imagined himself in love, the attraction he felt for her made it all the more imperative he got rid of Anne, he was like a kid in a sweetshop, he tried the liquorice whirls but found he did not like the taste, so he would opt for the lemon sherberts instead, poor Anne was treated disgracefully, the sight of Henry possibly did not inspire much lust in her but she was too well mannered to let it show, in the end they parted amicably, and his next choice of bride was disastrous.

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