Henry VIII and Jane SeymourOn Tuesday 30th May 1536, King Henry VIII married Jane Seymour, daughter of Sir John Seymour, soldier and courtier, and of Margery Wentworth, in the Queen’s Closet at York Place (Whitehall).

Henry and Jane had become betrothed on 20th May, the day after the execution of Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, and chronicler Charles Wriothesley actually dates their marriage to the 20th:

“Also the 20th daie of Maie d the King was maried secreetlie at Chelsey, in Middlesex, to one Jane Seymor, daughter to Sir John Seymor, knight, in the countie of Wilshire, late departed from this lief, which Jane was first a way ting gentlewoman to Queene Katherin, and after to Anne Bolleine, late Queene, also; and she was brought to White Hall, by Westminster, the 30th daie of Maie, and their sett in the Queene’s seate under the canapie of estate royall.”1

However, John Husee wrote to Lord Lisle on 31st May informing him that “The King was married yesterday in the Queen’s closet at York Place or Manor”.2 Edward Hall just writes that the couple married “the weke before Whitsontyde”.3

David Starkey believes that Henry VIII didn’t marry Jane immediately after their betrothal on the 20th “because the precipitance of his union ‘sounded ill in the ears of the people'” and that Jane had probably been kept in seclusion at Chelsea after their betrothal.4 Eustace Chapuys had reported on the day of Anne Boleyn’s execution:

“Although everybody rejoices at the execution of the putain, there are some who murmur at the mode of procedure against her and the others, and people speak variously of the King; and it will not pacify the world when it is known what has passed and is passing between him and Mrs. Jane Semel. Already it sounds ill in the ears of the people, that the King, having received such ignominy, has shown himself more glad than ever since the arrest of the putain […]”5

It was now time for Jane to take her place at Henry VIII’s side as his queen consort. Sir John Russell wrote to Lord Lisle:

“On Friday last [2nd June] the Queen sat abroad as Queen, and was served by her own servants, who were sworn that same day. The King came in his great boat to Greenwich that day with his privy chamber, and the Queen and the ladies in the great barge.”6

And Charles Wriothesley wrote of how, on the 4th June, Whitsunday, “the said Jane Seymor was proclaymed Queene at Greenewych, and went in procession, after the King, with a great traine of ladies followinge after her, and also ofred at masse as Queen, and began her howsehold that daie, dyning in her chamber of presence under the cloath of estate.”7

Also on this day in history…

  • 1533 – On the night of 30th/31st May 1533 eighteen men were created Knights of the Bath at the Tower of London as part of Anne Boleyn’s coronation celebrations. Click here to read more.

Notes and Sources

  1. Wriothesley, Charles, A chronicle of England during the reigns of the Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559 Volume 1, p. 43.
  2. Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume X. 1000.
  3. Hall, Edward, Hall’s Chronicle, p. 819.
  4. Starkey, David (2003) Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII, p. 591.
  5. LP X. 908.
  6. Ibid., 1047.
  7. Wriothesley, p. 44.

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15 thoughts on “30 May 1536 – A Royal Wedding”
  1. I don’t believe that Jane did anything wrong in marrying Henry, but his marriage to her so soon after Anne’s death was even by the standards of the day too quickly done, so many remarked that he was hasty. However, from Henry’s point of view, he was not a widow of Anne, he was never married to her correctly in the first place. Anne was too closely related to another woman he had been in a sexual relationship with, her own sister Mary. Thus in Henry’s mind he was never legally married in the first place. There are of course practical reasons for not delaying, although a few weeks would have been better; Henry was concerned about his age, his ability to have children, and he wanted to move on as quickly as possible in order to make a fresh start. He of course said the council had begged him to venture into wedlock again and he saw no reason to wait.

    Jane had been prepared and preparing for the wedding for a few weeks, being told to ready herself for the marriage before Anne had been executed, evidence that her fate was sealed in advance. I really don’t think she gave much thought to the events in London, but we have no information if she thought about the woman she had replaced in any other terms than to avoid her mistakes. Jane had watched and observed Katherine and Anne both whom she had served, she was raised as a traditional Tudor wife should be, but she was astute and learned that the best way to handle Henry was to be all he expected in a wife, while cleverly pleading the cause of others, helping Princess Mary and learning to remain silent if she had to. Jane has been dismissed as plain and stupid, but she was anything but either. She was clever enough to obey and to submit, while still moving Henry to listen. When she failed, she was astute enough to accept and leave well alone. This was something Anne could never do, but Anne was not a typical woman of the time.

    Anyway, Jane and Henry were married and good luck to them, the marriage may have been in haste but others soon expressed new hope from the new queen, a new start had been made.

  2. which would have been better:for Henry: to show himself in public to be wounded by the apparent smears against his manhood by his wife etc, or to have dignity and show himself not to care about the traitor and her accomplices. One can read it either way; he was a brute who murdered his wife and took an unattractive one for sexual sport, or a King whose wife made a fool of him and ran down his manhood so he better prove himself a King and a man and get a baby going asap and Jane was handy and loyal..

    One of my favorite lines form Hilary Mantel’s second novel was Cromwell’s comment about Henry’s opinion of Jane: “He thinks she’s stupid. He finds it restful”. LOL.

    1. There is no evidence that Henry thought or treated Jane Seymour as if she was stupid. She was idealistic in wanting Mary and the Catholic Church revived, that is not stupid. Yes he may have been dismissive of her, but, only because he did not want her to influence or interfere with his policies as Anne had tried to do. Henry wanted a wife as his mother had been and a bit like Katherine of Aragorn, he valued brains but he needed domestic bliss and a son. He also wanted to march forward with his reforms and religious political agenda, he wanted Mary Tudor to accept his will, and he needed to be in command again. Jane did as was her role plead for Mary, but she had to learn that once Henry made up his mind, she had a duty to obey. Jane was not stupid, she was typical of the type of wife you could expect in Tudor England. She was not dull, she was not unattractive, her portrait is realistic and shows she was pretty, she had the perfect English rose looks, she was educated to the same standard as any woman from the gentle classes, she was considered a good catch and had been engaged before, she was the type of person who was a peacemaker, she was compassionate, intelligent, her adaptability to the training in how to catch and beguile Henry shows she is astute and learned from Anne, that she learned how to stop being political, but wprked quietly in helping Henry’s daughters, shows she is clever and a quick learner, that she took a great risk to plead for the pilgrims shows courage and a queenly role, her letters to Cranmer and reports by Chapyus on meeting her shows she understood the difficulty of balancing her own beliefs with accommodation in others, but most of all Henry was content with her and she appears to have been content as Queen. We don’t know as much about Jane as we would like, but these things we do know or can gage from her actions. The information and evidence is there and I recommend the article by Claire on this site that looks at the stereotypical images of the wives and evidence that proves them to be myths. I also recommend that you stop quoting from fiction to give a false picture of Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour and start reading educational and balanced studies in order to start giving the facts.

  3. I always felt that Jane Seymour was smarter than she gets credit for. I often wonder what went through her mind when she realized Henry was interested in her. Did she feel vindicated by his interest? Here she is a plain woman who no one took any notice of and was most probably going to end up a spinster and then the King of all people starts courting her and asks her to marry him? How could she say no to that? I agree that she looked to Anne Boleyn as a model of what not to do. I also think that she wanted to use her position as queen to help people but at the same time she was afraid of Henry. She is just as fascinating as Anne. As to the timing, I don’t think Jane had any say in the matter.

    1. Lisa, we know so little about Jane that it would seem that people project things onto her that say more about themselves. I think Jane may have sincerely thought Anne was not Henry’s wife as the Pope had not agreed to a undo the dispensation for Henry’s marriage to Katherine (so I alway find it hilarious that the some people refer to Henry having a dispensation to marry Anne when he actually never was considered divorced by the Pope. It was a paper game) and therefore she was not displacing a wife, she was displacing a mistress. No one took Anne’s side or fought for her honor, so why would Jane have done so? It is entirely possible that Jane wanted to do her duty to help her King have a male heir. In the brief time she was Queen, there are no references to her being anything other than kind.

      But I agree, we have no way of knowing whether she was smart or dumb.

      1. I do not think that people project things unto Jane Seymour. Instead projection is made unto Katherine (a middle-aged woman whose husbands abandons her for a younger woman) and Anne (a woman who robbed a husband or an independent and courageous woman).

        Instead, Jane Seymour is criticized mostly for that she was regarded a “good” woman whereas Anne is considered a “bad” one.

        Of course Jane could have believed that Henry was not married to Anne. But also Anne could have convinced by Henry that he was not married to Katherine.

        But if Henry began to court Jane in the fall 1535 when he visited Wolf Hall, Katherine was alive and he was, if the Jane shared the Catholic view, a married man. On the other hand, Anne became pregnant after that visit, so Henry could not have any other aim than to have Jane as a new mistress.

        If Jane had indeed earlier accepted Henry’s gifts and sat on his lap and it was only after Katherine died and Anne had a miscarriage in January 1536 that Jane upped her prize by refusing to be Henry’s mistress, then Jane seems not to have been virtuous but calculating (or rather following orders of his brother and others).

        On the other hand, Anne refused to become Henry’s mistress. What we think about her is essentially dependent how we interpret their relationship: was it she who demanded “marriage or nothing” or was he stalking her and she was unable to say to the king “get away”.

        In any case, Katherine was no longer capable to bear children and had not had sexual relationship with Henry for years. And she was not killed even if she refused to go.

        On the other hand, Anne had shown that a queen could be set aside and a lady-in-waiting could be a queen. So it was no wonder that Jane followed her example and methods.

        1. This is true about Anne as most historians think it was she who demanded marriage but did she, or was it Henry who offered it to her because she wouldn’t be his mistress? It’s something we will never know but she has been condemned by Katherine’s supporters for taking Henry from her, but Anne was the one being pursued here not Henry, and you can’t run for ever from the King Of England, Anne simply turned his lust for her to her and her family’s advantage, that of being Queen, she believed it was her destiny to do so, as for Jane she was a different kettle of fish altogether, we have no idea of her true feelings but I think after the King showed interest in her to she also believed it was her chosen path to be Queen and give Henry a son, Jane also turned the situation to her own advantage and she was not young anymore not by Tudor standards she was plain and had no suitors so she must have thought here was her chance and she took it, whether or not the image of Anne’s rotting corpse reared it’s head at her wedding feast is another matter altogether.

        2. Actually I see many people project things on to Jane Seymour and I am surprised you do not. it is so obvious! She is either retiring and shy and gentle or she is a devious back-stabber. Since we know so little it is terribly amusing.

          Love the comment re Katherine starting with “middle-aged” though. 🙂 Yes, her age was definitely the most important thing to start with…not her intellect or her dignity nor her strength, all of which are documented so the need to project is so limited 😉

    2. I think that she was actually a nice woman ,and a brave one ! To marry Henry thte VIII who was callous to say the least with all that stood in his way …..men or women,is to my mind an act of bravery .

  4. Although this was a quiet ceremony, it was done correctly and not in secret as a number of people have written about it. The queens closset was a room or small chaple were private ceremonies or business was done, with a few invited guests, the inner sanctum, the King had one as well were he could shut himself away to read papers or conduct private business or hold a private ceremony. Janes public acclaim came a few days later
    Congratulations on this occasion.

    1. I think also that the right word to describe the ceremony was private, not actually secret as Jane was proclaimed Queen quite soon after it.

      Only Anne and Henry really married in secret for obvious reasons as he was still officially married to Katherine.

      It seems that even in general, Henry did not like big and public weddings. None of his weddings were such, unlike the wedding of Katherine and Arthur.

      I wonder what was the reason as Henry otherwise seems to enjoyed feasting in public? Was he nervous before the wedding night? Or did he not like to being put to the bed in public?

  5. Do we have any historical evidence as to whether or not Henry ever had or showed signs of remorse or regret over the beheading of Anne? we can clearly see that he didn’t at the time of her death as it was a foregone conclusion that she would die and then he married right away, but did he EVER have a change of heart?

    1. On his death bed maybe remorse touched him a little, I like to think that Annes ghost plagued him on his wedding night with Jane Seymour, he may have succeeded in getting rid of her, but he also lost a lot of respect from his own people to, from a fair minded cheerful Prince to an obese old tyrant, the hastiness of the arrests trials and executions from early may right through to marrying his third wife just eleven days later all proclaim Henrys guilt and Anne’s innocence and that of the men’s, he couldn’t wait a year which would have been acceptable, no he had to prance along to church and wed another barely two weeks later, he was sinking his teeth into some wedding cake again whilst six people were decomposing in their graves, I wouldn’t congratulate that ghoul.

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