On this day in 1536, Henry VIII married his third wife, Jane Seymour, in the Queen’s Closet at York Place. This marriage took place just 11 days after the execution of Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, and was kept secret for a few days. Henry even went as far to ask his council to request that he should remarry in the best interests of the country, to provide England with an heir, yet he was actually already married to Jane! His council, who were already “in the know”, heard the King’s request and his praise of a certain Jane Seymour and responded by saying “let your majesty do as you desire. We all consider her a worthy maiden, and we hope in God that your union will be fruitful and happy.”1

Mixed Feelings

While I don’t see Jane Seymour as a meek, demure woman who just happened to catch the King’s attention, I also do not see her as a woman without any feelings. I can imagine Jane’s inner turmoil as she married a King who had treated one wife, and his daughter, with atrocious cruelty and who had entertained Jane while his second wife was executed.

Henry VIII was also past his prime by now and was far from the “virtuous prince” who inherited the throne in 1509. He was overweight, was suffering with a nasty leg injury, and had become quite a tyrant. In her book “Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s True Love”, Elizabeth Norton writes of how Henry VIII was, at this time, close to “the tyrant described by Marillac, the French ambassador, in 1540”2 and that Marillac described Henry as having three vices: covetousness, distrust and fear, and inconstancy. He was not exactly perfect husband material and that surely must have worried Jane. It is no wonder that Jane presented herself as the meek, subserviant wife and queen and that she chose “Bound to Obey and Serve” as her motto, it was about painting herself as the complete opposite of Anne Boleyn and it was also about her survival. A clever woman methinks!

A Legend

When I was at Hampton Court Palace recently I heard the legend that although Jane Seymour is buried in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, her heart is actually buried under the altar in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace. Interesting!


  1. Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s True Love by Elizabeth Norton, page 81
  2. Ibid., pages 77-78

Further Reading

You can read more about Jane Seymour in my article “Jane Seymour” and I would also highly recommend Elizabeth Norton’s book Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s True Love. I will leave you with a video on Jane.

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14 thoughts on “30th May 1536 – Henry VIII Marries Jane Seymour”
  1. I don’t think we can say with any certainty whether Jane Seymore was “meek and mild” or “sly and calculating”. There simply is not the written record to back either description. There is even less written about her than about Anne Boleyn. If we apply the same standards to Jane that we hold for Anne, we should bristle at either dogmatic expression of Jane’s character.
    What we do know is that she supplanted Anne’s affections in Henry’s heart and for that we automatically dislike her because we are members of an Anne Boleyn fan club! However, it cheapens our affection for Anne and weakens our defense of her when we snipe at Jane. Anne was all that Jane was not and for that we love her. But Jane was all that Anne was not and for that Henry was drawn to her.
    We know from her existing portraits that she was fair to the point of pale. That she tended toward plumpness. That she favored a more traditional English style of dress. She reminds me of the American First Ladies of the 20th century, appropriately conservative, appropriately feminine, slightly dowdy (sorry to be unkind, but more Mamie Eisenhower than Jackie Kennedy).
    That being said, it would take a willfully blind person to miss that she was the total opposite of Anne. More interesting, there is a definite resemblance to Katherine of Aragon and even back to Elizabeth of York in her fair English-ness. Henry is tired of being pushed and pulled between Spain and France at this point…good old English meat and pudding for him now. No more sparkling repartee, no more being pushed to realize the limits of his kingship; now just to enjoy his expanded kingship with a womanly woman, a motherly, matronly woman who would not get his ire up.
    I think it is unfair to accuse Jane of being cowardly or spineless simply because she obeyed her husband’s demand to be quiet regarding the Pilgrimage of Grace. The fact that she spoke up at all shows commitment and a modicum of self-assurance. The fact that she obeyed the man who was her husband and her king merely shows that she was a product of her times. Women who did not submit to the will of their husbands could be beaten or locked away indefinitely. Henry, being a king with an increasingly dangerous track record had even more frightening options than did most husbands. At the very least she simply knew when to shut up and lay low. No more, no less.
    Also to her credit, she did bring about the reconciliation of Henry to Princess Mary. If a woman knows her man at all she knows how to ask for favors that are a “sure thing”. I think she was shrewd enough to realize that Henry must still love his daughter, and that to ask for her return to the family circle would enable Henry to give her a favour that he could himself enjoy. Henry had an almost child-like love of presents and gifts and he wanted Mary to come back but needed someone to help him save face, considering all the years of bad blood between them. In speaking up for Mary, Jane increases her image of motherly kindness in his eyes and makes him feel magnanimous at the same time. A win-win situation all the way round.
    We do know that she had reached the age of 28-ish and was still unmarried. This could be due to the fact that her philandering father and social-climbing brothers were too preoccupied to arrange a proper marriage for her. It could indicate that she was indeed so plain and self-effacing that there had thus far been no takers for her hand. Perhaps she was so damaged from the loss of her mother and her father’s scandalous behavior, that she just wanted to be left alone.
    Whatever the reason I feel quite sure, given Jane’s tenure at court as maid to both Katherine and Anne she did not expect to be noticed at this point. After all she had been under Henry’s nose for the better part of ten years and he had not paid her any attention. He had flirted with and courted other ladies-in-waiting, overlooking her for so long, that I am sure she was surprised when he began to pay court to her. To single her out for his attention. To bestow smiles and gifts.
    A woman, so plain that she was still unspoken for after so long at court, would naturally be flustered and bewildered when the King, who was arguably the best catch around, noticed her. Now, what she did with that attention is what determines her character. And we simply do not know. It is unfair to either elevate her to saint or impugn her as sinner when she was trying to do what everyone at Henry’s court was trying to do. Survive.

  2. I can’t imagine any woman wanting to marry a fat overbearing tyrant LOL! If I were Jane, I would have drunk a lot of wine just to get in bed with him. And on top of that, his leg stinks! I feel sorry for all the women who had to marry him after Anne.

  3. This may sound strange coming from an Anne Boleyn fan, but I have come to respect and admire Jane. By observing Katherine and Anne, she learned what NOT to do to survive. She used her plain English looks to her advantage, and she used her matronly skills to solve conflicts in the royal family.

  4. It seems that most Anne Boleyn fans over-look one very obvious point; that Jane was doing just what Anne had done.
    We may try to dislike Jane for her actions, but pushing out an old mistress is just what Anne did to Catherine of Aragon. I am sure that Anne had more to do with her situation in becoming queen, partly because of her out-spoken nature, than Jane; and dosen’t this put Jane as the better person? Personally I find Anne much more interesting than Jane, but this dosen’t make her any better than her predessessor. In summery, both were doing things for personal gain, and I wouldn’t put one above the other.

  5. Well, at least Anne didn’t step to the throne through Katherine’s blood, the way Jane did through Anne’s. That said, however, I don’t think that Jane had much choice in the matter. Henry was the one controlling Anne’s ultimate fate, not Jane. And as we know so little of Jane’s inner thoughts and feelings, it seems unfair to try to judge her. As a result, I tend to give her the benefit of the doubt.

  6. Ok that video really did Jane a disservice. “Then she did something really clever…she died.” Seriously? That’s the biggest achievement she can find? I’m sorry but in my book, “survival” shouldn’t be ranked among the highest virtues, even in the reign of Henry VIII.

  7. Nothing could ever make me like Jane Seymour – I agree with Matterhorn about how she stepped over Annes body and behaved like nothing was wrong. To me she is vile.

  8. I love that image and agree with you both. She was willing to let a living , breathing woman of high intelligence go to her death so she could be queen (how much choice she had, is, of course, disputable). I know Anne stepped over Katherine of Aragon, but she wasn’t dead, and Henry had inquired as early as 1517 about divorcing her, long before Anne appeared.

  9. Jane Seymour isn’t vile. All she was doing was looking out for her own interests. Who knows what Henry would’ve done if she had refused him-he was planning to practically murder his second wife! Jane is my favorite of Henry’s wives because she was as deceptive as Anne. She acted meek and mild but she was probably trying to do whatever she could to elevate herself and her family.

  10. Jane’s potition as henry’s favourite wife is based on circumstances and the fact that she died just days after giving henry his longed for son, imagine if it had been a daughter or if jane had lived and was unable to provide more children and Edward had died at an younger age. Henry could easily have tired of jane in the same way that he had two earlier wives. However I do believe that Jane was an intelligent woman who knew exactly what she was doing and that she at first hand as a lady in waiting would have seen how Anne annoyed Henry so she knew how not to behave and her brothers and others who would benefit from her rise to the throne would have been advising her to be meek and mild but once her son was born healthy her potition would have been more secure and no doubt she would have gained more confidence.

  11. Was Jane intellgent or just sly? There is a difference. Plus her brothers were probably the ones telling her what to say and do…Anne was free-thinking and intelligent, she wrote her own script. And calling Anne deceptive is going a bit far, if anything it was her outspokeness that often got her into trouble. Sorry but the one had a personality so fascinating that it still shines on nearly 500 years later…the other, by all appearances, had the personality of a paperclip….just no competition!!

  12. Was Jane intellgent or just sly? There is a big difference. Plus her brothers were probably the ones telling her what to say and do…Anne was free-thinking and intelligent, she wrote her own script. And calling Anne deceptive is going a bit far, if anything it was her outspokeness that often got her into trouble. Sorry but the one had a personality so fascinating that it still shines on nearly 500 years later…the other, by all appearances, had the personality of a paperclip….just no competition!!

    1. I agree with you but think of it this way- Jane deserves some pity because out of all Henry’s wives, she has to lay next to him for eternity.

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