A river pageant for a new queen and a historic meeting

On 7th June 1536, less than three weeks after the execution of Henry VIII’s second wife, Queen Anne Boleyn, his new marriage was celebrated with a water pageant or procession along the River Thames.

This river pageant from Greenwich to Whitehall (formerly York Place) was in honour of Queen Jane Seymour, daughter of Sir John Seymour of Wulfhall. Henry had taken her as his wife on 30th May 1536.

These celebrations took the form of a water pageant, or procession, along the Thames, from Greenwich to Whitehall (York Place).

Chronicler Charles Wriothesley recorded this event:

“Also, the 7th day of June, being Wednesday in Whitsun week, the King and the Queen went from Greenwich to York Place, at Westminster, by water, his lords going in barges before him, every lord in his own barge, and the King and the Queen in a barge together, following after the lords’ barges, with his guard following him in a great barge; and as he passed by the ships in the Thames every ship shot guns, and at Radcliffe the Emperor’s ambassador stood in a tent with a banner of the Emperor’s arms set in the top of his tent and diverse banners about the same, he himself being in a rich gown of purple satin, with diverse gentlemen standing about him with gowns and coats of velvet; and when the Beach King’s [the Master of Ceremonies?] barge came by him, he sent two boats of his servants to row about the King’s barge, one of them were his trumpeters, and another with shalms and sackbuts, and so made a great reverence to the King and Queen as they came by him, and then he let shot a forty great guns, and as the King came against the Tower of London there was shot above four hundred pieces of ordinance, and all the tower walls towards the water side were set with great streamers and banners; and so the King passed through London Bridge, with his trumpets blowing before him, and shalms, sackbuts, and drummers playing also in barges going before him, which was a goodly sight to behold.”

Also on this day in history, sixteen years earlier on 7th June 1520, a historic meeting between King Henry VIII and King Francis I began. It was known as the Field of Cloth of Gold. Here is my video on it:

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20 thoughts on “A river pageant for a new queen and a historic meeting”
  1. So that most divine majesty King Henry V111 dressed all in purple the colour of royalty floated by in his gaily decked barge his new queen beside him, the mighty Tower of London dressed in streamers rippling in the breeze the other company on the river banners trumpets and music, it must have been a goodly sight as Charles Wriothesley remarked, another celebration this one for the new queen, and it took place on the 7th June 1536 barely as the article says, three weeks after the Kings second wife and queens blood flowed on Tower green, she lay buried in an old rusty arrow box in an unmarked grave whilst the King and his queen sailed up the Thames to the sound of music and watching crowds, the broken body of his ex wife was rotting under the ground of St. Peter Ad. Vincula as he passed by amid the sound of cannons and one wonders did he ever think of her at all, did he ever think of the five courtiers some of whom had been his companions for many years standing ? Norris for one, no his conscience told this King they had all been traitors and deserved to die, and he was fully justified in marrying his new queen who was of a most gentle sweet nature just three weeks later, Henry always believed what Henry wanted to, just as David Starkey noted, he told himself these celebrations were in honour of Jane as the country’s new queen and no matter if it appeared just a little bit distasteful coming so soon after Anne Boleyns death, Henry wrapped in his own little world of conscience did not concern himself with the grumblings of his people, he choose not to hear what he wished not to hear and his third venture into marriage hood was done with all the enthusiasm of a young bridegroom, Jane also as she passed the Tower sat beside him in all her regal splendour she must have looked attractive that day, the picture of her above is a much more flattering portrait than the oil painting by Holbein, her face is rounder and her nose softer not so beak like, her rosy cheeks are very becoming and she wears the inevitable gable hood, she was said to be plump but her waist is tiny maybe she just appeared that way next to Anne, who was quite likely a bit taller and said to be quite thin, a thin vicious old hack was how one critic described her, her family the Seymours must have been overjoyed at this ultimate honour the King could pay them, their little Jane was now Queen of England and great homage was done to her, it just goes to show how ambition overcome everything in the Tudor court, the cost of lives did not compare to the overwhelming need to be powerful, Anne Boleyn had died and her family had fallen with her, the Seymours were well aware that it could happen to them in the fickle dangerous court of Henry V111, yet still they celebrated when the King sought Janes hand in marriage, what if Jane failed like her predecessor ? The 16th c mind did not trouble itself with such forebodings for now the Thames was awash with celebrations, yet the streamers flowing from the Tower must have appeared stained in blood.

    1. I like to think that at some point in his later years, he did indeed have great trouble with his most troublesome conscience! I find him a most fascinating and yet horrible enigma, that he could lose his heart and soul so completely to Anne, writing her such loving letters, and then to totally destroy her in such a callous, hateful and despicable way!!
      The people that watched the river pageant will have been of divided opinion – some will have believed the worst of Anne, as many had never forgiven her for replacing Katherine of Aragon, but there would also be many who wondered exactly what kind of man their King actually was, who could fluctuate so widely in his emotions and deeds.

        1. I think a lot of people think that and a lot probably did by the time he died as well. His early years show a young man miles away from the tyrant and monster of myth from his last ten years on the throne. There certainly wasn’t any respect among many of his courtiers at the end, the ambition of the Dudley Seymour faction and even William Paulet, shows us they were watching with baited breath for King Henry to pass in order to do as they wished, toss his will to one side and seize power. They were involved in altercations in the Council Chamber a few months earlier when a discussion erupted into violence about who should decide the future of Prince Edward. Had the King been present someone would have lost a hand for striking another member of the Court as the law dictated. The man struck was Stephen Gardiner who was actually dismissed soon afterwards. All he did was object to them all bickering without the will of the King being known and Edward Seymour had a temper tantrum. The respect had well and truly gone and fear alone held everything together. I also feel that there was ironically an element of fear for the future of coping without him. Monster or not he had held everything together for almost 38 years, a long time and he left England in the hands of a nine years old boy. Countries don’t tend to thrive with a child at the helm and rivalries for power lead to civil war, the murder of those at the top and all kinds of disastrous stuff. Henry had foreseen this by the appointment of sixteen of those he felt were capable as equals on a Regency Council but this was overturned when Edward Seymour seized the power of a de facto King as Lord Protector. That to me shows plotting in the background and their own fears actually coming true. The in fighting which followed the King’s death shows how much control Henry actually had, probably through that same fear and his own presence because within two years Thomas Seymour was executed and eighteen months later Edward Seymour went the same way. The Council came under the thumb of John Dudley, Earl of Warwick and four years of fighting had torn the Council apart on several occasions. I am not saying a better King would have more respect for their wishes, but a better King might not have caused such divisions in the first place and his wishes might have stood a chance.

          The other ironic thing was that his people still mourned him, deeply, maybe remembering better times, when Henry was held in adoration and awe, but also again fear for the future. Some people may have known no other monarch. They would know three in six years. They would know religious and political upheavals and war as well as a battle for the crown. People were not too happy with the choice of Lady Jane Grey as Queen by Edward vi because they wanted Mary as Henry’s daughter, simple as that. Elizabeth, although regarded as illegitimate was accepted for the same reason, she was a Tudor. Fear again ruled in the country so Henry had obviously had some place in the minds of his people, but again people were more likely to be recalling happier times, because they certainly had not had it great since his break from Rome because of the Treasons Act of 1534 and the enforcement of the Oath of Supremacy. Henry had kept the country mostly from enemies abroad and stable but I can’t imagine execution after execution for speaking against his marriage to first Anne Boleyn and then one wife or another, to speak about the succession and unfortunately, such things would continue, but people also hoping something would change. I suspect people knew Henry was now a monster but chose to remember something else.

  2. I think it would be so interesting to go back in time to that day and do some ‘man on the street’ interviews with your average Londoners and find out what they thought of this not only so soon after the murder of queen #2 but after the king’s treatment of both previous wives. I would expect to get a lot of eye rolling on tape to air on the late night news.

    BTW: I love when you post illustrations I’ve not seen previously such as this one of Jane Seymour.

    1. I think you would not get much but enthusiasm from the people you interviewed. It was too dangerous to criticize the king. Such thoughts would not be expressed except perhaps to one’s nearest friends. But of course they were there, and I believe they were part of the developing realization by a large part of the population that Divine Right of Kings was a bunch of hooey! (See the fates of Charles I, James II, etc.)

  3. Echo Michael here – I very much like this illustration of Jane, showing her huge, doe-like eyes.
    Am wondering if you have more info about it?

    1. This engraving was done by the artist Francesco Bartolozzi (1727-1815).

      As an engraver, he copied a number of Holbein’s portrait drawings.

  4. Boom! Boom! Boom! And more Boom! What a sound the Tower guns, the river guns, the guns on the boats all decked out in finery all must have made. Please note the Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys is here, formally representing the Emperor, Charles V, something he didn’t do for Queen Anne Boleyn. Despite his initial ideas about Jane when he did meet her he was actually impressed and called her a peacemaker and he had no problem seeing her on a regular basis. The party around Queen Jane was mostly pro Imperial but of course Chapuys had a personal dislike of Anne, although he said she was gracious enough when she and Henry passed him and she bowed back and he didn’t believe she was guilty of the terrible charges against her. Henry was now fully pro Imperial as was Cromwell and there was no reason for the Emperor not to give full support to the King and his new Queen now. Katherine of Aragon was dead and Chapuys had been bound to her and primarily because she was the true Queen for him and Anne was a usurper who had taken her rightful place. As such they couldn’t acknowledge her and Anne was seen as Henry’s mistress, the Concubine; she was also as far as he was concerned the Evil Stepmother who was trying to poison Princess Mary and her child was illegitimate. But Anne too was gone now and it was time to move forward. Jane it was said around the place wanted to help Princess Mary and had mentioned this to the King, who only insisted on Mary’s surrender. Her family were also traditional and Jane herself was a traditional Catholic, although her brothers were reformers. It was hopeful that Jane would speak for reconciliation to King Henry and it was hopeful for better relations for with Henry and Charles internationally. Henry had expressed such a hope and in truth nobody could actually afford war, Europe was torn apart by it and England was broke. So the imperial ship was decked out to salute and greet the new Queen, the Ambassador had his formal dress on and his staff turned out for Jane, as did all the ships and barges on the Thames and the Tower and palace were richly decorated with banners and ribbons and it was a lovely and wonderful sight and Jane now received the most beautiful and warm honours of the city of London and the city of Westminster, the crowd and the music playing and everything. Anne had been greeted with all due pomp and ceremony just a few years beforehand and yet had ended her life on the block, the whims of the King were dangerous. Everything depended on the production of a son and heir, but for now it was a happy time for enjoyment.

    1. Ha ha I like that Bq, boom boom boom the Tower guns boomed when Anne Boleyn was dead and then they did so again to celebrate the new queen, talking of Janes picture above, there is another portrait of her I like where she is dressed in gold and she looks quite lovely, that and the picture above are the most flattering ones of her, the famous Holbein portrait makes her look quite plain yet that is the one most well known, he was noted for his accuracy yet it is these ones above Globerose Michael and I most prefer. What do you think?

      1. The bells and guns of a city declared death and birth, coronation and surrender, war and peace and the news of the day, the Twitter of their days, the mourning toll for a dead King or Queen, the salutation of a new one, the warning of invasion, the desperation of surrendering to a triumphant enemy. Yes, three weeks had made such a difference in the life of Henry Viii, who had gone from waiting for the boom of the guns to confirm Anne’s execution and now he was on a barge on the river with his new bride. The people mostly did have something, namely Katherine against Anne, but they must have wondered at this King, going from one woman to the next, through three brides in less than four years; that’s actually more than Liz Taylor, but Henry’s image wasn’t exactly sparkling at this moment. A sixteen year old girl, Arch Duchess Christina of Milan and Denmark, herself a widow, remarked on the King of England losing so many wives in so short a period of time, while saying she would marry him if she had a spare head. What a statement from such a young woman (woman by the standards of the day)! Such a shrewd observation sums up the older Henry perfectly.

        I have also always found Henry Viii worthwhile as a statement of history, he is an enigma and very few historians have captured him and his inner life. Kings of many foreign lands had several wives, all at the same time, but only one European ruler had six and disposed of two on the block. Henry was married to the woman who was the love of his life, Katherine of Aragon, for 24 years, more than 18 of them before he asked for an annulment, that’s more than the others put together. His relationship with Anne Boleyn stretched a decade and completely transformed him and England. Yet, he was married to her for three years and four months only, less than he was married to Katherine Parr, the wife of his last days. I won’t go into a long rambling speech on how Henry had changed, I think most people are aware of the debate, but the man who fell passionately in love with a fascinating and sophisticated, dark eyed beauty from the best Courts on the Continent, wasn’t the same paranoid man who ordered her death ten years later. You really have to study Henry over a number of years to even begin to decode him, seeing him from the point of view of his wives and others who knew him and even then, the questions are still never clearly answered. Now his people were watching flabbergasted at yet another marvellous turn of events, yes: an enjoyable one, but one in deep contrast to the mourning and shocking execution of an English Queen, early in the morning, some three or four weeks earlier. Anne Linence has remarked in her conclusion in her history on Anne Boleyn that the majority of people outside of the Capital and possibly the immediate areas around London, the ordinary people were probably not too unduly affected by all of these changes. The King was at the top of society, he had to have a Queen at his side, so it didn’t much matter who it was who was there. It was just as easy to pray for Queen Anne as Queen Katherine and Queen Jane as Queen Anne and shocking and as cold as that appears, it’s probably true. As loved as Katherine of Aragon was, she had died and Henry needed a Queen, he also needed an heir, Jane may give him one. The Queen counter balanced the King and there simply couldn’t and should not be a King without one. That’s the way it was and in an age when life was lived on the absolute edge, it wasn’t for people to worry about who sat on the throne next to their highly unusual King. The life of most ordinary people probably wasn’t shaken up that much by the changes in Henry’s marriage partners, although religious changes, which took far longer to kick in, in the provincial counties than in London and the immediate Southern countryside, the towns and cities, did have more of an impact. Watching the riverside pageants, however, most people would be quite content as long as the wine flowed.

        I love this engraving as well, and I think the artist did a few as in the biography of Jane Seymour by Elizabeth Norton, there is also one of Thomas Seymour and others. Thanks to Roland for the information on the artist.

        1. Henry V111 certainly is an enigma and today I’m sure he would baffle a whole team of physcologists, he is only King in English and yes European history to marry six times although he would claim the first two never counted, he is the only King to have sent two wives to the block, and it certainly did not bode well for the queens that followed Anne Boleyn into the Kings bed, because if he could kill her whom he had loved so deeply and did so much for, then what chance would the others have, Jane Seymour must have been a very brave lady indeed, it’s true that to the common people it mattered little who sat beside their King on the throne, but they were up in arms when they realised he was planning to discard their beloved Katherine and replace her with a woman they did not know, a woman whom they assumed was an evil shrew and of course, she was interested in reform and so as the years went on, they saw the whole religious structure of England change before their eyes, England had been Catholic for centuries and now because of this one woman the tide was shifting, but it wasn’t just in England it was happening in Europe to, it was an unsettling time to live in if we try to imagine how we would feel ourselves, the belief we had been brought up with and suddenly the King introduced new laws and set up a new church which he called himself the head of, he was excommunicated and the pope was no longer the religious master in England that upset a lot of his subjects, before Anne the consorts of the King had been servile breeding mares, that was their station in life, of course there have been other exceptions, Eleanor the wife of Henry 11 and Isabella the wife of Edward 11, but Anne was actually responsible for the reform and the creation of this new church no wonder she has been called the most effective queen consort England has ever had, she made a lot of enemies and there was the Lady Mary bastardised because of her and she was seen as this wicked evil woman who had snared the King from their beloved queen and severed the country’s link with Rome, she was called the original wet nurse of heresy, because of her England had changed forever yet after her death her name was never uttered again, and it was as if she had never existed, Henry V111 was a highly unusual monarch and his second wife was to, no wonder they both produced such an extrodinary unusual child in Elizabeth 1st.

  5. According to Tracy Borman, I believe I heard this on the live stream at the TudorvSummit in March that the Holbein painting of Jane depicts her pregnant. One of the tells being the visible gold pin heads around the perimeter of the placket (not sure of spelling) on the front of her dress.

  6. I would assume the Holbein portrait is the most accurate. He was extremely gifted in catching a likeness.

  7. Thanks so much Roland for this useful information. Is it fair to say that this engraver, copying Holbein, has been a lot kinder in his interpretation of the queen and has given us a really nice image of Jane.

  8. I think a good indicator of how Henry had fallen in the eyes of many is what happened after his death. Early in his reign he was praised by so many not just in England but on the continent. After his death, before his body was even cold those appointed by the king in his will to act as a council of regents during Edward’s minority were scheming to ignore the wishes laid out in Henry’s will. I believe this was more than just ambition. This looks like a total lack of respect for the deceased Henry which he brought on himself. During the latter years of Henry’s life the only thing that held his courtiers in check was fear. Not respect.

    1. I think your right Michael, he did indeed during the last few years of his life rule by fear more than anything else.

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