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Jane Seymour – My Own View

Posted By on February 4, 2011

I’m not sure if any of you noticed yesterday but I was rather distant in my analysis of Jane Seymour yesterday and it was a bit different to my usual articles in that it was “Alison Weir says…”, “Antonia Fraser concludes…” and “Chapuys reported…”, rather than what I personally think of Jane, apart from the short conclusion at the end. This is because Jane Seymour is my least favourite wife and I wanted to put together an objective analysis of her. I realise now that my article lacked passion and that it came across as a rather one-sided defence of her, which I’m not sure was my aim.

So, today, here is what I think of Jane Semour, Henry VIII’s third wife….

  • A bit boring – I know I shouldn’t label Jane Seymour in this way but as someone who loves Anne Boleyn for her feistiness and passion, and Catherine of Aragon for her strength of character and conviction, Jane Seymour is rather a wet blanket in comparison. Elizabeth Norton1 writes of how “Jane is often seen as an entirely placid figure and has been described as lacking a self”, that she had an “ability to melt into the background”, that she was not as involved with politics as Catherine or as argumentative as Anne Boleyn, but that “this does not mean that Jane was either colourless or dull” and that it was actually “the response of an intelligent and shrewd woman to the difficult circumstances with which she was faced.” Norton goes on to say that it was clear that Henry now wanted “a domestic and passive wife” and so Jane became one, suggesting that it was all a clever act on Jane’s behalf. but I don’t see that at all. I think that Jane was rather colourless and dull, that she didn’t have to act and that she was naturaly subservient. Yes, she did stand up to Henry on a couple of occasion, but she was quick to back down. OK, I know that she had the hindsight of knowing what had happened to the feisty Anne but I can’t see Anne piping down whatever Henry threatened, can you?!
    I’m always saying that there is something interesting about each of Henry VIII’s wives but Jane is definitely the least interesting in my eyes!
  • Kind and virtuous – I stand by my conclusion in yesterday’s article, she seems to have been a quiet, kind, unassuming and virtuous woman. I don’t think it was an act, I think it’s just the way she was. She certainly did not deserve what happened to her. As someone who had a rather long labour, ending with an emergency caesarean, I so sympathise with Jane when I read of her 3 days and 3 nights in labour – ow!

  • Not the reconciler – Yesterday, I wrote of Alison Weir’s opinion that Jane reconciled Mary and Henry, but I’m definitely with Antonia Fraser on this and I don’t think Jane can be seem as solely responsible for this, particularly as it was only Mary’s submission and obedience to her father’s will that brought about the reconciliation. For me, Jane cannot be seen as the peacemaker in this family when she could largely ignore the little girl who had just lost her mother.
  • The innocent – I’m always surprised when I find people online, people who see themselves as “Team Anne”, arguing that Jane was a complete bi**h, that she plotted and trapped Henry and that she was part of the plot to bring Anne down, yet these are the same people who argue that Anne had no choice in her relationship with Henry and cannot be blamed and held accountable for what happened to Catherine of Aragon. OK, so Catherine of Aragon did not get executed, but I don’t think Jane had any choice in what happened or the date of her betrothal, she was a lowly woman, a lady-in-waiting, pursued by a great Tudor king, a man with immense power. Yes, I think she was coached by Carew and her brothers, but her behaviour was not an act, I think it was how Jane would have naturally behaved and it did not change once she had married Henry and got the prize. Like Anne, she refused Henry’s advances and, like Anne, the King warmed to the thrill of the chase and became determined to conquer this woman.
  • How could she stand by and see Anne Boleyn die like that? – Again, I don’t think Jane had any choice in the matter plus, as a staunch Catholic and a supporter of Catherine of Aragon and the Lady Mary, she would have viewed Henry’s marriage to Anne as invalid and Anne as a whore and usurper. I’m sure that Jane was led to believe that Anne Boleyn had committed incest and adultery, although who knows what Jane really believed and felt in her heart. It is obviously hard for those of us with sympathy for Anne Boleyn and her story, to reconcile ourselves with the idea of Anne languishing while Jane partied and got ready for her wedding, but Jane was probably convinced that Anne was getting what she deserved.
  • Did Jane set out to become queen? – Elizabeth Norton writes that “Jane acted in an entirely self-interested way and she deeply desired to be queen, working tirelessly towards it, but she was certainly no worse than Anne Boleyn”2 and that Jane was simply doing what she had learned from Anne. I’m not sure I’d go that far though, I don’t see any evidence that Jane was that ambitious and I think it was Carew and the Seymour brothers who learned from Anne’s behaviour when Henry was courting her, not Jane. Jane was like putty in their hands but she did rise to the challenge and I suspect that her view of Anne Boleyn made her indifferent to Anne’s feelings and subsequent fall. Once she realised that the King was seriously interested in her and that Anne was on the way down, I think Jane did put her all into keeping the King and proving that she could be the wife and queen he wanted, but she cannot be held solely responsible for Anne’s tragic end.
  • Did she love Henry? – The difference I see between Anne and Jane is that Anne did passionately love Henry. I don’t think Anne loved Henry from the start, but I think she did fall for him and their passionate and volatile relationship was a result of that very strong love and a true meeting of minds, a real love match. Jane, on the other hand, was flattered by Henry’s advances and probably became fond of him, but I don’t think she had chance to fall in love with him and it was certainly not a relationship of passion. I think it was more like an arranged diplomatic marriage – Jane was the domestic, passive, submissive wife Henry wanted at that time and she fulfilled her role and duty.

Anyway, those are my own personal feelings and the thing with Jane is that there is little written about her, compared to the likes of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, so we are left with lots of questions:-

  • Was she sugar and spice and all things nice or was it just a mask which would have eventually slipped?
  • Would she have become more active in politics and religion?
  • Would she have made Henry happy long-term?
  • Was she suitable queen material?
  • Would Henry have got tired of her?

and a lot of what-ifs!

Notes and Sources

  1. Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s True Love, Elizabeth Norton, p79
  2. Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s True Love, Elizabeth Norton, p65

22 thoughts on “Jane Seymour – My Own View”

  1. Anna says:

    I have to agree with you, Jand seems mild and submissive but the question is whether that was her true nature or the result of upbringing. Jane didn’t have such possibilities of learning as Catherine of Aragon and Anne had. She was educated to be a wife of a nobleman, not a queen. And even queen was mostly expected to give birth to the heir to the throne, to be pious and do charity work. It’s not that Jane was a contradition of Anne (I mean yes, she was), it’s more that Anne was an exception when it comes to being a queen. Most queens were not like Eleanor of Acquitaine but like Philippa of Hainault if you understand what I mean 🙂

    I can’t say I like or admire Jane but it’s because I don’t really appreciate this type of people, not because she took Queen Anne’s place. In the end she was doing all she was expected to and was rewarded for that by Henry’s love and devotion even after her death. I don’t like the world that required such behaviour from her, not her personally.

    And well, she was simply more lucky than Henry’s previous wives at least that’s what it seemed at the time. Cause eventually the person who built a strong and rich kingdom after Henry’s death wasn’t the male heir whom she bore and paid for it with her own life. It was the daughter of the woman who was considered to be a whore and beheaded as an adulteress. Maybe it’s better Jane never found out about it 😉

  2. Hi Claire,

    Brilliant follow-up article. I actually really loved yesterday’s too and it gave me a lot to think about. I’m with you in that Jane is probably my least favourite, but I don’t think she was a harpy or some sort of Merteuil-like figure. Another great article! xx

  3. DuchessofBrittany says:

    Another great article, Claire. I appreciate both these articles on Jane Seymour. While she is not my favourite wife, I believe she deserves respect and consideration. My personal feelings about her in are line with yours.
    I am always amazed at the people who vehemenlty argue that Anne had nothing to do with Henry’s divorce fron Catherine of Aragon, are the same people who argue that Jane was responsible for Anne’s downfall. I’m sorry, but the only person to blame for either divorce is Henry. No one else. These women did not have the power or position to force Henry to sign divorce paper or execution warrants.
    I believe Jane was a kind and virtuous woman who found herself being stalked by a tyrannical King who always got what he wanted. A bit bland, but the kind of woman Henry wanted: someone who who put up and shut up; He was not in need of a Catherine or Anne.

  4. Cassie says:

    I agree somewhat with most of your views of Jane apart from the reconciler. She may not have been 100% behind Mary’s return as you said, but she still played an important part in it and I believe she persuaded Henry to consider bringing Mary back and encouraged Mary to submit. I also feel its harsh that you don’t consider her a peacemaker because she didn’t do much for Elizabeth. True enough she didn’t do a lot for her but the circumstances were different for Elizabeth. She was completely disgraced because of her association with her mother which would have made it hard for anyone to do anything for her at that time, but she was also a child and probably wouldn’t have received much in attention anyway (not like what was given to Mary who was a young lady) she wouldn’t have even been at court. I think if she would have lived she would have gotten around to Elizabeth, especially after the security of a son. After all she got to attend Edward’s christening. I’m not too sure if Henry had gotten over his ignoring Elizabeth phase on his own and actually wanted her to be there or not, but it could have possibly have been at Jane’s insistance. Even if it wasn’t I’m sure that if Jane didn’t want her there she wouldn’t have been considering the lengths he went to keep Anne happy by ignoring Mary and he would have done anything to appease her now she had his son.

    Have you ever read anywhere that Henry might have re-opened or stopped the dissolution of a few monastaries in an effort to appease a pregnant Jane? I can’t remember at the moment where it was that I read this but if it was true Jane might have had a quiet power over Henry which might have grown if she had survived childbirth. I always think she would have gone on to be as great a queen as her predecessors if she had the time and that she actually did quite a bit in her short time.

    I must say though that I think the title of most boring Queen should go to Anne of Cleves, to my knowledge she did less than Jane and Katherine Howard (barring her affair with Culpepper) in their queenships.

  5. DeAnn says:

    I appreciate you elaborating on your thoughts.

    I don’t normally put much stock in the Imperial ambassador but I must confess I am enough of Team Anne that I have to wonder if he’s initial conclusion about Jane was right. She may have been submissive to Henry but I think she had a haughty side.

    I have never said Anne Boleyn didn’t have a choice and never would. I think she was a strong independent woman in the mode of Eleanor who made her own way as much as she could in a male-dominated world. I think Robin Maxwell got it right. Her years in France with Francois and his sister influenced her so much. Like Catherine, she had a fiesty intellectual as a role model.

    I just can’t square the contradiction of Jane being a kind woman but yet she thought Anne deserved the sword. A kind woman doesn’t want to see her rival’s head sliced off.

    I, of course, agree she was boring. And never underestimate the power of Tudor propaganda. These are the folks who successfully convinced the world that Richard III had a crooked arm (I agree he was a monster, but crooked arm? Uh, no. No contemporary reporting on that!) These are the folks who convinced the world even in 2011 that Anna of Cleves was a f’ugly woman when foreigners thought her better looking than Jane and the Imperial ambassador didn’t argue when she said she was better looking than Katherine Parr! We are talking about a dynasty who managed to erase for hundreds of years that Edward IV’s children were declared bastards and that was part of the reason Richard III grabbed the crown!

    It was in the Tudors best interest to depict Jane as the kind, unassuming, virteous, woman after Anne Boleyn. She was the mother of the heir. If there was any evidence to the contrary it would have been suppressed and erased. If Elizabeth of York’s alleged bastardy could be suppressed then certainly any “proud and haughty” side of Jane could easily be wiped from history by the Tudor revistionists.

    If Anne truly did rip a necklace from Jane’s neck and harangued her when she caught the two of them together…..and if Anne publicly blamed Jane for the death of her son….well I don’t think Jane could have been indifferent to Anne, her feelings and her fall. Unless she’s a saint, Jane would be like most women. She would have despised Anne for her actions just as Anne despised Catherine. If her virtue was so important to her, she had to feel a tad bit of uneasiness at the public gossip.

    I just think Jane (and the Tudor revisionists) was better at hiding her feelings for Anne than Anne — the woman who always spoke her mind — did for Catherine.

  6. Sue says:

    To me, Jane really is the least interesting of the wives but then she didn’t have enough time to make her mark, IF she would have left a mark. Claire, I know you say that perhaps in her time she was considered good looking but I wonder about that. She had been a court for several years without a trace of a comment about her. Other ladies certainly did have comments, including her predecessor Anne who had Wyatt and Percy after her. Two men who were very attractive at court.

    Recently when I went to the Mary Rose museum, I happened to notice an arrow chest that was brought up. It struck me how very narrow it was and if Anne had been put in one as a funeral casket, she must have been very very thin. Chapuys called her a “thin old woman” just before her death so I tend to think she was looking pretty haggard by then, after a series of stressful miscarriages. Jane on the other hand appears more rounded in appearance. Henry had gone to Wolf hall on a hunting expedition where he would have probably met with John Seymour’s wife who had 9 children…and he must have thought to himself that Jane would more than likely be a fertile girl.and thus a good candidate for mother of the son he craved. A brood mare. Mind you, most noblemen thought the same thing about their wives. She was the perfect 16th century wife with all the wifely attributes that were needed. But she doesn’t appear any more interesting because of it. It was no great love affair. She fit the job description.

  7. Michelle says:

    Like you Claire I am not a fan of Jane Seymour.

    That being said, I think she was groomed from an early age to be quiet, submissive and pliant. For her time period she would have been en exceptional catch! Most men ruled with an iron fist. Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon were the “rebels”. Can’t have an educated woman who actually thinks for herself! She would cause trouble.

    If memory serves, Jane’s father had had an affair with her brother Edward’s wife. Quite a scandal back in the day. I bet the family fortune was rock bottom after this “little peccadillo”, and I would bet good money that the men in the family decided that Jane would be the perfect candidate to recoup their lost money and social position. They would have made sure she was everything Henry wanted after “turbulent Anne”….. a quiet, mousy wife; easily cowed and controled. Afterall, Anne Boleyn had been brilliant, exiciting and way too intelligent for her own good. A woman like Anne would be a big problem. She would see right through the Seymours ambitions, plus she had Henry’s ear (before her untimely downfall and demise). No, it was better for the Seymour men to eliminate the “competion” and install their very own puppet… Jane.

    Being a good daughter and sister, Jane went along with the plans. I really don’t think she would have thought to object. If I had been in her shoes I would have kept a low profile as well. Henry was unpredictable and I certainly would not have enjoyed being wife number two to be executed. No, it was better to just go along with the flow. Jane learned a hard lesson when she interceeded for the men in the Pilgrimage of Grace. Henry warned her to stay out of it, or, she could end up on the scaffold. I would back down pretty fast after that comment. Jane did not have Anne’s fortitude, or Anne’s ability to cajole Henry (as Anne did during the early days of Anne and Henry’s romance and marriage).

    Asking for Mary to be invited back to court was just the actions of a woman who felt some affinity for Mary. Jane knew Catherine and had admired her. It would be quite natural to feel that same loyalty toward the daughter. Poor Elizabeth was left out because it was too soon to bring her back to court, plus she was a child and better off away from the atmosphere of Henry’s court, and, Henry’s uneven temper.

    I’m not saying Jane was wonderful, nor am I saying she was mean spirited. She was a product of her upbringing and Tudor Times.

    Like all of Henry’s queens, I feel pity for Jane. These women were badly used by Henry and history has not been kind to any of them. Henry is still considred a great king. The man was abusive, a bully, a terror, and, not above committing judicial murder to get what he wanted. He ruled like a spoiled child and yet he is treated with near reverance. How very sad indeed!

    Michelle

    1. epiphany says:

      Yes, but… Jane obviously was NOT an exceptional catch, as she was at least 26 years old (very old to be unmarried in the Seymour’s social circle) when Henry began noticing her, and up to that point Jane had had no suitors… zero… zilch. IMO, she was a bitter, miserable girl who saw Henry as the ultimate suitor, and having the King chase her was a way for her to thumb her nose at all the pretty girls at court who always got all of the masculine attention.

  8. Kari says:

    I find that, with Jane more than any of Henry’s other wives, it’s very hard for me not to view her through a 21st century lens. I do try to be objective, but her docility and submissiveness invariably frustrate me. I wouldn’t feel bothered by it if I felt that she behaved that way solely because she knew what kind of man Henry was and was trying to keep herself alive, but as others have said, it really does seem that Jane would have been that way regardless. It’s true that she had her moments when she showed a little backbone and a mind of her own, but for the most part, she seems to have been perfectly content to be the meek, submissive little wifey who lets her husband tell her what to do and what to think. And I find it difficult to respect that. Yes, Jane was merely a product of her time, but just as I can recognize that Mary I was a product of her time and still have no admiration for her cruel reign, I can’t admire Jane’s willingness to “stay in her place” and be a good, submissive little wife, either. I just want to shake her and say, “WHERE IS YOUR BACKBONE WOMAN??” LOL

    I say that in the full knowledge that I’m not really being fair, and that we can’t truly judge her by the standards of today. Believe me, I KNOW I’m not being fair to her in that regard, I really do. Nonetheless, it is my instinctive reaction to Jane, and it’s why I’ve never been able to like her.

    I am curious about one thing, though, which I commented on in Claire’s previous Jane article: Why was Jane still unmarried in her mid- to late-20s? I was under the impression that this was an “old maid” by Tudor-era standards, but perhaps I was wrong about that? I’m just really surprised her family hadn’t arranged a marriage for her long before!

    1. Lady Kateryn says:

      A betrothal between Jane Seymour and William Dormer was supposed to be on the cards but fell though because, allegedly, the Dormers thought the Seymours not quite good enough!

      I agree it was unusual that Jane’s younger sister, Elizabeth, was married before her when it was the norm for the elder daughter to be married first.

  9. Ashleigh says:

    I can understand you viewing Jane as boring. Its true that she didnt have Anne’s zest! And i do believe that she was a very mild, polite subservient personality by nature. I also think that she was perhaps very afraid of what was going on around her. Maybe she wanted to marry Henry, maybe not. who tells the king no!? On one hand its a great prize, on the other hand, who knows how her life was to play out? I think that in the years to come, Henry would have found a way to be rid of her. I think Henry probably spent the rest of his life looking for some semblance of the first wife he loved so much untill she grew old. Jane Seymour was a close second in my opinion but all those women were always lacking to him i think.

  10. lisaannejane says:

    I can relate to Jane Seymour in a way because I pick and chose my fights very carefully. I am not an outgoing person and feel very shy around groups of people I do not know. I know I do not always make a good first impression. I really admire Anne’s self-confidence and much more outgoing personality but then again the world is made up of many people and I have come to realize that I like to think about something for a while and work things out before acting or sometimes even speaking. I have been told I seem aloof when I am just thinking. So I can understand how Jane would seem dull after such a charismatic person. I can not understand not loving a little girl, however, who just lost her mother. But then again I have not been married to a man with a volatile personality. That is a part of Tudor life that is hard for me to understand – how a religion could cause someone to be so unkind to others. I think I have been raised in an atmosphere of religious tolerance so this is part of way of thinking that I just can not relate to. It really is hard to come up with opinions about anyone when you live in such a different time and place. So I find have compassion for every one of Henry’s wives because he only became less tolerant to friends and family who disagreed with him. Each one married Henry at a different stage in his life and had their own problems to deal with. Each one was a political pawn and I don’t think you can know what they were thinking when they took their wedding vows. Personally, I don’t pay much attention to “true love” – I think Henry might have thought at the time that Catherine, Anne, Jane were all “true loves” at some point, even if it did not last. To me it is a romantic notion and very subjective. So I do not put much meaning into calling Jane his true love and think it had more to do with her having a son who lived than genuine feelings for her.

  11. Carol says:

    I agree with you everything you have put Claire because Jane is my least favourite wife as well. I suppose it is unsurprising considering that Anne Boleyn is also my favourite, that I should feel that way. I have always found Jane somewhat colourless and difficult to read. It also annoys me rather when Jane is described as Henry’s true love because I doubt that there was the depth of feeling between Henry and Jane that existed between Anne and the King. My feelings are that she managed to give Henry what he most craved and then died before he began to tire of her. I think had she lived she would have been safe, but doubt that Henry would have continued to look at her through rose coloured glasses.

  12. Beth says:

    I think Jane is my least favourite queen as well, and I do find her the most boring. However that said, I try to appreciate all of the queens in themselves.

    Actually there’s been a real flourishing of study about Anne of Cleves, people have been trying to get behind the “Flanders mare” to the real woman, and these days I don’t think she can be viewed as the most boring one any more! It is a little suspect that everyone commented on how lovely she was and how noble a princess, and only Henry reviled her. Many of his courtiers, who had themselves recommended her to him, such as Lord Lisle, seem to have been genuinely shocked at his reaction. There’s been a long standing myth that she was ugly (which Claire will no doubt address in her next article), precisely because Henry’s reaction to her was so strong and because he declared that his courtiers had deceived him about her appearance. Now, I don’t think Anne of Cleves was the most beautiful woman in the world, and yes, in her portrait I agree that Holbein concentrated on the detailing of the dress and left her face a placid mask… however the praise Anne received from Henry’s court when on her route to meet the king in England, and the genuine shock everyone had that Henry did not like her after all, suggests to me that she couldn’t have been so very ugly, and Henry’s insult of “Flanders mare” was probably overexaggeration. I think it was just unlucky that she wasn’t to his personal tastes.

    That said there has also been a trend recently *coughPhilippaGregorycough* to portray Anne of Cleves as really smart, that she recognised Henry for what he was – a tyrannical maniac – and she cleverly negotiated her way out of the marriage with a big pay off, and then later on when Henry got rid of Katherine Howard he actually decided that he wanted Anne back. That’s not true, and it’s taking the portrayal of Anne to the other extreme. Henry’s councillors negotiated the terms of Anne’s settlement, and she was smart to agree to them, but she was distraught at parting from the king and famously sent back her wedding ring to him telling him to crush it as a thing that holds no value (to paraphrase her actual letter), I think that kind of dramatic statement does speak to the fact that Anne had become emotionally invested. I’m not sure I would say that she loved Henry as a person since she never really knew him, but remember there were questions over her naivety and inexperience in matters of love and I think she may have thought she was in love with him or that she may have been in love with the idea of being in love and happily married. In addition let’s not forget she had made a good match for a princess from a minor German duchy, she probably had it impressed upon her how important it was that she do her duty as the new queen of England, and she had probably become invested in becoming that role. When Henry got rid of Katherine Howard it was actually Anne and the Cleves ambassador who suggested to Henry that he might take Anne back again, but Henry refused. Perhaps, in addition to the material advantages, Anne was hoping that there was still a chance to be the wife and queen?

    Ironically, Henry did decide that he liked Anne better once their marriage was annulled, though apparently never in a romantic way (as his refusal of her offer to reconcile demonstrates). But he commented that he could tolerate her better and enjoyed her company and conversation, and I think that once he was free from the pressure to do his husbandly duty by her, he relaxed more around her and was able to form this friendship with her as “King’s Sister”, and found that she wasn’t such bad company after all.

  13. Anne Barnhill says:

    Hi Claire,
    I’m so glad you added this–though I loved the previous article because it was not biased and made me reconsider my ideas about Jane, which is always what a great article will do. But, like you, I find Jane, well, dull and not the most ethical person. Granted, she did not have a lot of choices but it did lack decorum to marry so quickly. She could have held Henry off for at least a couple more months–well, maybe not! Anyway, thanks for both of these.

  14. Eowyn says:

    Claire, I agree with everything you’ve said about Jane Seymour. It would have been interesting if she had lived. Somehow, I think Henry would have tired of her eventually. She was Catholic but I don’t think Henry would have been too tolerant of any push on her part to mend fences with the Pope. There would have also been tremendous pressure on her to have another son, especially since Edward was sickly. Quite honestly, Henry’s behavior was unpredictable.

    I had the opportunity to watch a show on the Discovery Channel that studied Henry’s jousting accident and whether it was the cause of his reported mood swings

  15. lana norris says:

    After I posted my comment following “Jane Seymore Meek and Mild?” I read Claire’s more personal article on her own feelings regarding Jane; I felt like my comments more appropriately responded to the latter article…so here they are again! Sorry for those of you who already slogged thru them after the former.

    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! 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. To her credit 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.

  16. Jeanie says:

    I agree that Jane Seymour is a bit dull as well. Compare to Anne, Jane just doesn’t seems as vivid and independent like her. I like how strong and intelligent Anne is- she was a modern woman in the Tudor period, behaving like a queen in her own rights. I guess if we were to compare Anne and Jane, perhaps it’s just best to compare them as wives of Henry, but for me (and perhaps a lot of people out there) it’s hard to not be fascinated by Anne’s own character and therefore compare both of their charaters instead.

  17. I’m with the view that Jane Seynour was a calculating individual and coached by her family on how to achieve success. Just like most people at Henry VIII’s court.

    I’d like to address another issue: Jane’s unsuccessful attempt to restore Mary to the line of succession. Some people argue that Jane tried this just because she was sweet and that she would have derived no advantage from it. Actually, she might have, at least in the short term. It might have alleviated at least some of the tremendous pressure on Jane to have a healthy baby boy, and fast.

    Suppose she had gotten Mary restored to the line of succession. Mary was, I believe, supposed to be “behind” any children Jane had, so Jane would not have suffered any disadvantage. Besides, if Jane had wanted to remove Mary from the line of succession after Jane had had some healthy children of her own, she probably could have persuaded Henry to do that.

    In the short term, if Jane had failed to become pregnant fast, or had a miscarriage, or had a child that died soon after birth, she could then have pointed out to Henry that he still had a viable heir (Mary). If Jane’s first child had been a girl, she could have pointed out that Henry had already accepted the principle of a female heir, so the child not being a boy was not a disaster.

    In the long term, sure, if Jane had not had a boy and especially if she developed a history of reproductive problems, Henry would likely have discarded her. But if she did have healthy children, sure, Henry would probably have gotten tired of her, but he would have amused himself with various mistresses instead of discarding his queen.

  18. Emma says:

    Excellent point. Also Jane’s conservative faction was pro-spanish so her attempts to get Mary reinstated would have been poltically astue. On the subject of some Anne fans being very anti-Jane I think apart from the obvious this is a reaction against the way they are both portrayed. Anne and Jane essentially did the same thing but whilst Anne is so often labelled a home wrecker Jane is usually shown as being saintly. Personally I think that both women knew what they were doing and thought themselves justified as the marriages that were being broken up were, in thier opinions, invalid.

  19. elizabeth says:

    Yo a ella la odio. Por lo menos Ana Bolena tuvo el recato de vestir de luto durante la muerte de Catalina. En cambio esta perra no le importo llegar al trono pisando el cadaver de Ana

  20. Giselle says:

    Disculpa, pero Anne (junto con Henry) festejaron cuando Catherine murió.
    Ademas como se ha dicho no puedes culpar completamente a Jane, culpa Henry (el culpable de todo). No veo por que si eres fan de una esposa tienes que odiar a las otras, mis esposas favoritas son Catherine, Anne y Jane y no me ves insultando a las demás.

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