Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein

Today, we have a guest post by my good friend, Lauren Mackay, an historical researcher and consultant – thanks, Lauren!

Jane Seymour: Redefining the Myth

by Lauren Mackay

It is hard to find many people who are as fond of Jane Seymour as they are Anne Boleyn (and vice versa). This is not difficult to understand, as the rivalry between the two women culminated in the execution of one and the royal marriage of the other. The lines have been firmly drawn since the 16th Century, and the for the most part people are either “Team Anne” or “Team Jane”. However, modern historians have uncovered more information about Jane Seymour, her character and her beliefs, which suggest that Anne and Jane may have had more in common than we think. This article in no way favours Jane over Anne, but offers a more balanced portrait of her. Jane is always described as Anne’s opposite-submissive, meek and silent, never complaining – the perfect wife. She is also usually dismissed as a dim witted, dull woman, but that gives us a rather one sided and ultimately unfulfilling portrayal of the woman who successfully drew the King away from his most entirely beloved Anne.

One of the most common misconceptions about Jane was that she was uneducated. However, her education is compared to that of her predecessors; Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, both of which had an almost unconventional education. Katherine had received a royal education, equal to that of her brothers. She was taught military tactics and diplomacy, both of which she put to good use in England. Anne, was well educated in France and the Netherlands, and returned to England a sophisticated and cultured young woman. Jane’s education paled in comparison, but she had a traditional education for a 16th century woman. Her education was sufficient for a gentleman’s daughter, and Jane – along with her younger sisters Dorothy and Elizabeth – was taught all the accomplishments for a typical English woman.

There was speculation, mostly by historian Agnes Strickland, that Jane finished her education in France. The basis for this is a supposed portrait in the Louvre, which has a very vague similarity to her official portrait. There is evidence that Jane was able to read and write, and could understand French and Latin, and would have had a hard time avoiding them, serving in the pious Catholic household of Katherine, and the witty, “frenchified” household of Anne’s. Contrary to popular belief, she did learn music, and she had a particular skill for needlework, some of which was preserved in the royal collection. According to Elizabeth Norton, author of “Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s true love” Jane was an expert horsewoman and enjoyed following the hunt. However there are no sources available to corroborate this statement, so we can only assume that as horse riding was part of a country woman’s education, she was adept at it.

Anne Boleyn

Certainly Jane was the 16th century man’s, (and especially Henry’s) ideal “little woman”1. She was considered to be soft spoken, docile and subservient. Physically, Anne and Jane were night and day. Jane was pale, as Chapuys writes rather bluntly “Her complexion is so whitish that she may be called rather pale”2. Interestingly, she is not described at first by Chapuys as a meek obedient woman, and he continues, saying “is said to be rather proud and haughty”, which clashes somewhat with other assertions about her. There is evidence that Jane was ambitious, certainly as ambitious as Anne, but it was a quiet and determined ambition, carefully nurtured by her supporters. Her supporters, apart from her immediate family, included Sir Nicholas Carew, a cousin of Anne Boleyn’s who actively worked against her and mentored Jane in how to keep the King’s interest.

Agnes Strickland was one of the first historians to dispute the traditional view of the submissive Jane. She accuses her of passively watching Anne Boleyn suffer, and proceeding with her plans regardless of the fact that Henry’s inconstancy nearly destroyed Anne, and caused her miscarriage3. Historian David Starkey has a similar view of Jane, and queries whether she was truly such a door mat as later described. Was it such a different situation from Anne supplanting Katherine? The answer, simply, is no. Jane found herself in the same position that Anne once enjoyed, and Anne experienced that terrible and dangerous position of an unwanted wife

It cannot be denied that the Seymours actively worked against Anne, and plotted to replace her with Jane. One of the first examples of the strategies employed by the Seymours is the rather hasty change of their family crest. Originally the Seymour crest comprised of a Peacock’s head and neck, its wings in mid flight. As David Starkey points out, Peacocks traditionally represented pride – hardly something that the Seymours would not want affiliated with Jane, as the badge had to reflect the projected idea of Jane as meek and subservient. It was quickly remedied, with a few brushstrokes transforming the Peacock to a Phoenix – the symbol of self sacrifice. The new crest is almost prophetic, as of course Jane was in a way sacrificed in the birth of the son and heir of the King.

Anne had set a pattern for Jane to follow, playing on her virtue and refusing Henry’s advances, unless they were married – Jane proved she could play that game too. When one looks at Jane’s childhood and takes into consideration that she was overlooked in her family, watching as her brothers’ rose, her younger sister married off, is it hardly surprising that Jane might have hoped for something more in life than spinsterhood. Her parents certainly did nothing to advance her, at least, in terms of marriage, and the unsavoury family scandal – an affair between her father and her brother Edward’s first wife- that was made public may have accounted for the lack of suitors once she returned to court under Anne’s reign. Jane, like Anne, served Queen Katherine.

Unlike Anne however, she had a great affection for the Queen, and came to admire her and her daughter, Mary. What she thought of Anne, the woman who possibly in her eyes (what woman would dare blame the King?) was responsible for the misery and pain inflicted on Katherine, we can only assume. But we can imagine that she watched, silently, as the drama went on around her. It is more than likely that it was at this time that she developed her own views about Anne, and certainly didn’t seem to feel any discomfort sitting on a so recently occupied throne.

Jane was coached carefully by Nicholas Carew, and as Eric Ives notes, that she was encouraged to poison Henry’s mind against his wife, and presenting herself as an implicit alternative4. Jane was probably forewarned, and made a rather theatrical display of virtue when Henry sent her a purse full of coins with a letter. She was clever enough not to open the letter, as Ives points out, and returned it unopened. It was a tactful way of extricating herself from an undesired situation: being propositioned. Playing hard to get was always something that Anne excelled at. She was a master of going forward, then drawing back, and always protesting her virtue. Jane had clearly learnt more from Anne Boleyn that she would care to admit, and Henry fell for the same trick twice. “In fact, it will not be Carew’s fault if the aforesaid concubine, though a cousin of his, is not overthrown (desarçonee) one of these days, for I hear that he is daily conspiring against her, and trying to persuade Miss Seymour and her friends to accomplish her ruin”5.

The coup against Anne moved quickly, with Jane quickly stepping in to replace Anne, but Jane was not as well loved by the people as some historians have suggested. The people found it hard to believe that Henry had a convenient backup wife in the wings, while his present wife’s name was being dragged through the mud. Chapuys observed that “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.”6 He remarks in a letter to Nicolas Perrenot de Granvelle that “you never saw a prince nor man who made greater show of his [cuckold’s] horns. Or bore them more pleasantly. I leave you to imagine the case”7 The case was pretty obvious – and perhaps Jane felt the same vulnerability that Anne once did, coping with the public’s mood, perhaps clinging to the only man who could shelter her from the potential storm: Henry.

Jane might have publicly been meek, but before Anne was even executed she rather uncharacteristically stood up to Henry and pleaded with him to restore Mary to the succession. It did not go as well as she had hoped. Chapuys reports that “I hear that, even before the arrest of the Concubine, The King, speaking with mistress Jane [Seymour] of their future marriage, the latter suggested that the Princess should be replaced in her former position; and the King told her she was a fool, and ought to solicit the advancement of the children they would have between them, and not any others.”8 Jane could have taken the hint, but she continued: “She replied that in asking for the restoration of the Princess she conceived she was seeking the rest and tranquillity of the King, herself, her future children, and for the whole realm for without that, neither your Majesty nor his people would ever be content”9. Chapuys adds something to this report which exemplifies his own feelings on her plea “Will endeavour by all means to make her continue in this vein”.

Jane did continue in this vein, but did not approach Henry directly on the issue again. However, she could not keep all her personal feelings to herself, when rebels who led the Pilgrimage of Grace demanded Henry restore the Catholic Church. They also demanded that the recently dissolved and destroyed monasteries be re-established. Jane’s sympathies clearly lay with the rebels, and despite a firm warning from Henry, she “threw herself onto her knees and begged Henry to restore the abbeys, suggesting that God, angered by their destruction, had sent the rebellions as punishments.” If Henry thought he was past argumentative wives, he was mistaken, and his response was of no surprise. He furiously ordered Jane to get up and reminded her of the fate of other queens who dared meddle in his affairs. The Frenchman who recorded the incident goes on to add “It was enough to frighten a woman is not very secure”10. The threat was clear, and Jane, unlike Anne, heard the warning.

Edward VI, son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour

Of all the wives, Jane satisfied Henry’s need for an heir. She did not live long enough to enjoy her great success, and instead endured a slow death. It is believed that Henry was not with her when she died, her torn and exhausted body finally giving in. Jane possessed personal strength, but she kept it hidden, restrained beneath a gentle exterior. Where Anne would run towards an issue, Jane would draw back. I do not suggest that drawing back or keeping silent was an indication of her intelligence, but rather she was able to adapt more easily to Henry’s mercurial temper, and knew when to let a point go.

Few can deny that the official portrait of Jane, with her weak chin and pallor, is bland, so bland in comparison with the striking portraits of Anne. But it is this blandness that has allowed historians to treat Jane as a blank canvas, projecting their own personal views of her, dismissing the inner strength that, like Anne, she possessed. She is harshly judged for usurping Anne, and accused of having no sympathy or empathy for anyone around her. We cannot possibly know what she may or may not have felt, just as we don’t truly know if Anne felt any sympathy for Katherine when she replaced her. Both women had ambitions and played their own personal games of seduction. All who adore Anne remember well that she was once vilified by history as a schemer, a wh*re and a home wrecker. It is only in recent times that a real attempt has been made to rehabilitate her; perhaps it is now Jane’s turn.


  1. David Starkey: Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII, Chatto & Windus, 2003, p.586
  2. Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10: January-June 1536, 1887, pp. 371-391.
  3. Agnes Strickland: Lives of the queens of England, from the Norman conquest: with anecdotes of their courts, now first published from official records and other authentic documents, private as well as public, Volume 2, Taggard & Thompson, 1864, p.216
  4. Eric Ives, The life and death of Anne Boleyn: ‘the most happy’, Wiley-Blackwell, 2004, p.304
  5. Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5 Part 2: 1536-1538, 1888, pp. 104-118.
  6. Letters and Papers, Henry VIII, volume 10, January – June 1536, 1887 p. 908
  7. Calendar of State Papers, Volume 5, part 2, p.908
  8. Letters and Papers, Henry VIII, Volume 10,pp. 371-391
  9. Ibid.
  10. Letters and papers, Henry VIII, volume 10, p. 860



Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10: January-June 1536, 1887
Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5 Part 2: 1536-1538, 1888

Secondary Sources

Antonia Fraser: The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Phoenix, 2002
Eric Ives: The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: ‘the most happy’, Wiley-Blackwell, 2004
Elizabeth Norton: Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s True Love, Amberley Publishing, 2009

Agnes Strickland: Lives of the queens of England, from the Norman conquest: with anecdotes of their courts, now first published from official records and other authentic documents, private as well as public, Volume 2, Taggard & Thompson, 1864

David Starkey: Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII, Chatto & Windus, 2003
Alison Weir: The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Grove Press, 2000

Lauren has her own website at http://www.lauren-mackay.com/ which is currently being developed.

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52 thoughts on “Jane Seymour: Redefining the Myth”
  1. Thank for you insightful article.
    I do find it hard to believe that Henry would marry a dimwitted woman.
    She just played a different game to Anne, in some ways a smarter one.
    Good ol Henry liked a chase, as men do.

    1. Read Joanna Denny’s biography about Katherine Howard – she makes a fascinating and convincing case in Katherine’s favour: she was so very, very young – would any of us have faired any better?

      1. I agree, Lucy. Katherine Howard was so very young, had no real tutoring and was left to basically run wild as a child and youth. She was extremely unprepared for having the lust of a king forced upon her, and she ultimately was nothing more than a young girl was fell in love with her cousin (Thomas Culpepper), and who was the political pawn of ruthless and uncaring men (the king, her uncle)..

        1. There is no evidence that Katherine Howard received no tutoring or that she was left to run wild. She had a traditional noble woman’s education, she learned how to run a great household, was particularly good at music, hence she had two music teachers, one of whom sadly took advantage of her as a young girl, she was literate and she was supervised, but probably not as well as she should have been. She lived in a large household, she lived there with other relatives of her own status, she shared a dorm only with young women and along with them she let young men in and partied, of her own free will. By that time she was fifteen and it was her choice to become sexually active with a young man who had a relationship with her. Mannox, the tutor caught taking advantage of her was dismissed and she moved to another Howard home. She had a proper relationship with a gentleman Francis Dereham and they gave promises to each other. Katherine was educated enough to be given a place at Court, twice, first offered under Jane Seymour, who died before she could serve her, then under Anne of Cleves. Henry was attracted to her and she was willing to accept his gifts, his visits and was willing to marry him. There is no evidence that KH or any of his wives were mere pawns. Henry could offer Katherine power and wealth and she could offer him more children, youth and vitality. She made him feel young again for a time. Katherine was showered with gifts and clothing and palaces and she enjoyed her role as Queen. She was not entirely passive, either, particularly in the role of intercession for prisoners and she showed herself to be a good Queen when it came to her ceremonial role.

          Katherine was very young, but she was not a child, but over the age of married consent. While she may not have been the best choice for Queen, she knew how to run a household and knew what behaviour was acceptable as Queen. Her main problem, ironically wasn’t herself, but Henry who found himself in poor health and Katherine was away from her for a long period of time, without any explanation been given to her. Henry had a problem with his leg and then he became depressed and withdrew from the young Queen in March 1541. She also heard a rumour that Henry was going to leave her and return to Anne of Cleves, who according to rumours, was going to have his child. Katherine felt insecure and was probably immature as well. She was anxious during this period and afterwards Henry took time to reassure his young wife and suppressed the talk about Anne of Cleves. There is evidence that although Katherine was often visited by Thomas Culpeper that she may not have slept with him. Adultery has never been proven. However, having him visit her in her room was foolish.

          Katherine’s age is debatable but it is unlikely that she was as young as fifteen and most historians take the evidence to point to an age of seventeen or eighteen at the time of her marriage to Henry Viii, who treated her well until her alleged adultery was revealed to him. Even then he didn’t immediately react as he had with Anne Boleyn, a very long and stringent investigation was undertaken and he was devastated by the news of her alleged betrayal. From his point of view he was presented with a long list of times and places, which this time did make sense and his wife was alone with a man in her room most of the night. I can see why her denial may be hard to accept. Henry didn’t want a trial for Katherine because of his embarrassing experience with Anne and George Boleyn, so he gave consent for her and Lady Jane Rochford who had helped her, to be found guilty and condemned by an Act of Parliament. Because the two men had been found guilty, the women were automatically condemned. It was a very tragic end to the life of a young woman but Katherine Howard was not an innocent victim forced into marriage and she wasn’t a child, certainly not by Tudor standards. I personally believe she committed adultery, but I don’t believe she committed treason. The law only demanded a presumption that she intended to do so for her to be condemned.

  2. Thanks for the information on Jane–she has always seemed a blank canvas to me, also, and I appreciate your filling in the picture. She was clearly a more complex person than I thought!

  3. Belle…definately right on with Kitty Howard…..LOL she was a stupid little girl. I think Henry had enough with woman who challenged him. Katherine of Aragon was very smart and was able to stand her ground, Anne was smart and able to bend Henry to her thinking and now with this info on Jane, makes you think how he may have just been sick of ‘thinking’ with a woman. Of all the wives my absolute fav is Anne followed by Katherine Parr. If Henry VIII were alive today he would be villified as a pig. There would be zero tolerance for his excuses as to why he needed a new wife, again and again. I appreciate the article but still don’t particularly like plain Jane. I can see her hating Anne in the beginning when all was going down with the first wife, I can even see a great movie plot with her plotting to do the same to Anne.

    1. Kitty Howard, who was young enough to be Henry’s granddaughter in today’s day and age, wasn’t stupid. She unfortunately was the victim of neglect (never having a formal education and being allowed to run wild instead of being taught how ladies of the day conducted themselves). Her great mistake was to fall in love; what young woman wouldn’t when they find themselves forced into a marriage with a man so much older, extremely obese, with a putrid and stinking wound on his leg, and who had no table manners nor self control when it came to temper?
      Kitty was foolish, not stupid. She fell in love with her cousin, Thomas Culpepper, of whom there had been previous talk of marriage between the two. Of all of the queens, I pity her the most. She was the toy of ruthless men who cared nothing if she died…..and had it not been on charges of adultery it would have been something else thrown in by those who wanted someone else in her place.

      1. There is no evidence that Katherine Howard was stupid or dim witted. Too many people watching too much Tudors type rubbish or reading too many novels. Neither Jane Seymour or Katherine Howard were uneducated, the post is about Jane Seymour anyhow, but neither woman was a pawn, nor were they forced to marry Henry Viii.

  4. Thank you for that very informative and well written article! It’s true that history has painted Jane as the demure little angel, but I’m glad to see something written on her that portrays her as not the innocent lamb a lot of people have come to believe she was! She was a very smart woman in her own right, and I believe that had she not died after giving birth to Edward, she would have been Henry’s last wife, and history as we know it would have been very different.

  5. Kate, I don’t know if Katherine Howard was as dimwitted as she was extremely young and naieve. While I’m not at all condoning her behaviour, and do think that she could have been smarter about the things she did, I believe she was a victim. Her story is so tragic because of her youth, in my opinion.

    1. To me it was a different situation. Henry was looking
      to get rid of Catherine before Anne even came along.
      Henry chased Anne. Initially Anne didn’t even want Henry.
      Anne replacing Catherine didn’t result in Catherine’s execution.
      Jane went after Henry. Jane’s relationship with Henry and
      replacement of Anne resulted in Anne’s execution.
      To me that’s huge difference.

  6. If Jane was the oldest, why wasn’t she married? Kind of odd that.
    Thanks for the article. You breathe life into a woman who we know so little about. However, I really cannot bring myself to like her. Anne was chased by Henry for years. Even though her family was pushing her, Anne did not give in. Jane, along with her family, went after Henry. The scheming takes my breath away.

  7. That was a good article and put a different light on Jane. I don’t think that Jane was dimwitted or stupid because she with her alliances pulled off a major coup in not only getting rid of Anne permanently but getting rid of all the Boleyn influences with one fell sweep. I think that she played her part very well.
    I still don’t like her and have no empathy or sympathy for her.

    Jane was also a victim of Henry’s. Left to die after a complicated and long birth.
    I just think that to compare Anne and Jane is like night and day. Even though Jane may have been well educated she couldn’t hold a candlestick to Anne’s intellect or intelligent, wit , charm etc.

    As for Kitty Howard she was young and naive to the ways of the court. Probably never even thought that she would be a threat to the reformist as she was catholic. She was also mismanaged in her youth by her grandmother bringing her up. I think that being so young she was flattered by the king’s love for her and all the perks that went with being queen. It is very sad that she was also executed.

  8. I was left sort of captivated by the Annabelle Wallis version of Jane in Tudors season three, as a kind of Lady Di figure, doing good behind the scenes

  9. The article was very informative!! I still of course can’t bring myself to like Jane. I feel sorry for her because she died young, but that is the end of my positive feelings for her. I think she played the “sweet, innocent virgin” in order to get Henry’s attention..

    1. I can’t bring myself to like her or feel sorry for her.
      She strikes me as playing the innocent. Also I’ve
      read that the switch of actresses playing Jane in
      the Tudors was intentional so that people would be
      Less inclined to blame Jane fot Anne’s death.

  10. Thankyou for the kind words!
    When I was younger I used to despise Jane. I judged her harshly for the coup against Anne, and basically ignored what happened to Katherine. However my own research shed light on so many historical figures in the Tudor period that I had dismissed or just not liked. It’s hard to judge either woman, as both seduced Henry away from his wife. Also, it is possible that Jane (like most) believed Anne would merely be sent to a nunnery. Once it was clear she was going to be executed, we have no idea what her feelings were, and she was hardly going to broadcast them!

  11. Lauren — thank you so much for such an insightful article. I’ve always had such mixed feelings about Jane, going all the way back to the first portrayal I saw of her (Anne Stallybrass in The Six Wives of Henry VIII in which she believed that Anne had been set up to make way for her & pretty much goes to her death, guilt-ridden). I never thought of her as being dumb or stupid, but figured she knew how to hold her tongue in ways Katherine or Anne didn’t, and that she knew how to play the “I won’t be your mistress, but I will be your Queen” game very well. She was definitely multi-layered, I’ll say that for her, a woman who could play the demure virgin (I always did think that story of her refusing Henry’s letter and kissing it and all was pure theater which just enticed Henry more), but still stand up for Princess Mary’s rights and plead for the Pilgrimmage of Grace rebels. She’s probably 5th among my rankings of Henry’s wives, but I’m glad you’ve taken the time to give all of us a second look! Thanks!!

  12. I have to say I have never warmed to Jane. Indeed, compare to Anne, she is dim and quite plain. I do not see what Henry could have seen in her but, who knows? She was very different from Anne so maybe that’s it. Luckily, she did give him the heir but so sad at the cost of her life. Edward might have been very different under her mothering–who knows, he may have even lived longer and Elizabeth never been queen. Now that’s a horrid thought!

  13. I know that divorce was frowned upon in Tudor times but the impression I get was that Henry and Katherine of Aragon were leading separate lives and that Henry had mentally “divorced” himself from Katherine a long time before the actual divorce. I think that Anne came around at the right time and seemed a way to get an heir and Anne knew that a mistress could not do that and looking at her sister, a discarded mistress was not a good position to be in. Just my opinion, but after Anne’s last miscarriage, Henry seemed to be distancing himself from Anne. Didn’t he ask if he could get his marriage to Anne annulled without being considered married to Katherine? I think Henry was realizing he was getting older and had still not realized his goal of a son. Jane seems to be at the right place and at the right time to get Henry to notice her. And after Cromwell’s plot to get rid of the Boleyn faction, the Seymours quickly realized an opportunity and took it. I see Jane as someone who followed what her family told her to do – it seems more like a business deal to me with one faction moving in to fill a void and Jane as the replacement for another wife who didn’t produce a son. I still think that Henry was ready to make a change and he already thought of replacing Anne before thinking about Jane in particular.

  14. I will Write what I really think. I’ve learnet a lot of this and read and when, Henry married with Jane and he as soon he can was very very sorry,because – He saw many beautiful women there were in the court.
    Let’s be clear… Henry was not in love for Jane.But he saw in a new wife a way to let Anne and ‘his problems’ like: talk a lot (Yes now is ‘talk a lo’t before he considered perfect), do not conceive a SON,the terrible fame that she had etc
    Unfortunally I cannot see Jane more than a lucky person.
    And the sadness of Henry in my opinion was just some fellings of how unlucky he was. Because he had lost three wives!
    But as we saw, He was very strong and he married again rehabilitated.

  15. I’ve always thought that Henry fell for Jane because she seemed to be nothing like Anne. Anne fought him to the grave; Jane knew when to back off, knew how to save her skin. I think that Henry loved all of his wives, but not as much as he loved himself. Their interests rarely came before his own. Jane died before he could turn on her, too.

  16. I am not convinced Henry would have turned on Jane though. There would have been no cause to. She bore a son, she may have borne more, we just don’t know. Also she never complained when he had dalliances, she looked away and never reproached him for it. He would have been hardpressed to find a reason.
    I am glad that my article has inspired debate and am enjoying reading all the different opinions!

  17. Women where property to be used for the advancement of the men….Jane was just a
    ends to a mean,,,a way to advance her father and brothers….they didnt care what happened to her….but she had enough sense to keep her mouth shut when she needed to and to pick her battles…..this made it so that Henry could put her as the perfect wife,,,,she kept her mouth shut and then gave a son…then very convient to Henry died before he became tired of her….which was also convient for the men in her family and they could play that to the hilt…..the little woman, their sister,,,,died to give Henry an heir….a win, win for the men….henry and her brothers and father……..

  18. Lauren, you have an excellent point about there being no reason for Henry to turn on Jane. It’s just…well, you never knew with that guy.

  19. Sharon, I think you make an excellent point about women being treated as property. Unfortunately, women are still treated this way in some parts of the world. And I think the Seymour brothers would have played the sympathy card for all its worth. Eliza, I must say that you make a good point about Henry – even with a son, Jane would still have to be careful not to say the wrong thing around Henry!

  20. It would be great to know all of this for certain! IF Jane had lived … IF Anne had a boy … unfortunately, history didn’t end up that way, but it is fun to speculate.

    I think saying Henry wouldn’t have turned on Jane because she had a son is like saying Henry wouldn’t have turned on Anne if only she had a son. Anne’s position would have been more secure, but she had a lot of detractors who became more vocal as time went on. Perhaps we don’t know so much about Jane’s detractors because there wasn’t enough time.

    Additionally, we know Henry got crazier and more suspicious as time went on. By the time he got to Jane, he was a man who had already seen two good friends and advisors dead (ordering the execution of one!), separated his first wife and daughter from each other and left them to die in exile, and then had his second wife executed and bastardized his child with her, as well. Much of that was in pursuit of a male heir, which Jane did provide, but Henry’s history up to that point still doesn’t paint a very hopeful future for poor Jane.

  21. this was a very good article. I wonder what Jane Seymour thought of Anne Boleyn’s downfall and death, but, to say it harshly, she only did what she had to do in order to get where she wanted – on the throne and into Henry’s bed. I guess that she possessed inner strength indeed, and she was, in a way, cleverer than Anne because she knew when to let a point go and succumb to Henry’s wishes. and, her life was as tragic as Anne’s because in the end, she died too, all for one man.

  22. To me, Jane and Anne are very similar in many ways. They both were used by their male family members for gain, they both held out for marriage, and they both came to power in similar ways. I guess that no one will ever really know if Henry would have tired of Anne even if she had a male child or if Henry would have tired of Jane as well. There is just no knowing. It is still sort of an interesting thing to think about.

  23. What an excellent and well presented article! I’ve long held the similar viewpoint that it is unfair to blame Jane (or Anne) for the downfall of the former queen while exonerating the other. History is not black and white. It is something that needs to be approached without biased and a head full of knowledge! Well done!

  24. This is a very interesting, well-balanced article. Whilst I don’t particularly like Jane for the disingenuous role which she played, I admire her courage, I really do, for standing up to Henry for Mary’s Rights of Succession and for the rebels in the Pilgrimage of Grace. She can’t have been so dimwitted not to realise the danger she was putting herself in by opposing the will of a tyrant and braving his wrath. I think that both Anne and Jane showed supreme courage.

  25. Jane Seymour did go behind Henry’s back and give money for clothing for both elizabeth and Mary, the kings neglected daughters. His true character is shown in how he treated these little girls, Mary when her mother was dying and they were’nt allowed to see each other ( I would never have forgiven him for that and probably killed him with my bare hands). Then Elizabeths mother being murdered and the little girl forgotten about and vilified.

  26. I really enjoyed the article by Lauren Mackay. There is such an abundance of reading information on Anne Boleyn and very little of Jane Seymour. They clearly were two different women in many ways except in the one way they each managed to seduce Henry. It’s hard to really know the real Jane. As, we have been presented with a picture of either the mousy plain Jane or the cunning shewolf who/or was instructed to manipulate Henry to bring down the Boleyn Fraction at court. Perhaps, Henry was attracted to Jane not because she was an opposite to Anne’s personna but rather she maybe reminded him of his own deceased mother Elizabeth in her quiet mannerisms and she too being from a large family like his late mother’s. Like his father Henry perhaps he thought he would be more inclined to have male heirs from a woman from a family with an abundance of males within it. A male heir seems to be have been his only true love! Who knows if Jane would have remained as his last wife if she had not died. We will never really know! If only Anne would have had his most needed son and so many lives could have been saved.

  27. I have an irrational dislike of Jane, probably because she was most likely the cause of Anne losing her baby. And it is rather strange that Jane did the same things Anne did to get Henry yet she wasn’t ever labeled a wh*re and ever other name in the book.

  28. I liked the article on Jane. Jane knew how to pick her battles wisely like the Pilgrimmage of grace rebels and the monastries and the abbey’s. Jane knew when to stop making her point with Henry cos she seen what he did to Katherine and what he did to Anne.
    If she had lived maybe she would have been Henry’s last wife, and maybe her son Edward would have been brought up catholic and have a stronger realtionship with her stepchildren Mary and Elizabeth.

  29. Jane Seymour was way worse than Anne Boleyn. While Henry and KOA’s marriage was over and KOA was unable to have children, Anne was still young and fertile. And Anne may have said she wanted KOA dead, she died of natural causes. Jane was a big part to Anne’s death. Both did bad things but there were differences that make Anne higher up on the moral ladder. They were similar but Anne was better. Thanks for listening to my rant.


      1. True, if you look at the history, the times and what we know on these people, I see something in the portraits and actions of Queen Jane shows me a lady who was ruthless and strong. I don’t realy blame her, it was the circumstances . I also believe that Henry was the core of the problem. But also, I stand by my argument. Anne was still young and she should of been spared. That is my argument.

    1. Jane had nothing to do with Anne’s death. Henry was the jerk who caused the downfall of many women, mistresses included.

      1. Yes he did. I do agree but Jane did have at least a small part in the fate of Anne. This is my opinion gowever, if you think differently please reply and tell my more.

        1. I believe that both Jane and Anne were pushed into circumstances they could not control. They were both young and neither deserved their fate.

  30. Jane Seymour was clever and as to her not being educated, of course she was educated. She was a lady in waiting to Katherine of Aragon and was impressive enough to have made a good case for herself with one of the best clever men of his day: Chaprys. Jane could both read and write to a high standard, had the education of a gentlewoman. She must have been musical and could sew and may have known at least two languages. She was shrewd and whitty and had good insight into the human heart. She learned quickly not to cause Henry too much trouble, how to behave in their courtship, to make the translation from mistress to wife, to reconcile Henry to his daughters and how to act as Queen. She knew when to back off after he became angry, something Anne never learned and she knew a thing or two about gaining favours from Henry on behalf of others. She may have been quiet, but even that was being clever. Jane was brave and had she lived to raise Edward, she would have gained more influence as well.

    Until recently there were very few books on Jane Seymour. Until 2009 onwards only two were around that could be brought: Jane Seymour: Third Consort of Henry VIII from the 1960s and a short biography by Frances May written in about 1973. Now at least three new biographies have been written all at once. Norton and Loades have written two more complete biographies than before and both show Jane in a light that is much more in keeping with a strong woman, not anyone who is a mouse as is often seen by Hollywood.

  31. Thanks for this article, we rarely here anything about her and she’s often seen as conniving and a villain or the complete opposite, its great to have the record set straight. As her book (inside the Tudor court) said through Chapuys, she possessed great understanding and was highly observant and I believe she formed this role for herself to survive.

  32. To me it was a different situation. Henry was looking
    to get rid of Catherine before Anne even came along.
    Henry chased Anne. Initially Anne didn’t even want Henry.
    Anne replacing Catherine didn’t result in Catherine’s execution.
    Jane went after Henry. Jane’s relationship with Henry and
    replacement of Anne resulted in Anne’s execution.
    To me that’s huge difference.

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