On this day in Tudor history, 24th October 1537, in the reign of King Henry VIII, the king’s third wife, Jane Seymour, died at Hampton Court Palace.
Jane Seymour died twelve days after giving birth to a son, the future King Edward VI.
In the video and transcript below, I share contemporary accounts of Jane Seymour’s illness and death, as well as details of how her remains were prepared for burial and where they were buried.
You can read an article on Jane’s labour and death by midwife Dayna Goodchild in the June 2018 edition of Tudor Life magazine at https://www.tudorsociety.com/june-2018-tudor-life-the-seymours/.
On this day in Tudor history, 24th October 1537 Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII and mother of Edward VI, died at Hampton Court Palace twelve days after giving birth to a son who would grow up to be King Edward VI.
Jane had initially recovered well from her long and arduous labour, but started to go downhill in the days following Edward’s christening on 15th October, suffering with a fever and delirium. On 17th October, her fever reached crisis point, and it looked like Jane would recover, but then it struck again. On the 24th October her condition worsened, and she died that night.
I’ll share with you now some contemporary accounts of her illness and death:
Sir John Russell wrote to Thomas Cromwell on 24th October from Hampton Court:
“Today the King intended to remove to Asher, and, because the Queen was very sick this night and today, he tarried, but he will be there tomorrow. “If she amend he will go and if she amend not he told me this day he could not find in his heart to tarry.” She was in great danger yesternight and to day but, if she sleep this night, the physicians hope that she is past danger.”
Thomas Cromwell also received a letter from the Earl of Rutland, Bishop of Carlisle and others, dated 24th October:
“Yesterday afternoon the Queen had “an naturall laxe,” by reason of which she seemed to amend till toward night. All night she has been very sick, and rather “appears” than amends. Her confessor has been with her this morning, and is now preparing to minister the Sacrament of Unction. Hampton Court, Wednesday, 8 a.m.”
Edward Hall recorded in his chronicle:
“But Lord what lamentation shortly after was made for the death of his noble and gracious mother Quene Jane, which departed out of this life the fourteen day of October, next followyng: and of none in the Realm was it more heavelier taken then of the kinges Majestie himself, whose death cause the kyng imediatly to remove into Westminster where he mourned and kept himself close and secret a great while […]”
and Charles Wriothesley recorded:
“This year, the 14 of October, being Wednesday, Queene Jane departed this life, lying in childbed, about 2 of the clock in the morninge, when she had reigned as the Kings wife, being never crowned, one year and a quarter.”
You will notice that both Hall and Wriothesley write of Jane dying on the 14th October, rather than the 24th, but the editor of Wriothesley’s Chronicle points out that this is an error in the transcription of the chronicles because Sir John Russell’s letter, which is still extant, is dated 24th October and also Wriothesley says that she died on a Wednesday and the 14th was a Sunday. He also points out that Cecil’s Journal gave the correct date.
In Letters and Papers, there is a record of the arrangements made following Jane Seymour’s death:
“A remembrance of the interment of Queen Jane, mother of Edward VI., who died at Hampton Court, 24 Oct., on Wednesday about 12 p.m., in child-bed, 29 Henry VIII.
Immediately upon this heavy news the King ordained the duke of Norfolk, High Marshal, and Sir William. Pawlet, Treasurer of the Household, to see to her burial; and he himself retired to a solitary place to pass his sorrows. The aforesaid councillors then sent for Garter and other of the Office of Arms to show precedents. First the wax-chandler did his office, taking out the entrails “with searing, balming, spicing, and trammeling in cloth,” then the plumber leaded, soldered, and chested; and her entrails were honourably interred in the chapel.”
So Jane’s heart and entrails were buried in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace. The record then goes on to give details of the burial of Jane’s corpse in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, on 13th November 1537. Jane’s step-daughter, the Lady Mary, acted as chief mourner. Henry VIII chose to be buried beside the woman he regarded as his true wife, and he was laid to rest beside her after his death in January 1547.