RIP Queen Jane Seymour

On this day in history, on the night of 24th October 1537, Queen Jane Seymour, third wife of King Henry VIII, died at Hampton Court Palace.

Jane had given birth to a healthy baby boy, the future King Edward VI, on 12th October 1537, but had become ill not long after Edward’s christening on 15th October. It is believed that she died of puerperal (childbed) fever, a postpartum infection.

Jane Seymour was laid to rest in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, on 13th November, with her step-daughter, the Lady Mary, acting as chief mourner. Her heart and entrails were buried in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace:

“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. Friday, 26 Oct., there was provided in the chamber of presence a hearse with 21 tapers about it, &c., and the corpse conveyed, in honourable wise, from the place where she died, and laid beneath the hearse. All the ladies and gentlewomen “put off their rich apparel, doing on their mourning habit and white kerchers hanging over their heads and shoulders,” and there knelt about the hearse during mass afore noon and Dirige after; there was also a watch kept nightly until the last day of the month.”1

You can click here to read my article from 2014 which contains primary source accounts of Jane’s illness and death.

Contrary to myth, Jane Seymour did not die after having had a C-section – click here to read more on that.

My 60-second history video on Jane Seymour:

Further reading on Jane Seymour:

Notes and Sources

  1. Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 12, Part 2, 1060.

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16 thoughts on “RIP Queen Jane Seymour”
  1. I’m sorry she didn’t live long enough to see her son become king but at least she died in the knowledge that she fulfilled her primary duty as queen.

    Rest in Peace Queen Jane.

  2. She is now Queen of heaven. Rest in Peace, blessed Lady. May you sleep peacefully beside your husband and rejoice in heaven with your son.

  3. It must have seemed to many of the noblewomen who resided at the court and the poor as well that to be Queen Of England was an enviable thing to be, yet it came with a price, so many women fell victim to the dangers of childbirth, lack of knowledge and sanitation which made women vulnerable to infection, it was extremely dangerous to both mother and child, for queen consorts it was a burden that had to be endured on a regular basis till they either died as in Janes case or when they became menopausal, Elizabeth of York and Catherine Parr both were victims of the perils of childbirth, does anyone know why her heart and entrails were buried in Hampton Court, iv heard this happened a lot with some monarchs having their heart residing in another place, was Jane particularly fond of Hampton court ?

    1. Perhaps that was Henry’s idea as that was where she gave birth to Edward. I know that it was buried there but I have not read anything explaining a particular reason

    2. The heart and entrails were always removed as part of the elaborate burial preparations. This cost s lot of money, so normally only for higher ups, but it was part of a more elaborate ritual. They were normally buried seperately, or preserved in a special casket. In the case of the Kings of Bavaria they all had their hearts placed in a heart shaped silver casket and it has their name on. They are all collected into a special chapel. It is a little odd as Catholic belief is that the body has to be intact in order to unite with the soul in the afterlife on the Day of Resurrection when we get a new body. This was revised as we understand now we don’t need a literal reading of this and it is actually not possible for the body to be in one piece all the time and we understand the way the body decomposed and so on. If the body was not buried together, the missing parts were kept close. It was part of the execution process to detatch parts of the body to deny you the afterlife and cut out your reproductive organs to symbolise that you are not worthy to have children. More than one head found its way back to a body before or after burial. I am guessing someone decided hearts and entrails may not be needed in the next life lol or maybe we get up and go and find them. Sorry, I need yo be serious. I think the soft tissue rotted more quickly so they removed it in case it rotted the rest. In any case I really don’t know but it was a common practice. They were often buried in a different place, maybe at the request of the person who was attached to a special place or had made a vow to go somewhere but failed, so their heart was removed there. Perhaps because Jane was Queen and her greatest triumph and happiness was at Hampton Court and the Chapel built at the time of Edward’s birth and where he was baptised that Henry had her heart and entrails placed in a casket there. There is a wonderful wooden panel there now but Jane’s casket is believed to be still there. The chapel is still used daily but it is not big enough for a tomb. Windsor and Westminster where the two main royal burial places and Windsor, rather than Westminster held special significance for Henry, do he chose to buried in the middle of the huge choir. The banners and stalls of the Knights of the Garter hang both sides and there is also buried Edward iv in his famous chapel, the one York ancestor Henry Viii admired and looked like.

      Jane was buried here as Queen with all royal honours as it was here Henry wanted to have his elaborate tomb. His tomb was never finished and was eventually taken down and replaced with a black marker slab in the time of William iv as it was unmarked. He wanted to track down all of the Kings and made markers for the royal and nobles in Windsor. Practically level with Jane and Henry in the South Transit is the tomb marker of Charles Brandon, who also got a royal send off. Just an odd item, when Charles I was beheaded they could not find a vault for him and his loyal servants and a local bishop insisted on a funeral in Windsor. The Parliamentary soldiers wouldn’t let him in and they forced their way in. They had to find a vault which was occupied but had space, so they found the big one in the choir and the coffin was laid there in between Henry and Jane. The three coffins were identified and an infant coffin was found. This dates from the time of Queen Anne and the slab commemorating Henry and Jane also commemorated King Charles and this little child. The child has no name so the record must have been lost. James I and Vi is in the same vault as Henry’s parents, Henry Vii and Elizabeth of York in his Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey. Goes to show, even royal graves become crowded.

      1. Thank you very much for that info. I have read bits and peices here and there about the ritual but never heard such a good explanation.

  4. Rest in peace Queen Jane Seymour, who gave Henry his son, but at what cost, your own life and his heir wouldn’t live beyond his sixteenth year, so he may as well have stayed with either Katherine or Anne and accepted his daughters as heirs. Oh, but of course Henry would not know that and we only know because of history. You were good for the King and it’s a shame you didn’t live to shape a dynastic future, maybe have more children and be properly remembered. Henry would mourn you and be with you at the end because of your sacrifice.

    There are several medical opinions as to why Jane got sepsis and child bed fever as she was well for a few days after a long and difficult labour of over forty eight hours, but none of them matter as they would all have been too complex or caused an infection. Basic hygiene was known about but that didn’t guarantee it being observed. The rules of court made certain people were clean but in the chaos of the birth room, who knows what was being ignored. Childbirth was dangerous anyway, but Jane didn’t die in childbirth, but from an infection somehow contracted, more from little handling than overly intimate handling as for the first time doctors were allowed into the room. They would normally be on stand by but they may have controlled if not actually taken part in the birth. One opinion is that the doctor missed something a midwife would provide help with, but the doctor being a man would not touch the Queen. This is modern guesswork and is probably just as fanciful as some of the medical advice of 500 years ago. Whatever happened or was neglected it appears that Jane contracted an infection, it took hold slowly and she died as much from neglect as anything else. After such a triumph poor Jane deserved better.

    1. Apparently they blamed her women for feeding her the rich foods she asked for but it wasn’t what she ate that was the problem, she could have had some of the placenta in her – highly dangerous, or the doctors hands were just not clean enough, when you consider now medical staff wear masks and there are bottles of disinfectant hand wash outside every ward in hospitals, surgical instruments are sterilised for cleanliness is needed and has to be observed strictly, but in Queen Janes birthing chamber the poor woman was quite possibly pulled apart by rough male hands which weren’t particurlaly clean, it was ignorance that led to her death and sadly it could have been avoided, part of the problem was Henry allowed his doctors into tend her instead of the experienced midwife, I believe this was a fatal mistake, as she may have known about the placenta if that was the problem and taken it out, but then she could still have died, Henry I believe was frantic as she had been in labour for two days and decided to allow his doctors in, it was very sad she did die as she had gone through a most dreadful labour and without painkillers too, although they did use soothing herbs, after suffering all that she did deserve to live and she was fine after Edward was born exhausted but ok, but then once the infection took hold it went fast as it always does, she developed a fever and diahhorea and became delirious, all the court and London prayed for her it must have been a very gloomy time, there was nothing they could do and she died after giving Henry his first and only legitimate son that survived infancy, Henry mourned her sincerely and she held a special place in his heart always, years later when Henry commissioned a family portrait she was standing opposite him in Holbeins great masterpiece, Edward their son is there with Mary and Elizabeth, and she lies beside him for all eternity, the only queen of his to share that dubious honour, sadly Edward never lived long enough to enjoy being sole ruler of England, he died whilst his fathers council were in charge and before he could fulfill his promise of turning into maybe great ruler, or perhaps a rather memorable one like his father, in his portraits there is a marked resemblance to his mother and he was a highly precocious boy, inheriting the Tudors scholarly brain, his sudden demise at the age of just sixteen proved all of Henry V111’s efforts to secure a son were fruitless.

  5. Poor Jane, such a tragic death and it could have so easily been prevented with better hygiene and awareness. Thank goodness for modern medicine!

    RIP sweet lady xxx

  6. I believe one of the main reasons Jane died, was because of the fact that she was tended to by male physicians and not experienced midwives, which were most likely what Jane really needed. King Henry wanted Jane to get the best of treatment during her labor, and sent out for the “best physician in the kingdom”. As someone here has stated, “the poor woman was quite possibly pulled apart by rough male hands which weren’t particularly clean.” If she had a cesarean-section, it was most likely worse. Analgesic drugs and numbing remedies were either not common or nonexistent, so Jane most likely was wide awake the entire time, (adding to another reason she died no doubt).
    Unlike his other wives, Jane was also watched constantly, for fear of her health suddenly faltering. The woman was really put under so much pressure, I’m surprised she didn’t burst. The king, the court, the entire country; everyone was waiting for this birth. I read somewhere that “the King prayed all night for the safety of his wife and child, and did not sleep at all”. That kind of care and compassion just reminds you how adored she was by the king, a completely different type of love compared to what Anne Boleyn received.
    I actually kind of pity him that she died.

  7. “Henry was very worried about his wife. Alison Weir writes that he had intended to return to Esher for the beginning of the hunting season but he put this off because he wanted to be near Jane. On the evening of the 23rd, Henry was summoned to Jane’s bedside as it was obvious that she was dying. Weir writes of how he remained with her that night and that she died in the early hours of the 24th October. Henry was devastated and hid himself away at Windsor, refusing to see anyone. He wallowed for 3 weeks and wore full mourning for 3 months after Jane’s death. His happiness at the birth of his much longed for son had been eclipsed by the death of his wife and queen. It was a few months before Henry could bring himself to do his duty and look for another wife.”

    This is what the author wrote. I think that that was possibly the most affection Henry could have ever given to any of his wives. He really truly cared about her, and not only because she delivered him a son. He really loved her.

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