The Death of Jane Seymour
Posted By Claire on October 24, 2010
On this day in history, the 24th October 1537, Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour died at Hampton Court.
Although it had seemed like she was recovering well after her long and arduous labour, but within two days of her son’s christening she became feverish and delirious. After her fever reached crisis point on the 17th, it looked like Jane would begin to recover but she started to go downhill again, passing in and out of consciousness. On the 24th October, Jane’s doctor’s told the King that she had reached crisis point and that if she survived the night then she should make a full recovery, unfortunately, Jane did not survive the night.
On the night of the 24th October, just 12 days after giving Henry VIII, the greatest gift, that of a son and heir, the future Edward VI, Jane Seymour passed away. We do not know exactly what it was that killed her. It could have been puerperal fever (childbed fever), an infection caused by the retention of part of the placenta or some other kind of complication, but she was mourned by a grief-stricken Henry VIII who chose to be buried with her at St George’s Chapel on his death in 1547.
You can read more about Jane Seymour in the following articles:-
A YouTube video clip from “The Tudors” showing Jane Seymour’s death:-
7 thoughts on “The Death of Jane Seymour”
I never know how to approach Jane. It’s been that way since I first saw her portrayed by Anne Stallybrass in ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ — devoutly Catholic, her faith somewhat shaken when Henry reveals the tricks used by the monasteries to get people to part with their money, and then guilt when she begins to believe that Anne Boleyn was framed to make way for her. Then came Wendy Barrie in ‘The Private Life of Henry VIII’ — Jane as blonde, silly and stupid with a 1930’s bob. I barely remember Emilia Fox who was paired with Ray Winstone, but I know he knocked her down while she was pregnant (he was ticked about something). Then I see two sides of her in ‘The Tudors’ — borderline homewrecker in Season 2, then noble, gentle and tragic in Season 3. And I still don’t feel as though I know the real Jane.
I don’t put myself in a ‘Team Anne’/’Team Jane’ mode (even if I do lean more towards Team Anne 🙂 ), but when I think about Henry’s wives, Jane is down near the bottom. She probably was the “perfect” wife for Henry at that point in his life, especially after the tumultuous relationships with Katherine and Anne; I don’t think she was stupid or scatterbrained; but it’s hard for me to believe that — coming from the family she did — some of the Seymour attitude didn’t rub off on her. In that article Claire ran a short time ago, we even hear of Chapuys calling her arrogant. The more I think about her returning that piece of jewelry to Henry and performing her faux-Anne Boleyn routine (I cannot be your mistress, but…), the more I see her as more calculating than we ever knew. Anne seemed more open in her relationship with Henry as it grew from Queen’s lady-in-waiting to Queen herself. Jane seemed to be lurking in the background at every turn, waiting for her predecessor’s downfall. I can’t call her wicked; she may have been a nice girl who saw her opportunity and went for it. I’m even sorry she died after giving birth. But do I like her or admire her or understand her? ‘Fraid not, and of all Henry’s wives, she is the biggest enigma.
I remember reading (David Starkey?) that historians underestimated the intensity of Jane’s ambition. I agree with assessment.
We do know a few things:
1) The Seymour family wasted no time in taking advantage of Anne’s downfall.
2) Because there is so little known about Jane (damn her for dying young!), it is difficult for historians to assess why she married Henry. While it is difficult for me to imagine marrying without love, there isn’t any historical indication that Jane loved Henry before their marriage. Love was rare amongst the aristocracy, at least before marriage. There is plenty of history that shows us that upper-class Tudor women had no choice in whom they married. I believe that the Seymours used Jane as much as the Boylens used Anne and her sister Mary. I believe the the Boylens were more intense about their pursuit of the King since they weren’t aristocrats when Anne and Mary went to court. They had more to gain by marrying a daughter to the King.
3) Both Katherine and Anne were intensely intelligent, religious and outspoken women. I believe that Jane and her family were very careful to make Jane into the perfect docile, submissive and meek women that history records her to be. She had every reason to be a quiet and submissive wife. When Henry loved you, it was with everything. But once he became angry, his love grew cold very quickly. Jane had watched Anne’s downfall and would have had a full understanding of how Henry treated Katherine. I think Jane learned from Katherine’s and Anne’s fates. Which tells me that Jane was very, very smart.
4) I believe, based on what I have read, that Jane was a introvert. Anne was an extreme extrovert as was Henry. Henry enjoyed Anne’s extroversion, but once they married, he expected Anne to settle into marriage and become more submissive. I believe that Henry thought that once he was Anne’s husband, she would lose some of her fire because she wouldn’t have to fight for him anymore. That wasn’t possible for Anne; not after 7 years of having her intensity and extroversion rewarded by Henry.
Written reports by others show Jane to be much more subdued. After the intensity of Anne, and the intense betrayal Henry felt by her, he was ready for a calmer home life. Henry was no longer the young man he had previously been and I think he was tired of marital strife. It seems that Jane’s temperament was more naturally suited to be the submissive Tudor wife that Henry finally wanted. There is no doubt that Jane welded her power just as much as Henry’s previous wives did; she just did so very differently.
5) Jane was quietly ambitious. She must have been. Even during Tudor times, to prepare to become engaged while Anne was in the towers was harsh. I don’t think that Jane manipulated Henry into a quick wedding. I do believe that she saw her chance and she took it. She wanted to be queen. If she hadn’t, she wouldn’t have become queen, even if her parents tried to force her. She grabbed the opportunity even as she watched Anne’s murder (not literally). It doesn’t appear that Jane mourned Anne; if anything, she may have calmed Henry’s conscience.
I wonder how Jane’s life would have been had she lived longer. Was Henry capable of remaining pleased or content with a woman for more than 10 years? Would he have turned on her as well?
I definitely think that Jane was not the meek and mild woman that people tend to think she was, she knew how to play Henry and was coached to do so. She definitely learned from watching Catherine and Anne and could see that Anne’s fatal flaw was not being submissive to Henry like a good Tudor wife and queen should be. Anne carried on being the woman that Henry fell in love with, not realising that Henry expected her to change. Jane made herself into the woman Henry wanted and needed – a clever girl.
I agree with all of you that Jane was not the “perfect” and submissive woman. I don’t like her at all, because she was one of the factors in Anne’s fall. But I feel sorry for her, as I feel sorry for every woman who dies so young and especially giving birth to a new human being. I would like to know what would have happened if she had lived. I reckon that she would be Henry’s queen forever. He wouldn’t get rid of his son’s mother. And possibly noone would have heard of Catherine Howard. RIP Jane.
I don’t know. When I was yougner Jane was always my favourite. Now I’m older, I have a very strong affection for both Anne and Jane. In their way, they are both very similar to one another, in my opinion… after all, Jane mirrored Anne in the courtship of Henry. I’m no expert, but that’s what my eyes see. I don’t really care if Jane really was as meek and submissive as she appeared to be… in fact, a part of me hopes she was lol, because as much as I admire Anne adn love, love, love her…. I’m probably more like the stereotype of Jane. An iron fist in a silk glove. What can I say? Love them both.
i am actually beginning to write a book from janes prospective of court life from her being a maid to her death in 1537,hopefully making her more human and persenable, reading all the info i can to pad her out more, i have to say it does seem that she could read henry moods better than AB and knew when to keep her mouth shut before she went too far,but my fondness for JS makes me not want to create an AB clone!
i believe she loved henry and they do say opposite attract,please let me know if anyone is interested in my idea of a book,i’m a first time writer and have been obsessed with the tudors since i was 8, this is me paying homage to the scandel that makes soaps on tv look like a walk in the park 🙂
I also remember Anne Stallybrass in the six wives of Henry V111 as Jane Seymour Keith Michell I think was brilliant as Henry V111 the whole production I found great watching as a person interested in History. But I do agree with many of these comments about Jane Seymour she was not the weak and feeble person that many historians have said she was. I think regarding her views on religion and political issues at the time she was no push over and did come into conflict with Henry about his stance on the him setting himself up as head of the church in England and breaking away from Rome. He said that the Roman catholic abbey’s were corrupt but his agenda was also to fill his coffers with more money when he stole the money etc which the Abbey’s had. Henry V111 wanted to be his own man and not take orders from Rome and church and state has been joined ever since in this country. Not that I am religious or think that is correct I don’t. He became a very nasty man and quite a tyrant I think. He was completely taken up with having a male heir and even made his two daughters bastards which they were not in my opinion. What he said went and anyone who dared to question him where put to death. Katherine of Aragon was treated terrible thrown on the scrap heap because she didn’t produce a male heir as was Anne Boleyn beheaded because it was said she committed adultery. Did Henry love any of his wives I am not sure maybe Jane Seymour. I think all six were pawns regarding the Tudor era when women had hardly any say in anything especially regarding the King and power.