"It is we, Lady Rochford, who must always honor and obey." -Jane Seymour
Jane Seymour was King Henry VIII's third wife and mother of Prince Edward Tudor (later King Edward VI). She was Henry's favorite wife, as she gave the King the son he had wanted for a long time. She was a kind-hearted, docile woman described as having inner beauty and noble character.
Jane gave Henry what he wanted most, however, unfortunately, the birth was long and painful because Edward was not positioned right. Henry celebrated the birth of a son, but his joy was short-lived, as Queen Jane contracted puerperal fever and died within days. After Jane Seymour's death, Henry did not wed again for three years. After her death, Henry also isolated himself in his chambers while mourning his favorite wife's death. Speculation also states that Henry simply wanted an excuse for Anne Boleyn to be executed, which might explain why he was quick to believe the lies of Anne's adultery, incest and treason. Jane Seymour was played by Icelandic actress Anita Briem in season 2 and English actress Annabelle Wallis in season 3 and the Season 4 finale. Wallis portrays her in five episodes (including the Season finale) while Briem portrays her in four.
Season Two[edit | edit source]
Jane is first introduced in episode 2.07 when Henry meets her while stopping at her father's estate, Wolfhall, with his friend Charles Brandon Duke of Suffolk, after a hunt. Henry (who gets along well with Sir John Seymour, a comrade-in-arms to his late father) is clearly attracted to her, and at the end of the episode suggests she should come to court as a lady-in-waiting for Queen Anne Boleyn. Jane's family are just as ambitious as the Boleyns, though lower in nobility; however, her father is a much kinder man than Thomas Boleyn. Jane is uncertain of her feelings for the king, but extremely flattered and remains modest towards his affections. Pleased by her demure, 'pure' personality, Henry refuses to advance upon her but declares he will worship her as Lancelot worshiped Guinevere.
In episode 2.08, his affections start to shift from Anne to Jane, despite Anne being pregnant for the third time (her first pregnancy produced a daughter and the second ended in a miscarriage, so her inability to give Henry a son- coupled with her sharp tongue- has caused her to fall increasingly from his favor). Henry wears Jane's ribbon when he goes jousting and is knocked unconscious for hours; when he finally wakes, he credits Jane's image for having led him out of the darkness. Anne has noticed the attraction between them immediately and is angered; when she sees Jane wearing a locket with Henry's portrait inside, she rips it off Jane's neck so forcefully her fingers bleed.
Meanwhile, the Seymours are increasingly favored by the King, and Jane's father and her brother Edward are already wondering how they may use Jane to usurp Anne as Queen- just as Anne usurped Catherine of Aragon. Jane herself seems uncertain of these plans, although she does not outwright refuse. Henry and Jane flirt, eventually kissing near the end of episode 2.08. Anne walks in on them and goes wild with anger and grief, causing her to miscarry Henry's unborn son. She blames Henry for the miscarriage, saying that his love for Jane broke her heart due to her own love for him, but Henry does not listen and walks away.
In episode 2.09 Thomas Cromwell lets the Seymours stay in his quarters at Whitehall so that Henry can formally pay court to Jane and her family- much to the fear and fury of Anne and the Boleyns. When Anne is falsely accused of adultery, incest and treason, she is sentenced to death. Henry proposes to Jane Seymour as soon as his marriage is declared null and void in the Season finale; both she and her family happily accept. Jane remarks that she should like to return Henry's daughter Mary to the line of succession, but Henry warns her about delving into the past, and that she should be more concerned about the children they will have together; he says that he wants a new beginning with just her. They kiss on the lakeshore.
Season Three [edit | edit source]
Jane has a larger role in the first half of season three. She marries Henry, becoming his third wife, just 10 days after Anne Boleyn's execution. The court puts up a strong show of support for her in contrast to her predecessor, as they hope she will make Henry happy and give him a son, although the Reformists are made uneasy by Jane's rumored devotion to Catholicism. Imperial Ambassador Chapuys personally congratulates her on her marriage to the King, privately remarking to her that he hopes she will influence the King to restore Princess Mary Tudor to the line; Jane responds neutrally, saying she will show Mary favor but is not making any promises.
Despite showing Jane deep affection, Henry is initially somewhat domineering and blunt towards her, perhaps to test if she is like Anne. However, having learned from Anne's example, Jane is careful to remain submissive, but attempts as best she can to help the women of the palace in a quiet manner. Jane's subtle attempts to influence her husband worked with matters of her own household, but were much more risky in political matters; when she initially tried to persuade Henry to adopt a more merciful attitude towards the rebels in the North, Henry quietly told her not to interfere with his policies; "Remember what happened to the late queen?... I love you more than I loved her, even more than Catherine. Don't spoil it." After this, she does not interfere further. She and Henry continue to have a happy and affectionate relationship, although on a few occasions Henry becomes irritable because he is impatient for her to be with child.
She was particularly kind to Lady Rochford, her handmaiden and the much-abused former wife of the executed George Boleyn. She encourages Henry to invite his daughter Mary back to court and to reconnect with her and his younger daughter Elizabeth, showing every kindness to both of them. Because of this kindness, as well as their shared Catholic faith, Mary and Jane develop a very friendly relationship. Henry loves Jane deeply, however he still has a mistress; unlike Catherine or Anne before her, Jane submissively ignores her, reasoning she can only make change by being very subtle. Anne's more open, argumentative nature as a wife was partly what lost her the King's favor while Catherine resisted divorce and expressed her discomfort but accepted defeat in everything else; Jane believes she can help the women of the court by accepting her submissive role and being generous. This demonstrates that, while she is not as shrewd as her predecessors, Jane knows what kind of a game she is getting into and has no qualms about what Henry is capable of, despite her genuine love for him. Her ambitious older brother, who unlike her is Protestant, is the only one who is unkind to her; Edward Seymour attempts to use her as a political pawn (similar to the way Thomas Boleyn used Anne), and in episode 3.01 after abruptly informing her that their father has died, he harshly tells her to smile for the crowds.
Jane subtly begins announcing her pregnancy to Henry in episode 3.03 by her craving quail eggs, bringing happiness to the couple and to the court. In the next episode, Jane gives birth to a son, Edward after a very difficult two-day labour, with Mary at her side the entire time praying for her. Henry is overjoyed. He celebrates, but Queen Jane dies of puerperal fever 12 days after Edward's birth. This was partly because the doctors dithered on the right treatment, worrying they could only save either her or her child. Her death devastates Henry, who remains in his chambers mourning his wife's death for weeks. Henry's fool, Will Sommers, the only man who can criticize him with impunity, reprimands the King for his (relatively) poor treatment of Jane as a wife if he loved her so, much, as well as criticizing Henry's mistreatment towards his two previous wives. Mary is grieved by Jane's death as well, but she and Elizabeth remain reconciled with their father, perhaps as a gesture by Henry in Jane's memory to prove the strength of his love. He weeps over Jane's body on her deathbed, vowing he will be buried alongside her (a promise he keeps)
Interestingly, Jane is the only one of Henry's wives who dies while still Queen Consort (Catherine of Aragon was still recognized as Queen by Catholic countries but the Church of England had annulled her marriage to Henry, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard both had their marriages to the King annulled before they were beheaded, Anne of Cleves was divorced very quickly but allowed to remain Dowager Princess and Catherine Parr remarried after Henry's death), although she died before she could be crowned Queen of England. Despite her death, her family remains in the King's good graces; in particular, her brother the Earl of Hertford is protective of his nephew the Prince and remains a powerful figure in Henry's court at the end of the series.
Unlike Catherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn, Jane's legacy through her child is minimal since she died within days of her son Edward's birth. Edward was mostly raised by his benevolent third stepmother, Catherine Parr, and by his uncles Edward and Thomas Seymour after Henry died. Unlike his Catholic mother, however, Edward was brought up under Lutheran influence instead. He became King at a very young age after his father died; as he was unable to fully understand most matters of state when crowned, his advisors played an even greater role in running the kingdom for him than Henry's had. Edward's reign was significant- greatly strengthening the Protestant Reformation in England- but only lasted six and a half years, and he suddenly died at age 15 of serious illness. Edward attempted to remove his sisters from the line of succession in his will in favor of one of his cousins Lady Jane Grey, but popular opinion swept this gesture aside, and Jane was deposed and executed after only a few days by Edward's eldest half-sister, Mary Tudor.
Season Four[edit | edit source]
Jane appears briefly in the series finale. In a dream sequence, she tells Henry she is not happy with their son Edward's treatment and that Edward will die young. Henry protests, "No!", shocked, but Jane leaves the dream, glaring at Henry in disgust.
Henry's favourite wife[edit | edit source]
All evidence suggests that Henry loved Jane the best of all his wives. She was most likely Henry's favourite wife because she was the only consort who produced a surviving male heir. Her constant submission and kind nature also played major factors in Henry's love of her, traits he remembered from his first and longest marriage, to Catherine of Aragon. Although Henry loved all of his wives, except, possibly, for Anne of Cleves, Jane was Henry's favourite; however, due to her untimely death, her reign as Queen was shorter than any of Henry's other wives except Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard (The latter by only a month). Like her predecessor, Jane was encouraged by her ambitious family to curry the king's favour through his attraction to her. Unlike Catherine or Anne Boleyn, however, Jane was neither well-educated nor well-versed in politics, and she was of lower noble birth than either of them. This, combined with her submissive nature, makes her seem a rather feeble queen; however, her Christian piety and very kind nature made her popular both with the people and with her husband and stepchildren. Henry likely felt she was a more appropriate choice after the emotionally tumultuous Anne Boleyn, whose boldness towards him, while charming in a mistress, he had found less attractive in a wife.
Although Jane was a very popular Queen, Thomas Cromwell and other reformists were suspicious of her deep Catholic background, fearing she would influence the King to undo their reformation; a few even wished that Anne Boleyn were still Queen and still alive for that matter, as she had been a staunch reformist. However, Jane was too modest by nature to influence the King's political actions, and Cromwell quickly realized she was not a threat to him or the Reformation, despite the fact that Jane disliked Cromwell considerably in The Tudors (in reality, despite their religious differences, Cromwell was on friendly terms with Jane and her entire family).
The combination of producing the highly sought after baby boy as well as her immediate death after the pregnancy had likely cemented Jane's status as "favorite queen". Also, her death ended the marriage before Henry had a serious chance to grow tired of her. After Jane's death, Henry is seen being dressed in black, the traditional funeral colors in European society, until he remarries Anne of Cleves. The show has also suggested that Katherine Howard could have also been extremely close in the running for "Henry's favorite queen", but for different rationale than Jane's.
Despite being Henry's favorite queen, Jane's legacy is much less prominent than Catherine or Anne's; her reign was extremely short whereas Catherine was Queen of England for nearly two decades, and her son Edward only reigned for a brief period of time whereas Anne's daughter Elizabeth reigned for 44 years.
Backstory[edit | edit source]
Jane Seymour was born around 1508-09 at Wolf Hall to Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth, her education was typical of a Tudor English lady, it included: Embroidery, dancing, household management, good manners and how to read and write a little bit in English. Jane was petite in stature, she had pale skin, blonde hair and blue eyes, she wasn't a classic beauty, despite the fact that theoretically, she would have been considered beautiful, since the Tudor beauty standards favored pale skin and blonde hair, it's said that her features were somewhat marred by a hooked nose and a pointy chin. Jane arrived at court to serve Katherine of Aragon in 1527, aged eighteen, she seems to have been very fond of Katherine. She entered Anne's household in late 1533, and she received a New Year's gift in 1534 along with others of Anne's attendants.
Henry did not seem interested on her until February 1536, mentioning a rumour of a third marriage in a letter sent on January 29. He termed it "une nouvelle amour" (meaning "a new love"). Jane was a member of the Catholic faction, and when it became certain that the King was interested on her, their leader, Sir Nicholas Carew coached Jane in how to lure Henry away from the Protestant Anne. On May 2nd, Anne was arrested, seventeen days later, she was beheaded on false charges of adultery. Eleven days later Henry and Jane were married. Historian Elizabeth Norton wrote that Jane was very ambitious and came to court with the intention of becoming Henry's mistress but changed her mind after Anne miscarried and aimed to become his wife. At first Jane wasn't very popular, it is said that most people were shocked of how, Henry was carrying on a relationship with Jane, while his wife awaited death in the Tower.
Historian David Starkey wrote Jane had as much religious fervor as Anne Boleyn, but it was the opposite sentiment: Anne was a "radical reformer", and Jane was a supporter of the institution of the Catholic Church. A generous but conservative woman, Jane banned the ornate French fashions that had been introduced at Court by her predecessor, Anne Boleyn.
Jane also helped to return Henry's eldest daughter, Mary, to favor, but according to Historian Tracy Borman, Jane wasn't the saintly peacemaker that she is shown in the series, Borman wrote that Jane helped Mary, because it suited her own interests and that she showed no interest in Elizabeth, and Alison Weir wrote that it was Mary, not Jane, who asked Henry to bring Elizabeth to court for Christmas. Borman also wrote that even Jane's supporters said that she was "proud and haughty", and Historian Claire Ridgway wrote that even Chapuys didn't think highly of her saying that she was of no beauty, possibly not a virgin. She was generous to her supporters, but she certainly did not hesitate in taking her rival's place before she was even dead.
She died of childbed fever after giving birth to the future Edward VI.
Gentility: the daughter of a knighted courtier, and King Henry's fifth cousin three times removed.
Position: A lady in waiting to Catherine of Aragon and then Anne Boleyn, Jane then became Queen Consort of England.
Sources:[edit | edit source]
- The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
- Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey
- Jane Seymour: Henry VIII's True Love by Elizabeth Norton
Quotes[edit | edit source]
- "It's a locket, your Majesty."
- "If they ever open my grave, they will find it."
- Henry: "May I kiss you, Jane?" Jane: "Aren't you the King of England?"
- "Are you saying that I should be Queen instead of her?"
- "When I am Queen I should hope to see her reinstated as heir apparent"- talking about Lady Mary, Henry's daughter.
- "I beg you to restore and keep the abbeys. Think what the world would think. You'd listen to your people and your heart."- Jane talking to Henry in bed.
- "...He must do as he will. It is we, Lady Rochford, who must always honor and obey. Do not be troubled for me, for I have great reason to be happy."- Jane's reaction when discovering Henry has a mistress.
- "It was not your fault, Lady Rochford. Nor is it Mary's fault- or Elizabeth's- to be born of a King. Women are much put upon in this world, and it's my duty to help them whenever I can."
- Jane Seymour: How is my son?
- King Henry VIII: Jane. (he walks towards Jane) He is well. I have taken all care of him, sweet Jane. And soon he will be King.
- Jane Seymour: My poor boy. My poor child!
- King Henry VIII: (confused) No! He is the most beloved! (Edward appears next to Jane, attempts to walk toward Henry, but is gently halted by Jane) He is my special boy!
- Jane Seymour: He will die young.
- King Henry VIII: No! (points to Jane in an accusatory manner) No!
- (Henry turns and starts walking away from Jane and Edward)
- Jane Seymour: (with boiling anger) Poor child, you expected too much of him! He was only a boy! Kings too are made of clay, and God forbid you locked him away from the world like your father did with you!
- King Henry VIII: No!
- Jane Seymour: (sadly) Don't you understand?! You have killed him!
- King Henry VIII: No! (turns away and starts to cry while Jane and Edward walk away)