The Wives of Henry VIII: The Third Wife, Jane Seymour

By Tessalee Lark on September 10, 2016

Jane Seymour was born circa 1508 to Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth. Although she had a very wealthy upbringing in the court of the Tudors, she was not very well educated. In fact, she could barely read and write, but she was much better at domestic activities like needlepoint. Perhaps this is the kind of domesticity that attracted Henry VIII to her after the lively cunning of his previous wives, who Jane incidentally served as lady-in-waiting. He might have felt that her wifely skills would produce the son that his two other wives could not give him. Jane’s housewife aura would later be proven once again after her marriage, as her motto as queen became “bound to obey and serve.”

The first mention of Henry’s interest in her was in 1536, sometime before the execution of his second wife, Anne Boleyn. She was described as being gentle-natured and kind, the stark contrast to the fiery tempered Anne, but accounts of her beauty differ. Some describe her as a great beauty, while others do not see her as anything special. Despite this, Henry was besotted with her, and became betrothed to her on May 20th, 1536, the day after the execution of Anne Boleyn, and the couple was married just ten days later.

Portrait of Jane Seymour, via wikipedia

 Though she would never be officially crowned Queen of England, she was publicly proclaimed as such on June 4th, 1536, and was a very popular figure with the people. This is mostly because she showed great sympathy for the tragedy that befell Henry’s first wife, Katherine, and Henry’s firstborn daughter with Katherine, Mary (proclaimed illegitimate). In fact, Jane tried to convince Henry to restore Mary as legitimate princess, behind any children she herself would have with him, but she was unsuccessful in this. However, she was able to get him to reconcile Henry with his daughter.

Jane became pregnant in late 1536, and gave birth to the son Henry so longed for, the future Edward VI, on October 12th, 1537. He is the only son of Henry’s to survive infancy, and his two older, illegitimate sisters were allowed to attend his christening. However, despite the happiness of a son, there was trouble with Jane herself. Her labor had been especially difficult, lasting two nights and three days in total as a result of the baby not being in the correct position. She later died on October 24th, 1537. Most historians agree that she died of what was known as child-bed fever, a kind of bacterial infection that happened during birth, but new testimonials suggest that she could have died from a retained placenta.

Jane was buried a month later at Windsor Castle with a grand procession and 29 mourners, led by her stepdaughter, Mary. She is the only wife of Henry’s to receive a queen’s funeral. After her death, Henry wore black for several months and would not marry again for three years. Whenever he spoke of her, he did so with kindness, and he always said that she was his favorite, the only reason probably being that she was the mother of his son. In fact, in his will, he stated that he should be buried next to her when he too died, and this would come to fruition ten years later.

Plague of the grave of Jane Seymour and Henry VIII, Windsor Castle, via

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