Jane Seymour by Holbein
Today in 1537 tragedy descended upon the Tudor house when Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour, died of puerperal fever just 12 days after giving birth to their beloved son, Edward.
Jane had gone into labour on the 9th October but with 2 days having passed with still no sign of a baby a solemn procession was held through London to pray for her. The people’s prayers were soon answered and Edward was born at 2am on the 12th October to much jubilation from Henry. Antonia Fraser writes how Henry wept with joy as he held his newborn son and heir in his arms, having finally achieved his dream.
But what of Henry’s wife, Jane? Despite the long labour of 2 days and 3 nights Jane was very much alive and had recovered well enough to receive guests after Edwards sumptuous christening 3 days later. In later years rumours surfaced that Edward had been born by cesarean and that Henry had sacrificed his wife’s life for that of his unborn child by ordering that one be performed. However, if Jane had been well enough to receive visitors so soon after Edward’s birth this simply couldn’t have been the case.
Mary I c.1554
by Anthonis Mor van Dashorst
Today in 1553 Mary I was crowned Queen of England at Westminster Abbey by Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester. It was a particularly important day in history because Mary was England’s first queen regnant, meaning she was the first queen to rule England in her own right.
On the eve of her coronation Mary had left the Tower of London for her coronation procession, where she was escorted to the Palace of Westminster to prepare for the coronation. She was accompanied by earls, lords, gentlemen and ambassadors and had two carriages following her, one of which contained her half-sister Elizabeth and her former step-mother, Anne of Cleves.
At 11am on the day of her coronation Mary processed into the Abbey in an open litter. The barons of the Cinque Ports carried a brocade canopy over her, exactly as they had done at her father’s coronation back in 1509. She was dressed in traditional crimson velvet robes, as a male monarch would be, and wore her hair loose. A queen consort traditionally wore white and gold for a coronation but as Mary was going to be ruling in her own right it was important that she be crowned more like a king to help emphasise her power and authority. Being the first queen regnant meant Mary had no precedent to follow either so she basically had to set her own standards.
Walking before her in the procession to the Abbey were knights, gentlemen, Councillors and the Bishop of Winchester. The Earl of Arundel, Mary’s Great Master of the Household, carried the ball and sceptre, the Marquis of Winchester carried the orb and the elderly Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (who had just been released from the Tower) carried the crown. Mary was carried in her litter up to the coronation chair which was on a raised platform so everyone could see her. Continue reading