The Death of Jane Seymour

Jane Seymour by Holbein  c. 1536

Jane Seymour by Holbein
c. 1536

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.
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The Marquess of Pembroke

Anne Boleyn - portrait on display at Hever Castle

Anne Boleyn – portrait on display at Hever Castle

Today in 1532 Anne Boleyn was granted her own title by Henry VIII and created the Marquess of Pembroke, the first time a female had been made a peer in her own right. Henry did this to give Anne some status on the European stage prior to a planned meeting with Francis I of France. Henry’s “Great Matter” was still dragging on so he’d been unable to make Anne his wife. The last time Anne had met Francis she was Katherine of Aragon’s maid of honour but she now needed a status of her own which reflected the fact she was England’s intended Queen.

The ceremony was held at Windsor castle. Anne was taken into Henry’s presence by the Garter King-at-Arms and was accompanied by the Countesses of Rutland and Derby and her cousin, Mary Howard, who carried the crimson velvet mantle and gold coronet of a Marquess. Anne, dressed in ermine-trimmed crimson velvet, wore her hair loosely around her shoulders and was adjourned with jewels. She must have looked every inch the Queen, just as Henry would have intended.

Anne Boleyn's Badge

Anne Boleyn’s Badge

Anne knelt in front of Henry, who had the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk at his side, while Stephen Gardiner read out the patent which bestowed the title of Marquess of Pembroke to her. Henry then crowned her with the gold coronet, laid the velvet mantle on her and handed her the patent of nobility. She was also given a patent granting her lands worth £1000 a year.

After the ceremony Henry went to St George’s Chapel for a high mass conducted by Gardiner. Henry and a representative for Francis I swore to the terms of an Anglo-French treaty, then Edward Fox preached a sermon and announced that the two would meet in Calais. The service ended with a hymn of praise before everyone returned to Windsor Castle for a huge banquet in Anne’s honour.

Anne of Cleves – The Lucky One?

Anne of Cleves by Holbein

Anne of Cleves by Holbein

Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII’s 4th wife, was buried in Westminster Abbey on this day in 1557, outliving Henry by 10 years. Whenever we talk of Henry VIII’s wives it is often said that Catherine Parr was the wife who outlived him and that this somehow makes her the lucky one. This is indeed true although Catherine only managed to outlive Henry by 1 year 7 months, dying herself in September 1548. I believe out of all of Henry’s wives, the one who got the best deal was in fact Anne.

Let’s take Catherine Parr as the contrasting example. Catherine spent 3 and a half years married to Henry and spent much of that time being his nursemaid as well as helping him reconcile with his children, who she had a close relationship with. This was a marriage based on duty to her King and country.

After Henry’s death she was finally able to marry her true love, Thomas Seymour, although this itself was marred by a certain tragedy as he was a bit of cad who flirted with her step daughter, the young princess Elizabeth, entering her room at night and stealing kisses. There is a famous and strange incident when Catherine herself held Elizabeth down while Seymour cut off her black gown. In the end Catherine decided enough was enough and sent Elizabeth away. They continued to show affection through letters, which shows that Catherine probably followed this course of action to protect Elizabeth’s reputation rather than out of spite, although it’s very sad to think she never saw her beloved step daughter again. Continue reading

Finding out more about Anne Boleyn

Following on from my post on ‘The Last Days of Anne Boleyn’ I thought it would be useful to suggest some further reading for anyone interested in finding out more about Anne.

The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: The Most Happy – Eric Ives

Eric Ives brilliant book is seen by many as the definitive biography on Anne Boleyn. Expertly researched as you would expect from the leading expert on Anne it is a fascinating read and definitely one for the collection. Eric was a real Anne supporter and was very much of the view that Cromwell was responsible for her downfall. In the book he explores all the evidence in detail and makes a compelling argument in favour of this theory. Ives book is so much more than just an account of Anne’s downfall, it also provides detail on her early life, courtship with Henry and involvement in religion and politics. We don’t have much evidence on Anne ‘the person’ or her early years but Ives painstakingly put’s together everything we do have to paint a full and detailed account of her life.

Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions – G W Bernard

G W Bernard’s biography of Anne couldn’t be more different to Eric’s as he is of the opinion that Anne was guilty of adultery, which he also argued the case for in ‘The Last Days of Anne Boleyn’. Such is the difference of opinion between Bernard and Ives that they spent much of the 1990’s debating the subject in historical journals and when this book was published in 2011 it was seen by many as an attempt by Bernard to reignite the argument. As a huge fan of Anne Boleyn I totally disagree with what I’ve heard from Bernard but I am yet to read his book. Whilst I don’t believe it will sway my own opinions I definitely intend to read and review the book in the future as I think it’s important to hear all sides of an historical debate, however flimsy or sensational you believe the arguments to be! Continue reading