Henry VIII was at Whitehall Palace when the Tower guns signalled that he was once more a free man. He then appeared dressed in white mourning as a token of respect for his late queen, called for his barge, and had himself rowed at full speed to the Strand, where Jane Seymour had also heard the guns. News of Anne Boleyn's death had been formally conveyed to her by Sir Francis Bryan; it does not seem to have unduly concerned her, for she spent the greater part of the day preparing her wedding clothes, and perhaps reflecting upon the ease with which she had attained her ambition: Anne Boleyn had had to wait seven years for her crown; Jane had waited barely seven months.
It was common knowledge that Henry would marry Jane as soon as possible; the Privy Council had already petitioned him to venture once more into the perilous seas of holy wedlock, and it was a plea of the utmost urgency due to the uncertainty surrounding the succession. Both the King's daughters had been declared bastards, and his natural son Richmond was obviously dying. A speedy marriage was therefore not only desirable but necessary, and on the day Anne Boleyn died the King's imminent betrothal to Jane Seymour was announced to a relieved Privy Council. This was news as gratifying to the imperialist party, who had vigorously promoted the match, as it would soon be to the people of England at large, who would welcome the prospect of the imperial alliance with its inevitable benefits to trade.
Although the future Queen had rarely been seen in public, stories of her virtuous behaviour during the King's courtship had been circulated and applauded. Chapuys, more cynical, perceived that such virtue had had an ulterior motive, and privately thought it unlikely that Jane had reached the age of twenty-five without having lost her virginity, 'being an Englishwoman and having been so long' at a court where immorality was rife. However, he assumed that Jane's likely lack of a maidenhead would not trouble the King very much, 'since he may marry her on condition she is a maid, and when he wants a divorce there will be plenty of witnesses ready to testify that she was not'.
This apart, Chapuys and most other people considered Jane to be well endowed with all the qualities then thought becoming in a wife: meekness, docility and quiet dignity. Jane had been well groomed for her role by her family and supporters, and was in any case determined not to follow the example of her predecessor. She intended to use her influence to further the causes she held dear, as Anne Boleyn had, but, being of a less mercurial temperament, she would never use the same tactics. Jane's well-publicised sympathy for the late Queen Katherine and the Lady Mary showed her to be compassionate, and made her a popular figure with the common people and most of the courtiers. Overseas, she would be looked upon with favour because she was known to be an orthodox Catholic with no heretical tendencies whatsoever, one who favoured the old ways and who might use her influence to dissuade the King from continuing with his radical religious reforms.
Jane was of medium height, with a pale, nearly white, complexion. 'Nobody thinks she has much beauty,' commented Chapuys, and the French ambassador thought her too plain. Holbein's portrait of Jane, painted in 1536 and now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, bears out these statements, and shows her to have been fair with a large, resolute face, small slanting eyes and a pinched mouth. She wears a sumptuously bejewelled and embroidered gown and head-dress, the latter in the whelk-shell fashion so favoured by her; Holbein himself designed the pendant on her breast, and the lace at her wrists. This portrait was probably his first royal commission after being appointed the King's Master Painter in September 1536; a preliminary sketch for it is in the Royal Collection at Windsor, and a studio copy is in the Mauritshuis in The Hague. Holbein executed one other portrait of Jane during her lifetime. Throughout the winter of 1536-7, he was at work on a huge mural in the Presence Chamber in Whitehall Palace; it depicted the Tudor dynasty, with the figures of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York in the background, and Henry VIII and Jane Seymour in front. This magnificent work was one of the first to depict full-length likenesses of royal personages in England (although a late sixteenth-century inventory of Lord Lumley's pictures records a full-length portrait of Anne Boleyn, which has either been lost or cut down). Sadly, the Whitehall mural no longer exists, having been destroyed when the palace burned down in the late seventeenth century. Fortuitously, Charles II had before then commissioned a Dutch artist, Remigius van Leemput, to make two small copies, now in the Royal Collection and at Petworth House. His style shows little of Holbein's draughtsmanship, but his pictures at least give us a clear impression of what the original must have looked like. The figure of Jane is interesting in that we can see her long court train with her pet poodle resting on it. Her gown is of cloth of gold damask, lined with ermine, with six ropes of pearls slung across the bodice, and more pearls hanging in a girdle to the floor. Later portraits of Jane, such as those in long-gallery sets and the miniature by Nicholas Hilliard, all derive from this portrait or Holbein's original likeness now in Vienna, yet they are mostly mechanical in quality and anatomically awkward.
However, it was not Jane's face that had attracted the King so much as the fact that she was Anne Boleyn's opposite in every way. Where Anne had been bold and fond of having her own way, Jane showed herself entirely subservient to Henry's will; where Anne had, in the King's view, been a wanton, Jane had shown herself to be inviolably chaste. And where Anne had been ruthless, he believed Jane to be naturally compassionate. He would in years to come remember her as the fairest, the most discreet, and the most meritorious of all his wives.
Her contemporaries thought she had a pleasing sprightliness about her. She was pious, but not ostentatiously so. Reginald Pole, soon to be made a cardinal, described her as 'full of goodness', although Martin Luther, hearing of her reactionary religious views, feared her as 'an enemy of the Gospel'. According to Chapuys, she was not clever or witty, but 'of good understanding'. As queen, she made a point of distancing herself from her inferiors, and could be remote and arrogant, being a stickler for the observance of etiquette at her court. Chapuys feared that, once Jane had had a taste of queenship, she would forget her good intentions towards the Lady Mary, but his fears proved unfounded. Jane remained loyal to her supporters, and to Mary's cause, and in the months to come would endeavour to heal the rift between the King and his daughter.
Henry and Jane dined together in the Strand on the evening of 19 May; afterwards, the King took his barge and went straight to Hampton Court, where he would stay for a week. At six o'clock on the following morning, Jane followed him there, and at nine o'clock, they were formally betrothed in a ceremony lasting a few minutes. It is likely that Jane's family were present, for after the ceremony she returned with them to Wulfhall, there to await her marriage.
The next day, Henry wore white mourning once more, and gave orders for his daughter Elizabeth to be taken from Greenwich to Hatfield in the care of Lady Margaret Bryan, and kept out of his sight. There was an outstanding account to settle in respect of money outlayed by Sir William Kingston in respect of necessities provided for Elizabeth's mother. And there remained the problem of Mary. In spite of Jane's entreaties on the girl's behalf, Henry's attitude was unchanged: unless she acknowledged his laws and statutes, he would proceed against her. Mary was still in very grave danger.
Yet, even knowing her peril, she remained obdurate. Her father wanted her to abandon her deepest-held convictions and beliefs, and swear that her mother's marriage had been incestuous and unlawful, and that she accepted him as Supreme Head of the Church of England - something she could not bring herself to do. It seemed that coercion or force might be necessary if the King were to have his way, and several of the King's advisers thought that now would be a good time to put pressure on Mary. She was known to be weak and sickly. Seven years of insecurity and misery had made her a martyr, at twenty, to headaches, menstrual problems, and nervous depression, as well as vague, ill-defined illnesses, and she was still grieving for her mother.
The news of Anne Boleyn's death had revived Mary's spirits considerably, for she hoped the way might now be clear towards a reconciliation with her father. She knew she could count upon the support of Jane Seymour and the imperialist party, and prayed that the time had come to forget the unhappy past. She wrote to the King, begging to be taken back into his favour, humbly beseeching him to remember that she was 'but a woman, and your child'. Henry did not reply. The war of nerves had begun.
Mary, on the advice of her friend Lady Kingston, next tried approaching Henry through Cromwell, whom she had been told was secretly sympathetic towards her and might well use his very considerable influence on her behalf. On 26 May, Mary wrote to Mr Secretary, begging him to intercede for her with the King. Yet before her letter had time to arrive, Henry sent a deputation of the Privy Council to see Mary and make her submit to her father over the matter of her mother's marriage and the royal supremacy. She refused to do this, even though Norfolk told her that if his daughter had offered such 'unnatural opposition', he would have beaten and knocked her head against the wall until it was as soft as baked apples. This reduced Mary to floods of tears, but even the threat of violence was not sufficient to move her. When Henry learned of her defiance, he became more determined than ever to break her will. Nor was the Emperor inclined to interfere; Mary was not his subject, and he was more concerned about establishing the new alliance and reluctant to offend Henry VIII. Mary was on her own now.
Preparations for the royal wedding were now almost complete. Like all Henry VIII's marriages, it would be a private ceremony, although there would be public festivities to mark it. In the Queen's apartments, Anne Boleyn's falcon badge had been replaced by Jane's personal emblem, a phoenix rising from a castle amid flames and Tudor roses painted in red and white; this emblem would surmount the motto chosen by Jane, 'Bound to obey and serve'. Her initials had now replaced Anne's, although this had been done in such a hurry that at Hampton Court, the As are still visible underneath the Js. The monograms on the royal linen had been similarly altered, and at Zurich, where Coverdale's Bible with its dedication to Henry and Anne was being reprinted, the printers had to superimpose Jane's name on the frontispiece.
Both Henry and Jane returned to a transformed Whitehall Palace before 29 May. They were married there the following day in the Queen's Closet by Archbishop Cranmer. After the wedding ceremony Jane was enthroned in the Queen's chair beneath the canopy of royal estate in the great hall, where she presided over the court for the first time. Later that day, the King made her a grant of 104 manors in 4 counties, as well as a number of forests and hunting chases, for her jointure, the income that would support her during her marriage. One London estate, Paris Garden, was an unusual choice, for it was situated on the insalubrious Surrey shore of the Thames and its rents came from bear pits and brothels. Henry's personal wedding gift to his bride was a gold cup designed by Hans Holbein and engraved with the initials of the royal couple entwined with a love-knot; the Queen's motto appeared three times in the design. A drawing of this cup exists in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford; the original was pawned by Charles I in 1625 and melted down four years later.
On 1 June, the King and Queen went by barge to Greenwich. The tradition that they spent their honeymoon at Wulfhall is based on an incorrect interpretation of a letter written by Sir John Russell in early June, in which he mentions a visit by Henry and Jane to Tottenham Parish Church. There exists today a Tottenham House not far from the site of Wulfhall, and a building called Tottenham Lodge seems in the sixteenth century to have been a dower house in the grounds of the Seymour estates; Lady Seymour lived there during her widowhood. Nevertheless, it is not feasible to suppose that this was the Tottenham referred to in Sir John Russell's letter, for the time-scale dictates that it must have been Tottenham Church, north-east of the City of London, that was honoured by a royal visit at this time.
Within a week of his wedding, the King was optimistically speaking of 'the Prince hoped for in due season', leaving no doubt in the minds of his courtiers - who had, after all, heard of the slur on Henry's virility raised at George Boleyn's trial - that the royal marriage had been successfully consummated. Soon afterwards, prayers were being offered up in churches for the quickening of the Queen.
When Jane arrived at Greenwich, she was attended by a bevy of ladies. On that Friday, she dined in public with her husband for the first time. Sir John Russell was impressed by her demeanour on that occasion, and told Lord Lisle she was as gentle a lady as ever I knew, and as fair a queen as any in Christendom. I do assure you, my lord, the King hath come out of hell into heaven for the gentleness in this, and the cursedness and the unhappiness in the other. When you write to the King again, tell him that you do rejoice that he is so well matched with so gracious a woman as she is.
After dinner on that Friday, the new Queen's servants were all sworn in. There had been a great rush for places in Jane's household. In Katherine of Aragon's day the Queen's retinue had numbered 168; Anne Boleyn had increased the number, and Jane increased it further still, to 200. The King did not attend the long and tedious ceremony of oath-taking; he was busy listening to the reports of the privy councillors who had visited his daughter at Hunsdon. What they told him made him seethe with anger, and he was all for having Mary put on trial for treason, but when Queen Jane learned of his intentions, she begged him not to proceed. Her prayers fell on deaf ears, however, for the King, forgetting he was a bridegroom, told her she must be out of her senses. Thus early in her married life did Jane learn to tread warily with her husband.
Yet fate was on her side. The royal justices were reluctant to proceed against Mary, and suggested that instead of being tried for treason she be made to sign a paper of submission, recognising her father as head of the Church and her mother's marriage as incestuous and unlawful. Cromwell supported this idea, and persuaded the King to agree. He already regretted lending Mary his support, and in early June wrote her a scathing letter in which he deplored her unfilial stand against her father; with it, he enclosed the list of articles she was to sign, warning her he would not vouch for her safety if she refused. Mary, however, was still determined not to risk her immortal soul for the favour of an earthly king, however much she craved her father's love and approval. She ignored Cromwell's letter, and waited for a reply to a letter she had written to the King on 1 June, congratulating him on his marriage and begging leave to wait upon Queen Jane, 'or do her Grace such service as shall please her to command me'. Her letter had ended with the fervent hope that 'God would send your Grace shortly a prince, whereof no creature living would more rejoice than I'.
Henry did not bother to reply; and for the time being, the Queen, who had been put firmly in her place on the issue of Mary, deemed it wise to hold her peace.
Jane was proclaimed Queen of England on 4 June 1536 at Greenwich. On that day, she went in procession to mass, following the King 'with a great train of ladies, and in the evening she dined alone in her presence chamber under a canopy of estate before a large audience of courtiers. It appears she had clearly defined ideas of what she hoped to achieve as queen. First and foremost, she hoped to remain queen, and to this end she modelled her behaviour from the first upon that of Katherine of Aragon, whom she had greatly admired. Her other aims were threefold: to give the King a male heir, to work for the reinstatement of the Lady Mary, and to advance her family. She knew her power to be limited, and wisely concluded that it was essential not to misuse what influence she did have. Yet her quiet dignity - which endeared her to king and commons alike - hid a strong will and a determination to succeed within her chosen sphere.
Henry VIII, it must be said, was not an ideal husband, and cannot have been an easy man to live with at this stage of his life. His irritability stemmed from Mary's behaviour and from the pain of the suppurating wound on his leg. His autocracy extended to his private life, his word being law in the domestic sphere. Now that he could no longer indulge so much in the sporting pastimes he had loved in his youth, he had turned to theology for solace, and religion was now one of his chief preoccupations. He saw himself as the spiritual father of his people, appointed by God to lead them; and, as time passed, he grew increasingly pedantic and dogmatic, so that few dared argue with him. With his intimates he could be rude, intolerant, scathing and brutal; at other times, he was his old, genial self, but it was a side of him seen less and less as age and ill health encroached upon his once-splendid constitution. As he grew older, he became subject to bouts of savage temper, while at the same time a curiously sentimental streak in him became more pronounced. When he wanted to, he could exert great charm, and he was to the end of his life a man who enjoyed flirting with the ladies, much to the dismay of his successive wives and their supporters. But after his experiences with Katherine and Anne he would never again allow any woman to have it in her power to rule him. Jane Seymour, and his later wives, knew very well that to retain his favour they must adopt an attitude of adoring and respectful submission.
Henry VIII's marriage to Jane Seymour was a success, although as usual Henry's passion abated somewhat once he had secured his quarry; this had happened with Katherine, and even more dramatically with Anne. Yet it appears that he genuinely loved Jane for herself, and he accorded her the respect due to her, even though he could be very abrupt with her. In later life, he would convince himself that he had loved her the best of all his wives, and he was fond of declaring that he considered her to be his first lawful one. Jane was weighed down by jewels given to her by the King (her favourite seems to have been a fashionable IHS pendant); then there were the rich gowns with trains a statutory three yards long, the furs, and the head-dresses. There still exists an inventory of furniture provided by Henry for his wife's sojourn in the Tower prior to her coronation (which never took place), which lists such items as silk fire-screens and an elaborate inlaid box in which to keep legal documents. In all material respects, Henry was an indulgent husband.
We know very little about Jane's charitable enterprises, though fragments of information survive. For example, she offered a place in her household to Elizabeth Darrell, Sir Thomas Wyatt's destitute mistress, who had once served with her under Queen Katherine. But as for other charities, hardly anything is known of them, though had she been queen for longer, more information might have been recorded about them.
The King was now preparing for the forthcoming session of Parliament, which would confirm his marriage and settle the succession on Jane's children. He was also occupied with the advancement of the Queen's family, as he had been with the Boleyns a decade earlier. On 5 June, Sir Edward Seymour was created Viscount Beauchamp of Hache in the county of Somerset, and was appointed Chancellor of North Wales and Lord Chamberlain to the King. His brother Thomas was made a gentleman of the privy chamber, and his other brother Henry was knighted. All three were given extensive grants of land. Edward and Thomas were now embarking on brilliant careers in public life, careers that would, in both cases, come to a tragic end on the block many years later. Sir John Seymour, the Queen's father, received no lands or titles, but he was already a sick man, and after his daughter's marriage he seems to have retired to Wulfhall with his wife.
The Seymour family certainly exercised a certain amount of patronage within the Queen's household, but mainly in the lower ranks. Some of Anne Boleyn's principal officers had been retained for their experience, and by Christmas 1536, Anne's treacherous sister-in-law, Lady Rochford, was back at court as Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Jane. Some of the former Queen's servants had been transferred to the employ of the Lord Steward, but most had been retained, and in fact, the new Queen's household was very much as it had been in Anne's time.
On 6 June, after mass, Chapuys was personally conducted to the Queen's apartments by the King and formally presented to her. He kissed her hand, congratulated her on her marriage, and wished her prosperity, adding that, although the device of 'the lady who had preceded her on the throne' had been 'Happiest of Women', he had no doubt that she herself would realise that motto. He was certain, he said, that the Emperor would rejoice - as her husband had done - that such a 'virtuous and amiable' queen now sat upon the throne, and told her that it was impossible to comprehend the joy and pleasure which Englishmen in general had expressed on hearing of her marriage, especially as it was said that she was continually trying to persuade the King to restore Mary to favour. Jane promised Chapuys that she would continue to show favour herself to Mary, and would do her best to deserve the title of Peacemaker with which he had gallantly addressed her. The ambassador replied extravagantly by saying that, without the pain of labour and childbirth, Jane had gained in Mary a treasured daughter who would please her more than her own children by the King, to which she responded by saying again that she would do all she could to make peace between Henry and his daughter. Then she seemed at a loss as to what to say next, until the King came to her rescue and led Chapuys away, saying that he was the first ambassador Jane had received, and that she was not yet used to such audiences; he also remarked that his wife was by nature kind and amiable and 'much inclined to peace'; she would, he said, strive to prevent him from taking part in a foreign war, if only to avoid the pain and fear that separation would cause. After this Chapuys was obliged to revise his earlier, more cynical assessment of Jane, and now wrote of her virtue and her intelligence; later, he would commend her discretion, saying that she would not be drawn into discussions about religion or politics, and that she bore her royal honours with dignity.
On the following day, 7 June, Jane made her state entry into London at the King's side. They came by river, in the royal barge, from Greenwich to Westminster, and were escorted by a colourful procession of smaller boats, all gaily decked out for the occasion. Behind them sailed a great barge carrying the King's bodyguard in their scarlet and gold uniforms. As the royal procession passed along the river, the people cheered from the crowded banks, and warships and shore-guns sounded salutes. At Radcliffe Wharf, the royal barge halted so that the King and Queen could watch a pageant mounted by Chapuys in their honour: the ambassador, resplendent in purple satin, awaited them under a marquee embroidered with the imperial arms, and when they approached the quayside, gave the signal for two small boats, one carrying trumpeters, the other a consort of shawms and sackbuts, to leave their moorings and act as a musical escort for the royal barge, as it resumed its stately progress towards Westminster. The walls of the Tower had been festooned with banners and streamers, and the barges paused again to take the salute from the 400 guns lined up along its wharf, those same guns that had announced Anne Boleyn's death three weeks earlier. It is unlikely, however, that Henry and Jane allowed their triumph to be clouded by morbid thoughts; Anne was best forgotten, a conviction strongly reinforced by the loud approval voiced by the citizens of London for their new queen.
At Westminster, the royal couple came ashore and walked in procession to Westminster Abbey, where they heard high mass before returning to Whitehall Palace. In comparison to the ceremonies at the civic receptions for Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, Jane's entry into the capital was a very quiet affair. Katherine and Anne had also been crowned within weeks of becoming queen, but Henry's Exchequer was so depleted that he could not now afford the expense of another coronation. It was his intention to have Jane crowned later in the year, when hopefully his financial situation would have improved; by then, the funds and treasures of several dissolved religious houses would have been diverted to the Crown. Indeed, Henry had already set a provisional date in late October, and had made some preliminary plans. Jane would come to the Tower by river from Greenwich in a great barge fashioned to look like the Bucentaur, the ceremonial vessel used by the Doges of Venice. She would then make a progress through London to Westminster, and be feted with pageantry and music. Her crown would be the one worn by her two predecessors, an open coronal of heavy gold set with sapphires, rubies and pearls; sadly, it no longer exists, having been melted down on the order of Oliver Cromwell.
Next morning, on 8 June, Jane came to the gallery above the new gatehouse at Whitehall and waved goodbye to Henry as he rode in procession to open Parliament. In the House, when Lord Chancellor Audley in his opening speech praised the Queen and declared that her 'age and fine form give promise of issue', there was resounding applause, and the King departed, smiling benignly, confident that his ministers could be left to deal satisfactorily with the question of the succession. Soon afterwards, a new Act of Succession decreed that the crown should pass on Henry's death to the children of Queen Jane, 'a right noble, virtuous and excellent lady', who, 'for her convenient years, excellent beauty, and pureness of flesh and blood, is apt, God willing, to conceive issue'. The Act also acknowledged the 'great and intolerable perils' which the King had suffered as a result of two unlawful marriages, and drew attention to the 'ardent love and fervent affection' for his realm and people that had impelled him, 'of his most excellent goodness', to venture upon a third marriage, which was 'so pure and sincere, without spot, doubt or impediment, that the issue procreated out of the same, when it shall please Almighty God to send it, cannot be lawfully disturbed of the right and title in the succession'. It was also enacted that the King's first two marriages had been unlawful, and that the Ladies Mary and Elizabeth were illegitimate and unfit to inherit the throne. Failing any issue by Queen Jane, the King was granted the unprecedented power to appoint anyone he chose to be his successor, and that included the issue of 'any other lawful wife'.
The problem of Mary still had to be resolved. When she realised that Henry was not going to answer her letter, Mary also perceived, with terrible clarity, that the only way to earn his clemency was by submitting to his demands, hateful though they were to her. Both Chapuys and the Emperor were constantly urging her to do as her father required, assuring her of the Pope's absolution should she be compelled to sign against her will the articles sent by Cromwell. Yet Mary could be as stubborn as her father. She wrote to him again, begging him of his 'inestimable goodness' to pardon her offences, and saying she would never be happy until he had forgiven her. 'Most humbly prostrate' before his noble feet, she craved the favour of an audience, for she had humbly repented of her faults. Again, Henry refused to reply, and to Jane and Cromwell he expressed doubts about Mary's sincerity, which none of their reassurances could dispel. Nothing less than her signature on those articles would persuade him that she meant what she said and Cromwell, knowing his master to be implacable on this issue, privately urged her to sign at once, hinting at terrible consequences if she did not.
For the next day or so, Mary wrestled with her conscience, then she gave way. On 13 June, fortified by Chapuys's assurance that the Pope would absolve her from all responsibility for what she was about to do under duress, she finally acknowledged her father to be supreme head of the Church of England and her mother's marriage 'by God's law and man's law incestuous and unlawful'. Thus, by a few strokes of the pen, did Mary repudiate in the eyes of the world everything she had hitherto held sacred; she had capitulated for worldly reasons, where others had stood firm and suffered for their principles, and she would never, as long as she lived, forgive herself for this betrayal.
But the deed had been done, and the articles were already on their way to the King with a covering letter begging his forgiveness and stating that the writer was so conscious of having offended him that she dared not call him father. Chapuys thought she had never done a better day's work, and cheerfully assured the Emperor that he had relieved Mary of every doubt of conscience. There now remained, ostensibly, no bar to Mary's reconciliation to her father, but the King, who was certainly gratified to learn of his daughter's submission, was irritated that he had been made to wait so long for it. Instead of replying personally to her, he sent Sir Thomas Wriothesley, one of his 'new men', to Hunsdon, with orders to obtain a fuller declaration of her faults in writing. In return, Wriothesley was to ask Mary to name those ladies she would like appointed to her service should his Majesty decide to increase her household pending a return to favour. Such instructions could only have come from the King himself, and Mary was pathetically grateful; she wrote a long and abject letter to Cromwell, acknowledging her faults and thanking him for his kindness in furthering her cause with the King. When Henry read it, he allowed his long- suppressed paternal feelings to revive: it would not be long before he was ready to play once more the part of a loving father.
No one was more delighted than the Queen when Mary signed her submission. Jane had worked for months towards a reconciliation, and she now looked forward to receiving her stepdaughter at court. There were few ladies in her household with whom she could associate on virtually equal terms; in order to emphasise her rank, she had set herself apart from those with whom she might have been familiar, and the truth was that she was now feeling rather lonely. Mary would be a friend and companion to her, for she ranked high enough to enjoy the privilege of the Queen's friendship. Many other people at court welcomed the prospect of Mary's return to favour, as did the common people when news of its likelihood spread.
The King made his first friendly move towards Mary at the end of June, when he sent his officers to Hunsdon to see she had all she required and to advise her that it would not be long before he brought the Queen to visit her. In the meantime, Henry prepared to enjoy his first summer with his new wife, having just made Cromwell Lord Privy Seal in place of Anne Boleyn's father, who had retired from court, and sent to jail an Oxfordshire man called John Hill for saying that Anne had been put to death only for the King to take his pleasure with Jane Seymour. It is a fact that Master Hill was the only person on record as having spoken out against the King's new marriage, a sure indication of how popular it was.
During the long summer days there were jousts and triumphs in honour of the Queen, as well as pageants on the river. Jane was an accomplished horsewoman, and shared to some extent the King's passion for hunting, a sport in which they frequently participated. On 29 June, St Peter's Night, they visited the Mercers' Hall in Cheapside, and stood at a window to watch the annual ceremony of the setting of the marching watch of the City. It was a stirring occasion, the procession being illuminated by torchlight. Throughout that summer, Henry and Jane commuted between Whitehall and Greenwich, travelling in the royal barge, which was frequently filled with minstrels playing a variety of instruments. The royal couple watched a firework display, and went on a short progress. On 3 July, they presided over the magnificent celebrations that graced the triple wedding of the Earl of Westmorland's son and two daughters, and were guests of honour at the banquet which followed, when Henry came in procession from Whitehall wearing Turkish costume. It was, almost, like old times.
Jane, meanwhile, had sent her brother, Lord Beauchamp, to visit Mary, with instructions to obtain a list of the clothing she would need when she returned to court. Beauchamp himself, possibly at the Queen's suggestion, presented Mary with a superb horse, and told her that the King's 'gracious clemency and merciful pity' had overcome his anger at her 'unkind and unnatural behaviour'. When he had gone, Mary wrote again to the King, declaring that she would never vary from her confession and submission, and prayed that God would send him and the Queen issue. After receiving this, Henry let it be known that he would shortly be reconciled to his eldest daughter, whereupon several influential courtiers rushed to Hunsdon to ingratiate themselves with her.
Mary's health had been poor for months, and the strain of all this was almost too much for her. The King therefore decided to defer her official reception at court for a time, and visited her privately with Jane on 6 July at a house in Hackney. It was an emotional reunion, with Henry speaking affectionately to his daughter for the first time in six years. He was gentle, kind and patient with her, and told her how deeply he regretted having kept her so long from him. This much was overheard by his retinue, but the rest of the conversation took place in private. Afterwards, though, it was obvious that the meeting had been conducted with 'such love and affection, and such brave promises for the future, that no father could have behaved better towards his daughter'. Jane gave her stepdaughter a diamond ring; Henry's gift was 'a thousand crowns for her little pleasures'; he did not wish her to be anxious about money and in future, he told her, she should have as much as she wished. The King and Queen left after vespers, promising to see Mary again soon.
Two days later, Chapuys was happy to report to Charles V a great improvement in Mary's circumstances: she had more freedom than ever before, and was now being served with great solemnity and honour. All she lacked was the title Princess of Wales, but that, said Chapuys, was of no consequence, because it had been announced that she was from henceforth to rank as second lady at court after Queen Jane. On 8 July, Mary wrote to thank her father for the 'perfect reconciliation' between them, and ended by once more expressing the hope that 'my very natural mother, the Queen' would shortly have children. She also wrote to Cromwell, who responded by sending her a ring inset with portrait miniatures of Henry, Jane and herself, made specially for her; the bearer of this gift was none other than the King himself, who had been so impressed with it that he insisted on presenting it in person when he and Jane next visited Mary at Richmond later in July.
So far, Jane had displayed little interest in Henry's younger daughter, who was now nearly three. The imperialist party had all along supported the restoration of the Lady Mary, but there was no political faction prepared to act in the interests of the bastard child of a convicted traitor. The King had banished Elizabeth from his sight, and wanted nothing to do with her. Yet she was an intelligent child, and highly precocious. 'Why, Governor,' she had asked Sir John Shelton, who had charge of her household, 'how hath it, yesterday Lady Princess, and today but Lady Elizabeth?' We do not know how Elizabeth found out about her mother's death, but it is likely to have been early on, as the arrival of a new stepmother on the scene would certainly have provoked awkward questions in one so forward. What is certain is that the knowledge of what had happened to Anne Boleyn had a traumatic effect on Elizabeth, and may well have crippled her emotionally for life; it is a fact that she made a point of avoiding marriage and any other serious commitment to a man. In the meantime, though, she was just a little girl who was fast outgrowing her clothes, much to the dismay of Lady Bryan, who had great trouble persuading Cromwell to replace such necessary items as nightgowns and underclothing.
Yet now, conscious of her own good fortune, Mary found time to spare a thought for her half-sister,ofwhom she had always been fond, for all that Elizabeth was Anne Boleyn's child. Deprived of a child of her own, Mary lavished all her frustrated maternal affection on Elizabeth, and on 21 July paid a visit to her at Hatfield. Afterwards, she wrote to their father, telling him that Elizabeth was in good health and that he would have cause to be proud of her in time to come, and ending by sending her usual felicitations to 'the Queen, my good mother'. Already, a bond of friendship had sprung up between the two women.
Late in July, the King and Queen, with the court, spent a weekend in Dover; this was the visit postponed from May, when Anne Boleyn's arrest had intervened. According to Chapuys, Henry was feeling low, not only because of his bastard son's death, but also because he was disappointed that the Queen had as yet shown no signs of being pregnant. Chapuys gained the impression that her coronation was being postponed until she had proved she could bear children, but this was not the real reason. The progress did little to restore the King's former good humour, and on 12 August he confided to Chapuys that he felt himself growing old and doubted whether he would have any children by the Queen. It would be reasonable to suppose that advancing infirmity was affecting Henry's potency, especially in view of the fact that none of his wives after Jane conceived a child by him, except, perhaps, Katherine Howard; it may even be that what had been said at George Boleyn's trial had had some basis in truth. Because Jane took so long to conceive a child, it would appear that there was a difficulty, and the likelihood is that it lay with Henry. Yet outwardly, the royal couple showed no signs of tension; indeed, they gave the impression of being harmoniously and happily married.
Henry still managed to go hunting, and on 9 August led a party out with Jane - on that day, twenty stags were brought down. Later in August the King visited Mary at Hunsdon and told her that her return to court would not be long delayed. Her health was improving steadily, and Henry was anxious to stage a public reunion. Jane had complained that she felt lonely, for there were 'none but my inferiors' with whom to make merry, and had pleaded that she might 'enjoy the company of my Lady Mary's Grace at court'. 'We will have her here, darling,' Henry had promised, 'if she will make thee merry.' Early in September, he wrote to his daughter, commanding her to prepare for a move to court in the near future, and shortly afterwards he proclaimed her his heir, in default of any issue by Queen Jane. As news of this spread, crowds gathered around the royal palaces, where apartments were being prepared for Mary, in the hope of seeing her, and Lady Salisbury, Mary's former governess, was cheered when she visited the court at the King's invitation.
Plague returned to London in September, so the court moved to Windsor. Jane was looking forward with pleasure to Mary's arrival, and was also happily involved in planning her coronation with the King and his ministers. It was due to take place on the Sunday before All Hallows' Day, and funds were now available for it, thanks to the efforts made by Cromwell and the King's commissioners to divert the wealth of dissolved monasteries into the royal coffers; the dissolution was now gaining momentum. Henry, who had read some of the reports, professed himself scandalised that the word of God was not being observed as it should have been in some houses. There were allegations of lechery, sodomy and over luxurious living, though it is hard to estimate how much corruption there actually was in the monasteries of England at that time, and how much was fabricated by the royal officials, who knew that the King meant to close them and appropriate the spoils.
The economic and social consequences of the dissolution are beyond the scope of this book, but by 1540 the wealth of the religious houses had been swallowed up by the Exchequer, and their buildings and lands had been sold at a profit to supporters of the King's reformist policies. The dissolution resulted in the secularisation of the Church, and, in many areas, notably the south, it was popular, there being a tangible resentment of the riches hitherto enjoyed by the religious houses. In addition, the heretical teachings of Luther and others had come, through closer contact with Europe, to find favour with a growing number of people, while many bishops actively encouraged reform.
But gradual closure of many of the smaller monasteries meant that hordes of monks and nuns were being turned out into the world with only inadequate pensions to live on. They therefore became dependent upon the succour provided by local parishes and charitable persons. In the past, the monasteries themselves had looked after vagrants and the destitute, but those same monks and nuns who had taken in the poor were now themselves reduced in many cases to begging, a problem the government had not anticipated and did little to address.
Public outrage at the growing number of beggars whom local communities were forced to support was further exacerbated in many areas by the curtailment of ancient religious traditions occasioned by the break with Rome and the dissolution. Dissatisfaction was greatest in the northern and eastern counties where, away from the influence of London, disapproval of the King's measures was strong and religious sensibilities outraged. Conservatives were appalled to see churches and monastic buildings destroyed; they watched aghast as the King's men broke up images of the Madonna and saints, took axes to stained-glass windows, and carried away vestments and altar plate to the treasury. The King meant to purge his Church of England of all its superstitious and popish facets: holy shrines were desecrated - many being exposed as fakes - and the seeking of miracles was forbidden. Public grievance over the changes was made even more acute by the levying of heavy taxes to finance the programme of ecclesiastical reform.
Such was the social and political backdrop against which the King hoped to stage Jane's coronation. In September, carpenters were set to work in Westminster Hall, preparing it for the coronation banquet. Henry and Jane were then at Windsor. On 27 September, Sir Ralph Sadler, the Queen's secretary, arrived there with letters from Cromwell in London, and tried to see Henry before he joined the Queen in her chamber for supper; but although he said he had urgent news to impart, the King made him wait until he had eaten. Afterwards, he summoned Sadler and read the letters he had brought. The news was bad. There was plague at Westminster, even in the Abbey itself. Henry told Sir Ralph that the coronation would have to be put off for a season. As it turned out, plague was not the only delaying factor. Within days, there was worse news from London: the King now had a rebellion on his hands.
The rebellion known as the Pilgrimage of Grace began with a riot in the town of Louth in Lincolnshire, where the inhabitants felt that the King had gone too far with his religious reforms. This was no ordinary riot, however, but was organised by determined men. Others flocked to join them, and soon a contingent of the men of Norfolk had swelled their ranks; by 13 October, the rising had spread to Yorkshire, where three days later a rebel army occupied York. It was at this point that one of the burghers of York, a man named Robert Asked, set himself up as the rebels' leader. Then they were joined by the men of Hull under their leader John Constable.
Before very long this army of the people was marching south, its leaders carrying banners depicting the Five Wounds of Christ, which gave the rebellion its name; they saw their cause as nothing less than a crusade, their aim being to persuade the King to heal the breach with Rome and leave the monasteries alone.
At first, the King considered leading an army himself against them, and, acknowledging his trust in his queen, he announced that she would be regent in his absence, with Cranmer and the Privy Council acting as her advisers. But the Pilgrimage of Grace posed a personal dilemma for Jane, who was herself a religious conservative and had a certain amount of sympathy with the rebels. She ventured to voice her doubts to the King, choosing to do this in public and hoping, by her intervention, to diffuse his anger against the rebels. One day in late October, when Henry was sitting beneath his canopy of estate, surrounded by his court, she fell on her knees before him and begged him to reconsider the fate of the monasteries, asking him to restore some of the smaller ones. Henry said nothing, but his face registered his irritation; Jane ignored this, and went on, daring to suggest that perhaps God had permitted the rebellion as a punishment for the deliberate ruin of so many churches. At this, the King's patience gave way, and he exploded with anger, brutally ordering her to get up and attend to other things, and reminding her that the last queen had died as a result of meddling too much in state affairs. Jane took Henry's warning to heart, and never again interfered in politics. Those like the Prioress of Clementhorpe, who asked for her aid in saving her convent, met with disappointment, for Jane could do nothing. Her first duty, as she saw it, was obedience to her husband, and she took his advice, busying herself with domestic affairs, estate business and matters concerning her servants.
In November 1536, she was writing from Windsor to Cromwell, requesting his help in assisting a former retainer who had fallen into poverty: 'Ye could not do a better deed for the increase of your eternal reward in the world to come,' she told him. Then she was commanding her park keeper at Hampton Court to send venison to the gentlemen of the King's Chapel Royal; her warrant still survives, bearing one of only two extant examples of her signature. She also ordered a survey to be made of her lands and property, and her officers were eventually able to report to her that they found all her tenants and farmers 'as glad of her Grace as heart could be'; the year that had seen her marriage to the King was viewed by them as a year of peace in England.
Sadly, it was not to end that way. For two months, the rebellion flourished, the pilgrims being joined by more and more supporters. Henry gave up the idea of confronting them himself since he did not relish the idea of a winter campaign, and, in order to gain time in December, he sent word to Asked that he would meet his demands, promising 'with comfortable words' to send Norfolk north to ratify the agreement. He himself, he declared, would follow later. He also agreed to the rebels' demand that the Queen be crowned at York Minster. Henry was nothing if not a practised dissembler, and Asked accepted his assurances in good faith, joyfully disbanding his army in the confident belief that his sovereign would be true to his word. On 8 December, Asked was formally pardoned, and peace was restored.
The King's public rebuke to his wife caused no lasting damage to their marriage; in November, they were reported to be well and merry, and they were at Windsor in early December, planning their first Christmas together at Greenwich. The winter of 1536-7 was bitterly cold, and the roads were iced up, but this did not deter the King from summoning Mary to court for their public reconciliation. She arrived at Windsor on 17 December, richly dressed and with a train of gorgeously attired ladies, and proceeded through the ranks of courtiers in the presence chamber to where her father and Queen Jane awaited her by a roaring fire at the far end of the room. After curtsying twice, the small, spare girl with red hair and aretrousseenose made a sweeping obeisance to the King, fell on her knees, and asked for his blessing. He took her hand, raised and kissed her, then presented her to the Queen, who also kissed her and warmly bade her welcome. Then Henry turned to the Privy Councillors standing near by, gave them a menacing stare, and declared, with superb tactlessness, 'Some of you were desirous that I should put this jewel to death!' There was an embarrassed silence until the Queen spoke up: 'That were great pity, to have lost your chiefest jewel of England.' Henry smiled. 'Nay, nay!' he replied, patting Jane on the belly, an indication that he thought she might be pregnant, 'Edward! Edward!' Already, he had decided upon a name for the hoped-for son, though within a week or so he would know Jane was not pregnant this time.
The excitement was proving too much for Mary, and to Henry's consternation she suddenly fainted at his feet. Both he and Jane stooped to assist her, with the courtiers crowding round; when Mary regained her senses a few moments later Henry bade her be of good cheer, as nothing would go against her. When she had revived sufficiently, he took her hand and walked her up and down the room.
After this, Mary was often at court. She quickly became close to the Queen and was accorded precedence immediately after her. And it was thanks to Mary's intercession that the King invited Elizabeth to court for the Christmas season. Foreign visitors to Greenwich would have been astonished to see the royal family together; it seemed that at last the King was settling down to something resembling family life. At table, the King and Queen sat together, with Mary opposite Jane a little further along the table. Elizabeth was too young to sit at table with the adults, but those who saw Henry playing with her during the festivities observed his affection for her.
Just before Christmas, the Thames froze in London. On 22 December, Henry, Jane and Mary, warmly wrapped in furs, rode on horseback from Westminster to the City, which was gaily decorated in their honour with tapestries and cloth of gold; priests in copes with crosiers stood at every street corner waiting to bless the royal party and, in spite of the bitter cold, the people turned out in large numbers to watch the procession, cheering loudly. After a service in St Paul's to mark the beginning of the Christmas celebrations, Henry and Jane then spurred their horses across the frozen river and galloped to the Surrey shore, Mary following with the rest of their retinue. Then they rode to Greenwich Palace, where they would stay for Christmas, when Jane would preside for the first time over the glittering Yuletide court. Yet the season was marred for her by news of the death of her father on 21 December at Wulfhall. He had never lived in the public eye, so there was no observance of court mourning for him, nor did the Queen attend the funeral at Easton Priory in Wiltshire (the body was later moved to Bedwyn Magna Church). It may be that she had never been close to a father she had rarely seen in recent years; there is certainly no record that she was unduly affected by his death.
On New Year's Day, gifts were exchanged. Both Henry and Jane gave Mary costly presents, as did Cromwell, and Mary, among other gifts, gave some money to Elizabeth's chaplain because she was concerned about the child's religious education.
But this peaceful lull could not last. Robert Asked had been the King's guest at court over Christmas, and after it had ended he and his followers began to realise that the King had no intention of honouring his promises. The dissolution of the monasteries had resumed, taxes were still heavy, and there were as yet no definite plans for a royal visit to York, much less a coronation in that city. Disillusioned and bitter, the rebels regrouped, but this time, Henry was not prepared to send them fair words. Instead, he sent that redoubtable commander the Duke of Norfolk into Lincolnshire at the head of a great army, to teach those in revolt that they must not presume to question the will of their king. It was a terrible lesson. Norfolk hanged as many traitors as he could lay his hands upon, and in March 1537 presided over a Grand Assize that condemned a further thirty-six men to death. Their bodies, left rotting on gibbets for months, served as a grim warning to all those who dared contemplate further rebellion. Constable was arrested and condemned to death in June, being hanged alive in chains over the gates of Hull, where he shortly perished of exposure and starvation, and Asked was captured in July, and suffered the same fate at York. By then, the rebellion had long since been effectively crushed.
Having successfully dealt with the worst crisis of his reign, Henry VIII discovered that he had another cause for rejoicing, for in the early spring of 1537, Queen Jane discovered that she was pregnant; she had conceived around the middle of January. Shortly afterwards, Henry took her on a progress through Kent, visiting Rochester and Sittingbourne before going on to Canterbury as pilgrims and making their offerings at the shrine of St Thomas a Becket. It was characteristic of Henry that he was already planning the dissolution of the great Abbey of St Augustine there - within a year, Becket himself would have been denounced as a traitor to his king, his shrine broken up, and his bones destroyed.
From Canterbury the King and Queen rode to Dover to see the newly constructed pier. Then it was back to Hampton Court where, on 20 March, Jane granted the master of the Hospital of St Katherine-by-the-Tower, an institution serving as both church and hospice under the traditional patronage of successive queens of England, exemption from all annual tithes in consideration of the burden borne by the hospital from the increasing numbers of poor people. And, at around the same time, Jane stood sponsor at the christening of her brother Edward's child, who bore her name; Mary and Cromwell also attended the ceremony.
Jane's pregnancy was announced at the beginning of April, when the King conveyed the happy news to the Privy Council. In the minutes of this meeting, the councillors recorded that they trusted in God that the Queen's Grace would bring forth many fair children, 'to the consolation and comfort of the King's Majesty, and of his whole realm'. News of Jane's condition spread quickly, and soon there were celebrations, not only in England, but as far away as Calais, where Lady Lisle, wife of the Governor, was not only copying the gold and silk embroidered caps and nightgowns worn and popularised by Queen Jane, but was also doing her best to place one of her daughters in Jane's service. She thought the news to be 'merry tidings'.
Throughout that spring, Henry was merry himself, and cheerful, even though his leg pained him and kept him indoors for much of the time. Late in May the Queen appeared at Hampton Court in the open-laced gown of a pregnant mother, and it was announced that the child had moved in her womb. 'God send her good deliverance of a prince, to the joy of all faithful subjects,' wrote one courtier. When news that the baby - 'like one given by God' - had quickened reached London on Trinity Sunday, a special mass was celebrated in St Paul's Cathedral in thanksgiving that 'our most excellent lady and mistress, Queen Jane, hath conceived and is great with child'. On the same day a Te Deum was sung in churches throughout the realm, 'for joy of the Queen's quickening', and in London that evening the citizens were provided with free wine and bonfires were lit. The King abandoned plans for a summer coronation; that could wait until after October, when the child was due.
Throughout the summer, prayers were offered in churches for Jane's safe delivery. She undertook no public engagements, and led a relatively quiet life, being attended by the royal physicians and the best midwives in the kingdom. To please her, the King had her brother Edward admitted to the Privy Council on 22 May. He also made sure she lacked for nothing. Her condition had given her a craving for quails, a great delicacy at that time, but unfortunately out of season. Henry went to considerable trouble to have the birds shipped over from Calais, commanding Lord Lisle to provide 'fat quails which her Grace loveth very well, and longeth not a little for'. If none was to be found in Calais, then a search must be made in Flanders. On 24 May, a large consignment of quails arrived, a welcome sight to the Queen and her relieved husband; they ate a dozen roasted at dinner, and a further dozen for supper. Jane's craving for quails persisted right through her pregnancy; the Lady Mary sent her some in June, and Lord and Lady Lisle dispatched a constant supply from Calais, for which the Queen sent her grateful thanks.
The King was still in excellent spirits, and Sir John Russell found him behaving 'more like a good fellow than a king'; it was said he had never been merrier. Early in June, after a brief visit to Guildford, the court moved to Windsor because there was plague in London. The King hunted daily in Windsor Great Park, and the game he shot was served to the Queen along with her favourite quails. By the middle of July, Jane was very large and had unlaced her gowns to their fullest extent. As a token of appreciation to Lady Lisle, she agreed to find a place in her household for one of her two daughters, Anne and Katherine Bassett. Lady Lisle had been unsuccessful in securing places for them the previous year, and was desperate to have at least one accepted. Jane commanded her to send both girls over from Calais, so that she could decide which one she liked best. They must bring two changes of clothes, one of satin, the other of damask. The sister not chosen by the Queen would be offered a place in the household of the Duchess of Suffolk. Once the choice was made, Jane would provide wages and food only: Lady Lisle must see that her daughter was properly kitted out, and must exhort her girls to be 'sober, sad, wise and discreet, lowly above all things, obedient, and willing to be governed and ruled by my Lady Rutland and my Lady Sussex, and to serve God and be virtuous, for that is much regarded'.
It is pure speculation to suggest that, had she lived, Jane Seymour might well have been the most formidable of Henry's wives, yet this is certainly indicated by the standards she set for her household and by her warning, sent through Lord Hussey to Lady Lisle, that the court was 'full of pride, envy, indignation, mocking, scorn and derision'. She had succeeded in ridding her household of Anne Boleyn's wayward influence, and was vigorously re-establishing the virtuous precepts set by Queen Katherine. Beneath her outward show of humility, there was steel, even though it was confined to the domestic sphere only. A year on the throne had transformed Jane into a pious and godly matron who was fully conscious of her rank and dignity, and who carried the knowledge that she might well be nurturing the heir to England in her womb.
Jane's chief companions at this time were her sister Elizabeth, now the wife of Cromwell's son Gregory, and the Lady Mary. At the end of August, wagers were laid on the sex of the royal baby and the date of its birth, and the doctors and soothsayers were all confidently predicting a boy. 'I pray Jesu, an [if] it be his will, send us a prince,' prayed a courtier fervently. The birth was to take place at Hampton Court, and the court moved there early in September. On the 16th, Jane took to her chamber. Anne Boleyn had once occupied the magnificent rooms assigned to her; they were near the Silver Stick Gallery, and had linenfold panelling and gilded ceilings, much like the recently restored suite known as 'Wolsey's Rooms', except that Jane's long-vanished apartments would have been bigger.
Here Lady Lisle's daughters came. Jane picked the elder, Anne Bassett, who was sworn to her service on 17 September. Anne would become a popular figure at court during the years to come, even attracting the King's amorous attention at one time, yet she kept her good reputation. For the present, however, she was dismayed to find that her attire did not meet the Queen's exacting standards. Jane insisted her French hood would have to go, and Lady Sussex hurriedly found a suitable gown of crimson damask and a gable hood for Anne to wear when in the Queen's presence. Jane ordered the girl to obtain two new hoods with stiffened frontlets, as well as two good gowns of black velvet and black satin, and insisted that she replace her coarse linen undergarments with ones of fine lawn. Finally, to her dismay, the Queen learned that there were far too few pearls stitched to Anne's girdle, and warned her that if she did not appear at court in the proper clothes, she would not be allowed to attend the royal christening when the time came.
Jane was nevertheless a generous mistress; she gave Mary Zouche, one of Holbein's sitters whose portrait survives at Windsor, a gift of jewelled borders for a hood or gown, and after Jane's death the King granted Mary a pension of 10 per annum in consideration of her good service. The Queen also gave some jewellery to Mary, Lady Monteagle, one of her ladies-in-waiting. But she was not over- familiar with her ladies, and nor would they have expected her to be. She had the company of the Lady Mary during these last weeks of her pregnancy, and that was enough for her.
In London, the plague raged. Henry was alarmed for the safety of his wife and unborn child; as for Jane, she was horribly afraid. The King gave orders that no one who had been in London was to approach the court, but even this did not dispel her fears. 'Your ladyship would not believe how much the Queen is afraid of the sickness,' wrote Anne Bassett to her mother. To further minimise the risks, Henry moved with his household to Esher, in order to reduce the number of people staying at Hampton Court. He did not apparently consider his presence there necessary for his wife's peace of mind, but he told Norfolk that he would not travel far from her at this time, considering that, being a woman, upon some sudden and displeasant rumours that might by foolish or light persons be blown abroad in our absence, she might take to her stomach such impression as might engender no little danger or displeasure to that wherewith she is now pregnant, which God forbid.
The Council had advised him not to travel more than sixty miles from Hampton Court, 'especially as she being, as it is thought, further gone by a month or more than she thought herself at the perfect quickening, remembering what dependeth upon the prosperity of that matter'.
It was obvious by early October that the birth was imminent, and the courtiers were telling each other to 'look daily for a prince'. The King was so certain that his child would be a boy that he gave orders for a Garter Stall to be made ready in St George's Chapel for 'the Prince hoped for in due season'. On 7 October, as the Queen showed no signs of going into labour, the Lady Mary went briefly back to Hunsdon to attend the christening of the child of one of her tenants; when she returned, Jane was still up and about. In Leicestershire, at Bradgate Manor, the King's niece, Frances Brandon, Marchioness of Dorset, gave birth to a baby girl and named her after the Queen; this child grew up to be the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey, who would lose her head before her seventeenth birthday. And in London, the young Duchess of Suffolk bore a healthy son.
At last, on the afternoon of 9 October, the Queen's labour pains began. As soon as they were well established, the King sent the royal heralds to London with the news. In the City, the response was overwhelming: bells were rung, masses sung in every parish church with congregations spilling out into the street in some places, and, on 11 October, a solemn procession walked from St Paul's Cathedral to Westminster Abbey, headed by the Lord Mayor and his aldermen, and including representatives of the guilds and livery companies of the City, and the clergy in their ceremonial copes. All offered prayers for the Queen's safe delivery.
Jane's ordeal lasted three days and three nights. It was rumoured in London that she would have to be cut open to facilitate her infant's safe delivery, a rumour that would in later years be embroidered by Catholic writers hostile to Henry VIII. Their lurid accounts give graphic - and entirely fictional - details of Jane's labour, alleging that her limbs were stretched to ease delivery, and that at length the King was asked who should be saved, the mother or the child. He is said to have opted for the child, as other wives could easily be found. A Caesarean operation is then said to have been performed. None of this is true. There is no evidence for a Caesarean operation being performed on a living mother before 1610 and, if it had, the result would have been a speedy and agonising death. Not until the twentieth century could this procedure be safely carried out.
Nevertheless, Jane Seymour's sufferings were great, and the labour prolonged and painful. But, finally, at two o'clock in the morning of Friday, 12 October 1537, it came to an end when she was safely delivered of a healthy, fair-haired boy. The King, after a wait lasting twenty-seven years, finally had his heir. It was, said a courtier, 'the most joyful news that has come to England these many years'.
Henry was at Esher when his son was born, but when he was informed that the Queen had been happily delivered of a prince, he rode to Hampton Court to see her and to welcome the child. The royal father was delirious with pride and joy, and named the child Edward; by a happy coincidence he had been born on St Edward's Eve. He became Duke of Cornwall at the moment of his birth, and it was confidently expected that his father would create him Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, though this never came to pass. He was healthy, and bore resemblances to both his parents, having his father's features and his mother's fairness.
Henry wasted no time in informing the world of the glad tidings. Within minutes of his arrival at Hampton Court, his heralds had been dispatched to every part of the country with instructions to spread the news. In London, aTe Deumwas sung in every parish church, and the bells in the City began a joyful pealing which would continue all day and all evening. There were bonfires in the streets, and the Tower guns shot off 2,000 rounds of ammunition in honour of the Prince. Banners were set up, and impromptu banquets given by prominent citizens. The messengers bearing the news were given costly gifts, and at the Steelyard the merchants of the Hanseatic League lit a hundred torches and generously provided free wine and beer for the citizens. Everywhere, housewives were hanging garlands above their doors and balconies and preparing food for the Tudor equivalentofstreet parties, while before the great doors of St Paul's many bishops gathered to provide a feast for the people before celebrating mass. A holiday mood prevailed, and verylittlework was done that day; the feasting and carousing continueduntilthe evening, when the Lord Mayor rode through the crowded streets thanking the people on the King's behalf for their demonstrations of love and loyalty. The conduits were still flowing with ale and wine, and there were many who woke with sore heads the next day, or found they had been robbed, thieves and pickpockets being certain of the King's pardon on such an occasion.
London's bells ceased their clangour at ten o'clock in the evening. At around the same time, the Queen was sitting up in bed writing to Cromwell to inform him that 'we be delivered and brought in childbed of a prince conceived in most lawful matrimony between my lord the King's Majesty and us,' and commanding him to convey the news to the Privy Council. Her letter was signed 'Jane the Queen'. Her triumph was now complete. Letters of congratulation came pouring into the palace, and the royal secretaries were kept busy announcing the royal birth to foreign princes and other dignitaries. The Prince was not the only baby born at Hampton Court on 12 October; in another suite, the Queen's sister-in-law, Lady Beauchamp, gave birth to a son who was also called Edward. In all, it was an auspicious day for the Seymours.
Overjoyed as he was with his 'fine boy', Henry was concerned for the infant's safety as there was still plague in the capital, and the first months of life were always hazardous. With these considerations in mind, he gave orders that every room, hall and courtyard in the Prince's apartments was to be washed down with soap and swept daily. Everything that came near the child - clothing, bed-linen, toys - was to be scrupulously clean. It is doubtful whether Jane saw much of her son after his birth. He had his own apartments, where he was cared for by wet-nurses, nursemaids and other servants. Unlike Anne Boleyn, Jane would not make a fuss about suckling her own child.
The Prince was christened on Monday, 15 October. Because of the risk of plague, the numbers attending were severely restricted, yet nearly 400 persons were present at the midnight ceremony in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court, which had recently been completed and which still boasts its splendid Tudor ceiling. The guests had all gathered beforehand in the Queen's apartments, where Jane received them lying on a day bed of crimson damask lined with cloth of gold. Around her shoulders she wore a crimson mantle edged with ermine, over which flowed her loose blonde hair. Beside her sat the King in a richly upholstered chair. Her son was carried in procession through torchlit corridors just before midnight by Lady Exeter, with Norfolk holding his head steady and Suffolk supporting his feet. The King had chosen Archbishop Cranmer, Norfolk and Suffolk, and the Lady Mary as godparents. The Lady Elizabeth was in the procession too, carried in the arms of Lord Beauchamp, the Queen's brother, and holding the chrysom tightly in small fists. In the Chapel, the Prince was proclaimed heir to the King and, after he had been baptised by the Archbishop, he was conveyed back to the Queen's apartments with great pomp; this time, Elizabeth walked, holding Mary's hand. Jane took her son and gave him her blessing, then the King gathered him into his arms and, with tears of joy streaming down his face, blessed Edward in the name of God, the Virgin Mary and St George. The Prince was then carried off by the Duchess of Suffolk to his own apartments, followed by his household of 400 persons. Afterwards, refreshments were served for the guests, hippocras and wafers for the nobility, bread and sweet wine for the gentry. Then, when everyone present had kissed the hands of the King and Queen, the company dispersed. Jane had played her part to perfection; no one had noticed that anything was amiss with her.
On the afternoon of the following day, Jane suffered a bad attack of diarrhoea, which left her feeling rather ill, but by the evening she was better. During the night, however, she was sick, and early on Wednesday morning her condition was giving cause for concern. It was obvious that she was suffering from puerperal fever, a common hazard for women in childbed in those days. It is quite likely that Jane had suffered a tear in her perineum during delivery, which had become infected. Very little was known about hygiene in that period, and midwives did not understand the need for clean hands. Moreover, Jane's regime since the birth had been quite irregular, and she had been over-indulged by her attendants who were accused of having given her too rich a diet.
The Queen rapidly became so ill that it was feared she would die; her confessor, the Bishop of Carlisle, was sent for, and he administered the last rites shortly before eight o'clock in the morning, before issuing a bulletin about the Queen's illness. Then, just as the Bishop was about to administer extreme unction, Jane rallied, and on Thursday she was so much restored that the King, who had been very anxious about her, felt able to continue with the celebrations in honour of the Prince's birth. On that day, he created Edward Seymour Earl of Hertford. On Friday, London was still celebrating, and the rest of the kingdom was following suit. The Bishop of Gloucester reported from the West Country that there was 'no less rejoicing in these parts than there was at the birth of John the Baptist'. Later that day, however, the Queen grew feverish again, and the King ordered a solemn intercession of the clergy; this took place in St Paul's, with the Bishop of London officiating.
For three days, she lay in delirium. On Monday night, her condition worsened, and the Bishop of Carlisle wrote to inform Cromwell that she was dying. The King had intended to return to Esher for the start of the hunting season on Tuesday, 23 October, but 'could not find it in his heart' to leave Jane in such a state. On that Tuesday, however, she seemed a little better, although she had been in great danger during the night. Her doctors told the King that, if she survived the next night, they 'were in good hope' that she would live. The Chapel Royal was full that day: 'If good prayers can save her, she is not like to die,' people were saying. 'Never was lady more popular with every man, rich or poor.'
At eight o'clock that evening, Henry was summoned urgently to his wife's bedside; she was failing fast. Norfolk wrote a hurried note to Cromwell, urging him to come to Hampton Court at once 'to comfort our good master, for as for our mistress, there is no likelihood of her life, the more pity, and I fear she shall not be alive at the time ye shall read this'. The King remained at Jane's side throughout the evening and into the night. In the early hours of Wednesday, 24 October, the Bishop of Carlisle was summoned to administer the last rites, and at about two o'clock, Jane slipped quietly from sleep into death.
Henry VIII could not bear anything to do with death. On the following morning his horror of remaining in the same house as Jane's corpse got the better of him, and he fled to Windsor, leaving the Duke of Norfolk to look after the funeral arrangements. Once at Windsor, Henry went into seclusion for a time, refusing at first to see anyone, which was perhaps as well, for his ministers had already begun debating whether or not they should urge him to marry again for the sake of his realm. Surprisingly, when this suggestion was tentatively put to the King a few days later, he agreed that a fourth marriage might be wise, in view of the fact that his sole male heir was just an infant who might at any time succumb to a multitude of childhood ailments. 'He has framed his mind to be indifferent to the thing,' recorded one councillor. Despite his natural grief, as soon as Jane was buried he would be considering possible brides.
Jane was given a magnificent funeral. Her body was embalmed on 25 October, the entrails being removed and buried in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court. The corpse was then dressed in a robe of gold tissue with the crown on its head and some of the Queen's jewels. It lay in state in the presence chamber for a week from 26 October, surrounded by tapers and with an altar beside it, at which masses were sung night and day for the soul of the departed. The obsequies began when Lancaster Herald charged those gathered to honour Jane's memory. 'Of your charity, pray for the soul of the Queen!' The body was then moved to a catafalque set up in the Chapel Royal, where the Queen's ladies would keep vigil beside it for a further week. The Lady Mary was chief mourner. She and the other ladies wore mourning habits of black with white headdresses to signify that the Queen had died in childbed. Mary paid for thirteen masses to be sung for Jane's soul, and took charge of the late Queen's household, which would shortly be disbanded. It was probably Mary who carried out the King's command that Jane's beautiful diamonds and pearls were given to the wife of Sir Nicholas Carew, as Jane had wished.
Early in November, the Lord Mayor ordered 1,200 masses to be sung in the City 'for the soul of our most gracious Queen', and a solemn service was held in his presence in St Paul's. Alms were also given in the Queen's name to the poor.
On 8 November, Jane's coffin was taken to Windsor, where the King had decided she should be buried. It went in procession on a horse-drawn hearse followed by 200 poor men all wearing Jane's badge and bearing aloft lighted torches. The Lady Mary rode a horse draped in black velvet, and was attended by twenty-nine mourners, one for every year of the late Queen's life. At Colnbrook, Eton and Windsor, the poor men went ahead and lined the streets, while behind them stood the sorrowing crowds, hats in hands, watching silently as the funeral cortege wound its way past them. At the entrance to St George's Chapel, within the precincts of Windsor Castle, the coffin was received by the Dean and College, and was carried inside by six pallbearers. At the high altar, Archbishop Cranmer waited to receive it. The Lady Mary followed the coffin, her train borne by Lady Rochford. After prayers, the body was left to lie in state overnight, while the Lady Mary kept a grief-stricken vigil beside it. The next day, masses and dirges were sung, and the late Queen's ladies laid velvet palls upon the coffin, as was customary. Upon the palls was set a lifelike wooden effigy of the Queen that had been carried in the funeral procession but which has long since disappeared.
On Monday, 12 November, Queen Jane was finally laid to rest with great pomp and ceremonial 'in the presence of many pensive hearts', including those of her brothers, who would from now on enjoy enormous influence as uncles to the Prince. After the coffin had been lowered into a vault in the choir before the high altar the officers of the Queen's household broke their staves of office over it, thus symbolising the termination of their allegiance and service. On that day, the bells in London tolled for six hours, and on 14 November, a requiem mass was held in St Paul's Cathedral, thus bringing to an end the Queen's obsequies.
Etiquette precluded the presence of kings at their wives' funerals. After three weeks spent 'passing his sorrows' at Windsor while the funeral rites took place, Henry moved to Whitehall, where he once more took up the reins of government, but he was in very low spirits. The Bishop of Durham tried to alleviate his sufferings by reminding him that although God had taken from him 'that most blessed and virtuous lady', He had given him 'our most noble Prince, to whom God hath ordained your Majesty to be mother as well as father. God gave to your Grace that noble lady, and God hath taken her away as pleased Him.' Gradually, the King pulled himself together, and before very long his 'tender zeal' towards his subjects overcame his sad disposition, and he 'framed his mind' to a fourth marriage. By 3 November, he was reported to be in good health and 'merry as a widower may be'. He was now beginning to accept the tragedy that had befallen him, and to cope with his loss. He would wear full mourning, in deepest black, in Jane's memory, for three months, and court mourning would last until Easter 1538.
Jane's short, successful career and her tragic end caught the public's imagination, and she was celebrated in popular ballads long after she was dust. She had achieved nearly everything she set out to do: she had given the King the son he so desperately needed, she had helped to restore the Lady Mary to the succession and her father's affections, and she had used her influence to bring about the advancement of her family. She had provided the King with a family life for the first time in years, and had meddled hardly at all in matters of religion or politics. His grief at her death is testimony of his love for her. It was, in every respect, the most successful of his six marriages, and it was the only one to result in a surviving male heir.
In 1543, when Henry was married to Katherine Parr, he commissioned from an unknown artist a painting of himself, his wife, and his three children, which may still be seen at Hampton Court. Henry is shown seated on his throne in one of his palaces, with Mary and Elizabeth standing at either side of him. The six-year-old Edward stands at his father's knee, and sitting beside the King is not Katherine Parr, as might have been expected for she was an admirable stepmother, but Jane Seymour, wearing the gown in which Holbein had portrayed her in his Whitehall fresco. This inclusion of Jane in what was not so much a family group as a brilliant piece of Tudor propaganda is proof that Henry VIII wished to promote her image as oneofthe founding matriarchs of his dynasty. For Jane, this represents a considerable achievement, considering that her career, from her meetings with the King at Wulfhall in the autumnof1535 to her death at the height of her triumph in 1537, had lasted just two short years.
When Henry VIII died, he left instructions that he was to be buried with Jane. His will gave detailed directions for the erection of a joint tomb surmounted by effigies of them both, carved 'as if sweetly sleeping'. But it was never built, and today the vault is marked only by a brass plate in the choir pavement. For a time, there was a Latin inscription to Jane's memory on the brass plate marking the grave, which, roughly translated, read as follows:
Here lieth a Phoenix, by whose death
Another Phoenix life gave breath:
It is to be lamented much
The world at once ne'er knew two such.
In 1813, the tomb of Henry and Jane was opened by order of the Prince Regent. Inside were found two coffins, one very large, of antique form, and another very small, as well as the coffin of Charles I and that of one of Queen Anne's infants. Henry's coffin was opened, revealing a skeleton 6'2" in length, with red hairs still adhering to the skull. The coffin containing the remains of Jane Seymour was left undisturbed.