I’m happy to be hosting day 4 of Amy Licence’s blog tour for her latest work The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII: The Women’s Stories! More information on the book and how to be entered in a competition to win a copy are at the bottom of this post. Amy’s guest post is an excerpt on Jane Seymour from Chapter 46:
Anne’s replacement, Jane Seymour, had led a sheltered life in the Wiltshire countryside. Her mother, Margery Wentworth, was a descendant of Edward III but she had married into a family of the minor gentry, with her husband Sir John holding various minor positions at court. Jane was her mother’s seventh child and her eldest daughter with three surviving brothers arriving before her and two sisters to follow. Her upbringing typified a traditional pre-Reformation girlhood, shying away from the sort of intellectual pursuits and European sophistication that had transformed Anne from a docile, demure country girl into a figure who could hold her own on the international stage. There is no evidence to support the claim made by the full length portrait of Jane on display at Versailles, that she was a maid of honour in the French court of Mary Tudor, as she would have been far too young: nor can it be inferred that she finished her education under Queen Claude, along with Anne and Mary Boleyn. In contrast, Jane stayed at home. Steeped in Catholicism, schooled by her mother on the virtues of wifely skills and talents, Jane was prepared to become the wife of a Knight Banneret, or similar position, just like her sister Elizabeth who had married Sir Anthony Ughtred before 1531. Chapuys described Jane as not having a “great wit, but she may have good understanding.” While Anne had broken the mould when it came to the accomplishments of her gender, Jane conformed to it perfectly.
It may have been the marriage of her younger sister in the late 1520s that had prompted Jane or her parents to send her to court, perhaps in search of a husband of her own. It has been suggested that Jane had already been through a broken betrothal by the time she came to court, but in this eventuality, Henry would surely have sought legal confirmation that she was now free to marry. She was following a family precedent by travelling to London, as Margery had served Catherine of Aragon in the early days of her marriage, and this connection, as well as her father’s position as Knight of the Body, helped place her daughter in the Queen’s household. When that establishment began to fracture, dividing loyalties between those who supported Catherine and those who supported Anne, Jane would have remained firmly in the former camp, with her orthodox faith, her family connection to Catherine and the years she had seen Princess Mary growing up at court. Watching the process by which Anne became Queen, Jane witnessed an unfolding drama on which it would have been impossible for her not to have held an opinion. In 1535, when she transferred to Anne’s household, according to Jane Dormer, she had observed exactly how a mistress could make the transition to the throne and, although she shared a great-grandmother with Anne, Jane probably had little love for the Reformist and ambitious Boleyns. A conversation reported by Chapuys indicates the sort of approach favoured towards Henry and his daughter, by the woman the Ambassador came to call the “pacifier” or peacemaker:
I hear that, even before the arrest of the Concubine, the King, speaking with Mistress Jane Semel(sic) of their future marriage, the latter suggested that the Princess should be replaced in her former position; and the King told her she was a fool, and ought to solicit the advancement of the children they would have between them, and not any others. She replied that in asking for the restoration of the Princess she conceived she was seeking the rest and tranquillity of the King, herself, her future children, and the whole realm; for, without that, neither your Majesty nor this people would ever be content.
When Henry fell in love with Jane, she was in her late twenties, “of middle stature and no great beauty, so fair that one would call her rather pale than otherwise.” Amid the reputedly licentious court, Chapuys wondered how Jane had managed to keep her virginity intact, but there is no gossip to connect her with any other man and there may be some truth in the Ambassador’s cynical comment that “he may make a condition in the marriage that she be a virgin, and when he has a mind to divorce her he will find enough of witnesses.” Chapuys also crudely punned on the possibility of her possessing a grand “enigmé”, usually meaning a secret or riddle, but also contemporary slang for the female genitals. Yet there is no doubt that Jane’s purity and untarnished record counted in her favour. It was to preserve her from scandal that might have arisen at the time of Anne’s fall, and to “cover his affection” for her that Henry moved Jane out of the court, to Carew Manor in Beddington Park, Croydon, the family seat of Nicholas Carew. With the matter privately decided between them, Henry’s public actions were quite different, however.
Be sure to check out the rest of the tour:
Monday – Interview with Amy Licence
Tuesday – Henry’s relationship with Mary Boleyn at The Anne Boleyn Files
Wednesday – Henry VIII & Anne Boleyn: The Early Days at On the Tudor Trail
Thursday – You’re here!
Friday – An extract on Katherine Parr at The Tudor Roses
Saturday – Another interview with Amy, this time at The Tudor Enthusiast
Sunday – And the tour concludes on Amy’s own blog: His Story, Her Story
If you wish to be entered in a drawing for a free copy of the book, please leave your email address on the form at this link (you will be directed back to the blog after you enter): The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII: The Women’s Stories give-away. I’ll close the competition at 1:00 p.m. US Central Daylight Time on Friday, October 31 and contact the winner shortly after. Good luck!