Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Question from Elizabeth - Jane Seymour at French court

I was reading on the website and saw that Jane Seymour may have served at the court in France. I have never heard this before and wondered if there was any strong evidence to support this, and what others thought about it.

[ed note - I think the passage that Elizabeth is referring to is in the chapter on Jane from Strickland's 19th century work on the Queens of England which you can find on Google Books]


Anonymous said...

Barrett L. Beer writes in his article on Jane Seymour in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biogrpahy that "nothing is known of Jane's early life and education." Her first appearance in surviving historical records is her arrival at Henry VIII's court in 1529, when she was already 20 years old. It would therefore appear that Ms Strickland was either relying on 19th century mythology and legends or simply making up a story to fill a gap in what was known (Strickland was quite prone to both errors).

kb said...

I would make the following observation; when 'nothing is known' it does not necessarily mean that a hypothesis is wrong - that Jane was not at the French court. Surviving records have not been completely combed through and new evidence is still being uncovered. Although absence of evidence should suggest absence of activity, it does not always mean this.

Although on this particular point, I also doubt Jane was at the French court.

kb said...

I just read the Strickland excerpt Lara has linked to on this site.

It's an interesting logic Strickland presents, however, I am unclear as to why Holbein would have painted Jane Seymour in France.

Are there any Holbein experts out there who can substantiate the idea that Holbein painted Jane Seymour dressed as a French lady-n-waiting? Whatever that 'uniform' would have been? I know Holbein the younger traveled a bit in France (Lucerne?) but....hmm

Lara said...

I'm confused as to what portrait Strickland is referring to since the one of Jane in the red dress hasn't been in the Louvre as far as I could find. I checked my Holbein books (which I was surprised to find now total six!) and the one now in Vienna appears to have been there since the early 18th century. It almost sounds more like she's talking about the portrait of Anne of Cleves (which of course, is in the Louvre, although I haven't yet been able to find out how long it has been there). Very strange!

kb said...

So it sounds like phd historian's initial assessment may be right and that Strickland either made it up, or confused her facts.

phd historian - do you know if the Seymour brothers went to France as Strickland indicates? That would open the door to her idea, although the mystery painting confuses the whole issue.

Anonymous said...

Edward Seymour was in France throughout 1523 during Henry VIII's military campaigns in that year. It is very unlikely that his sister Jane went with him.

Edward returned to France in 1532, accompanying Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn to Boulogne. Jane may have been part of Anne's retinue for that trip, but she is not mentioned by name.

Holbein returned to England from Basil in the same year (1532), but he was not employed as a court painter until four years later.

Jane was herself in France in 1514 as an attendant to Mary Tudor on her marriage to the Dauphin Francis. But she was only about 6 years old at the time, so it is unlikely that an individual portrait of her was done. And even if it were, Strickland is clearly not referring to a childhood portrait.

Writing 20 years after Strickland, another 19th century author again notes the supposed Jane Seymour portrait in the Louvre and states that it is a companion piece to a second portrait, one he (Hubert Burke) identifies as of Anne Boleyn. Both are full length, and the portrait of "Jane" depicts "a full-formed maiden of eighteen or nineteen years of age." But his identifications appear to contradict those made by the Louvre itself, as he allows that "they are not recognized in Paris as pictures of English queens, but as compagnons suivantes of an English princess who became Queen of France - Mary, the sister of Henry VIII." Only the portrait he identifies as of Anne Boleyn is supposedly by Holbein.

If the French identification of the portrait is correct and the sitter was part of Mary Tudor's retinue, the age difference (18-19 vs Jane's actual age of 6 at the time of Mary's marriage) indicates that the person cannot be Jane Seymour. Modern research has probably led to a succession of re-labelings of the portrait so that it would now be very difficult to idenitify which portrait in the Louvre today was referred to over 100 years ago by both Strickland and Burke.

Lastly, it is worthwhile to note that during the 19th century there was a fad for identifying portraits as having been done by Holbein, when in fact they were by other artists. Therefore what Strickland refers to in 1840-1850 as a Holbein may now be recognized as some other artist, or an unknown one.

In the end, I think Strickland simply had her facts and information confused.

Anonymous said...

A note in follow-up, after doing a little more research:

I found a review of another of Strickland's works, Lives of the Tudor Princesses (1868). The review was printed in The Contemporary Review Vol. X, January - April 1869, pages 447-448. The reviewer spends three lengthy paragraphs enumerating the various errors of fact committed by Ms Strickland as she writes about just one "princess," Jane Grey. He recommends to Strickland's readers that "close historical enquirer[s] must not rely absolutely on her authority, but test everything before adopting it."

So it seems that Strickland was criticized in her own era for errors of fact. Her tendency toward error seems to apply to her discussion of Jane Seymour as well.

Lara said...

I think I need to copy the 'disclaimer' about this text from the index page on to the individual page, especially if folks are coming to it directly through search engines. Another thing to add to my 'to do' list!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for all the comments. Yes, Strickland's article was the one I was referring to. So, Im gathering that when Jane Seymour was very young she traveled briefly to France with Mary Tudor? This is very interesting. Her and Anne Boleyn probably knew (at least met) each other long before Henry really came into the picture.

Anonymous said...

phdhistorian, what is the source for claim that Jane travelled with Mary Tudor to France? I haven't researched Jane very much, but have researched Mary Tudor extensively and I've never seen Jane's name on any list of those going to France. (Edward Seymour was definitely a page in Mary's entourage though).

I'd love to find a new source of material on Mary (or even her attendants) if one exists.

Anonymous said...

Kathy, the source was a French document from the court of Louis XII. Strickland, in Lives of the Queens of England, states that the document can be found in the Cotton Manuscripts at the British Library, but she is no more specific than that ... and the Cotton Manuscripts Collection is MASSIVE. I believe it is in the portion titled Caligula (Sir Robert Cotton named the portions of his collection after Roman emperors), Volume D VI, the first sixty or so folios of which contains the originals of letters that passed between the French and English courts in ca 1513-1516.

Just in case you are not already aware, other manuscript documents in the British Library related to Mary Tudor's time in France include the Egerton Manuscripts, Volume 3800 (transcripts of documents related to the marraige of Mary Tudor to Louis XII of France), and those catalogued as "Additional," especially Volume 45132 (The Wriosthesly Heraldic Collection), 33748 (Nicholas Carlisle's account of Mary Tudor), or 30543 (an acocunt of the festivities accompanying the wedding). Additional Manuscripts Volume 21361, folio 4, is an inventory of goods and livestock that Mary Tudor brought into France with her, dated 12 October 1514.

Anonymous said...

Just for fun, Wednesday (November 12) is the 471st anniversary of Queen Jane Seymour's funeral.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, phd historian. I am certainly aware of the Cotton Manuscripts. I have read several of those you cite as a source for Mary's entourage, but I have never seen any of them listing Jane as being part of that.

Edward was certainly among the party that went to France, but I don't see anything listing Jane. Frankly I think she was probably too young at that time to even be considered as an attendant.

Do you suppose Strickland (not the most accurate of historians) could have been confusing Jane with Anne Boleyn who definitely was one of Mary's attendants?

Anonymous said...

Kathy, where Strickland is concerned, I suspect anything is possible, ranging from confusion to fabrication.

Anonymous said...

Are there any Holbein experts out there who are aware of any work created by Hobein for tapestries? I have a tapestry that has all the earmarks of a Holbein creation, except there is no recorded history to be found regarding such. Not even cartoons associated with tapestry, although he did work with textiles, jewelry, theartre sets, etc., why not tapestry? Henry VIII and Wolsey owned hundreds of tapestries, surely Holbein may have been involved.