Sunday, June 21, 2009

Question from Joanna M - If Jane Seymour had lived

Just out of curiosity really and i know difficult to answer but.... How do you think the course of history and the life, actions and personality of Henry VIII would have differed (if at all) had Jane Seymour lived?


Dana Riel said...

Dear Joanna,

Any attempts to answer this can only be hypothetical, but we can look at her relationship with the king and history as it stood during her lifetime as queen.

Jane Seymour was supported by a relatively conservative faction at court. Their primary aims were to move the king away from religious reform and have his daughter, Mary, reinstated as Princess.

By 1536-1537, Henry's position as Supreme Head of the Church was established and he gave no indication that he wanted to retreat on that point. Any overtures by Jane regarding religion, or his daughter were firmly rebuffed. Mary was eventually reconciled with her father and granted a place in the succession, but only after accepting Henry's terms and was only referred to as the "Lady Mary" during the king's lifetime.

1536 was an eventful year for Henry, and a recent publication by Suzannah Lipscomb ("1536: The Year That Changed Henry VIII") provides excellent insights as to how the events of that year affected the king's actions for the rest of his reign.

If Jane had survived the birth of her son, she would have been revered and played a role closer to that of Henry's mother, Elizabeth of York. However, IMHO I do not believe it would have changed Henry's policy on religion, the Dissolution of the Monastaries, nor any of his other policies.

Antonia said...

I have always wondered if Jane was perhaps heading for a somewhat sticky end if she had survived. We know she had spoken out for the people who fought the Pilgrimage of Grace, and (if I remember correctly) she and Henry had been quarrelling prior to her labour.

The question, of course, is whether she would have continued her religious beliefs and stood against Henry on some of the more difficult-to-comprehend measures in his religious reform. I believe she may have indeed learned from the mistakes of her predecessor, but there is also a chance (and some scant evidence) she may have persisted in her "meddling" and thus found herself on the scaffold.

It may be unlikely, but I have always thought she may have got off "lightly".

Marilyn R said...

Wasn't it Jane who was admonished by Henry and warned to tread carefully after asking him to think twice before destroying the phial at Hailes Abbey containing the supposed blood of Christ? I can't remember the reference.

Ttudorrose said...

I think that if Jane seymour had of lived Henry wouldnt have met and got involved with Anne of Cleeves.This may have been his third and final wife.Henry seemed happy with Jane and especially even more so when she produced the long and waited for heir.A boy.Edward.I do think that if she had of produced a girl that Henry would have too made up an excuse to be rid of her.I think that in producing a boy Jane had become Henry's favourite wife thus making her safe from harm.The king when Jane died was too greifstricken to attend her funeral.Jane was never crowned queen.There had been arrangements made for her crownment but it was too late it would end short by her early death due to peurple fever.This is a childbirth infection.when Jane was with the king she had fought to keep the monastries open and also Jane wanted Mary and Elizabeth to be brought back to court.But then again the king may still have taken a mistress.Jane is buried next to Henry in a vault at st Georges chapel,Windsor.Henry claimed that Jane had been and was the love of his life.Henry was the one who wanted and said that he wanted to be buried next to Jane seymour.I wonder if Jane had of produced a girl or had a stillbirth or miscarriage whether the king would have still felt the same about Jane? would have he still wanted to be buried next to her?

Antonia said...

I think that's precisely it, Tudorrose. Jane died, so it was easy for Henry to remember her fondly - his last memory of her was giving him an heir. She hadn't had time to do anything wrong after that triumph.

This is a man who was more than capable of sending a once-beloved wife to the scaffold, and another to poverty. Throughout Henry's marriages, there is a sign if they put a toe out of the line he was willing to take the strongest action against them. Katherine Parr was examined for her religious beliefs, Anne Boleyn seemingly didn't cave to his ego, Katherine of Aragon refused to stand aside when he demanded it, Anne of Cleves wasn't awed by him instantly and and Katherine Howard cheated on him. Jane herself had been on the receiving end of the "do not meddle in my affairs" (paraphrase) quote for expressing a fairly humanitarian view.

Of the six, three ended their lives naturally. One was "saved" by her own death, the second outlived Henry and the third did as he said when he said it and stood aside. Anne of Cleves was smart, but there might have been political implications if he'd tried to throw her aside - Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard were "only" English nobility-relations, whereas Anne of Cleves was an (admittedly undersupported) foreign royal.

Therefore, the lower-born Henry married (Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, Katherine Howard and Jane Seymour) were unlucky. Two were executed, the other two had death - in it's way - save them.

I can't help but think Jane would not have retained her beloved place had she survived; but Henry's memory focused on the heir, and nothing more, because she wasn't around any longer to irritate him. If, for example, Anne had died following Elizabeth's birth, Henry would have remembered her fondly.

On a final note, if I remember right Henry refused to visit Jane on her deathbed because no one was sure what was wrong and he notoriously feared infection. That and the "meddling" statement don't imply devoted love to me when she was alive... but when she'd died, there was plenty of opportunity for Henry to reminisce on her wonders, with a son in the cradle.

Gareth Russell said...

Given Jane Seymour's track record of reassuring docility, I would have say that, no, nothing would have changed - except that Anna of Cleves would have married elsewhere, Catherine Howard would not have lost her head and Katharine Parr would have married Thomas Seymour four years earlier.

Anonymous said...

There is one photo of the tomb of Henry VIII that I have been able to find.

In 1813 the tomb was opened, primarily to examine the remains of Charles I. However, Henry's tomb was also opened and his body measured. There are several documents noting the length of his body and condition of his hair and such. Also at this time one of the vertebrae of Charles I was removed. Later in, I believe, 1888 this vertebrae was returned to the tomb. There is a watercolor painting that was done and there is also a very grainy black and white photo of the tombs. It is at much the same angle as the painting. It is unclear when this photo was taken exactly. I was unable to find a copy to post a link but I just saw it last week on a website. The ribbon is missing from Charles I coffin, and there is much less rubble on top of Henry's coffin.