WAS JANE SEYMOUR REALLY THAT BORING?

Whilst most historical figures are remembered for their tenacity, great battlefield triumphs, sharp political minds, or unique character, Jane Seymour is remembered for her boringness. As Henry VIII's third wife, she was everything a Tudor woman should have been: demure, calm, and subservient.

jane seymour portrait

JANE SEYMOUR'S LEGACY

The King's previous two wives are remembered for their strong personalities. Katherine of Aragon was a fiery yet pious Queen, popular amongst the English people. Anne Boleyn was a scheming temptress who lured the King in with her flirtatious personality, sparking the English Reformation.

But poor old Jane is known mostly for her death, two weeks after birthing Henry's only legitimate male heir, Edward VI. Yet despite being comparatively unmemorable, she was King Henry's favourite wife. In fact, after her death, he didn't remarry for nearly three years and withdrew into a deep state of mourning, a privilege no other wife would enjoy.

So, if she was Henry VIII's favourite wife, was she really that boring? After all, Henry was huge in both size and character, so she surely must have possessed some je ne sais quoi...

HOW DID HENRY VIII MEET JANE SEYMOUR?

Henry must have had a penchant for serving girls, as, like Anne Boleyn who was lady-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon, Jane Seymour was a lady-in-waiting to both Anne and Katherine. And, once again drawing a similarity to Anne Boleyn, Jane seduced Henry whilst he was still married. It's likely that their courtship began before the execution of Anne Boleyn, as the pair married only eleven days after she was beheaded.

However, that's not to say Jane allowed Henry to soar his royal oats (they were sore enough already), as prior to their marriage she refused his advances. When presented with a gift of coins from The King, Jane rejected them, claiming that accepting such a present was beneath her. Henry, a man who enjoyed the sport of a challenge, must have only been emboldened by her tactful dismissal. 

So, whilst Jane was indeed plain, it seems her personality enticed Henry. Interestingly, Jane's personality was the opposite of Anne's, yet they shared several similarities in their initial courtships with The King. Perhaps Henry saw the best of Anne in Jane - the chase; the challenge - but without the hassle of her difficult temperament.  

jane seymour

THAT TIME JANE STOOD UP FOR HER BELIEFS

It's not just with Anne Boleyn that Jane shared certain characteristics; like Katherine of Aragon, she too was a devout Catholic. In fact, it's probable that Jane quietly wished for the downfall of the English Reformation, considering Anne's death a punishment for her sins. 

Jane's pious Catholic views are seen in her efforts to restore The King's relationship with Princess Mary, Katherine of Aragon's daughter, who retained her own Catholicism throughout the Reformation. 

Whilst Jane was able to improve Henry's relationship with Mary, her religious views came to a head during the autumn riots of 1536, wherein the English people protested against the country's move away from Catholicism.

In an effort to sway The King's mind, Jane is said to have thrown herself to her knees and begged Henry to restore the monasteries. In response, he roared at her, warning her in no uncertain terms to stay out of his politics. Whilst Jane had made an effort to stand up for herself, she never meddled in Henry's courts again. 

Anne Boleyn had once meddled in English politics, giving Henry a copy of William Tyndale's 'Obedience of a Christian Man,' which argued that the supreme authority over Christians was held by the word of God written in the Bible, not the Pope. This, of course, would only serve to push Henry towards his break from Rome. 

Perhaps, after the drama and scandal surrounding Anne, Henry realised he was better off making political decisions alone. Or perhaps it was simply that Jane's questioning of the English Reformation put his newfound powers at risk, as she had become quite popular thanks to her Catholic beliefs. Chances are, it's the latter. 

THE VERDICT

Jane Seymour was not so much boring as she was unmemorable. However, this may very well have been by design. As a lady-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, Jane had a front-row seat to how The King treated his wives and conducted his business. 

Although somewhat illiterate, Jane was not stupid. She would have quickly learned how best to deal with The King and advance her own (or more likely her family's) agenda. Seeing the fiery personalities of Katherine and Anne backfire may have taught her to remain subservient; to remain boring, ensuring her survival.

keep your head book mockup

LOVE TUDOR HISTORY, PRE-ORDER KEEP YOUR HEAD 

LEARN HOW TO SURVIVE AS HENRY VIII'S WIFE

05.11.24

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