Henry VIII’s third Queen, Jane Seymour, died on this date in 1537 as a result of complications from the birth of her son, Edward VI.
Although I dislike this particular Queen, because of her willful manipulation of Henry and her role in the judicial murder of Anne Boleyn, her death can only be remembered with sadness. She was young and a new mother and her death was a painful and protracted one; it was in every way a tragedy.
She is often remembered as the Queen whom Henry called his “one true love”. Few people seem to be aware of how cavalierly he treated her illness and death. There is no record of him ever coming to visit her on her sickbed or as she lay dying (not surprising considering his hypochondria), and there is a record of his intentions to go hunting at a park near Esher whether or not his wife recovered. These are not the actions of a grief-stricken man. In my book I attribute this to his worsening McLeod syndrome, but it is also symptomatic of a lack of caring.
I think that Henry built up his near cult-like devotion to Jane’s memory later in life because it was “romantic” and garnered him sympathy. Knights of the Round Table had great loves (frequently lost loves, to boot) and thus Henry wanted a great romance of his own. It was certainly bolstered in every way by Jane’s brothers, who benefitted greatly from their positions as the King’s brother-in-laws.
Adding an extra layer of sad to everything about Jane’s death is the fact her sacrifice was in vain. Her son would die before he reached adulthood, and Elizabeth I would be the last of Henry’s direct descendants who would rule England. She died to assuage Henry’s ego, not to found a dynasty.
Whatever her actions in life, or the results of her death, I hope she is at peace.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine