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The Tudor Society

24 October 1537 – Death of Queen Jane Seymour

Hans_Holbein_the_Younger_-_Jane_Seymour,_Queen_of_England_-_Google_Art_ProjectOn this day in history, 24th October 1537, Queen Jane Seymour, third wife of King Henry VIII and mother of the future Edward VI, died at Hampton Court Palace. She died twelve days after giving birth to little Edward and it is thought that she died of puerperal fever, a postpartum infection.

Here are some primary source accounts of her illness and death:

"Today the King intended to remove to Asher, and, because the Queen was very sick this night and today, he tarried, but he will be there tomorrow. "If she amend he will go and if she amend not he told me this day he could not find in his heart to tarry." She was in great danger yesternight and to day but, if she sleep this night, the physicians hope that she is past danger. Hampton Court, xxiiiiith (sic) day of October." Sir John Russell to Thomas Cromwell, 24th October 1537

"Yesterday afternoon the Queen had "an naturall laxe," by reason of which she seemed to amend till toward night. All night she has been very sick, and rather "appears" than amends. Her confessor has been with her this morning, and is now preparing to minister the Sacrament of Unction. Hampton Court, Wednesday, 8 a.m." Earl of Rutland, Bishop of Carlisle and others to Cromwell, 24th October 1537

"But Lorde what lamentacion shortly after was made for the death of his noble and gracious mother quene Iane, which departed out of this life the fourtene day of Octobre, next folowyng: and of none in the Realme was it more heauelier taken then of the kynges Maiestie himself, whose death cause the kyng imediatly to remoue into Westminster wher he mourned and kept him selfe close and secret a great while [...]" Edward Hall, Hall's Chronicle

"This yeare, the 14 of October, beinge Weddnesday, Queene Jane departed this lyfe, lyeinge in childe bedde, about 2 of the clocke in the morninge, when she had reigned as the Kings wife, beinge never crowned, one yeare and a quarter." Charles Wriothesley, Wriothesley's Chronicle

You will notice that 14th October is given as her date of death in the chronicles of Hall and Wriothesley, but this is due to an error. As I noted in an article over at The Anne Boleyn Files, the editor of Wriothesley's Chronicle points out that this is an error in the transcription of the chronicles because Sir John Russell's letter, which is still extant, is dated 24th October and also Wriothesley says that she died on a Wednesday and the 14th was a Sunday. He also points out that Cecil's Journal gave the correct date.

Here are more resources on Jane Seymour:

Notes and Sources

  • LP xii.ii. 970,977
  • Hall's Chronicle, p825
  • Wriothesley's Chronicle, p69-70

There are 5 comments Go To Comment

  1. R /

    Queen Jane Seymour died because the men there were not allowed to touch the Queen. The midwives felt they had to bow to male doctors, in the birthing room for the first time and some experts believe that a midwife would have noticed the after birth had not come out and that she had internal bleeding. A massive infection resulted and killed her. I am not that convinced by modern expertise saying midwives could have saved her as even today apparently this is a painful, complex process which is only carried out in the operating theatre. Yes, they might have known what was wrong but would removing it manually have saved Jane or killed her? I believe either way she still may have died and perhaps she was spared further agony. What happened was very traumatizing for both mother and child, three days of labour, followed by a short period of joy and apparently a safe delivery and then the trauma of the loss of Henry’s beloved wife, Jane, even more precious as she had given him his long awaited male heir. Henry’s own mother had died of childbed fever and I believe he felt this loss keenly.

    Henry Viii was not a man to withdraw from sight, public or private, but he went into deep mourning for months and was out of sight and possibly mind for several weeks. It wasn’t traditional for a husband to attend the funeral of a wife, even a Queen but Henry left everything to Norfolk to arrange, with a few instructions for her to be buried in Windsor. This was a favourite place for Henry as it had links to his ideal of the Knights of the Round Table and was the Garter Chapel of the Knights of the Garter. It was dedicated to the English hero Saint George and was away from the capital. Henry chose his own burial to take place here. The vault could not be better placed, bang in the centre of the Quire, surrounded by heraldry and in the place of honour before the High Alter. Although only a plane black marble stone marks the resting place, it is of high quality and is one of many around the Royal Chapel. It is on its own in the middle so very prominent. Unfortunately, Henry and his wife have been disturbed a couple of times as Charles I was placed there as they needed a vault with space and no time to find a separate one. Two infants of Queen Anne were lowered there as well. Henry had grand plans which were dismantled because of cost and reform but King William IV made the present arrangements.

    Henry is often criticised and while much is possibly valid, he did appear to be genuine in his grief for Jane Seymour. He mourned her for a long time and although proposals were made for a new Queen soon afterwards, he didn’t begin to be open to a new Queen for several months afterwards. I don’t go with suggestions that he would have grown bored and set her aside as she was unassailable as the mother of the Prince of Wales. Jane was not the dummy of myth and legend, she was not a pale ghost and yes, she did influence Henry. She also had intelligence, probably more than Anne Boleyn as she didn’t argue with him every five minutes, she tried to intervene in politics but failed, but was smart enough to learn from his rebuffs. Having had a son, we have no idea how influential she would have been, especially if she had more sons. Jane had the same things in common with him as any daughter of the gentry, hunting included and was an expert huntress. Henry found something attractive about her, otherwise he would have given up when she refused to be his mistress. Jane has also been assessed as having a ruthless streak that matches that of Anne Boleyn, but this may not be fair. She was concerned for him and his daughter, Mary, she made him happy and she was in no danger from him, because she accepted her role as a mother and not a political crusader. Anne was not a typical Tudor woman and yes, Henry appreciated her talents, but he wanted sons first, advice second and unfortunately, harsh as this may sound, Anne didn’t transform into what was expected in a wife. Jane had a quiet demeanour which suited him. Henry no longer wanted a fire cracker either, he was feeling his legs and growing weight and his age a bit. Jane would have been the ideal companion and if he wanted the odd fling, he would have a mistress. Had she lived, Jane was set for life.

    1. < / Post Author

      Midwife Dayna Goodchild’s article on Jane’s labour and death in the June edition of “Tudor Life” is excellent. I don’t go with Alison Weir’s theory that Jane had food poisoning and an embolism, I think a retention of placental tissue makes more sense – see https://www.tudorsociety.com/june-2018-tudor-life-the-seymours/. It just seems to fit what we know of Jane’s condition.

      There are so many “what-ifs” aren’t there with Jane? I think giving Henry a living son would have kept her safe and secure, although I’m sure Henry would have got rather bored of her.

      1. R /

        It’s an excellent insight from a mother and a midwife, thank you. I agree, the midwives would have noticed and manually tried to expel the afterbirth which would have been very painful. Jane still could have died, with any delay and she was Queen so if she said no, they were stuck. It seems it was a dangerous, if natural procedure and experience taught midwives what to do. The problem was the doctors had been let in to supervise, for the first time and they had superiority. Perhaps they forbade any intervention. It is a very sad thing that Jane died of septicemia and the article also reminds us that the confinement would contribute. Jane would not be able to move around much, walk and be busy or exercise and of course she didn’t have the choice of care and medical knowledge to support her as women do now. Being confined for weeks would certainly have made her body sedentary.and being in a dark airless room would not help either. I believe now women walk before birth to help the child along, although I could be wrong, but they certainly are encouraged to move into more natural positions. Childbirth was highly dangerous, but a number of things could have contributed to that danger. Poor Jane, what a very sad end.

    2. E /

      my head is hurting

  2. E /

    amazing

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24 October 1537 – Death of Queen Jane Seymour