Jane Sey­mour

Far from be­ing a door­mat, it seems that Jane played her hus­band per­fectly

BBC Earth (Asia) - - History -

There’s a gap in the his­tor­i­cal record where Jane Sey­mour’s per­son­al­ity should be. But could the se­cret of Jane’s suc­cess be her rest­ful, pas­sive na­ture? As her per­sonal motto stated, Jane felt “bound to obey and serve”. Per­haps Henry was glad to avoid the high drama he’d put up with from Cather­ine of Aragon and Anne Bo­leyn. And quiet Jane Sey­mour was one of 10 sib­lings: she looked likely to be a good breeder.

His­to­ri­ans have built up the best pic­ture they can with only a tiny hand­ful of clues to Jane’s char­ac­ter. There was an in­ci­dent prior to mar­riage when she re­fused a gift of gold coins from the king, pos­si­bly an at­tempt to ‘play’ him by stand­ing up to him. Then, there were her pleas for the monas­ter­ies to be spared de­struc­tion: per­haps she was mak­ing the case for the old re­li­gion. But both may also be seen sim­ply as as­pects of the tra­di­tional role of a queen – vir­tu­ous, fo­cused on mar­riage, in­ter­ced­ing on be­half of the vul­ner­a­ble.

What­ever the na­ture of Jane’s charm, there is no doubt that the story that she died fol­low­ing a Cae­sar­ian is anti-Henri­cian pro­pa­ganda. Henry’s Catholic en­e­mies be­lieved that he was ca­pa­ble of cut­ting open his wife to get at his baby. But the re­al­ity is that Jane prob­a­bly suc­cumbed to straight­for­ward sep­ticemia (a mat­ter of days af­ter giv­ing birth to the fu­ture Ed­ward VI in Oc­to­ber 1537). This ce­mented her im­age as the per­fect wife, who died be­fore Henry could get bored with her. In this case, the myth might re­ally be the re­al­ity.

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