On October 12, 1537, King Henry VIII’s wife Jane Seymour gave birth at Hampton Court Palace to his only surviving legitimate son, the future King Edward VI. The labor had been exhausting, but Jane appeared to recover and wrote a letter to Thomas Cromwell announcing the birth of Henry’s heir. After a few day it was apparent that Jane was seriously ill. There are theories on the exact cause of her death but what we do know is that she died on October 24.
This week in 1537 saw the burial of the beloved third wife of Henry VIII.
After the beheading of Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII and Jane were married quickly. The wedding ceremony took place only eleven days after the execution, with Jane being fitted for her wedding dress as Anne was beheaded.
Yet, as brief as her reign and marriage was, Jane Seymour did something that none of Henry’s previous wives had been unable to do-she gave him the long awaited legitimate male heir he wanted.
Henry was devastated by her death and withdrew to Windsor. By November 1, Henry decided Jane would be buried there, in St. George’s Chapel. The court was ordered into mourning with appropriate clothes issued from the Great Wardrobe.
After choosing the date and place of the burial, Henry delegated the plans for the funeral to the Duke of Norfolk and Sir William Paulet.
Jane was the first Queen of England to die in good estate since King Henry’s mother Elizabeth of York in 1503. Norfolk and Paulet followed the protocol set forth in her funeral. As per custom, the King did not attend the funeral.
The ceremony at St. George’s Chapel saw the Queen laid to rest with full honors beneath the Quire of the Garter Chapel.
After the coffin was lowered, the Queen’s officers broke their staves over the grave, symbolizing the end of their service to her. All the while the bells of London tolled for six hours.
Even today, on the roof of the chapel, sitting as quiet sentinels are heraldic statues known as the Queen’s Beasts. Among them are the lion of England, the red dragon of Wales, the falcon of York, and the panther of Jane Seymour.
British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk
Henry VIII: The King and His Court, Alison Weir
Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s True Love, Elizabeth Norton
The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Antonia Fraser
The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Alison Weir
Windsor Castle, Royal Collection Trust https://www.rct.uk/visit/windsor-castle
Photos by the author from an October 2019 visit and shared by written permission of the Chapter Office, St. George’s Chapel.