Jan 06, 2022
7 mins read
With Anne Boleyn now gone and patience not being one of his virtues, he would travel to Hampton Court the following day, 20 May and become betrothed to Jane Seymour! Henry then took her to York Place, which had been officially renamed the King's Palace of Westminster and now not only a seat of government but the principal residency of the Monarch. From the late 1530s, the building became known as Whitehall Palace. Henry spent a small fortune decorating and bringing this new palace up to standards. 30 May the King married Jane Seymour in a quiet ceremony conducted by Bishop Gardiner.
Henry was now 45 years old; this was the life expectancy amongst Tudors. Henry still boasted a good all-around physique and healthy status. His waist was measuring 37 inches, his chest 45. Henry remained active, continuing to enjoy hunting, riding and dancing. Although his face was changing, with narrow eyes, a small pursed mouth, and a receding hairline.
The last decade had been stressful for Henry, which showed in appearance and his character. Once a man who was open and liberal, now he had become contrary, secretive and unpredictable in his ways. Even Chapuys said the "King was full of fickleness and could not be explained. He never forgets his greatness and yet is silent to that of others." Some suggested that Henry, at least in his mind, had failed to reach the standards expected from his early childhood. He had still not produced an heir, and perhaps now the mutterings around the court of his possible impotence were making its mark. However, there is no evidence to support these rumours. At Rochford's trial, so-called evidence was produced saying that Anne had said Henry was unable to make love and "had neither the skill nor staying power in bed." Cromwell almost certainly manufactured the quote at the time to portray Anne as a wife who had little to no respect for her husband and King.
In August, Henry spoke with Chapuys; he said "he felt himself growing old and a little disappointed that Jane had still not become pregnant, even doubting whether she would be able to have children. But just four months later, Jane conceived. But Henry's lusty behaviour continued. Norfolk claimed that Henry was "inclined to amours", and throughout Europe, his reputation did him no favours. One suggestion was that even Princess Elizabeth would be a weak child, as it was believed then that a man's promiscuity affected their offspring. In 1535 John Hale, who was the vicar of Isleworth, confided in another priest, saying, "the King indulged in foul behaviour and pleasures, and was deep in vice." Hale claimed Henry had violated almost all the women at court and had married Anne Boleyn purely for "reasons of fornication" these comments would be the most damning of his reign so far.
Discretion was not a word Henry would use very often. However, the lack of accounts for the King's behaviour suggests a reluctance to get on his wrong side. Although, enough evidence does survive to indicate that the King was far from impotent and even to the point he had an extremely healthy libido.
On 2 June 1536, Jane Seymour would dine in public for the first time with the King before the entourage moved to Greenwich later in the day. Two days later, Jane was proclaimed Queen consort. Janes's new status brought her brother Edward to prominence at court. He would become the most important man of the privy chamber and enjoyed significant influence with his new brother in law Henry. Seymour was a reserved man, and it's said under the thumb of his volatile wife, Anne Stanhope. But he was astute, and his ambition was clear for all to see. Seymour's loyalty to the crown was never doubted. Yet, his most outstanding talent was that of a military commander; even Norfolk praised him and said he was impressed.
On 7 June, the King and Queen came down the Thames by barge. As they passed the tower where Henry's former Queen had been executed just three weeks earlier, a barrage of four hundred guns saluted the couple. As Queen, Jane would be utterly subservient to her new husband's will. Her pious and affectionate ways would distance herself from what she saw as her inferiors. Yet, Jane was only a Knights daughter, so her proud and, at times, arrogant behaviour rubbed up people the wrong way, and she never had the self-confidence of Anne Boleyn. But Chapuys said, "she bore her royal honours with dignity."
Changes were now taking place within the palaces. A whole army of masons, carpenters and painters began work removing any sign of the previous Queen, hastily replacing any sign or motto with Janes badges. Her's was a Phoenix rising from a flaming castle. Her motto was "bound to obey and serve." Myles Coverdale, who was in the process of dedicating his edition of the bible to Anne Boleyn, had to quickly remove her name and replace it with Janes before it went to the printers.
It was now that many of Anne Boleyn's servants would take up their new role under Jane. This totalled close to 200, including some belonging to the Seymours. Jane would lay down the law within her household, she enforced high morals, and her strictness in governing was second to none. Her attendants were expected to be dressed to a high standard and encouraged to wear trains that would reach a length of 3 yards. Not to mention their girdles, which had to be set with a regulation amount of pearls. One record that survived was of a girl who had 120 pearls, but the amount did not suffice and that she should have a rethink before attending the Queen!
As you would expect, Jane dressed to a high standard, and Henry would gift her many jewels, some said to have been designed by Holbein. Talking of the grandmaster Holbein and the influence of Cromwell, he began working as the King's painter at a studio in Whitehall Palace. Henry knew he had an exceptional artist at court and rewarded Holbein with an annual salary of £30. Among the first portraits commissioned was one of the King and Queen. But Holbein was multi-talented, a rare commodity within the Tudor era.
Jane would enjoy the simpler pleasures of life. She loved gardens, needlework and even took part in the occasional hunt. The summer of 36 was a celebratory time for all concerned; pageants, fireworks, masques and tournaments it was a season for enjoyment and happiness. Henry was back to his vibrant best. He smiled and made a great effort to enjoy these happier days. On 29 July, the royal couple were seen standing at the Mercers Hall in Cheapside, watching the annual torchlit procession of the scarlet dressed Marching Watch of the City of London.
Henry would continue to build his empire with more grants of property. Suffolk gave him Suffolk Place. Lord Sandys handed over a riverside manor at Chelsea. The property was renovated and would be the home of Henry's future wives Anne of Cleves and Catherine Parr. But as with all things in Henry's court, the one sure thing you can be certain of is that whenever life starts to look up, you know it won't be long before the tide turns.
In June, the alliance between Cromwell and the conservatives had run its course and began to fall apart. Jane wanted the Lady Mary to return to court. But Henry would not allow it unless Mary agreed to say that her mother's marriage had been incestuous and unlawful! Cromwell battled hard to shut down the conservatives, but they wanted Mary to be again recognised and restored to the line of succession. Eventually, Mary gave in to the extreme pressures now upon her. Yet she would never forgive herself for betraying her mother's memory alongside the principles she stood for.
A reconciliation of sorts was agreed upon, even though he apparently showed affection to Mary and Elizabeth. But the reasons behind his controlling behaviour leave a sour taste in the mouth. For now, it seemed the mutual love between father and daughters prevailed with the help from the Queen. But Henry's mind was soon taken to other matters when a sensational breaking news story broke in July 1536. It was downhill again, another chapter of Tudor England that would ultimately end in an acrimonious and lasting feud.