Jane Seymour (c. 1508 24 October 1537) was Queen of England from 1536 to 1537 as the third, and with hindsight, most beloved wife of Henry VIII. Since she gave birth to Henry's only male heir, she kept her importance even after her death as the ancestress of a line of future kingsnote . Since her son Edward never reached his majority or had children, this sense of her importance waned after Edward's death.
Of all the queens of Henry VIII, she had the most humble origins, being a member of the upper gentry whose family (unlike that of Catherine Parr, the other gentry queen) did not enjoy any particular status at court, though her father had been knighted by her eventual father-in-law Henry VII for helping to put down a Cornish rebellion. Like all of Henry's queens, she shared with her husband a descent from Edward I. In fact, she was a direct descendant of Edward III, but through an almost exclusively female linenote , making her quite far removed from the major power players in English politics at the time of her birth.
Often portrayed as docile and uninteresting, she definitely had her own political goals. Sympathizing with Catherine of Aragon and her daughter Mary, she was a quiet enemy of Anne Boleyn. When she attracted his ardour in 1535, she felt little remorse and used the same protestations of chastity and honor that Anne had used on him once. She married Henry only a few days after her predecessor's death and immediately started working for the reinstatement of Mary in the line of succession.
As a traditionalist, she also pleaded with Henry to preserve the monasteries, for which he terrified her by reminding her of Anne's fate. This was all unimportant when she found herself pregnant. After giving birth to her son, she attended festivities, but fell sick soon after. Much lamented by Henry, she died of puerperal fever. When he died in 1547, he was buried next to her.
Not to be confused with the actress best known for her roles in the James Bond film Live and Let Die and the TV series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, though she, born Joyce Frankenberg, did take this Jane's name for her stage name. For her, see Jane Seymour (Actress).
Tropes associated with Jane Seymour as portrayed in fiction and in popular culture:
- And There Was Much Rejoicing: The reaction when she gaves birth to a son is always portrayed as this.
- Babies Make Everything Better: Jane's stories will always mention how the birth of her son was this to Henry VIII until she died of childbirth fever.
- Betty and Veronica: Most works in which she appears have her as the Betty to Anne Boleyn's Veronica.
- Crosses the Line Twice: A popular joke about Jane is that she was "smarter" than Henry's other wives because she had the "good sense" to die before Henry tired of her. *
- Death by Childbirth: Died of postnatal complications shortly after the birth of her only child, and most works about Henry VIII will center on the grief that this caused him.
- Foil: Most works in which she appears contrast her as modest, while her predecessor Anne is portrayed as vivacious.
- Good Stepmother: Generally portrayed as treating Mary somewhat kinder than her predecessor, though the real-life Jane was actually less than a decade older than her. The real Jane historically sympathised with Mary and did her best to restore her royal status and succession to the throne behind any children she might have.
- The Lost Lenore: It's noted that Jane was the one wife that Henry was buried next to after he died, so this will get played up in stories about them. Of course it should not be forgotten that out of all Henry's wives, two outlived him, two he'd beheaded and one he'd divorced. So Jane was sort of the only one left over. This said, according to some accounts Henry was genuinely devastated over her death.
- Parental Substitute: Probably one of the less touched upon aspects about her was about how she was this to Lady Mary, but it gets the rare mention in some works. She only comes in at the end of the Mary Tudor story Mary, Bloody Mary but her scene with Mary has the young princess narrating "perhaps this woman will heal [Henry]."
Portrayals of Jane Seymour in fiction:
- Anita Briem in series 2 The Tudors and Annabelle Wallis in series 3.
- Anne Stallybrass in The Six Wives of Henry VIII.
- Jane Asher in Henry VIII and his Six Wives.
- Lesley Paterson in Anne of the Thousand Days.
- Wendy Barrie in The Private Life of Henry VIII.
- Kate Phillips in Wolf Hall.
- Jane Seymour (along with Henry VIII's other wives) are reimagined as pop stars in the musical theatre Six. She's portrayed by Natalie Paris in the UK production and Abby Mueller in the North American production.
- In Handmaid, because Anne Boleyn is serving as Henry and Katherine of Aragon's handmaid (more or less a surrogate) rather than Henry's second wife, Jane ends up becoming Henry's mistress during Anne's second pregnancy. Unfortunately, that gives her brother Thomas ideas of killing Anne so Jane can replace her as handmaid, especially when she conceives Edward. Jane goes along with this out of the belief she'd be better at it than Anne, and ends up arrested when she accidentally reveals she knew Thomas had attempted to murder Anne (and caused her to miscarry a son). She's allowed to live long enough to give birth to Edward (a bastard in this timeline) and is executed shortly after for treason, but not before learning, to her horror, that Edward would be raised by Katherine Parr, Anne's lady in waiting and confidante.