Chapter 3 The soap opera inspiring period of the tudors and the seymours, 16

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Chapter 3 – The soap opera inspiring period of the

tudors and the seymours, 16th century England.

Photo from the Showtime website

No kidding, as I’m writing this, there’s a popular soap opera series on Showtime that’s a big international hit, and especially popular over in England. The stars include Sir John, Edward, Thomas, and Jane Seymour, along with Henry the VIII, Anne Boleyn (a Seymour cousin through Margery Wentworth), Thomas Cromwell (who was the Father-in-law of another daughter of Sir John), Katherine Parr , Henry’s 6th wife, and the daughter of Maud Greene-my mother’s family -and wife of Thomas Seymour.
I keep hitting the blogs while doing my research. The soap opera reference is necessary here, because in my opinion, the intrigue and back stabbing, not to mention beheading, that was going on during this period in the 1500’s may have caused a cover-up of our John Seymour of Sawbridgeworth’s true heritage.
Let’s start with the patriarch of the period, Sir John Seymour:–1536)

Sir John Seymour, of Wiltshire, KB (c. 1474 – 21 December 1536), a member of the English gentry and a courtier to King Henry VIII, is best known for being the father of the king's third wife, Jane Seymour. He was distantly descended from William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke (see page 27).
Seymour was married to Margery Wentworth, the daughter of Henry Wentworth of Nettlestead, Suffolk, and wife Anne Say (the Says were the ancient Norman Lords of Sawbridgeworth, see the history of Sawbridgeworth in Ch 4), and a famous beauty, celebrated in the poetry of John Skelton; by her, he had nine children”, see the tree.
They lived in Wulfhall, outside Savernake Forest, in Wiltshire (southwest England). Four of the Seymour children achieved prominence at the royal court— Edward, Thomas, Jane and Elizabeth. Sir John Seymour of Wolf Hall became a personage of note in public affairs. He took an active part in suppressing the Cornish rebellion in 1497; and afterwards attended Henry at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and on the occasion of the visit of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Spain to England in 1522.” “The Field of the Cloth of Gold, is the name given to a place in France, near Calais. It was the site of a meeting that took place from 7 June to 24 June 1520, between King Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France. The meeting was arranged to increase the bond of friendship between the two kings following the Anglo-French treaty of 1514.”
“Edward Seymour, Sir John’s oldest son, was briefly married to Catherine Fillol, but she had an affair with Sir John. When it was discovered, the marriage was annulled and the children declared bastards (since their legal grandfather could be their biological father) and Catherine was reportedly imprisoned in a local convent. The scandal damaged the Seymour family's reputation for many years afterward. A proposed marriage between Jane Seymour and William Dormer was rejected by the Dormers because of the scandal and the family's less-than-noble pedigree. The Seymour family was of the gentry.
Jane Seymour, the eldest daughter, was a Maid of Honour of Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and then later of Anne Boleyn.
Henry VIII stayed at Wulfhall with Queen Anne in the summer of 1535 (the year of our John’s birth keeps popping up) for a few days. In early 1536, Henry declared his love for Jane and began spending increasing amounts of time with her, chaperoned by her brother, Edward. Anne Boleyn was later arrested and executed on charges of treason, adultery and incest. Henry and Jane were officially betrothed the next day.
After Jane became queen on 30 May 1536, her family scaled the social ranks, as was befitting the family of a royal consort. Her eldest brother, Edward, was made an earl and eventually a duke and briefly ruled England on behalf of his nephew, King Edward VI. Her second brother, Thomas, was made a baron and Lord High Admiral, and in 1547 eloped with Henry VIII's widow, Queen Catherine Parr. Both men were beheaded for treason, only a few years apart.”
“Towards the last of his days (In 1536, just after our John of Sawbridgeworth was born, and just before Jane’s marriage to Henry VIII), John Seymour was believed (believed?) to have entered a state of Madness, growing senile in his old age (he was only 62 and fit enough to have an affair with his 28 year-old daughter-in-law). Jane Seymour and her brothers were believed (“believed” again) to have returned to Wolf Hall to nurse him as he was very cantankerous”.
Cantankerous?” I think it’s really funny how the history books make these events sound like just another day in the life. Let’s put it into perspective. Edward, and for that matter his father Sir John, were a couple of the top soldiers in England. Edward had probably just returned from some kind of bloody military engagement in 1535, where he was running people through with his sword, when he discovered that his wife was sleeping with his father, and in some rumours, found her pregnant. To Edward’s credit, he maintained his composure, at least temporarily. I mean, no one was slaughtered on the spot, but let’s be realistic, there were some hurt feelings, and a lot of emotion involved.
Later, when you read about brother Thomas (pg. 51), you’ll also probably agree that in his blindly ambitious eyes, Dad had become a major political liability. We’re not as sure about Jane’s ambitions, but it’s not beyond believability that she might have had similar feelings as she was trying to carefully seduce King Henry, while at the same time mortally betray her cousin Queen Anne Boleyn during this period. Back to the historical account--
“His death did not come as shock to the family (I’ll bet). When Jane apparently asked her father for approval to marry the king, John was said to be in a less than lucid state and could not comprehend the manner of the question asked.” Does this mean that John had objections to the wedding, and maybe to other things that were going on possibly with Catherine Fillol and their son? In other words, are Edward & Co. creating a situation here where the perception is; “hey don’t worry about what he says, we assure you that he’s quite mad, and everything he says is pure gibberish.......”
So to sum up-- shortly after having an affair with his powerful and ambitious soldier sons’ wife, quite a stupid move I’ll add, Sir John suddenly went mad, became cantankerous, and was suddenly senile at the age of 62, and while his extremely ambitious kids were trying to take over the throne of England. Obviously then, Edward, Thomas and Jane immediately dropped everything back in London, took loony Dad back home, and watched over him until he died, shortly thereafter. His opinions about their plans to marry Jane to Henry didn’t matter, because he was senile, and when he suddenly dies, it was no surprise, and Jane didn’t attend the funeral. Is that about right?
So Edward “reportedly” had his wife Catherine Fillol sent off to a convent. Why all the secrecy, and why to a convent? Also, a short while later, Sir John was “believed to be mad?” Maybe he was objecting too loudly about what had happened to his pregnant mistress, and his new born son? If so, this would have made him even more unpopular than we can imagine he must have already been, especially with Edward, but also with Thomas and Jane.
I think it’s what a modern-day US Senator with Presidential aspirations would do if he could get away with it. In this guy’s humble opinion, one might conclude that Sir John died under suspicious circumstances, although there isn’t any proof, similar to with John’s birth.
So there we have the official historical version along with my personal opinions about the life of Sir John Seymour. Next is a brief blurb about another one of his ambitious children who also got involved with all of the Royal Court intrigue of the day.

“Seymour's second daughter, Elizabeth, was married firstly to Gregory Cromwell, son of Henry's new chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, and secondly to John Paulet, 2nd Marquess of Winchester

Seymour died on 21 December 1536. By royal custom, his daughter Queen Jane did not attend the funeral.”
Here’s a brief history on Thomas Cromwell ending, not surprisingly, with his execution at the Tower. Yawn, another framing and subsequent beheading at the orders of Henry.....,_1st_Earl_of_Essex

“Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, KG, PC (c. 1485 – 28 July 1540), known as 1st Baron Cromwell of Wimbledon between 1536 and 1540, was an English statesman who served as chief minister of King Henry VIII of England from 1532 to 1540.

Cromwell rose from humble beginnings and attempted to modernize government at the expense of the privileges of the nobility and church; as a result, he was seen as an upstart. He was one of the strongest advocates of the English Reformation, the English Church's break with the papacy in Rome, and helped engineer the King's divorce from Catherine of Aragon in order to marry his mistress Anne Boleyn. After the King's supremacy over the Church of England was declared by Parliament in 1534, Cromwell supervised the Church from the unique posts of vicegerent for spirituals and vicar general.
Cromwell's rise to power made him many enemies, especially among the conservative faction at court. He fell from Henry's favour after arranging the King's marriage to a German princess, Anne of Cleves, which turned out to be a disaster. He was subjected to an Act of Attainder and executed for treason and heresy on Tower Hill on 28 July 1540. The king later expressed regret at having lost his great minister.”
Now on to the matriarch of the clan, about who very little is known, except that she was descended from some powerful families, and therefore Sir John made another beneficial marriage for the Seymours:
Margery Wentworth (c. 1478 – c. October 1550, So she died while her grandson and oldest son were ruling one of the most powerful nations on Earth, and didn’t have to see their ultimate fates) was the wife of Sir John Seymour and is notable as the mother of Queen Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII of England and the grandmother of King Edward VI of England.
Margery was born in about 1478, the daughter of Henry Wentworth, Sheriff of Yorkshire and Anne Say, who was the daughter of Sir John Say and Elizabeth Cheney. Margery's first cousins, Elizabeth and Edmund Howard, were parents to two other wives of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, respectively. (oh what a tangled web we weave. Edward, at his wife’s constant prodding, was instrumental in having John Howard, Earl of Surrey, executed in 1547 as he was a major political rival, which may have been the beginning of the end for him) She was also known as a muse for the poet, John Skelton, as was Lady Elizabeth Boleyn, mother of Henry's second queen - who, like Margery, was considered a very great beauty.

To Mistress Margery Wentworth

WITH margerain (marjoram) gentle,

The flower of goodlihead (beauty),

Embroidered the mantle

Is of your maidenhead.

Plainly I cannot glose (explain);

Ye be, as I divine,

The pretty primrose,

The goodly columbine (a kind of pretty flower).

Benign, courteous, and meek,

With wordes well devised;

In you, who list to seek,

Be virtues well comprised.

With margerain gentle,

The flower of goodlihead,

Embroidered the mantle

Is of your maidenhead.

John Skelton
And now to the oldest daughter, and ultimately most successful Seymour of the clan--

Jane Seymour
“Here lies Jane, a phoenix

Who died in giving another phoenix birth.

Let her be mourned, for birds like these

Are rare indeed.”

Jane Seymour's epitaph

Miniature portrait of Jane Seymour by Lucas Horenbout

“Henry VIII had six wives but only one gave him a son. Jane Seymour fulfilled her most important duty as queen, but she was never crowned and died just twelve days after the long and arduous birth. She was Henry's third wife and seems never to have made much of an impression upon anyone except the king. Her meek and circumspect manner was in distinct contrast to Henry's second wife, the sharp-tongued Anne Boleyn. Jane had served as lady-in-waiting to Anne and she supplanted her in much the same way Anne had replaced Katharine of Aragon in Henry's affections. We will never know if Jane sought the king's favor or was a frightened pawn of her family and the king's desire. But we do know that she bravely sought pardons for those involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace revolt in 1536. Rebuked by the king, and mindful of the fates of his first two wives, she retired into a quiet and decorous role.”
This revolt was led by nobles in the North who were against Henry’s reformation of the Church from Catholic to Protestant. Henry was excommunicated by the Pope after divorcing his first wife, Katharine in order to marry Anne Bolyn. Henry then went on to convert the entire country to his new found religion. Many of his English subjects didn’t really want to convert, which led to the revolt. The rebels were much more honorable than Henry, and when Henry offered them pardons and to put forth their demands to a freely elected Parliament, the nobles took the bait. To make a long story short, Henry betrayed about 15 of the leaders of the revolt, and instead of the promised pardon, had them executed, against Jane’s, and probably also brother Edward’s wishes .
“The triumphant birth of her son Edward allowed her two ambitious brothers into the king's inner circle; however, both would be executed during Edward's reign.

Jane Seymour's family was of ancient and respectable lineage. Her father was Sir John Seymour of Wolf Hall in Wiltshire; he served in the Tournai campaign of 1513 and accompanied Henry VIII to the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. He was made a knight of the body and later a gentleman of the king's bedchamber. Both positions were very desirable for they allowed personal access to the king. Courtiers were always desperate to gain the king's ear, if even for a brief moment. Sir John was able to secure appointments at court for his family; of his eight children, three would come to historical prominence - the eldest son Edward as duke of Somerset and Lord Protector, another son Thomas as Lord Admiral and husband of Henry VIII's last queen, and his daughter Jane as queen of England.

The Seymour rise to prominence at Henry's court mirrored that of the Boleyns; it was the path sought by all English families with a minor pedigree or clever son. But gaining the king's favor was rather different than maintaining it and the Seymours proved far more adept at the latter.
Jane's birthdate is unknown; various accounts use anywhere from 1504 to 1509. She first came to court as a lady-in-waiting to Katharine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife. But soon enough Anne Boleyn was queen and Jane attended her. She witnessed first-hand the tempestuous relationship between Anne and Henry. Jane herself was known for her quiet and soothing manner. Certainly Henry knew of her but there is no evidence that he took particular notice until September 1535 when his royal progress stopped at Wolf Hall. Such a visit was a great honor for the Seymour family. And it brought Jane, away from court and its flirtatious young beauties, immediately to the king's attention.
Many historians have argued this was the beginning of Henry's infatuation, but it was unlikely. Anne Boleyn was not completely out of favor just yet; she was pregnant again, though she would suffer a miscarriage in January. And Henry's flirtations were confined to Anne's cousin, Madge Shelton. Jane Seymour was perhaps in the king's thoughts but he did nothing for several months.
In February 1536, however, foreign ambassadors began to report rumors of the king's romance with Jane. They speculated upon her chances of becoming queen. Henry made his affection clear to Jane; she received costly gifts (which she prudently returned) and her brothers were promoted at court. In April 1536, Edward Seymour and his wife (Anne Stanhope) moved to rooms which connected through a hidden passage with the king's apartments. Henry could thus continue his courtship of Jane in relative privacy.

But the king was also mindful of the vicious rumors and public outrage which had accompanied his open courtship of Anne Boleyn while still wed to Katharine of Aragon. He was far more discreet with Jane, and this undoubtedly suited her character. She was content to remain unknown. There were rumors that she would not dine alone with the king, insisting always upon a chaperone, and that she responded to a particularly bold flirtation by reminding the king of his marriage.

Henry did not need to be reminded of his second marriage; it had become a bitter disappointment for him. He was determined to rid himself of Anne Boleyn. Jane's presence was merely another impetus for action.
Another impetus was the death of Katharine of Aragon on 7 January 1536. Catherine died probably of cancer. When Henry heard of her death, he celebrated at a banquet dressed in bright yellow from head to toes. All of Europe, and most Englishmen, had regarded her as the king's rightful wife and Anne as merely his concubine. On 29 January, Anne miscarried a son; the king ominously declared that he would have no more children by her. For Henry, it was suddenly clear that if he could rid himself of Anne and marry Jane, then he would have a legitimate marriage recognized by all and another possibility for a son.
The king began to mention publicly that he had been bewitched into marriage with Anne; he knew his words would reach her. Anne was terrified but could do little. She had few friends at court, and even those were prepared to desert her for the king's favor. On 2 May 1536, she was arrested and taken to the Tower of London. On 15 May, she was condemned to death; Henry sent a personal message to Jane with the news. Four days later Anne was executed; the day after, 20 May, the king was formally betrothed to Jane at Wulf Hall. They married ten days later on 30 May and Jane was publicly declared queen on 4 June. She chose an apt motto, 'Bound to Obey and Serve'.
She was never granted the lavish coronation which Anne had enjoyed. It was summertime and the minor plagues were sweeping through London; the king said she must wait until the spring to be crowned. It is also possible, and was rumored, that Henry had no intention of crowning Jane until she had proved her worth and provided a son. If she proved barren, he could annul their marriage with hopefully little fanfare.
Almost a decade had passed since the 'King's Great Matter' first began and still Henry did not have a legitimate heir. And on 20 July 1536, he received the devastating news that his only illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, duke of Richmond, had died at the age of 17. There had always been the possibility that Fitzroy could have succeeded him, but now Henry VIII was left with only two daughters, both declared illegitimate. It is certain that if Jane had not provided a son, she would have been quickly discarded. Personal affection could not overcome political necessity.
But Jane was able to provide the king with his fondest wish. And indeed the whole country wished for an heir; they had no desire to return to ruinous civil war.
Rumors of her pregnancy began almost immediately after her marriage. But it wasn't until early 1537 that rumors could finally be confirmed as fact. The London chronicler Edward Hall recorded public rejoicing at news of Jane's quickening: 'On 27 May 1537, Trinity Sunday, there was a Te Deum sung in St Paul's cathedral for joy at the queen's quickening of her child, my lord chancellor, lord privy seal and various other lords and bishops being then present; the mayor and aldermen with the best guilds of the city being there in their liveries, all giving laud and praise to God for joy about it.'
Bonfires were lit and celebrations held throughout England; prayers were offered for a safe delivery. In early October, Jane went to Hampton Court Palace for her lying-in and on 12 October, after a long and difficult labor, she gave birth to the wished-for son. It was the eve of St Edward's day and so he was baptized by that name on 15 October. His two half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, attended the splendid christening ceremony. Mary stood as godmother; Elizabeth was carried in the arms of Thomas Seymour, Jane's brother who would later plan to marry her. Her grandfather, Thomas Boleyn, also attended the ceremony.
After 29 years as king of England, Henry VIII finally had a legitimate male heir. Past grievances could be forgotten at this grand moment.
Jane did not savor her success for long. The christening ceremony had begun in her bedchamber; she was wrapped in robes and carried on a litter to the king's chapel. She was able to participate but the long ordeal proved too much. She was already weak and exhausted; she needed quiet and rest and received neither. Only a day later, it was reported that the queen was very ill. Her condition quickly worsened. She was delirious and had a high fever; doctors bled her and attendants hastened to fulfill her craving for sweets and wine. The king's chief minister Cromwell would later blame the sweets for her death but they did little to harm Jane. Modern historians believe she had puerperal sepsis, or 'childbed fever'. It was all too common in the 16th century.
It was later rumored that she died from complications of a Cesarean section, that Henry VIII had ordered the child ripped from her womb, but this was unlikely. There were no reports that she was bleeding excessively and she was able to attend the christening and greet visitors. Sadly, Jane was a victim of her times. Poor hygiene and medical knowledge could not stop the fever which finally killed her near midnight on 24 October.
Jane's early death, at the moment of her great triumph, and her gentle character had an enduring hold on Henry VIII's memory. She was given a solemn state funeral; Princess Mary acted as her chief mourner. In her short time as queen, Jane had attempted to reconcile Henry and his stubborn daughter. Her body was embalmed and laid to rest in the tomb at Windsor Castle which Henry was building for himself. Years after her death, even while he was married to other women, Jane continued to appear in royal portraits as queen consort. Her special status as mother to the heir was never forgotten.
The king wore black until well into 1538 and waited more than two years to marry again. This was the longest interval between marriages during his reign.
Next - Edward Seymour. Edward was Sir John’s oldest son, and a great warrior, so first let’s look at one of his major battles. It looks like the Scots would have been no big fans of the Seymours. I’ve run across generations of Seymours who led battles against them, and here’s maybe the most famous, and the last. It also is another display of the Tudor and Seymour mentality in those days, as they’re trying desperately to arrange another favorable wedding, this time at the sharp point of an invading army. This cracks me up, they called it the “war of the rough wooing”. You’ve gotta love the Brit sense of humor...
“The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, along the banks of the River Esk near Musselburgh, Scotland on 10 September 1547 (Edward was 39, and he is basically “King” of England, as his 9 year-old nephew’s Protector), was part of the “War of the Rough Wooing”. It was the last pitched battle to be fought between the Scottish and the English Royal armies and the first "modern" battle to be fought in the British Isles. It resulted in a catastrophic defeat for the Scots caused by the use of naval artillery by the English for the first time in a land battle in Britain. In Scotland, it was known as Black Saturday.
This was historically significant as the first "modern" battle fought in Britain, demonstrating active cooperation between the infantry, artillery and cavalry with a naval bombardment in support of the land forces.

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