The ghost of Jane Seymour

Within 24 hours of the execution of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour and Henry VIII were formally betrothed.

Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein the Younger

In an unbelievable twist of fate, Jane Seymour, the woman that had come to court as a lady in waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon and then served as a lady in waiting to Queen Anne Boleyn after the first queen fell from favour, was now on the brink of becoming queen herself.

There is much debate surrounding whether Jane Seymour was simply a political pawn that her powerful family manoeuvred into position when Anne Boleyn failed to provide the king with a male heir or whether she was in fact as ambitious as Anne had once been and willingly sought to replace the queen by enticing Henry with her outward façade of modesty and virtue.

Either way, on the 30th May 1536, Henry VIII married Jane Seymour in the Queen’s Closet at Whitehall Palace and she was publicly declared queen on the 4th June 1536.

Jane was not given the lavish coronation that Henry’s two previous queens enjoyed even though she did what her predecessors did not, she provided the king with his long wished for son.

In early 1537, rumours of Queen Jane’s pregnancy were confirmed and celebrations held in honour of this wondrous event. In early October, Jane retired to Hampton Court Palace for her ‘lying-in’ and on the 12th October 1537, after a long and arduous labour, Jane gave birth to a baby boy.

Finally, after 28 years on the throne, King Henry VIII had his legitimate heir to the Tudor throne.

On the 15th October, on the eve of St. Edward’s day, the little prince was baptised. Both his half sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, participated in the ceremony with Mary chosen as Edward’s Godmother. Thomas Boleyn was also in attendance and one can only wonder what his thoughts would have been at this time.

A weak and exhausted Jane participated in the ceremony but later retired to her rooms where her condition rapidly deteriorated. A distraught Henry did not leave his wife’s side the entire night. Despite all efforts made, the doctors were unable to save her and in the early hours of the 24th October, only 12 days after the birth of her precious son, Jane died.

It was later said that Jane died from complications of a caesarian section but this is highly unlikely as Jane survived the birth and attended Edward’s christening. There is also no record of excessive bleeding.

It is generally accepted by modern historians that Jane Seymour died of puerperal fever, also known as ‘childbed fever’. Eleven years later, Jane’s sister-in-law, Catherine Parr, would suffer the same fate.

She was given a solemn but magnificent state funeral and ironically, after being forbidden to attend her own mother’s funeral only a year before, Princess Mary acted as her chief mourner.

Henry VIII always spoke of Jane as his ‘true wife’ and left instructions to be buried next to her at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.

Although the apartments where Jane gave birth to Edward and where she later died no longer exist, it is possible that the ‘space’ in which these events occurred recorded the pain, joy and sadness felt by those involved and every so often plays it back for those sensitive among us to ‘see’.

It is said that Jane Seymour’s ghost haunts Hampton Court Palace. She has been seen walking the cobbled grounds of Clock Court and on the anniversary of the birth of Edward is said to ascend the stairs leading to the Silver Stick Gallery, dressed in a white robe and carrying a candle. Unfortunately, the Gallery is not on the public route and so visitors are not permitted to enter this particular apartment.

Legend says that Jane’s heavy conscience and guilt about the manner in which she supplanted her queen, cause her to remain earthbound until she gains forgiveness from Anne Boleyn.

Each of us should decide for ourselves, is it the ghost of Jane Seymour returning in search of her son and forgiveness or simply the overactive imaginations of the Palace guests?

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Comments

  1. Thanks for this, Natalie. I wonder, is Jane really an earthbound spirit? Or are these apparitions more a case of sensitive people accessing a scene from the past? Am looking forward to more posts … is there a ghost story for every wife??

  2. There is certainly a ghost story for every wife! After I have written the stories related to each of Henry’s wives, I plan to move on to the ghosts of other Tudor personalities. So lots more to come!

  3. If Jane appears in a white robe and carrying a candle, it does look like a penance. I wonder if she is also barefoot? If this really is Jane, then I think it’s her own guilty conscience at work, not Anne withholding forgiveness. After all, both women would have said they were Christians and according to the Lord’s Prayer “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us”. In other words, if Anne refused to forgive Jane, Anne herself would be refused forgiveness of her own sins. And much as we may admire Anne, I doubt any of us would claim she was “without sin”!

  4. Bonnie Barton says:

    Thank you for a very interesting article. Please keep them coming!

  5. Wow, I never knew. So interesting. Is there a ghost of King Henry VIII anywhere?

  6. The apartments where Jane gave birth do exist, but are not accessible to the public. Lucy Worsley, Tudor historian and head curator of Hampton Court Palace presented a show about the palace, where she showed us the exact room Edward was born in. Nowdays staff use the room as an office.

    • Hello Sarah, I know the room you speak of but this was just one of three chambers that once existed on this level and which formed part of the Queen’s apartments – a series of interconnecting rooms. According to Simon Thurley, architectural historian and author of ‘Hampton Court: A Social and Architectural History’ “the top floor contained three large rooms, the entrance to which still survives on the top landing of the stairs. The monumental doorway has the royal arms in one spandrel and Wolsey’s in the other. Within, more fragments of the original decoration exist, including a massive fireplace with Wolsey’s motto and a door leading to a closet to its right.” It is certainly possible that this was the room in which Jane gave birth to Edward, it just depends on the arrangement of the rooms at the time.

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