Part 4: Jane Seymour
In complete contrast to Anne Boleyn, a dramatic brunette
with smouldering black eyes and a spirit and temper to match, Henry's
third wife, Jane Seymour, was a submissive, blue-eyed blonde with
a receding chin – the model Tudor wife - and a devout Catholic.
As Henry began to flirt with her, traditionalists were
delighted. But Thomas Cromwell had his own agenda for radical religious
reform and behind the scenes he fought Jane's influence.
Henry clearly intended Jane to be his mistress and tried
to buy her affections. She refused, saying she wanted something more
Courtier Sir Nicholas Carew coached Seymour in this
brilliant play at demure seduction and, little by little, it worked
to prise Henry away from Anne Boleyn. Ten days after Anne's execution
in 1536, Henry and Jane were secretly married. She took as her motto
'Bound to obey and serve', but she never surrendered her Catholic faith.
Indeed, she instead hoped to be able to return Henry to the true faith.
The first test of Jane's influence was in defence of
the devout Catholic princess Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon.
Risking charges of treason and death, Jane argued fiercely for Mary's
rehabilitation, enlisting the support of friends. However, the stubborn
Mary would not be championed, declaring her mother's marriage illegal
and incestuous, and herself a bastard. Jane's intervention in politics
had backfired rather completely.
By autumn 1536 the Reformation was underway. The
dissolution of the monasteries (or the suppression of the monasteries)
and the destruction of churches had begun.
In the countryside a great revolt known as the Pilgrimage
of Grace broke out in Lincolnshire and soon engulfed the whole of the
north of England. Nobles and peasants alike found a charismatic leader
in Robert Aske. Jane faced a dilemma. Her sympathies were with the aims
of the rebellion, but her duty was to her husband, whom she believed was
sinning against God.
She again questioned the king's authority and came
close to charges of treason, but when Henry could not defeat the rebels
he agreed to visit the north with Jane, negotiate a settlement, and even
crown her a Catholic queen of the north in York Minster.