Forgotten Tudor Women – Sylvia Barbara Soberton Pt 2 [Chapter]

My apologies for this post being a little bit late! I have been so busy recently, I totally forgot about it! I really need to integrate this into my schedule!

Anyway, onto the point of this post! Here is the second part of Forgotten Tudor Women! If you haven’t read part 1 (which I highly recommend you do, before reading this post), CLICK HERE

Forgotten Tudor Women

Lady in Waiting pt 2

In private, Wolsey attributed his fall from grace to that “serpentine enemy about the King”. He meant, of course, Anne Boleyn, whom he had also dubbed “the Night Crow”, referring, perhaps, to her dark colouring. At the same time, however, the politically savvy cardinal was well aware that only Anne Boleyn was able to restore him to his former glory. Wolsey employed the help of his pupil Thomas Cromwell, the rising star of Henry VIII’s court, who laboured on behalf of the disgraced cardinal. In one of his letters to Cromwell, Wolsey desperately wrote that “all possible means must be attempted for the attaining of her [Boleyn’s] favour”. Cromwell obliged and activated his contacts within the King’s Privy Chamber. One of them was Sir Richard Page, Anne Stanhope’s stepfather.

In May 1530, Cromwell informed Wolsey that “Mr Page received your letter directed unto my Lady Anne, and delivered the same. There is yet no answer. She gave kind words, but will not promise to speak to the King for you.” Wolsey was eventually pardoned, but his enemies still conspired against him. He died on 26 November 1530 on his way to the Tower of London.

By the 1530s, Henry VIII had grown tired of waiting for the pope’s decision to annul his marriage and took matters into his own hands, declaring himself Head of the Church of England and issuing orders for the new Archbishop of Canterbury to nullify his unhappy match. When Katharine of Aragon was replaced by Anne Boleyn, Anne Stanhope joined Queen Anne’s royal household in early 1534. This turned out to be a great decision because, while serving at court, she met and married Sir Edward Seymour at some point in early 1535.

At the time of his marriage to Anne, Edward had been in royal service for twenty-one years. Born c. 1500 to Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth, he started his career in 1514 as a page to Henry VIII’s younger sister, Mary Tudor, when she left England to marry Louis XII of France. In the 1520s he acquired the post of Master of the Horse in the household of the King’s illegitimate son, Henry FitzRoy, and by 1531 he became an Esquire of the Body to Henry VIII, a prestigious post that required watching “day and night” over the King’s person and helping him dress and undress. Edward was among the King’s servants when Henry VIII went to Calais in October 1532 to present Anne Boleyn as his future wife to Francis I, and in June 1533 he served as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s carver during the banquet following the Queen’s coronation.

Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn proved as fruitless as his union with Katharine of Aragon. Just like her banished predecessor, Anne gave birth to a healthy daughter but failed to produce sons. She gave birth to a stillborn child of an unknown sex in the summer of 1534 and miscarried a son on 29 January 1536, the day of Katharine of Aragon’s funeral.

The King reverted to his old habit of taking mistresses early in his marriage to Anne, although none of them managed to keep his interest for long. This changed in 1536 when the King cast his fancy on one of Anne Stanhope’s sisters-in-law, Jane Seymour. Jane’s name first cropped up in Anne Boleyn’s household in early 1534 when “Mistress Seymour” received a New Year’s gift, but when Jane first came to the attention of the imperial ambassador in February 1536, she was described as a former servant of Katharine of Aragon’s rather than a new arrival.

Anne Boleyn blamed Jane Seymour for her miscarriage, telling the King that she lost their son at fifteen weeks after seeing the new royal mistress sitting on the King’s knee. The Queen was increasingly worried about the ascendancy of the Seymours since, on 3 March 1536, Edward Seymour was promoted to the position of a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, a considerable privilege, whereas she failed to influence the King to invest her brother with the Order of the Garter on 23 April. A political faction hostile to the Boleyns clustered around Jane, who was instructed not to sleep with the King unless he promised her marriage.

Yet in the early days of his infatuation, the King was interested only in bedding Jane, and in late March 1536 he sent her a purse of money with an accompanying letter. When the messenger presented her with these tokens, she fell on her knees and urged him to “pray the King on her part to consider that she was a gentlewoman of good and honourable parents, without reproach, and that she had no greater riches in the world than her honour, which she would not injure for a thousand deaths, and that if he wished to make her some present in money she begged it might be when God enabled her to make some honourable match”. This was not exactly what the King wanted to hear, hoping to entice Jane into his bed, but he nevertheless felt that his feelings for her had “wonderfully increased”.

It was at that moment that Henry VIII decided that Jane Seymour would replace Anne Boleyn as Queen because he told Jane that he was bent “to show her that he only loved her honourably” and decided he would henceforward visit her only in the company of her relatives. For this purpose, the King ordered Thomas Cromwell to vacate his apartments and give them to Edward and Anne Seymour so that Henry could access them by privy galleries without being perceived by anyone. This is what the King meant when he promised Jane he would pursue her “honourably”. During private assignations with Henry VIII, Jane often told the King boldly “how his marriage [to Anne Boleyn] is detested by the people, and none consider it lawful”, playing on his desire to do what was right in God’s eyes. Anne Seymour played the part of her sister-in-law’s chaperone and impatiently waited for what the future held for them.

Like many at the time, the Seymours believed Jane would replace Anne Boleyn as Henry VIII’s wife in a scandalous but bloodless coup. Anne, they reasoned, would be divorced and banished from court whether she agreed or not. After all, this happened to Katharine of Aragon, who maintained that she was Henry VIII’s legitimate wife until she breathed her last. In late April 1536, John Stokesley, Bishop of London, was approached to give his opinion “as to whether the King could or could not abandon” Anne Boleyn, but he wisely refused to give his verdict unless invited to do so by the King himself. The conspirators often used the words “dismiss” and “divorce” interchangeably when speaking about Anne’s ruin. This clearly indicates that they expected Henry VIII to divorce Anne Boleyn and send her away from court in disgrace.

On 2 May 1536, however, Anne Boleyn was arrested at Greenwich Palace and escorted to the Tower of London. Accused of adultery with five men, incest with her brother and plotting to kill the King, the Queen stood little chance of surviving these slanderous allegations. Among the men who were arrested on 5 May 1536 were Sir Henry Norris, the King’s Groom of the Stool, Sir Francis Weston, a young courtier whose favourite pastime was to flirt with the Queen’s ladies, Sir William Brereton, whose arrest took many by surprise, Mark Smeaton, the musician infatuated with the Queen, and George Boleyn, the Queen’s brother.

More arrests followed three days later. On 8 May 1536, one courtier reported that “Mr Page and Mr Wyatt are in the Tower, but it is thought without danger of death”. The “Mr Wyatt” was Sir Thomas Wyatt, celebrated Tudor poet and diplomat, whose name had often been linked to Anne Boleyn’s. “Mr Page” was Anne Seymour’s stepfather. Just why he found himself in the Tower among the men accused as the Queen’s paramours is unclear and somewhat surprising considering that he was a member of the extended Seymour family. The rumour mill was grinding ever more furiously, and on 13 May a report circulated at court that “this day, some say, young Weston shall escape, and some that none shall die but the Queen and her brother; others, that Wyatt and Mr Page are as like to suffer as the others.”

This scandal in her family did not have an impact on Anne Seymour’s career at court, as she was close with the woman who was about to become the next Queen of England.

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I'm a lover of all things Tudor, and historical - fiction or fact. My aim is to bring together writers of all calibers to share their work with like minded people!

One thought on “Forgotten Tudor Women – Sylvia Barbara Soberton Pt 2 [Chapter]

  1. Both instalments, comprising the first chapter of this book, make very interesting reading, with Anne Seymour (née Stanhope) the first of the three women featured. All three were associated with queens – notably Henry VIII’s first and last wives – though Jane Dudley, better known as Lady Jane Grey, actually became queen after his death, though for only nine days. Little is generally known about these three ladies but from its first chapter this book looks set to give us some very interesting information about their lives and their links with royalty. I can’t wait to read more…

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