By January 1536 Henry had developed an interest in Jane Seymour despite the Boleyn family’s best efforts to keep him distracted with their own young women. Famously Henry told Anne to mind her own business as her betters had done when she confronted him on the topic.
On the 7th January 1536 Catherine of Aragon died at Kimbolton Castle. At the time poison was suspected, especially when it was revealed that her heart had blackened. At the end of the month Anne Boleyn mis-carrried the child who had he survived would have ensured her safety. Rather than being free of a woman many people regarded as Henry’s queen, Anne was now anxious that she was in a situation where Henry might feel able to rid himself of a woman who had not delivered a male heir. The seven year hunt had proved rather more exciting that married life. She was correct in her surmise. It probably didn’t help that she and Thomas Cromwell had a bit of an argument that turned into a power struggle.
On 14 May 1536, having been arrested on charges of adultery, Anne’s marriage was declared invalid – meaning that Henry had his cake and ate it because he was free to marry again but technically Anne couldn’t have been guilty of adultery (even if she had been having a relationship which most historians think not) if she wasn’t married – so therefore she couldn’t have been executed for treason. It may have been this logic that led Anne to think that Henry would commute her sentence to exile into a nunnery. On May 17th her co-defendants were executed including her brother George. Anne was executed on the 18th. The way was clear for Henry to take a new wife.
Jane was, of Plantagenet descent, the polar opposite of Anne. She was a traditional sort of girl with traditional religious leanings. And yes, she was one of Anne’s cousins as well as Henry’s. Jane like Anne before her had shifted from lady-in-waiting to queen in waiting and like Anne before her Henry removed her from court so that no scandal should attach itself to her whilst he disposed of his unwanted spouse. Jane was shipped off to Beddington near Croydon. It was the family home of Sir Nicholas Carew – his young wife Elizabeth was another notch on Henry’s bedpost and Carew had been providing locations for Henry to meet with women for a very long time at this point in proceedings (it didn’t help him very much in 1539 when he was executed for treason.)
By the 20th May Jane Seymour became wife number three or in Henry’s mind wife number one as the previous two had been demonstrated to be illegal.
1536, as well as being the year of three queens was also a horrible year for Henry in other respects. In July Henry FitzRoy died. He was seventeen years old. In October the Pilgrimage of Grace erupted in Lincolnshire, spreading to Yorkshire, Cumberland and Westmorland. There was also a bit of a rumpus in the West Country.
So far as Henry was concerned the good news was that Jane became pregnant and on the 16th September 1537 took to her chamber where she produced a boy on the 12th October. He was baptised Edward on the 15th and by the 24th Jane was dead due to complications of childbirth. Since the pair were still in the “honeymoon” phase of their relationship there is no evidence of a mistress although given Henry’s track record when his wives became pregnant it isn’t to say there weren’t any!
Thomas Cromwell took advantage in the hiatus to set up more tractional marriage negotiations with continental treaties in mind. Henry may have consoled himself with one of Jane’s young ladies in waiting; Anne Bassett, the young step-daughter of his uncle Arthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle. I have posted about her previously. Double click on her name to open a new window and read the earlier post.