Episode 123: Jane Seymour with Elizabeth Norton

Welcome back to the new season! You’ll find many changes to the show this season and I hope you love them as much as I do.

This episode is a stand alone with Elizabet Norton and I discussing the third wife of Henry VIII – Jane Seymour. In a few days there will be a new Ask the Expert from Steph and then the following week a new A Brief History. Be sure to subscribe to be notified of each new episode!


Hosted by: Rebecca Larson

Guest: Dr. Elizabeth Norton

Editing: Troy Larson (TroyLarsonCreative.com)

Voice Over: David Black 

Music by: Ketsa, Alexander Nakarada, and Winnie the Moog via FilmMusic.io, used by EXTENDED license.






Show Notes

Chat with Elizabeth Norton on Twitter: @ENortonHistory

Elizabeth’s website: http://www.elizabethnorton.co.uk/

BBC series, The Boleyns – available on BBC in UK and I’ve also found the episodes on YouTube

Episode 1: https://youtu.be/NybpcHfXWt4

Find all of Elizabeth’s books on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Norton/e/B002666IA2%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

The Jane Dormer book that Elizabeth mentioned:

Transcript of Episode: (first 10 minutes)

David Black Voice Over: You’re listening to the Tudors Dynasty podcast with Rebecca Larson.

Rebecca: Welcome to the new season! I’m your host, Rebecca. Are you a lover of all things Tudor? Maybe you’re just fascinated with royal history, well you’ve come to the right place. This season Steph and I will not only be talking Tudors but we will also be touching base on royals from other time periods well – you won’t want to miss a minute – be sure to subscribe now!

Today I am joined by the very talented historian and author, Elizabeth Norton to talk about one Tudor queen who is really beginning to grow in popularity – Jane Seymour. In our conversation I cover all the bases, from Jane’s childhood to her relationship with her mother, her time at Tudor court, marriage to Henry VIII and so much more…

So let’s get to it!

Rebecca: Elizabeth, welcome back!

Elizabeth: Thank you very much for inviting me back. It’s such a pleasure.

Rebecca: I’m so excited because today we’re going to talk about a queen who has become one of my favorites over time, Jane Seymou,r and you wrote a biography about her – when did you write that again?

Elizabeth: It was back in 2009 I think, so it’s a long time ago and really there hadn’t been much written on her before that, so it was quite kind of going into new territory.

Rebecca: And I think when I started my research on Thomas Seymour…I, you know, because there wasn’t much written about him at that time, I believe I started reading the books on Jane to kind of get an idea of the family and yours was actually one of the first ones I ever read. So… you did such a great job on the research and writing of that book I highly recommend that if anybody is interested in learning about Jane to read Elizabeth’s book, because as you will learn today, she knows a lot about Jane.

Elizabeth: that’s very kind of you 

Rebecca: Let’s start from the beginning with Jane. We know that her family was country gentry – can you explain what that means exactly?

Elizabeth: Yeah, so the Gentry… are, they’re an enormous class in Tudor England. They are one step below the nobility. So they’re not lords, not earls and not dukes. Some of them have titles – some of them are knights, so, for example we see John Seymour, Jane Seymour’s father, he is a knight. But you’ll also get Esquires, and just gentleman. People who are able to describe themselves as a gentleman. In many countries they would be kind of the lower rank in the nobility and it’s just really in England there aren’t that many titled families, so they are very much not peasants. They’re not lower cost people. But they’re the lowest rung of people who can attend court, who can receive a visit from the King. 

Rebecca: Now, one of the things about Jane is that she actually had some Royal Blood through her mother’s side of the family. Can you elaborate on that?

Elizabeth: Yeah she did, so all of Henry VIII’s wives are descended from the Plantagenet kings. Jane is descended from Edward III. So, he is a king in the 14th century – had a lot of children and a lot of descendants. And because the Tudor court is actually quite a small world and everyone is interrelated, Jane yet very much does have royal blood, and her mother was higher ranking than her father.

Rebecca: Now, let’s look at her childhood just a little bit. Now I know there really isn’t that much known about her childhood or even Thomas’s, but can you tell us maybe a little about what you learned about her life at Wolf Hall?

Elizabeth: Yeah, so, a lot of it is kind of reconstruction and thinking about a girl of her class would –  what her life would be like. But we can get a sense of what life was like at Wolf Hall. So, the manor house – it’s not a normous –  there’s probably about fifty people in the household so family and then servants as well.  And in this period, servants lived quite  intermingled lives with their social superiors. So you know you can expect unmarried serving maids to be sharing rooms with the daughters of the household, potentially. We can assume that Jane’s mother plays a major role in her Early Education that would be quite usual. So the mother, until the children are old enough to have Tudors, will teach them their letters, will teach them to read.. sometimes the parish priest is also involved. So we can assume that Jane’s mother Margery is involved and that Jane will be taught with her siblings who are close in age. So, not Edward, because he is considerably older than Jane, but certainly Thomas, and also their other sisters as well. It’s a rural life and they have gardens, they have orchards, they have farmland. Jane will be taught needlework, that’s a really important part of a young gentlewoman’s up bringing. Her mother will certainly ensure that she can sew – that she can make clothing, and that she can do more decorative embroideries.  She would be taught music. She would be taught dancing, because these are really important skills for a gentlewoman. Her education doesn’t appear to be particularly extensive; she can certainly read and write – most women of her class could –  of her generation. She’ll probably be taught a little arithmetic. She probably knows some French. Umm, she can certainly talk to Eustace Chapuys as queen in French to a certain extent. Although, I mean, it’s not a particularly involved conversation. She probably doesn’t know any Latin. 

Rebecca: I’m interested by that, because I think I was always under the impression that she could not speak any foreign language that she wasn’t taught them.

Elizabeth: Yeah, well, we know that she has this – so, it’s always with Jane – it’s so tantalizing you just don’t, we just don’t have the information on Jane that we have for all those of Henry’s wives, but we just have kind of Clues and hints. So for example, early in her queenship, Eustace Chapuys who is the Imperial Ambassador, sort of  takes her aside and speaks to her and she seems to have been quite out of her depth with this conversation because Henry comes over and rescues her after a few minutes, and then takes over. But, Chapuys would have been speaking French to Jane, definitely. And so I think we can – you know, he doesn’t say that the queen couldn’t understand a word I said, so I think we can kind of guess it as a little bit of French there. But she is certainly not fluent.

Rebecca: Okay. Now you mentioned a little bit about her mother Margery, do we have any ideas – is there any evidence to let us know what kind of relationship Jane had with her?

Elizabeth: So, again I mean it’s it’s sort of guess work unfortunately. Margery is higher born than Jane’s father. She’s actually raised in the household of her aunt, the Countess of Surrey, up at Sheriff Hutton castle. What’s quite interesting about that is that the Countess of Surrey is the mother of Anne Boleyn’s mother. So the two cousins are raised together – Margery, Jane Seymour’s mother, and Anne Boleyn’s mother. She is reported by John Skelton the poet to have been benign courteous and meek. Which I think we can see carry through into her how her daughter betrayed herself. So…we can assume that that they’re reasonably close, but to be clear there’s no evidence that Margery comes to court with Jane, when she’s Queen, and she seems to have remained in the country. When she dies during Edward VI’s reign, and bearing in mind that Margery is Edward VI’s grandmother, actually her death causes very little stir – they don’t even put the court into mourning. Which suggests that she presumably had a relatively close relationship with her mother at least in childhood, but her mother doesn’t come to court as a supporter.  

Rebecca: I feel like Margery Seymour is one of those elusive characters from history where we want to know so much about her and where she was, and yet there really isn’t anything to give us a play-by-play for her and that’s so frustrating.

Elizabeth: Absolutely, and it’s- it’s just really frustrating cuz it would be great to know what she’s thinking, because her daughter becomes Queen.

Rebecca: Right!

Elizabeth: Her grandson becomes king. Umm her son is Lord Protector, and another is Lord Admiral. You know I’d love to know what she’s thinking – but actually we’ve just we got nothing apart from really the fact that she’s benign, courteous and meek, according to John Skelton who did know her in her youth, that’s all we have.

Rebecca: Now you mentioned that Edward was much older than Jane, and we know that there were 10 Seymour children, and I’ve always been under the impression that Jane was younger than Thomas but that she was the eldest daughter. From the research that you’ve done over the years what evidence did you find that confirmed in order, or were you even able to find any evidence that confirmed in order of the children? 

Elizabeth: So, again, nobody, they are born before you get parish records – which would note baptisms. So again, we’re trying to kind of order the children. Edward is definitely considerably older he’s the second son, the eldest son is John, who dies as a teenager and has a memorial brass in Great Bedwyn Parish Church, which is close to Wolf Hall. There are some children lost in infancy, which leaves a gap in the family. And then you got the younger group of children you got Henry Seymour who is younger than Edward. He is the brother that doesn’t come to court effectively staying in the countryside and then we got a gap probably Thomas before Jane looking at the facts of their lives, and when Thomas comes to court. You then have Jane quite close in age, and I would suggest she is probably about a year or so. And partly that’s based on the fact that 29 ladies walked in her funeral procession, which possibly suggest she was 29 years old – it’s a slightly random number otherwise, and that’s the sort of the symbolism that was often carried out. So I think she’s prob’ly born around 1508, but again it it’s supposition to some extent, and she’s the eldest sister, the eldest daughter, she has two younger sisters.

End of partial transcript. Ending at 10:07 minutes. 

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