The morning after Anne Boleyn’s execution, Jane Seymour and Henry VIII were formally betrothed at Hampton Court Palace.
At first light, Jane dressed in her finest clothes – clothes that had been prepared in the prior weeks by the royal seamstresses – and quietly set out by barge to meet the King. The betrothal took place at 9 am, almost exactly 24 hours after Anne’s end.
The couple was careful to keep this event quiet, as this new romance cast enormous suspicion on the case against Anne Boleyn and her alleged paramours. The King had worked hard to throw people off the scent in the weeks leading up to the trials and executions: Jane had been sent far from court, and the King had been seen to cavort every night on his barge with beautiful women looking to console him. But despite all of these precautions, the people knew what was happening. And most didn’t care. Jane Seymour never elicited the hatred that Anne Boleyn did – no one really spoke out over the idea that the King was leaving his wife for her. Anne Boleyn was the husband-stealer, Jane was merely righting the wrong.
Interestingly, while many people accuse Jane of “walking through Anne Boleyn’s blood” to marry the King (admittedly, she did), almost all of her contemporaries would have been happy to do the same. After all, Henry was still relatively handsome, and had not yet fully developed the horrible reputation for cruelty that he grew into after Jane’s death. The women on the barge all hoped to snare him – and the French Ambassador was quick to offer him the hand of the Princess Madeline (indeed, the offer was made only few hours after his betrothal). Henry’s answer was interesting: “At 16, she is too young for me; and also I have had too much experience of French bringing up and manners.” If only he could have remembered that advice when Catherine Howard came onto the scene….