Jane Seymour died on October 24, 1537, after giving Henry the son he had craved for so long. At least two weeks before her funeral (held November 12), he was already thinking of his next wife: we have the letter, dated only “October,” in which Cromwell announces the death of the Queen – and instructs England’s representatives in France to open discussions with the French king.
This is one of those jaw-dropping scenes that The Six Wives of Henry VIII handled so well. Norfolk and Edward Seymour rolling shocked eyes when the cynical Cromwell starts to talk marriage with the King with Jane Seymour’s lifeless body behind them in the room – and Norfolk and Seymour standing open-mouthed when Henry responds with the physical requirements that are important to him (“I’m big in person, I need a big wife”). The actual letter (well, the summary reflected in Letters and Papers) is equally chilling:
They are to announce to Francis that though the Prince is well and “sucketh like a child of his puissance,” the Queen, by the neglect of those about her who suffered her to take cold and eat such things as her fantasy in sickness called for, is dead. The King, though he takes this chance reasonably, is little disposed to marry again, but some of his Council have thought it meet for us to urge him to it for the sake of his realm, and he has “framed his mind, both to be indifferent to the thing and to the election of any person from any part that with deliberation shall be thought meet.” Two persons in France might be thought on, viz., the French king’s daughter (said to be not the meetest) and Madame de Longueville, of whose qualities you are to inquire, and also on what terms the King of Scots stands with either of them. Lord William must not return without ascertaining this, but the inquiry must be kept secret.