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jueves, 31 de mayo de 2007

The Six Wives of Henry The VIII

Jane Seymour was the daughter of Sir John Seymour of Wiltshire and Margaret Wentworth. Her exact birth date is debated; it is usually given as 1509. However, in The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Alison Weir noted that at her funeral 29 women walked in succession. Since it was customary for the attendant company to mark every year of the deceased's life in numbers, Weir moved Jane's birth back by about eighteen months.
After serving as a lady-in-waiting to both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn[1], Henry's first two queens, Jane caught the king's eye. His desire to marry her may have motivated him to believe (or pretend to believe) the false accusations of adultery and witchcraft against Anne. Henry became betrothed to Jane on 20 May 1536, the day after Anne was beheaded, and he married Jane on 30 May, only eleven days after Anne's execution. Jane was publicly proclaimed queen on 4 June. She was never crowned because the plague had reached epidemic levels in London where the coronation was to take place. Henry was deathly afraid of contracting the plague and obviously had the same fears for his new bride. It is also said that Henry wouldn't crown Jane until she had fulfilled her duty as a queen by bearing him a son and heir.
As Queen, Jane was strict and formal. She was close only to her female relations, Anne Stanhope (her brother's wife) and her sister, Elizabeth Seymour. The glittering social life and extravagance of the Queen's Household, which had its zenith during the time of Anne Boleyn, was replaced by a strict enforcement of stiff social decorum in Jane's time. For example, the dress requirements for ladies of the court was detailed down to the number of pearls that were sewn into each lady's skirt, and the elegant French fashions introduced by Anne Boleyn were banned. Politically, Jane appears to have been conservative. However, her only self-insertion into national affairs in 1536, when she asked for pardons for participants in the Pilgrimage of Grace[2] rebellion, was abandoned after the king brutally reminded her the fate of other queens who "meddled in his affairs."[In Early 1537, Queen Jane became pregnant. During her pregnancy, Jane developed a craving for quail, which the King ordered for her from Calais and Flanders. Jane went into seclusion in September 1537 and gave birth to a male heir, the future King Edward VI of England on 12 October at Hampton Court Palace. After she participated in the prince's christening on October 15, it became clear that Jane was seriously ill. She had contracted puerperal fever and died on 24 October at Hampton Court. She was buried at Windsor Castle after a funeral in which her step-daughter, Princess Mary (later Queen Mary I), acted as chief mourner.
Above her grave, there was for a time the following inscription:
Here lieth a Phoenix, by whose death Another Phoenix life gave breath: It is to be lamented much The world at once ne'er knew two such. After her death, Henry wore black and did not remarry for two years. Henry fondly remembered her as his favourite wife, forgetting the youthful days he spent with Catherine of Aragon and years of being besotted with Anne Boleyn. Historians have speculated that it was Jane's "achievement" of securing Henry a male heir that made her so fondly remembered. When he died in 1547, Henry was buried beside her.
Jane's two ambitious brothers, Thomas and Edward, used her memory to improve their own fortunes. After Henry's death, Thomas married Henry's widow, Catherine Parr, and also had designs on the future Elizabeth I. In the reign of the young King Edward VI, Edward Seymour set himself up as protector and effective ruler of the Kingdom. Both brothers eventually fell from power, and were disgraced and executed.

In film

Jane was first portrayed in film in the 1920 German film Anne Boleyn by actor Aud Edege Nissen. Thirteen years later, Wendy Barrie played a delightfully dull version of Jane opposite Charles Laughton's Henry VIII in Alexander Korda's highly-acclaimed masterpiece The Private Life of Henry VIII.
It was not until 1969 that Jane Seymour appeared in the screen again, and it was this time only for a few minutes in Hal B. Wallis' Oscar-winning Anne of the Thousand Days. Jane was played by Lesley Paterson, opposite screen legend Richard Burton as Henry VIII. Towards the movie's end, Anne Boleyn (played by Canadian actress Geneviève Bujold) dismisses her as a woman with "the face of a simpering sheep and the manners - but not the morals."
A year later, as part of the series The Six Wives of Henry VIII, a 90 minute BBC television drama, the segment titled "Jane Seymour" presented her as a sweet, painfully shy introvert, devoted to her husband. Henry was played by Australian actor Keith Michell, and Jane by British actress Anne Stallybrass.
In 1973, this interpretation of Jane was repeated in Henry VIII and his Six Wives, in which Keith Michell reprised his role from the BBC drama but Jane Seymour was played by Jane Asher.
Jane was played by Charlotte Roach in Dr. David Starkey's documentary series on Henry's queens in 2001, and by Naomi Benson in the BBC television drama The Other Boleyn Girl, opposite Jared Harris as Henry VIII and Jodhi May as Anne Boleyn. In this drama, Jane's part was minimal.
In October 2003, in the 2-part ITV drama Henry VIII, Ray Winstone starred as the king. Part 2 charted the king's life from his marriage to Jane Seymour (played by British beauty, Emilia Fox) until his funeral in 1547. Jane was presented as a woman of moral courage and integrity. Some historians took issue with the drama's suggestion that Henry hit her.

In song
The English ballad The Death of Queen Jane (Child #170) is about the death of Jane Seymour following the birth of Prince Edward. The story as related in the ballad is historically inaccurate, but apparently reflects the popular view at the time of the events surrounding her death. The historical fact is that Prince Edward was born naturally, and that his mother succumbed to infection and died twelve days later.
In the ballad, during long labour, Queen Jane repeatedly asks that her side be opened to save the baby. In most versions, she is refused repeatedly until finally someone -- usually King Henry -- succumbs to her pleas and allows the surgery that results in her death.
Most versions of the song end with the contrast between the joy of the birth of the prince and the grief of the death of the queen.
From version 170A:
The baby was christened with joy and much mirth, Whilst poor Queen Jane's body lay cold under earth: There was ringing and singing and mourning all day, The princess Elizabeth went weeping away The song Lady Jane by the Rolling Stones also holds some connection. The song can be interpreted as Henry's sadness over the loss of Jane, because she was the only wife who actually gave him a much-wanted son, and yet her life was the price of the achievement. The song also mentions a 'Lady Anne' and that fact that the narrator can't be expected to love her when he has, or had, Lady Jane. Anne of Cleves followed Jane Seymour, and Henry quickly divorced her (on the much more fickle ground that she was not attractive).
HistoriographyJane was widely praised as "the fairest, the discreetest, and the most meritous of all Henry VIII's wives" in the centuries after her death. One historian, however, took serious umbrage to this view in the 19th century. Victorian scholar Agnes Strickland, author of encyclopaedic studies of French, Scottish, and English royal women, said that the story of "Anne Boleyn's last agonised hours" and Henry VIII's swift remarriage to Jane Seymour "is repulsive enough, but it becomes tenfold more abhorrent when the woman who caused the whole tragedy is loaded with panegyric."
Modern historians, particularly Alison Weir and Lady Antonia Fraser, paint a favourable portrait of a woman of discretion and good-sense -- "a strong-minded matriarch in the making," says Weir. Others are not convinced.
Hester W. Chapman and Professor Eric Ives resurrected Strickland's view of Jane Seymour, and believe she played a crucial and conscious role in the cold-blooded plot to bring Anne Boleyn to the executioner's block. Dr. David Starkey and Karen Lindsey are both relatively dismissive of Jane's importance in comparison to that of Henry's other queens -- particularly Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Parr. Joanna Denny, Marie Louise Bruce and Carolly Erickson also -understandably- refrain from giving overly-sympathetic accounts of Jane's life and career.

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