I just re-watched Starkey’s Six Wives Episode 3 (Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves) and it really made me rethink Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour. Although they contrasted dramatically I think Jane did try to copy some of Anne’s actions. But with how much success?
Firstly the contrasts.
Anne was a radical reformer and Jane a pious conservative.
Anne was quick-tempered and witty. Jane was often very demure and submissive.
Anne could be mistaken for a French lady, Jane was the very traditional English beauty.
Anne was bold and daring, a stark contrast to the expectations of women in Tudor England. Jane was submissive and hardly ever spoke out against her ‘male peers’, much fitting the Tudor idealism of women.
Even in appearance, Anne was very boldly dark with the famous inviting charcoal eyes. Jane was the mousey ideal of Tudor virtue.
I think the factor that Jane was more traditional and fitted neatly into her time compared to Anne’s boldness and the sense that she was far ahead of her time stand out most to me.
But how much of the differences between them were intended by Jane? I think that fact that she was a physical opposite to Anne was probably the first reason that the Seymours and their allies paraded her around the King’s nose… And yes, I do think that some of her submissiveness was put on. No lady of Anne’s could have really been that much of a doormat. But then again, Anne did try to throw Jane out of Court and I’m probably rather biased as I’ve never been a fan of Jane. She had vigorous coaching as it became apparent that Henry was tiring of Anne, mainly from Nicolas Carew. Incidentally, a Catholic. Hmm…
Then, there are the similarities in catching Henry.
Both women refused to sleep with Henry until marriage. This was a highly effective tactic that hadn’t really been seen other than when Elizabeth Woodville held a dagger to herself and said that she’d kill herself if Edward IV touched her… Which worked quite well… Considering how perfectly it had worked with Anne I certainly think that Jane stole the idea, which Anne probably stole from Elizabeth Woodville (although Anne’s original intentions are very debatable) and she probably stole it from someone else who was the first woman who made a real effort to defend her honour.
Next, neither of them particularly cared about what happened to their predecessors. I know it sounds harsh but I don’t think either of them really did. But then again, I’m not sure if they really had the option when faced with Henry. Anne fought for her throne and Jane and Henry were betrothed a day after Anne lost her head.
Also, both tried to push their faith into Henry’s head and kingdom. Anne had triggered the Reformation after all. Without Anne, we may still be a Catholic country today. Jane had tried to reverse what Anne did. Anne had succeeded. Jane did not. But why?
Personally, I do not think that Jane was as strong a woman. Although I do not think she was such a doormat as one might first think. And in truth, I do not believe that Henry did love Jane anywhere near as much as Anne. In fact, Jane had also ended up in quite a self-destructive position when she tried to interfere in politics which the restoration of the Lady Mary.
We still can’t be sure of people’s motives at the time. Which I think is what makes history so fascinating to me. But think, did Anne influence Jane despite their complete contrasts? Why did Anne succeed where Jane did not? It certainly makes one think… I find it strange how both women’s plans eventually backfired after some time. And yet Jane was better in Henry’s eyes because of one thing. She gave him a son and Anne had given him a daughter. That simple. Okay, so this is not intended to be a feminist blog, but if you read about my book, you can see that I am a complete feminist and am rather passionate about this.
What’s your opinion about these two women?
And I would greatly reccomend the Starkey docomentary.