Quiet Power

Quiet Power

by marlies|dekkers

Only 11 days after he beheaded his second wife (the flamboyant Anne Boleyn), King Henry VIII married a pale, fair-haired maiden called Jane Seymour. Who exactly was this girl, and what had made the king so besotted with her? To this day, historians don’t quite know what to make of her.

‘The Enigma’, they call her, but it is exactly within this opaqueness that I see Jane Seymour’s quiet strength. There are a few facts: Jane was born around 1509 in Wiltshire, the daughter of ‘a groom of the bedchamber’. She had been a court lady, serving both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. Of her interests, her passion and talent for needlework jumps out; she even managed to turn King Henry into an enthusiastic embroiderer! When Jane became Queen in 1536, Henry gave her a magnificent gold cup designed by Hans Holbein. Engraved on its surface was her phoenix emblem –mysterious symbol of rebirth and transformation- and her chosen motto: ‘Bound to Obey and Serve’. But was she really as demure as her motto suggested? What exactly had been her role in Anne Boleyn’s downfall? Jane just smiled, and carried on. In 1537, a few days after she gave birth to the king’s long-awaited son, she died from childbed fever. ‘Here lies a Phoenix, by whose death, another Phoenix life gave breath,’ was inscribed on her tombstone. She had taken her secrets with her to the grave.

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