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Archive for Jane Seymour

A Pasty for the Wife?

A Cornish Pasty made by Warrens

Image via Wikipedia

I was feeling peckish in the worst way this morning and decided only a pasty would do. I headed to the pasty shop I’d just heard about over the weekend, The Pure Pasty, only to see that dreaded “Closed Mondays” sign on the door. Craving thwarted! Ah well, shall try again later in the week. (Should you need an English-food-item fix, gaze upon the lovely Pure Pasty pics on this blog.)

But as I poked around on their Web site and read some of their reviews, I noticed that Vienna Connection did a bit of Tudor name-dropping in their pasty background: “The earliest historical reference to pasties was in the time of King Henry VIII, when Anne Seymour asked they be made for her husband, the king.” 

Which wife was that? Anyway, I did a Google search and found this boast on pasty Web site after pasty Web site: “There’s a letter in existence from a baker to Henry VIII’s Jane Seymour, saying ‘Hope this pasty reaches you in better condition than the last one.’ ” 

Than the last pasty did? Than the last wife? Ah, the trouble with dangling modifiers! But I can’t find a reputable source that connects this tasty treat (which, for my fellow Americans, is pronounced PASS-tee) to any of Henry VIII’s wives, let alone Jane Seymour (nor Anne Seymour?).

What say you, Tudor fans and/or tasty treat fans? Rumor or the real thing?


Be My Guest, Claire Ridgway! Part 2

I hope you all enjoyed Part 1 of Claire Ridgway’s guest post on Alison Weir’s “Tudor women” talk (click here if you missed it). Let’s go to Part 2!


Henry’s Queens:

Obviously King’s wives were not like the average Tudor woman, but even though they were in charge of large households and budgets, Alison pointed out that the decisions were still made by the King. The queen’s role was to produce heirs and be the perfect model wife for the court.

But, what was the model wife? Here, Alison used Catherine of Aragon’s words when she pleaded with Henry VIII at the divorce hearing, saying that she was his “true, humble, obedient wife.” This summed up what a wife should be and her accepted role in the divine order. Even Catherine Parr applauded this ideal in her book Lamentations of a Sinner, writing that young women should be “sober-minded.” Alison pointed out the mottoes of Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard – “Bound to Obey and Serve” and “No Other Will but His” – these women accepted their role!

Alison emphasised that on marriage a woman became a man’s property and that it was even a man’s legal right to kill his wife on the spot if he caught her in the act of adultery. An adulterous woman brought shame on her family. Here, Alison mentioned Catherine Parr’s brother, William Parr, and his call for his unfaithful wife to be put to death. Fortunately, a divorce was granted instead! But look at Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, both accused of adultery and both executed. The man’s word was law and although Weir stated that Anne was the “victim of a bitter court struggle” and was “framed by her enemies,” the adultery charge stood and Anne lost her life. After Catherine Howard was executed, a law was passed that it was high treason for a woman of dubious past to marry the king.


In Medieval times, people believed that women should not be taught to write unless they were nuns and that the only education they needed was in home-making, to make them fit to be a good wife. However, the Renaissance made education for women more acceptable and Alison gave the examples of Margaret Roper (Sir Thomas More’s daughter), Catherine of Aragon, and Catherine Parr as models of educated and virtuous women. Too much learning could get a woman into trouble though–take the example of Catherine Parr, who was plotted against.

Mary and Elizabeth:

Alison pointed out that the only experience England had had of a female ruler was Empress Matilda in the 12th century and she didn’t last long. Mary I was England’s first real female monarch and she had many difficulties to contend with. For example, she couldn’t even do the ceremony of the Knights of the Bath because she couldn’t get into a bath with a bunch of men! Then, there was the question of marriage because of the traditional roles of husband and wife, with the woman being submissive to the man, yet she was Queen of England!

Alison spoke of how it was Elizabeth I who proved that a woman could rule successfully, but she wasn’t afraid of using her femininity to her advantage and using her feminine wiles to get her own way. The marriage issue was still a problem for Elizabeth though, but she solved it by remaining single while encouraging suitors to gain political advantage. Alison quite rightly noted that Elizabeth paved the way for future queens and that she was “one of the most important women to wield power.”

Final Words:

Alison Weir concluded her talk by stating that although 16th century women were seen as second to men, they still managed to rule countries and run businesses and estates. Life certainly was not easy for Tudor women, but, according to Alison, it did have its compensations and many marriages were loving relationships.

It really was a joy to hear Alison speak and to talk to her afterwards. She has so much knowledge and is happy to share this and answer questions. It was a great night and it raised £600 for the Mary Rose Appeal too.


Claire Ridgway writes The Anne Boleyn Files (blog here, Facebook page here) and the Elizabeth Files  (blog here, Facebook page here).  Thanks again, Claire, for your fantastic article!

Be My Guest, Claire Ridgway! Part 1

My friend Claire Ridgway, of The Anne Boleyn Files, recently had the opportunity to listen in on a talk by Tudor author extraordinaire, Alison Weir on 1 July at the Mary Rose Museum at the historic dockyard at Portsmouth (and lunch with her afterward!). Claire was kind enough to share the experience with me so I may share it with you. Today, in part 1, we have Weir’s take on women in Tudor England in general, and on marriage. Take it away, Claire…


 I’ve been wanting to catch one of Alison Weir’s talks for a long time so I was really excited when I managed to get a ticket for this talk to aid the Mary Rose Appeal. Alison explained that this talk was not based on any particular book, but on research she has done dating back to the 1970s, and it was a truly enlightening talk, educating the listeners about what it was really like to be a Tudor woman.

Alison started with a quotation from John Knox’s “The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment  of Women”, a treatise directed at Mary of Guise but which also could be applied to Mary I and her successor, Elizabeth I, a diatribe against the “monstrous regiment” of female rulers. This quotation set the scene for the talk, a talk about the roles that Tudor society expected women to play versus the roles that they actually did play.

Alison explained how men were traditionally seen as the hunters, gatherers and protectors, whereas women were descended from Eve and were the cause of Adam leaving Paradise. Women were viewed as instruments of the Devil, temptresses and “the only imperfection in God’s creation”. Alison quoted Vincent de Beauvais from the 13th century:-

“Woman is the confusion of man, an insatiable beast, a continuous anxiety, an incessant warfare, a daily ruin, a house of tempest and a hindrance to devotion”

and this belief, that women were more prone to sin and could lead men astray, was still prevalent in Tudor England. Tudor women were given little freedom and Chaucer’s character, Patient Griselda, was held as the ideal that girls should aspire to.                  


Alison went on to discuss betrothals, pre-contracts, dowries and marriage, explaining that a marriage ceremony was not needed to legalise a marriage, even a verbal contract witnessed by two people and then consummated was enough. This helps us to understand the concerns over Anne Boleyn’s alleged pre-contract to Henry Percy and Catherine Howard’s to Francis Dereham.

Alison pointed out that sex before marriage was forbidden but that it was seen as acceptable for a man to sow his wild oats before settling down; however, a woman was expected to be virtuous and guard her reputation with her life, and this is why Henry VIII courted Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard in front of chaperones, to guard their reputations. Talk about double standards!

For the woman, sex was seen as simply necessary for procreation and it was believed that women were not meant to experience sexual pleasure. Alison stated that when someone in the 16th century questioned this belief and said that women were made to experience pleasure, he was accused of heresy. Also, a shocking fact – women with sexual experience could not accuse a man of rape!

Marriage for love was seen as pure insanity and arranged marriages were the norm. Henry VIII bucked tradition by following Edward IV’s example and marrying for love, but this certainly was not normal. Boys could cohabit from 14 and girls were deemed ready for a sexual relationship from 12, and Alison noted that there was a very practical reason for this: life expectancy. In Tudor times, women had a life expectancy of around 30 so it was sensible to marry young.


Part 2: Henry’s queens and adultery, stay tuned!

“You Just Wait Until Your Father Gets Home [from Sacking the Monasteries]!”

“Our first-born is the greatest ass, the greatest liar, the greatest canaille, and the greatest beast in the whole world and we heartily wish he was out of it.”

Whew, tell us how you really feel about your son, George II! Two hundred years post-Tudor, the Hanoverians were famous for poor father-son relations, but George II’s feelings toward his son (who died before he could become George III, so it went to his own boy) were probably the most extreme. Victoria’s male successors weren’t about to win any father-son awards, either.  And although Henry VIII was very proud of his intelligent and talented children, we see how he used the girls in a genetic shuffleboard when it came to the succession, and famously obsessed over the XY chromosome.

Under the crown, children were primarily potential heirs and/or devices to marry into other royal families.  Most royals did not have hands-on parenting experience either, as their kids were raised by nannies, and even breastfed via a wet-nurse. No attachment parenting for them! (And I suspect no “mommy wars,” either.)

Regardless of  norms in royal parenting, it’s a good weekend* to hail those women who carried and gave birth to some of the biggest names in history. Let’s have a roll call of prominent Tudor moms…

These moms may not have received macaroni necklaces made with sticky fingers, but I suppose “look at me, Mom, I’m the ruler of the whole country” had a certain caché.

(* Mother’s Day is this Sunday, 9 May, in the U.S. Mothering Sunday in the U.K. is celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Lent; this year that date was 14 March.)

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Wedding Band

Six wives (queens consort) of King Henry VIII

Image by cliff1066™ via Flickr

The Six Ladies of Henry VIII were part of a fraternity that fascinates history buffs as well as those who just plain love a good, juicy soap opera. While it may have seemed the Massive Monarch blew through the line quickly, the amount of time he was married to each may surprise you. Here’s how long each gal wore that traveling wedding band:

1. Catherine of Aragon  About 24 years, not together for the last few (June 1509 – May 1533)

2. Anne Boleyn   3 1/2 years(January 1533 – May 1536)

3. Jane Seymour   1 1/2 years (May 1536 – October 1537)

4. Anne of Cleves   A measley six months (January 1540 – June 1540)

5. Katherine Howard  1 1/2 years (July 1540 – February 1542)

6. Catherine Parr 3 1/2 years (July 1543 – January 1547)

♥ A Very Tudor Valentine’s Day ♥

Out of Henry VIII’s six wives, who do you think was his true love? Get a quick rundown of all the Real Housewives of Tudor Court here, and cast your vote below!