Friday, May 29, 2015

Why 30 May? #HenryVIII #JaneSeymour

by Hunter Jones

Courtesy of Sheingold Sage
Tudor Costumes
sold on Ebay.
When I started this blog, it was to research the symbols and motifs that surrounded Henry VIII and Jane Seymour on her presentation at his court as Queen on 4 June, the Whitsunday which followed their official marriage on 30 May 1536. I was going to begin at 29 May and build the story from there. Instead, it evolved into today’s story.

Any Tudorphile can and will let you know their feelings on the wedding between King Henry VIII and Lady Jane Seymour, which followed the execution of Anne Boleyn. Henry and Jane married on 30 May, only 11 days following Anne’s execution. The fact that Henry VIII presented Anne Boleyn as his Queen at the Whitsunday festivities a mere three years earlier makes for a surreal comparison. For 479 years historians and readers have asked…why? What was Jane Seymour thinking? Was Henry a monster by this point?

I do not have the answers. But, I have found a three items of interest regarding Whitsunday and why Henry might have chosen this day for the presentation of Queen Jane Seymour and possibly why he married her on 30 May. I would like to share these with you today. First a short introduction into the English tradition of Whitsun.

Whitsun (Whitsunday, Whit Sunday or Whit) is the name used in the United Kingdom and Ireland for the Christian festival of Pentecost. It is the seventh Sunday after Easter, and commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ's disciples. In England it took on characteristics of Beltane, the pagan celebration of Summer's Day.

Whitsun is a contraction of "White Sunday", as attested in "The Holy-Ghost, which thou did send on Whit-Sunday" in the Old English homilies. It paralleled the mention of hwitmonedei in the early 13th-century. Walter William Skeat noted that the Anglo-Saxon word also appears in Icelandic hvitasunnu-dagr, but that in English the feast was always called Pentecoste until after the Norman Conquest, when white (hwitte) began to be confused with wit or understanding. According to one interpretation, the name derives from the white garments worn by catechumens, those expecting to be baptized on that Sunday. In England white vestments, instead of the usual red, were traditional for the day. Another tradition is that of the young women of the parish all coming to church in new white dresses on that day. Augustinian canon John Mirk, of Lilleshall Abbey, Shropshire, had another interpretation of Whitsunday:9
Goode men and woymen, as ʒe knowen wele all, þys day ys called Whitsonday, for bycause þat þe Holy Gost as þys day broʒt wyt and wysdome ynto all Cristes dyscyples.

Thus, he thought the root of the word was "wit" (formerly spelt "wyt" or "wytte") and Pentecost was so-called to signify the outpouring of wit and wisdom of the Holy Ghost on Christ's disciples.

Whitsuntide, the week following Whitsunday, was one of three vacation weeks for medieval workers. On most manors they were free from service on the lord’s fields the entire week, because it marked a pause in the agricultural year. Whit Monday, the day after Whitsun, is a name coined to supersede the form Monday in Whitsun-week used by John Wycliffe and others.

The week following Whit Sunday is known as "Whitsuntide" or "Whit week." In the North West of England, church and chapel parades called Whit Walks still take place. Traditionally, Whit fairs took place during the week. Other customs were associated with Whitsuntide, like Morris dancing. Can you see how Whitsun was the occasion for all England to celebrate? Doesn’t that sound like the perfect time for a King to present his new queen to his realm? A time of celebration and bounty throughout his realm?

Secondly, Le Morte D'Arthur by Thomas Malory has the Knights of the Round Table witness a divine vision of the Holy Grail on a Whitsunday, prompting their quest to find its true location.

No one loved comparing the parallels and symbols of his court to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table more than Henry VIII.

Looking into the symbols and motifs which surrounded Jane on 4 June, it gives us insight as to what message the King wished to convey regarding his new wife. Here are a few descriptions of the designs.

A figure (drawing?) of the holy city showed by the angel to St. John.

Surrounding Jane Seymour’s chair, the one Anne Boleyn sat in only three years earlier, were some impressive works. “Eternity gorgeously garnished with juniper of like height, knit with a truelove knot, and over this the King's and Queen's arms in one scutcheon. Fugured with the Father of Heven” with these words,: Tota pulcra est amica me (I love all the beauty); and “..the Conception of Our Ladie, Electa ut sol pulcra ut luna; stella matutina: (The Lady We chose: Beautiful as the moon, clear as the sun; Morning Star) with the sonne, the mone, the day ster; the gates of Heven, portæ cæli; the plantes of roses, planta rosarum; the sider tree, caerus exalt'; the well of Life, puteus aquarum; the rode of Jesse, Virga Jesse, or conclusede, the closed garden; the lilie amongest thornes, sicut lilia inter spinas; the tower of Davet, torrus Davet; the onspotted glasse, specula sine macula; the olyf tree, oliva speciosa; the city of God, civitas Dei."

The Queen's badge garnished with the Scripture, "bound to obey and serve." The Coronation of Our Lady solemnly garnished, and to be crowned with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

The descent of the Holy Ghost on Whitsunday, with these Scriptures: "Et cum complerentur dies Pentecostes erant omnes unanimiter in eodem loco."

And when the day of Pentecost came, they were all with one accord in the same place.

A maiden with an "inycore" sitting in an arbour by a fountain's side. The transfiguration of Jesus, with this Scripture, "Faciamus hic tria tabernacula." Let us make three tents here.

The story of Martha and Mary Maidelayne, with this Scripture, "Domine, non est tibi curæ." O Lord, dost thou not care”. The story of Adam and Eve, with the serpent under the apple tree. Cages with quick birds, to be set in a meadow.

You get the idea. Jane was the ‘lilie amongest thornes, the onspotted glass. She was the rare unicorn brought before the court when they (The court) were all with one accord in the same place. Jesus himself imploring them to ‘make three tents.’ Henry had been tempted in the garden, put the birds freedom symbolized his freedom.

These symbols and dates meant more. I looked for a key, a common thread, which would ensure Henry that this marriage was the one for which he had waited. The theatrics and symbols were for a reason, but what was that reason?

Much like my Tudor story, Phoenix Rising, I looked to the stars for answers. What did Henry’s advisors see for the King and Jane Seymour? The first two dates I saw in May/June 1536 which caught my eye were these:

19 May 1536 – new moon; Anne Boleyn’s execution. Some say Henry pledged his troth to Jane on May 19 or 20. A new moon symbolizes a new beginning.

The next date was 4 June---Whitsun---full moon, making May 30 the official date of marriage of Henry and Jane on the date of the beginning--the waxing--of the full moon, thus making their union more powerful. The full moon is a completion of a goal.

What convinced me that Henry quite possibly believed his choice of Jane was the best choice was Leo on the chart’s ascendant. What better for a ruler than to have the king of beasts ‘protect’ his choice? The next placement was the Part of Fortune, on the ascendant. Yes, this is the one spot in a chart which shows how you will achieve your desires. Cancer and Aries are strong in the 30 May chart, as they were in Henry VIII’s chart. The many Gemini placements possibly symbolized to the King and his advisors that this was the King’s second chance. It is well documented that Henry believed Jane Seymour to be his “true wife.’ Is it possible the stars guided him toward pursuing that path?

We all know that Jane Seymour gave Henry VIII the one thing he wanted most, a male heir. As with the majority of Henry’s wives, she paid for it with her life.


Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2.

Claire Ridgway, The Anne Boleyn Files.

Edward Boucher James. Letters, Archaeological and Historical Relating to the Isle of Wight. Vol. 1. 1896. Reprint. London: Forgotten Books, 2013.

Elizabeth Norton, Jane Seymour: Henry VIII's True Love

(This article is for entertainment purposes only and to encourage readers to study the cultural and societal mores of specific eras throughout history.)


Deb Hunter writes fiction as Hunter S. Jones. Her best-selling poetic romance novel September Ends won awards for Best Independently Published Novel and Best Romance, based on its unique blending of poetry and prose. The Fortune Series received best-selling status on Amazon in the Cultural Heritage and Historical Fiction categories. She has been published by H3O Eco mag, LuxeCrush, Chattanooga Times-Free Press, and is now a freelance contributor for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. She is a member of the Historical Writers’ Association and has recently been accepted into the prestigious Rivendell Writers Colony. Her arts, music and culture blogs on are filled with eclectic stories regarding music, writing, the arts and climate awareness. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her Scottish born husband. Her undergrad degree is in History with an emphasis on the English Renaissance and Reformation.

PHOENIX RISING is the last hour of Anne Boleyn as told from the descendant of the astrologer/physician of King Henry VIII. She uses the 'star map' – astrology chart - used by her ancestress to reveal the stories hidden in that hour. Characters include King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Sir Francis Bryan, Thomas Cromwell, Ralph Sadler, Mary Tudor, Eustace Chapyus, Elizabeth Howard Boleyn, Elizabeth I and the Swordsman of Calais.



  1. Thank you very much for hosting me today. Cheers!

  2. This is fascinating! And given that it was a capital crime to cast the king's horoscope it seems ironic that he asked for it to be done. If those astrologers had really believed what they were doing and found something they were worried about, they would have had to lie to Henry anyway, tell him what he wanted to hear...and then leave England for good!


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