Windsor Castle. An Historical Romance for the eleventh instalment in Ainsworth's Magazine. "Book the Sixth: Jane Seymour," Chapter II, "How Anne Boleyn received proof of Henry's passion for Jane Seymour," facing p. 290 — 9.8 cm high by 14 cm wide, framed, originally published in the final (June 1843) number. Cruikshank incorporates two scenes in one: to the left, Herne the Hunter (again disguised as "the tall monk") conducts Sir Henry Norris and Queen Anne Boleyn down the corridor from the masked ball (rear); to the right, Henry has doffed his mask to woo Jane Seymour. The masks may be off, but disguise and deception are still flourishing at the court of Windsor. [Click on the image to enlarge it.], George Cruikshank's twelfth steel-engraving for
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Passage Illustrated: Henry discovered wooing Jane Seymour in April 1836
"Have you discovered anything?" she cried.
"Come with me, madam," said Norris, bowing and taking her hand.
Proceeding thus they glided through the throng of dancers, who respectfully cleared a passage for them as they walked along until they approached the spot where the tall monk was standing. As they drew near him he moved on, and Norris and the queen followed in silence. Passing from the great hall in which the crowd of dancers were assembled, they descended a short flight of steps, at the foot of which the monk paused, and pointed with his right hand to a chamber, partly screened by the folds of a curtain.
At this intimation the queen and her companion stepped quickly on, andas she advanced, Anne Boleyn perceived Jane Seymour and the king seated on a couch within the apartment. Henry was habited like a pilgrim,but he had thrown down his hat, ornamented with the scallop-shell, hisvizard, and his staff, and had just forced his fair companion to unmask.
At the sight, Anne was transfixed with jealous rage, and was for the moment almost unconscious of the presence of Norris, or of the monk, who remained behind the curtain, pointing to what was taking place.
Your majesty is determined to expose my blushes," said Jane Seymour, slightly struggling with her royal lover.
"Nay, I only want to be satisfied that it is really yourself,sweetheart," cried Henry passionately. "It was in mercy to me, Isuppose, that you insisted upon shrouding those beauteous features frommy view.
"Hear you that, madam?" whispered Norris to Anne.The queen answered by a convulsive clasp of the hand.[Book the Sixth, "Jane Seymour," Chapter II, "How Anne Boleyn received proof of Henry's passion for Jane Seymour," pp. 289-290]
The wooing scene of middle-aged Henry VIII and adolescent Jane Seymour connects the historical background of Windsor Castle and that of The Tower of London, which Ainsworth wrote two years earlier. The 1842-43 novel begins with the arrival of Anne Boleyn at Windsor Castle and ends with her execution at Tower Green as Henry finalizes his plans for marrying Jane Seymour. The second novel continues the story of the Tudor dynasty as the death of Edward VI, Jane and Henry's fragile son, occasions the brief ascension to the throne of Lady Jane Grey and the coup by which Mary supplants her. The appearance of Jane Seymour in the sixth and final book of Windsor Castle constitutes a sort of post-script, but continues the thread of Henry's erratic pursuit of younger women. Cruikshank has chosen the moment to illustrate well since it includes the dashing Sir Henry Norris and Anne Boleyn arriving to find Henry and Jane in a compromising position— and Herne disguised as the tall monk acting as the presenter of the adulterous scene.
At the close of Book the Fifth, Herne has once again vanished, leaving behind the corpse of Mabel Lyndwood in the lake near the forester's hut. Her grandfather, overcome with grief, drowns himself, leaving Sir Thomas Wyat to arrange her burial. However, as events in the final book suggest, Herne the Hunter is still interfering in the affairs of mortals. In Chapter 2, "How Anne Boleyn Received Proof of Henry's Passion for Jane Seymour," on St. George's Day Henry once again celebrates the Grand Feast of the Order of the Garter on 23 April 1536, exactly seven years after the opening of the story, and some six years after the close of Book the Fifth.
Jane Seymour became Queen of England when she married Henry the Eighth. Born in 1508, she was twenty-eight on on 20 May 1536 when she was betrothed to Henry VIII — just the day after Anne Boleyn's execution (19 May), the day on which the novel ends. Eleven days later, quiet, gentle, submissive, blonde Jane replaced olive-skinned, dark-haired, self-assertive Anne Boleyn, becoming Henry’s third wife. Cruikshank draws a parallel between this scene and the earlier one in which Wolsey overheard Henry and Anne, Henry's Reconciliation with Anne Boleyn. In the corridor, Anne looks angrily at the scene to which the monk points. Jane looks coyly at the ardent Henry as he professes his love for her. The stained-glass windows in the background suggest that the masked ball is in progress in the very room in which Henry six years earlier discharged Thomas Wolsey as Lord Chancellor, The Dismissal of Cardinal Wolsey. Despite Anne's regal clothing (the ermine-lined robe and headgear), she is now a "lame-duck" queen as Henry is already interviewing her replacement, who lasted just two years.
The three inset family portraits above the couch suggest Henry's forebears. The central, larger portrait of a young prince may be of either Henry or Arthur, but its presence above the lovers suggests Henry's chief motivation in replacing Catherine of Arragon in the first place: siring a male heir. The first wife and second wife produced only daughters (Mary and Elizabeth), but the third union will result in the desired offspring, so that the portrait may also imply fortune's favouring Henry with a son, his immediate successor, Edward VI (born in October 1537). Edward, who was the first English monarch raised a Protestant, assumed the throne at the age of nine upon the death of Henry VIII, and ruled from January 1547 until his death, on 6 July 1553.
Ainsworth, William Harrison. "Preface" to Rookwood. A Romance. With 12 illustrations by George Cruikshank. London: George Routledge, 1882. Pp. xxxiii-xxxviii.
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Last modified 25 December 2017