THE STORY OF JANE SEYMOUR.
Mrs. Russell Davies received the story of Jane Seymour in the same way from the ghost’s own lips, but there is a difference. In both cases the ghosts were invoked by Mrs. Davies, but, in the case of Jane Seymour, the apparition came unwillingly, of compulsion. Mrs. Davies had previously seen her on the evening in which I accompanied her to the palace. She saw the apparition seated before a fire in the fireplace in a large bare room, having a heavy tapestry. She heard in the distance the sound of many feet, and above all the loud, coarse laugh of a man. Then everything faded, but Mrs. Davis knew that she had seen the ghost of Jane Seymour, and was naturaliy much interested. The sequel is told in the following story :—
In spite of the feeling of repugnance which Jane Seymour inspired in me, I determined to follow up the experience as far as I could. On my return home I was excited, and could not sleep. The recollection of what I had witnessed tilled my mind, and the question how I could communicate with these spirits engrossed me. At last the idea of invoking the spirit of Jane Seymour occurred to me. Such things had been done, and were constantly being done in the present day.
In the stillness of the night I called her name through the silence. I waited and listened, but no sound broke the stillness. I exerted all the will-force at my command, but no sign or sound was given. It was now nearly 3 A.M. No sleep came to me. I was hopelessly wide awake. All at once my hea t began to beat heavily, a sure sign, known to me by long experience as indicating that my spiritual powers were being used. There was a rush of icy cold air through the room, and then, close to my side, I saw again the form of the woman I had so lately beheld at Hampton Court Palace.
“Who are you? Why do you call me? Wh:it have you to do with me?”
These words seemed to be breathed, not spoken. That is the only way in which I can describe the manner of communication. A voice disturbs the atmosphere by its vibrations. But no sounds could be detected in any way, and yet I heard distinctly every word that was said. This puts me in mind of the voices which Samuel heard calling him aloud, but which were unheard by others near him.
I replied aloud, “I have nothing to do with you, but I wish most earnestly to hold communication with yourself and others. Others besides myself wish to know the meaning of the strange sounds which have been heard at Hampton Court, and whether so-called ghosts have been seen there. Will you answer my questions? I called you because I wished to leam and to know.”
“I am here,” she replied, “because you called me, not of my own will, but against it. The spirits who brought me here are those in whose power I am, and must continue to be, until such time as by my own efforts I shall have repaired the wrongs I did to them when on earth. Oh, how long will this be? When will it end?”
“Are you the Queen, Jane Seymour?”
“I am Jane Seymour, but no Queen. I was the wife of Henry, King of England, but Queen in name only. He had only one, and she was Queen Catherine. Anne was no more queen than I was, and none knew this better than herself. It was this fact which influenced me so far, that when Henry turned his attention to me I saw no reason to reject his advances. That he was unprincipled, licentious, and cruel was well known to me and to all who ever came in contact with him, but I never dreamed that he would execute Anne in order to make me his wife; at least, not until it was too late, and I was committed to him.”
“Yes, but there was no compulsion used. You need not have gone so far as you did.”
“You do not understand. You must have lived in those times and in my surroundings to comprehend fully the position of things. Have you never realised that the unhappy women of history have all been more or less the unwilling victims to the ambitions of others? I am here to confess my sins. I was ambitious. My kith and kin were also ambitious. I had seen what Henry had done for the Boleyns. Why should he not do the same by me and mine? Anne and I had been educated under almost the same conditions. Both went early to France. Both very early in life were thrown into surroundings such as you in your conditions cannot even imagine. Debauchery of every kind was openly carried on around us. Religion was a greater farce in those days than now. Neither Anne nor I had any real religion in us, no matter what cither of us may have professed. Who was there to care for our morals, our health, or anything else which is or should be sacred to youth? Our parents had done all they considered could be required of them. We were at the court of a great Queen, and we were being educated for court life. We found all we were sent there to find. I had no compunction then about Anne’s happiness. I hated her and her family. Her father, a treacherous and scheming old man, was the first to find out Henry’s attentions to me. He it was who prompted Anne to spy upon us.”
Here I interrupted. “I have read that Anne found the thing out through a jewel you were wearing.”
“No, the jewel only confirmed her suspicions. Her father had bribed my attendant to tell him whence came the new and valuable ornaments I wore. The wench took his bribe and satisfied him that they came from his royal son-in-law. Anne snatched at my neck without asking me one word about my brooch, and as she broke it off she tore her fingers with the pin. From that day we were open enemies, and I did not trouble to conceal my malice any more. I cared not what became of her. Day after day I repeated to Henry gossip which I knew to be untrue, and now I know that he knew as well as I that these tales of mine were hideous lies. Anne was as faithful a wife to Henry as the purest wife in the world could be. I saw her day by day worn with grief, anxiety, and illness, and if I ever prayed at all in those evil days of mine I prayed that both she and her child might die. And at last the day came when a dead son was bom to her. I saw Henry’s fury and disappointment. If Anne had not been well watched and protected by her own people, he would have poisoned her. He was capable of any villainy. She recovered, and I watched the net closing round her, and one day Henry told me she was to die, and that her death would be my triumph. We pretended to cool towards each other. I went frequently from court. But my family was busily preparing for my marriage. At last the fatal day came round. I was at my father’s house, Wolf Hall—a good name, was it not? Even my callous heart was touched, and in imagination I saw the tragedy being enacted.”
At this point of the story I seemed to feel the sickening horror of the whole crime. I can hardly describe my feeling. I felt as though every drop of blood in my body rushed into my head and face, and would burst out at my eyes and ears. Then I broke out into a violent perspiration, grew cold as ice, and sat and shivered.
Jane Seymour sat by my side with her hands held over her face in an attitude of abject fear. I asked myself whether it was wrong to recall this woman to earth. Presently she uncovered her face, and I heard her voice again.
“Were you right in calling me? you ask. How am I to answer? I certainly did not come here of my own will or by my own desire. I do not know you, but I was compelled to come. I heard a voice, loud, distinct, and imperative, and I was forced by an unknown power to obey. You are a woman, and can judge from a woman’s standpoint. Is my punishment what it should be? Is it too heavy or too light? Will Anne Boleyn’s blood-stain ever be washed off my unhappy soul? Not Anne’s blood alone, but that of those martyred gentlemen who shared her cruel fate is there to haunt me. There is a sea of blood through which it is my fate to wade before I can once more clasp to my bosom the child for whose life I gave my own. It is in the undying hope of regaining my son that I wander perpetually through Hampton Court in the spirit. He was born there, and is there still, but between us there rolls a sea of blood. My child, my child, can I never atone?”
The voice here rose in a loud, wailing cry. I threw myself back on my pillow. I could endure it no longer. “Go,” I said, “go, and never return. Surely such suffering as this is punishment enough.”
When I opened my eyes again the dawn had appeared, but the recollection of my ghostly visitant remained vividly in my mind, and will remain there for many a long day. Borderland: A Quarterly Review and Index, Volume 4, edited by William Thomas Stead, 1897
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Last week Mrs Daffodil gave Mrs Russell-Davies’ account of her meeting with the late Catherine Howard. It is interesting that while Catherine is viewed by history as a wanton and Jane Seymour as a meek and modest young woman, the stories elicited (or imagined) by the clairvoyant are quite the reverse. Jane Seymour’s son was, of course, the short-lived King Edward VI. Once again the story is briefly introduced by Mr Stead, the editor of Borderland.