“The Death of Queen Jane”


Queen Jane has hard labor. She begs her attendants to remove her baby surgically. They call King Henry; he will not permit the operation. Queen Jane falls unconscious; the baby is delivered but she dies. King, baby, and court mourn


[A. L. Lloyd reports,] "We do not know how old this ballad is, nor if it derives from a piece called "The Lamentation of Queen Jane", licensed for publication in 1560."

This ballad is also, as "Dronning Dagmar (Queen Dagmar)," found in Danish tradition. - PJS

If actually the same song, the Danish version would appear to be much older; the most famous Dagmar in Danish history was the daughter of Ottocar I of Bohemia and the wife of Valdemar II (c. 1170-1241; reigned 1202-1241; the name of the Danish king on "Dronning Dagmar" is in fact Valdemar). They were married in 1215; she died in 1222, leaving a son who, in an interesting coincidence, predeceased his father, meaning that the Danish throne went to younger half-brothers. - RBW

Re "Queen Dagmar's Death" translated in R.C. Alexander Prior _Ancient Danish Ballads_ (1860), Vol. II, No. LXII, pp. 136-140: "Dagmar, the first wife of King Waldmar the second, died at Ribe in the year 1212, and is buried at Ringsted by the side of her husband." The plot is very close to "The Death of Queen Jane." However, the king reaches her side after she has died. The king asks that everyone pray that he be allowed to hear her wishes. The Queen wakes, asks that all prisoners be released, that Berngerd [Berengaria] not be taken as a wife, and that her youngest son Knud be heir to the crown. Finally, she explains the reason for her death and damnation: "Had I on a Sunday not laced my sleeves, Or border upon them sewn, No pangs had I felt by day or night, Or torture of hell-fire known." She returns to death. - BS

Note therefore the (minor) differences between the songs: Valdemar arrives at his wife's bedside only after she dies, and she attributes her death to dressing too gaily on a Sunday. She also speaks after death; I know of no supernatural versions of "Queen Jane." Still, it's noteworthy that "Queen Jane's" plot, where it differs from the facts, always differs in a way that brings it closer to "Dronning Dagmar." - (RBW, PJS, BS)

Incidentally, Jane Seymour's ghost is alleged to still appear at Hampton Castle, one of Henry VIII's primary residences and the place where Jane died. The other side of the coin is, the place is alleged to have quite a few ghosts, very many of whom have been explicitly identified with one or another historical person. One can't help but wonder if the real explanation isn't someone (perhaps in a tourism office) with an overactive imagination.... - RBW

Historical references

  • 1536 - Execution of Henry VIII's second wife Anne Boleyn. His marriage to Jane Seymour (one of Anne's women in waiting) follows swiftly
  • Oct 12, 1537 - Birth of the future Edward VI
  • Oct 24, 1537 - Death of Jane Seymour

Cross references

  • cf. "Six Dukes Went A-Fishing" (lyrics)


  • Douglas Kennedy, "The Death of Queen Jane" (on FieldTrip1)
  • Bascom Lamar Lunsford, "Death of Queen Jane" (on BLLunsford01; a lyric fragment in which everyone comes to Jane and says simply, "The red rose of England shall flourish no more.") (on BLLunsford02) {Bronson's #7}


  1. Child 170, "The Death of Queen Jane" (9 texts)
  2. Bronson 170, "The Death of Queen Jane" (10 versions)
  3. BarryEckstormSmyth p. 466, "The Death of Queen Jane" (brief notes only)
  4. Davis-Ballads 35, "The Death of Queen Jane" (1 text)
  5. Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 254-255, "Queen Jane" (1 text, the Lunsford version which has no true plot; tune on pp. 422-423) {Bronson's #7}
  6. Leach, pp. 478-480, "The Death of Queen Jane" (4 texts)
  7. Friedman, p. 285, "The Death of Queen Jane" (1 text)
  8. SharpAp 32, "The Death of Queen Jane" (2 texts, 2 tunes){Bronson's #4, #5}
  9. Sharp-100E 29, "The Death of Queen Jane" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #3}
  10. Niles 50, "The Death of Queen Jane" (1 text, 1 tune)
  11. Sharp/Karpeles-80E 21, "The Death of Queen Jane" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #4}
  12. Vaughan Williams/Lloyd, p. 31, "The Death of Queen Jane" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #2}
  13. DBuchan 52, "The Death of Queen Jane" (1 text)
  14. Abrahams/Foss, pp. 56-57, "Queen Jane" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #7}
  15. Silber-FSWB, p. 212, "Queen Jane" (1 text)
  17. Roud #77
  18. BI, C170


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1776 (Percy)
Keywords: royalty pregnancy death
Found in: Britain(England(South,West),Scotland(Bord)) US(Ap,SE)