“The Death of Queen Jane” is an English ballad that describes the events surrounding the death of a Queen Jane. Due to the close correspondence of names and events, it is often thought that the queen in question is Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII of England, but this cannot be confirmed. There are 20 versions of the song, but they are consistent in the basic tale. Queen Jane is in difficult labour and asks a succession of people to cut open her sides and save her baby. Each refuses her in turn, understanding that this would cause her death. Finally someone – King Henry in most versions – succumbs to her pleas and the surgery is done, whereupon she dies. The song ends with descriptions of the mourning, and most versions contrast the joy at the birth of a male heir with the grief over the death of the queen. —Based on the entry “The Death of Queen Jane” from Wikipedia.

This version of the ballad by Custer LaRue and the Baltimore Consort cannot fail to pierce the listener’s soul. —The Editors


Queen Jane was in labor full six days and some more
The women grew weary, and the midwife gave o’er.

“Oh women, kind women, I take you to be
Pierce my right side open and save my baby”

“Oh no,” said the women, “That never could be
We will send for King Henry in the time of your need”

King Henry was sent for, on horseback and stead
King Henry, he reached her in the hour of her need

King Henry stooped over and bent o’er the bed
“What’s the matter with my flower, makes her eyes look so red?”

“O Henry, kind Henry, pray listen to me
Pierce my right side open and save my baby”

“Oh no,” said King Henry, “That never could be
I would lose my fair flower to save my baby”

Queen Jane she turned over and fell in a swoon
Her right side was pierced open, and her baby was born

The baby was christened, on the next day
But its mother’s poor body lay as cold as the clay

So black was the morning, so yellow was the bed
So costly were the white robes Queen Jane was wrapped in

Six men went before her, six men carried her along
King Henry followed after with his black mourning on

King Henry he wept till his hands were wrung sore
The flower of England shall flourish no more

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The featured image is “The Death of Jane Seymour, Queen of England” (1849) by Eugène Devéria.

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