Jane Cheney, Countess of Southampton (d.15 September 1574) was the daughter and heiress of William Cheney of Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire, by Emma Walwyn, daughter of Thomas Walwyn.
There is some obscurity about the identity of Southampton’s wife. He was married before 1533 to Jane, niece of Stephen Gardiner [q. v.], bishop of Winchester, and sister of the unfortunate Germain Gardiner, the bishop’s private secretary, who was executed for denying the royal supremacy in 1543 (Letters and Papers, xii. i. 1209, ii. 47, 546, 634, 825). In all the pedigrees, however, his wife is styled ‘Jane daughter of William Cheney or Cheyne of Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire,’ and there is no trace of his having had two wives. The inference is that the Countess of Southampton’s mother married first a brother of Bishop Gardiner, and secondly William Cheney, being mother of Germain Gardiner by her first husband, and of the Countess of Southampton by her second.[DNB]
Jane married to Thomas Wriothesley (21 December 1505-30 July 1550), the son of York Herald, William Wriothesley and Agnes Drayton, daughter and heiress of James Drayton of London. Thomas Wriothesley was held in high favor with King Henry VIII. However, he would become one of the members of the Catholic faction that tried to arrest Queen Katherine Parr. As Jane was a member of Parr’s household, one wonders what she would have thought when her own husband was reprimanded for trying to serve an arrest warrant to the Queen while she was sitting in the garden enjoying an afternoon with the King. Wriothesley was not met with a warm reception and was yelled at by the King for such behavior after the two had been reconciled on the matter at hand.
The couple had several children; three sons and five daughters. Sadly, the first two sons died and only the third survived; Henry. Henry was christened on 24 April 1545 at St. Andrews in Holborn. One of his godfather’s was the King, who was represented by Sir William Parr, 1st Earl of Essex (brother of the current Queen, Katherine Parr). His other godfather was the Duke of Suffolk and his godmother was the Lady Mary. Jane brought up her children in the Catholic faith and that may have hindered them.
The eight thousand acre, Beaulieu Abbey, was acquired by the Wriothesley family in 1538. Another monastic estate granted to the family was Titchfield in Hampshire where the principal family home was located.
Jane was fashionable and had the luxury of jewels due to her husband’s status. In her will is described a fine jewel, ‘a brooch of gold set with an agate and four little rubies [and] there is a picture of a face upon the agate.’ Cameos were popular, especially for queen’s like Katherine Parr who can be seen wearing a girdle of them in her large portrait in the National Portrait Gallery.
Jane outlived her husband who died on 30 July 1550. Her son, who was still a minor at the time of his father’s death, became the ward of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, husband of Lady Anne Herbert (sister of the late Queen Katherine Parr). As a widow, Jane inherited manors in Hampshire like Titchfield and Southampton House in Holborn.
In her will of 1574, Jane left to her daughter Katherine one book, ‘my best book of gold set with four diamonds on one side, and a ruby in the middle, weighing about nine ounces and a half, and the Queen’s Majesty handwriting in the same book.’ A second book, ‘a book of gold enamelled with a black knot with two scallop shells, weighing about four ounces and a half’ went to her daughter Mabel. These books could be attached to a girdle like jewelry. Jane had used them to collect signatures, inscriptions and short versus from friends. The books were religious in nature. And to her son, Henry, Jane left ‘a square tablett of golde wherein is the picture of my lorde his father’s face in in, weighinge about two ounces and a half.'
Jane died on 15 September 1574 and she was buried in Titchfield, Hampshire where her effigy can be seen.
- Cokayne, G. E. (1953). The Complete Peerage edited by Geoffrey H. White. XII (Part I)
- Susan James. The Feminine Dynamic in English Art, 1485-1603 : Women as Consumers, Patrons and Painters. Google eBook.
- Akrigg, G.P.V. (1968). Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
- Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 63