Back at the end of April, I finally got round to reading Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen by bestselling author and acclaimed historian, Alison Weir. It is the third volume in Weir’s ambitious six-book series, Six Tudor Queens, which chronicles the lives of each of Henry VIII’s six wives. After being captivated by the first two volumes: Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen and Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession, I can’t believe it took me this long to get to this!
In this enthralling third volume, Weir takes us back to 1518 to start the humble tale of Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s third, quiet and often overlooked wife. Who, as the eldest daughter of Sir John Seymour, a country knight, and his wife Margery Wentworth, grew up in a large, happy family on their estate of Wulfhall in Wiltshire. From a young age, the devout Jane wished to become a nun, however, in 1527, after an unhappy trial at an abbey and a shocking affair rips their family apart, Jane’s father finds her a place at Henry VIII’s court, as a lady-in-waiting to his then wife, Queen Katherine.
I found myself feeling for Jane because she really is a fish out of water, or a lamb among wolves, at the Tudor royal court. A place of pomp and ceremony, decadence, love affairs, intrigue and backstabbing. Believing herself to be simple and plain, Jane keeps her head down and diligently serves both Katherine of Aragon and then Anne Boleyn. This is where we find a lot of overlap in this book from the previous two, but I did enjoy seeing the same stories told from the kind-hearted Jane’s point-of-view.
She is appalled when King Henry shunts Katherine, a fellow Catholic whom she has come to love and admire, aside in his lustful pursuit of Anne Boleyn. Then mourns more deeply when she is forced from the side of her good mistress, by her ambitious brothers, to go serve upon the usurper, Anne. Only for the king’s roving eye to fall upon her next! While Jane does grow to have some affection for Henry, she is compelled more by her duty to her family, the true faith and Katherine’s former supporters to except Henry’s advances.
So rises Jane Seymour, country knight’s daughter, to the dazzling heights of Queen of England, but Jane is left haunted by Henry having Anne brutally killed in his rush to wed her. And ultimately her reign is tragically short, as she makes the ultimate sacrifice in giving the king what he always wanted: a son. Again Weir had me on the verge of tears at the end! As in the previous books, Weir has kept closely to historical records, but taken some dramatic licence to flesh out characters and fill in any gaps: blending seamlessly her research and imagination to create a moving and believable tale.
All in all, I thought Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen was a moving and beautifully written historical-fiction. While Jane’s life was a lot less dramatic than her predecessors, Katherine and Anne, I found myself gently enthralled by it all the same. I have the next volume: Anna of Kleve: Queen of Secrets lined up in my Kindle’s to-be-read folder. Great read.
(Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion)
I’d love to hear from you: Have you read this? Have you read any other books about Jane Seymour? Or have you read any of the other books from this series?
This is book #3 for my Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2020.