Regular readers will recall that Alison Weir has set herself the task of writing one book a year about each of the wives of Henry VIII. This year it is the turn of the third wife Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen. Jane has always been my least favourite of the six queens. She always struck me as being a bit wet, so I was interested to see if there anything of substance revealed in Six Tudor Queens: Jane Seymour, the Haunted Queen.
If I had been asked to give a short description of Jane before reading the book it would be; mousy woman, with ambitious relatives is manoeuvred into marrying a King. She produces a much longed for son but dies in the process. Alison Weir has the benefit of lots more research than me and has produced a book that makes Jane into a three dimensional woman. Yes, she was quite plain. Yes, she did have an ambitious family. Yes, she did marry the King. And yes, she did die in childbirth. But she was much more than that.
To start with she wanted to be a nun but after a short nun taster course decided that this wasn’t for her and so she was packed off to the court of Queen Katherine. Her arrival coincided with the ascension of Anne Boleyn in the Kings affections. Jane showed sufficient strength of character that she was one of the few Ladies in Waiting that stayed with Katherine when she was exiled from court and clung onto the Catholic religion. In time her family won and she embraced both the Protestant Church and the court of Anne Boleyn.
As Anne Boleyn became ever more shrewish and continues to fail to produce a son, the mild mannered Jane caught the Kings eye. Her brothers are beside themselves with excitement. Anne’s fall when it comes is swift and just 11 days after her predecessor was beheaded Jane wed the King. Less then two years later she produced the much want son Edward VI but died 9 days later.
Jane’s story is a familiar one, the Tudor’s feature heavily in the British school curriculum, but Alison Weir still manages to keep you turning the pages wondering what is going to happen next. She draws wonderful pictures of the locations in which the action takes place and makes you really feel for Queen you are reading about. I loved Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen and Anne Boleyn: A Kings Obsession and am really looking forward to next Spring and finding out more about Anne of Cleves.
SIX TUDOR QUEENS: JANE SEYMOUR, THE HAUNTED QUEEN by Alison Weir
Published by Headline Review
Hardback £18.99, Kindle £9.49