Jane Seymour, the haunted queen by Alison Weir

At eighteen, Jane Seymour decides not to take her vows as a nun after all. After a family scandal, she leaves her home Wulfhall to become a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine. But the king is in love with Anne Boleyn and wants to start a reformation. When Anne fails to provide the king with an heir, Jane catches Henry’s eye.

Jane Seymour is by far my least favourite of Henry VIII’s wives. She was queen for such a short time and although that period was very turbulent (Aftermath of Anne’s execution, dissolution of the monasteries, Pilgrimage of the grace…) she achieved very little herself. Apart from reconciling Lady Mary with her father, which is also a heavy storyline in this book. A bit too heavy perhaps :).

This is why a lot of authors seem to always start her story when Jane’s eldest brother Edward marries his first wife Catherine. The scandal surrounding Catherine is juicy, which makes for a nice opening. It was the case with Suzannah Dunn’s ‘The may bride’ (which I read before starting this book blog) and it’s also the opening chapter of ‘The haunted queen’.

The problem in the middle of the book is that you have to go through Catherine’s story first and then Anne’s again. And Anne does come off very badly here, while Jane and Catherine almost seem like saints. Jane’s story is so intertwined with her two predecessors that the book felt a bit repetitive compared to the previous ones.

The most fascinating thing was Jane’s view of Anne’s fall. I’ve always realized that many courtiers turned against her, but in this story the opposition is so powerful that she didn’t stand a chance. And this made me think again about her cruel downfall. The title of the book ‘the haunted queen‘ refers to Jane blaming herself about Anne’s death. I’m not sure what to think about that. She must have felt sorry for her, but she also gains the title of queen because of it and her family rises to unseen power.

I’ve always thought that Jane herself was aiming at the power to advance her family and to influence Henry (at least about Mary/Catherine and about religion as is suggested in this book) more than we tend to think nowadays. I don’t think of her as an innocent pawn used by her family. I just believe that Henry learnt his lesson with an out-spoken queen with Anne and that he couldn’t have the same amount of politic views from Jane. And that because of that and her short reign, Jane had to keep quiet more than she wanted. There is also so little of her written correspondence that has survived, that it’s impossible for us to really get hold of her character and views.

Things only get really interesting when Jane becomes queen. Weir writes several pregnancies into the story, while we are only sure of her last one. I understand why, but for me it didn’t fit with the pious Jane portrayed in this book. It also makes Jane become queen ‘by accident’ (because she was already with child, she was a good choice for Henry), which I don’t think is the case.

Weir opts for a docile sweet Jane, who, while having her opinions, loves the king and doesn’t want to anger him. That’s why we also see a sweet concerned Henry this time, with fierce angry outbursts at the same time. Henry is more balanced in this book than in the previous two and I liked that.

As for Jane’s death, Weir makes some interesting suggestions that she can back up by research. But even then, this book left me feeling a bit wry. Jane is the grey mouse among the other women. And this book didn’t really manage to change that. Curious about what would be the hardest story for me to write: that of Anne Of Cleves.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

What’s your favourite book about Jane Seymour? Do you like her?


2 thoughts on “Jane Seymour, the haunted queen by Alison Weir

  1. I don’t think Jane was as docile and sweet as authors make out – I think she just realised that, after what had happened to Anne Boleyn, her best bet was to keep her head down and go along with whatever Henry said!


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