Jane Seymour – The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir
Alison Weir continues her series of books about the Six Tudor Queens, the wives of Henry VIII, with a third Jane Seymour – The Haunted Queen.
The novel opens as a wedding is celebrated at Wulfhall, Jane Seymour’s home. The daughter of a well-respected rural family, Jane planned to become a nun, her parents asking that she wait until she is 18, and if it is still her desire they will give their support. After a short time in a nunnery Jane realized, though her vocation was strong, the reality was less appealing.
She was then accepted as a maid of honour to Queen Katherine (Henry’s first wife). In 1527 Jane is 19 years old and though she misses her family she loves the Queen and is comfortable in her surroundings at Court. Of course, we know that Anne Boleyn, a ladies maid, enters the scene about this time and, with much drama, embarks on an affair with the King. Henry is desperate to have a wife who will bear a son. Though Katherine gave birth to a healthy daughter, Mary, she sadly had several more children stillborn, and was now past childbearing age. Anne Boleyn is a clever woman and has much support in her endeavors to entrap the King. She is also an instigator for religious reform – as is Henry in his efforts to annul his first marriage. When Henry succeeds in declaring himself the Head of the Church of England, the Pope’s authority is swept aside.
I wondered before beginning this book, since Jane Seymour had only a brief time as Henry’s wife, how the author would fill a book this size. But, I quickly realized it was easy to do by writing from a different perspective, and re-visiting the time of the earlier novels – this time in Jane Seymour’s voice. Jane Seymour may not have had a lengthy marriage but she was witness to the marriages of the two previous Queens and knew Henry for many years.
By the time Henry VIII decides that Anne Boleyn has been a mistake, he already has Jane in his sights. She is, in fact, a sincerely good person and attempts to moderate Henry’s wrath at those he feels have betrayed him.
The time period covered in this novel is one of great change in England - the ousting of Thomas More, the rise of the powerful Oliver Cromwell, and the dissolution of many monasteries and nunneries. There is, as usual, much political intrigue, marriages, deaths and beheadings. Many of the players are looking only to enrich their own lives, and Henry always fearing betrayal and treason.
Jane Seymour – The Haunted Queen is a fascinating novel and Alison Weir, as always, has written a book that is very real and one that is very satisfying and enjoyable book to read.