Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen (Six Tudor Queens #3) by Alison Weir: A Book Review

Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen (Six Tudor Queens #3)
Author: Alison Weir
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine
Release Date: May 15, 2018
Pages: 557
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Acclaimed author and historian Alison Weir continues her epic Six Tudor Queens series with this third captivating novel, which brings to life Jane Seymour, King Henry VIII’s most cherished bride and mother of his only legitimate male heir.
                  
     Ever since she was a child, Jane has longed for a cloistered life as a nun. But her large noble family has other plans, and as an adult, Jane is invited to the King’s court to serve as lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine of Aragon. The devout Katherine shows kindness to all her ladies, almost like a second mother, which makes rumors of Henry’s lustful pursuit of Anne Boleyn—also lady-in-waiting to the queen—all the more shocking.  For Jane, the betrayal triggers memories of a haunting incident that shaped her beliefs about marriage.
                  
     But once Henry disavows Katherine and secures Anne as his new queen—forever altering the religious landscape of England—he turns his eye to another: Jane herself. Urged to return the King’s affection and earn favor for her family, Jane is drawn into a dangerous political game that pits her conscience against her desires. Can Jane be the one to give the King his long-sought-after son, or will she be cast aside like the women who came before her?
                  
     Bringing new insight to this compelling story, Alison Weir marries meticulous research with gripping historical fiction to re-create the dramas and intrigues of the most renowned court in English history. At its center is a loving and compassionate woman who captures the heart of a king, and whose life will hang in the balance for it.

      My Review: Jane Seymour has been famous for giving Henry VIII a male heir. However, there is little else that we know about her. In The Haunted Queen, Alison Weir paints a fascinating story of the overshadowed queen. Jane Seymour has always wanted to be a nun. When she becomes of age, she tries to pursue a religious life only to discover that it was not for her. Through Francis Bryan, her distant cousin, she manages to become a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon. She learns that Henry VIII is trying to replace Catherine as queen in favor of his mistress Anne Boleyn. Henry shocks all of England by breaking with the Church of Rome and forming his own Church. He eventually divorces Catherine and marries Anne Boleyn.

     In the meantime, Jane Seymour strives to remain loyal to Catherine amidst the political shift. She stays with Catherine in exile until her father orders her to serve Anne Boleyn. Jane Seymour unwillingly goes and hates every moment of serving her. One day, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. When Anne’s enemies notices Henry paying attention to Jane, they begin to form a political alliance with the Seymour family and conspire to bring Anne down. Jane finally finds herself at the center of a political faction. She eagerly awaits to replace Anne Boleyn as queen. She wants to restore the Catholic Church and restore Catherine’s daughter Mary’s rights to the throne. However, when she learns that her political faction is actually trying to kill Anne Boleyn, Jane feels guilty that the only way she can marry Henry is for Anne to die.

     Alison Weir does an excellent job in making Jane Seymour a complex character. Jane Seymour is often a mere footnote when reading about Henry VIII’s wives. Novelists tend to write about the more documented of Henry VIII’s wives such as Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, or Catherine Parr. Yet in The Haunted Queen, Jane really comes alive, and her story is just as fascinating. Jane Seymour is very loyal, devout, and good. Even though she hates Anne Boleyn for replacing Catherine of Aragon, she does not want her to die. She is merciful and persuades Henry to give her a lesser sentence. She also strives to develop a good relationship with both Mary and Elizabeth. Thus, while she certainly has her flaws, such as preparing for her wedding and eagerly waiting for Anne’s execution, she still at heart strives to be good. She regrets being involved in Anne’s death and never gets over the guilt. It is why she feels haunted by Anne Boleyn’s death.

     Overall, The Haunted Queen gives us an intimate glimpse into Jane Seymour’s thoughts and motivations behind her actions. I thought that most of the characters were very realistic. Anne Boleyn is given a sympathetic eye. While she is mostly temperamental in the novel, she is also very vulnerable and desperate to give Henry the longed for son. Alison Weir portrays Anne as a faithful wife to Henry. She also showed that Anne’s fall was a result of a political coup. The only thing that I disliked about The Haunted Queen was that Jane Seymour does not do much for forty percent of the novel. It mostly describes the events that led to Henry VIII’s divorce with Catherine of Aragon. Still, after reading The Haunted Queen, it makes me wonder what Jane Seymour would have been like had she not died so soon after childbirth. While her marriage to Henry VIII was short-lived, it seemed like it was a happy and peaceful one. Catherine of Aragon’s allies seemed pleased with the marriage, and the Spanish emperor, Charles, was ready to make peace with England. Jane Seymour seemed like a dutiful wife and step-mother to children. Due to Alison Weir’s portrayal of Jane Seymour, it seemed that she would have made a great queen. Thus, The Haunted Queen is a great tribute to one of Henry VIII’s most elusive queens, and I cannot wait to read Alison Weir’s next novel about Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a video of Alison Weir talking about the third book in the Six Tudor Queens series, Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen:


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