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Jane Seymour: Henry VIII's True Love by Elizabeth Norton: A Book Review

Jane Seymour: Henry VIII's True Love
Author: Elizabeth Norton
Genre: Nonfiction, History, Biography
Publisher: Amberley Publishing
Release Date: 2011
Pages: 288
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: The first ever biography of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII's third wife, who died in childbirth giving the king what he craved most - a son and heir. 

     Jane Seymour is often portrayed as meek and mild and as the most successful, but one of the least significant, of Henry VIII's wives. The real Jane was a very different character, demure and submissive yet with a ruthless streak - as Anne Boleyn was being tried for treason, Jane was choosing her wedding dress. From the lowliest origins of any of Henry's wives her rise shows an ambition every bit as great as Anne's. 

     Elizabeth Norton tells the thrilling life of a country girl from rural Wiltshire who rose to the throne of England and became the ideal Tudor woman.

      My Review: Jane Seymour is usually regarded as Henry VIII’s most successful wife. She gave Henry the male heir he craved. In this first biography of Jane Seymour, Mrs. Norton chronicles Jane’s humble beginnings to her meteoric rise. While she is known in history as good and obedient, Mrs. Norton shows that Jane had a ruthless streak. For while Anne was awaiting her execution in the tower, Jane Seymour was busy making wedding plans with Henry. She eagerly awaited Anne’s death just so she could be queen of England.

     Jane Seymour was the second cousin to the infamous Anne Boleyn. She was a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon and liked her daughter, Mary. She hated Anne Boleyn because she supplanted her mistress and how she treated Mary. Even though she was Catherine’s servant, she never followed her into exile. Mrs. Norton claimed that Jane would have hated to go into exile with Catherine because her ambitions would be ruined. She served in Anne’s household. Eventually, she would catch the eye of Henry VIII. She hated Anne and did not think that she was his true wife. Mrs. Norton states that Jane believed that Anne deserved to die for what she had done to poor Catherine.

     Mrs. Norton suggests that Henry VIII married her almost on impulse. Jane was simply the girl who was there at the right time. After he married Jane, Henry VIII regretted it because there were other women who were prettier than Jane. Jane’s role was always insecure. She never received a coronation, and Henry largely ignored her. Mrs. Norton showed that Jane was always dispensable to Henry if she ever displeased him. In fact, it was not until she gave Henry his longed-for son that he saw his marriage to Jane with starry eyes. From then on, Jane became Henry’s one true love and had the privilege of being buried beside him.

     In this biography, Jane is mostly seen as an ambitious woman. She was not very pretty. She came to court hoping to marry a rich nobleman. She was also ruthless. This was seen in how she treated Anne. She was also very strict in her household. She didn’t want anyone in her court to be like her predecessor. She was friends with Mary, but she didn’t care for Elizabeth because she was Anne’s child. She ignored her. Throughout her reign as queen, she was very insecure in her position because she knew that she could easily be disposed of.

     Overall, this biography presents a balanced portrait of Jane Seymour. Jane Seymour is portrayed as shrewd and intelligent. The author states that had Jane not died from childbirth, she would have taken on a political role. She may even have been regent for her son. Because there are so few known facts about Jane, there is much conjecture. This was a very detailed and comprehensive biography. Jane Seymour: Henry VIII's True Love is a perfect read for those who want to know about this tragic queen!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


  1. I have never understood why people who hate Anne like Jane.

    1. I think the reason why is because Jane has always been portrayed in popular media as the good girl. Anne has always been portrayed as the home-wrecker. In truth, neither of their intentions were strictly wholesome.

    2. Good point. Jane did to Anne what Anne did to Katharine, so there could be an element of karma, but if Anne's karma was her beheading, than Jane's was her death in childbed. Of course, I don't think it's that simple. Henry was a jerk. Kyla Cornelius Kramer as an interesting post on Anne vs Jane.

      I admire Anne Boleyn but I also admire Katharine of Aragon. I am planning an alternate history for her where Henry dies and leaves her Regent and she decides to rule on Mary's behalf, but I'm having some writer's block.

      I've never really cared for Jane. I find her to be the least interesting of Henry's queens. Catherine Howard at least had some spunk. Still, this looks intriguing.


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