It takes a special kind of talent to breathe new life into a much-documented and dramatised period of history. That talent is the bestselling and critically acclaimed historical fiction author Alison Weir and the subject is the intriguing story of Jane Seymour, the least known of Henry VIII’s ill-fated wives. Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen is the third in Weir’s groundbreaking Tudor series, Six Tudor Queens.
Defined by history as the shy and retiring type, Seymour may not have been as fiery or as troublesome as the better known of the king’s wives, such as Anne Boleyn or Katherine of Aragon, but here Weir delivers a more complex version, instilling life into one of history’s lesser-celebrated English Queens.
The story is told throughout from the point of view of Jane, beginning with the young Jane longing to take up her vocation in the Catholic Church. After a short stay at a local priory, Jane soon realises the cloistered life is not for her. Returning to the family home at Wulfhall in Wiltshire, she finds a scandalous affair has fractured the Seymour household.
With Jane’s older brother Edward drawn to the court of King Henry following the scandal, the entire Seymour family is brought into the King’s orbit, with far-reaching consequences for the young Jane. Jane enters the royal household in service to the current queen, Katherine of Aragon, where she is shocked by the intrigues at court. The ageing and devout Katherine, mother of the King’s daughter, Mary, is spurned by Henry after failing to produce the longed-for male heir and the young lady-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn, is rumoured to be sharing the king’s bed.
Weir skillfully draws us into Jane’s world, from these early unsettling years to her wedding night jitters, to her growth as Queen and the pressure on her to finally bear Henry’s son. Henry cherishes his beloved Jane and history paints her as his favourite wife but like her predecessors, Jane is inevitably drawn into the dangerous politics of the royal court. She turns out to be a feistier character than history has previously given her credit for.
Through Weir’s intimate portrayal of Jane, the reader empathises with this woman who must have been keenly aware of the fate of those before her – Katherine, divorced and imprisoned, and the hapless Anne Boleyn, beheaded. Through extensive historical research and a gift for storytelling and character, Weir transports us to the heart of Tudor society, so that we almost feel we are there. It’s a frightening and mesmerising place to be.
Lovers of historical fiction, and especially Philippa Gregory fans, will devour this series. As the London Times reported, it ‘looks likely to become a landmark in historical fiction.’
About the author
Alison Weir is the top-selling female historian in the United Kingdom, and has sold over 2.7 million books worldwide. She has published seventeen history books, including Elizabeth the Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Lady in the Tower and Elizabeth of York, and five historical novels. Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen and Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession are the first and second in the Six Tudor Queens series.