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Six Tudor Queens: Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen: Six Tudor Queens 3 Hardcover – 3 May 2018
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A triumph of fine detail and research and offers a complex depiction of an endlessly fascinating woman (Elizabeth Fremantle)
Alison Weir's wonderfully detailed novel offers a spellbinding solution to the mystery of Anne [Boleyn's] true nature . . . Enthralling (Sarah Gristwood)
Well researched and engrossing (Good Housekeeping)
Alison Weir makes history come alive as no one else (Barbara Erskine)
Jane Seymour comes to life in this spectacular addition to Alison Weir's highly acclaimed Six Tudor Queens series.See all Product description
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Alison Weir calls her The Haunted Queen - haunted by the death of Anne Boleyn and feeling guilty because of the part she may have played in her downfall. I freely admit to having mixed feelings about her though she is portrayed sympathetically here and am not sure she was quite as demure and modest as she appears. Of course, one has to remember that keeping one's head on one's shoulders was the daily battle in Tudor times and so you had to trim your sails to the daily wind. Displease Henry and you were likely to end up in the Tower.
The question I always ask myself when I read about Henry and his wives is would he have remained happy with Jane? My feeling is that as she gave him the son he so wanted, he would have been. Instead she died and we have the farce of Anne of Cleves to come (looking forward to the author's take on this wife who I have always found interesting) and then the giddy and young Catherine Howard and then the final wife who survived, Catherine Parr.
Henry may have been a monster and it is easy to dismiss him as such but his endless and seemingly cruel treatment of his wives in pursuit of an heir was based on the problems that would follow if he died with daughters coming to the throne. Daughters had to marry and England could end up being ruled by a foreign power. This was proved right when Mary married Philip of Spain. Elizabeth very cleverly avoided this by not marrying at all.
Really enjoyed reading this book. Alison Weir brings the court to life with its larger than life figures and the descriptions of the riches and the gold and jewels and the clothes. All sumptuous and fascinating.
This particular book is part of the ‘Six Tudor Queens’ series, with each book focusing on a different Queen of the era - this particular one picking on Jane Seymour. The time of Henry Tudor is so well documented and dramatised these days that we are all in our own way familiar with certain aspects of the saga. The televised versions of the story have perhaps romanticised certain aspects of things, but the tension that must have been felt by each of Henry’s wives must have been extraordinary. Such was the way of things, one false move could have been the last thing you ever did. Jane Seymour is the one wife of Henry that I can honestly say I knew the least about, as her character is often portrayed as fairly meek and a bit of a shrinking violet, but I’m sure there was more to her than that - we’re talking about a wife of Henry VIII here! This fictional story adds a layer of depth to Jane’s tale - granted it may be based on fabrication in many respects, but with the backset of everything going on at the time which has been depicted in great-enough detail, it seems right for Jane to be portrayed as the slightly on-the-back-foot wife that may-or-may-not have helped unseat her predecessor Anne Boleyn, and considering how Henry’s marriage to Anne played out, Jane would have had some very awkward shoes to fill.
There is a steady and familiar pace to the writing in this book, which makes it a relatively simple read but can feel a bit slow at times. I look forward to reading Book 4.
The third of Weir's novels of the six wives, there's less historical material to work with in the case of Jane Seymour who never left much of a dent in the historical record. The pros and cons are the same as the previous two books: Weir's strength is her attention to the archives, however scant, and evocation of historical detail, especially in background description; her weakness remains her mundane, pedestrian writing (e.g. on the rivalry between Edward and Thomas Seymour: 'he would always have first bite of the apple').
The story starts in 1518 with the marriage of Catherine Fillol to Edward Seymour, then skips forward to 1526. There's not much rhythm to the prose or storyline so that sensational episodes of quasi-incest are related in the same flat voice as the contents of a Tudor picnic basket. There are nice snippets, though, on the origin of the name Wulfhall, and Seymour from the Norman St Maur.
The 'haunted queen' of the title cues supernatural visions and magic to make the plot work.
As usual, Weir wants her heroine to be a strong, independent-minded woman despite evidence to the contrary in Jane Seymour's case. She also runs into trouble with Seymour's morality: one on hand she's desperate to be a nun and castigates Anne Boleyn for her adulterous affair and disloyalty to Katherine of Aragon - on the other, she does the same thing herself when she allows her own courtship which Henry is married to Anne. Weir tried to wriggle her way out of this impasse by having Jane refuse to acknowledge Anne's marriage so that, in her mind, she's neither an adulterer nor disloyal to her queen - hmm!
All the same, worth a read by Tudor fans - beneath the Mills & Boon-alike storytelling is a wealth of authentic historical detail - 3.5 stars.
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