“A sumptuous historical novel anchored by its excellent depiction of Jane Seymour, Henry the VIII’s third queen . . . This is a must for all fans of Tudor fiction and history.”—Publishers Weekly
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.
Praise for Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen
“Bestselling [Alison] Weir’s impressive novel shows why Jane deserves renewed attention [and] illustrates Jane’s unlikely journey from country knight’s daughter to queen of England. . . . From the richly appointed decor to the religious tenor of the time, the historical ambience is first-rate.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Deft, authoritative biographical fiction . . . a dramatic and empathic portrait of Jane Seymour.”—Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Alison Weir is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession; Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen; The Marriage Game; A Dangerous Inheritance; Captive Queen; The Lady Elizabeth; and Innocent Traitor, as well as numerous historical biographies, including Queens of the Conquest, The Lost Tudor Princess, Elizabeth of York, Mary Boleyn, The Lady in the Tower, Mistress of the Monarchy, Henry VIII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Life of Elizabeth I, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII. She lives in Surrey, England, with her husband.
Read an Excerpt
“A health to the bride!” Sir John Seymour smiled and raised his goblet as the company echoed his toast.
Jane sipped her wine, watching as her new sister-in-law blushed prettily. Edward seemed besotted with his new wife. At seventeen, Catherine was a very comely girl, a year younger than he. Jane had been surprised at how practiced she was at the art of coquetry, and how warmly the men were looking at her. Even Father seemed to be under her spell. Catherine’s father, Sir William Fillol, was leaning back in his chair replete, looking well pleased with the match—as he should be, for Edward, being Father’s heir, had good prospects and the determination to do well. Even at the age of ten, Jane knew that for an ambitious young man, marriage to the well-bred co-heiress of a wealthy landowner would be a great advantage.
Sir William had been boasting of how the Fillols could trace their ancestry back to one of the companions of the Conqueror.
“And we Seymours too!” Father had countered smugly, sure of his own exalted place in the world.
All in all, it was a most satisfactory union, and worthy of this great feast. The long tables in the Broad Chamber of Wulfhall were laden with extravagant dishes, all prepared under the watchful eye of Lady Seymour herself. Meat and fowl of every kind graced the board, the centerpiece being a magnificent roasted peacock re-dressed in all its glorious plumage. Sir John had provided the best wine from Bordeaux, and everyone was attired in the new finery they had worn for the wedding.
Sir William normally resided less than fifty miles away from Wulfhall, at Woodlands, near Wimborne, but he had opened up Fillol’s Hall for the wedding, and Jane’s whole family—her mother and father, and all their seven children—had traveled to Essex to be present. Father was so delighted with his new daughter-in-law that he had insisted that Sir William and Lady Dorothy accompany Catherine when Edward brought her back to Wulfhall to continue their celebrations. That had sent Mother into a flurry of preparation, and everyone agreed that she had risen to the occasion splendidly.
It was dusk now, and candles were being lit on the mantelpiece and windowsills, their flickering, dancing flames reflected in the diamond-paned glass in the stone windows. As Jane observed Edward and Catherine conversing together and stealing the odd kiss, it came to her that in a little over eighteen months she herself would be of an age to be wed. Fortunately, there was no sign that Father had any plans as yet.
For Jane had no desire to be married. She wanted to be a nun. Everyone teased her for it, not taking her seriously. Let them. Soon they would find out that she was as determined as her brother Edward when it came to getting what she wanted in life. She could not imagine her hearty, jovial father objecting, nor her adored mother. They knew of the dream she had had of herself wearing a nun’s veil, kneeling before Our Lady. It had visited her a year before, on the night after her parents had taken them all to visit the shrine of St. Melor at Amesbury Priory. She had been overawed by the great church with its soaring octagonal steeple, and had prayed devoutly at the altar of the murdered boy-prince, kneeling beside her siblings with her hands pressed together, as she had been taught from infancy.
Since then, she had been certain that her future lay within those twelve holy acres. She could see herself singing the offices in the choir with the sisters, gathering apples in the orchard or fishing in the ponds, dedicated to God and manual labor for all her life. Next year she would be old enough to enter Amesbury as a novice.
For now, she was content to be with her family, laughing at the jests at table, enjoying the good fare spread out before her and sparring with her brother Thomas, less than a year her junior, who was at this moment throwing sugar plums at the newlyweds. Mother frowned.
“Catherine, you must forgive my youngest son,” she said. “He never knows when to desist. Tom, stop that.”
“Such high spirits will take the lad far,” Sir William observed indulgently. His wife sniffed.
“He’s a menace,” Edward said, not smiling. Jane heard her mother sigh. Edward had no time for his youngest brother, and always treated him as a nuisance. And Thomas was adept at riling him, utterly resolved never to be outshone by Edward. It was an unequal struggle, for Edward was the heir and Thomas’s senior by eight years. He would always have first bite of the apple. When Jane was six, he had been sent to France as a page of honor in the train of the King’s sister, the Princess Mary, when she married King Louis, and the following year he had gone up to university at both Oxford and Cambridge, and thence to court, making himself useful to King Henry and his chief minister, Cardinal Wolsey, whom many asserted was the true ruler of the realm.
It was hot in the Broad Chamber. Despite it being high summer, Mother had insisted on having the fire in the hearth kindled, in case anyone felt a chill. Jane pulled off the floral chaplet she was wearing, for the blooms were wilting, and smoothed down her long tresses. They were the color of pale straw, rippling like fine silk over her shoulders. Edward, Thomas, Anthony and the baby Elizabeth were dark-haired, having inherited Father’s coloring, but Jane, Harry and Margery took after Mother.
For a moment Jane felt sad that her beautiful hair would be cut off when she took the veil. It was her only claim to loveliness. Her cheekbones were too rounded, her nose too big, her chin too pointed, her mouth too small, her skin too whitish. Looking around the room at her brothers and her pretty little sister Margery, it came to her, without envy or rancor, that they were all more attractive, more jolly—more vital.
In bearing children, Mother had done her duty as efficiently as she accomplished all her other domestic responsibilities. Before Jane had come along, she had borne five sons, although the eldest, John, whom Jane could barely remember, had died when he was eleven, and another John had died just after birth. Harry and Anthony were cut from different cloth to their brothers: Harry was easygoing and had no ambitions beyond the Wulfhall estate, while Anthony was studious; he would be following Edward to university soon, and there was talk of his pursuing a career in the Church. Jane felt encouraged by that. If her parents could lay up treasure in Heaven by giving a son to God, how much more store they would have in giving a daughter too.
Six-year-old Margery had been allowed to sit up for the feast, but tiny Elizabeth, having been brought in by her nurse to be admired by the guests, was now sound asleep upstairs in what was called the Babies’ Chamber.
It was a teeming household, and a happy one. As Jane looked about her at the large room filled with her merry, feasting family, a sense of well-being and contentment stole over her. Whatever the future brought, she was proud to be a Seymour of Wulfhall.
When Jane was little, she had thought that there must be wolves somewhere at Wulfhall. She had peered around corners and opened closets and cupboards in trepidation, lest one leap out at her. She had lain awake at night fretting about what she would do if she ever encountered one of the beasts. But hearing her screams one day when Thomas had sprung out from the dry larder shouting, “I’m a wolf!” Father, having clouted him for it, had reassured her that the name Wulfhall had nothing to do with wolves.
“It was once called Ulf’s Hall, after the Saxon thane who built it hundreds of years ago,” he explained, taking her on his knee. “Over the years the name has changed a little. Better now, sweeting?” And he had kissed her and set her down to go back to her toys, reassured.
Jane was aware that Wulfhall had been rebuilt and altered several times over the centuries. The present house was about three hundred years old, and it embraced two courtyards—the Little Court, which housed the domestic offices, and the Great Court, where she and her family lived. The lower walls were of ancient mellow stone supporting an upper story of solid timbers framing white plasterwork. You entered through the porch and came into a large hall. At the far end a door led to the smaller Broad Chamber, which the family preferred to the hall, since it was easier to heat. On sunny days, the window panes in the Broad Chamber and the chapel glinted with a thousand lights, and the vivid colors of the armorial glass blazed like jewels. At one corner of the Great Court stood a high tower, a relic of an older house.
Sir John was wealthy, owning extensive lands in the county of Wiltshire, enabling him to build a fashionable long gallery where his family could take exercise on a wet day. Their portraits, limned by itinerant painters who had visited the house looking for work, stared down from its lime-washed walls. Among them was an imaginary likeness of the founder of the Seymours’ fortunes, a Norman knight called William de St. Maur.
Oh, no, thought Jane. Father is going to bore everyone with the family history.
“He arrived with the Conqueror at the time of the Norman invasion of 1066,” Sir John was boasting proudly. “Seymours have served the Crown loyally ever since. We have been farmers and landowners; we have held public offices, and held them well. Some have sat for the shire in Parliament.” He refilled his goblet, warming to his theme; his children had all heard it before, many times. “I was knighted at eighteen, after fighting the Cornish rebels alongside my father. As you know, it was upon the coronation that I was appointed a Knight of the Body to King Henry.”
Sir William nodded. “It’s hard to believe that was ten years ago. All that talk of conquering France, all come to naught.”
Father had fought for the King in a French campaign (and probably exaggerated his exploits, Mother had said more than once behind his back, smiling affectionately).
“In time, in time,” he said now, clearly more interested in impressing his guest with the family’s achievements. “You see that horn on the wall?” He pointed to the great silver-bound ivory hunting horn resting on iron brackets above the fireplace. “I have the honor to bear that as hereditary ranger of Savernake Forest. Look at that line of trees yonder, through the window.” He pointed to the dense woodland on the crest of a gentle hill. “That’s the ancient forest, which stretches all the way west as far as Marlborough, and to Bedwyn Magna, which is our nearest parish.”
Jane anticipated that Father would soon be enlarging on how capable an administrator he had proved since his fighting days were ended, and the diplomatic missions abroad he had undertaken on King Henry’s behalf. Not for nothing was he sheriff of Wiltshire, Dorset and Somerset; not for nothing was he Justice of the Peace for Wiltshire.
But no. “I am content to farm these days,” he said. “You have to be at the forefront of change. I have twelve hundred and seventy acres here at Wulfhall alone, and I’ve converted them all into pasture for sheep.”
Sir William raised his bushy brows. “And you’ve had no trouble? Other gentlemen of my acquaintance who have enclosed their land for sheep have met with violent opposition. Even Sir Thomas More, whom I met at court, says that sheep are eating men. And it’s true. For in growing rich on raising the finest and costliest wool, you noble gentlemen, yes, even men of God, leave no ground for tillage. It has put many a poor man out of work.”
“There has been some grumbling among my tenants,” Father admitted. “But I have made sure that none were left in want, and found them other work to do when they might have faced destitution. Thus, I pride myself, I have retained their love.” Young as she was, Jane knew from her dealings with the people on the estate that Father was well thought of, and Edward said his success at managing his estates was even spoken of at court.
It was growing late, and the balmy late-summer night had covered the land. The men were growing noisier in their cups, and Mother was shooing her younger children off to bed. Catherine was yawning and her father suggested it was time for her to retire. Edward leapt up to accompany her.
Jane rose too and excused herself. It was still hot in the hall, and she was relieved to escape outside for some fresh air.
What she loved best about Wulfhall were the three gardens that immediately surrounded it. She wandered into My Old Lady’s Garden, which faced the house and was named for her Grandmother Seymour, who had been born Elizabeth Darrell and died soon after Jane was born. She had had a passion for growing things, and the garden she had created was gloriously colorful with roses, gillyflowers and pansies in season, as well as pretty shrubs and bushes tamed into the shapes of chess pieces. To the east lay My Young Lady’s Garden, which had always been Mother’s domain. The herb beds she had planted after her marriage were still flourishing, useful for cooking, making medicines and unguents, and sweetening the rushes that carpeted the floors. To the west, there was the Great Paled Garden with its painted picket fence and the wilderness of wildflowers where Jane and her siblings still indulged in their childish romps.
Reading Group Guide
1. When you began reading this novel, did you have any preconceptions about Jane Seymour’s character? If so, did the novel change those perceptions in any way? Did you like Jane as a character?
2. What was your impression of the Seymour family? How did the dynamics within the family change during the course of the novel? Was it a happy family? How well did its members cope with scandal?
3. Did the young Jane really understand what becoming a nun would entail? What made her change her mind?
4. What did you make of Jane’s relations with Sir Francis Bryan? What motivates his interest in her?
5. Jane’s compassion for her sister-in-law impels her to acts of kindness. Do they also show wisdom and emotional intelligence?
6. Why did Jane come to love Henry VIII? What was her attraction for him? Did he truly love her? In what ways was she a contrast to Anne Boleyn?
7. How does Jane see Anne Boleyn? Was her conduct as shameless as her Victorian biographer, Agnes Strickland, claimed? Or did she have strong moral grounds for encouraging Henry VIII’s courtship?
8. Do you think that Jane deserved to feel guilty about Anne Boleyn’s fate? Why is the novel subtitled “The Haunted Queen”?
9. In what ways did Jane show moral courage?
10. Is it likely that Jane had one or more aborted pregnancies before she bore the future Edward VI?
11. Was Jane a good queen? In which ways was she at a disadvantage? Do you think she overcame these challenges?
12. Did you find the author’s new theory about the cause of Jane’s death convincing?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Allison Weir's fictional versions of the lives of Henry's wives really make you think about them as people rather than chess pieces in n Henry's life.
Fantastic historical details!!! She opens up the door to deep characters and the true lifestyles of the times. Their thoughts, food, clothing, you get totally immersed in the time and hearts of all of the characters!!! Rich read
A very interesting take on a Queen little is really known about, and a King wanting a love story.
I have always been fascinated with the Tudors. These books have been quite entertaining.
Great Read. I won this book in a Giveaway and I really enjoyed it since I was not too familiar with Jane Seymour. It speculates about her upbringing and the events that led up to her marriage to Henry the VIII, and their lives together, until her untimely death. The book was an easy read and I did not find it as slow moving as the previous book, maybe because I did not know Jane as well? If you like historical fiction than this would be a great choice. Very entertaining.
Alison Weir did it again! I absolutely loved this novel. This is the third in her Six Wives historical fiction series. It follows Jane Seymour who was the third wife of Henry VIII. She is considered the most cherished as she gave Henry what he most wanted most which was a son. She also had a very short life herself. This book shined a light on Jane’s life from childhood to her death. Jane is depicted as a very kind person and very religious, always trying to do right by God and by her family. As she gets older, she is brought to court as a Lady in Waiting for Katherine first and then for Anne Boleyn. Over time, Henry begins to notice Jane and she becomes a key player in history. Jane becomes dragged into the politics and scheming of court life as she works her way to becoming Queen. As with everything Weir writes, this book was well researched and her storytelling ability is unmatched. This book flows so well that it flies by when reading it. Fantastic read for anyone interested in the Tudors.
This next book in the Six Tudor Queens series tells the story of Jane Seymour, third wife of King Henry VIII. This fictionalized tale of Jane's life begins at her childhood home of Wulfhall and, in time, we see how Jane came to serve as a maid-of-honor for the Queen—Katherine of Aragon, Henry's first wife. When she arrives, the King's pursuit of Anne Boleyn, another of Katherine's maid's-of-honor, is already well underway. Jane remains fiercely loyal to her beloved Queen Katherine, even after she is forced to leave her and serve Anne, instead. When Anne is unable to provide a son for the King, he sets his sights on Jane, and marries her eleven days after Anne's beheading. Jane was able to give Henry the son he so greatly desired, but died shortly thereafter. I still haven't read the first book in this series, but I enjoyed the second very much. I was excited to read about Seymour, hoping it would be as enjoyable as the book about Boleyn. Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen swept me back into the Tudor era and kept me enthralled the entire time. The fanciful element of Jane being haunted was a nice addition to the story; it was never over the top, and didn't detract anything from the main story. It was presented in such a way as to be believable that would Jane might feel haunted, and I enjoyed reading those portions. The real Jane Seymour left behind no letters, so little is known about her thoughts on events that took place during her time at Court and, later, as Queen. Despite that, Weir has written a wonderful novel that makes fine use of the facts known about Jane, her family, and the time she spent with Henry. Filled with rich imagery and careful attention to detail, Tudor fans are sure to love reading about Henry VIII's third bride... I certainly did! I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Ballantine Books via Netgalley.
Alison Weir is back with her latest installment of her Six Tudor Queens series, with the intricate portrayal of Jane Seymour. I’ve been a devote follower of the series and Weir’s other fiction and non-fiction works. Weir has the captivating ability to portray elaborate stories of history that completely engrosses me from the very beginning. Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen was no exception. Jane Seymour was quite the opposite of her predecessor Anne Boleyn, being docile, pure, and kind-hearted. Like Alison Weir’s insightful Author’s Note indicates, very little personal details were documented known about Jane, in her very short three-year reign. I enjoyed the pace of the book, beginning with Jane’s home life in Wulfhall, to her life in Queen Katherine’s court, following to her reluctant service to Anne Boleyn, to her winning of King Henry VIII’s heart. The story isn’t rushed and I was astonished numerous times at the scandalous happenings on the era. I found it commendable the details contained in the Author’s Notes where Weir describes what creative liberties she took in writing Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen and why. I would call her fictional writing “faction”, as it very closely illustrates actual historical accounts. This book is for anyone interested in historical fiction and Tudor history. I devoured most of the novel in one sitting. The plot is full of scandal, secrets, and innocent deception. Thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for providing me the ARC of this marvelous book. Thank you Alison Weir for once again blessing readers with your amazing talent of writing such eloquent historical fiction novels.
Thank you to Random House who provided an advance reader copy via NetGalley. I've been looking forward to reading this since Jane Seymour is sort of an "unknown" figure among Henry VIII's six queens. She's the quiet one. I don't believe I have ever read a book solely covering her, and I own quite a lot of books on the Tudors. But, this is not a biography; it's a historical novel, and much poetic license was taken here. Some of my preconceived notions were blown to bits about Jane Seymour, after a lifetime of watching various film presentations and reading Tudor biographies. The areas I'm talking about are Jane's pre-marriage virtue, possible miscarriages and how she died. In one way this was more interesting and unexpected. On the other hand, it made me question whether what I was reading was going "far off the reservation." This all neatly resolved itself in the final section of the book entitled, "Author's Note." According to well-respected and voluminous Tudor author Alison Weir, there is very little documentation in existence regarding Jane Seymour. Queen Jane did not leave behind any significant writings, and Weir painstakingly culled together what she could from a myriad of sources. She justifies conclusions she leapt to on various fronts, laying out the case for each, citing the pieces of evidence available. My interest was piqued to read about the birth of their long-awaited son Edward, having heard throughout the years that Queen Jane most likely had a cesarean section. My knowledge of her subsequent death was that it was as a result of "cutting the baby out of her" or due to puerperal fever (caused by uterine infection following childbirth). Neither of these conditions are blamed for her death in this tome, and Weir conferred with a team of physicians and a midwife to come to that expert conclusion. Other situations explored were the possibility that Jane had originally wanted to be a nun (her younger sisters had marriages arranged before her...why?), just how much she participated in framing Anne Boleyn, and her resultant guilty conscience and sense of being haunted following Queen Anne's execution. Jane was very loyal to Queen Katherine, whom she served when she first came to court. She always considered Katherine the true Queen of England and Catholicism the true faith. Alison Weir painted a picture of a quiet, gentle young woman with good convictions who got herself caught up in situations she never expected. She was heavily influenced by her family who wanted to be in favour with King Henry VIII. They pushed her to make decisions she might otherwise not have made for herself. She was trying to be happy about being Queen, but the circumstances that brought her to that point would leave anyone feeling "Haunted." I read the prior book in this series, "Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession" which ended with Queen Anne's execution. Therefore, I thought this subsequent book would pick up from that point. Not so. This book begins with Jane Seymour's youth, and continues with her eventual invitation to court to serve King Henry VIII's first wife Katherine of Aragon. This is during the exact time when King Henry VIII is carrying on with another one of Katherine's serving ladies, the notorious Anne Boleyn. So, this was a substantial book that did a good job of trying to flesh out the life of King Henry VIII's beloved third wife.
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for an Advance Reader Copy! I definitely liked this book the most of Alison Weir's Six Tudor Queens series so far. I had one or two small disagreements with her opinions on Katherine of Aragon, and then had A LOT of disagreements about her portrayal of Anne Boleyn, but it seems we finally found some common ground with Jane Seymour. There is very little known about Jane, and she left very few letters or records of her life behind. Because so much speculation is needed, there aren't many historical fiction books about her, and this is the first one I think I've read. But Alison Weir did an excellent job bringing her to life, and I especially loved how she portrayed her as, yes, meek and obedient as is known, but that she also had opinions and a mind of her own. Jane was a likable character throughout. She had ambitions like her family but was also very sweet and mild. And the portrayal of her guilty conscience after Anne's death was realistic and sad. You can see why she was willing to go ahead with unseating Anne (she felt Katherine had been the true Queen all along), and yet thought of her as a person too, and never thought Henry would take it so far. I also liked how she portrayed Jane and Henry's courtship not progressing to the next level because of modesty and Jane feeling like it was wrong, as opposed to Anne's reasons of ambition. I do wish Alison Weir would have continued this plot line because it does seem more plausible and realistic to me based on what we know of Jane, but her reasons for thinking Jane may have been pregnant when she and Henry married do make sense, so who knows? I also thought her portrayal of Henry and Jane's relationship was great. I do think he truly loved her, maybe because of her extreme contrast with Anne, but also just because she was a genuinely likable person. It's well known that Henry always said that Jane was his only true wife, which could be because she's the only one who gave him a son, but I also think it's because he truly loved her and she died before he could find fault with her. So I'm looking forward to seeing how this aspect is addressed in future books, as well as Henry's continued relationship with his son Edward and how Edward deals with growing up without a mother. Her theories about Jane's death are definitely interesting, and I've never heard food poisoning/blood clot before, I've always thought it was complications from childbirth. But you can tell from her Author's Note that she has done EXTENSIVE research and consulted with so many medical professionals based on the little evidence there is, and may actually be right. It did make the ending a little odd and anticlimactic, but I always like accuracy over entertainment. My one complaint is that this book was especially long. I knew that going in, based on the size of the first two, but SO much of it overlapped with Anne Boleyn's book, but from Jane's perspective. I realize that these are meant to be read as either part of the series or standalone, but I think some of it was unnecessary and could have been cut out. Overall though it was a very enjoyable and extremely well-researched read and I'm so glad I continued with the series despite my unfavorable opinion of the Anne Boleyn book. I'm really looking forward to her take on Anne of Cleves next!