History casts Jane Seymour as a qualified wimp and I’ve always felt that gastronomically unfair. Just because you like one person, say Anne Boleyn, it doesn’t mean the next person is unlikable for whatever reason.
Mostly it’s because I’ve lived long enough to know that there are many kinds of strength. You don’t need to have the culturally trendy kind of strength to be a strong person.
How could Jane Seymour step over Anne Boleyn’s not-yet-cold body and marry King Henry VIII just ten days later?
We need the patience and open mind to understand that.
Alison Weir does a fantastic job of laying out history from Jane’s point of view. Truly, this is the best novel I’ve read which includes Jane as any sort of prominent character.
Jane Seymour grows up at an idyllic country estate, as the eldest daughter of Sir John Seymour and his devoted, and devotedly Catholic, wife. This is before England splits from the Pope. She endures her share of childhood trauma. Her father, whom she admires and loves, is discovered to have had a long affair with her brother’s wife. Indicative of Jane’s personal strength, she finds the means to forgive her father. More than that, she takes her brother’s sons to visit their disgraced mother in the convent where she’s been banished. Sir John continues as the dignified lord of the manor, of course, because this is the age of the double-standard.
So devoted in her Catholic faith, Jane contemplates becoming a nun for a while, but later decides to seek her fate at the royal court. A scandalous cousin helps get her a post and she manages to resist his advances. But, really, she’s not exciting or important enough to try too hard to seduce.
Jane Seymour, devote Catholic, becomes a maid of honor to Queen Katherine, the first wife of King Henry VIII. Here’s your second clue, Sherlock. Most historians agree that Katherine of Aragon was the biggest victim of this tragic turn of events. She was a devoted wife to the King for two decades and enduring many miscarriages in her efforts to provide a badly wanted male heir.
And then she got shafted for Anne Boleyn.
Jane likes the Queen immediately and grows to love her like another mother. She greatly admires her patience, unconditional love for the King, and devotion to her sad and lonely daughter. Also, she has great empathy for Princess Mary who also got shafted by her father, the King, for failing to be born a boy.
As the King’s obsession with Anne Boleyn grows, the very fabric of the Kingdom comes apart. If you know that history, you know it resulted in the Protestant Reformation in England and eventual Freedom of Religion in the United States. History is full of these connections. I can’t complain about that, but there were many casualties along the way and Jane became one of them.
Anyone can read a brief outline of Jane’s contribution to history. We know she does marry King Henry VIII, that she’s know for her gentleness, and that she gave birth to the desperately wanted male heir, the eventual King Edward VI. And then she died from childbed fever.
But, this novel brings her to life in a way which helps us understand Jane’s true nature and motivations for becoming part of the tempestuous Tudor Court.
My only complaint is I want the book with the English cover art too.
Pop over to Goodreads to check this novel out and to Alison’s website for even more.