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Book of the Month June

June’s book of the month is “Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s True Love” by Elizabeth Norton, published by Amberley Books. I have just read it and here is my review:-

“Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s True Love” by Elizabeth Norton (2009)

Jane SeymourI pre-ordered this Jane Seymour biography from Amazon and was so excited when it arrived because it really is the only biography of Jane Seymour that is available.

As an Anne Boleyn fan and armchair Tudor historian, I felt that it was important to get the “low-down” on Henry VIII’s third wife, the one he called his “true wife” and the woman he is buried next to. Jane Seymour is the woman who “usurped” Anne Boleyn’s place as Henry VIII’s true love and the one that may even have caused Anne Boleyn’s miscarriage – Anne was said to have lashed out at Henry after finding her maid, Jane, on his lap.

Whatever we think of Jane, finding out more about her helps us understand Henry VIII more and gives us a fuller understanding of the fall of Anne Boleyn.

I read the book in just a couple of days – I was desperate to know about Jane! However, I nearly did give up on it as I thought that it started badly. Much of the information at the beginning was based on assumption and “maybe”s, rather than actual evidence, and I found this slightly hard to swallow. I am glad that I didn’t give up though because the book definitely got better and really did build up a picture of this queen who gave Henry VIII exactly what he wanted but at an awful price.

We think of Jane as being a boring fuddy duddy. A woman who really had nothing about her to attract the King, apart from being the exact opposite of the intelligent, feisty, passionate Anne Boleyn who seemed to exude sex appeal from every pore. Elizabeth Norton does agree that Jane was not particularly attractive or charming but that she was anything but the mild-mannered, meek and demure English rose that we associate her with. Norton says of Jane:

“the real Jane was a shrewd politician and a strong character. Jane could not have won the king without a ruthless streak and her ambition was as great as Anne Boleyn’s”

According to Norton, Jane Seymour apparently learned a significant amount about Henry VIII and being his wife by being a lady-in-waiting to both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. She learned that Anne Boleyn had snared Henry by protecting her virtue and dangling it as bait to get the king to marry her and that she had then lost the King’s love by airing her opinions, arguing with the King and saying “no” far too many times. Jane learned to keep her virtue and be the traditional subservient queen that Henry actually wanted.

We’ll never know if Henry would have tired of Jane over time, after all, he is said to have made comments early in the marriage about how he wished that he’d chosen a prettier companion, but Jane’s place would have been pretty secure after giving birth to Henry’s longed for son. Norton points out though that Henry seemed to look back on his very short marriage to Jane with rose tinted glasses and when she was dead she suddenly became the ideal wife and his true love. Jane’s claim to fame will always be that she provided Henry VIII with a prince and that she didn’t live long enough for him to tire of her! As Norton says:

“Jane spent her entire marriage trying to prove to Henry that she was his ideal woman and, posthumously, she succeeded”.

Elizabeth Norton’s “Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s True Love” is published by Amberley Books and is on sale in the UK now and is due out in the US in July 2009.

Buy it from Amazon UK here or pre-order from Amazon US here

2 Responses to “Book of the Month June”

  1. Marie Burton says:

    Did you read Plain Jane by Laurien Gardner? This is just a romantic style novel of course but I did enjoy the quick read. (Although she mentioned Jane being Plain quite a few times). did you feel you learned a lot about Jane from this new book?

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Hi Marie,
    No, I haven’t read “Plain Jane”, sounds interesting. Yes, I did learn more about Jane reading this book, so it was definitely worth reading. It gave a good overall picture of her, challenged the popular idea we have of her, talked about her opposition to the Dissolution of the Monasteries and her sympathy towards the Pilgrimage of Grace, the close relationship she had with Catherine of Aragon (and Lady Mary) and her family background. There was nothing “revolutionary” in it apart from the fact that it made out that Jane’s meek and mild manner was more of an act or a role she had to play, rather than being her true character.

    [Reply]

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