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Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s Favourite Wife by David Loades

Posted By Claire on June 5, 2013

Jane SeymourDavid Loades is an excellent historian and I thoroughly enjoyed his books on Henry VIII, Henry’s six wives and Mary I but I was disappointed by this biography. I came away feeling that I had not found out any more about Jane than I already knew from reading Elizabeth Norton’s biography and the various books on the six wives, and that this book was actually more about the Seymours. Jane was actually only the subject of three chapters out of eight (two and a half really as the second one is more about the Pilgrimage of Grace), with the other chapters being about her family and Edward VI. Jane died on page 83 (out of 160, not including Notes, Bibliography) so she plays little part in it. Perhaps the title “The Seymours” would have been more appropriate and then the book would not have been a disappointment for me. I don’t believe that Jane warrants a biography because we know so little about her, as was clear from the book.

I also found it confusing that at one point (p29) Loades writes that Jane Seymour was “almost certainly” the lady who had caught the King’s eye in autumn 1534 yet later writes that when Jane came “on the scene in 1536 there is no reference to any previous relationship”.

I did learn one new piece of information, the fact that amongst the mementos Edward VI kept of his mother were “small tools of sorcery” which, as Loades points out, “casts an entirely new light on Jane’s activities.” Interesting!

The Book includes the following:

  • Preface
  • Notes on Titles – Who was awarded which title and when
  • Genealogical Table of the Seymour family
  • Introduction: The Family at Wolf Hall – The lineage of Jane Seymour, Sir John Seymour’s life and career, Sir Edward Seymour’s rise and Jane’s early life.
  • Jane and Anne – Jane’s role as lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn, the beginning of Jane’s relationship with the King, and Anne’s fall.
  • A Whirlwind Romance – Jane and Henry’s marriage, Mary and Henry VIII, and the Pilgrimage of Grace.
  • Jane the Queen – Jane’s pregnancy, the birth of Edward VI, the christening, Jane’s death and burial.
  • Family Politics – Edward and Thomas Seymour.
  • The King’s Options – The search for a new wife for Henry VIII.
  • The Prince and His Uncles – Edward VI’s upbringing and education, the rise of Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford.
  • The Legacy – Henry VIII’s subsequent marriages, Henry VIII’s death, the falls of the Seymour brothers, Edward VI’s illness and death, the Seymour line in Elizabeth I’s reign.
  • Notes – References for each chapter
  • Bibliography

The book also contains illustrations.

If you already have Elizabeth Norton’s book on Jane then you may not want to buy this one too, but those interested in the Seymour family will enjoy this one. It is a good book on the Seymours, it just isn’t a biography of Jane.

Blurb from Amazon

Jane was Henry VIII’s third Queen, and she was described by him as ‘his first true wife’, both his first two marriages having been annulled. She was twenty-seven when he married her, and came of a solid gentry family with good court connections. She had served both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn as a Lady of the Privy Chamber, and her failure to find a suitable marriage is something of a mystery. He was forty-four and desperate for the male heir who had so far eluded him, but which Jane’s placid disposition and sexual availability seemed to promise. She was no great beauty, but came of a good breeding stock, and therein lay his hope. They married at the end of May 1536, and she became pregnant at about the end of the year, a condition which advanced normally, but which caused the King acute anxiety as the summer of 1537 advanced. Then in October 1537 Jane performed the great miracle, and bore Henry a son, who lived and flourished. Tragically she died of puerperal fever a few days later, leaving the court in mourning and the king devastated. Her obsequies were elaborate and prolonged, and Henry stayed in mourning for many weeks. The king’s son, Prince Edward was carefully nurtured, and probably did not miss the mother he had never known. When the time came, his education was overseen by Henry’s sixth Queen, Catherine Parr, and he seems not to have had much of the Seymour in his make up. He was very much his father’s boy.

Hardcover: 200 pages
Publisher: Amberley Publishing; 1st Edition edition (10 Jan 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1445611570
ISBN-13: 978-1445611570
Available at, Amazon UK and your usual favourite bookshop.


One Response to “Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s Favourite Wife by David Loades”

  1. Diane Wilshere says:

    Thanks for this review. I was concerned about this as I felt the Elizabeth Norton book was also pretty much a lot of filler for the queen we know factually the least amount of information about. If anyone wants a good book on the Seymour family I suggest Ordeal by Ambition a triple biography of Jane, Edward and Thomas by a descendant of Edward. It’s an older book but still a good one.

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