Another “historical entertainment” from Erickson, in which the third wife of Henry VIII has her say.
Queen Jane Seymour has been the focus of few Tudor historical novels, compared with her more flamboyant predecessor Anne Boleyn. In all likelihood, perhaps because Jane was the only wife to give Henry what he wanted (a male heir) and to die before Henry could tire of her, Jane is generally seen as too nice to capture readers’ interest. Erickson debunks the lackluster truth by freely imagining some unhistorical escapades for the shy daughter of the politically astute Seymours. As maid of honor to Henry’s first Queen, Catherine of Aragon, Jane serves her mistress faithfully, all the while Catherine is being maligned, discredited and ousted by Henry, who declares himself the head of the Church in England mainly to nullify his marriage. Jane hates her father for seducing her fiancé Will’s sister, thereby alienating Will’s family and jeopardizing the engagement. Seymour senior also beds his son Ned’s wife Cat, causing Ned to banish Cat to a convent and disown his two sons, whom Jane takes under her protection. But Jane has her amoral, conniving side. She joins with Catherine’s other ladies in mercilessly baiting Anne Boleyn, a newcomer to Court. While still being courted by Will, she has an unapologetic affair with Galyon, a French glazier who is repairing Anne Boleyn’s windows. Informed by Ned of a poisoning attempt on Henry Fitzroy, King Henry’s illegitimate son by Anne’s sister Mary, Jane sanctimoniously tattles to the King, implicating both Anne and the now-exiled Catherine. After Anne has Galyon killed and Will announces plans to wed another, Jane resigns herself to spinsterhood but vows revenge against Anne, who has fallen into royal disfavor after the birth of Princess Elizabeth. Jane entices Henry by going with what she’s good at: appearing to be gentle, unassuming and, above all, trustworthy. But as Erickson amply demonstrates, there is no trust among Tudors.
A delectable serving of Tudor dish.