Thanks to Janet Wertman for giving me a copy of this book to review.
The idea of this series intrigued me from the beginning. This is the third book in the series, but they can all be read as standalone books as well – this is the first one I’ve read but I will certainly be going back to read ‘Jane the Quene’ and ‘The Path to Somerset’.
Edward VI is often overlooked with many more biographies and historical novels being written about Henry VIII or Elizabeth I, and even Mary I gets a fair amount of attention. Mainly what I know about Edward VI is more about his Device for the Succession and the dispute over Jane Grey’s succession to the throne, so this was very interesting for me, even as a fictional account.
I really enjoyed reading about Edward VI’s uncertainty and trying to find his way through the political maelstrom that ended up execution two of his uncles, Thomas Seymour and Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, and his second Protector, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. The rivalry between Somerset and Northumberland was incredibly engaging to read, dramatic and nuanced. I think it was this that really made the story so engrossing.
I liked how the story was split into different days, almost like a diary, which I know that Edward VI did write. It helped the story to move along, and the dual narration from Edward VI and Mary I worked well, to give an adult insight alongside the childish but maturing insights of Edward VI. Even the supporting characters were very interesting, just to get glimpses of the likes of Frances Brandon, Jane Grey, Robert Dudley and Princess Elizabeth was fascinating from Edward VI’s point of view.
This book is really highly recommended. The best fictional portrayal of the reign of Edward VI I’ve read so far. I had a hard time putting it down and I can’t wait to read the first two books in the series!
As Alison Weir says in her author’s note, Jane Seymour remains an enigma. Yet writing a fictional account of her life, while based on deep research, allows a certain freedom as she chooses how to portray Jane’s choices and actions, and her interactions with other historical figures. Do you agree with the Jane Seymour that Alison has created, and did you find her different from the character shown in other fictional interpretations? Do you like her?
I quite like the Jane Seymour that Weir has created as it is a very different portrayal from the usually meek and mild Jane that we see in general.
I don’t think that Jane could have been as meek and mild as she is usually portrayed as it would have required some strength to marry a man who had his previous wife executed.
I do quite like Weir’s Jane – I generally find other fictional interpretations quite boring and bland, so this one was a pleasant change, and it seemed to work for me as well which I wasn’t expecting.
I thought Jane showed a strength of character, but was also the kind and gentle person that history accepts Jane was, without making her dull and boring, it’s very clever.
The Haunted Queen opens on a wedding celebration as two prosperous families unite. How is this need for advantageous alliance echoed throughout the novel? As a child, Jane feels safe and content with her loving family and apparently happily matched parents. Do you think this is what Jane strives to reproduce when encouraging Henry to reconcile with his elder daughter? How much do you think her father’s betrayal of the Seymour family affects her own choices?
In Tudor England marriages, especially within the nobility and royal families, were largely decided by how advantageous they were in terms of wealth, titles, and connections, so this wasn’t unusual. The Seymour family had connections with many of the great families of England through marriages.
I think that Jane coming from such a large family, and having had a seemingly happy childhood does play a role in her wanting Henry to reconnect with his eldest daughter. However, I think that Jane’s religious beliefs also play a part, as I think she sees Mary as the rightful heir over Elizabeth.
I think that Jane was completely shocked by her father’s actions, especially the fact that his betrayal was with his daughter-in-law. I think Jane and her siblings saw that their family wasn’t as perfect and happy as they had thought, and Jane wanted to recreate that happy feeling she used to have.
Jane’s desire to become a nun shows a calm determination from a young age. When she finds this is not the life she expected, she sets her heart on a place at court. She might seem a malleable character, yet tends nonetheless to achieve her ambitions. How much do you feel other people, including Jane’s own family, underestimate her quiet strength of character, and do you think it gives her satisfaction to surprise them?
Jane is willing to explore her options and test them out – she sets her heart on one thing, finds it isn’t for her and moves the goalposts, which is admirable. She can adapt when she realises something isn’t for her.
I think Jane’s parents in particular underestimate her because they are used to having no trouble from her, unlike her brothers and sisters, so they don’t understand her quiet strength.
I think it does give Jane satisfaction to surprise people because they expect her to be quiet and malleable but she is really a strong character and it gives people a shock when they realise it.
Jane is strong because she can accept that her ambition wasn’t really for her and adjust accordingly – it takes a strong person to admit they’ve made a mistake.
What role do faith and religion play during the time period represented in The Last Tudor? What is the relationship between religion and politics, and how does this relationship affect the cultural climate of England? Is the country mostly united in their faith or divided? What impact does this have on the royals of England?
After the Henrician Reformation, there was the mid-Tudor crisis, already with differences of faith across England.
Edward VI was a devout Protestant as he had been raised, Mary I was a devout Catholic as her mother Katherine of Aragon had been, and Elizabeth I looked for a middle way in religion having seen the chaos of her brother’s and sister’s reigns.
Edward VI altered his Device for the Succession to stop Mary I succeeding to the throne and returning the English church to Rome.
Politics was based on religion – generally people who supported Edward VI and Jane Grey were protestant, and those who supported Mary I were Catholic, although Mary I did at first also attract the support of protestants as the real claimant to the throne by Henry VIII’s will.
What is “the true religion” according to Lady Jane Grey? Why does Jane believe that she and her family do not need to earn their place in heaven as others do? Does her faith ultimately serve her well? Discuss.
Jane Grey believes the true religion is protestant – each is influenced in religion in the way that they were raised.
Protestants believe in pre-destination – that it is already decided whether you go to heaven or hell before you’re even born and you can’t influence that through good works.
Good works leading to heaven is a Catholic doctrine.
Jane Grey relies on her faith and it ultimately helps her to die, but she wouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place if she wasn’t staunchly Protestant.
Edward VI settles the succession on Jane Grey because she is Protestant, rather than his Catholic half-sister Mary I.
Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and his wife, Katherine, are separated – later on in the series he has an affair. In reality, there is no evidence that the marriage of the Brandons was unstable, it seems to have been relatively happy.
On screen, Henry Howard, is shown as being in his mid-forties and calls Katherine Howard his niece. In reality, Henry and Katherine were cousins, and he was actually only in his mid-twenties at this time.
When Princess Elizabeth meets Katherine Howard she looks around 13/14 years old, but in reality she would only have been around 6/7.
Henry VIII speaks of the death of the French dauphin just after his marriage to Katherine in 1540, but the dauphin died in 1536.
Henry VIII is shown condemning Viscount Lisle to death, but he actually died in 1542 when being given news of his release.
A marriage between Princess Mary and the Duke of Orleans is proposed on screen, but the duke was already married in reality by this point.
There is no evidence that Anne Stanhope cheated on her husband, the Earl of Hertford, let alone with his brother. This perhaps parallels the supposed affair of Hertford’s first wife with his own father.
Henry VIII introduces Ambassador Chapuys to Jane Seymour, like it was her first time meeting him – she had been at court for some years serving both Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, so would have met the ambassador before.
Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, served as Jane’s principal lady-in-waiting – Jane Boleyn did serve under Jane Seymour, but the latter’s principal lady-in-waiting was actually her sister, Elizabeth Seymour.
Francis Bryan first appears in season 3 – he was actually active at court from 1528, and was instrumental in helping Cromwell to bring about the fall of Anne Boleyn, although this isn’t shown.
Francis Bryan threatening to beat Mary’s head against the wall until it was as soft as a boiled apple – these words were spoken to Mary, but it was before her mother had even died (season 2) and it wasn’t by Francis Bryan, but by either George Talbot or Thomas Howard, both staunch Boleyn supporters.
The women at the Tudor court all seems to wear crowns and tiaras – all women in the Tudor court would have worn hoods rather than these, even queens.
Title/s: Lady Seymour / Viscountess Beauchamp / Countess of Hertford / Duchess of Somerset
Birth / Death: c.1497 – 16 April 1587
Spouse: Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset 1500-1552 / Francis Newdigate ?-1582
Children: Edward, Viscount Beauchamp 1537-1539 / Edward, Earl of Hertford 1539-1621 / Henry 1540-? / Margaret 1540-? / Jane 1541-1561 / Anne ?-1588 / Catherine 1548-1625 / Thomas 1548-1574 / Mary 1552-? / Elizabeth 1552-1602
The Howards were one of the oldest families. They were the family who had the Dukedom of Norfolk. Anne of York, the daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, married into the Howard family. Well-known descendents included Anne Boleyn (second wife of Henry VIII) and Katherine Howard (fifth wife of Henry VIII). Mary Howard married Henry Fitzroy, illegitimate son of Henry VIII and Duke of Richmond and Somerset. It was probably their ambitions that brought them down in the end.
The Seymour family were pretty obscure until Henry VIII fell in love with Jane Seymour, who later became his third wife after the execution of his second, Anne Boleyn. Their triumph was short-lived. Jane’s only child became Edward VI, but he had no children. Jane’s two brothers, Edward and Thomas, were both executed in the reign of their nephew, Edward VI. Edward Seymour had been Lord Protector, until he was overthrown by John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. Thomas Seymour tried to get control of Edward VI and was killed for it. Continue reading “Potted History of Prominent Tudor Families”
Very few executions actually took place within the walls of the Tower of London. Most executions took place on the nearby Tower Hill. This post will cover the latter executions. A different post covers the former executions in the Tower itself. The executions on Tower Hill were more of a spectator sport, whereas the Tower dealt with potentially dangerous or controversial executions like Queens of England and prominent nobles.
Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham 1521 – Edward Stafford was executed on 17th May 1521. Henry VIII knew that Stafford probably had a stronger legitimate claim to the throne than he did as the Tudor descended from the illegitimate Beaufort line. In 1520 Henry authorised an investigation against him and he was tried before a group of seventeen of his peers, as was customary for the nobility. It is suggested his opposition to the King stemmed from his hatred of Wolsey. Continue reading “Important Tudor Executions on Tower Hill”