Jane Seymour was Henry VIII’s third wife, after Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. She was a maid of honour to both of her predecessors and married Henry a mere 11 days after Anne’s execution. She was reportedly not very beautiful and had a demure personality. She was, for the time, quite old to be married for the first time and we do not know why marriage had not occurred before. She came from a large family (she was one of ten children), and that possibly drew Henry to her. He was still in need of a male heir. She became pregnant by the end of 1536 and developed a craving for quail, which was ordered for her from Calais.
Jane gave birth to the future Edward VI in October 1537 after a labour of three days and two nights. We don’t know exactly what caused her death, but it might have been puerperal fever due to a bacterial infection.1 She died 12 days after Edward’s birth. She received a Queen’s burial and currently rests with Henry VIII in St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. Henry was devastated.
Her son became King Edward VI after Henry’s death in 1547, but he would reign for only six years due to his early death.
Now, I’ve actually read a biography on Jane Seymour before, by Elizabeth Norton. 2, so I was familiar with the subject.
David Loades’ biography differs because it also focuses quite a bit on the situation after Jane died. Jane is alive for about the first 80 pages. Now you may think this is very little, but you have to understand we simply do not know much about Jane. She was not a foreign princess like Catherine of Aragon or died by the sword like Anne Boleyn. It was quite common in those times that daughters did not even have their birthday recorded (like Jane!). They were not as important as sons and heirs.
The book mainly follows the (mis-)fortunes of Jane’s family as Henry marries three times more and eventually dies in 1547. Her brother Edward Seymour was the Lord Protector of England for two years between the death of Henry VIII and his own downfall. Her other brother Thomas married Henry’s widow Catherine Parr in 1547. He was also part of the regency council, like his older brother. He was eventually executed for treason in 1549.
Though I found this a very interesting read, I would not necessarily recommend it to those looking to read a biography on Jane Seymour for the first time, simply because it focuses so much on the situation after her death. I do love this style of writing and really enjoyed reading about the family politics that were so obviously present at the court of Henry VIII and later Edward VI. (UK & US)