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3rd MAY 2018

JANE SEYMOUR: THE HAUNTED QUEEN

 
BOOK THREE in the SIX TUDOR QUEENS series


   



JANE SEYMOUR

 

Eleven days after the bloody death of the Queen, a young woman is dressing for her wedding to the King. She knows she must bear a son - or face ruin. She is haunted by the fate of her predecessor.

   Jane begins to expose a gentler side to the King, but she clings to the old faith while living in an England in the throes of a religious revolution, where those who speak out risk a brutal death.

   She faces plague and rebellion – and the shadow of the past.

   How is she to survive in this terrifying world?

   JANE SEYMOUR. The third of Henry’s queens.

   In this sparkling novel, acclaimed, bestselling historian Alison Weir draws on new research for her compelling portrait of Jane, casting fresh light on both traditional and modern perceptions of her. A young woman of courage and compassion, come from a family tainted by scandal, Jane was driven by the strength of her faith, and a belief that she might do some good in a wicked world.
   All will be well if she can give the King what he wants. 






REVIEWS


Limited-edition advance bound proof review copies of Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen.

EDITORIAL RECEPTION


"A terrific novel! 


"Thanks to a blissful afternoon spent curled up in the company of Jane Seymour yesterday, I am delighted with the way this novel layers in yet more depth to the previous two novels by giving us Jane’s point of view on now familiar events. I know the readers of the series are going to be every bit as thrilled as I am with the way the tapestry of characterisation and plot is increasing in beauty and complexity book by book. But as a piece in its own right, it is riveting to hear Jane’s voice – so much more naïve and open, in many ways, than the previous two queens. Fascinating."


"I wanted to write to say how much I’ve enjoyed JANE SEYMOUR. I was really looking forward to discovering Jane’s story, as she’s one of the queens who has been rather two-dimensional in my mind, following the legendary Anne! So it has been captivating to learn more about her in such a powerful and accomplished novel. I’m really pleased with the way Jane, while experiencing similar situations and challenges to Katherine and Anne, has such a distinct voice and character throughout. Her innocence and innate morality are gradually tested, and her responses to life at court and her emotional development bring out a new and sometimes unexpected picture of Henry’s third queen. The new theories about Jane’s life are beautifully worked into her story here, and it was very interesting to read about the background research to these in your author’s note.
   Jane wrestles with, and compromises, her sense of honour and right versus ambition in a fascinating way, and with her close, if disrupted, family background she brings a new understanding of family to the royal court and to Henry. You bring out the different characters and relationships within her family, whose influence of course is going to continue into the next books. I did like your creation of Nan [Stanhope], who with all her flaws is an intriguing character! Henry, while remaining consistent with the King in your Anne and Katherine novels, is softened and more controlled in her presence, and you show that really nicely. I certainly found myself speculating on how altered our national history would have been had Jane survived longer. Jane’s story becomes more and more compelling as we moved into the insights on her marriage, and the increasing poignancy that comes with knowing her ultimate ending. And I particularly enjoyed Jane’s take on Anne’s downfall. Jane’s fears and the secrets she decides she must keep make her strongly conflicted, and I think ‘haunted’ describes her reign as queen very well. I think this is going to be a fabulous addition to the series. Thank you!"

"I had the pleasure (and sorrow!) of finishing your wonderful novel this weekend.  I loved it! I was totally immersed, feeling as if I was living in Jane’s world all the while.  It is so multi-layered, it gave me insights into so many aspects of Henry and Jane, of course, but of court life in all its complexity and the way that family rank, ambition, and favoritism play into it.  As Flora says below, an added benefit of your series is the marvelous portrait it provides of Henry as he evolves as a king and a husband; it becomes completely understandable how he veers from the sexy, alluring Anne of his younger days to the sweet, submissive, pure Jane.  And how Jane is that woman, yes, but it’s also the façade she must keep intact as his wife, except for those select few times when she dares break out of it.  You have made her a much more interesting woman than history usually portrays her. But overall what I have to say is that the novel kept surprising me. You portray the action in scenes so effectively, so we witness the action and development rather than being told about them in the narrative.  And these scenes and the way they played out were so often unexpected in their approach. What a test—to read a story that I felt I knew the basic bones of, but to be continually surprised, always engaged, and more deeply informed about this story I thought I knew so as to make my previous knowledge seem miniscule in comparison!

This is such a strong follow up to our first two novels that I’m truly excited by what we’re now going to be able to offer readers.Congratulations Alison on a marvelous novel!"

 

 JANE SEYMOUR - author's cuts



1535

‘I love this place,’ Thomas Seymour said. ‘I could settle in a house like this.’ His gaze took in the broad sweep of Sudeley Castle, the gardens and the park beyond. He and Jane were enjoying a short respite from the frenetic round of their duties and the busy schedule of the progress.

   They strolled on through the grounds, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the mild breeze, and presently walked into the small church that lay beyond the east garden. Jane crossed herself and knelt briefly in prayer. When she got to her feet, Thomas was staring at the chancel with a strange expression on his handsome face.

   ‘Brother, what is it?’ she asked.

   He dragged his eyes away. ‘You’ve heard people say that a ghost just walked over their grave? Well, I just had that feeling.’ He walked back towards the altar and stopped just to the left of it, as Jane followed him, bewildered.

   ‘By God, do you feel it?’ he asked, looking unlike his usual easy-going self. It came to her that he was frightened – Thomas, who had never shown himself fearful of anything. And then she stood beside him and found herself enveloped in deadly cold and suffocating sadness. She shivered and looked around her. There was nothing to account for it. She moved away, and everything was normal. Two steps back, and she was chilled. The day was warm. How could this spot be so cold?

   ‘Let’s go,’ Thomas urged, and Jane was only too glad to comply. On their way out, they met the priest coming in, and asked him if he had noticed anything strange in the chancel.

   ‘No,’ he said, looking puzzled. ‘I expect it’s just a draught.’

   Thomas sighed. ‘I cannot explain it. Maybe I imagined it, hah!’ He attempted a smile.

   ‘And maybe it was a draught,’ Jane said. They sat down on a bench and she looked back at the church. And suddenly, there came into her mind, from nowhere, a vision of a funeral procession, with banners and black-robed mourners following the hearse, and at the head of them all a very young girl. It made no sense. Maybe her imagination was running amok too, or she had somehow seen something that had happened here once. Or, and she prayed she was wrong, it had been a portent, and someone important – it must be, given the pomp of that procession - would die soon. 



1536

It was hard to sleep that night. Jane hated having her curtains drawn together, so the moonlight was streaming in through the lattice-paned window, casting shadows in the room. Jane closed her eyes, so that she didn’t have to see them. She thought of Henry, wondering what he was doing and thinking, and of Anne, immured in her prison in the Tower. She could only imagine her agony of mind. What must it feel like to be locked up there, fearing – and with good cause – that the only way out would be via the scaffold?

   She thrust the thought away and made herself think of Mother and Father, who would hopefully be on their way to London soon. She prayed she would be gone from Beddington by then. It was so quiet in this vast, empty house, especially with Harry sleeping in the other wing. She was grateful for the presence of Meg, snoring softly nearby.

   When the church bell tolled three, she gave up trying to sleep, got up and padded to the window. The church was just opposite. It had a square tower with windows on each side. Jane was sure there was a light behind them, a pale moving light shaped like a disc. There it was again! And then suddenly there was a disembodied face in the window, a face with a black beard and no body, or so it appeared from where Jane was standing. Then everything went dark and it was gone.

   Blind terror gripped her. Her first instinct was to run, but where should she go? Down into the darkness of the cavernous, empty hall? She could not face that, so she burrowed into her bed and pulled the covers over her head. She realised she was whimpering.

   ‘Are you all right, Mistress?’ came a sleepy voice from the pallet bed.

   ‘No, Meg, I am not,’ Jane confessed, peering out at her. ‘I was looking out the window, and I saw a face at the window of the church tower. Just a face, with a black beard! What on earth was he doing up there in the small hours?’

   ‘They do say that church is haunted, Mistress,’ Meg said, a touch avidly, ‘though I never seen anything myself.’ She got up and padded to the window. ‘It’s all dark now. But I reckon you’ve seen Old Scrat. My old granddam used to say he showed himself round-abouts whenever something big were going to happen. It’s a portent!’

   ‘Old Scrat? But that’s the Devil!’

   ‘Aye, and when he appears, there’s devil’s work to be done, so my old granddam told me.’ 

   Jane shivered. There could be no better way of describing this business with Anne. Devil’s work. Yet a large part of her refused to believe that she had seen the Devil himself!  She could not say what she had seen, but she feared it had indeed been a portent.


 

The next morning saw the sun blazing in the sky, and she and Harry rode out to make the most of the good weather. It was a relief to be out of the house. For all its splendour, it felt oppressive and unwelcoming.

    They rode along a shady lane that led them eventually to a village street lined with dilapidated houses. At the end of it was a large church, which looked in need of repair, with an old well nearby. Here, the road had opened out; to their right was a large mill pond, and beyond it a park in which was set a manor house. Ahead lay farmland. They turned their horses to the right after the pond, and found an inn bearing the sign of a swan. Harry went in to fetch them some ale, while Jane waited outside on a bench. She noticed some of the village folk staring at her, and became aware that the good cloth of her riding habit proclaimed her a lady of rank. If only they knew, she thought.

   Harry brought the drinks and sat next to her. ‘You’re preoccupied today, Jane,’ he said.

   ‘I have much to be preoccupied about,’ she replied, and told him what she had seen in the night.

   ‘It was probably just the moonlight reflecting on the glass,’ he said, his rugged face all concern. ‘You have enough on your mind without conjuring up phantoms or devils.’

   ‘I don’t like it here,’ she said. ‘I feel so isolated, and the house seems sinister.’

   ‘It won’t be for long,’ Harry said, patting her hand, ‘and I’m here with you. In truth, it’s a relief to be away from the court and all the gossip. If you listened to all the wild tales that are being bruited, you’d think that, since Adam and Eve, there was never anything so wicked in comparison to what is said to have been done by the Queen.’

   ‘Are you saying she is innocent?’ Jane asked, perturbed.

   ‘Do you?’ he answered, searching her face. ‘I mean, honestly, Jane, isn’t it all rather opportune? The King wanted an heir; he wanted you. And evidence was conveniently laid against the Queen.’

   ‘You are wrong!’ she countered hotly. ‘I believe she is guilty. I have the evidence of my own eyes!’

   He gaped at her.

   ‘It rides with what the King confided to me. Harry, you must not mention this to anyone, ever! I can tell no one what I saw, even you. I would not have her going to her death on account of anything I’ve said.’

   Harry looked appalled. ‘I am ashamed that any woman would descend so far. I pray God will give her grace to repent while she lives.’

   ‘So do I,’ Jane breathed.

   They untethered their horses and rode south, cresting hills and weaving their way through lush woodland. All the time, Jane was hoping that a message from the King would be waiting for her on her return. But there was nothing. She could have cried from frustration. What was happening? She needed to know.

   Dejectedly, she tidied her hair, washed her hands and then went downstairs to dine in a little parlour, where a table had been set ready. Carew had been right – his cook was a marvel, but Jane was not hungry.

   The afternoon dragged. What on earth was she going to do to fill the time here? Embroidery left her with too much time to think, so she woke Harry from his nap and got him to play cards with her. By the time supper was eaten and dusk had fallen, she felt a little better. But when she retired to bed, she made sure that the curtains were drawn and that a candle was left burning.  


Those familiar with the period will probably have guessed that Jane sees visions of the future in these passages: Sir Walter Ralegh in Beddington Church, where his head is almost certainly buried, and the funeral and burial of Katharine Parr in the chapel at Sudeley Castle. I can never resist a touch of the supernatural. Beddington Park - now known as Carew Manor - is near to Carshalton, where I live. The area still preserves a villagey feel, and is rich in history. The scene above is set in the village of Carshalton, where there was once an inn called the Swan. When I came to read over the finished book, I realised that I had been indulging myself in writing these passages, and that they do not really move along the story, so I cut them.