Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book Review: Jane Seymour: Henry VIII's True Love by Elizabeth Norton

The Thespian was very disappointed by this book. As a reviewer, I had enjoyed Ms. Norton's previous
book, Anne Boleyn: Henry VIII's Obsession which I recommend as a
"lite" Anne Boleyn history if you don't want to go through the much
more extensive and definitive Eric Ives The Life and Death of Anne

The problem with the Jane Seymour book is that  Ms. Norton falls into the
trap of inventing scenarios for Jane when she doesn't have the facts
to fill in gaps in Jane's life. "Jane was exhilarated, Jane would
have loved to do this, etc. etc. " It's the same trap that a lot of
recent history books, such as the Joanna Denny Anne Boleyn biography
and the Julia Fox Jane Boleyn biography follow.

The Thespian is much more impressed when a biographer admits that they don't have
the data and present what is definitely known without the need for
fictionalizing what isn't known.

As an example there is a new biography of Mary Boleyn, and
 the writer has just presented the primary source
information as fact along with secondary sources that have been
produced with commentary about whether or not the information
contained in those secondary sources can be true or not. It's very

As for the content of the Jane Seymour book, I will give Ms. Norton credit in her
portrayal of Jane Seymour as not the pliable little wallflower. She
argues that she was just as ambitious at achieving her goals as Anne
Boleyn was.   

If you want a biography of Jane Seymour that presents the facts stick
to the information in one of the Six Wives books, I particularly
recommend the David Starkey version for the best analysis of Jane
Seymour as Queen.

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