Mastodon The Writing Desk: Special Guest Post by Alexandra Walsh, Author of The Jane Seymour Conspiracy (The Marquess House Saga Book 4)

7 July 2022

Special Guest Post by Alexandra Walsh, Author of The Jane Seymour Conspiracy (The Marquess House Saga Book 4)

New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

London, 1527: Nineteen-year-old Jane Seymour arrives at court to take her place with Queen Katherine of Aragon. Discovering a court already beginning to divide into factions between Katherine and Jane’s second cousin, Anne Boleyn, Jane finds herself caught between the old world and the new. Determined to have a son, the king appears to be prepared to take whatever steps he deems necessary to secure
the Tudor dynasty.

The Secrets of Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII

In The Jane Seymour Conspiracy, the fourth book of The Marquess House Saga, I explore the relationship between Henry VIII’s first three wives: Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, as seen through the eyes of Jane. 

The lives of these three women were inextricably linked through the king and, through him, all their lives were blighted. One died alone, separated from her estranged husband and beloved daughter. One died on the executioner’s block, her head severed by a Frenchman’s sword in response to fabricated charges against her and one died from infection after childbirth, having finally delivered the king his heart’s desire: a legitimate male heir, Prince Edward, who would become King Edward VI.

The lives of Henry VIII’s first three wives, the women who provided the future Tudor monarchs, were woven together in a way that is rarely discussed. Both Anne and Jane were ladies-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon. Jane was lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn. Jane and Anne were second cousins. 

All these women were in thrall to the king who held their lives in the balance. Each relationship may have begun with love but this did not last. In The Jane Seymour Conspiracy, I have tried to show how frightening it must have been, as a woman, to know you were often only a glance away from being forced into the king’s bed and all the danger this could involve. 

During the 1530s, Henry VIII was obsessed with two things: money and dynasty building. Due to lavish overspending and mismanagement, Henry’s royal coffers were dangerously low. This led to debasement of the currency in order to gain extra bullion for the king, even while causing hardship to his subjects. Despite seeing his wealth increase, Henry wanted more and the debasement was followed by the spectacular idea of stripping the monasteries of their wealth and selling their land to the highest bidder. 

In order to assuage his conscience, Henry claimed this was all done in the name of God, leading him to declare himself as head of the Protestant church in order to achieve his other ambition: siring a legitimate heir, which is when Jane appears on the scene. 

The Third Wife

Jane Seymour was a character I first wrote about in an early draft of Book One in The Marquess House Saga: The Catherine Howard Conspiracy. The scenes were later deleted as they did not sit comfortably in the story as it developed. However, I kept them on file because despite flaring only briefly in the pages of history, Jane, like Catherine Howard, intrigued me. 

Catherine was queen consort for nineteen months and Jane for seventeen. One was beheaded, one died in childbirth. One Henry supposedly mourned for two years, one he refused to mention again. These two young women whose lives were destroyed by Henry VIII were both queen of England and have both been treated harshly by history. I wanted to rediscover both their voices. 

Catherine was, for many years, described as a flirt, flighty, promiscuous, therefore earning a reputation as a good-time girl, the suggestion being, she got what she deserved. Meanwhile, Jane is her polar opposite; routinely described as pious, devout, unworldly and obedient. Yet, she was able to woo a king away from his wife, hold her nerve while Henry arrested Anne on trumped up charges and had her executed in order to marry Jane. 

As Anne languished in the Tower of London, Jane prepared her marriage chest. When she was queen consort she is said to have tried to persuade Henry to return to Catholicism, however, when she realised such a request would put her in danger, she was more than happy to do an about-turn and accept gifts of gold and jewellery from the monasteries as Henry and Thomas Cromwell stripped them bare.   

These actions either take a calculating heart of stone and a ruthless streak a mile wide or a terror so great it is impossible to resist being coerced into such an untenable situation. Whichever scenario you prefer, Jane’s actions do not suggest someone who is pious, devout and unworldly. 

Through sleight of hand, in their descriptions of her behaviour, historians have portrayed Jane as a paragon of virtue while her actions, if studied in more detail, suggest otherwise. Catherine Howard, however, a teenage girl thrust into Henry’s arms by her ruthless uncle, is treated with far less respect, as she was accused of having an affair. It was these contradictions which were so interesting.

Creating the Conspiracy

To enable me to create a viable story, I make vast timelines, giving a day-by-day account of my characters and their whereabouts, while fitting them into what is happening in the world around them. These take time but when I’m writing, having this amount of information in chronological order makes it easier for me to capture the characters on the page and also to spot any anomalies that can be spun into a conspiracy theory. 

It also enables me to include as many documented facts as possible. Laying out the information that is known about Jane Seymour proved to be a gift from history because as it was revealed chronologically, so were many anomalies. 

Through searching Jane out in other people’s biographies – as my characters do in the book – and from reading the few biographies there are about Jane, I discovered quite a strange tale. 

Reading it with no agenda or desire to fit her into the ‘pious’ camp, it was a revelation. 

In brief, Jane was roughly nineteen (there are no detailed birth records to corroborate exactly) when she first arrived at court at some point between 1527 and 1529. Her position was secured for her through help from her eldest brother, Edward Seymour, and another second cousin, the notorious spy and libertine, Sir Francis Bryan. It is thought she was summoned in order to serve the then queen consort, Katherine of Aragon. However, a later source, Jane Dormer, the daughter of Jane Seymour’s only known suitor before the king wooed her, suggests she was there to serve Anne Boleyn. 

At this point, Anne’s star was in the ascendant but she did not yet have her own ladies-in-waiting, so it’s an interesting point of speculation. Jane, meanwhile, is listed with Katherine of Aragon’s women, where she remains as the court ruptures into two factions. Jane remains with Katherine until August 1533 when she vanishes from the records for four years. 

Where was she? The obvious suggestion is that she returned home to Wulfhall in Wiltshire to live with her parents. This cannot be dismissed but as there are no remaining records from Wulfhall at this period we cannot say she was there with any form of authority. Was she with Queen Katherine? She is not listed in the records of Katherine’s court, nor does she appear on any lists of Anne Boleyn’s ladies-in-waiting. For me, this was a gift. Four years to play with, enabling me to twist Jane into a conspiracy theory. 

There is one suggestion that Jane might have been at court over the New Year celebrations of January 1534 when one of the queen’s ladies a ‘Mrs Seymour’ is presented with a gift by the king. Many historians assume this was Jane but it could equally have been her sister-in-law, second wife of Edward Seymour, formerly Lady Anne Stanhope, who was at court. Jane’s main biographer suggests it is odd that this would refer to Jane as she does not appear in any further court records until 1536 when she suddenly catches the eye of the king. 

A Strange Lack of Suitors

The other interesting point about Jane was the fact there were no marriages suggested for her even though she was the elder sister of the ten Seymour children (NB: not all survived to adulthood). Her younger sister, Elizabeth, married Sir Anthony Urghtred c. 1528. The only known suggested proposal for Jane was Sir William Dormer.

In Elizabeth Norton’s biography Jane Seymour: Henry’s True Love, she explains that Sir Francis Bryan felt a sense of responsibility for the Seymour children, suggesting he had probably been looking for a husband for Jane. Norton surmises Bryan may have seen a hint of attraction between Jane and William, which is why he suggested the match.

William Dormer was the heir of Sir Robert and Lady Dormer, a country family who lived in Eythorpe in Bucks not far from Wulfhall, the home of Jane’s parents, Sir John and Lady Margery Seymour. Although Jane and her parents were in favour at court, the Dormers were horrified at the idea of this match. 

The rumour was that the Dormers wished to reject the proposal because they did not approve of Sir Francis Bryan, which seems odd. However, not wishing to offend Sir Francis Bryan who was a close friend of the king, Sir Robert agreed to negotiate terms. Lady Dormer was having none of it. She took her son William to London to see Lady Anne Sidney, wife of Sir William Sidney and hastily arranged a marriage between their eldest daughter, Mary, and William. Understandably, Jane was upset by events. 

The Missing Days

For someone looking for a conspiracy theory, this lack of marriage proposals and four missing years presented some interesting suggestions. As did one other anomaly. Anne Boleyn was arrested on 2 May 1536 and incarcerated in the Tower of London while charges were brought against her and a trial was organised. Jane, meanwhile, had been whisked away to Nicholas Carew’s house, Beddington Hall, in Surrey, to distance her from events. 

The lovesick Henry claimed he could not live without Jane and on 17 May 1536 she returned to London to a house on the river a mile from court. However, between 20 – 30 May 1536 there are no records stating where Jane was during these ten days. Norton states she stayed in London preparing for her wedding. Another rumour suggests she returned to Wulfhall and the wedding was held in the barn there, all of which is Victorian romance. Where was Jane? We will probably never know but it gave me even more wriggle room. 

Discovering there were so many gaps in Jane’s real story was a gift from history, enabling me to spin a conspiracy theory within it. I have kept to the facts for the vital parts of Jane’s life: including her timed returns to court, the moment the king first noticed her and the fear of being told you are about to marry a man who is murdering his wife in order to honour you with his proposal. Drawing on other events taking place at the time, a conspiracy quickly presented itself to me and, as with the other Marquess House books, slotted in very neatly. 

I hope you enjoy this new instalment of The Marquess House Saga and forgive me for twisting history into such intriguing knots. 

Alexandra Walsh. 

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About the Author

Alexandra Walsh is a bestselling author of the dual timeline women’s fiction. Her books range from the 15th and 16th centuries to the Victorian era and are inspired by the hidden voices of women that have been lost over the centuries. The Marquess House Saga offers an alternative view of the Tudor and early Stuart eras, while The Wind Chime and The Music Makers explore different aspects of Victorian society. Formerly, a journalist for over 25 years, writing for many national newspapers and magazines; Alexandra also worked in the TV and film industries as an associate producer, director, script writer and mentor for the MA Screen Writing course at the prestigious London Film School. She is a member of The Society of Authors and The Historical Writers Association. Alexandra is currently writing the fourth book in The Marquess House Saga, The Jane Seymour Conspiracy, which will be published in July 2022 by Sapere Books. For blogs, updates and more information visit her website: or follow her on Facebook and Twitter @purplemermaid25

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