Authors: Diane Haeger
is the author of several novels of historical and women’s fiction. She has a degree in English literature and an advanced degree in clinical psychology, which she credits with helping her bring to life complicated characters and their relationships. She lives in Newport Beach, California, with her husband and children.
IN THE COURT OF HENRY VIII
1. Prior to reading
, what were your perceptions of Jane Seymour as an historical figure? Were those perceptions mostly formed by the many biographies of Henry VIII or by popular culture (i.e., miniseries, movies, or television)? How, if at all, were those perceptions changed or perhaps expanded by reading the novel?
2. Discuss how Jane’s relationship with Sir Francis Bryan evolves throughout Jane’s life. Why do you think he felt such a deep and lasting connection to her? Why did he elect to try to help her with William several times in spite of the odds against their romance?
3. History tells us that Jane Seymour was a meek and plain-faced woman. For William Dormer, what do you think were the characteristics that set Jane apart from the more beautiful and wealthy eligible women of his day? Why do you think he felt such an indelible connection to a woman he did not frequently see?
4. For many years, Jane found Henry VIII’s behavior and personality largely repugnant, although she was bound to engage with him as a member of the court, which ultimately drew him
to her. Why do you think Jane eventually allowed herself to soften toward the king? Do you think she compromised her principles? Or do you believe she truly came to care for Henry VIII by the end of her life and saw it as a kind of giving in to fate?
5. Jane was witness to Henry VIII’s first two tumultuous marriages, including his open cruelty to both women, as well as the tragic end to each union. Her loyalty was tied to Katherine of Aragon and she was deeply affected by the queen’s fate. Do you think Jane believed she could be different for Henry or was she simply resigned to her destiny?
6. Since each woman managed to captivate the same man, discuss the ways in which Jane Seymour was like Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. In what ways were they different from one another? For example, do you believe each woman truly loved the king? Do you believe even Jane Seymour could be considered ambitious?
7. In the novel, Sir Francis Bryan is unable to get William’s impassioned letter to Jane due to his jousting accident. Do you believe William and Jane should have fought harder to be together, or was the lack of a letter enough of an impediment?
8. In the novel, William Dormer marries Mary Sidney in order to save Wolf Hall for the Seymour family. Did you find that
act heroic? Do you believe there was some element of self-preservation in it? Do you think William should have fought for Jane by confronting the prospect of his own poverty and allowed the Seymours to face their own financial crisis?
9. Before their marriage, Jane knew that Henry had ordered five men executed for crimes which she doubted any of them had committed with Anne Boleyn. Jane had already seen the lengths to which he was willing to go to be rid of a queen with Katherine of Aragon. How do you think Jane rationalized marrying a man capable of such rage and violence? Do you believe she was in awe of his position? Or did she truly care for Henry, the man?
10. If Jane had not died in childbirth, do you think her marriage would have endured? If not, would it only have been Henry’s wandering eye and general discontent in relationships that separated them? Do you believe Jane and William would have found their way back to each other later in life?