SIX TUDOR QUEENS: KATHERINE OF ARAGON, THE TRUE QUEEN is the somewhat lengthy title of this book. Alison Weir, has set herself the task of producing six novels in six years based on the life of the six wives of Henry VIII. The first one weighs in at 595 pages, so she’s not going down the novella route. She must be tethered to her keyboard. We start at the very beginning with Katherine of Aragon. From this Norfolk girl’s perspective, she was old, barren and ugly; turns out that she wasn’t.
Being a princess sounds such fun but the reality of a medieval princess’ life seems to have been pretty rough. You got no say in who you married. You would probably be sent to a different country with a strange language at a young age. You were expected to produce at least one male child and if you didn’t then it was your fault. In Katherine’s case she married, as she was told to do, an ailing and sickly boy. When he died swiftly afterwards she was told to marry his younger brother. She then spent six years waiting for that marriage to take place with her father-in-law-to-be keeping her in penury.
When she finally married Henry they seemed to have been besotted with each other. He trusted her so much that when he went off to war in France she was made Regent. In that role she acted swiftly and decisively to meet an invasion of Scots. Katherine was a beautiful, wise and beloved woman.
As we all know, Katherine did not produce a male child that lived beyond childhood. She refused kind offers to retire to a nunnery thus releasing Henry to marry again. Was his error that he waited until he was in thrall to Anne Boleyn before asking? Would Katherine have complied if her loving husband had explained whilst he still loved her it was his duty to produce an heir? How different things would have been. Katherine refused to stand aside with the might of her nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor, behind her and so a ten year standoff ensued. Katherine is kept under house arrest and Henry creates his own church.
Anne Boleyn was always my favourite wife; clever and born in Norfolk, what’s not to like? Not anymore. Regular readers will know that I’ve just read THE TAMING OF THE QUEEN by Philippa Gregory based on the life of Katherine Parr, the final wife. These two Katherines seem to have been intelligent, spirited women, not something that was intimated to Norfolk schoolgirls in the 1970’s. Both seem worthier favourites. Maybe that’s because I’ve just read about both of them. Maybe next May, when Alison Weir’s Anne Boleyn tale is published, I’ll swing back in favour of my childhood heroine.
DISCLAIMER: I was sent a review copy by the publisher in return for an honest review
SIX TUDOR QUEENS: KATHERINE OF ARAGON, THE TRUE QUEEN by Alison Weir
Published by Headline Review
Hardback £18.99, Kindle £9.49