“It is as well that the Princess Dowager is a woman. Nature wronged her in not making her a man. But for her sex, she would have surpassed all the heroes of history.”
– Thomas Cromwell
A Spanish princess. Raised to be modest, obedient and devout. Destined to be an English Queen. Six weeks from home across treacherous seas, everything is different: the language, the food, the weather. And for her there is no comfort in any of it. At sixteen years-old, Catalina is alone among strangers. She misses her mother. She mourns her lost brother. She cannot trust even those assigned to her protection. Katherine of Aragon, the first of Henry’s Queens.
Acclaimed, bestselling historian Alison Weir has based her enthralling account of Henry VIII’s first wife on extensive research and new theories. She reveals a strong, spirited woman determined to fight for her rights and the rightful place of her daughter. A woman who believed that to be the wife of a King was her destiny.
Alison Weir is a UK author and historian whose love of history began at fourteen years of age. I have always loved history and therefore historical fiction and like Weir, I have always found the Tudor family to be particularly interesting! I mean, Henry did have six wives, three of whom were named Katherine! Although most of his wives met with an unfortunate end – divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived – they each have a story to be told. The Tudor history, in particular that of Henry the Eighth, has been told over and over again and makes you wonder what is left to be told… however Weir’s focus on the wives seems to be a new view point and considering how well she has told Katherine of Aragon’s story, I have no doubt the rest will be great!
At sixteen-years-old, Catalina spends six weeks at sea, sailing away from the only life she has known. The Spanish princess is to be married to Arthur, Henry’s older brother. However, he dies shortly after their marriage and Catalina, now Katherine, awaits word of her future. After several years in limbo, her marriage to Henry is finally approved. However, after many years of marriage and seven pregnancies, Katherine and Henry manage only one heir for the kingdom, Mary. Henry’s anger and impatience wins and he starts pursuing Anne Boleyn. He seeks to divorce Katherine, allowing him to take a new queen. However, there are many obstacles in his path, including the Catholic church. The saga draws out over many years and eventually Katherine dies, from sickness, ‘old age’ and a broken heart.
It is a joy to learn the history of Katherine of Aragon from her own perspective. A point of difference with this book is learning the story of Katherine through her eyes, instead of Henry and/or Anne. Their story is well known with Katherine merely a side story. I find her to be a truly interesting character. Weir portrays her as a deeply religious and immovable in her morals, judgements and beliefs and more importantly, in her love for Henry. Her story is a heartbreaking one; Sent to a foreign country, pushed from one marriage to another and always at the whim and mercy of others. She was treated poorly by King Henry and her own entourage and eventually by her own Henry. She died a poor and lonely old lady, separated from her daughter as a form of punishment for believing in her husband and marriage!
Weir’s knowledge in exhaustive and while I thoroughly enjoyed the story, my only criticism is that it was far too long. It is a complex and interesting history however it could have been condensed a little more than it was! Weir’s storytelling is engaging and easy to read; she balances fact and fiction, making the history accessible and interesting. It is a joy to see Katherine of Aragon the heroine of her own story!
AUTHOR: Alison Weir
PUB DATE: 10 May 2016
Thank you to Hachette for sending me a reading copy in exchange for an honest review!