Why would a woman marry a serial killer? Because she cannot refuse… Kateryn Parr, a thirty-year-old widow in a secret affair with a new lover, has no choice when a man old enough to be her father who has buried four wives – King Henry VIII – commands her to marry him. Kateryn has no doubt about the danger she faces: the previous queen lasted sixteen months, the one before barely half a year. But Henry adores his new bride and Kateryn’s trust in him grows as she unites the royal family, creates a radical study circle at the heart of the court, and rules the kingdom as Regent. But is this enough to keep her safe? A leader of religious reform and the first woman to publish in English, Kateryn stands out as an independent woman with a mind of her own. But she cannot save the Protestants, under threat for their faith, and Henry’s dangerous gaze turns on her. The traditional churchmen and rivals for power accuse her of heresy – the punishment is death by fire and the king’s name is on the warrant… [Description from Waterstones]
I was pleasantly surprised by this novel of Philippa Gregory’s, because I haven’t really liked many of her later novels; I much prefer her earlier ones. Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth wife, has always intrigued me – I think that, as Henry VIII’s only twice-widowed wife she has a lot of life to discover before she married Henry VIII, and it doesn’t seem to have been much written about. However, if you’re looking for a fictional account of Katherine Parr’s early years then this isn’t it. The story starts with the death of her second husband, Lord Latimer.
Parts of this book I did find quite disturbing (I’m sure you’ll be able to guess which bit in particular if you’ve read it), and although I’m not convinced that it happened as Gregory wrote it, it does definitely reflect what we know about Henry VIII’s controlling personality. There are quite a few places in this novel where it really makes you question what you know about Henry VIII, and wonder if perhaps he was affected by a fall from his horse, or any other number of theories which attempt to explain why his personality seems to have changed. Of course, one could suggest that power just went to his head, but I guess we’ll never know the whole truth.
Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and his wife, Katherine, are separated – later on in the series he has an affair. In reality, there is no evidence that the marriage of the Brandons was unstable, it seems to have been relatively happy.
On screen, Henry Howard, is shown as being in his mid-forties and calls Katherine Howard his niece. In reality, Henry and Katherine were cousins, and he was actually only in his mid-twenties at this time.
When Princess Elizabeth meets Katherine Howard she looks around 13/14 years old, but in reality she would only have been around 6/7.
Henry VIII speaks of the death of the French dauphin just after his marriage to Katherine in 1540, but the dauphin died in 1536.
Henry VIII is shown condemning Viscount Lisle to death, but he actually died in 1542 when being given news of his release.
A marriage between Princess Mary and the Duke of Orleans is proposed on screen, but the duke was already married in reality by this point.
There is no evidence that Anne Stanhope cheated on her husband, the Earl of Hertford, let alone with his brother. This perhaps parallels the supposed affair of Hertford’s first wife with his own father.
1. Elizabeth Wilhide has praised Queen’s Gambit, saying, “Fremantle…sheds an intriguing new light on Katherine Parr, one of history’s great survivors.” Aside from surviving her marriage to Henry VIII, in what ways is Katherine Parr a survivor? What do you think her greatest act of survival is? Why?
Katherine Parr survives not only a marriage to Henry VIII, but two earlier marriages and a later one. Parr’s second husband, Lord Latymer, was involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace. She manages to survive without a stain on her reputation, although Fremantle’s novel suggests that she was raped, along with her step-daughter, Meg. Katherine survives this experience and learns from it. She solidifies her belief in god through the actions of that time in Snape. Katherine also survived a marriage to Thomas Seymour, who betrayed her with her step-daughter, Elizabeth, if rumours were true and the story is how Fremantle told it. Seymour was later arrested and executed, so it seems like Katherine had a close shave. Katherine Parr’s greatest act of survival is probably surviving a marriage to Henry VIII, particularly taking into account how close she came to arrest and almost certain death. Other wives were not so lucky – Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. Continue reading →
The reasons for the divorce of Katherine of Aragon have been much debated, both at the time and in the hundreds of years since. It seems that the primary reason for Henry’s wish to be rid of Katherine was that she hadn’t presented him with the male heir. She only had a daughter, Mary. Henry VIII wanted a son to follow him and secure the dynasty.
The second reason, which was used as an excuse to end the marriage, was that Katherine had been married to Henry’s brother, Arthur. There was debate over whether Katherine’s first marriage was consummated, because if so, then the passage in Leviticus could apply. You shouldn’t marry your brother’s widow or you’ll be childless. To Henry, no son was as good as being childless. Continue reading →
Leanda de Lisle, ‘Tudor: the Family Story 1437-1603’ (London: Chatto & Windus, 2013) Hardback, ISBN 978-0-701-18588-6
Title: The title suggests that the book doesn’t just discuss the events of the reigns of the Tudors, but actually the people involved – the monarchs, consorts, politicians and wider royal family. The focus on the people offers a different perspective on the Tudor era.
Preface: The introduction/preface introduces the ideas that shaped the Tudor dynasty and the ideas that allowed them to come to the throne – namely the killing of kings. It also discusses the beginnings of the Wars of the Roses (the Yorkist and Lancastrian lines).
Citations: The citations are very well done. They are clear and concise, and make it easy to find exactly the text you’re looking for. Divided down by chapter and then numbered within that makes it very easy. The extra information also included in the notes adds something to your knowledge. Continue reading →