Title: Katherine of Aragon, the True Queen
Author: Alison Weir
Series: Six Tudor Queens
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Published: May 31st, 2016
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5 out of 5)The summary of Katherine of Aragon, the True Queen from NetGalley:
Bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir takes on what no fiction writer has done before: creating a dramatic six-book series in which each novel covers one of King Henry VIII’s wives. In this captivating opening volume, Weir brings to life the tumultuous tale of Katherine of Aragon, Henry’s first, devoted, and “true” queen.
A princess of Spain, Catalina is only sixteen years old when she sets foot on the shores of England. The youngest daughter of the powerful monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, Catalina is a coveted prize for a royal marriage—and Arthur, Prince of Wales, and heir to the English throne, has won her hand. But tragedy strikes and Catalina, now Princess Katherine, is betrothed to the future Henry VIII. She must wait for his coming-of-age, an ordeal that tests her resolve, casts doubt on her trusted confidantes, and turns her into a virtual prisoner.
Katherine’s patience is rewarded when she becomes Queen of England. The affection between Katherine and Henry is genuine, but forces beyond her control threaten to rend her marriage, and indeed the nation, apart. Henry has fallen under the spell of Katherine’s maid of honor, Anne Boleyn. Now Katherine must be prepared to fight, to the end if God wills it, for her faith, her legitimacy, and her heart.
The overall story of Katherine of Aragon is pretty well-known. She arrives as the bride of Prince Arthur, but shortly after their marriage, he dies. She eventually marries his brother, King Henry VIII, and has a long marriage filled with miscarriages and only one daughter. Eventually, King Henry becomes infatuated with Anne Boleyn, going so far as to make himself the head of the Church of England so he can divorce Katherine and marry Anne. Weir brings the story to life, taking the facts and weaving them into a picture of the life of one of the major players in Tudor history.
Katherine of Aragon is an interesting figure. She was deeply religious and certainly loved Henry as much as one could. Yet, she didn’t let people control her or walk over her. She stood up for her marriage and her child, knowing that if she gave in to what the king wanted, not only would she be tarnished, but her daughter would be as well.
I’ve heard some arguments that she should have just accepted the divorce when first offered and faded away with the king’s love and respect. She could have been like Anne of Cleves, who accepted a divorce and lived a good life with the respect of King Henry. Yet doing that would have gone against her conscious and would have gone against everything she had been taught to do.
This book brings her to life in a way I haven’t read before. She’s both deeply sympathetic and frustrating.
At times, my heart hurt for her. Despite her strength and intelligence, she was still a woman and thus, still a political pawn. She worked as hard as she could to be in control of her future, but she was still at the mercy of the men in her life.
But then she’d begin to get stubborn and prideful and I’d want to shake some sense into her. I wanted to remind her that, even though Henry respected her, she was still a woman and in his eyes, that meant she wasn’t as valuable as a man who was of equal intelligence and ability.
In the end, I found myself both in awe of her personal strength and pitying her a little bit. She stood up for herself when to do so could mean death. She stood for what she thought was right with God. She fought for her love and marriage until the very end, despite fortune turning against her. But then I pitied her because she failed to see the truth in people because she always looked for the good in them. That ended up hurting her and costing her in the end.
I Didn’t Like:
I thought the book was really well written and the focus on remaining as true to history as possible was wonderful, but it still read a little like a dramatized nonfiction piece at times. It never really took away from the novel, but I would read over those parts a little quicker.
I Recommend This Book To:
Any historical fiction fan would enjoy this book, especially if you’re fond of the Tudor period. It’s thoroughly researched and well-written. It’s probably not the best book if you’re looking to start historical fiction, as there is a lot of time covered, people discussed, and events covered, but it is a definite read for anyone who enjoys history.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.