Started 6/19 Finished 6/30
Henry’s Sixth and Last Queen is another Katherine, Katherine Parr, but she’s so much more. She’s the Accepting Queen. She accepted whatever was asked of her.
At five Katherine accepted her father’s death. She left her London home to move into her uncle’s house, and her mother returned to court. She was one of Katherine of Aragon’s ladies-in-waiting.
At 16 Katherine accepted her first marriage, to a complete stranger. At least he wasn’t an old man. By 21 she was a widow, but not for long. A year later she married again, but as a widow, at least she could decide. She said yes . . . because it helped her family.
At 31 Katherine was a widow again, with two suitors, Sir Thomas Seymour and Henry VIII. She preferred Sir Thomas but accepted Henry . . . because it helped her family.
Katherine was also dutiful. She fulfilled her duty to her husbands, to her family, and to her religion. She was more educated than most women. She published three books, all about religion. But Henry’s queens had to be careful. Two of his advisors got a warrant for her arrest. Luckily someone got it to Katherine, in time. She begged Henry for her life. She said she’d argued religion to help him feel better. Thank goodness Henry believed her.
Henry died in 1547, and Katherine finally got her wish, to marry Thomas Seymour. But be careful what you wish for. Katherine later discovered Thomas was interested in her stepdaughter, Elizabeth, age 14. Her ending – so sad – she died in 1548, after giving birth to her only child.
Having sent his much-beloved but deceitful young wife Katheryn Howard to her beheading, King Henry fixes his lonely eyes on a more mature woman, thirty-year-old, twice-widowed Katharine Parr. She, however, is in love with Sir Thomas Seymour, brother to the late Queen Jane. Aware of his rival, Henry sends him abroad, leaving Katharine no choice but to become Henry’s sixth queen in 1543. The king is no longer in any condition to father a child, but Katharine is content to mother his three children, Mary, Elizabeth, and the longed-for male heir, Edward.
Four years into the marriage, Henry dies, leaving England’s throne to nine-year-old Edward—a puppet in the hands of ruthlessly ambitious royal courtiers—and Katharine's life takes a more complicated turn. Thrilled at this renewed opportunity to wed her first love, Katharine doesn't realize that Sir Thomas now sees her as a mere stepping stone to the throne, his eye actually set on bedding and wedding fourteen-year-old Elizabeth. The princess is innocently flattered by his attentions, allowing him into her bedroom, to the shock of her household. The result is a tangled tale of love and a struggle for power, bringing to a close the dramatic and violent reign of Henry VIII.
Started 6/11 Finished 6/19
Katheryn Howard’s story feels like it should have been titled The Neglected Queen. It starts when her mother died in 1528. Katheryn was only 7. Her father was a ne’er-do-well, so Katheryn was sent to her aunt’s house to grow up. That was the best part of her childhood, with an aunt and uncle who watched over her, who cared about her.
In her tweens/teens, Katheryn was sent to live with her step-grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, who only looked out for herself. Katheryn didn’t like school, so she didn’t apply herself. She was a social butterfly, into boys and alcohol. She made bad choices, and they shortened her life.
Her uncle, Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, got her a position at court in 1540 as a maid of honor for Anne of Cleves. When Henry VIII started thinking divorce, Thomas pushed Katheryn at him, hoping she’d become wife #5. AND that she’d be in a position to push his interests at Court.
It worked, until Katheryn’s past caught up with her. The result – she was the 2nd Howard girl to lose her head. Her uncle prosecuted both nieces. Her age – 21. Her cousin, Anne Boleyn, wife #2, was in her 30’s. Poor Katheryn! She lost her life, but many of those who served in her step-grandmother’s house, who had encouraged her bad choices, were sent to the Tower of London. There were so many, that Kathryn had to stay with the Constable of the Tower, instead of in the Royal Chambers.
The Dowager Duchess and the Duke of Norfolk served the most time. All signs of Katheryn disappeared after her death. The portrait of a lady, below, is thought to be Katheryn. BTW in my opinion, Anne of Cleves is as pretty as Katheryn Howard. I don’t understand why Henry divorced Anne, but at least she lived to tell. Scan down, and you can compare the real Katheryn to the real Anne.
In the spring of 1540, Henry VIII is desperate to be rid of his unappealing German queen, Anna of Kleve. A prematurely aged and ailing forty-nine, with an ever-growing waistline, he casts an amorous eye on a pretty nineteen-year-old brunette, Katheryn Howard. Like her cousin Anne Boleyn, Katheryn is a niece of the Duke of Norfolk, England’s premier Catholic peer, who is scheming to replace Anna of Kleve with a good Catholic queen. A flirtatious, eager participant in the life of the royal court, Katheryn readily succumbs to the king’s attentions when she is intentionally pushed into his path by her ambitious family.
Henry quickly becomes besotted and is soon laying siege to Katheryn’s virtue. But as instructed by her relations, she holds out for marriage and the wedding takes place a mere fortnight after the king’s union to Anna is annulled. Henry tells the world his new bride is a rose without a thorn, and extols her beauty and her virtue, while Katheryn delights in the pleasures of being queen and the rich gifts her adoring husband showers upon her: the gorgeous gowns, the exquisite jewels, and the darling lap-dogs. She comes to love the ailing, obese king, enduring his nightly embraces with fortitude and kindness. If she can bear him a son, her triumph will be complete. But Katheryn has a past of which Henry knows nothing, and which comes back increasingly to haunt her--even as she courts danger yet again. What happens next to this naïve and much-wronged girl is one of the saddest chapters in English history.
Started 6/7 Finished 6/11
Anna’s story begins in 1530 when Katherine of Aragon was still queen. The first time I read it, I ignored the storyline in the first 2 chapters because they had Anna pregnant. This time I read the author’s notes that included a quote from Henry VIII. He said Anna wasn’t a maid when he married her, and evidently, he said it more than once. There’s no proof Anna was ever pregnant, but it’s an interesting theory.
By chapter 3, the story is historically back on track. It’s 1539. Jane Seymour is dead, and Henry’s looking for a new wife. Anna isn’t interested. Europeans are shocked by Henry and his three wives. One royal said she’d marry him, if she had 2 heads.
The Princess in the Portrait is the perfect title. Henry was so obsessed with Anna’s appearance that he sent his court painter to Kleve. Henry proposes after seeing the portrait, but he’s disappointed when he meets the real Anna. Enough that he doesn’t consummate their marriage. Within weeks he’s working on an annulment, and, seeking a new queen.
I’m amazed by the ending to Anna’s story. She kept her head, literally, and became Henry’s good sister. Odd, but true. Henry died in 1547. His last queen, Catherine Parr, died in 1548. As for Anna, she died in 1557. She lived longer than Henry’s other queens, except for Katherine of Aragon.
Newly widowed and the father of an infant son, Henry VIII realizes he must marry again to ensure the royal succession. Forty-six, overweight, and suffering from gout, Henry is soundly rejected by some of Europe's most eligible princesses. Anna of Kleve, from a small German duchy, is twenty-four, and has a secret she is desperate to keep hidden. Henry commissions her portrait from his court painter, who depicts her from the most flattering perspective. Entranced by the lovely image, Henry is bitterly surprised when Anna arrives in England, and he sees her in the flesh. Some think her attractive, but Henry knows he can never love her.
What follows is the fascinating story of an awkward royal union that somehow had to be terminated. Even as Henry begins to warm to his new wife and share her bed, his attention is captivated by one of her maids-of-honor. Will he accuse Anna of adultery as he did Queen Anne Boleyn, and send her to the scaffold? Or will he divorce her and send her home in disgrace? Alison Weir takes a fresh and astonishing look at this remarkable royal marriage by describing it from the point of view of Queen Anna, a young woman with hopes and dreams of her own, alone and fearing for her life in a royal court that rejected her almost from the day she set foot on England’s shore.
Started 5/30 Finished 6/7
The Haunted Queen begins in the same place the other two did, with its main character as a teenager. It ends in the same place too, with her death. All three are historical fiction, but I got to know each queen and her character, enough to compare and contrast them.
Anne and Jane’s stories began during the reign of Katherine of Aragon, the true queen. Her value to Henry VIII – her dowry and connections to Spain. She was renown as a Christian, a devoted wife, mother and queen, but she couldn’t satisfy Henry . . . she couldn’t give him a son.
Both Anne and Jane started royal life as Katherine’s maids of honor. Jane arrived sometime during The King’s Great Matter, his obsession to divorce Katherine and marry Anne. Both were well educated, but Katherine remained Catholic. Anne turned to Protestant reformers, pushed to translate the Bible into English, and made the Church of England possible. She believed that women could rule. She might have kept her head and remained queen, if she’d only given Henry a son, and been a little nicer.
Jane stayed with Katherine until her family made her go to court, as Anne’s maid of honor. When Anne lost her fourth child, Jane’s family pushed her at Henry. It worked – they were engaged the day after Anne was beheaded. That’s when the haunting began, at least in this work of historical fiction. Jane would give him that all-important son, but die doing it.
Jane was a devout Catholic, but not educated like the others. She could read and write, but that was it. Her claim to fame – her obedience and kindness. She obeyed Henry and the Church of England. She brought his daughter, Mary back into the fold after Anne had her disinherited. Jane was remarkable.
Ever since she was a child, Jane has longed for a cloistered life as a nun. But her large noble family has other plans, and as an adult, Jane is invited to the King’s court to serve as lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine of Aragon. The devout Katherine shows kindness to all her ladies, almost like a second mother, which makes rumors of Henry’s lustful pursuit of Anne Boleyn—also lady-in-waiting to the queen—all the more shocking. For Jane, the betrayal triggers memories of a haunting incident that shaped her beliefs about marriage.
But once Henry disavows Katherine and secures Anne as his new queen—forever altering the religious landscape of England—he turns his eye to another: Jane herself. Urged to return the King’s affection and earn favor for her family, Jane is drawn into a dangerous political game that pits her conscience against her desires. Can Jane be the one to give the King his long-sought-after son, or will she be cast aside like the women who came before her?
Bringing new insight to this compelling story, Alison Weir marries meticulous research with gripping historical fiction to re-create the dramas and intrigues of the most renowned court in English history. At its center is a loving and compassionate woman who captures the heart of a king, and whose life will hang in the balance for it.
A Tudor Family Portrait, circa 1545, from left to right: 'Mother Jak' (Edward’s nurse), Lady Mary, Prince Edward, Henry VIII, Jane Seymour(posthumous), Lady Elizabeth and Will Somers (court jester)
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!