This is the first historical novel I have read by Alison Weir, but it won’t be the last! “Katherine of Aragon” kept my interest throughout the entire almost 600 page book.
Written sympathetically and insightfully, the author delves into this Spanish-born queen who was so wronged by King Henry VIII. This is the first time I read something this comprehensive about her life, from the time she left Spain to marry Henry’s brother Arthur all the way up to her death. I took my time with this lengthy hardcover, but the second half of the book became more and more difficult to put down. The author cleverly and suspensefully unravels events that although known to me, still contained enough drama to keep my interest.
“Feast followed feast, and the days were a bright whirl of pageantry, dancing, hunting, and hawking, and at every event she and Henry donned new clothes. It seemed that the treasury was as bottomless as Henry’s love for her.
He could not stop telling people of the joy he had found with her.
“It is clear that His Grace adores you,” Fray Diego observed.
“And I adore him.” Katherine smiled.
Poor Katherine is to suffer the loss of two sons and several miscarriages, only successfully bringing to birth a daughter, Mary. There are probably few that are not familiar with her story, but the author brings her to life in this portrait of her experiences and turbulent history.
I had not realized that Katherine so disliked King Henry’s advisor, Cardinal Wolsey, but she came to sympathise with his plight and downfall in the end. The author also portrays Thomas Cromwell as being more engaged with Anne Bolyen’s interests and more than willing to do the King’s bidding. I liked her portrayal of both Thomas More and Bishop Fisher. The author shows Katherine to be intensely loyal to King Henry and unwilling to ever budge from her position as his lawful wife.
So much happens in this book, and a lot that I found to my surprise I had not known before. Katherine’s obedience to King Henry, even though she was wronged, is admirable although some called it foolish. She did have some loyal friends and ladies in waiting but even they ultimately were kept by the King’s orders from her side.
“I pray that God will pardon the King my husband the wrong he has done me, and that divine wisdom will lead him to the true road,” she said aloud. “I pray that He comforts my child when I am gone.”
The author states in her afterword that she kept closely to the historical record and that the letters quoted in the book were genuine, and reminds the reader that we can only understand this tragic queen through the context of the times she lived in.