For a long time this is the first proper biography on Katherine Parr. Of course she features in all of the works on Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth but very often it only covers the parts of her life after she had become a member of the Royal Family.
Susan James's work on Queen Katherine gives a full picture of Katherine's life. The parts related to the life before her marriage to the King are most interesting and already shed a lot of light on Katherine Parr. Her relationship with her mother Maud and her mother's example how to manage as a widow her own life, her family and her estate and her valuing education for females is quite revealing. The same applies to her relationship with her sister and brother. Susan James corrects the strangely often repeated notion that Katherine married the 2nd Baron Borough of Gainsborough while in reality she was married to his son and heir who happened to carry the same first name. Her second marriage to the 3rd Baron Latimer seems to be a dry run for the marriage with the king: she married an older, sickly man of higher social standing and got two step children which were becoming quite close to her. The marriage to the king seems to be a repeat of this situation. But Katherine as Queen managed to fulfil her role in an excellent way. She was made even regent during the King's absence. She seemed to have liked the power.
Susan James puts Katherine in perspective of the role of woman at the time, deals with aspects of education for females, covers Katherine's role to foster these, her own achievements and of course with her political and religious importance. She is not blind to her faults and describes her own misjudging of the situation and relationship with the King leading and causing the crisis of 1546 which nearly cost Katherine her position and properly her life. However, it is prove of her flexibility, intelligence and calm how she solved the situation.
Most interesting are the descriptions how she hoped to become regent for young Edward VI.
Her last marriage after the King's death to Thomas Seymour might have been a love match, but cost Katherine her reputation. Susan James tries to do justice to Thomas Seymour, tries to paint him in a better light as historic reputation has it, but even she has to give finally in.
All in all a book I enjoyed as covers all aspects of Katherine's life, not just her few years as Queen Consort. It shows one of the many remarkable Tudor women. She was much more than simply wife No. 6.
My only regret is that the book itself is quite badly printed. Parts of the descriptions of the photos are missing. The publisher could have done a much better job, however that does not undermine the value of Susan James's work.