18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Perspective
Whilst I enjoyed Giles Tremlett's recent biography of Katherine of Aragon this book is the more interesting and really does offer a new perspective. I knew very little about the life of Juana Queen of Castile other than she was considered too insane to rule. This book gives a detailed account of her life and suggests that she was far from insane but was simply...
Published on 22 Jun 2011 by Sean
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite what it says on the cover?
This is an interesting and well researched read, but I found it unequally weighted towards Katherine Of Aragon, whose story has been well told many times. I found the most evocative chapters those that dealt with the sisters' early lives in Spain, where I could almost smell and taste Granada. However, Juana and Spain somewhat disappear later, we are retold the familiar...
Published 19 months ago by KAW
Most Helpful First | Newest First
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite what it says on the cover?,
This review is from: Sister Queens: Katherine of Aragon and Juana Queen of Castile (Paperback)This is an interesting and well researched read, but I found it unequally weighted towards Katherine Of Aragon, whose story has been well told many times. I found the most evocative chapters those that dealt with the sisters' early lives in Spain, where I could almost smell and taste Granada. However, Juana and Spain somewhat disappear later, we are retold the familiar story of Katherine's divorce and then its almost oh by the way Juana is still shut up in Tordesillas. This is a disappointment, as I would like to have read what Fox's opinion on Juana's incarceration was and her excellent endnotes show that she had researched and read around this part of Juana's life. So all in all it read well but as a joint biography I don't think it worked.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Perspective,
This review is from: Sister Queens: Katherine of Aragon and Juana Queen of Castile: Katherine of Aragon and Juana Archduchess of Burgundy (Hardcover)Whilst I enjoyed Giles Tremlett's recent biography of Katherine of Aragon this book is the more interesting and really does offer a new perspective. I knew very little about the life of Juana Queen of Castile other than she was considered too insane to rule. This book gives a detailed account of her life and suggests that she was far from insane but was simply manipulated by her husband and then her father King Ferdinand.
The more I read about Katherine of Aragon the less sympathetic a character I seem to find her. The book brings out well the extent to which she really was the true daughter of Queen Isabella and capable of manipulation herself. What I had also not appreciated was the lack of interest she seems to have shown in the fate of her sister Juana who was the rightful Spanish queen and that she really never seems to have questioned her sister's effective disappearance from public life. As the author points out how ironic she looked to her nephew Charles for justice and protection whilst he had been capable of imprisoning his own mother and taking her throne.
The book is well researched and will be enjoyed by anyone interested in the Tudor era. The author is to be commended for her ability to choose more unusual subjects from that era to study.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but surprisingly dull,
This review is from: Sister Queens: Katherine of Aragon and Juana Queen of Castile: Katherine of Aragon and Juana Archduchess of Burgundy (Hardcover)I was looking forward to reading this but I found it rather slow and dull. The rearch is excellent but I was left feeling the people were two dimensional. I found the style of writing a bit annoying too, 'who would have thought..' and 'little did she imagine' seem to crop up far too often, to the point of irritation.
Frankly I was disappointed that such a fascinating period and interesting subjects should be so, well, boring
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book.,
This review is from: Sister Queens: Katherine of Aragon and Juana Queen of Castile (Paperback)This book is factual and very well researched but reads like a novel.
Therefore it is not only interesting but exciting. One feels that one is 'there' and observing all the drama of court life.
I like the way each chapter leaves one with a 'cliffhanger'.
4.0 out of 5 stars A book that brings to light just how powerless even royal women were...,
This review is from: Sister Queens: Katherine of Aragon and Juana Queen of Castile (Paperback)Katherine of Aragorn's place in English history is well-known to everyone: Henry VIII's first repudiated bride, Queen of England for eighteen years, thrust aside in favour of Anne Boleyn, mother of 'Bloody Mary'. Her history is indelibly caught up in the history of England's break with Rome, the Reformation, the turn from Catholicism to Protestantism. Less well-known, in fact almost neglected, is her role as a Spanish princess, as an important part of a family dynasty that reached across Europe, daughter, sister, aunt to Kings and Queens.
Even less well-known is her sister Juana, known to history as 'Juana the Mad', the woman who was supposedly so besotted with her husband that she refused to bury him and kept his coffin with her always. History has done a real disservice to Juana, and this book deftly overturns many of the myths surrounding her, shining a truly disquieting light on her 'madness'. Juana, like her sister, was the victim of political forces and intrigues beyond her control, imprisoned and betrayed, again like Katherine, by those she should have been able to trust: her husband, her father and her son.
This is marvellously written history, a book I could hardly put down, despite the fact that at least a part of it was very familiar to me, a book that brings to light just how powerless even royal women were, and how little ties such as blood and marriage seemed to mean to a Renaissance prince. I would have liked a more balanced approach, as much about Juana as Katherine, but that is no criticism of the author, merely the historical sources available.
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice read!,
This review is from: Sister Queens: Katherine of Aragon and Juana Queen of Castile: Katherine of Aragon and Juana Archduchess of Burgundy (Hardcover)Books solely on Katherine of Aragon have been rare and on her sister Juana even rarer. Julia Fox has written a jolly nice read, in the popular style. What makes this book different from others is her take on Henry's divorce from Katherine, moving away from that popular style to encompass the analytical and the fact that Juana features albeit not equally which is more the fault of the history and not the author of course.
Fox compares both sisters to their mother Isabella. Katherine is portrayed as strong, her character being formed in those years between her two marriages. Fox declares that Juana was not mad but a victim of the machinations of her own family; firstly her mother, then husband, father and nephew for their own ends and ultimately at the expense of her mental reputation.
However, despite the popular style quite rightly having it's place in historical writing, Fox's writing style is not exciting enough to life it the heights of classic status. For this, look to Giles Tremlett's 'Catherine of Aragon - Henry's Spanish Queen' which is superbly written although of course it omits Juana's story.
5.0 out of 5 stars sisters,
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing,
Much is known and understood about Katherine but, even given the wealth of information available, I still felt that Katherine was treated far too lightly. Whilst I appreciate the writer has done considerable research into her subjects, particularly in regard to clothing worn by Royal persons, I really did not feel that there was any warmth to her writing.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extensive and at times troubling look at the politics of Europe in the time of the Tudors,
Katherine of Aragon was no less badly treated by her husband and her father-in-law, and one is left thanking heaven not to have been born royal in such times. Her tragic first marriage was followed by some halycon days as Henry the Eighth's first queen, but her status as failed brood mare for the Tudor dynasty overtook other feelings. Katherine's subsequent determination not to cave in to Henry's demands for divorce (and, he hoped, speedy remarriage to Anne Boleyn)was couragous if doomed, and the book does not gloss over the very real damage that she did to herself, her surviving daughter and the religion they both loved.
The men are universally ghastly. Henry the 7th, Henry the 8th, Ferdinand of Aragon, Philip the Fair and Emperor Charles the 5th were absolute monarchs: they had few checks or balances on their behaviour and operated in a male autocracy. Even so, at times, their individual and collective treatment of these two betrayed Spanish princesses deserves nothing but contempt. Charles promised help and support for his aunt, Katherine, whilst effectively imprisoning her sister to ensure his own power went unchallenged.
Both women's lives had lasting impact - Juana's successful motherhood ensured her bloodline flowed through European royalty for generations, while Katherine's stubborn refusal to be set aside, turned the established Church in England upside down and set the scene for bloody religious conflicts. Both were routinely separated from their children; another example of the casual cruelty meted out to these high born but ultimately powerless women. It is a superb book, and fully examines the tragedy of the sister queens.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Sure This is for the General Reader, Even With an Interest in the Tudors,
When it comes to these two 16th century queens, daughters of Spain's famed Christian warrior king and queen, Ferdinand and Isabella, historians have labeled Katherine, 1st queen of Henry VIII, as the betrayed woman, cast aside as she was for her inability to produce a male heir to the throne, in favor of Anne Boleyn. Meanwhile, Katherine's sister Juana, wife of Philip of Burgundy and mother of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, the most powerful man of his time in Renaissance Europe, has been labeled mad; as she was reputed to have kept her beloved late husband's coffin beside her for years, and other erratic behavior was attributed to her. However, Fox, a trained historian, has looked more closely at this pair of unhappy queens, and does her best to give us the women they actually were, equipped with character, intelligence, conviction, love of their homeland, strong family ties, and iron-clad religious beliefs.
As young women, they were expected to make advantageous dynastic marriages that would strengthen Spain's position on the stage of Europe, and they did. However, these marriages turned out to be unhappy and unsuccessful. Juana, the eldest, married to the rich and powerful duke of Burgundy, unexpectedly, due to a series of family deaths, inherited the throne of Castile. But she never ruled it: her erratic behavior gave the men in her life the excuse they needed to virtually disinherit her, and first her father Ferdinand, then her husband Philip, then her son Charles kept her an isolated, uninformed prisoner for many many years.
Katherine, as legions of fans of that famous turbulent English dynasty, the Tudors, and their best-known son, Henry VIII will know, was widowed by the early death of young Arthur, Prince of Wales, who was to have inherited the crown from his father Henry VII. The Spanish princess then remarried his doting brother Henry, who most certainly would rule the kingdom. Henry's efforts to cast Katherine aside to marry Anne would create great drama, change the country's religious landscape, and leave unsolved a mystery, on which much depended, for the ages: had Katherine's marriage to Arthur actually been consummated?
Each woman was ousted from the positions of power and influence they might rightly have expected to be theirs, and furthermore, separated from her children. They led hard lives, comforted only by their religion and their faith in their family. Well, it was a tough world in which to be born even a male; to be born female guaranteed a very hard life indeed, even if you were born a princess.
Julia Fox is a graduate of the University of London, and has taught history for many years. She is married to the well-known historian John Guy. She has done a great deal of original research for SISTER QUEENS. Unfortunately, perhaps she has done too much, and not been as discriminating as she might have been in its use. I studied Renaissance history, really the history of the 14th/15th centuries, and am particularly informed in/interested in that era. Nevertheless, I found SISTER QUEENS to be too heavy going and slow-moving, particularly at the opening: it took a long while to gain traction. The book is quite competently written, but it was somewhat confusing to read in snatches, as most of us must, so many of the same first names then used over and over. In that regard, the book gives us family trees that are helpful. Still, I'm not sure this book is for the general reader, even one with a specific interest in the Tudors.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Sister Queens: Katherine of Aragon and Juana Queen of Castile by Julia Fox (Paperback - 26 April 2012)