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on 27 October 2012
Loades' new biography of Henry VIII's short-lived fifth queen is a rehash of the same old material first gathered together in the mid nineteenth century by Agnes Strickland and utilised by successive historians ever since. Catherine was best served by Lacey Baldwin Smith whose biography of the queen was as full as the sources permitted. But there is nothing new or original here in Loades' study; nothing thought-provoking, insightful, or instructive. As with his `Mary Tudor', Loades opts for the simple narrative approach ("and then... and then...next...") and Catherine doesn't enter the narrative until page 83 (of 188); the rest is mere back-fill (Henry's earlier marriages, the Henrician reformation).
What is disappointing here is the disregard Loades has for any analysis. What did adultery mean in its sixteenth century (royal) context? How were virginity and chastity viewed? What do the royal wardrobe accounts tell us Catherine's time as queen? What about Catherine's portraiture - do we have an image of her or not? If not, why not? As Emertius Professor of History, Loades has a duty to go beyond the narrative and get into the analysis. The book's subtitle, "The adulterous wife of Henry VIII", says much: this is a hackneyed study, lacking depth and subtlety.
Loades is not well-served by Amberley's disastrous presentation of the work: blurred typeface and poorly reproduced images add nothing to the reading experience. Neither do the images add anything to the study: the same photos get reproduced in Amberley's Tudor series without any good reason. Why once more do we have the portraits of Anne Boleyn, Catherine of Aragon, Jane Seymour? We know these images. Where are the debated contenders for Catherine's portrait? Sloppy, lazy picture editing is a serious flaw here. The text, unfortunately, follows suit.
If you want to read a short but penetrating analysis of Catherine Howard turn to Wicked Women of Tudor England: Queens, Aristocrats, Commoners by Retha Warnicke (a chapter is devoted to Catherine). But let's hope a more intelligent full-length study of this interesting period in Henry VIII's marital career will be published soon.
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on 22 October 2012
After having read & enjoyed two of Loades previous works, 'The Boleyns' & 'Mary Rose' I was anxious to give this book a try. Loades writes in a clear style, the facts are presented in a concise fashion, and the clear print of the Amberley hard backs makes the reading experience a real joy. The only trouble is, Catherine is barely mentioned in the first hundred pages of the book (there are 188 in total). Loades spends a great deal of time setting the scene and describing the historical context-too much time perhaps because Catherine's story only really begins halfway through. When she is brought into the narrative, her story is told with great gusto but by the end of it one is left feeling a little bemused by the title of the book ie 'Catherine Howard'. Perhaps a more apropos title would be Heny & Catherine a joint biography?
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on 5 April 2013
This is an extremely readable study of Henry VIII, his marital history, international relations, Anne of Cleves, Thomas Cromwell, and, of course, also of Catherine Howard and Lady Rochford (the lady organizing Catherine's love-life behind Henry's back). Loades is fair, even sympathetic, to all characters; where we do not know why a person acted like they did, like in the case of Lady Jane Rochford, he says so - the enigma cannot be explained. What is admirably demonstrated is how the accused blamed each other, and how the king and his councillors (and the councillors and their king), proceeded against the criminals.
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on 13 February 2013
This is without doubt, in my opinion, one of the worst history books I have written. Whilst this is standard fayre from Amberley, shame on you, David Loades!!!

I have read many books by Amberley and must give a little review of them first.

Amberley likes to publish biographies on Tudor and Yorkist women. This gives the false impression that women were important. They, on the whole, were not. It also seems it has an agenda to publish biographies on every Yorkist and Tudor woman known; biographies on Elizabeth Woodville, Anne Neville and Elizabeth of York being released over the following few months, will tick a few more names off it's list. It also likes to publish biographies regardless of the amount of information there is available. Can biographies on Anne Neville, Bessie Blount, Mary Boleyn or Jane Seymour be justified?

Amberley author Josephine Wilkinson writes 'when I was invited to write a biography of a Tudor woman...' This says it all!

At best an Amberley book on Tudor or Yorkist history is very readable; probably satisfying historical novel lovers. However, they offer very little in the way of analysis, offering very little new information about the subject, sometimes relying on supposition and guesswork to cover up the lack of information available. Books start and finish with long and irrelevant introductions before the subjects birth and endings after their deaths, and too many irrelevant photographs litter the books all possibly to pad it out.

The two worst Amberley authors are, in my opinion, Elizabeth Norton and now, David Loades. Elizabeth Norton has released EIGHT books within just FOUR years! A young historical author cannot be taken seriously if they have done this. It should take about two years to research, write and release a decent history book. David Loades, on the other hand, has had a lifetime of study so to release six books since 2011 should not give cause for concern. However his last two books, on Catherine Howard and Jane Seymour are incredibly lazy affairs while his book on Mary Tudor, considering his previous work on her, should have offered something new and even ends with the incredulous wish that another author write a fairer analysis of her!

The first three chapters of his new book on Catherine Howard gives an irrelevant bog-standard historical run up to Catherine's entrance. Why do this when Loades himself believes that there was no political reasoning for her elevation. An attempt is given to tie in her rise with the politics of the late 1530s but Loades contradicts himself. A further six chapters cover Catherine but in a very lazy way. No new information is given and there is very little analysis. Irrelevant illustrations of Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Thomas Wolsey, Thomas Boleyn, the tombs of Anne Boleyn and Henry Fitzroy and even the Field of Cloth of Gold embarrass the book!

David Loades' reputation is suffering. <aybe he just wants the money for a happy retirement.

A new, in depth analysis of Catherine Howard is long overdue. For the moment, Lacey Baldwin Smith's biography from the sixties is still THE book on Catherine.
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on 10 December 2012
I am afraid I will have to concur with the other two reviews on this text and conclude that whilst this work had tremendous potential, it essentially failed to deliver the promise of a well researched, comprehensive and compelling biography of Catherine Howard.

I was first of all struck by the fact that although the title of the book is Catherine Howard, like Eric Ives' excellent 'Lady Jane Grey', this book seems to focus almost entirely on the political environment which both preceded and necessitated Catherine's rise to power. For instance, there are lengthy discourses on Cromwell and the Catholic factions headed by Norfolk and Gardiner which are very interesting and illuminating (suggesting, for instance that Cromwell's demise was the result of his attempts to protect reformers who were otherwise deemed heretics, giving some credence to the notion that the Duke of Norfolk did not actively seek to supplant Anne of Cleves with his own niece and Loades also highlights that an urge to replenish the coffeurs may have been a lesser factor than has previously been acknowledged, in the destruction of the abbeys due to Cromwell's genuine desire for religious reform) - however there seems to be virtually no focus on Catherine's early life, upbringing or her relationships with family, friends or lovers in the Dowager's household, which was disappointing and a lost opportunity for Loades.
A focus on the political elements which catapulted and helped destroy Catherine would have been acceptable - however Loades does not make it explicitly clear that this is his purpose.

Furthermore, contrary to Denny's portrayal of Catherine Howard, I sense that Loades does not make full use of the sources available to him and fails to adequately speculate and analyse events and facts; instead he appears to rigidly adhere to given sources without adding to them in a great deal or challenging them. For example, there does not appear to be any obvious attempt to seriously decipher Catherine's personality, nor is there a great deal of speculation as to why Catherine behaved as she did. There is also little consideration of Catherine's relationships with the Howard clan such as the Dowager Duchess and Duke as well as the mysterious relationship with Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford. There is also little academic discussions concerning her date of birth or as another commentator has succinctly put it - a discussion of femininity and sexual politics in the Tudor period. Joanna Denny, in her biography on Catherine Howard, attempts to address these issues.

Loades does however attempt to debunk the conventional image of the Duke of Norfolk and more specifically, his role in Catherine's rise to fame which would have been very enlightening however like many other theories presented in the course of the book, he does not elaborate a great deal on his assertions or attempt to use supporting evidence to back up his views.

I would conclude, from my own perspective, that rather than focusing entirely on the life of Catherine Howard, this book appears to focus on the political environment which precipitated Catherine Howard's rise to the station of queen of England, by virtue of the political manoeuverings of the Howard and Gardiner factions as well as the events of foreign diplomacy such as the truce between Francis and Charles which overshadowed politics in England - even leading to the developments of the home front which underscored the King's fifth marriage.
The discussion of foreign and domestic policy which may have indirectly underpinned this fifth marriage is interesting - which is why I awarded three stars however there is little scrutiny of Catherine Howard as an individual; indeed, she almost appears throughout the narrative as one of many characters whose influence helped dominate domestic politics and apart from a few re-rehearsed accounts known of her such as her role in attempting to intercede with the King to save Sir Thomas Wyatt and Margaret Pole as well as her discourses during her interrogations, it appears that there is no more to be gleaned from her story other than what is known of her already.
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