1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Good, but maybe she's been squeezed dry already?,
This review is from: Katherine the Queen (Paperback)
If Tudor England was a garden, then Henry VIII would be a Leylandia - a massive tree dwarfing and sucking the life out of everything around and underneath it. Nowhere more so than in the story of his last wife, a bold and independent woman who is generally only remembered as "survived".
On the face of it, Henry's marriage to Katherine Parr is the greatest and most absorbing enigma of all. From his point of view: she wasn't royal (unlike wives 1 and 4); she wasn't young and fresh (wives 3 and 5), and given that she'd already been married without producing a child, she couldn't be seen as a good prospect for providing an heir (wives 2,3,4 and 5).
From her point of view, she had narrowly escaped execution after a rebellion in which her husband figured largely, and having been widowed could have been excused for thinking that her duty was done, thanking her lucky stars for escaping the many ways of dying open to a noblewoman in the 16th century, and retiring into respected obscurity.
So what were their motivations? We don't know, and this book, readable though it is, doesn't really help. Maybe Katherine saw it as her religious duty to try and influence Henry's religious policies, but if so, she doesn't seem to have had much success. In any case, the fate of wives 2 and 4, who were manoeuvred by their menfolk into marriage with the king in the hope of winning political influence for their families, should have given her pause for thought.
Here, as always, the trouble is Henry himself, whose character is such that hardly anyone else is clearly visible as an individual acting in their own right. Even this, his last and maybe most complex queen, is squashed into a corner by the ever-expanding figure of the king.
This is a very readable biography, but I don't see that it adds much to Anthony Martienssen's "Queen Catherine Parr" of nearly 40 years ago. Maybe that's because there's nothing more to write, but in that case, why bother?