Sunday, July 1, 2012

His Last Queen

Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII by Linda Porter

Summary: The general perception of Katherine Parr is that she was a provincial nobody with intellectual pretensions who became queen of England because the king needed a nurse as his health declined. Yet the real Katherine Parr was attractive, passionate, ambitious, and highly intelligent. Thirty-years-old (younger than Anne Boleyn had been) when she married the king, she was twice widowed and held hostage by the northern rebels during the great uprising of 1536-37 known as the Pilgrimage of Grace. Her life had been dramatic even before she became queen and it would remain so after Henry’s death. She hastily and secretly married her old flame, the rakish Sir Thomas Seymour, and died shortly after giving birth to her only child in September 1548. Her brief happiness was undermined by the very public flirtation of her husband and step-daughter, Princess Elizabeth. She was one of the most influential and active queen consorts in English history, and this is her story.

Review: An evenhanded review of Katherine Parr and her place in history. 

This book cleared up some misconceptions and misinformation I had about Katherine Parr. There is a lot of misconceptions and misinformation about all of Henry VIII's wives, including Katherine Parr. As Porter mentions a number of times, the misconceptions and misinformation do make for good historical fiction. Porter does do a good job of mentioning the traditional or assumed view about Katherine Parr. She then provides what she believes to be more likely the truth. It is hard to get to the truth since hundreds of years have passed and a lot has not survived from that period. Plus, no one can read someone's thoughts.

Porter does act a bit certain and sure of her interpretations, which did irk me a little. You can never be exactly sure and interpretations that are accepted today might not be accepted in the future. Still, it must be hard to work with such a nebulous subject. I must admit to liking the more traditional view for historical fiction, but not for a history book of course. After learning about Katherine Parr's life before becoming queen, I am of the mind that she was truly able to flourish as queen of England.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those who like the Tudors, history about queens, or 16th century England. 

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