Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Queen with a Steel Spine

Catherine of Aragon: The Spanish Queen of Henry VIII by Giles Tremlett

Summary: The youngest child of the legendary monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536) was born to marry for dynastic gain. Endowed with English royal blood on her mother's side, she was betrothed in infancy to Arthur, Prince of Wales, eldest son of Henry VII of England, an alliance that greatly benefited both sides. Yet Arthur died weeks after their marriage in 1501, and Catherine found herself remarried to his younger brother, soon to become Henry VIII. The history of England—and indeed of Europe—was forever altered by their union.

Drawing on his deep knowledge of both Spain and England, Giles Tremlett has produced the first full biography in more than four decades of the tenacious woman whose marriage to Henry VIII lasted twice as long (twenty-four years) as his five other marriages combined. Her refusal to divorce him put her at the center of one of history's greatest power struggles, one that has resonated down through the centuries— Henry's break away from the Catholic Church as, bereft of a son, he attempted to annul his marriage to Catherine and wed Anne Boleyn. Catherine's daughter, Mary, would controversially inherit Henry's throne; briefly and bloodily, she returned England to the Catholicism of her mother's native Spain, foreshadowing the Spanish Armada some three decades later.

From Catherine's peripatetic childhood at the glittering court of Ferdinand and Isabella to the battlefield at Flodden, where she, in Henry's absence abroad, led the English forces to victory against Scotland to her determination to remain queen and her last years in almost monastic isolation, Giles Tremlett vividly re-creates the life of a giant figure in the sixteenth century. Catherine of Aragon will take its place among the best of Tudor biography.

Review: An in depth and informative biography about Catherine of Aragon that shows how strong she was and how tragic her life became. 

Most of my knowledge about Catherine of Aragon comes from her time as Henry VIII's wife. And most of that knowledge is about her reaction to Anne Boleyn and being divorced. I had read The Constant Princess by Phillipa Gregory a while back and that was my first introduction to Catherine. I wasn't a big fan of the book nor was I a fan of Catherine. I know that historical fiction is a poor way to learn about history and historical figures so I am glad that I learned more about Catherine. 

While some of the knowledge in the book wasn't new to me, I did learn a lot about her early life, her marriage to Arthur, and her marriage to Henry VIII before Anne Boleyn. I knew that she was a strong person by how she reacted to Henry VIII wanting to annul his marriage to Catherine and how long she fought. I did not realize just how impressive of a person she was until I read this book. Catherine of Aragon is a person to be admired. 


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

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