Friday, November 23, 2012

One of These is Not Alike

Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile by Julia Fox

Summary: The history books have cast Katherine of Aragon, the first queen of King Henry VIII of England, as the ultimate symbol of the Betrayed Woman, cruelly tossed aside in favor of her husband’s seductive mistress, Anne Boleyn. Katherine’s sister, Juana of Castile, wife of Philip of Burgundy and mother of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, is portrayed as “Juana the Mad,” whose erratic behavior included keeping her beloved late husband’s coffin beside her for years. But historian Julia Fox, whose previous work painted an unprecedented portrait of Jane Boleyn, Anne’s sister, offers deeper insight in this first dual biography of Katherine and Juana, the daughters of Spain’s Ferdinand and Isabella, whose family ties remained strong despite their separation. Looking through the lens of their Spanish origins, Fox reveals these queens as flesh-and-blood women—equipped with character, intelligence, and conviction—who are worthy historical figures in their own right. 

When they were young, Juana’s and Katherine’s futures appeared promising. They had secured politically advantageous marriages, but their dreams of love and power quickly dissolved, and the unions for which they’d spent their whole lives preparing were fraught with duplicity and betrayal. Juana, the elder sister, unexpectedly became Spain’s sovereign, but her authority was continually usurped, first by her husband and later by her son. Katherine, a young widow after the death of Prince Arthur of Wales, soon remarried his doting brother Henry and later became a key figure in a drama that altered England’s religious landscape. 

Ousted from the positions of power and influence they had been groomed for and separated from their children, Katherine and Juana each turned to their rich and abiding faith and deep personal belief in their family’s dynastic legacy to cope with their enduring hardships. Sister Queens is a gripping tale of love, duty, and sacrifice—a remarkable reflection on the conflict between ambition and loyalty during an age when the greatest sin, it seems, was to have been born a woman.

Review: A history book that tries to compare Katherine and Juana and just manages to bore and make assumptions in the process. 

I was very eager to read this book. I have read one book dedicated to Katherine of Aragon and have read a lot about her in other books about Henry the VIII and the Tudors. I knew a little about Katherine's parents, but very little about her siblings. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by this book. The majority of the book was about Katherine. I really didn't get much solid information about Juana. I am not sure if this is because there is little information about Juana when compared to Katherine. 

Fox makes a number of assumptions about Katherine and Juana. I do not mind educated assumptions as long as the author says this may be possible or this might be likely and there is evidence. Fox just makes assumptions and doesn't always provide evidence to back up her assumptions. Fox also tries to make comparisons between Katherine and Juana and I don't see them as very similar. Yes, they were sisters and both became queens, but had very different life paths. I still want to know about Juana and hope that I can find a good book about her. 


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that are interested in Katherine and Juana as sisters, but I would suggest other books for better biographical information about the two, especially Katherine.

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