Those of you familiar with all things Tudor already know the basics of the long-suffering Katherine of Aragon and the husband who dumped her when she couldn’t produce a male heir. Those who aren’t might consider this review rather spoilerish so consider yourself warned. That said, since the author skims through a big chunk of the latter part of Katherine’s life and “The King’s great matter”, I wouldn’t recommend this for newbies as you’ll be scratching your head at the end wondering what in the heck you missed. Just be warned, this is Tudor history PG style so expect historical accuracy at your own peril…
In this book, Gregory purports that the marriage between Catalina (Katherine) of Spain and Arthur Tudor was a love match and their union was most definitely consummated – a secret they kept from everyone. When Arthur realizes he’ll not survive the sweating sickness, he commands Catalina to marry his younger brother Henry, so that she can still become Queen of England as they’d always dreamed. Catalina is determined to stay *constant* to her beloved’s commands, but there’s a lot of political turmoil ahead of her, especially over the fact of whether the marriage was consummated,
“I shall keep my promise. I shall be constant to my husband and to my destiny. And I shall plan and plot and consider how I shall conquer this misfortune and be what I was born to be. How I shall be the pretender who becomes queen.”
“At Arthur’s request I told the greatest lie a woman has ever told, and I will tell it to the very grave…He asked me to say that we had never been lovers and he commanded me to marry his brother and be queen…I was constant to my promise.”
But you all know the *rest of the story* so I’ll not rehash it one more time, I’m just here to discuss the reading experience. Whether or not Katherine and Arthur consummated the marriage or not is a subject of debate and despite my previous conviction that Katherine spoke the truth about it during “The King’s great matter”, I was willing to keep an open mind (kind of). However, I didn’t buy into the twu wuv fowever between Arthur and Catalina, nor did I buy into Henry VIII’s portrayal as a bit of an ignorant dolt with no business sitting on the throne of England,
“He is bright and clever, perhaps even as quick witted as Arthur. But where Arthur had been trained to think, had been educated as a king from birth, they let this second son slide by on his charm and his ready tongue.”
Bah. Worse yet, towards the end the author appears to run out of steam (and page count) and makes a last minute push to finish in a big hurry as Katherine’s latter years as queen and the whole business of “The King’s great matter” is barely touched upon. Add to that the switches to the first person narrative (Katherine’s) appear much too often and become increasingly annoying and soporific. Seriously, did we need to have her recount actual dialog with others, thus telling us what’s happened instead of using the third person and showing us? As for Katherine’s voice itself, she’s very full of herself and her own self-importance and makes for a rather unsympathetic main character, particularly over her disdain for Henry VIII. Then there’s the portrayal of Henry VII. Why, oh why does he always have to be portrayed lusting after the main female character from his very first sight of her?
The book started off all right, when the switches to Katherine’s narrative were short and well spaced, but by the end I was nodding off at them and praying for the book to end, and I’d only recommended it for PG fans only. If you are looking for a well rounded, historically accurate look at Katherine of Aragon I suggest you look elsewhere. Oh, and before anyone gets in a tizzy as to why this non-PG fan decided to read another, this is for a group read for the European Royalty Group at Goodreads. I expect lively discussions.
FTC disclosure. I obtained this book from my county library.