In this month’s H for History review, team member Alice Morley reviews Alison Weir’s mighty new History has not been kind to Katherine of Aragon. Her image, in most people’s minds is of the frumpy, foreign, Catholic first wife of Henry VIII, rightly supplanted by the far more glamorous Anne Boleyn.Alison Weir has rescued Katherine from this spectacularly. Her Katherine – who we meet when she first arrives in England – is young, beautiful, intelligent and gracious.
After her brief marriage to Arthur, Prince of Wales ends with the sickly young man’s death, Katherine is left to fend for herself at the English court, a challenge she manages with skill and diplomacy. These early years of Katherine’s time in England are not so well known as her second marriage, and Alison Weir vividly and sympathetically portrays how she must have felt, miles from home and her family, sent to an alien, cold land and unsure who she can trust.
Katherine’s marriage to Henry, Arthur’s younger brother and the future Henry VIII, was a true love match and for years the couple were passionately happy. It helped, of course, that Katherine, who embodied the late medieval image of the loyal wife, was the perfect devoted queen to Henry’s dynamic rule. Where the marriage tragically failed, was, of course, in the sad sequence of Katherine’s miscarriages, still births and sickly children.
Again, Alison handles this with such sympathy, as Katherine heart breaks with each child who dies. This is a fantastic read for any Tudor or historical fiction nut, like myself! Katherine has at last been given the leading role she deserves.