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With publication of the sixth book in her Six Tudor Queens series in 2021, Alison Weir introduces Henry’s last wife, Katharine Parr.


Of Henry VIII’s six wives, Katharine Parr was so much more than the one who ‘survived’. A passionate woman, unusually well-educated for her time, she was an ardent reformer and the author of three books – the first woman in England to publish under her own name. She had four husbands – effectively, four very different lives – and she was close enough to the turbulent events of the Tudor Reformation to experience their adverse impact.


Katharine secretly embraced the new Protestant faith at a time when Henry VIII was sending Protestants to the stake for heresy. She was reluctant to accept his proposal because she was in love with Sir Thomas Seymour, the brother of Jane Seymour, Henry’s third Queen, and they were planning to wed. Yet she felt that God was calling her to aid the cause of reform, and so she married the King. She had to keep her beliefs hidden while trying to steer him towards religious tolerance and the tenets of her own faith. This challenge brought her into great peril; her enemies were watchful, and she only narrowly escaped a brutal death. Yet she made an excellent queen to Henry, even though her heart belonged to Seymour – another dangerous secret she had to keep from the King, who had executed two previous wives for adultery. But Katharine kept her secret well.


She left behind not only her books on religion, but also a wealth of letters, which are an invaluable gift to a novelist. The warmth of her personality shines across the centuries from her own writings and the praise of others. She was much more than a mere nurse to the ageing King, who cared deeply for her. And yet, when Katharine finally found true love, it ended in tragedy.