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Katherine of Aragon – The True Queen by Alison Weir

Those of us, and there are many, who enjoy reading historical fiction about the British monarchy are lucky indeed that Alison Weir has been commissioned to write a series of novels about the wives of King Henry VIII. The first, Katherine of Aragon – The True Queen was released a year ago. It is now in paperback and Anne Boleyn – A King’s Obsession has just been released in hardcover.

Poor Katherine of Aragon. Catalina, the daughter of Queen Isabella of Castille and King Ferdinand of Aragon, was betrothed to Arthur who was to become King of England after his father Henry VII. Unfortunately for all Arthur died young, before becoming king but after marrying Katherine. It has long been speculated that the marriage was not consummated and it is now believed to be the truth. At the time it was enough to allow Katherine to become the wife of the younger brother, now heir to the throne, and she became Queen Katherine and her husband, of course, Henry VIII.

Alison Weir has done a great job of humanizing Katherine and making us feel that she experienced the same emotions as us any woman with respect to her husband and the new world in which she finds herself, so far from her home in Spain. She left everyone she loves, her parents and siblings, arriving in a country where she cannot speak the language and is married to a young man, who fortunately she loves, but is widowed so very soon. She and Henry are attracted to each other but it takes some time for the marriage to be settled as there are many political negotiations that must first be concluded.

Then there is the need for an heir. They are passionately in love and becoming pregnant is not a problem for Katherine – but bearing a child who lives and thrives is. The only child to survive is Mary.

We know before we start, of course, that all does not end well for Katherine. Not able to provide a male heir and no longer able to bear children, Henry looks elsewhere and there is Anne Boleyn willing and, he believes, able.

Though I knew much of this story from reading numerous other books over many years about King Henry and his wives I found this a fascinating novel. Katherine was very sympathetically portrayed, and the manipulations of the court and ofall the “hangers on” who had their own reasons for attempting to create discourse made for a rich portrait of the time and place.

Katherine and Henry were married for many years – for all of the years of his youth really. It was the end of the marriage – a decision that Katherine never accepted – that changed the country. The Pope and the authority of the Catholic Church was done away with and Henry declared himself the head of the Church of England. He granted his own divorce and proceeded to marry Queen #2. We all know how that ends as well – but I’ll still be reading Anne Boleyn – A King’s Obsession as soon as I can get my hands on it.     

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