Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by bestselling historian Alison Weir, author of The Lost Tudor Princess, is the first in a spellbinding six novel series about Henry VIII's Queens. Alison takes you on an engrossing journey at Katherine's side and shows her extraordinary strength of
character and intelligence.
I must admit a certain empathy for Katherine of Aragon, so I’d been looking forward to this book since I first heard Alison Weir was writing it. Like many, I was failed by my history teachers, who I remember dismissed Katherine’s almost twenty-four year marriage in their haste to get on to the ‘interesting’ bits. That meant it was up to me to learn Katherine’s amazing story of courage, love, loss - and determination.
Alison recently said of Katherine on the Tudor Times website, “As a woman of high principle and integrity, she deserves to be celebrated as one of the greatest and most loved queens of England. In telling her story, I have tried not to make Katherine too much of a saint. She had failings, naturally, and she could take a blinkered approach to crucial issues, but her innate honesty, loyalty, faith and good intentions make her a most sympathetic character.”
This comes through from the start, when we join the young Catalina arriving in England, unable to even speak the language yet full of hope and optimism. I like the skilled development of even the minor characters we’ve come to expect of Alison Weir, particularly her harsh Spanish ‘Duenna’, clinging on the old traditions, and Katherine’s maidservants, driven by their own self-interest.
I was unsurprised although a little disappointed to see Henry VII is yet again portrayed as sinister and insensitive, although I appreciate way all the English lack manners and refinement through Katherine’s eyes. Conversely, it’s fun to see Henry VIII as a cheeky boy who can’t believe his luck, slowly turning into the man we expect him to become.
Although I’ve studied the details of Katherine’s life, it is still harrowing and sometimes shocking to share her seemingly endless, often tragic pregnancies, with their awful consequences. I feel I have a new insight into her character and her faith after reading this book, so for that reason am happy to award it a rare five stars.