New Read: Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen

Back in March, I finally got round to reading Six Tudor Queens: Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen, the first book in an ambitious six-book series from bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir, in which each novel will chronicle the lives of each of Henry VIII’s six wives.

In this captivating opening volume, Weir takes us back to 1501 to start the tumultuous tale of Katherine of Aragon: Henry VIII’s first, devoted wife. Who was sent to England, at the tender-age of sixteen, by her powerful parents, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, as a prized-bride for Henry VII’s son and heir, Arthur. But tragically five months later Arthur is dead and Katherine is left a young widow and stranger in a foreign land. Although Henry VII quickly betroths her to his younger son, Henry, she must wait eight agonising years for him to come-of-age, during which time she is a virtual prisoner at the mercy of an ambitious, fickle and penny-pinching king.

So I rejoiced with her when, on the death of Henry VII in 1509, her patience is rewarded as the young, handsome, celebrated Prince Henry takes the throne and comes to claim her as his wife. Saving her from deprivation and raising her to the exulted position of Queen of England. The affection between them is genuine and they are happy for a good fifteen years, but multiple heart-breaking miscarriages, still births and infant deaths takes a huge toll on their marriage. Then Henry falls in love with the bewitching Anne Boleyn and to have her he is prepared to rend asunder his marriage, the church and even his country.

I have always felt sorry for Katherine, but reading this I also felt some awe too. Till the bitter end she loves her husband and refuses to step aside or to renounce their marriage or daughter as illegitimate. Instead she bravely holds to that her marriage to Arthur was never consummated and so she is Henry’s only true wife and queen. Enraged Henry banishes Katherine and devastatingly parts her bit-by-bit from all she loves. I was on the verge of tears, when she finally passed, quietly and peacefully, knowing she had done all she could for her conscience. And it is a telling testament to her character that her servants and the English people loved and never forsook her.

In bringing this emotional-rollercoaster of a story alive, Weir has kept closely to historical records, but of course has had to take some dramatic licence to flesh out minor characters and fill in any gaps. As always though Weir’s research and imagination meld seamlessly to create a completely believable tale. And through the eyes of Katherine we are given a very personal and intimate perspective on the lost Tudor world of splendour, power, brutality and courtly love, which Weir has evoked perfectly through all the sights, textures, sounds and smells of the age.

Overall, I thought Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen was a powerful tale of a courageous woman, that completely immersed me into tumultuous Tudor England. Now I can’t wait to read volume two: Anne Boleyn, A King’s Obsession, especially as Anne, not surprisingly, wasn’t painted favourable in this first volume. Great read.

Have you read this? Or any of Alison Weir’s other novels?


22 thoughts on “New Read: Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen

  1. The Tudors belong to my favourite part of history – not just the UK but overall. So, I wasvery happy to find this book. I had already read The Six Wives of Henry VIII by the same author, now read the next one and can’t wait for number three about Jane Seymour. I’m glad you liked it as much as I do.

    Oh, and I found you through Carole’s Chatter.

    Happy Reading,

    1. Hello Marianne, thank you for stopping by from Carole’s Chatter and commenting. It is always lovely to hear from a new face 🙂 It is great to hear you enjoyed this and the second book about Anne Boleyn – I am hoping to read the next book soon! Happy reading to you too! 😀

      1. Hi Jessica,

        I’m sure you will love it. Of course, I sympathize a lot more with Katherine than I would ever do with Anne but it’s totally interesting nonetheless.

        Talk again soon, I hope,

  2. I’m reading now a book by Weir, it’s a non-fiction book about Elizabeth of York. I’m not enjoying it as much as I thought I would.
    As I didn’t study in UK, I had no idea about Katherine and Anne before starting reading historical novels. Katherine is one of my favourite queens and I wasn’t that keen on Anne. Maybe because she was the other woman. I will read this book too, even though I’ve already read fiction and non-fiction about Katherine.

    1. Anca, I am sorry to hear you aren’t enjoying Alison Weir’s history of Elizabeth of York. I read it a few years ago and did enjoyed it. However I possibly enjoyed this fiction even more, so I hope when you have the chance to read this that you will enjoy it too.

  3. I read this book last year and I totally enjoyed. Also, it was my first approximation to the historical figure of Katherine of Aragon (I only knew the basics of her prior to reading this book) and I was instantly drawn to her. She was so noble, pious and faithful, always following the path she thought right till the very end and with all its consequences. Perhaps I was under Weir’s spell, who’s a self-confessed fan of Katherine of Aragon’s persona.

    I haven’t read the second book on Anne Boleyn but it’s been in my tbr list since I finished this one.

    1. Hello Irene, thank you for stopping by and commenting. It is always nice to hear from a new face 🙂 It is great to hear you enjoyed this too and if Weir cast a spell, I definitely fell under it too! I hope we are both able to read the second book soon.

      1. You’re welcome! And thanks for your nice reply as well.
        I had just read Jane Eyre and came by looking for your review for The Classics Club (I think) but I only found that you didn’t enjoy it much. Never mind, I found some other good stuff to stay a while and say hi 🙂

  4. I enjoyed this too and I also admired Katherine for standing by what she believed right to the end. I thought the second book was just as good – it was interesting to see some of the same events from Anne’s perspective rather than Katherine’s.

  5. Great review, Jessica! You make me want to read it ASAP. I have this one on my TBR. Thanks to you I may read it sooner rather than later. 🙂

  6. The first Tudor historical fiction I ever read had lovely, innocent young Anne Boleyn as the heroine and Katherine as the joyless old woman standing in the way of true love. Yeah, I know! But it’s coloured my opinion of both these Queens ever since. I’m tempted to see if Weir can get rid of my anti-Katherine prejudice…

    1. Haha 😀 Although, to be fair, I have always admired Anne Boleyn too and just sort of felt sorry for poor, old, washed out Katherine. What I think works so well in this novel is that Weir starts the story back when Katherine was young, beautiful, optimistic and happy at the beginning of her marriage. While most histories and books just focus on the terrible end of her marriage.

  7. I have several of Alison Weir’s non-fiction titles on my shelf, but I’m not familiar with any of her novels. This series might have to join her others in my TBR pile.

    1. Kelly, I have enjoyed a couple of Weir’s fiction and non-fiction, however, for some reason, she does seem to be better known for her non-fiction writings. This and her non-fiction Queens of Conquest are now my joint favourites! If you have the chance to read this, I hope you will enjoy it 🙂

  8. Such an intriguing era of history – although if you were one of the six wives you might not use that word to describe it. Philippa Gregory wrote a similar series that portrayed the wives of Henry VIII that I thoroughly enjoyed. I hope this one works out well, I’ll keep my eyes on your reviews because I’m sure to be tempted to pick these up at some point.
    Lynn 😀

    1. Lynn, I agree this is a very intriguing period of history, but must have been pretty awful to be one of his wives…well when you fell out of favour anyway! I wouldn’t want to be his wife, however I imagine you couldn’t really turn the king of England down?! Hopefully you won’t have to wait long for my thoughts on the next book, as I am very excited about reading it. 😀

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