Alison Weir is the author of many books pertaining to the Plantagenet and Tudor eras, both fiction and non-fiction. I’ve enjoyed all of Weir’s non-fiction books but in my experience her novels are a little hit-and-miss. This novel however was both well-written and informing and I enjoyed reading it. For a full synopsis of this novel provided by Goodreads please click here.
Having read many novels of Katherine of Aragon I was pleased to find that Weir’s perspective was one of the best I’ve read so far. She portrays Katherine as a flesh and blood woman, not a saint, nor does she insinuate that Katherine was a stubborn old hag that refused to bow out gracefully. Often Katherine is portrayed as being one or the other and therefore it was refreshing to read about a woman that I could actually relate to.
The reader joins Katherine on her voyage to England to wed Prince Arthur and we stay with her until the bitter end. Her story is a tragic one and yet her dedication to her faith and commitment to the truth allowed her to meet her death with the knowledge that she stayed faithful. Her conduct to the very end is unfailing. This is not to say however that she did not ever complain or feel sorry for herself, of course she did; as any person in her situation would have. The difference is that she had a steely resolve and never allowed herself to waiver in her commitment to her role as the one true queen of Henry VIII.
In my opinion one of the biggest achievements in this novel has to be how Weir brings to life the world of the sixteenth century. For it is truly another world than our own. So many historical fiction authors go wrong in trying to provide a modern slant to a bygone era, allowing modern perspectives to cloud our interpretation of the facts. It is not fair to judge historical figures by the standards of the present day. I believe Weir herself sums it up nicely in her author’s note: “I have tried to show that the past was indeed another country, and that modern preoccupations with women’s rights, feminism, and political correctness had no place in it”.
I commend Ms. Weir for having succeeded in doing exactly that and I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to be able to dive into the world of Katherine of Aragon. It has given me a new admiration for Katherine and heartfelt sympathy towards her plight. Regardless of whether or not I believe the reformation of the English Church to have been the best thing for the county or not, I can do nothing but look kindly upon Henry VIII’s first queen. She faced her struggles with courage and conviction and was a remarkable woman of her time.
Overall I enjoyed this novel and the fresh perspective that it gave. I absolutely recommend giving it a read if you’re looking for a novel that stays as close to historical fact as possible without boring you to tears.