Bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir takes on what no fiction writer has done before: creating a dramatic six-book series in which each novel covers one of King Henry VIII’s wives. In this captivating opening volume, Weir brings to life the tumultuous tale of Katherine of Aragón. Henry’s first, devoted, and “true” queen.
A princess of Spain, Catalina is only sixteen years old when she sets foot on the shores of England. The youngest daughter of the powerful monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, Catalina is a coveted prize for a royal marriage – and Arthur, Prince of Wales, and heir to the English throne, has won her hand. But tragedy strikes and Catalina, now Princess Katherine, is betrothed to the future Henry VIII. She must wait for his coming-of-age, an ordeal that tests her resolve, casts doubt on her trusted confidantes, and turns her into a virtual prisoner.
Katherine’s patience is rewarded when she becomes Queen of England. The affection between Katherine and Henry is genuine, but forces beyond her control threaten to rend her marriage, and indeed the nation, apart. Henry has fallen under the spell of Katherine’s maid of honor, Anne Boleyn. Now Katherine must be prepared to fight, to the end if God wills it, for her faith, her legitimacy, and her heart.
Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen, is the first in a specially commissioned, six book long series, that Alison Weir is set to pen, chronicling the lives of each of King Henry VIII’s six queens. Each book is to be told through the eyes of each queen herself, and naturally, this first book in the series is told from the point of view of Katherine of Aragon, as she was the first of all of Henry VIII’s wives.
I, for one, cannot wait to read each and every book in this series. Alison Weir, who is both an author and historian, is my favorite author when it comes to reading books about the Tudor era, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, as she writes books on both. I have read many books by Alison Weir, and I find something about her work to be so utterly fascinating. She is such a gifted storyteller, and whilst reading this book, as was also the case with other books written by her, I felt as if I was right there in Tudor England alongside Katherine, experiencing everything that she was.
So far I have not read a book of hers that I have not liked, and this book was no exception. When it comes to the Tudor era, I am especially fascinated by the court of king Henry VIII and all of his wives, especially Anne Boleyn in particular. But admittedly, I think I actually loved this book even more than the second book in this series, which focuses on Anne Boleyn. Although Anne still obviously plays a large role in this book (as i’m sure she will in the forthcoming book about Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour) I found that when it came time for my historical favorite to be a part of the story, my attention was drawn away from her and I was instead fully focused on Katherine of Aragon’s captivating story.
When it comes to Katherine, the earlier part of her her story, such as the early years of her marriage to Henry, is often overshadowed by the turbulent years revolving around The King’s Great Matter (in which Henry and Anne fought hard to be rid of Katherine so that they could be married). There was a time in which Katherine and Henry were happily in love (or as in love as a man such as Henry could be) and furthermore, there is so much more to Katherine’s story than just her marriage to Henry, and this book does an excellent job in showcasing that. I thought I knew a lot about Katherine of Aragon, but this book showed me that there was so much more to her life than I ever realized.
Spanning from 1501 to 1536, this book chronicles the life of Katherine up until the time of her death, starting from the time in which she set sail overseas as a homesick young girl from her homeland of Spain, to the foreign land of England to marry Henry VIII’s brother, Arthur Prince of Wales. Katherine marries Arthur, but due to unforeseen tragic circumstances, that marriage ends after a very short period of time and she eventually finds herself married to Henry. Following the time that she first arrived in England as a shy spanish princess up until the day of her death was certainly an experience to behold.
The period between the ending of Katherine’s marriage to Arthur, and the start of her marriage to Henry, was particularly interesting to me, as it really built the foundation in showing just how strong a person Katherine really was. That period of time for her was not an easy one, as she was practically in limbo, as she waited to see whether or not she was even to become Henry’s wife at all. During much of that time she lived in grueling circumstances, as she had no money and had to rely on begging for help from King Henry VII, or send letters to her father overseas pleading for his help, as she had no money to support herself, let alone her household of servants. The drab and dreadful circumstances in which she lived, homesick and uncertain of her future in a strange land still so unfamiliar to her, really made me feel for Katherine. But through it all, she remained strong and held tightly to her belief that her destiny for greatness lay in England, and eventually her faith in her beliefs paid off, as she did indeed become Henry VIII’s wife and the queen of England.
Reading about the marriage of Katherine and Henry was bittersweet. Although it is well known that Henry eventually turned cold (and downright cruel) towards Katherine and set her aside to marry Anne Boleyn, there was a long period of time in which Henry adored his first queen, and continued to adore her even in the midst of one tragic miscarriage after another. It’s no secret that Henry was always hopeful for a male heir, and therefore disappointed whenever Katherine failed to give him what he most desired. My heart broke for katherine through each and every miscarriage that she suffered. The saddest thing of all, was the fact that Katherine continued to remain loyal and steadfast in her love for Henry, despite everything he put her through, especially in the worst of times, and she loved him up until her dying day.
I have always felt a deep sense of empathy for Katherine, but as I read this novel, I came to also admire her for her strength. Despite everything she went through in her life, she always remained the very epitome of strength, and continued to hold her head up high until she took her last breath. Her unwavering love for both Henry, and her only living child, Mary, as well as her devotion to God, was a thing to be marveled at.
The way in which Alison Weir wrote Katherine’s story was as beautiful as it was haunting. I found myself fully immersed in this book from beginning to end. The world of the Tudors is complex and endlessly fascinating, and Alison Weir is a master at bringing this time period to life.
This was an amazing start to Alison Weir’s take on the lives of King Henry the VIII’s wives, and I cannot wait to see what she has in store for the rest of the series.
I truly loved everything about this book, and if you love Tudor historical fiction, I highly recommend that you pick this book up!
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️