Title: Katherine of Aragón: The True Queen
Author: Alison Weir
Series: Six Tudor Queens #1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: May 31st, 2016 (Ballantine Books)
Synopsis: 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.
The first book of Alison Weir’s Six Tudor Queens series is dedicated to the story of Katherine of Aragón. Betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, at a very early age, Catalina has always been told that she would one day go to England to marry the prince and so become the Princess of Wales. Following Prince Arthur’s untimely death however, she finds herself betrothed to his younger brother Henry.
The story follows Katherine through the years, first as a young and hopeful princess arriving in England, then as a widow in a foreign court, a political pawn, awaiting the day when she can wed Henry even as she fears for her future, to her glorious early years of her marriage as the cherished Queen of England and finally to the most tragic times as she fights and refuses to be set aside by Henry in the face of his desire for a male heir. While Henry’s first queen has never really been my favourite to read about, it’s impossible not to admire her determination as she holds true to her faith and fights for love.
The Tudor era is undoubtedly my favourite historical fiction setting, and no matter how many books I read, this time period is endlessly fascinating for me. Furthermore, this is narrated entirely from Katherine’s perspective, it is definitely not a neutral retelling, and is therefore a very sympathetic portrayal of her. Several characters we know to be crucial in the history of the years that followed are introduced, some more than others, from the Anne Boleyn to Jane Seymour and many others. It will be really interesting to contrast Katherine’s opinion on them to their view of the same events. I’m particularly curious as to how Alison Weir is going to approach Jane Seymour, a figure rarely focused on in historical fiction who I have generally viewed as rather boring overall.
Though the tale of Katherine of Aragón is one I have read many versions of, Alison Weir’s storytelling is unmatched in my opinion and this book gives voice to Katherine like I have never read before. As with all of her books, this is a rather long read, but it’s very easy to get swept along by the story and the pages fly by. This book, and series, is a must read for fans of Tudor era historical fiction. Highly recommended!