The Taming of the Queen – Philippa Gregory

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  • Simon & Schuster UK |
  • 448 pages |
  • ISBN 9781471132971 |
  • August 2015

List Price

AU$ 45.00

NZ$ 49.99

Why would a woman marry a serial killer?
Because she cannot refuse…

Every now and again I lash out and actually read a ‘grown up’ book and being a very genuine admirer of Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction was most excited to be able to review her latest book.

Kateryn (also known as Catherine) Parr was the last and surviving wife of the infamous Tudor monarch, Henry VIII. She is also arguably the least known of his wives in a sense – even the rather innocuous Anne of Cleves had some more notoriety if only because the marriage was so short-lived without the grisly end of other less fortunate of Henry’s spouses.

For those who have watched that excellent BBC series The Tudors or studied some medieval history there will be some background knowledge of the main facts. Philippa Gregory’s talent lies in bringing history to life by building on the facts through deeper research not only of the direct subject but also the prevailing attitudes, customs and daily lives of the period in question.

Kateryn was a beautiful 30 year old married to a much older husband when Henry Tudor first decided to make her his wife. When her husband died, the aging King Henry wasted no time in proposing to Kateryn, insisting she come immediately to court, despite her still being in mourning; and so began Henry’s last marriage and his first to a queen who despite her personal preferences, devoted herself to his well-being and also to the task of reuniting father and royal children thus ensuring those children were recognised and respected.

Kateryn had already secretly been planning to marry Sir Thomas Seymour, and indeed following Henry’s death in 1547, finally did so. Despite her disappointment in not being able to pursue her true love yearning, she proved a loyal and diplomatic wife to an increasingly despotic and erratic Henry.

She raised many eyebrows and incurred some real wrath for what was perceived (but never proven) as Protestant heresy, but was able to avoid the dire persecution inflicted on others, innocent or guilty, by engaging the king’s support and rekindling his loyalty to her.  She was perhaps the most scholarly woman of her times and demonstrated this through her writing and published works as well as her ability to match wits with the men surrounding her.

As always for these complicated times, plots and twists of fortune abound and provide fascinating indeed compelling reading offering real insight to the Tudor court and its significant players.

For lovers of historical fiction and particularly Medieval history, I believe, Philippa Gregory is top of the tree. If you have not yet tried out her books, I urge you to do so – you will not be disappointed.

There is a great reading group guide here.

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