Katherine of Argon – The True Queen by Alison Weir (Six Tudor Queens series)
I am actually obsessed with anything to with The Tudors (it might be because one of my teachers at primary school looked exactly like Henry VIII, during the larger years, and then dressed up as him for non-uniform day).
In comparison to Anne Boleyn, I feel history has always portrayed the other five wives as dull or childish so I was looking forward to reading the Six Tudor Queen series.
Obviously everyone knows the story of Katherine of Argon – a Spanish princess married to Henry’s sickly older brother, Arthur, and once Arthur dies she then marries Henry. The country has always been Catholic and after several miscarriages and deceased children all Henry and Katherine have to show is their daughter Mary. Wanting a male heir and knowing that Katherine is no longer of child bearing age he turns his attentions elsewhere – namely Anne Boleyn.
Desperate to marry Anne, Henry tries to say that his marriage to Katherine was never valid as she had already slept with his brother – however , he was too sickly to consummate anything. When this doesn’t work he reduces Katherine’s staff and sends her off to various decaying stately homes. He tries to convince parliament that the marriage was never valid and to be divorced it must be annulled by the Pope, who happens to be Katherine’s nephew. When the saga draws on and on Henry takes matters into his own hands, proclaims himself as head of the church and the country is then protestant. The stress and hurt causes Katherine to become ill and she sadly dies.
Several things during this historical novel struck me, the time between the death of Arthur and the marriage between Katherine and Henry. I always assumed it was almost instantaneous however its some seven years but the delay is due to dowries and status in Katherine’s motherland.
In this version of events, Henry and Katherine are portrayed as deeply in love. In other interpretations she is shown as having more love for Arthur.
The length of time between Henry and Katherine separating and his marriage to Anne Boleyn – seven years in total is somewhat longer than I thought.
What really struck me is the determination and decorum Katherine shows even in her darkest days. Locked up in moulding houses at Henry’s orders she still loves him and will not have a bad word spoken about him. She could have easily said to the King’s men that yes the marriage was not binding and she would have saved herself being locked up, but for her own pride and the country’s she refuses to give in and refuses to be acknowledged by anything other than ‘Queen’.
She is portrayed as an incredibly brave woman, who’s faith gets her through and is a much more interesting character than I first thought.