Katherine Parr is perhaps best known for surviving her marriage to Henry VIII. As the only one of Henry’s six wives whom he didn’t divorce or behead – excluding Jane Seymour, who died after giving birth to his heir – Katherine has often been overlooked. Katherine the Queen is Linda Porter’s attempt to right this wrong. This is a portrait of a fascinating, learned and vibrant woman who was every inch a queen.
Katherine’s typical image is that of a staid nurse caring for an old and ailing king. Her contribution to Tudor history has been underestimated in most sources until now. Twice-widowed, Katherine Parr was still a young and vital woman – in love with the dashing Thomas Seymour – when King Henry VIII asked for her hand. She was a sensible and very intelligent woman, but she was also beautiful, with a love for fine clothing and jewelry. Katherine fit right in at Henry’s glittering court and proved herself worthy as his consort.
Katherine was an astute and capable ruler when Henry made her regent of England in 1544 as he went to battle with his troops in France. As Porter notes, this was particularly influential for the future Queen Elizabeth I, who watched her stepmother successfully rule the nation. Katherine also had a notable impact on Elizabeth and Edward’s education, particularly in religious studies. As Katherine’s marriage to Henry progressed, her beliefs became increasingly evangelical – beliefs considered heretical by Henry and his advisors. Her influence was becoming dangerous./p>
It was because of this that Katherine came perilously close to following her predecessors Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard to the scaffold. As Henry’s advisors attempted to gather evidence to accuse her of heresy, Katherine used her wits to get back in the king’s good graces. She held her tongue and put down her quill – she was a prolific writer and translator of religious texts – until Henry’s death, when she was then free to express herself once more.
After Henry’s death, Katherine married Thomas Seymour - a controversial union to her contemporaries. But Katherine’s impact on the Tudor court continued on, her influence apparent particularly during Elizabeth’s reign. Linda Porter deftly combines historical facts with her own theories to show that Katherine Parr deserves a place among England’s greatest queens. Porter covers Katherine’s life from infancy to death (and even beyond that), but this book shines the most once Porter starts describing Katherine’s role as queen and stepmother to England’s future monarchs. This is a worthwhile addition to any Tudor history buff’s book collection.