I’ve just finished this book and, as usual, I’m blown away! Whenever I’ve finished one of these Alison Weir Six Tudor Queens book, I feel utterly bereft for the particular queen it focuses on, however her demise.

I mean, I know what happens, I’ve loved the Tudor period since I was a girl but, as I’ve said before, Weir has this outstanding ability to take you by the hand and lead you through the story as if you were two bystanders.

Clearly she’s a competent historian, obviously the facts are there, but she researches them thoroughly, discounting any sources that are not deemed credible and once she has those ‘bare bones’ she is able to weave this exquisite narrative, embellishing and creating dialogue, sumptuously, colouring in the grey facts.

Her flawless description enables you to inhale the sights and sounds of this point in history, the stench of the city, the wilds of Richmond park or the entertaining atmosphere at King Henry’s court. Her characterisation allows the reader to understand each character and their motives, understanding their personalities and considering, perhaps, from a different point of view, how they lived and the choices they made.

This book is about Katheryn Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, a pawn within a powerful family whose ambitions carried high stakes & avarice and a lust for power.

After the death of her aunt, as a young girl, she is sent to her father’s stepmother, the Dowager Duchess, to be looked after and to learn the skills to ‘make a good marriage, or even a place at court.’ She is mostly given free reign to do as she pleases, in amongst completing her lessons & improving her dancing skills.

After a few years, the older ‘young ladies’ of the household, allow her to become a part of their ‘after hours’ activities and after they feast and drink alcohol, (& smuggle men into their accommodation) as a bystander, the teenage Katheryn learns more about carnal desires & becoming a woman. Despite one or two dalliances with men, Katheryn doesn’t believe that any of them have been serious & so when an opportunity becomes open for Katheryn to work for the current queen, she happily accepts without a second thought.

She enjoys the position because she adores the Queen, Anna; she has also become serious about Thomas Culpepar, who is her cousin and serves Henry closely in his Privy Chamber. However, as it becomes clear that Henry & Anna of Kleve are not producing an heir, her uncle, The Duke of Norfolk, constructs a plan for the king to notice her & and, potentially, become queen.

She was 19, Henry was 49.

I don’t think there are any spoilers here, the plan is successful!

However not all loose ends from her previous life are as secure as she hoped and this, sadly, becomes her undoing.

Like I said, we all know the history, but Alison Weir tells such a fantastic story that I momentarily forgot what had happened; the tension was palpable as I read on. As a female particularly, I really felt the injustice of it all. Women of this time were at the mercy of the men who surrounded them, often with no-one to trust and the weight of the crown on her head too. It seems so alien now that such a terrible punishment could fit the ‘crime’ and so devastating that this young queen was only 21 years old when she met her end.

This penultimate book is a well executed, supremely magnificent story, packed with love, honour, naivety, greed, & desire. A thrilling snapshot of the rise and fall of Henry’s fifth wife. 👑⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️👑

NB: Not the final book jacket.