Katharine Parr, The Sixth Wife (Six Tudor Queens 6)

Written by Alison Weir
Review by Carol McGrath

Chronicling Katharine Parr’s life from her first marriage through to the end of her fourth is a huge accomplishment. Through Katharine’s eyes we observe life with her first husband, a compromise overshadowed by an unpleasant father-in-law; her second marriage to Lord Latimer, one of mutual respect; her third to King Henry (despite her secret and mutual love for Thomas Seymour), which was suffused with danger; and her fourth marriage, which provided a brief period of joy as well as moments of unhappiness. Each marriage is well explored, each with dangers to keep the reader on edge. Her second union brought Katharine into the orbit of the Northern Rebellion, a danger for herself and her husband. Her domestic life and family loyalties are fascinating. Weir portrays Katharine as a fully rounded, mature woman, particularly as she begins, unknown to Catholic Latimer, to embrace the reformed religion, a further jeopardy once she becomes the King’s wife.

Weir delivers engaging historical characters, filling the white spaces of their lives with believable interests, convincing motivation, and realistic daily routines. Katharine, who was never pregnant until her fourth marriage, is presented as an attractive woman, likeable, kind, determined, sensible yet capable of a romantic love that places her in danger; this as well as her reformist convictions. Secondary characters such as Katharine’s mother and siblings are vivid. You will anxiously watch them all, at Snape, Henry’s private gardens, Katharine’s home at Blackfriars, the King’s private rooms, or visiting her brother at court.

The conversations are sparkling, gripping and word-perfect. As King Henry ages, the machinations of his vicious court are never far away. This masterly novel seamlessly blends history into the story’s fabric. A superb read and a remarkable end to a brilliant series.